Top international headlines: UK Military steps in to assist with driver shortages

Also in the spotlight: Brent crude reaches three-year high and Virgin Money to close 31 branches.

China’s central bank governor cautions against quantitative easing, while Brent Crude reaches its highest level since 2018. Meanwhile, Virgin Money announces closure of 31 branches and the UK military will assist with fuel delivery shortages. Elon Musk announces that the Biden administration is biased.

UK military to assist with fuel delivery shortages
The number of UK fuel stations hit by delivery shortages and panic buying has reduced, as the government said the military was preparing to start driving supply tankers to the pumps in the coming days.

Panic buying at UK fuel stations was sparked last week after reports that a small number of pumps had run dry due to a long-running shortage of tanker drivers to restock retail networks, reports S&P Global.

The UK's Road Haulage Association has estimated that about 20,000 European drivers have left the UK since the country’s exit from the European Union, bringing the total shortage to 100,000.

China criticises QE by global central banks
China’s central bank governor has said that quantitative easing (QE) implemented by global peers can be damaging over the long term and vowed to keep policy normal for as long as possible.

The Federal Reserve and European Central Bank have turned to QE to support their economies through the Covid-19 pandemic, providing a liquidity boost to banks to lend to customers, but also driving up financial risks as speculative flows move into everything from property to commodities, reports Bloomberg.

People’s Bank of China’s Governor Yi Gang’s comments represent one of the most direct criticisms of the unprecedented stimulus unleashed by global central banks.

Brent crude reaches three-year high
Oil prices climbed above $80 a barrel this week, hitting their highest level in three years as the pound slumped.

Analysts believe that oil prices will continue to rise amid surging demand and tight supplies.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs said Brent could hit $90 per barrel by the end of the year, warning that rising input costs, higher gas prices and weaker growth were likely to weigh on European corporate profit growth for 2021, reports the BBC.

Virgin Money to close 31 branches
Virgin Money has announced that it will close 31 branches in the latest stage of the UK banking sector’s retreat from the high street.

Since the start of the pandemic HSBC, TSB and the Co-operative Bank have all closed branches, raising concerns about access to cash during lockdowns from the Financial Conduct Authority and consumer groups, reports The Guardian.

Elon Musk says Biden ‘biased’ against Tesla
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has criticised US President Joe Biden, saying his administration is “biased” against Tesla and it appears to be “controlled” by unions during a speech on stage at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Musk also repeated several of his prior complaints about federal financial regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission, reiterated his support for cryptocurrency and nuclear energy, and said he is optimistic about Tesla and tech in China despite recent antitrust and cryptocurrency crackdowns there, reports CNBC.