The FTSE 100 will open at 8am. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Barclays, Plus500 and Bunzl. Read the Tuesday 24 October Business Live blog below.

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Hargreaves Lansdown flags weaker investor confidence

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Investor Confidence Index dropped 7 per cent to 71 this month, reflecting market skittishness after war boke out in the Middle East.

Emma Wall, head of investment analysis and research, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘It is not surprising to see Investor Confidence has dropped following the devastating war in the Middle East.

‘The conflict has impacted both oil and gold prices. But retail investors were already loading up on perceived lower-risk assets, thanks to market volatility, an uncertain global economic outlook, and compelling yields.’

‘We are seeing companies scale back hiring and in some cases shed jobs’

Marcus Brookes, chief investment officer at Quilter Investors:

‘At a time when every data source will be analysed to the nth degree by the Bank of England and investors, it is unfortunate that the ONS had to delay the publication of the employment numbers to today.

‘With low response rates to surveys and a new ‘experimental’ data series being used, today’s figures provide a slightly clouded picture of what is happening in the labour market, at a point where we are a very finely balanced point in the rate hiking cycle.

‘Looking at the ‘experimental’ data, we can see that unemployment in the UK is remaining stable, for now.

‘However, the fast rise in interest rates is beginning to bite and we are seeing companies scale back hiring and in some cases shed jobs, with the employment rate falling and unemployment rising gradually in the last three months.

‘We know that economic growth in the UK is slowing and could potentially turn negative for the fourth quarter, so today’s data provides further evidence that things may be beginning to roll over. For the Bank of England this may be just enough to continue with a pause at its next interest rate decision, having hit the brakes at its last meeting.

‘One thing for certain, however, is the UK is potentially mired in uncertainty for a period of time – just like today’s employment statistics. With the economy grinding to a halt, an election year-round the corner and geopolitical instability increasing, things could get harder before they get easier, despite inflation continuing to fall.

‘For investors, it’s times like these where you need to hold your nerve and look out for the opportunities that an unsettled market will often provide.’

Plus500 sales jump

Plus500 has retained its annual profit outlook after reporting a 10 per cent jump in quarter-on-quarter core profit, buoyed by its long-term customers despite lower trading volumes.

The London-listed company’s core profit for the three months to the end of September was at $80.3million, down from $73.2million in the second quarter.

Chief executive David Zruia said:

‘I am pleased to announce that Plus500 continued to perform well during the third quarter of 2023, driven by our focus on higher-value customer acquisition, geographic expansion and product innovation, despite lower volatility and trading volumes across the global financial markets.

‘The Group continues to make good progress against its strategic plans with the expansion into the US, Japan and the UAE markets.

‘Our consistent good performance is enabled, supported and progressed by our market-leading, proprietary technology which is developed and maintained entirely by our highly experienced teams. As a diversified, global business with a clear and proven strategy, Plus500 is well positioned to continue delivering strong results and attractive returns to its shareholders.’

UK infrastructure has worsened in the last 10 years, manufacturers say

Most British manufacturers think the country’s infrastructure has deteriorated over the past decade, a survey has found.

Consultancy RSM UK and industry body Make UK found that 68 per cent of firms believe the quality of Britain’s national infrastructure has slid in the past ten years, while 57 per cent said it has become worse at a local level.

Rail and road networks were viewed the most negatively by manufacturers, with a significant minority also saying the country’s broadband had become poorer.

Unemployment rate holds

Britain’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.2 per cent in the three months to August, fresh data from the Office for National Statistics shows.

Barclays profits dip

Barclays profits dipped slightly year-on-year in the third quarter as strength in its US-based credit card business was offset by weakness in its investment banking division.

C.S. Venkatakrishnan, group chief executive, said:

‘We see further opportunities to enhance returns for shareholders through cost efficiencies and disciplined capital allocation across the Group.

‘We will provide an Investor Update at FY23 results which will include setting out our capital allocation priorities, as well as revised financial targets’

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