What to watch: Bitcoin eyes all-time high, stocks cautious, and retail sales rise

Oscar Williams-Grut and Tom Belger
·5 min read
Bitcoin is once again rising, closing in on all-time high of almost $20,000 per coin.. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images
Bitcoin is once again rising, closing in on all-time high of almost $20,000 per coin.. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Bitcoin eyes all-time high

Bitcoin (BTC-USD) is once again rising, closing in on all-time high of almost $20,000 (£15,113) per coin.

Bitcoin has risen around 150% this year, including a rally of 70% since the start of October. The cryptocurrency was on the march again on Friday, rising 1.7% against the dollar to $18,153.42.

The price of Bitcoin is being supported by its image as a safe haven asset and recent institutional backing from the likes of Square and PayPal.

“I would not be surprised if bulls push this to $20k by the time markets open on Monday morning,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

WATCH: Another bitcoin bubble? Backers hope this time is different

Stocks cautious

European stock markets were slightly higher on Friday, as optimism around a potential vaccine was held back by the reality of the COVID-19 second wave.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.2% after an hour and a half of trade in London, while the DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.2% in Frankfurt, and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up 0.4% in Paris.

Analysts on Barclays European equity strategy team said in a note sent to clients on Friday morning that markets were continuing to battle “Hope v reality.”

“Vaccine breakthrough boosts hope of return to normality, but investors face a potentially foggy winter ahead if infections continue to soar,” European equity strategy chief Emmanuel Cau and his team wrote in the note.

WATCH: European stocks rise as Barclays says buy the dip

Cau and his team advised their clients to buy the dip in stocks “as the unwind of the 2-year long flight to safety may just be starting.”

US futures were pointing lower. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were down 0.4%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were 0.5% lower, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down 0.1%.

Stocks were mostly higher overnight in Asia. The Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 0.2%, the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) gained 0.4%, and South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) improved by 0.2%. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) fell 0.4% and the ASX 200 (^AXJO) in Australia slipped 0.1%.

Retail sales rise

UK retail sales recorded a sixth consecutive month of growth in October, defying analysts’ predictions of decline as consumers began their Christmas shopping early.

Sales volumes increased 1.2% between September and October, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released on Friday.

Growth has not been split evenly between retailers, with online sales up 5.8% and store sales down 3.3% versus February. Clothing sales and fuel sales remained below pre-virus levels.

UK government debt hits £2.1tn

UK government debt reached almost £2.1tn ($2.7tn October, as borrowing hit its sixth highest monthly total since records began.

Data published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) underscores the pressure on Britain’s public finances from the coronavirus crisis.

Total debt now stands at 100.8% of the size of the entire UK economy, the highest ratio since the early 1960s.

Borrowing has jumped this year to plug the gap between soaring spending and lower tax receipts as the country has battled the pandemic and the economic impact of restrictions.

Tesla hits all-time high

Tesla (TSLA) stock hit a fresh all-time high overnight. The electric car maker rose 2.6% to close at $499.27.

The stock has been rallying in recent days on news that it is set to be included in the S&P 500 index. Jim Reid, a macro strategist at Deutsche Bank, said Tesla was on track to be the eighth biggest company on the index when it is added in December. Tesla shares have risen over 20% in the last three trading sessions.

Thursday’s rise came despite the annual Consumer Report in the US panning the reliability of two of Tesla’s vehicles.

Shares in Tesla were down 0.5% in the pre-market.

WATCH: Analyst sets Tesla stock price target at $578

Nationwide profits rise

Nationwide saw its profits jump 17% in the six months to October, boosted by strong demand for buy-to-let mortgages.

The building society posted profits of £361m ($478m) in its first-half financial report on Friday, though its underlying income was virtually unchanged at around £1.5bn.

Strong landlord demand, and a wider UK property boom amid high pent-up demand and stamp duty cuts in part of the country, failed to lift total mortgage lending year-on-year, however.

The gross value of total mortgage lending came in at £12.7bn, down 12.3% on the previous year, likely reflecting the property market shutdown for part of the year. It also comes in spite of Nationwide retaining 90% loan-to-value mortgages for longer than some of its rivals.

EU to spend $10bn on COVID-19 vaccines

The European Union is set to spend more than $10bn (£7.6bn) on hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac (CVAC), according to reports.

It has secured an agreement to pay €15.50 (£13.88, $18.40) per dose for the vaccine candidate being developed by BioNTech (BNTX) and partner Pfizer (PFE), Reuters first reported, citing an EU official involved in the talks.

The move would mean an overall price of up to €3.1bn for 200 million doses, increasing to €4.65bn if another optional 100 million doses are bought through the deal, the official told the newswire.

The deal, which means that the EU is paying less per dose than the United States, also includes an insurance for countries on the bloc to receive compensation if the companies divert doses to America, the source said.

Additional reporting by LaToya Harding.