Good morning. It's Budget Day. Rishi Sunak will address the House at 12 30pm this afternoon to present his second budget as chancellor.
Several major announcements have already been made, including plans to extend the furlough scheme until the autumn. Tax rises are also likely. The FTSE 100 is set to open in positive territory ahead of the speech.
Meanwhile Mr Sunak will also consider Lord Hill's 86-page report alongside the budget. In a bid to attract more high-growth companies to the City, the former EU commissioner has proposed a wide-ranging overhaul of regulations which would slash red tape and allow company founders to retain more power.
5 things to start your day
1) The City has to break free from EU rule, says Lord Hill: UK should use newfound freedom to turbocharge the City post-Brexit, said Jonathan Hill, former EU commissioner for financial services.
2) Greensill Capital seeks insolvency protection in Australia: Germany's financial regulator Bafin has meanwhile taken direct oversight of Greensill Bank, according to reports on Tuesday evening.
3) Singapore wealth fund backs North Sea carbon capture venture: Exclusive: Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and other international investors have bought a slice of a leading UK carbon capture developer.
4) Biden's markets watchdog to put trading apps under new scrutiny: Gary Gensler, incoming Securities and Exchange Commission head, promised new scrutiny after the GameStop trading controversy.
5) Oil price rises put Opec under pressure: Opec officials are under pressure from members to lift production cuts that have sustained oil prices in recent months amid optimism.
What happened overnight
Stocks advanced in Asia on Wednesday after a wobbly day on Wall Street, when the S&P 500 gave back most of its gains from a day earlier.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng rose to 29,591.76. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index added 0.2pc to 29,473.25, while the Kospi in Seoul picked up 0.6pc to 3,062.99. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 1.3pc to 3,555.28.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8pc to 6,815.40 after the government reported the economy grew at a 3.1pc quarterly rate, but a minus 1.1pc annual rate, in the fourth quarter of last year. The better than expected result was helped by consumer demand and public spending, analysts said.
India's Sensex opened 0.8pc higher.
Coming up today
Corporate: Avast, Hiscox, Nichols, Persimmon, Polymetal International, Prudential, Vivo Energy (Full year results); Biffa, DS Smith (Trading statement)
Economics: Budget (UK), services PMI (UK, Japan, China, Germany, France, eurozone, Italy, Spain, US), GDP (Italy)