Users of YouTube and Facebook experienced disruption this afternoon, with hundreds of thousands of users reporting problems.

Issues began around 3pm, with the outage affecting Facebook and Instagram, which are owned by Meta, and YouTube, which is owned by Google. The outages have been tracked by the website Downdetector.

At 5:19pm, Meta announced that the outage affecting its services was now over. Google told The Telegraph that it “saw a surge in traffic … and we scaled up our systems to serve the additional load.”

London-based internet monitoring firm Netblocks said that four Meta platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Threads – were “experiencing outages related to login sessions in multiple countries.”

But the firm, which advocates for internet freedom, said there was no sign of “country-level internet disruptions or filtering”, which are typically imposed by governments.

According to a Google status website, there were also reports of problems with some of its services aimed at advertisers.

It is understood that the outages were not caused by a cyberattack.

Read the latest updates below.

Thanks for joining us today. Chris and I will be back tomorrow to cover all the latest Budget news and analyst. In the meantime, here are some of the latest business stories from elsewhere on The Telegraph website:

The Australian entrepreneur behind collapsed supply-chain finance business Greensill Capital is suing the British Government over alleged misuse of private information.

High Court records show Lex Greensill filed a lawsuit against the Department for Business and Trade last week, although details of the claim have not yet been made public.

A spokesman for Mr Greensill and the Business Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Greensill, which at one stage was valued at $3.5bn (£2.75bn) filed for administration in 2021 after one of its insurers failed to renew its cover and it was unable to repay a $140m loan to Credit Suisse. Companies could use Greensill to borrow money to pay suppliers early, but companies it had lent money to had defaulted.

Its failure also led to questions over lobbying by Lord Cameron, now the Foreign Secretary, who had pushed for Greensill to gain access to the Covid-19 loans scheme.

Lord Cameron was found by the Commons Treasury select committee not to have broken any rules by advocating for Greensill.

A Google spokesperson has told The Telegraph:

Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook owner Meta, has said:

NBC News has reported on comments by a senior official from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in a call with journalists. The official said:

Surging demand for weight-loss drugs helped to save Denmark from recession last year, a leading bank has said. Hannah Boland reports:

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.08pc today. The biggest riser was Intertek, up 6.15pc, followed by Endeavour Mining, up 4.24pc. The biggest faller was industrial equipment rental company Ashtead, down 9.36pc, followed by components supplier RS Group, down 3.51pc.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 rose 0.11pc. The biggest riser was Spirent Communications, up 63.28pc, followed by Trustpilot, up 8.38pc. The biggest faller was automotive distributor Inchcape, down 8.23pc, followed by Aston Martin, down 6.06pc.

Some of Google’s services are experiencing problems this afternoon, after users of Meta’s Facebook and Instagram encounter a significant outage.

YouTube is experiencing reports of outages on the website Downdetector. Meanwhile, Google’s Ad Manager is experiencing “service disruption”, according to its official status page, while Google is “investigating reports of an issue” with its AdMob and AdSense services. These are used by advertisers.

Here’s an update on our earlier mention of a Facebook outage reported by tens of thousands of people.

Users of Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, Threads and Messenger platforms are experiencing login issues in what appears to be a widespread outage.

Internet traffic observer Downdetector is reporting big outages across the world.

London-based internet monitoring firm Netblocks said on X that four Meta platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Threads – were “currently experiencing outages related to login sessions in multiple countries.” But the firm, which advocates for internet freedom, said there was no sign of “country-level internet disruptions or filtering,” which are typically imposed by governments.

Andy Stone, Meta’s head communications, acknowledged the issues on X, formerly known as Twitter, and said the company is “working on this now.”

A French billionaire vying to buy British grocery haulier Wincanton has dropped out of the takeover race.

CMA CGM, which is controlled by the family of billionaire Rodolphe Saadé, said it would not be increasing its 480p a share offer.

The move ends a bidding war between CMA CGM and rival GXO Logistics.

US-based GXO offered a knockout bid of 605p a share last week, double the Wincanton share price prior to the takeover battle.

The higher offer has the support of Wincanton’s largest shareholders, Aberforth Partners, Threadneedle, Wellcome Trust and Polar Capital. Shares in Wincanton fell 4.5pc to 596p.

The business was founded in 1925 as a subsidiary of the West Surrey Central Dairy Company, later known as Cow & Gate.

Today its main business is running warehouses and transporting goods for the likes of Sainsbury’s, Argos, Morrisons and Waitrose.

Tesco is to increase store workers’ pay by 9.1pc in an act worth roughly £300m.

It is the latest supermarket group to lift pay levels for workers ahead of the rise in the national minimum wage in April.

The national minimum wage will increase from its current rate of £10.42 per hour to £11.44 on April 1.

The grocery giant, which employs more than 330,000 people across the UK, will raise the basic hourly rate for store workers from £11.02 per hour to £12.02.

It will also increase the pay of workers within the M25 to £13.15 per hour, from a current rate of £11.95 for those in inner London and £11.75 for those in outer London.

Tesco UK chief executive Matthew Barnes said:

It comes days after rival Asda said it will increase its basic rate of staff pay to £12.04 per hour later this year.

Mike Lynch, the British businessman accused of a multibillion-dollar fraud over the sale of his software company to Hewlett Packard, has settled a legal fight with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) days before he is due to go on trial in the US.

A spokesman for Mr Lynch said he had reached a settlement with the SFO. Mr Lynch took the fraud office to court last month in an effort to force it to hand over correspondence with US authorities, information that he believes could help his upcoming US criminal defence.

Details of the settlement are confidential. Mr Lynch has been charged with fraud over the sale of the former FTSE 100 software company Autonomy in 2011 and denies the allegations. His trial is scheduled to start on March 18.

A Silicon Valley giant whose processors are widely used in personal computers and data centres has hit a US government roadblock in its efforts to sell an AI chip tailored for the Chinese market, as Washington cracks down on the export of advanced technologies to Beijing

According to a Bloomberg report, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) tried to get the US Commerce Department’s go-ahead.

However, officials said it must obtain a license from the Bureau of Industry and Security as the chip was too powerful despite being weaker than what the company sells outside China, and has been designed to meet US export restrictions, the report said.

The Telegraph has approached AMD and the Commerce Department for comment.

AMD shares are down 2.12pc today as investors feared that the reported development could hamper its efforts to catch up with AI front-runner Nvidia, whose semiconductors have captured more than 80pc of the market for the advanced chips.

Apple shares have fallen to their lowest level for five months after figures showed its sales in China were slumping amid the resurgent fortunes of rival Huawei, writes James Titcomb:

Thousands of users have reported difficulty accessing Faceboook this afternoon.

According to the website Downdetector, over 90,000 people after 3pm have said they are experiencing an outage. Facebook has been approached for comment.

All eyes will be on the Chancellor’s Budget speech tomorrow, so it is just as well that bitcoin surged to its all-time high today before the news gets drowned out.

I’m off to get an early night before the big speech tomorrow. Alex Singleton will have the latest updates from here, including about bitcoin’s record-breaking spike:

Bond markets have enjoyed a surge after closely-watched industry data in the US raised hopes about interest rate cuts.

The yield on 10-year UK gilts has fallen by more than 12 basis points to below 4pc for the first time in a month.

The yield is the return issuers of debt promise to pay buyers and moves inversely to bond prices.

It comes after the latest ISM PMI figures showed the US private sector grew at a slower pace than expected.

It raises pressure on the US Federal Reserve to lower interest rates to ease pressure on the economy.

Bitcoin has surged to a record high as wider trading rules approved earlier this year sparked a clamour for cryptocurrencies.

The world’s largest digital token surged past $69,000 for the first time in its history, having risen more than 50pc since the start of the year.

Car dealership Inchcape remains rooted to the bottom of the FTSE 250 today after it warned that growth will reduce in the year ahead.

The company posted a 24pc increase in pre-tax profits to £413m for 2023 after sales lifted 12pc, when stripping out the boost from a recent acquisition.

But it said growth was expected to “moderate” in 2024, adding that it will keep an “even stronger” focus on costs in the tougher trading conditions.

Shares in the company have tumbled nearly 9pc.

Inchcape gave little update on the review of its UK retail business, after confirming at the end of January that it was considering a possible sale of the arm, except to say that the review remains in the “initial stages”.

It comes amid a tough used car market, which has seen prices surge due to a supply shortage, but values slumped last autumn, putting pressure on dealership profit margins.

Police investigators inspect a damaged high-voltage pylon near the Tesla gigafactory in Gruenheide near Berlin, Germany, where production was stopped due to a power outage.

The power outage comes as environmental activists have been staging a protest in a forest near the plant against plans by Tesla to expand.

US stock markets opened lower with shares in Tesla dropping by 2.6pc after a suspected arson forced the evacuation and closure of Tesla’s only European gigafactory in Germany.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4pc to 38,810.94 while the S&P 500 fell 0.6pc to 5,102.85.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.9pc to 16051.49.

Monzo has raised $430m (£340m) in a fresh funding round which has lifted the value of the business to $5bn (£3.9bn), as it seeks to break into the US market.

The UK digital bank, which has more than nine million customers, was last valued at $4.5bn (£3.6bn) in 2021.

The funding round was led by CapitalG, a growth fund led by global technology giant and the owner of Google, Alphabet.

CapitalG has helped fund the growth plans of companies including Airbnb, Duolingo, and financial firm Stripe.

Monzo said it wants to use the cash to speed up its expansion, which could involve entering new markets and launching new products.

About two million customers joined the bank in 2023 and it revealed it became profitable a year ago and expects to deliver its first ever annual profit.

It is set to target growth in the US market having decided to withdraw its application for a banking licence in the country in 2021, when it was told it was unlikely to be approved.

Jeremy Hunt’s pre-election Budget looks like it will have deep consequences for our personal finances.

You can join The Telegraph’s consumer champion Katie Morley and associate editor Camilla Tominey online as they discuss what it means for your money and the future of the Government.

Click here to pre-submit your questions to be answered in a live Q&A.

The price of gold soared to an all-time pinnacle, boosted by its haven status ahead of expected cuts to US interest rates.

The spot gold price has advanced as high as $2,141.79 per ounce, surpassing its previous peak of $2,135.39 that was struck in early December.

On Monday, the LBMA gold price, a benchmark used throughout the gold market, reached $2,098.05 at Monday’s auction, surpassing its previous record of $2,078.40 set in December.

Currys should hold out for a takeover offer of around £1bn as potential American buyers circle, an investor in the company has said.

JOHCM (JO Hambro Capital Management) UK Equity Income fund, a top 10 shareholder in the company, said an offer between 80p and 100p would be “acceptable”.

A 90p offer would value the business at around £1bn, the institutional investor said.

It comes a week after Currys rejected a higher £757m takeover approach from the US owner of Waterstones.

Activist investor Elliott Advisors had made a second proposed offer worth 67p a share, up from its initial unsuccessful 62p a share approach on February 19.

The second move was then also rebuffed, with the firm’s board claiming it “significantly undervalued the company and its future prospects”.

Elliott has until March 16 at 5pm to make a firm offer for Currys or walk away under City Takeover Panel rules.

The average employee earning £35,000 will save £785 a year thanks to National Insurance being cut by a further 2 percentage points in tomorrow’s spring Budget.

Elon Musk has condemned “dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth” after Tesla was forced to halt production at its Berlin gigafactory following a suspected arson which Far-left German protesters have claimed credit for.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned the tax burden will still hit record levels in the coming years, even if the Chancellor cuts 2p from National Insurance in his Budget on Wednesday:

The pound traded listlessly as currency markets remained sluggish, with sterling traders looking towards the Budget as a potential catalyst.

Sterling was last down 0.1pc at $1.26, sticking to the $1.28 to $1.25 range it has traded in since November. The euro was also little changed against the pound at 85p.

The main event for investors in the UK this week is the Budget in which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will cut National Insurance by 2p – after deciding a cut to income tax would be too expensive.

Joe Tuckey, head of FX analysis at broker Argentex, said:

The historic shipyard that built the Titanic is on course to win a contract worth up to £120m to build a new port for the Falkland Islands.

Oil prices edged lower as China’s target for economic growth this year failed to impress investors.

Global benchmark Brent fell 0.2pc towards $82 a barrel after slipping 0.9pc on Monday, while West Texas Intermediate slipped 0.4pc near $78.

China’s National People’s Congress received only a lukewarm response from investors after it set its annual growth target at around 5pc, raising expectations for officials to unleash more stimulus as they try to lift confidence in a slowing economy.

The nation also set a more ambitious target for reducing the energy needed for economic expansion, or energy intensity, this year.

But there was no big package of stimulus for the world’s second largest economy – and top consumer of oil – to help boost markets and reassure worried investors.

US retail giant Target has reported a 58pc increase in its fourth-quarter profits as the discounter cut costs, beating Wall Street expectations.

Revenue rose slightly from a year ago, with comparable sales — those from stores or digital channels operating at least 12 months — slipped 4.4pc.

But that was a smaller decline than the 4.9pc drop in Target’s third quarter and a 5.4pc drop in the second quarter.

The Minneapolis retailer offered a cautious outlook for its sales and profits.

A cost-cutting campaign helped the retailer’s profits rebound after it was burdened with too much stock in the summer of 2022. The inventory glut forced it to discount heavily — and the effects lingered for a few quarters.

US stock indexes dipped in premarket trading as investors await several key events this week, including a congressional appearance from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

The benchmark S&P 500 hit a fresh intraday record high on Monday before closing slightly lower as investor focus turned to Mr Powell’s testimony on Wednesday and Thursday that could offer more cues on the Fed’s monetary policy path.

Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior market analyst at Swissquote Bank, said: “In this testimony, Powell will likely ask for more patience regarding the timing of the first rate cut, he will probably say that inflation is on the right path but that they don’t want to lower their guard too early.”

Traders see a 65.5pc chance of the first rate cut this year arriving in June, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said said on Monday that the Fed is under no urgent pressure to cut interest rates given a “prospering” economy and job market.

Ahead of the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1pc, the S&P 500 had dropped 0.2pc and the Nasdaq 100 had fallen 0.6pc.

Regus owner IWG has hinted at the possibility of a US listing as it said a “rapid uptake” of hybrid working has driven the fastest growth in its 35-year history.

WeWork rival IWG added a record 867 locations globally in 2023 and managed its highest-ever system-wide revenue of £3.3bn.

Bosses said that hybrid working is a long-term shift that is “one of the mega-trends of our time,” adding that companies have ditched city centre offices in favour of suburban locations close to where people live.

The company added that it will begin reporting its earnings in dollars in future and hinted at the possibility of switching its stock market listing to the US.

It is reviewing the adoption of US GAAP accounting standards and said there would be a “likely announcement regarding the company’s intentions” during the first half of this year.

IWG shares have fallen by 5pc today.

GB News’s losses have ballooned to £42.4m despite a jump in revenues as the broadcaster spent heavily on high-profile presenters.

Luke Barr has the details:

Read how the channel has deepened its reliance on billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Marshall.

Jeremy Hunt will cut National Insurance by a further two percentage points for 27 million British workers in his Budget tomorrow.

The Chancellor will make the reduction, worth about £450 to the average worker, a central pledge of his speech, having opted against a more expensive reduction in income tax. Government sources confirmed the move.

Mr Hunt has been scrambling to find room for pre-election giveaways after the Office for Budget Responsibility downgraded the amount of space he has for tax cuts.

Around 25,000 Greggs workers will share £17.6m in bonuses this month after the high street bakery chain notched up a 27% hike in annual profits.

The group’s boss, Roisin Currie, said the staff will be given the bonus in their pay packets at the end of March to recognise their “hard work and effort” over 2023.

It comes after Greggs delivered a bumper pre-tax profit of £188.3m for 2023, up from £148.3m the previous year after like-for-like sales in company-managed shops jumped 13.7pc.

The new car market recorded its strongest February in 20 years, figures show.

Nearly 85,000 new cars were registered last month, an increase of 14pc compared with February 2023, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

That is the highest February total since 2004 when more than 91,000 new cars were registered.

February is a low-volume month for sales ahead of the introduction of new number plates on March 1, which sparks a surge in purchases.

The SMMT reiterated its plea for “fairer” taxation of electric vehicles (EVs) ahead of Wednesday’s Budget as private uptake continues to struggle.

Private buyers accounted for just 18.2pc of new battery electric vehicles registered in the first two months of this year, with the overall 21.3pc increase in demand entirely sustained by fleets due to tax incentives.

The SMMT is urging Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to halve VAT on the purchase of new EVs, amend plans to introduce vehicle excise duty for EVs, and reduce VAT on public charging to bring it into line with home charging.

The UK’s dominant services sector continued to grow last month in a sign that Britain has “turned a corner” from its recession, according to new data.

The influential S&P Global/CIPS UK services PMI survey showed a reading of 53.8 in February, showing private sector businesses expanded for a fourth month in a row, although growth slowed marginally from 54.3 in January.

Any reading above 50 indicates growth for the sector, and below means decline.

Tim Moore, economics director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said:

The UK construction sector is unlikely to see any serious recovery until after the general election expected later this year, Travis Perkins has said.

The seller of construction products said that its customers are waiting to see if a potential new government will announce any support for the sector and where interest rates will go.

It said: “A recovery in the UK construction sector is unlikely to gather any momentum before the UK general election is concluded with the group’s customers, large and small, inevitably waiting to see if there is a post-election government stimulus package for the sector and also seeking clarity on the future direction of interest rates.”

It comes as the country is widely expected to go to the polls some time this year. The Government has to hold an election before January 28, 2025.

Travis Perkins also said that it was planning to possibly exit its French Toolstation business, which has 51 shops across the country.

It made a loss of £19m last year, up from £15m the year before, even though sales grew 11pc.

Government borrowing costs have eased ahead of the Budget, where the Chancellor is expected to announce a “responsible” set of policies, according to minister Greg Hands today.

The yield on 10-year UK gilts have fallen three basis points to 4.08pc and are under greater scrutiny after Liz Truss’ mini-Budget in 2022 caused a crisis in bond markets.

Hal Cook, senior investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

Bond markets across Europe have improved as money markets expect the European Central Bank to leave interest rates at their record highs of 4pc on Thursday.

Jeff Bezos has usurped Elon Musk as the world’s richest man with a net worth of $200bn (£158bn) after a surge in the share price of Amazon.

Our senior technology reporter Matthew Field has the details:

See how Amazon and Tesla’s share prices have diverged.

Tesla has reportedly been forced to halt production at its German gigafactory after a fire at a nearby pylon which local media speculated was started by environmental activists.

Power was knocked out in the area around the electric car maker’s Gruenheide factory near Berlin, although fire crews said the blaze had not spread to the plant itself.

Police said the fire brigade was working to put out the fire on the electricity pylon, which is in a nearby field.

A police spokesman said they could not comment on a report by the BZ newspaper which said that the fire was started by environmental activists and that bomb disposal units were called in after emergency services found a sign saying “ordnance buried here”.

It was also reported by BZ that the fire had brought car production to a halt at the plant.

Tesla’s aims to expand its plant, which has a capacity of around 500,000 cars a year, but it has faced opposition from environmental campaigners and local residents, who voted down a motion to fell trees to pave the way for the factory’s growth.

Tesla has been contacted for comment.

There is just one day to go until Jeremy Hunt unveils his next plans for the economy in his Budget.

A Government minister has said today that a responsible budget would involve a “balance” between giving people “a bit of a tax break this year” and “still keeping a record amount of funding into public services”.

Greg Hands asked that people “judge us on our record” as he declined to say whether cuts to public services would follow the Chancellor’s upcoming announcement.

Asked whether there would be a reduction in funding, the trade minister told Sky News:

Google’s head of Israel was accused by an employee of overseeing technology that is “powering genocide” as he was interrupted during a speech at a conference.

Barak Regev, the managing director of Google Israel, stopped speaking as a man identifying himself as a cloud engineer for the US tech giant stood up and criticised its Project Nimbus cloud computing work for the Israeli government and its military.

Announced April 2021, the Israeli Finance Ministry said the $1.2bn project is to provide “the government, the defense establishment, and others with an all-encompassing cloud solution.”

Critics have argued the technology allows Israel to collect unlawful data on Palestinians and to increase surveillance.

Video shared on social media shows Mr Regev addressing the MindTheTech conference in New York before a man stands up and identifies himself as a Google cloud software engineer.

Watch what he shouts below:

Britain’s blue-chip stock index fell to a near-three week low as it was dragged down by Ashtead Group and commodity-linked shares.

The FTSE 100 slipped 0.3pc to touch its lowest level since February 16.

Shares of commodity majors such as BP, Shell and Glencore fell about a per cent each as oil and metal prices dipped after investors were unimpressed by pledges by China to transform its economy amid stuttering growth since the pandemic.

Ashtead dropped 6.7pc and was the biggest loser in the FTSE 100 after the British equipment rental firm forecast full-year group rental revenue at the lower end of 11pc-13pc growth range.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was flat.

Shares of Spirent Communications rocketed by 58.7pc after US-based communications equipment firm Viavi Solutions agreed to buy the British company in a deal valued at about £1bn.

Inchcape fell 9.3pc to the bottom of the midcap index after the car dealership said it expects “moderated growth” in the short term.

The publisher of the Mirror and Express newspapers has seen its profits tumble by a third after rolling out sweeping job cuts.

Our reporter James Warrington has the latest:

Stock indexes in London have fallen at the open after investors were unimpressed by China’s 5pc annual growth target for its economy.

The internationally-focused FTSE 100 was down 0.3pc to 7,617.01 while the midcap FTSE 250 dropped 0.7pc to 19,227.74.

London estate agent Foxtons said the lettings market has “normalised” as fewer tenants battle for each property.

The company said it thinks the rental sector will “remain resilient” this year, adding that more properties have become available to rent.

The estate agent revealed a slump in profits as it closed branches and incurred £4.5m of costs as part of its takeover of rival Ludlow Thompson.

Pre-tax profits were down 34pc to £7.9m but revenue grew by 5pc to £147.1m in 2023 as mortgages became more affordable.

It said sales had outperformed the market amid a recovery in buyer demand levels, with a 31pc increase in the value of homes under offer at the end of February compared to the previous year.

British technology testing and security business Spirent will be taken over by Viavi in a £1bn deal in the latest overseas swoop on a UK-listed company.

Communications equipment business Viavi will offer 172.5p per share and a special dividend of 2.5p per share as part of the deal, which represents a 61.4pc premium on Spirent’s closing price of 108.4p on Monday.

There has been a flurry of merger and acquisition activity of UK companies since the turn of the year, as many businesses are perceived to be undervalued.

Last week, US logistics company GXO tabled an official bid for British grocery haulier Wincanton in a takeover battle with French shipping business CMA CGM.

Greggs revealed it would pay a final dividend of 46p per share after revealing record profits, taking its total ordinary dividend per share of 62p per share, up 5.1pc from 2022.

Charlie Huggins of Wealth Club said:

High street bakery chain Greggs has cheered a record annual performance as it notched up a 27pc hike in full-year profits, but revealed slowing sales growth.

The group reported pre-tax profits of £188.3m in 2023, up from £148.3m the previous year after like-for-like sales in company-managed shops rose 13.7pc.

It saw sales growth slow to 9.4pc in the final three months of the year as there was less contribution from price inflation.

The group added that comparable store sales growth slowed further, to 8.2pc in the first nine weeks of 2024.

But the company said it was “confident that Greggs can deliver another year of good progress” and remains on track to open between 140 to 160 shops this year after opening a record 220 shops in 2023.

Bitcoin’s runaway rally is being driven by investors in Asia.

Traders in South Korea, China and other Asian countries are responsible for roughly 70pc of bitcoin trading volumes, much like they were in 2021 when bitcoin last hit such heady highs, according to crypto exchange data from The Block.

Asia accounted for $791bn of the $1.17 trillion worth of bitcoin traded in February, with North American investors lagging way behind with $113bn, broadly reflecting a trend seen since November, the data shows.

In China, FOMO (the fear of missing out) has gripped many small investors frustrated with an anaemic stock market. On popular messaging app WeChat, searches for “bitcoin” jumped 12-fold in February.

Mia Wang, a finance industry employee based in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, told Reuters:

Bitcoin’s surge that has taken it close to its record highs could be a bubble, a Wall Street investment bank has warned, as global stock markets also jumped to all-time peaks.

JPMorgan’s chief market strategist Marko Kolanovic said he is concerned that there is “froth building” in markets.

Bitcoin continued its ascent to a fresh two-year peak of $68,828 that put it within spitting distance of an all-time high.

There are also signs of wider exuberance across markets, with the S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite all hitting record highs last week – and the Nikkei in Japan surpassing 40,000 for the first time on Monday.

Mr Kolanovic said: “Equities have moved up this year, even as bond yields rose and rate cut expectations unwound.

“Investors may be assuming that the increase in yields is reflective of economic acceleration, but earnings projections for 2024 are coming down and the market appears too complacent on the cycle.”

Bitcoin has gained 50pc this year and most of the rise has come in the last few weeks after the approval of wider trading methods in the US.

The so-called spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds opened the way for new large investors and has reignited enthusiasm and momentum reminiscent of the run up to record levels in 2021.

Kyle Rodda, senior markets analyst at, said:

Thanks for joining me. Bitcoin has surged close to its record high and global stocks are also hitting fresh peaks – but a Wall Street bank is ringing alarm bells about the risk of a bubble.

JPMorgan’s chief market strategist Marko Kolanovic said he is concerned that there is “froth building” in markets.

1) IT chaos and staff exodus threaten Britain’s ability to raise crucial debt | Illegal activity in government bond auctions risks going undetected, a Parliamentary committee has warned

2) Jaguar Land Rover owner to split off its cars division in EV shift | Tata Motors prepares for a future built around battery-powered vehicles

3) Issa brothers slash investment at petrol station empire in battle to pay down debts | Billionaires roll out ‘controlled reduction’ at EG Group to maximise liquidity

4) Non-dom tax raid risks backfiring on Hunt, warns IFS | New rules threaten to drive away super rich and diminish revenues, says think tank

5) Ben Marlow: Britain must not bend the knee to China – despite being on the brink of a death spiral | There are less grubby ways to inject life back into our moribund stock market

Most Asian stocks slid as the start of China’s week-long annual session of parliament disappointed investors with its lack of big ticket stimulus plans to prop up the struggling economy.

The Chinese government retained last year’s target for economic growth of “around 5pc” for this year, and announced plans to run a budget deficit of 3pc of economic output, down from a revised 3.8pc last year.

It also unveiled plans to issue 1 trillion yuan (£109bn) in special ultra-long term treasury bonds, which are not included in the budget.

Mainland stocks reversed early losses with the blue-chip CSI 300 up about 0.5pc, amid signs of suspected state-backed buying of some exchange-traded funds.

However, that failed to lift other markets in the region with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng deepening earlier declines to 2.7pc.

Tokyo’s key Nikkei index closed flat after hitting a fresh record the previous day as chip shares trimmed gains.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was little changed, down 11.60 points to end at 40,097.63, while the broader Topix index climbed 0.5pc, or 13.65 points, to 2,719.93.

US shares edged down from their record heights in a quiet Monday on Wall Street. The S&P 500 slipped 0.1pc, to 5,130.95, coming off its latest all-time high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 major American companies dipped 0.2pc, to 38,989.83, and the Nasdaq Composite index lost 0.4pc, to 16,207.51.

The yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury bonds rose to 4.21pc from 4.18pc late on Friday.

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