UK business perks up after election, weakening case for rate cut: PMIs By Reuters



By Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – British companies are enjoying their best month in more than a year, a survey showed on Friday, the strongest evidence yet of a post-election boost to the economy that could deter the Bank of England from cutting interest rates next week.

The ‘flash’ early readings of the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed Britain’s vast services sector returned to growth in January for the first time since August, while a downturn in manufacturing eased.

Britain’s performance bettered the euro zone’s for the first time since December 2018, as the PMI suggested the world’s fifth-largest economy looked on track to grow around 0.2% in quarterly terms after it slowed to a crawl late last year.

Earlier signs of weakness in the labor market had prompted two BoE rate-setters to vote for lower borrowing costs at the end of last year. Three others, including Governor Mark Carney, have hinted recently that more economic stimulus might be needed.

But Friday’s figures are likely to prompt investors to curb bets that the BoE will cut rates next Thursday, corroborating earlier signs that uncertainty among businesses and consumers has been tempered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landslide victory last month.

The composite PMI, which combines manufacturing and services indexes, rose to 52.4 from 49.3, the highest reading since September 2018 and easily beating the 50.6 consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

The services PMI rose in January to 52.9 from 50.0, also its highest level since September 2018 and well above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of 51.0.

Service-sector optimism hit its highest in nearly five years this month, chiming with other business surveys from the Confederation of British Industry and Deloitte.

“It seems likely that the rise in the PMI kills off the prospect of an imminent rate cut by the Bank of England, with policymakers taking a wait-and-see approach as they assess the performance of the economy in the post-Brexit environment,” IHS Markit chief business economist Chris Williamson said.

Still, the services PMI remained at levels historically associated with additional stimulus from the BoE and a long way below the survey’s long-run average of 54.8.

The reading for British factories was also better than expected, rising to 49.8 from 47.5, the highest level since April.

While the PMI signaled the ninth month of contraction for manufacturing, which accounts for 10% of economic output, new orders increased for the first time since April.

“The uplift in sentiment about the outlook hints at even better growth to come, but confidence needs to continue to rise to ensure this solid start to the year has legs,” Williamson said.

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Exclusive: HSBC cutting around 100 staff in equities business


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: HSBC logo is seen on a branch bank in the financial district in New York

By Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (L:) is cutting around 100 roles in its equities business with the bulk of the layoffs falling on its continental European trading floors, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The cuts will affect the bank’s equities research, sales, trading and back office business departments, the sources said, and will include a handful of job losses in Asia.

HSBC said it could not provide a comment as the bank is in a closed period ahead of reporting full-year results for 2019.

The cuts to the bank’s stock-trading business offer one of the clearest indications yet of the strategy interim Chief Executive Noel Quinn is likely to announce when the bank reports full-year results on Feb. 18.

Quinn took the reins in August following the shock ousting of John Flint, who quit after making insufficient progress in addressing some of the bank’s long-term problems including underperformance in its investment bank and U.S. unit.

He has moved since to cut costs at Europe’s biggest bank, saying in October last year the lender would slash some 4,700 roles. He is also looking to sell the bank’s French retail business, and has reshuffled the top jobs at its investment bank.

The cuts to the equities business alongside the sale of the France unit show Asia-focused HSBC retreating further from its continental European business, despite recent efforts inside the bank to promote its European credentials.

HSBC will refocus its European equities business on its core home market of Britain, the sources said, keeping its Paris trading hub to serve continental Europe.

HSBC’s cuts in its equities business follow similar moves by European peers in recent years, as the digitalization of the business and regulations to protect investors have combined to slash banking margins.

HSBC rival Standard Chartered (L:) quit the business entirely in 2015 after it failed to make money for two years.

HSBC has around 238,000 employees worldwide.

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UK business optimism sees record post-election rebound: Deloitte By Reuters



By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) – Optimism at major British companies has improved by the largest margin in at least 11 years after Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a sweeping election victory last month, according to a survey from accountants Deloitte.

Some 53% of chief financial officers at large businesses said their optimism about the financial outlook had improved compared with three months ago, versus 9% in the last survey conducted in October.

This was the highest proportion since the quarterly survey began 11 years ago, Deloitte said.

The figures are the strongest sign yet that a rebound in business sentiment may be underway, after more tentative evidence from a survey of purchasing managers on Monday.

Britain’s economy slowed to a crawl late last year, with the most recent official growth data showing the joint-weakest annual expansion since 2012.

“The fog of uncertainty that has lingered over the UK since the 2016 EU referendum is lifting. CFOs … are beginning 2020 with sentiment levels that would have been unimaginable at any time in the last three years,” Deloitte chief economist Ian Stewart said.

During the election campaign, Johnson said weak business investment in 2019 was due to parliament’s prevarication over approving a Brexit deal, and predicted a rebound if he gained a strong majority in parliament.

Many businesses were also concerned by the opposition Labour Party’s plans to nationalize rail operators, utilities and broadband infrastructure.

Just over half of chief financial officers said they expected revenues to rise over the next year, up from 18% three months ago, and 38% said they planned to invest more, the highest proportion in four years.

Deloitte conducted the survey between Dec. 16 and Jan. 6, and spoke to 119 chief financial officers of British listed companies, large private firms and British subsidiaries of big foreign companies. The 94 listed companies accounted for just over a quarter of the British stock market, by value.

Brexit has dropped to third in CFOs’ list of worries from the top spot three months ago, despite uncertainty over whether Johnson will be able to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal in the narrow 11-month window he has set himself.

Some two thirds of CFOs said they expected Brexit to damage the business conditions, down from more than four fifths earlier in 2019.

Weak domestic demand was the biggest risk, according to CFOs, though it was less of a worry than three months earlier.

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France considering new round of business tax cuts Minister By Reuters



PARIS (Reuters) – France is preparing plans for a new round of tax cuts for companies to help spur economic growth and achieve full employment by 2025, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday.

High unemployment has been the scourge of successive French governments for decades although President Emmanuel Macron has made some headway in bringing it down after a series of pro-business reforms early in his five-year term.

Macron is due to present measures in the coming weeks for a new supply-side push to boost growth, a plan dubbed the productive pact as it is supposed to make life easier for companies. He will make the final call on any tax cuts.

“The productive pact has a clear objective: full employment in 2025,” Le Maire told business leaders. “All levers will be used for this end, (including) … a cut in production taxes, according to a time frame that should start in 2021.”

The French unemployment rate stood at 8.6% in the third quarter of 2019, a fraction above the 8.5% recorded in the previous three months, which was the lowest since 2008.

Production taxes are a raft of levies companies must pay in France on top of the normal corporate income tax.

The finance ministry estimates production taxes are worth a combined 77 billion euros ($86 billion) – twice the EU average and seven times more than in Germany – and French firms often complain they are a major problem for their competitiveness.

Production taxes are levied on things such as commercial and industrial property and also include a contribution to value added, a turnover tax and a myriad of secondary levies.

However, Macron may find it difficult to cut production taxes as they are an important revenue source for local and regional administrations, which are already suffering from lost revenue after the scrapping of a tax on primary residences.

($1 = 0.8951 euros)

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U.S. business spending on equipment appears soft; housing steadies By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Engines assembled as they make their way through the assembly line at the General Motors (GM) manufacturing plant in Spring Hill

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods barely rose in November and shipments fell, suggesting business investment will probably remain a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The White House’s 17-month-old trade war with China has hurt business confidence, undermining capital expenditure. Despite a recent easing of tensions, regional manufacturing surveys showed business confidence remaining subdued in December.

Even if business confidence were to improve in early 2020, a surge in capital expenditure is unlikely. Boeing (N:) announced last week it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020. Boeing on Monday ousted Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg.

“We expect industrial momentum will remain muted in 2020 amid an environment of sluggish global growth, persistent trade policy uncertainty and subdued corporate profitability,” said Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “Boeing’s decision to halt production of the 737 MAX will present a continuing drag on orders.”

The Commerce Department said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, edged up 0.1% last month as a surge in demand for electrical equipment, appliances and components was partially offset by a drop in machinery orders.

These so-called core capital goods orders rose by an unrevised 1.1% in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core capital goods orders gaining 0.2% in November.

Core capital goods orders rose 0.7% on a year-on-year basis in November.

The dollar held near a two-week high against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices slipped. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher, with Boeing shares surging following Muilenburg’s ousting.

SHIPMENTS DROP

Shipments of core capital goods dropped 0.3% last month. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement. Core capital goods shipments rose by a downwardly revised 0.7% in October. They were previously reported to have jumped 0.8%.

Economists said the weak core capital goods shipments posed a downside risk to fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates, which range from as low as a 1.5% annualized rate to as high as a 2.3% pace. The economy grew 2.1% in the third quarter.

While manufacturing is struggling, the housing market is steadily rising, driven by the Federal Reserve’s three interest rate cuts this year. In a second report on Monday, the Commerce Department said new home sales rebounded 1.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 719,000 units last month, lifted by gains in activity in the Northeast and West regions.

October’s sales pace was, however, revised down to 710,000 units from the previously reported 733,000 units. New home sales are volatile on a month-to-month basis because they are drawn from a small sample of houses selected from building permits. Sales jumped 16.9% from a year ago.

“We expect housing activity to remain supported with now-lower mortgage rates and a Fed on hold, but do not expect a further substantial pick-up in activity into 2020,” said Veronica Clark, an economist at Citigroup (NYSE:) in New York.

Business investment has contracted for two straight quarters, with weak spending on equipment and nonresidential structures such as gas and oil well drilling contributing to the decline that has pushed manufacturing into recession.

Boeing’s biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years is expected to disrupt supply chains, further depressing manufacturing, which accounts for 11% of the economy. Economists estimated the suspension of the 737 MAX aircraft production could cut first-quarter 2020 gross domestic product growth by at least half a percentage point.

Last month, overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, tumbled 2.0% after gaining 0.2% in the prior month.

Durable goods orders were held down by a 72.7% plunge in demand for defense aircraft orders and parts last month. Economists expect a rebound after the U.S. Congress passed a huge defense spending bill last week.

“The big, bipartisan defense bill that passed Congress last week ensures defense spending will be robust next year, however,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial in New York. “It’s not a recipe for gangbusters growth, but capital spending should no longer detract from growth next year.”

Orders for transportation equipment dropped 5.9% after edging up 0.1% in October. Motor vehicles and parts orders increased 1.9% in November as the end of a strike at General Motors (N:) boosted auto production. Orders for non-defense aircraft and parts fell 1.8% last month.

Overall shipments of durable goods nudged up 0.1% in November, reversing October’s 0.1% drop. Durable goods inventories increased 0.4% last month. They have risen in 16 of the last 17 months. Unfilled durable goods orders fell 0.4% in November after being unchanged in October.



UK consumer and business morale touched five-month high before election: surveys By Reuters



LONDON, (Reuters) – Confidence among British consumers and businesses rose to the highest level in five months in the run-up to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s emphatic election victory last week, surveys showed on Friday.

Consumer confidence rose to -11 in December from -14 in November, according to the long-running survey from market research firm GfK. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to an unchanged reading on the month.

Similarly, a Lloyds (LON:) Bank gauge of business confidence also rose to its highest level since July at 10%, up a point from last month.

Both surveys were conducted before the result of the Dec. 12 election in which Johnson secured a big majority in parliament, removing some uncertainty hanging over the British economy.

“Despite official warning signs about the flatlining of Britain’s economy, we know that record-high employment and below-target levels of inflation are helping to boost consumers’ expectations for the year ahead,” Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said.

For businesses, growing optimism about trading prospects contributed to a rise in morale, Lloyds Bank said.

“There is now clarity over the UK’s departure from the EU, but the focus will turn to whether a new trade agreement can be negotiated during the transition period which currently runs until the end of next year,” said Hann-Ju Ho, a senior economist at Lloyds.

Official data covering economic Britain’s output for the third quarter, as well as new data on its balance of payments and the household savings ratio, are due at 0930 GMT.

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U.S. business borrowing for equipment falls 3% in November: ELFA By Reuters



(Reuters) – U.S. companies’ borrowings for capital investments fell about 3% in November from a year earlier, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said on Thursday.

The companies signed up for $7.8 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, down from $8 billion a year earlier. Borrowings fell 23% from the previous month.

“Uncertainty brought on by the prolonged trade frictions with China…was partly responsible for this slowdown,” ELFA Chief Executive Officer Ralph Petta said, adding that credit markets were performing well, with losses and delinquencies in acceptable ranges.

Washington-based ELFA, which reports economic activity for the nearly $1-trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 75.7% in November, down from 76.3% in October.

ELFA’s leasing and finance index measures the volume of commercial equipment financed in the United States. It is designed to complement the U.S. Commerce Department’s durable goods orders report, which typically follows a few days later.

The index is based on a survey of 25 members including Bank of America Corp (N:), BB&T Corp (N:), CIT Group Inc (N:) and the financing affiliates or units of Caterpillar Inc (N:), Dell Technologies Inc (N:) Siemens AG (DE:), Canon Inc (T:) and Volvo AB (ST:).

The Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation, ELFA’s non-profit affiliate, reported monthly confidence index of 56.2 in December, up from the November index of 54.9, ELFA said.

A reading of above 50 indicates a positive business outlook.

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Hong Kong November business activity shrinks the most in 21 years: PMI By Reuters



HONG KONG (Reuters) – Business activity in Hong Kong contracted at the fastest pace in 21 years in November, dragged down by anti-government protests and softening global demand, an IHS Markit survey showed on Wednesday.

Increasingly violent demonstrations have disrupted the Chinese-ruled city for nearly six months, battering its retail and tourism sector and plunging its economy into recession for the first time in a decade.

The seasonally adjusted headline Hong Kong Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) fell to 38.5 in November, down from 39.3 in October and signaling the steepest private sector downturn since the SARS epidemic in early 2003.

A survey reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a figure below 50 denotes contraction on a monthly basis.

“Escalating political unrest saw business activity shrinking at the steepest rate since the survey started in July 1998,” said Bernard Aw, principal economist at IHS Markit.

“The average PMI reading for October and November combined showed the economy on track to see GDP fall by over 5% in the fourth quarter, unless December brings a dramatic recovery.”

Demand from mainland China shrank for a nineteenth straight month in November, although the pace of contraction eased from October.

Companies also continued to scale back their purchases of raw materials and other inputs, with 38% of survey respondents predicting weaker activity in the year ahead, citing political unrest and the protracted U.S.-China trade war.

Hong Kong’s retail sales fell the most on record in October, sinking 24.3% from a year earlier, government data showed on Monday. Tourist arrivals plunged nearly 44%.

Protesters are angry by what they see as Beijing’s tightening grip over the city’s cherished freedoms promised under a “one country, two systems” formula when Britain returned it to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.

The crisis has heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, complicating the two sides’ efforts to negotiate a trade deal.

Economists at ING said Hong Kong is sliding into a hard-landing recession.

“No one is expecting a sudden end to the violent situation. We’re forecasting GDP growth at -7% for the fourth quarter, and full-year growth will be -2.25% in 2019, which is close in scale to 2009’s recession of -2.5%,” they said in a note on Monday.

The economy could shrink 5.8% in 2020, assuming trade war uncertainty and violent protests drag on through the year, ING said.

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China wants to speed up business reforms, investment to boost slowing economy: premier By Reuters



SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China will speed up reforms to help build a market-based, globalized business environment and break investment barriers for all kinds of companies, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Economic growth slowed to 6% year on year in the third quarter of 2019, the weakest pace in more than 25 years, with the economy hit by a punishing trade war with the United States.

China has already drawn up new measures to start on Jan. 1 to “optimize” the business environment aimed at improving productivity and competitiveness.

Li was also quoted as saying in a summary of the Cabinet meeting published on China’s official government website (http://www.gov.cn) that taxes would continue to be cut as part of efforts to stimulate the slowing economy.

China aims to reduce administrative barriers, lower industry entry thresholds, eliminate discriminatory practices and decentralize investment decisions, the summary said.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

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UK business services profits down by most in 8 years: CBI By Reuters



LONDON (Reuters) – Profits at British professional and business services firms dropped by the most since 2011 for a second quarter running and businesses are cutting back on investment, the Confederation of British Industry said on Thursday.

CBI surveys have regularly painted a downbeat picture of Britain’s economy as businesses face political uncertainty created by Brexit and, more recently, a national election on Dec. 12.

“The current economic climate is holding back UK services firms, which are reporting falling sentiment, declining volumes and weaker profitability. Neither is the outlook expected to improve,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.

The professional and business services profitability gauge held at August’s level of -25, the lowest since November 2011, while plans to invest in vehicles, plant and machinery were the weakest since 2010.

Overall optimism for consumer services firms fell again albeit at a slightly slower pace of -25 in November compared with -28 in August, while for business and professional services companies it picked up to -20 from -31.

Britain’s services sector accounts for about 80% of the economy which grew by 1.0% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2019, the weakest since early 2010, official figures showed earlier this month.

The services sector grew 1.4%, but depended more on government spending than at any time since early 2013.

The CBI’s survey was based on responses from 179 business and professional services firms and 62 consumer service firms between Oct. 29 and Nov. 13.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.