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
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.
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.
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.”
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%.
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 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…