BUSINESS LIFE: Business confidence is weakening; Retain hands of activist board seat; FTSE 100 turns 40



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The FTSE 100 is up 0.2 percent in early trading. Companies with reports and trading updates today include Entain, Plus 500 and Wizz Air. Read the Business Live blog from Wednesday January 3 below.

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Bitcoin surpasses $45,000: cryptocurrency at its highest in almost two years

Bitcoin's price hit its highest level in almost two years as the world's largest cryptocurrency started 2024 with a bang.

The digital currency shot above $45,000 for the first time since April 2022, amid speculation that US authorities are about to give the sector a much-needed credibility boost.

MARKET REPORT: Marks & Spencer is off to a sparkling start to 2024

Marks & Spencer made a good start to the new year after a great 2023.

On the first trading day of 2024, shares on the High Street rose sharply by 1.3 per cent, or 3.6p, to 276p, after an upgrade by BNP Exane Paribas analysts.

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Oil prices jump back to $80 a barrel amid rising tensions in the Red Sea

Oil prices fluctuated wildly as rising tensions in the Red Sea were overshadowed by concerns about the global economy.

On the first trading day of the new year, Brent crude rose more than 2.5 percent to a high of $79.03, after ending 2023 at around $77.

The surge came after Iran sent a warship into the Red Sea following the sinking of three Houthi boats by US Navy helicopters over the weekend.

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Shares are losing ground as 'gloomy sentiment' takes over

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown:

“Caution has returned as investors have begun to reassess the outlook for interest rates and how resilient economies will be in the coming months.

'There is also new nervousness about the prospects of escalating the conflict in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouni in Lebanon. Israel is preparing for retaliation from Hezbollah, a new twist in an already very complex and tragic situation in the Middle East.

'The initial positive momentum on the first day of trading in Europe has largely disappeared, with shares losing ground. A gloomier sentiment is emerging, which doesn't offer much cheer for the FTSE 100, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary amid what appears to be a bit of a crisis of confidence.'

Provide activist investor with a seat on the board

Ladbrokes owner Entain has handed a board seat to the CEO of activist investor Eminence Capital after the fund manager led shareholder dissent over the gambling giant's weak performance in core markets.

Ricky Sandler, who is also Eminence's chief investment officer, will join Entain's board as a non-executive director with immediate effect, the group told investors on Wednesday.

He will also join Entain's People & Governance and Capital Allocation committees.

Sandler will have the opportunity to help select an additional non-executive director “mutually acceptable to Eminence and the company,” Entain said.

Barry Gibson, chairman of entain, said: “Ricky has a deep understanding of our business and a strong belief in the quality of our operations and substantial growth opportunities. We look forward to benefiting from his perspectives and expertise as we work to create value for all Entain shareholders.”

The Accidental Icon: The fascinating history of how the FTSE 100 was created 40 years ago today

Returning to the Square Mile after their festive break, the handful of men who gathered in a room of the Stock Exchange Tower in Old Broad Street forty years ago today could not have imagined what they were about to undertake.

The gentle flick of a computer program on January 3, 1984 heralded the birth of one of Britain's most recognizable business brands and, more than two years before Margaret Thatcher's momentous Big Bang deregulation, a remarkable modernization of the City of London.

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Business confidence is weakening

Business confidence weakened in December as executives became more pessimistic about the prospects for the UK economy in 2024, a closely watched survey found.

Dr. Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said:

“Director sentiment ended the year in a relatively depressed place. According to our members, things have been more or less in the doldrums since last summer.

'While aspects of the business environment have improved in recent months, especially on inflation, this has not yet had a meaningful impact on business decision-making. Business leaders remain extremely cautious about the prospects for the broader economy over the next twelve months, although they are more optimistic about the prospects for their own organizations.

'Over the coming months the Bank of England will consider its next move on interest rates. Based on the data from this study, an early interest rate cut would be justified because it would help stimulate business confidence. With inflationary pressures easing, the business community urgently needs a boost if it is to drive meaningful economic growth in 2024.”