What to Watch: European stocks climb, services data, M&C Saatchi warning

Edmund HeaphyFinance and news reporter
The stock tickers and financial display are pictured at the headquarters of the Pan-European stock exchange Euronext. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images
The stock tickers and financial display are pictured at the headquarters of the Pan-European stock exchange Euronext. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

European stocks steady after four days of losses

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European markets climbed on the whole on Wednesday, with stocks in the region poised to snap their four-day losing streak amid increasing global trade tensions.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) was up by more than 1%, suggesting that a potential delay to a US-China trade deal and threats of billions in tariffs on French exports were no longer denting shares.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.3% in London. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up by more than 1.1%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) is up 1.2%.

The STOXX 600 had hit a one-month low on Tuesday following repeated outbursts by US president Donald Trump.

Trump suggested that he could “wait until after the election” for a trade pact with the country, when markets had assumed that one could be eked out much sooner.

The gains followed broad declines in Asia, where stocks in Australia and Hong Kong bore the brunt of the pain.

Pound hits 7-month high of $1.30 on election optimism

Sterling rallied to its highest level against the dollar since mid-May on Wednesday, passing the psychologically significant level of $1.30.

The pound was up more than 0.3% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.304. Sterling was up 0.4% against the euro to €1.1766 (GBPEUR=X) at the same time, its highest level since March.

The rise was spurred by hopes of a Conservative party victory in next week’s election. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at trading platform CMC Markets, flagged a Kantar poll reported by The Sun that suggested Tory leader Boris Johnson had extended his lead over Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn to 12 points.

A separate Sky News/YouGov poll on Tuesday night gave the Tory party a 9-point lead over Labour, while the Britain Elects poll-of-polls currently points to 10-point lead for the Tories.

M&C Saatchi issues second profit warning in three months

Advertising agency M&C Saatchi has warned over profits for the second time in three months after being hit by higher costs and a weak performance in the final quarter.

The UK-based firm, which launched an internal review into the accounts of its UK subsidiaries in August, also said it would restructure its UK business in a bid to improve performance.

The company said it expects to face around £11.6m in one-off costs for the year, up from previous forecasts of £7.8m, following the accounting review.

Shares in M&C Saatchi plunged by as much as 40% on Wednesday following the profit warning.

CEO David Kershaw said: “This restatement of our numbers and the reduction in forecasts make for very difficult reading – both for us as a management team and for all of our stakeholders. 

“The trading performance in the second half of this year is disappointing. However our operating businesses remain strong, creative and competitive and we expect that, when combined with the impact of our restructuring coming through, we will have a stronger trading performance in 2020.”

UK services sector continues to shrink in November

A closely watched private sector survey published on Tuesday paints a bleak picture of growth in the services industry, as “domestic political uncertainty once again led to cautious business and consumer spending.”

The services sector makes up around four-fifths of Britain’s economy and includes everything from retail and leisure to financial and professional services.

Business leaders reported a third month of falling new work and the sharpest monthly drop since July 2016, the month after the EU referendum.

The headline figure for the past month came in at 49.3 on the services purchasing managers’ index (PMI), compiled by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).

Clothing firm Quiz posts £6.8m loss

Fashion group Quiz clothing slumped to a £6.8m loss in the six months to the end of September as it took a hit to the value of its estate with more shoppers heading online, the company said.

Bosses also revealed sales were down 5% to £63.3m, although on a underlying basis – with one-off costs stripped out — profits during the period were £2.7m, which was still a fall of 54%.

Tarak Ramzan, founder and chief executive, said: “Whilst it is disappointing to report a decline of profits year-on-year, management are focused on implementing the actions identified further to the group’s business review conducted earlier in 2019. 

“We are pleased to report progress improving gross margins and reducing costs across the business, and will look for further improvements to develop our omni-channel offering.”

In October the company unveiled plans to make savings of between £2 million and £3 million a year, with greater emphasis on its online operation. Quiz suffered hard from the collapses at House of Fraser and Debenhams, where it had concessions.

What to expect in the US

Futures are pointing to a higher open for US stocks amid a global rebound in equities.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) are up 0.41%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) are up 0.44% and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) are up 0.58%.

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