US department store chain Nordstrom said it was on track to eke out a quarterly profit despite a sharp decline in holiday season sales. The Seattle-based company said net sales over the nine weeks to the start of January fell 22 per cent from a year ago.

Thirteen US states have confirmed the presence of the fast-spreading variant of coronavirus that was first detected in the UK, with Wisconsin and New Mexico on Wednesday becoming the latest places to join the expanding list.

The US budget deficit swelled to $573bn at the end of last year driven by a fiscal stimulus package aimed at helping households and businesses weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The deficit widened by 61 per cent from a year ago in the fiscal first quarter that runs through December, the Treasury said.

Portugal is to impose a national lockdown from midnight on Thursday, requiring people to stay at home, shutting down most shops and services and enforcing remote working as hospitals struggle to cope with a record level of coronavirus infections.

California on Wednesday reported its second-highest daily increase in coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, with back-to-back days of more than 500 fatalities. Authorities attributed a further 589 deaths to coronavirus, second only to the record of 695 reported on January 9.

The UK has recorded the highest daily increase in its coronavirus death toll since the start of the pandemic. The nation reported an additional 1,564 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. More than 1,000 of the new deaths reported on Wednesday occurred over the prior four days.

Researchers in the US have discovered two new variants of coronavirus, one of which they say became the dominant strain in the Ohio state capital Columbus within just three weeks.

Turkey will begin its vaccination programme tomorrow after approving China’s CoronaVac jab for emergency use. Fahrettin Koca, the country’s health minister, received the first dose live on television and said that immunisation of health workers would start on Thursday.

Employment in the American clean energy sector ended 2020 at its lowest level in five years. Despite the addition of almost 17,000 jobs in December, around 429,000 people previously employed by the sector remain out of work, according to an analysis by BW Research Partnership.

Infection rates amongst those who have received the first of a two-shot BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine dropped within days, initial data from Israel’s Ministry of Health indicated.

Italy will extend its national state of emergency until the end of April. An extension of the state of emergency is necessary due to “a generalised worsening of the epidemic”, health minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday.

Debenhams’ flagship Oxford Street store in London is one of six that will not reopen once Covid-19 restrictions are eased. The department store group will not reopen stores in Portsmouth, Staines, Harrogate, Weymouth and Worcester. Around 320 jobs will be lost as a result.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, on Wednesday announced new restrictions on “click and collect” retail services and businesses offering takeaway food and drink, saying tougher action was needed to keep the new coronavirus variant under control.