Virus hits European stocks as Wall Street trades flat

Louis Ashworth
·19-min read
Retail sales - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Retail sales - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
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04:33 PM


Time to wrap up. These were some of the day’s top stories:

Thanks for following along today. We’ll be back tomorrow morning!

04:28 PM

Jaguar Land Rover returns to profit

Thierry Bollore - Alex Kraus/Bloomberg
Thierry Bollore - Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

Jaguar Land Rover has returned to profit as Britain's biggest car maker starts to recover from coronavirus shutdowns and a cost-cutting drive kicks in.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports:

It reported a pre-tax profit of £65m for the three months to the end of September, returning the company to the black after two quarters of losses. 

However, the profit is just over a third of the £156m JLR posted a year ago, but better than the £413m and £501m losses for the two preceeding quarters.

Revenue jumped 52pc to £4.4bn compared with the previous three months, but was down 28.5pc on pre-coronavirus levels a year ago.

03:54 PM

Experts warn transatlantic flights won’t recover for five years

Demand for transatlantic flights will not recover until at least 2026, leaving the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic particularly exposed, experts have warned. 

My colleague Oliver Gill reports:

Services from Europe to North America will be the last to recover, according to consultancy Bain.

Flights within Asia will rebound the fastest, returning to pre-pandemic levels in little more than a year.

Flying passengers between the UK and North America has been particularly profitable for BA in recent years, with the flag carrier holding a dominant position on a number of key routes. 

03:36 PM

US consumer confidence dips

Consumer confidence in the US dipped slightly this month, with the Conference Board’s index falling to 100.9, missing expectations of 100.

 ING’s James Knightley said:

While the Conference Board measure of consumer sentiment fell marginally, there was a bigger decline in the more important expectations series, particularly in key Presidential election swing states. This does not bode well for Donald Trump's chances of re-election and with incomes being squeezed and Covid-19 cases on the rise, neither for the economy

03:20 PM

Market moves

European stocks have touched a session low in recent minutes, with the insurance, energy and retail sectors leading falls.

03:11 PM

City Intelligence: Bernard Looney's almighty battle to turn around the BP supertanker

BP announced a return to profit today after its worst ever quarter, but things are far from rosy at the oil giant. 

Our chief city commentator Ben Marlow has examined the problems facing new CEO Bernard Looney as he tries to maintain profit while weaning BP off its reliance on oil.

  • Read his latest column here

Get more of Ben’s incisive business analysis every weekday lunchtime by subscribing to the City Intelligence newsletter.

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

02:27 PM

Publish economic damage alongside Covid death figures, says Revolution Bars boss


More on Revs. Its boss has said that the economic damage caused by coronavirus should be published on a daily basis alongside health figures such as infection rates and deaths.

My colleague Oliver Gill reports:

Chief executive Rob Pitcher questioned government policy to focus on closing bars despite medical chiefs concluding that only a tiny number of cases had been contracted. 

“It seems that the Government is hell-bent on focusing on where 3pc of the infections are happening,” Mr Pitcher said.

“Education is off limits. Care homes are off limits. Workplaces are off limits. All of which have much higher infection rates than hospitality. As a net result of that, we are having to launch a CVA.”

01:39 PM

Wall Street opens flat

US stocks are grabbing the slimmest of gains at the open, with the benchmark S&P 500 edging slightly higher after yesterday’s sharp fall. 

Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV
Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV

01:27 PM

Shareholders back Rolls-Royce’s £2bn cash call

Rolls-Royce - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg
Rolls-Royce - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

Rolls-Royce’s £2bn cash call has been “overwhelmingly” backed by shareholders, unlocking a rescue package totalling £5bn.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports:

Investors supported the 10-for-3 rights issue in which they can buy new shares at 32p - a 41pc discount.

Agreeing to the rights issue allows Rolls to access £2bn of bonds it has sold, and the Government has backed a potential £1bn of further debt.

The funding package is vital to Rolls’s survival as the company, which posted a £5.4bn half-year loss last month, has been hammered by the collapse in demand for air travel caused by Covid-19.

A massive cost-saving programme has been launched that includes 9,000 redundancies - 15pc of the global workforce - and a £2bn disposal programme. 

12:48 PM

US durable goods orders rose more than expected last month

US durable goods orders climbed by 1.9pc last month, comfortably beating economists’ expectations for 0.5pc growth,

Overall, order values haven’t quite recovered to pre-pandemic levels, although they’re not far off. Manufacturers have benefited from a strong recovery in demand.

Paul Ashworth from Capital Economics says those figures bode well for the upcoming US GDP reading:

Since the business equipment investment figures are based on that shipment data, we anticipate a similar-sized turnaround when the third-quarter GDP figures are released this Thursday. Overall, we estimate that GDP rebounded at a 30pc annualised pace.

12:21 PM

Ebooks boost Bloomsbury

Surging e-book sales and a run of best-sellers helped the publisher behind Harry Potter beat the pandemic to book bumper sales and profits. 

My colleague Ben Woods reports:

Bloomsbury's pre-tax profits more than doubled to £3m for the six months to August, up from £1.3m last year, following “significantly higher” sales of online titles. 

A string of titles on racial equality, including Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide  by Carol Anderson, helped drive revenues 10pc higher to £78m for the period.

Chief executive Nigel Newton said a strong performance across the business, coupled with efforts to control costs, had delivered “excellent trading” in the first half of the year. 

12:05 PM

Pound edges higher ahead of US election

The pound has risen slightly against the dollar today, as Brexit tensions lower and investors anticipate a victory for Joe Biden in the upcoming US election. 

 MUFG’s Derek Halpenny warns, however, that sterling is becoming increasingly numb to Brexit developments:

We are becoming increasingly confident that the lift the pound would derive from a Brexit deal being confirmed is likely to be modest. Yesterday was a good example of some good news failing to provide much lift at all for GBP. The decision of Michel Barnier to remain in negotiations in London through tomorrow was viewed as a positive sign by the UK government yet it failed to register in the FX markets.

11:42 AM

Revolution Bars plans six closures as virus hits revenues

Revolution Bars plans to close six sites, putting 130 jobs at risk, as it turns to creditors for help after the Government’s 10pm curfew cut its sales by more than a third.

My colleague Oliver Gill reports:

The company said its subsidiary, Revolution Bars Limited, would set up a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in a bid to slash costs.

Creditors will vote on Nov 13 to accept the deal, which includes plans to close six bars, and reduce rents at seven others.

Chief executive Rob Pitcher said the planned CVA, if agreed by landlords, would help safeguard the future of the group and improve long-term performance.

  • Read more: Revolution Bars to close six sites after losing a third of its revenue

11:08 AM

Retail sales drop at fastest pace since June

UK retail sales dropped at their fastest pace since the start of the summer this month, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry.

The business group’s gauge of sales volumes fell sharply as demand at department stores and clothing companies fell. Retailers cut orders for the 18th month running, despite the looming Christmas period.

 Internet sales continued to pick up, and sales of furniture and home-improvement products also offered bright spots.

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10:49 AM

AA extends offer deadline for another month

AA  - Justin Kase zsixz / Alamy
AA - Justin Kase zsixz / Alamy

The AA has granted takeover suitors another month to agree a take-private deal.

My colleague Oliver Gill reports:

TowerBrook and Warburg Pincus have until Nov 24 to make a firm offer for the breakdown firm.

It is the third deadline extension by the former FTSE 250 firm.

Deal insiders said a decision by the FCA to crack down on “price walking” by insurance companies had forced the duo, which joined forces last month, back to the drawing board.

The pair were said to be close to finalising an offer in late September.

But the FCA announcement – which prevents insurance companies from charging customers a high premium compared with new customers – had thrown a “hand grenade” into negotiations, one source said.  While premiums for the AA’s breakdown cover was not included in the FCA crackdown, suitors are understood to have been interested in the company’s fledging insurance division.

10:36 AM

Analyst praise The Hut Group as shares continue to rise

Recently-listed ‘hot stock’ The Hut Group has continued to rise today as analysts praised its first update since floating last month.

As my colleague Simon Foy reported yesterday:

The Hut Group raised its sales guidance by a third after shoppers flocked online to buy vitamin and hair dye products. 

In its first update as a public company, the Manchester-based online retailer said it expected annual revenues to be between £1.48bn and £1.52bn, up from its previous estimate of £1.43bn.

The upgrade was driven by a big increase in sales in its lifestyle and beauty divisions, with demand for vitamin and hair dye products soaring during the period, chief executive Matthew Moulding said. 

Analysts have praised the group today, with several major banks initiating coverage.

 Jefferies’ James Grzinic dubbed it “The Hot Group”, adding: 

THG should enjoy very high levels of growth for years to come, in our view, supported by a combination of winning online propositions and the attractions of the Ingenuity platform solution. This ideally positions THG as one of the few European equities fully leveraged into a post-Covid world of accelerated channel shift.

Barclays’ Andrew Ross said the group’s shares don’t “come cheap”, but said its Ingenuity ecommerce platform is a key strength, adding:

Visibility isn't perfect but developments to date, as well as our channel checks, have bolstered our confidence that this contract flow should be strong.

10:17 AM

Plus500 sticks to forecasts amid ‘significant’ growth

Spread-betting platform Plus500 has stuck to its guidance for the full year after reporting “significant year-on-year growth” in revenues amid high market volatility.

The group – which sells contracts for difference – said its underlying profit (EBITDA) for the three months to the end of September was 91pc higher than in 2019, at $134.2m, while revenues jumped 96pc.

It said “unprecedented market conditions” had drawn people in, with 46k new customers joining over the quarter.

Chief executive David Zruia said:

Given Plus500’s exceptional performance this year to date, and with macroeconomic and sector-specific news flow continuing to provide significant trading opportunities for our customers, we remain very confident about the outlook for the business.

The FTSE 250 company’s board said it was “very confident” in its outlook, saying it may look to expand its geographical presence through “potential targeted acquisitions”.

09:58 AM

Market moves

Despite a string of results that meet or beat expectations, the mood across European equity markets is still pretty negative – all the continent’s top indices are in the red, with France’s Cac 40 falling furthest. 

09:26 AM

Money round-up

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

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

09:14 AM

EasyJet leases aircraft to raise $400m

EasyJet  - FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
EasyJet - FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

EasyJet has raised almost $400m (about £305m) by leasing more of its aircraft, as part of efforts to shore up its balance sheet in the face of the pandemic.

The airline has leased nine Airbus 320 family aircraft in two separate deals, with 152 planes set to be retained after the transactions are completed – about 44pc of its fleet.

09:00 AM

Spanish unemployment highest since 2018

In a sign of widening pressure on Europe’s labour market, unemployment in Spain rose for the third quarter in a row, hitting 16.3pc, the highest level since early 2018.

The rise slightly beat economists’ expectations for a 16pc jobless rate. There were 355,000 more people registered as unemployed over the period, but the number don’t include furloughed workers, so aren’t a true reflection of the number of people out of work.

Worryingly, the unemployment rate for people aged under 25 passed 40pc, about a third higher than during the same period last year.

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default

08:47 AM

Whitbread sees improved conditions after severe loss

Whitbread  - REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
Whitbread - REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Hotel operator Whitbread has said its trading has been improving in recent weeks, after posting a massive first-half loss.

The FTSE 100 group posted a loss before tax of £724.7m for the six months to the end of August, encompassing the initial lockdown period and the slow re-opening period afterwards.

Its estate “rapidly reopened” since lockdown, Whitbread said, with 97pc of its hotels operating by the end of July. Since then, its performance has been “ahead of the market”, it said.

Following a successful £1bn rights issue in June, the group said it had a “strong platform for the continued successful execution of our structural growth strategy in the UK and Germany”.

Chief executive Alison Brittain said:

We hold a uniquely advantaged position in the UK market as the largest player with the strongest brand.  Our financial flexibility and resilience, combined with a strong balance sheet, give us the ability and the confidence to invest with discipline and focus on strong long-term returns.

We will be well placed to enhance our market leadership position even further in the UK, and accelerate our growth in Germany, supporting our guests and teams and driving long-term value for all our stakeholders.

The group said it had signed a deal to acquired 15 leased hotels to continue its german expansion, for a total investment in the region of €40m to €50m. The deal is expected to complete in December, with the hotels become part of Whitbread’s estate then, and adopting its branding next year.

Jefferies’ Becky Lane said the results were “broadly in line” with expectations, warning Whitbread faces uncertainty in the shorter-term UK market.

08:28 AM

St James’s Place funds under managements meet expectations as inflows slip

Funds under management at St James’s Place rose to £118.7bn in the third quarter, surpassing its pre-virus high to reach a new record.

The group posted weaker net inflows during the quarter, down to £1.44bn from £2.11bn over the same period last year.

Chief executive Andrew Croft said:

I am encouraged that improved levels of activity towards the end of the quarter have continued into October, with activity for the current month at similar levels to the same month last year. Looking ahead, the increased uncertainty linked to Covid-19 will inevitably influence client investment confidence and consequent decision-making.

Shore Capital’s Alan Devlin said the results were resilient, adding:

We continue to believe SJP will deliver consistent net inflows, earnings, cash and dividends throughout the crisis, and will emerge from the crisis stronger.

08:11 AM

Markets flat

European markets have risen just slightly overall, with a mixed open seeing minor gains on the FTSE 100 and Hermany’s Dax, while France’s Cac has slipped further. 

Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV
Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV

08:08 AM

BP squeaks narrow profit

BP  - Ollie Millington/Getty Images
BP - Ollie Millington/Getty Images

The day’s other major results: BP posted a modest $86m (£66m) profit in the third quarter, beating analyst expectations, as it forecast a gradual recovery in oil demand led by Asian markets.  

My colleague Simon Foy reports:

The oil giant reported a $86m underlying replacement cost profit, its definition of net income, after analysts had predicted the FTSE 100 company would swing $120m into the red. 

The result follows a record $6.7bn loss in the previous quarter. This time last year, BP made a profit of almost $2.3bn. 

It benefited from the absence of significant exploration write-offs taken in previous updates and recovering demand and prices for oil and gas prices. 

However, on a reported basis, BP swung to a £644m loss after taking a hit from restructuring and impairment costs. 

07:45 AM

HSBC beats profit estimates


HSBC could start charging for products such as current accounts as the Bank of England considers turning rates negative for the first time. 

My colleague Lucy Burton reports:

The UK has long been unusual for not charging current account fees, unlike most other developed nations. Instead, banks recoup their costs through add-ons such as overdraft and foreign transaction charges, as well as by lending depositors' money at interest.

However, HSBC’s finance chief Ewan Stevenson said the bank was seriously considering such a move.

“We will have to look at charging for basic banking services in some markets, because a large number of our customers in this environment will be losing us money,” he said. 

Mr Stevenson was speaking after the bank unveiled a 36pc slide in profits for the third quarter to $3.1bn (£2.3bn). However, this beat City estimates and the bank eased its forecast for losses on soured coronavirus debts. 

06:44 AM

Agenda: Europe set for slight rally

Good morning. European stocks are set to rally slightly after Monday's rout.

Wall Street tumbled from the open yesterday, dragging Europe lower, on concerns around the second wave of coronavirus.

5 things to start your day 

1) Eurozone and US markets tumble as Covid fears haunt stocks: Stocks on Monday tumbled amid panic over a second Covid wave, fresh crackdowns on civil liberties and a warning from Europe's largest software firm.

2) Pension fund deficit crackdown 'could hit recovery': A government crackdown on pension funding gaps could force companies to plough £100bn into plugging deficits, experts warn.

3) Germany Inc fears the worst as second wave takes hold: Fears of a double dip downturn in Germany as economic damage caused by a second Covid wave spreads to the “last stronghold” of Europe.

4) William Hill advisers in line for £165m jackpot: Investment bankers, lawyers and accountants are in line for over £165m of fees if the bookmakers' investors vote through a takeover swoop.

5) Tyrrell's crisps tycoon sells Chase Distillery to Diageo: Once declared bankrupt, William Chase is set for a major payday following the sale of his gin and vodka producer for an undisclosed sum.

What happened overnight 

Shares skidded in Asia on Tuesday after surging coronavirus cases and waning hopes for US economic stimulus gave Wall Street its worst day in a month.

Stock benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney. Shares were flat in South Korea, where economic growth data were slightly better than expected.

Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.3pc to 23,428.70 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.8pc to 24,719.38. South Korea's Kospi gained a fraction of a point to 2,344.48, while the S&P/ASX 200 slumped 1.8pc to 6,042.60. The Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.2pc to 3,244.23.

South Korea's relatively strong showing reflected a better than expected 1.9pc economic growth in the last quarter, following a 3.2pc quarterly decline in April-June. Strong exports led the rebound, economists said.

Coming up today

Corporate: Bloomsbury Publishing, BP, HSBC, St James' Place, Whitbread (Interim); Dechra Pharmaceuticals (Full-year results); ContourGlobal, Hunting (Trading statements) 

Economics: CBI distributive trades survey (UK); industrial profits (China); unemployment (Spain); durable goods orders, consumer confidence (US)