The EU and the UK appear to be on the cusp of agreeing the contours of a Brexit deal. PM Theresa May today travels to Brussels in the hope of a draft sign-off with Jean-Claude Juncker though any agreement still risks being holed by political objections. Difficulty remains over Northern Ireland – likely to be the biggest sticking point – the jurisdictional role of the ECJ and how citizens rights are interpreted.
If discussions falter the pound will suffer though the suffering may be drawn out as talks will continue on the sidelines. Sterling was close to $1.3550 on Friday. At 7am sterling was at $1.3456, down -0.27% on the day though up more than +1% on the week (and almost +2.9% up for the last month). The upwards push in the pound’s valuation has also been helped by a Bank of England rate rise.
Either way, the notional key EU deadline remains midnight tonight in order for “satisfactory progress” to be hit (with some leeway built in). While the eurozone’s economy is growing increasingly faster, many economists remain pessimistic about the UK’s long-term economic success out of the EU – though on the tech side things look more confident: Facebook is to hire more than 800 staff for its new London office.
Overnight, Asia Pacific stocks saw mixed numbers with the Hang Seng up +0.59% and the Shanghai Composite down -0.29%. In Hong Kong Tencent rebounded more than +2%, in part due to recent share price weakness and the chance to top up. Japanese stocks remained subdued with no tech re-bound in sight. Bitcoin saw a near $12,000 high in the US yesterday though this morning it was down as low as $10,400 – plenty of volatility (see more below).
- UK FTSE 100 7,300.49 -0.36%
- Dow 24,231.59 -0.17%
- S&P 500 2,642.22 -0.20%
- Nasdaq 6,847.59 -0.38%
- Nikkei 225 22,707.16 -0.49%
- DAX 12,861.49 -1.25%
- CAC 40 5,316.89 -1.04%
- Gold 1,277.20 -0.40%
- Oil WTI 57.98 -0.63%
National Express makes US and Spanish inroads; Ryanair up
National Express says it saw “good trading” performance through October and November and is encouraged by robust early Christmas trading. “Overall, we remain on course to deliver our profit, free cash flow and leverage targets for the full year.”
It claims two modest new acquisitions in the US and Spain to support its overseas acquisition strategy. Both businesses are expected to see returns of 15-20% “in line with our guidance”.
Ryanair claims November traffic grew +6% to 9.3m customers with the load factor jumping +1% to 96%. Ryanair says the improved seat traffic was down to lower fares. Despite the on-going Brexit turbulence Ryanair is sticking to its profit forecasts for the year. Airlines got a recent Budget helping hand with the decision to freeze air passenger duty.
Bitcoin UK clampdown? CVS Health makes Aetna move
Bitcoin – current value $11,410 – may face tighter regulation. The BBC reports that the UK is discussing possible due diligence checks on transactions from Bitcoin exchanges.
"We have clear tax rules for people who use crypto-currencies and like all tax rules, these are kept under review…We also intend to update regulation to bring virtual currency exchange platforms into anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation."
Expect more consolidation in the prescription drugs industry. US drugstore giant CVS Health is to snap up healthcare insurer Aetna for close to $69bn. The move is thought to be a strategic pre-emptive strike; anxiety worries are climbing about an Amazon move in this area. Some antitrust issues remain.
Breaking news: Rio Tinto has put a name to its new chairman, Simon Thompson. Thompson replaces Jan Du Plessis who moves to BT Group.