Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:
Quiz permanently closes 15 stores amid revenue slump
Fashion retailer Quiz (QUIZ.L) announced on Wednesday that it has been forced to permanently close 15 of its stores after revenues plunged by 77% in the five months to 31 August.
In a trading update, the company said that 48 of the 75 stores it had operated prior to the coronavirus pandemic have now reopened. It expects to reopen 60 stories in total, meaning that 15 will not reopen.
“Consistent with other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Quiz’s sales in the period,” the company said.
Total sales between 1 April and 31 August fell by 77% to £12.8m ($16.6m), while website sales fell 45% to £4.9m.
Sales through third-party websites, meanwhile, plummeted by 64% to £3.1m.
The retailer nonetheless said that it had been “encouraged by the consistent improvement in like-for-like sales in recent weeks.”
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has paused human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine it has developed in partnership with the University of Oxford.
StatNews, a specialist medical website in the US, first reported on Tuesday evening that AstraZeneca had paused a large Phase 3 trial of AZD1222, an experimental vaccine.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca confirmed to Yahoo Finance UK the trial had been halted after the discovery of an “unexplained illness” in one patient.
“As part of the ongoing randomised, controlled global trials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee,” the spokesperson said.
Pound hits six-week low as UK amid Brexit woes
The pound hit a six-week low against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) on Wednesday, as the UK government prepares to unveil a controversial trade bill and fears grow of a no-deal Brexit.
The bill, to be published later on Wednesday, will see trade powers previously held by Brussels transferred to the UK and devolved governments.
But the plans will override commitments over Northern Ireland made by the government in the withdrawal agreement it previously negotiated with the European Union. Minister Brandon Lewis sparked uproar late on Tuesday by admitting the plans would breach international law.
Sterling was trading 0.2% lower against the greenback at just below $1.30 in early trading, and also shed 0.2% against the euro (GBPEUR=X) at around $1.10.
A volatility index for the pound also reached its highest level in five months.
European stocks gain despite tech rout and vaccine doubts
European stocks rose on Wednesday despite the spillover of the Wall Street sell-off in technology stocks to Asia and fears about AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) vaccine trial.
Shares in firms like BP (BP.L), Shell (RDSB.L), and Unilever (ULVR.L) were among the biggest gainers in London on the back of the pound’s Brexit-related weakness, since their profits are denominated in dollars.
“Asian equities fell with the weak US handover. European stocks opened a little bit higher in early trade but risk sentiment appears very fragile,” said Neil Wilson, the chief markets analyst of Markets.com.
Meanwhile, the “routine” pausing of AstraZeneca’s closely watched vaccine trial rattled investors. The company is investigating whether a patient’s reported side effect is connected with the vaccine, known as AZD1222.
What to expect in the US
Futures are pointing to a higher open in the US, potentially putting an end to days of back-to-back declines.
Futures on the tech-heavy Nasdaq (NQ=F), meanwhile, rose by almost 0.7%.