Euro Covid lockdown Austria Europe – Joe Klamar / AFP

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The euro has dropped close to a 16-month low against the dollar as fresh lockdown measures across the continent spread doubts over the economic recovery.

Austria was plunged into its fourth lockdown on Monday, with Germany warning it may follow suit, shutting Christmas markets, bars and cafes.

Riots have broken out in several countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, over a tightening of restrictions.

The euro slipped 0.3pc against the dollar to $1.1269 – close to a 16-month low. Oil prices also dropped as much as 1pc amid expectations Europe’s fifth wave of coronavirus could cause the ECB to go slow on easing stimulus measures.

08:21 AMMarks & Spencer rises on potential private equity bid

Shares in Marks & Spencer have pushed higher this morning following a report that private equity group Apollo Global Management has been mulling a takeover bid.

Apollo began sizing up M&S after concluding it was undervalued due to the pandemic, the Sunday Times reported over the weekend. It's unclear whether a recent rally in the firm's shares has dampened this interest, though.

Marks & Spencer rose as much as 3.5pc as markets opened, after climbing more than 30pc over the last month.

In a bullish announcement earlier this month, the retailer raises its profit forecast for the second time, raising hopes that its long-awaited recovery could finally be taking effect.

Apollo's reported interest in M&S comes amid a flurry of private equity activity in the sector, following deals for both Asda and Morrisons.

08:01 AMFTSE 100 rises at the open

The FTSE 100 has pushed into positive territory to start the week.

Story continues

The blue-chip index is up 0.3pc at 7,243 points.

07:57 AMFinal Crossrail test runs beginCrossrail Elizabeth Line – Peter Summers/Getty Images

While the CBI bemoans rail links in the North, there's been some movement on London's troubled Crossrail project.

Final test runs have begun on the heavily-delayed and over-budget train service – which will be known as the Elizabeth Line – with a full opening slated for early next year.

The new line, which is Europe's largest infrastructure project, was originally due to be completed by the end of 2018.

The initial opening will involve only the central portion of the line, with the outer sections to Reading in the west and Shenfield in the east initially running as separate services before being connected to the central link no later than May 2023.

07:45 AMNorthern businesses 'bruised' by blow to rail investment, warns CBI chief

Northern businesses are “upset” and “bruised” at the Government’s move to scrap HS2’s Eastern leg and cut back the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse project, the head of the CBI has said.

My colleague Russell Lynch has the details:

Tony Danker, the director general, also called on ministers to extend an olive branch to areas such as Bradford most affected by the diminished integrated rail plan unveiled last week, dealing a blow to the Government’s levelling up ambitions.

Mr Danker said: “Talking to members of that part of the world in the last 24 hours, they are very upset. And I think that the issue speaking to them was less about connectivity to London. It's more about connectivity across the North, and multiplying the amount of places in the North that can participate in economic activity.

“I just hope the Government will go and talk to those communities and business communities about how to move on from here, because I think they're feeling a bit bruised today.”

He added: “The Government needs to respond properly to those sort of cross-North capacity issues. And I think that if that has been inadequately addressed… they need to get around the table with these folks pretty soon.”

Read Russ' full story here

07:37 AMEricsson to buy cloud firm Vonage in £4.6bn dealEricsson Vonage $6.2bn cloud – JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP

It's a fairly slow morning to kick off the week, but there's a big deal in the telecoms world.

Swedish giant Ericsson has inked a deal to buy cloud provider Vonage for $6.2bn (£4.6bn) as it looks to build up its position in the rapidly-growing cloud market.

The company will pay $21 per share for US-based Vonage, it said this morning. The offer represents an equity value of about $5.3bn based on around 252m shares outstanding.

It comes as Ericsson grapples with a strain on profits due to lost business in China and chip shortages caused by global supply chain disruptions.

Vonage's cloud services, which account for 80pc of its $1.4bn in annual revenues, enable developers to embed functions such as messaging or video into their products.

Chief executive Borje Ekholm said:

"Vonage gives us a platform to help our customers monetise the investment in the network, benefiting developers and businesses."

07:26 AMEV chargers for all new homes

Good morning.

There's a major step forward in plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars, with new laws requiring all new homes to install electric vehicle charges coming into effect from next year.

The Government says the measures form a key part of the transition to EVs and are designed to address criticism that the UK lacks the critical infrastructure needed to support the shift.

But the plans aren't free from criticism. Labour has argued that the move does nothing to address the "appalling" geographical divide in available charging points.

The party said: "London and the South East have more public car charging points than the rest of England and Wales combined. Yet there is nothing here to help address this."

5 things to start your day

1) City regulator appeals for Bitcoin expertise as terrorists exploit cryptocurrencies: FCA tenders £500,000 contract over fears crypto is now a hotbed for financial crime.

2) State expansion intensifying labour crisis, says Bailey: Economists warn that 250,000 new public sector jobs 'seen as a bit cushy' are drawing staff from hospitality.

3) Add costs of heat pumps to mortgages, suggests green tsar: Plus, the struggle to insulate Britons' finances against the costs of going carbon-free.

4) The fight to save Argentina's freefalling economy: Rise of an 'anarcho-capitalist' shows voters want fresh answers over how to end cycle of despair.

5) Electric aviation hunts the Tesla of the skies: Daunting challenges delay innovation take-off, despite Rolls-Royce speed record.

What happened overnight

Stocks were mixed in Asia on Monday after ending the week mostly lower on Wall Street, despite the Nasdaq's first close above 16,000.

A resurgence of coronavirus outbreaks in the US, Europe and other regions is weighing on investor sentiment. Comments by advisers to the Chinese central bank about risks of "stagflation" have reinforced concerns about inflationary pressures.

The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.7pc to 3,583.37, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.4pc to 24,962.11.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 edged 0.1pc lower to 29,717.58. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 500 gave up 0.4pc to 7,368.00.

Shares fell in India but rose in Taiwan.

Attention has turned to the People's Bank of China as Beijing strives to curb risks from excessive borrowing by property developers but still keep the economy growing.

Coming up today

  • Corporate: Diploma, Cerillion (Full-year results); Big Yellow, Augmentum Fintech (Interims)

  • Economics: Existing home sales (US); consumer confidence (EU)

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