Hello and welcome to our ongoing coverage of the global economy, financial markets, eurozone and business.
British government loan rose more than expected last month as rising inflation pushed up interest payments on debt, giving Rishi Sunak disappointing news the day before his Spring Commons statement (a kind of mini budget).
The Office for National Statistics said the government’s budget deficit – the gap between spending and revenue – was £13.1billion in February, the second highest borrowing figure for this months since records began in 1993. Economists had forecast a deficit of £8.1billion.
Soaring inflation sent interest payments on the public debt soaring by more than 50% to £8.2tn, the highest February on record, reports our economics correspondent Richard Partington.
In the United States, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell wants interest rates to rise faster, saying the Fed needs to act “quickly” to raise rates and perhaps “more aggressively” to prevent an upward price spiral from taking hold. Goldman Sachs believes this is a signal that a 50 basis point rate hike is imminent and is forecasting one at the May meeting and another in June.
Oil prices are climbing again, with Brent up 2.8% to $118.44 a barrel while US light crude is at $114.32 a barrel. EU foreign ministers discussed a possible oil embargo against Russia at a meeting in Brussels yesterday, and hopes for a breakthrough in ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia are moving away. However, EU members are divided on whether to join the United States in adding Russian oil to the sanctions.
Asian stocks were driven by energy and mining stocks, with the Japanese Nikkei closing up 1.5% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2.1% and the Shanghai Composite was little changed. Chinese markets are bracing for policy easing, after it was flagged by authorities last week.
The Guardian has launched its new Russian Asset Tracker, in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and other international news outlets. More than $17bn (£13bn) in global assets – including offshore bank accounts, yachts, private jets and luxury properties in London, Tuscany and the French Riviera – have been linked to 35 Russian oligarchs and officials believed to have close ties to Vladimir Putin. It is an ongoing project to track the wealth of the most powerful operators in Russia.
- 10:30 GMT: UK Works Council hearing on energy market
- 11am GMT: CBI UK industrial trends survey for March
- 13:15 GMT: European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaks