British consumers’ minds have been focused on energy prices on a “Bleak Friday” on which the long-trailed energy price cap increase has taken effect and a series of other bills have increased.
Such is the pressure on UK households that Frances O’Grady, head of the Trades Union Congress, has called for an “emergency budget” from the chancellor to address the cost-of-living crisis, after Rishi Sunak’s spring statement provoked cross-party dismay for its perceived lack of action.
Customers seeking to secure cheaper energy bills had been advised to submit meter readings online before Friday’s 54% increase to the cap on the average annual bill rises to £1,971.
The websites of energy providers are struggling to cope with a deluge of traffic on “bleak Friday”, as the largest increase in gas and electricity prices in living memory takes effect on the same day as a string of scheduled rises to taxes and household services.
The other big UK business news of the day is on P&O Ferries, which faces the prospect of criminal and civil investigations by the Insolvency Service after sacking nearly 800 staff without consultation.
The government had previously backtracked on taking action itself, despite huge cross-party pressure for some form of redress against the company, whose chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite admitted in the House of Commons last week that he deliberately chose not to consult workers.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, a union representing ferry and other transport workers, said:
There are clear grounds to detain P&O’s ship whilst criminal and civil investigations are completed. Justice must be delivered for our members in the face of continued corporate hostility.
It has been a fairly gentle day on financial markets, albeit with some volatility around oil prices which are bobbing around the $100-$105 per barrel mark, depending on your flavour.
Analysts are of course focused on the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also the response of nations such as the US, which is planning to release millions of barrels of oil to lesson price pressures at the pump.
The S&P 500 edged up by 0.3% after US non-farm payrolls missed economists’ expectations but still signalled pretty strong momentum in the US economy.
The gain was lower than expected but was also the 11th consecutive month of gains above 400,000, the longest such stretch of growth on record. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, its lowest level since the pandemic struck the US.
You can continue to follow our live coverage from the war in Ukraine and more on the Guardian website.
In Ukraine, an explosion rocks an oil depot in Russia; battles being fought near Kyiv, says mayor:
In the UK, P&O Ferries facing criminal investigation after sacking 800 workers:
In the US, Florida governor threatens to retaliate against Disney over ‘don’t say gay’ law:
And in sport, the draw for men’s football World Cup finals is due to begin in Doha at 5pm BST:
Thank you as ever for joining us today in our live coverage of business, economics and financial markets. Please do join Graeme Wearden on Monday for more. JJ