European stocks rise on key US stimulus package optimism

Torri Donley

London Markets Hub embed test Table of Contents 04:15 PMBlog wrap04:02 PMAmazon to hike sellers’ fees as it passes on tech tax03:50 PMEurope pushes ahead03:35 PMMarks & Spencer gears up for Ocado partnership03:26 PMLoungers shares jump on ‘encouraging’ reopening03:18 PMHandover03:10 PMTop lawyer gives Leicester workers three-week window to aid Boohoo […]

London
London
Markets Hub embed test
Markets Hub embed test

Table of Contents

04:15 PM

Blog wrap

Well that’s all from us for today, tomorrow we have the Bank of England monetary policy committee decision so be sure to join us then.

What else look forward to tomorrow:

Interim results: Aggreko, Aviva, Coca-Cola European Partners, ConvaTec, Cushman & Wakefield, Evraz, Glencore, Hammerson, Ibstock, ITV, Mondi, Savills, Serco

Full-year: Pantheon

Economics: MPC decision, financial stability report, construction PMI (UK); jobless claims (US)

04:02 PM

Amazon to hike sellers’ fees as it passes on tech tax

Amazon
Amazon

Amazon has said it is hiking fees for those who sell items via its website next month as it passes on the cost of the UK’s tech tax.

In a notice to sellers posted on its site today, Amazon said it had absorbed the cost of the digital services tax since it was introduced in spring, whilst it was continuing discussions with the Government “to encourage them to take an approach that would not impact our selling partners”.

However, now that the tax had been legislated, Amazon said it would be increasing referral fees, storage fees and fulfillment fees by 2pc in the UK to reflect this additional cost.

The move is set to hit those sellers who sign up to “Fulfillment by Amazon”, and send their goods to Amazon to store, ship and handle returns, the hardest.

It follows a similar steps in France, when its own digital services tax was adopted.

Read Hannah Boland’s full article here

03:50 PM

Europe pushes ahead

The FTSE 100 closed 1.07pc higher today to 6,100.38 while the FTSE 250 climbed 1.91pc with mining companies leading the rally alongside oil and gas, house builders, banks and airlines.  

Gold continued its climb, up 1.26pc to a record $2043 per ounce.

In the eurozone the Frankfurt DAX and Paris CAC was up 0.4pc and 0.8pc respectively.

David Madden of CMC Markets said:

The negotiations between Republicans and Democrats are still dragging on, and there isn’t much hope that things will be resolved quickly, but ultimately there is a sense that a deal will be reached in the end.

The FTSE 100 has been largely steady for the last few hours, while the DAX 30 and the CAC 40 have handed back some of their earlier gains.

Markets Hub I FTSE 100
Markets Hub I FTSE 100

03:35 PM

Marks & Spencer gears up for Ocado partnership

Marks & Spencer is gearing up for selling its food online for the first time ever through Ocado as rival Waitrose goes at it alone, my colleague Laura Onita writes.

From this week new products will land on Ocado’s website for shoppers to browse before they can add it to their baskets in September.

M&S bought half of Ocado’s grocery business last year, thus replacing Waitrose. M&S said it will offer 6,000 items to match Waitrose’s existing 4,000 items.

03:26 PM

Loungers shares jump on ‘encouraging’ reopening

Via PA:

Cafe bar operator Loungers saw shares spike after it said like-for-like sales were only slightly lower over the past four weeks.

The company, which also runs the Cosy Club brand, said like-for-like sales were down 1.7pc over the four weeks from July 4, when it first reopened sites.

In a trading update, the company said it is “encouraged” by the initial strength in its trading performance and is “confident the company will emerge strongly from this period.

he group has reopened all 165 of its sites, excluding its Cosy Club in Leicester, which will open on Friday, following a regional lockdown. Shares were up 20.9% at 130p.

03:18 PM

Handover

With only a few minutes left of European trading, it’s time for me to hand over to my colleague LaToya Harding, who will steer the blog into the evening. Thanks for following along today!

03:10 PM

Top lawyer gives Leicester workers three-week window to aid Boohoo probe

A senior lawyer has given a three-week ultimatum to factory workers in Leicester and other stakeholders to help her with a probe into Boohoo’s supply chain.

The move comes after the business was accused of poor conditions and paying illegal wages at sites that make or pack its clothes, which it denies.

Alison Levitt QC has asked for evidence to assess the working conditions; what Boohoo knew about these conditions; and suggestions on how to improve things.

02:43 PM

EasyJet disputes Unite statement on closures

EasyJet has disputed a statement from union Unite, which claimed the group was planning to close three of its UK bases as a result of Covid-19 (see 13:36pm update).

The airline said no decision has yet been made on the future of its bases at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted.

It said “good progress” has been made with the union, and that terms and agreements have been reached on redundancies “in the event the proposals are confirmed”.

02:38 PM

Round-up

Things have gone fairly quiet as we head towards the European close. Here’s a reminder of the day’s top stories:

City Intelligence newsletter (SUBSCRIBER) Article
City Intelligence newsletter (SUBSCRIBER) Article

02:17 PM

Pace of US service rebound picks up

The recovery in America’s services sector gathered pace in July after orders and activity rose even as employment continued to fall.

The Institute for Supply Management’s services index climbed to 58.1, from a reading of 57.1 in June.

Bloomberg has more details:

The robust gauge mirrors the group’s manufacturing index and underscores a growing number of purchasing managers reporting steady improvement from pandemic lows in March. At the same time, the report showed a faster pace of contraction in services employment, indicating it will take time for the jobs market to recover as the coronavirus remains a threat. 

01:38 PM

Wall Street opens in the green 

US stocks have opened higher amid speculation Washington legislators were making progress on a fresh stimulus package.

US market data
US market data

12:54 PM

Beirut blast rocks already-fragile Lebanese economy

Beirut - STR/AFP via Getty Images
Beirut – STR/AFP via Getty Images

The footage of the destruction of Beirut’s port has shocked the world, but Lebanon’s long-suffering population are already dealing with the fall-out of an economic explosion that has tipped the country into hyperinflation.

My colleague Russell Lynch reports:

A ruined city once dubbed the “Paris of the Middle East” now serves as a horrendous metaphor for an economic collapse triggered by decades of financial and political mismanagement, and endemic corruption. 

The blast comes days after official figures showed Lebanon’s 6.8 million population in the grip of an annual inflation rate of 89.7pc – with food prices more than trebling compared to the year before. Academics say the country has now joined a sorry list of states such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela in the hyperinflation club, defined as prices rising by more than 50pc a month.

12:36 PM

Unite says easyJet plans three UK base closures

Union Unite has says airline easyJet plans to close its bases at Newcastle, Southend and Stansted – warning the decision could threaten the long-term viability of the airports and lead to job losses.

It warned the future of Southend looks “particularly unclear”.

12:33 PM

US payrolls gauge missed estimates

A closely-watched gauge of US payrolls data majorly missed expectations, with just 160,000 jobs in July added compared to economists’ predictions of 1.2m. 

Payroll provider ADP also made a major revision to June numbers, which were bumped up to 4.3bn to reflect official figures.

 The big miss is likely to raise nerves ahead of Friday’s non-farm payrolls data.

12:17 PM

Market moves

With about an hour until Wall Street opens, European shares are cruising along slightly higher today. 

11:48 AM

JD Sports mulls fight against CMA fine

Sportswear seller JD Sports is considering fighting a £300,000 fine from the competition watchdog related to its acquisition of smaller rival Footasylum.

My colleague Laura Onita reports:

The Competition and Markets Authority said it breached a so-called hold order it imposed last year during an enquiry into the merger. This meant the two businesses had to be run separately until the CMA’s probe was finalised.

The breach relates to Footasylum, which had been struggling financially, deciding to exit a store in Wolverhampton. The CMA said it has not been told about the store closure in advance, and it should have done.

JD Sports said it had no knowledge or involvement in the closure and it “strongly disagreed” with the decision to fine it and Pentland, its majority shareholder. It is “carefully considering its options”.

The £6bn retailer could appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which it would need to lodge within 28 days. The tribunal would have the power either to reduce the fine or quash it entirely if it were to rule in JD’s favour.

It is understood that the £300,000 fine is the highest ever issued by the CMA for a single breach. The competition watchdog and JD have been embroiled in a bitter fight since the former began to investigate the deal. The company bought Footasylum for £90m last year.

11:34 AM

Lockdown reimposed in Aberdeen

The Scottish  Government has reimposed a lockdown in Aberdeen following an outbreak in the city. My colleague Simon Foy has more details:

11:24 AM

Virgin Atlantic steps towards survival

Virgin Atlantic - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Virgin Atlantic – Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 Virgin Atlantic has moved one step closer to survival after making legal submissions either side of the Atlantic to restructure its finances. 

My colleagues Oliver Gill and Simon Foy report:

Sir Richard Branson’s 36-year-old airline made a Chapter 15 filing in US federal bankruptcy court in New York after a proceeding in the UK.

Virgin Atlantic said the filing was part of a court process in the UK to carry out a restructuring plan that the airline announced last month.

The process is supported by a majority of creditors and the carrier hopes to emerge from the process in September, the airline said.

A Virgin Atlantic lawyer said in a court filing that the company needed an order from a US court to make terms of the restructuring apply in America.

It came as a London court was told the carrier will run out of cash next month unless it secures approval for a £1.2bn rescue package it announced in July.

Virgin Atlantic timeline
Virgin Atlantic timeline

10:59 AM

Restaurant booking jumped on first day of voucher scheme

The first day of the Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ meal discount scheme prompted a jump in table bookings, according to data from OpenTable.

 The number of seated diners across the UK was 10pc higher on Monday than on the same day last year, according to the app’s figures – the first positive daily reading since early March. 

Figures were markedly different in London, which remains more than 50pc down on the previous year, in line with the global figures.

10:32 AM

Pound wavers against dollar

The FTSE 100 has risen more than 1pc today, despite some pressure from a stronger pound. Sterling has continued its overall rise against the US dollar, no down just 1pc for the year-to-date despite hitting a 35-year low in March.

10:07 AM

Swedish economy shrinks 8.6pc in second quarter despite light-touch lockdown

Stockholm
Stockholm

Sweden was unable to escape a record economic contraction in the second quarter despite applying a light-touch lockdown.

Gross domestic product slumped 8.6pc in the three months to June, more than economists had forecast, but less than the hit experienced by its European neighbours including France, Germany and Spain.

David Oxley, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said:

The sharp contraction in the Swedish economy in Q2 confirms that it has not been immune to Covid, despite the government’s well-documented light-touch lockdown.

Nonetheless, the economic crunch over the first half of the year is in a different league entirely to the horror shows elsewhere in Europe.

09:52 AM

Segro profits surge as pandemic boosts e-commerce 

Segro
Segro

Warehousing group Segro posted a surge in pre-tax profits for the six months to June as the pandemic pushed more consumers to e-commerce.

The FTSE 100 firm posted adjusted pre-tax profit of £140.4m, an increase of 6.5pc compared with the same period last year, while the total value of its portfolio jumped 0.7pc to £11.2bn.

The company said the Covid-crisis has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce, which has “resulted in a renewed focus by many occupiers on the critical importance of efficient, resilient logistics supply chains”.

Chief executive David Sleath said:

Our existing portfolio has performed well and our development programme has expanded, with a pipeline of additional near-term pre-let projects which is approximately twice the size of a year ago. This, combined with our well-located land bank, means we are in a strong position to make further progress in the second half of the year and beyond.

09:32 AM

BMW makes first quarterly loss since 2009 

BMW car
BMW car

BMW was dragged into the red for the first time in more than a decade, after the carmaker was driven down by its loss-making automotive division.

Bloomberg has the details:

The German manufacturer lost €666m (£602m) before interest and taxes between April and June, its first quarterly deficit since the financial crisis in 2009.

BMW’s auto business, which recorded a bigger-than-expected Ebit loss, was mainly to blame after deliveries tanked due to pandemic-related shutdowns of dealerships and factories, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

BMW is the final German manufacturer to report after what has been a difficult quarter for carmakers. VW lost €2.4bn and cut its dividend, while Daimler AG argued it had weathered the worst but still needs to slash tens of thousands of jobs.

Renault SA’s alliance with Nissan Motor Co. came under strain as the Japanese partner was mostly to blame for the French carmaker’s record $8.6bn loss.

BMW fell as much as 4.4pc in early Frankfurt trading. The shares have lost more than a fifth this year.

A bright spot for BMW came from China, which started to recover from April and registered volume growth during the three months through June compared to the year earlier-period. BMW will start producing the iX3 electric car in China this year, where it will also be first sold to customers.

09:14 AM

Money round-up

Here are some of the day’s top stories from the Teegraph Money team:

Investor newsletter REFERRAL (article)
Investor newsletter REFERRAL (article)

09:03 AM

European retail sales bounce back

Just in: European retail sales rose 5.7pc month-on-month in June, missing estimates for a 6.1pc gain. It leaves total sales volumes up 1.3pc year-on-year, and back in line with pre-virus levels.

08:55 AM

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08:53 AM

Cars sales reaction: Pent-up demand will fade

This morning’s new car sales data (see 9:22am update) “reflects the release of pent-up demand” that will soon wane, warns Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Samuel Tombs.

He writes:

While some people likely will purchase cars to avoid using public transport, many existing owners will wait longer to trade-up to a new model, given the current weakness of the labour market. Accordingly, a sustained recovery in car sales back to pre-Covid levels is not within sight.

Mr Tombs noted the number of online searches for the UK’s  five best-selling car models has stabilised at about 5pc below 2019 levels:

Pantheon Macroeconomics - Pantheon Macroeconomics
Pantheon Macroeconomics – Pantheon Macroeconomics

08:47 AM

WH Smith to cut up to 1,500 jobs

WHSmith
WHSmith

Up to 1,500 jobs are at risk as WH Smith launches a restructuring process in response to a revenue collapse prompted by Covid-19.

The retailer – which has anchored its strategy on hard-hit travel-hub stores – said it has taken the “difficult decision” to review its store operations, warning it will make an annual loss of up to £75m.

Chief executive Carl Cowling said:

I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.

The FTSE 250 could said it has seen a pickup in sales activity over recent weeks, but the damage to its revenues is clear:

RNS - RNS
RNS – RNS

 The group said it anticipates a faster recovery in its US operations than elsewhere in the world.

08:37 AM

Reaction: The light at the end of the tunnel in sight… but risks remain

Commenting on the PMI figures, IHS Markit’s Tim Moore said easing lockdown measures are giving the economy a clear boost, but warned employment is a cause for concern:

UK service providers are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel after a record slump in business activity during the second quarter of 2020. July data revealed the fastest increase in business activity for five years, which adds to signs of recovery across the manufacturing sector this summer…

While the latest survey data provide a number of positive signs that the UK economy is back in expansion mode, the weakness of the employment figures reported in July is clearly a cause for concern and likely to hold back the longer-term recovery in business and consumer spending.

Duncan Brock – group director at the  Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, which helped gather the data – added:

This undoubtedly good news is masking some underlying problems that will still need addressing…

As the threat of further pandemic lockdown threatens to derail continuing progress, business will have to continue to absorb any additional costs coming their way or face the prospect of having to close their doors permanently

08:34 AM

Job cuts continue: Five takeaways

Commenting on those figures, IHS Markit said:

UK service providers reported a strong increase in business activity during July, with the rate of growth the sharpest recorded for five years. New orders also rebounded during the latest survey period, reflecting an improvement in corporate and household spending. Growth was mainly linked to the phased reopening of business operations across the UK economy. 

It’s not all sunshine, however. Here are some key findings:

  • Employment was a weak point in July, with staffing numbers falling at a steep and accelerated pace amid concerns of only a partial recovery in longer-term demand 

  • Around 38pc of the survey panel reported an increase in business activity during July, while only 24pc signalled a decline

  • New business volumes meanwhile increased for the first time in five months and at the fastest pace since January

  • Backlogs of work dropped again during the latest survey period, although the rate of decline was the slowest since February

Here’s how the composite gauge (a weighted balance of services and manufacturing) has compared to GDP over recent years:

IHS Markit - IHS Markit
IHS Markit – IHS Markit

08:30 AM

UK private sector returns to growth

Just in: The UK’s services sector returned to growth in July, according to the latest PMI readings from IHS Markit.

Here are the readings (where a score above 50 indicates growth):

  • Services: 56.5

  • Composite: 57.1

More follows…

08:22 AM

Car sales rose 11pc in July

Cars - Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Cars – Matt Cardy/Getty Images

New car sales rose 11.3pc in July as pent-up demand lifted the market after months of depressed sales.

There were 174,887 sales last months according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders , compared to 157,198 in July last year.

Overall registrations for the year so far remain down 41.9pc, with total demand expected to by down 30pc by the end of 2020.

SMMT - SMMT
SMMT – SMMT

 Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said:

July’s figures are positive, with a boost from demand pent up from earlier in the year and some attractive offers meaning there are some very good deals to be had. We must be cautious, however, as showrooms have only just fully reopened nationwide and there is still much uncertainty about the future.

08:13 AM

Eurozone PMIs point to growth rebound

Unsurprisingly, given this morning’s readings, the final Eurozone PMI figures also show a return to growth.

Both readings cleared the growth threshold of 50:

  • Services: 54.7

  • Composite: 54.9

 IHS Markit said:

[It] was the first time that the index has posted above the 50.0 no-change mark since February and represented the fastest rate of growth since June 2018. 

It found: 

  • Both the goods-producing and service sectors recorded marked rates of growth during July, with manufacturing registering the slightly stronger pace of expansion

  • The upturn in growth was broad-based by country, and led by the region’s biggest two economies

  • Overall activity rose at a considerably quicker rate than volumes of incoming new business during July

  • Latest data showed that new export business declined for a twenty-second successive month

  • Despite the upturns in activity and new business, companies continue to operate with a considerable degree of spare capacity

  • Subsequently, firms made further cuts to their workforce numbers, with staffing levels reduced for a fifth month in succession

IHS Markit - IHS Markit
IHS Markit – IHS Markit

Chris Williamson, IHS Markit’s chief business economist, said:

Whether the recovery can be sustained will be determined first and foremost by virus case numbers, and the recent signs of a resurgence pose a particular risk to many parts of the service sector, such as travel, tourism and hospitality.

However, even without a significant increase in infections, social distancing measures will need to be in place until an effective treatment or vaccine is available, dampening the ability of many firms to operate at anything like pre-pandemic capacity, and representing a major constraint on longer-run economic recovery prospects

08:01 AM

France and Germany pick up pace

We already had ‘flash’ PMI readings for France and Germany, but the final figures released today show a continued acceleration in private-sector activity across both countries.

Slightly worryingly, the figures (where a reading above 50 indicates growth) showed a marginal dip across the board compared to the preliminary readings – that may just be a quirk of the data gathering, but could suggest the pace slowed down later in July.

Here are the figures for France:

  • Services: 57.3

  • Composite: 57.3

And for Germany:

  • Services: 55.6

  • Composite: 55.3

07:54 AM

Italian private sector return to growth

Italy’s private sector has also returned to growth, with a marginal rise in activity similar to that seen in Spain.

 Its composite PMI came in at 52.5, clearing the growth threshold of 50, while the services reading was 51.6.

 IHS Markit said:

Italy’s services economy entered the second half of 2020 on a more stable footing, with business activity increasing for the first time since February as restrictions in place to curb the pandemic were loosened. 

It found:

  • Panellists frequently associated the uptick to slightly improved demand conditions and the loosening of lockdown restrictions

  • Inflows of new business approached stabilisation

  • Gains in activity were again supported by existing workloads, however, as the level of outstanding business at Italian service providers declined again

  • Despite the marginal increase in activity, latest data highlighted a further drop in services sector employment.

IHS Markit - IHS Markit
IHS Markit – IHS Markit

 Lewis Cooper, one of IHS Markit’s economists, said:

Although the recovery may be underway, there is an abundance of ground to make up following such an extensive downturn, with ongoing downside risks stemming from a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic and the reintroduction of lockdown measures.

07:44 AM

Metro Bank swings to steep loss

Metro Bank - Paul Grover
Metro Bank – Paul Grover

Metro Bank swung to a large loss in the first half of the financial year as it took a £109m hit from the impact of the coronavirus.

Press Association reports:

The high street challenger bank said that pre-tax loss hit £240.6m in the six months to June, from a £3.4m profit over the same period last year.

Customer deposits hit £15.6bn, a 14pc increase from the same time last year.

Metro Bank chief executive Daniel Frumkin said the bank was enduring “testing times” but insisted it was on track to “become the UK’s best community bank”. 

07:39 AM

Hastings agree to £1.7bn takeover bid

Hastings
Hastings

Insurer Hastings has agree to a £1.7bn buyout offer from Finland’s Sampo and South Africa’s Rand Merchant Investment, its top shareholder. 

The deal, signed with investment vehicle Dorset Bidco, will offer 250p per share to Hastings’ investors – a premium of 47.1pc to its closing price of 180p on July 28th, before details of the deal first emerged – as well as a 4.5p per share dividend. The group is trading at 253p per share today.

The deal will offer insurance group Sampo its first foothold in the UK market. If it passes, Hastings will be delisted but continue to operate on a standalone basis. Sampo and RMI said: “a private partnership provides an optimal structure for Hastings to fulfil its potential and build long term value for its stakeholders”.

Thomas Colraine, Hastings’ chairman, said:

I am pleased to announce the recommended cash offer for Hastings which represents a very attractive proposition for Hastings shareholders with a significant premium in cash. This is in line with our focus of generating value for shareholders and reflects the quality of our business.

In interim results released alongside the takeover announcement, Hastings said it saw profit before tax rise to £63.5m during the first half of the year, compared £46.1m in 2019, after growth in customer policies and premiums.

07:24 AM

Spanish private sector returns to growth

Spain’s private sector has returned to growth, with a rise in services activity picking up during July, according to the latest purchasing managers’ index data from IHS Markit.

 The composite gauge – which measures the change in activity compared to June – came in at 52.8, clearing the growth threshold of 50. Services came in at 51.9.

 IHS Markit said:

Spain’s service sector grew for a second successive month during July, but only modestly as levels of incoming new business disappointed and firms continued to operate below capacity. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Jobs were again cut, whilst expectations remained historically subdued 

  • Operating expenses rose further, but profitability was again under pressure as firms enacted another round of output price discounting

  • The rate of growth signalled by the index was modest and well below its historical average

  • Manufacturers that were the primary drivers of growth, with output in the sector rising to the strongest degree for nearly two-and-a-half years

IHS Markit - IHS Markit
IHS Markit – IHS Markit

IHS Markit’s Paul Smith said:

Service providers are acutely aware that their business performance in the coming months will be primarily determined by the evolution of Covid-19.

With recent reports of a spike in cases, plus some countries changing advice for citizens travelling to Spain likely to weigh heavily on the country’s key tourism sector, uncertainty over the shape and speed of the recovery from the pandemic has inevitably increased

07:14 AM

European markets rise

European markets have pushed slightly higher at the open, ahead of final services PMI readings across the continent.

Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV
Bloomberg TV – Bloomberg TV

07:12 AM

Coca-Cola HBC sales take lockdown hit

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company sales held up decently during the first half, although a switch to at-home drinking hit its bottom line.

The FTSE 100 group – which produces and distributes Coca-Cola Company drinks in Europe and parts of Africa – saw sales revenues slip 15.5pc to €2.83bn over the six-month period. Its profit before tax fell from €260.8m to €167.2m.

It said profit was knocked by lower overall volumes, and a reduction in revenue due to a fall in out-of-home consumption. These pressure “were only partially offset by lower input costs and operating expenses” and extra income from the group’s acquisition of Serbia confectionery brand Bambi, Coca-Cola HBC said.

Chief executive Zoran Bogdanovic said:

Our strong performance on market share clearly demonstrates the power of our portfolio of brands and execution in the market; we will capitalise on this advantage now that we are seeing early signs of recovery. Coca-Cola HBC is a resilient business, well-positioned to adapt as markets reopen, emerge even stronger and win in the new normal.

06:58 AM

William Hill plans 119 further store closures

William Hill - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
William Hill – Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

William Hill has decided to close 119 of its high street betting shops as it does not expect in-store gambling to return to pre-crisis levels in the long term.

My colleague Simon Foy reports:

It came as the FTSE 250 firm posted a £14.2m adjusted pre-tax loss in the first half after taking a £81.9m hit from revising down the outlook for its retail estate.

William Hill said: “The group has been impacted by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the group taking the decision to not re-open a further 119 shops after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the UK and to increased uncertainty of future high street retail cashflows.”

The company did not say how many jobs would be affected by the move, but added that the “majority of colleagues [will be] redeployed within the estate”.

06:55 AM

L&G sticks to dividend despite profit slump

L&G - REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico
L&G – REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Legal & General has confirmed it will pay out a dividend, after results that showed first-half profits hit by the pandemic.

The FTSE 100 company – which offers services such as investment management and insurance – will pay investors 4.93p per share, in line with last year’s payout. It said the decision not to boost the payment was “in order to maintain flexibility as the economic effect of Covid-19 becomes clearer”.

The group’s profit before tax took a 73pc hit, falling to £285m from £1.05bn during the same period last year. It two retirement business and its investment management division saw growth over the six months, while its capital and insurance operations slipped.

It said: 

Where we could perform, we did perform, with three of our five businesses delivering growth over the prior year.

Nigel Wilson, its chief executive, added:

We are committed to driving forward an investment-led, climate-friendly COVID recovery incorporating the very best aspects of Inclusive Capitalism.

06:40 AM

Gold ‘has further to go’

Despite breaking the $2,000/oz milestone, there’s still further to go for gold, writes ING’s Warren Patterson.

A continued downwards trajectory for the dollar has kept investors hunting for alternative havens, and low interest rates are making currency holdings even less attractive.

He writes:

A weaker USD has only provided further support to the yellow metal. Investors continue to pile into gold ETFs, with holdings having increased by more than 820koz over the last week, leaving them at a record 108.51moz. Given that low rates and a weaker USD are likely to persist, we believe that there is still further upside for gold prices.

06:16 AM

Agenda: Gold hits fresh high 

Good morning. Gold hit a fresh high overnight a weaker dollar and falling bond yields pushed investors into the haven asset. 

Spot gold jumped to a record high of $2,030.72 per ounce on Wednesday in a sign of heightened uncertainty around the long-term effects of the pandemic.

The FTSE 100 is set to open slightly in the green.

5 things to start your day 

1) Disney posts first loss in two decades despite lockdown streaming boom: The company said it made a loss of $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in the three months to the end of June as sales slumped by 40pc to $11.8bn.

2) Why negative rates won’t save the economy: The topsy-turvy world of sub-zero borrowing costs will not boost the real economy out of its pandemic crisis

3) Bosses’ pay cut at 36 blue chip firms after Covid crisis struck: Salaries at 14 firms were cut by 20pc – the same as the reduction for low-earning workers placed on the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme. 

4) Gold hit $2,000 (£1,530) an ounce for the first time following a record-breaking rally driven by fears over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy. The yellow metal, seen as a safe-haven asset, has been on a steady upwards trajectory over recent months, climbing more than 30pc this year.

5) Kodak investigated by SEC over announcement of drug-making loan: Shares at the former film company, best known for its camera business, skyrocketed after the surprise announcement last week Tuesday. Stock climbed as high as $60 in the following 48 hours, before falling back to $15 on Monday.

What happened overnight 

Risk assets such as equities have surged in recent months on massive policy stimulus from central banks and governments, but gold has also rallied in a sign of heightened uncertainty around the long-term effects of the global health crisis.

Investors are counting on even more spending in the United States, with White House negotiators vowing to work “around the clock” to reach a deal by the end of the week.

Markets also latched on to comments from the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that the US economy will need more support than initially thought, sending long-term Treasury yields into a downward spiral.

On Wednesday, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside of Japan was flat near a 6.5-month peak at 560.36 points.

Japan’s Nikkei was off 0.86pc while Australia’s benchmark index slipped 1pc. Chinese shares fell too with the blue-chip CSI300 index down 0.8pc, though it was not too far from a recent five-year peak.

South Korea’s Kospi bucked the trend to hit its highest level since October 2018.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 was down 0.1pc.

On Wall Street, the Dow ended up 0.6pc, the S&P 500 rose 0.4pc and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.4pc.

Coming up today

Interim results: Ferrexpo, Hastings, Hill & Smith, IP Group, Legal & General, Metro Bank, Morgan Sindall, PageGroup, Segro, William Hill

Economics: New car registrations (UK); services PMI final (UK, China, eurozone, US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain); ADP employment, trade balance (US)

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