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Thanks for joining us. Job vacancies have fallen at the fastest rate since 2021 as employers delay or freeze hiring amid continued economic uncertainty.

Demand for UK workers declined sharply last month after the number of permanent job opportunities dropped at the quickest pace in more than three years, according to a survey by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Meanwhile, the number of temporary job vacancies dropped for the first time, albeit only slightly, since August 2020.

The latest sign of a cooling job market will increase pressure on the Bank of England to lower interest rates sooner rather than later. 

The Bank raised borrowing costs 14 times in a row up until August, and has kept rates unchanged at 5.25pc ever since.

The number of people recruited into permanent jobs across the UK declined in February for the 17th consecutive month. 

The latest drop in placements was linked to recruitment freezes, delays around hiring decisions and fewer job vacancies as a result of the weaker economic outlook, the report found.

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What happened overnight 

Asian stocks fell after Japanese shares tumbled as growing speculation the nation’s central bank will raise interest rates boosted the yen.  

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 2.2pc, or 868.45 points, to close at 38,820.49, while the broader Topix index lost 2.2pc, or 59.97 points, to 2,666.83.

Chip stocks within the benchmark slumped in a move that echoed pressure on AI-related stocks seen on Friday in the US, when Nvidia slipped 5.6pc.

In Japan, economic growth expanded in the fourth quarter, supporting expectations that the Bank of Japan will raise interest rates for the first time since 2007 as soon as this month. 

Declines for Japanese shares partly reflected the stronger yen, which typically acts as a headwind for the country’s equities.

The yen strengthened against the greenback, extending last week’s 2pc rally against the US currency — its best weekly gain since July. Japan’s 10-year real bond yields headed for a three-week high.

Chinese equities ran against the gloom to trade higher. The advance was helped along by the first rise in consumer prices since August. The 0.7pc gain in February CPI exceeded consensus estimates and is welcome news for investors worried about deflation in the world’s second largest economy.

Shares in Australia and South Korea also declined, sending a gauge of regional stocks down after three days of gains. 

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