Area chart showing demand for gold, in tonnes. Half of consumer demand for gold comes from China and India

Travel restriction fears hit London bankers’ EU relocation plans

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Eurozone regulators frustrated by delays

Global banks are delaying or revising plans to move hundreds of key staff from the City of London to the EU in the coming months, as bankers and traders balk at the prospect of being confined to new post-Brexit outposts if coronavirus travel restrictions intensify. 

People familiar with the situation said eurozone regulators were becoming increasingly frustrated with some banks’ delays in implementing plans to relocate UK-based staff to cities such as Frankfurt and Paris before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

US and European banking giants had hoped to have tied down their Brexit staff relocations by now. But bankers who had planned on commuting weekly between their new EU bases and London homes have found the pandemic will make this all but impossible.

“I have heard some people squealing about moving because of corona, but usually the bigger worry is they might just lose their job,” said one European bank executive. “The concern is you get moved to Frankfurt and then fired soon after.”

Markets

Wall Street equities joined a global rally with investors scooping up shares in beaten-down stocks as a choppy month draws to a close. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite rose about 1.5 per cent each in early dealings in New York. The vigorous gains echoed rises in Europe.

Commercial properties hit by the economic effects of coronavirus could have lost as much as one-quarter of their value or more, laying bare the scale of the damage being wrought across American malls, hotels and other commercial buildings.

The pandemic has convinced investors that gold belongs in their portfolios as a hedge against frothy equity markets, rock-bottom interest rates and a fall in economic output. Interest from western investors has triggered a rise in the gold price from a low of $1,160 in the summer of 2018 to a record high of $2,073 an ounce in August, making the precious metal one of the best-performing financial assets on the planet.

Business

Boots is facing accusations of using the UK’s moratorium on evictions during the pandemic as cover for aggressive lease renegotiations. Although the high street pharmacy chain kept most of its more than 2,000 stores open throughout lockdown, it is withholding rents and service charges, according to several landlords.

European steel groups have underperformed the market of late

As a resurgence in Covid-19 threatens more economic disruption, the crisis may prove the catalyst required to confront what many believe is the biggest — and politically most contentious — obstacle to a prosperous future for Europe’s steel sector: too much capacity.

The economic output of central London’s arts and culture sector faces a severe slump if the government repeatedly imposes tough coronavirus restrictions, according to a report. For arts and culture businesses in the West End, gross value added could fall by 97 per cent by 2024, compared with its 2019 level, in the worst-case scenario.

Global economy

Line chart of % change from pre-crisis levels (rolling seven-day average) showing travel to workplaces has increased in Europe

The reopening of schools helped more workers return to their workplaces in September, Google data suggest, although work-related travel is still below pre-crisis levels in all main European economies as working from home remains common. Oxford Economics said an improvement in alternative economic indicators, led mainly by increased mobility and the return to school and workplaces, was “rather encouraging”.

Investors’ appetite for emerging market debt, driven by low global interest rates, has averted a fiscal catastrophe in developing countries reeling under the shock of coronavirus. But by attempting to borrow their way out of trouble, governments are storing up bigger problems for the future, analysts warn.

China’s tourism industry expects more than 600m trips to be taken during October’s Golden Week, down a fifth from a year ago, in what will be a test of consumer demand after the nation’s success in controlling Covid-19. Most startling has been the recovery in tourist activity in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak emerged.

Get in touch

How is your workplace dealing with the pandemic? And what do you think business and markets — and our daily lives — will look like after lockdown? Please tell us by emailing [email protected] We may publish your contribution in an upcoming newsletter. Thanks

The essentials

Hannah Murphy describes how home tech can be companies’ weakest link as people move from a well-furnished office to setting up a workstation at home. Impose tough password restrictions, stop sharing on unsanctioned cloud applications, update antivirus software and beware the internet of things, she advises, as part of our report on the FT’s ranking of Masters in Management courses.

Final thought

A Roma home in Romania. The buildings are a hybrid style of Balkan, Ottoman, Alpine and European traditions
A Roma home in Romania. The buildings are a hybrid style of Balkan, Ottoman, Alpine and European traditions © Alamy

If you want architectural invention and the brilliance of unrestrained hybridity, then the Roma palaces of Romania might be the things to see, argues Edwin Heathcote, the FT’s architecture critic. Post-communist freedom and funding has spawned “remarkable monuments to architectural eclecticism, gaudy, joyful expressions of wealth, identity and presence in a landscape and culture that shunned them for so long”.