Fears of a US banking crisis were reignited on Tuesday after shares in two regional lenders plummeted following the failure of First Republic.
PacWest, a Californian lender, saw trading in its shares suspended after the stock plunged as much as 39pc, while Arizona’s Western Alliance fell by more than a fifth.
The steep drops stoked concerns about a crisis of confidence in the US banking system and led to calls for the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates.
Ten Congressmen on Tuesday wrote to Jerome Powell, chairman of the US central bank, urging him to pause interest rate hikes at the Fed’s meeting later this week to “avoid engineering a recession that destroys jobs and crushes small businesses”.
HSBC’s chief executive Noel Quinn played down concerns about the health of the global banking system after JP Morgan was forced to step in to rescue California’s First Republic, the third US lender to fail in two months.
He said: “We’re pleased that there was a resolution on First Republic at the weekend so that that situation has been resolved.
“We do not believe there is a global banking crisis on the horizon. We think there are some challenges that have been evidenced in some of the regional banks in the US, but we do not believe that’s systemic in the US, or across all banks.”
Intense focus on PacWest and Western Alliance came after regulators seized beleaguered regional bank First Republic over the weekend and sold it to Wall Street giant JP Morgan. It was the second largest banking failure in the US since Washington Mutual in 2008.
Both PacWest and Western Alliance have faced scrutiny owing to their similarities with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which collapsed in March, and First Republic. All have a high proportion of uninsured deposits.
PacWest, which is regarded as one of the weakest of the mid-sized regional banks, struggled following the collapse of SVB. Deposits at the Beverly Hills-headquartered bank fell by more than $5bn to $28.2bn (£22.6bn) during the first three months of the year.
Last week it said deposits had stabilised following a flurry of withdrawals.
Mr Quinn’s reassurances about the health of the global banking system came as HSBC reported a tripling in profit thanks to rising interest rates.
The FTSE 100 bank reported pre-tax profits of $12.9bn for the first three months of the year, up from $4.1bn during the same period last year.
HSBC’s net interest margin – the gap between what the bank pays savers and what it charges borrowers – jumped 0.5 percentage points to 1.69pc.
MPs have accused retail banks of taking advantage of soaring interest rates to bolster their own profits at the expense of customers.
Harriett Baldwin, chairman of the Treasury Committee, said banks were “relying on inertia by their most loyal customers to drive higher profits.”
She said: “As a Committee, we will continue to pay close attention to the banks’ results and we will continue to press for further action in this area.”
Last month, the City watchdog challenged bank bosses who were being miserly with their savings rate increases and warned of “onerous interventions” if they continued to fail to pass on rate rises to savers.
Some instant access savings accounts pay as little as 0.7pc interest. HSBC’s basic easy access account pays a standard rate of 1.3pc annually.
HSBC booked a provisional $1.5bn profit from its government-engineered rescue of SVB UK, the bank said on Tuesday. Mr Quinn said the bank plans to expand the SVB unit in Hong Kong, elsewhere in Asia and potentially in Israel, adding that there were “no nasty surprises” hidden with the bank that it bought for £1.
Mr Quinn and his colleagues are preparing to face activist shareholders at the bank’s annual meeting in Birmingham on Friday, with its largest investor calling for the lender to spin off its Asian business from the rest of its operations.
Superdry turns to investors to raise an additional £12m
Fashion chain Superdry has announced plans to issue nearly 16,000 new shares to raise around £12m.
Raising additional cash from investors is hoped to balance the balance sheet as Superdry attempts to turnaround its business amid weakened consumer demand.
The new shares will represent around 19pc of the total value of shares Superdry has already issued.
Superdry’s chief executive and founder, Julian Dunkerton, has agreed to underwrite a material portion of shares.
Mr Dunkerton’s personal investment reflects “confidence in the long-term prospects of the business”, the company said.
Superdry is in the process of simplifying its business model, which includes savings of £35m.
It also plans to dispose of its intellectual property assets across the Asia Pacific for £34m.
Michael Gove accused of fuelling housing crisis amid deepening row with builders
Michael Gove has been accused of fuelling the housing crisis amid a deeping row with builders.
Business reporter Riya Makwana has the details:
The Home Builders Federation said the Secretary of State’s approach to planning would lead to “fewer new homes” being built after Mr Gove personally intervened to block a new development in Kent because it was too “generic”.
Berkeley Group, the company behind the project, is now preparing a legal challenge to Mr Gove’s decision, labelling it “irrational”.
Steve Turner, executive director at the Home Builders Federation said: “The Housing Secretary is personally intervening to block developments that the local authority actually wants to see go ahead. Regardless of the supposed aims the outcome seems to always be the same: fewer new homes built.
“This may be clever politics but the long-term social and economic consequences will be huge.”
Mr Gove refused Berkeley Homes planning permission to build a 165-home scheme last month. He said: “The design of the proposal does not reflect the expectations of the High Weald Housing Design Guide, being of a generic suburban nature.”
The intervention marks the first time the housing secretary has blocked a decision based on the aesthetics of the development and housebuilders are concerned that it could set a dangerous precedent…
Thomson Reuters boosts profit amid AI push
Thomson Reuters has reported higher-than-expected sales and operating profit in the first quarter, as it plans a deeper investment in artificial intelligence.
The news and information company reported adjusted earnings of 82 cents per share, beating analyst forecasts for 80 cents.
Total revenue rose 4pc in the quarter to $1.738bn (£1.39bn), beating expectations, according to estimates from Refinitiv.
Thomson Reuters, which owns the Westlaw legal database, Reuters news agency and the Checkpoint tax and accounting service, said organic revenue was up 7pc its three main segments: legal professionals, corporates, plus tax and accounting professionals.
“While we acknowledge elevated macroeconomic uncertainty, our underlying business is resilient,” said chief executive Steve Hasker.
Thomson Reuters plans to spend some $100 million a year to invest in artificial intelligence, Hasker said. It will start seeing generative AI incorporated into flagship products in the second half of this year.
Wall Street titan Carl Icahn targeted by short seller
Carl Icahn, one of Wall Street’s best-known activist investors, has become the target of a short-seller which has accused the billionaire of inflating the value of his empire.
Chief business correspondent Oliver Gill has more:
Hindenburg Research accused the hedge fund manager of operating a “ponzi-like economic structure” through his $15bn fund, Icahn Enterprises, and claimed its value had been inflated by at least 75pc.
The short-seller added: “We think Icahn, a legend of Wall Street, has made a classic mistake of taking on too much leverage in the face of sustained losses: a combination that rarely ends well.”
Icahn Enterprises’ shares, listed on the Nasdaq, fell as much as 24pc following the publication of the Hindenburg report.
It is the third high-profile company to have been targeted by Hindenburg this year. In January the short-seller launched a searing attack on Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s business empire, accusing him of corporate fraud. The company has denied the allegations.
Last month the short-seller took aim at Block, the US crypto payments company run by Twitter’s co-founder and former chief executive Jack Dorsey.
Dow Jones sheds over 500 points as banks tumble again
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen by over 560 points or 1.65pc to 33,488.42 as shares in beleaguered banks tumble again.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has fallen 1.66pc to 4,098.59 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is trading 1.45pc lower at 12,035.95.
Some of the sharpest drops came from smaller and mid-sized banks, which have been under heavy scrutiny as the banking system shows cracks under the weight of much higher interest rates.
The Dow Jones US Banks Index is currently down 3.75pc, while the S&P 500 Banks Industry Group Index is 3.55pc lower.
PacWest and Western Alliance have resumed trading, but have yet to reverse the steep losses suffered earlier today.
FTSE 100 closes in the red
The FTSE 100 has ended in the red, closing down 1.24pc at 7,773.03.
The blue-chip index was weighed down by education publisher Pearson (share price down 15.31pc) after a major US rival warned that its finances were being hit by the popularity of ChatGPT.
The commodity-heavy index was also dragged down by oil and gas majors – including Shell (down 4.37pc) and BP (down 4.05pc).
Despite BP reporting higher than expected quarterly profits, shares in the oil major sank after it revealed plans to reduce its share buyback programme.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 index ended 0.57pc lower at 19,314.23.
Thousands of IBM staff at risk from AI, boss warns
Artificial intelligence will replace thousands of office workers at IBM within five years, the IT giant’s chief executive has predicted.
Technology editor James Titcomb has the story:
Arvind Krishna said IBM would suspend or slow down hiring in back office areas such as human resources as many tasks are replaced by automation.
Around 26,000 people currently have roles in these positions at IBM, which employed around 288,000 staff at the end of last year.
“I could easily see 30pc of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period,” Mr Krishna told Bloomberg. This would amount to around 7,800 staff. IBM said much of this reduction would come through attrition, rather than widespread layoffs.
Mr Krishna’s prediction is among the first signs that a new wave of artificial intelligence programs are disrupting the job market, especially among white collar workers.
PacWest and Western Alliance halt trading as share prices sink
PacWest Bancorp and Western Alliance Bancorp both “paused” trading in their shares after plunging as much as 24pc and 21pc respectively to lead a rout in shares of regional banks stocks.
The volatility led to a halt in trading with the KBW Regional Banking Index sinking as much as 4.2pc in the US, while
the KBW Bank Index was down 3.7pc.
It follows the rescue of fellow regional bank First Republic on Monday by JP Morgan.
I’m signing off now. Adam Mawardi will keep you informed from here.
Federal Reserve begins talks that could end series of interest rate rises
The US Federal Reserve has kicked off a two-day meeting today to decide whether to raise its benchmark lending rate for a 10th – and possibly final – time to tackle rising prices.
The Fed has been on an aggressive campaign of interest-rate increase since March last year, rapidly raising rates to help target high inflation, which remains above its long-term target of two percent.
With the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) widely expected to raise its base rate a quarter-point on Wednesday, analysts will be looking for any “revisions to the forward guidance in its statement,” Goldman Sachs’ chief US economist David Mericle wrote in a recent note to clients.
He said: “We expect the Committee to signal that it anticipates pausing in June but retains a hawkish bias, stopping earlier than it initially envisioned because bank stress is likely to cause a tightening of credit.”
Futures traders also see a more than 95pc chance that the Fed will raise its benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points when it announces its decision tomorrow, according to CME Group.
Such a move would bring the interest rate to between 5 and 5.25pc – its highest level since before the global financial crisis.
Greene King sales surge after Covid but pub company warns of ‘tough’ trading ahead
Pub and brewing giant Greene King has said its expects the “tough” trading backdrop to continue for the rest of 2023 but hailed a leap in sales for the past year.
The company, which runs more than 2,000 sites across the UK, reported that revenues jumped by 62.2pc to £2.2bn for 2022.
It said trade returned to pre-pandemic levels after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Demand was boosted by events such as the Platinum Jubilee weekend, women’s football Euros and men’s football World Cup.
However, customer confidence was “depressed” throughout the year as a result of the higher cost of living.
Greene King, which is owned by CKA group, the business empire of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, also revealed a jump in profits for the year.
Operating profits bounced to £192.6m compared with £18.6m in 2021.
Apple fights mass legal action accusing it of ‘throttling’ iPhone batteries
Apple has urged a tribunal to block a £1.6bn mass legal action accusing it of hiding defective batteries in millions of iPhones by “throttling” them with software updates.
The tech giant is facing the case brought by consumer champion Justin Gutmann on behalf of iPhone users in the UK.
Mr Gutmann’s lawyers argued in court filings that Apple concealed issues with batteries in certain phone models and “surreptitiously” installed a power management tool which limited performance.
Apple said in written arguments that the lawsuit is “baseless” and strongly denies its iPhones’ batteries were defective, apart from in a small number of iPhone 6s models for which it offered free battery replacements.
The company also says its power management update – introduced in 2017 to manage demands on older batteries or with a low level of charge – only reduced an iPhone 6’s performance by an average of 10pc.
Mr Gutmann asked London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal to certify the case and allow it to proceed towards a trial.
Wall Street falls ahead of US interest rate decision
US markets edged lower after the opening bell as investors braced for the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision and awaited developments from Washington on the debt limit showdown.
The Fed’s two-day policy meeting kicks off later, in which it is expected to raise rates by a quarter percentage point and potentially signal a willingness to hold off on further increases.
Focus is also on policymakers in Washington after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government might run out of money to pay its bills as early as June.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 0.5pc after the opening bell to 33,896.74 while the broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.4pc to 4,152.55.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 0.2pc to 12,199.20.
Health unions vote to accept pay offer
Health unions representing the majority of NHS workers have recommended that the revised pay offer made by the Government should be implemented.
In a joint statement, members of the NHS Staff Council said that the unions agreed to the deal for staff on the Agenda for Change contract, which includes all NHS workers apart from doctors, dentists and senior managers.
The 14 unions representing staff on the contract have balloted hundreds of thousands members over the last few weeks.
Unison, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Royal College of Midwives were among those who voted to accept the offer while Royal College of Nursing and Unite voted against it.
Pearson shares plummet as US rival warns of hit from AI
Shares in London-listed education publisher Pearson have plummeted as a major US rival warned that its finances were being hit by the popularity of ChatGPT.
California-based Chegg said on Monday that the AI software was having an impact on how many students were signing up to its services.
The hit has been so pronounced that the company withdrew its guidance for the full year and warned that second-quarter revenue will be significantly lower than what Wall Street analysts expected.
Chegg’s share price dropped by more than 40pc as a result in pre-market trading in the US – and its woes knocked Pearson, a major rival, whose shares were trading down nearly 10pc in London.
Chegg chief executive Dan Rosensweig said there had been a “significant spike” in student interest in ChatGPT since March which is “having an impact on our new customer growth rate”.
Uber drives forward as customers keep spending on rides and takeaway
Uber reported earnings that beat analysts’ estimates, showing that consumers continue to spend more on rides and food takeout despite an uncertain economic outlook and rising prices.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation reached $761m (£610m) in the first quarter, beating the $678.6m analysts were predicting.
Chief financial officer Nelson Chai said: “We delivered record profitability and free cash flow in Q1, and we are poised to expand profitability again in Q2.”
Shares jumped more than 3pc in premarket trading.
The results signal that the San Francisco-based company is weathering a shaky economy better than expected, even as spending in retail and other areas suffers.
It has also been outshining rival Lyft, which is overhauling operations in the face of sluggish demand and weak profits. Lyft is set to report its results later this week.
Putin puts Black Sea grain deal at risk
The Kremlin has said that the window to extend the Black Sea grain deal is shrinking ahead of talks designed to give a lifeline to the UN-brokered agreement aimed at staving off world hunger.
Russia has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to walk away from the deal on May 18 if the demands of Vladimir Putin’s regime to ease restrictions on its own agricultural exports are not addressed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that talks between the parties were continuing, but without any results, adding that part of the deal concerning Russia’s interests was not being implemented.
Mr Peskov said: “Russia’s position is well known – the deal was extended for two months.
“The terms of the deal that concern Russia’s agricultural sector are not being fulfilled.”
The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July, allows grain trapped by Russia’s invasion to be safely exported from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Mr Peskov said he was not able to say in what format, time and place negotiations would continue, after a Ukrainian source told Reuters that the parties to the deal would meet on Wednesday.
Among other requests, Moscow says it wants its state-run agriculture bank, Rosselkhozbank, to be reconnected to the SWIFT international financial messaging system, and for the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline to be restarted.
The West says its sanctions do not explicitly target Russia’s agricultural sector, but Moscow says its agricultural exports have been hit by restrictions on its banks as well as other sanctions on logistics and insurance.
BBC journalists halt strikes over local radio cuts
Strike action planned by BBC journalists over cuts to local radio has been paused, following talks brokered by the arbitration service Acas.
Members of the National Union of Journalists in local radio, local TV and online were due to stage a 24-hour walkout on Friday to coincide with the results of the local elections.
The union said journalists have now been sent a consultative ballot on whether they are willing to accept a revised proposal from BBC management and end the dispute, or to reject it and continue with strike action and the work-to-rule.
A work-to-rule which started last month and is due to continue until May 9 is paused and the planned strike on Friday is postponed.
The union said if the proposals are rejected, the work-to-rule will recommence from May 10.
Covid jab still boosting Pfizer
Pfizer’s first-quarter profit and revenue outpaced analysts’ expectations as demand for its for pandemic products persisted even amid waning infections.
Adjusted first-quarter earnings were $1.23 a share, exceeding analysts’ expectation of 97 cents.
Revenue of $18.3bn (£14.7bn) also beat Wall Street expectations. The company left untouched its full year earnings guidance at $3.25 to $3.45 a share, and revenue at $67bn to $71bn.
Pfizer has struggled with a steep drop off in demand for its Covid products that has made its stock among the worst-performing in big pharma this year.
The New York-based drugmaker announced the $43bn planned acquisition of cancer-drug biotech Seagen earlier this year, giving investors more assurance that it is seeking new avenues for growth.
Pfizer’s Covid vaccine Comirnaty and Paxlovid antiviral transformed the company, contributing more than half its $100bn in sales last year.
But in the first quarter, revenue for the jab fell 77pc to $3.1bn, although this was more than the $2.6bn analysts expected. Paxlovid saw quarterly purchases at $4.1bn, beating estimates for $2.7bn.
Wall Street expected to fall at opening bell
US stock markets are on track to edge lower as a surprise interest rate increase by Australia’s central bank ahead of a much-awaited policy meeting by the Federal Reserve spooked investors.
The US central bank is expected to deliver a 25 basis-point interest rate increase on Wednesday and then hold rates steady for the rest of 2023, according to economists in a Reuters poll.
Worries about an economic downturn and concerns about stress in the banking sector have fuelled expectations of rate cuts in the latter half of the year.
However, with inflation running well over the central bank’s 2pc target and a labour market remaining strong, the chances of rate cuts seem less likely.
Focus also remains on earnings from major companies with Pfizer, Uber, Cummins and Marriott International scheduled today.
Analysts expect first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies to fall 1.9pc from a year earlier following better-than-expected reports from some technology and growth giants, compared with a 5.1pc fall expected at the start of April, according to Refinitiv data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 are expected to fall 0.2pc at the opening bell, while futures on the Nasdaq 100 were flat.
Tinder owner swipes left on Russia as it announces exit
Tinder owner Match Group has said it will quit Russia by June 30, citing the need to protect human rights, joining many Western companies to leave since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine last year.
In an annual impact report published this week, Match said:
We are committed to protecting human rights.
Our brands are taking steps to restrict access to their services in Russia and will complete their withdrawal from the Russian market by June 30, 2023.
Many digital services providers with few staff in Russia, such as Spotify and Netflix, pulled out shortly after Moscow began its military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022.
Match, whose brands include dating applications such as Tinder, Hinge and PlentyOfFish, has made few public statements about its Russian operations, but flagged negative impacts on its European business in March 2022.
Australian dollar surges after surprise rate decision
The pound’s fall today comes after the Reserve Bank of Australia delivered a surprise increase in interest rates – and with traders’ attention turned elsewhere.
Against the Australian dollar, sterling dropped as much as 0.6pc after the RBA stunned markets with a quarter-point rate rise overnight and said it may have to raise again as inflation is still far too high.
With the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank meeting this week to discuss policy, activity in sterling could be fairly muted, analysts said.
ING strategist Chris Turner said:
It looks like sterling will take a back seat to events in the US and eurozone this week.
The market has settled on pricing a 25 basis point Bank of England hike to 4.5pc on May 11 – with which we agree.
The market also prices the Bank Rate close to the 4.9pc area by November, a view with which we disagree.
Sterling is vying with the Swiss franc for the title of best-performing major currency against the dollar this year – both show a gain of about 3pc.
Pound slides against the dollar
The pound has fallen against the dollar even as the US Treasury Department said it could run out of the cash it needs to pay its bills by early June.
The mood in the market was fraught as Joe Biden summoned the four top congressional leaders to the White House next week after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US might run out of money to cover obligations as soon as June 1.
The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates by a quarter of a point on Wednesday, with the European Central Bank announcing their next decisions on Thursday. The Bank of England’s next decision will be announced on May 11.
However, money markets suggest this will be the final US rate increase given the anxiety around the tug-of-war over the government’s debt limit, as well as the stability banking sector after the rescue of First Republic by JP Morgan on Monday.
The pound has fallen 0.2pc against the dollar but remains well over $1.24. Sterling is down 0.1pc against the euro, which is worth less than 88p.
Eurozone bond yields rise
Eurozone government bond yields have risen, playing catch-up with US Treasuries as markets reopened after a holiday.
Bonds were unchanged after data showed that eurozone inflation ticked up to 7pc in April, from 6.9pc in March.
Yields climbed sharply early in the session but slipped back when eurozone bank lending data showed an exceptionally large drop in credit demand in the first quarter.
The figures came a day after JPMorgan took over ailing US lender First Republic, in the latest sign of the pressures on the banking system.
Germany’s 10-year yield, the benchmark for the bloc, was up five basis points at 2.368pc, having risen more than 10 basis points early in the session. Yields move inversely to prices.
Eurozone core inflation ‘difficult to contain’
Policymakers at the ECB deciding the next move for interest rates will be most concerned about core inflation, which strips out volatile items like food and drink, according to Capital Economics.
Chief Europe economist Andrew Kenningham said:
They may be relieved that it edged down from 5.7pc to 5.6pc, its first fall since June last year, but the detail is not particularly encouraging.
The fall in core inflation was due to lower core goods inflation, which dropped from 6.6pc to 6.2pc.
This component was always likely to come down due to the improvement in global supply chains. But services inflation, which is of more concern, edged up from 5.1pc to 5.2pc.
With the labour market still remarkably tight and demand for labour having increased further in April, policymakers will worry that services inflation will be difficult to contain.
In sum, these numbers do not decisively tip the balance ahead of Thursday’s ECB decision.
Our hunch is that the Bank will pull a hawkish surprise by going for a 50 basis point rather than 25 basis point hike, and we think sticky services inflation and the tight labour market will ultimately persuade them to raise rates to 4pc before ending the tightening cycle.
Superdry in talks with investors over equity raise
Retailer Superdry has said it is holding “positive” talks with investors over an equity raise of up to 20pc as it looks to shore up its balance sheet in the face of tough trading.
The chain said founder and chief executive Julian Dunkerton plans to “significantly” take part in the equity raise and offer a “material underwriting commitment”.
It comes after it was reported at the end of last week that it was in advanced talks over a £15m share sale to bolster its finances.
The move marks its latest efforts to raise cash after it last month unveiled a deal to sell its intellectual property assets in Asia-Pacific to raise £34m.
Superdry is also slashing costs, recently announcing aims to save more than £35m, amid sales woes.
Earlier this month, it warned over profits for the second time this year after it admitted sales in February and March were disappointing.
Surging food and tobacco prices drive surprise rise in eurozone inflation
Inflation inched higher across the eurozone last month amid high food prices, raising pressure on the ECB to raise interest rates later this week.
Consumer prices in the 20 countries using the euro jumped 7pc in April from a year earlier, just up from the annual rate of 6.9pc in March, the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat said.
Food, alcohol and tobacco prices eased a little, with annual price growth slowing to 13.6pc from March’s 15.5pc.
Energy prices rose by a more modest 2.5pc but this was falling back from a rate of 37.5pc in the same month last year in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel, slowed slightly but was still high at 5.6pc, underlining the expectation that the ECB will press ahead with an increase in interest rates this week.
Analysts say the ECB’s meeting Thursday in Frankfurt could end in an increase of a quarter- or a half-percentage point.
While the slight fall in food inflation is good news, economists say those are partly statistical quirks, due the fact that lower figures from before the current outbreak of inflation have aged out of the annual comparison, a so-called base effect.
Britain’s manufacturers ‘remain stoically optimistic’
After Britain’s manufacturing sector contracted in April, Rob Dobson, director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said:
The UK manufacturing sector remained in the doldrums at the start of the second quarter. Output and new orders contracted, as manufacturers felt the impacts of client uncertainty, destocking and tightening cost controls.
There was no escape from the subdued mood of the market, with both domestic and export customers remaining reticent to commit to new contracts.
There was better news on supply chains, as supplier lead times have now shortened in each of the past three months, providing welcome news in terms of improved resource availability and helping drive down raw material price pressures.
Better-running supply chains have helped manufacturers reduce backlogs of orders, accumulated in prior months amid component shortages.
But the concern is that these backlogs are being depleted, leaving firms with less work in hand.
There may be some light on the horizon, as manufacturers remain stoically optimistic about the outlook for the year ahead.
Over 60pc of firms expect to expand production over the next 12 months. But demand will need to pick up in the months ahead to warrant any increase in production, and with the UK seeing stubbornly high domestic inflation coupled with a worsening export trend, risks seem skewed to the downside.
Manufacturing sector shrinks as clients reluctant to commit to new orders
The UK’s manufacturing sector contracted in April as customers reduced stock and cut costs, according to an influential survey.
The S&P Global/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI fell to a three-month low of 47.8 in April, down slightly from the 47.9 scored in March.
However, it came in above the previous estimate of 46.6 for the latest month. Any score below 50 is considered a contraction for the sector.
Eurozone banks curb lending more than expected
Banks in the eurozone curbed lending more than anticipated after borrowing costs jumped and turmoil gripped the financial sector, reinforcing calls for the European Central Bank to slow the pace of its interest-rate increases.
Credit standards “tightened further substantially” in the first quarter, according to the ECB’s Bank Lending Survey, published today.
It said: “The tightening for loans to firms and for house purchase was stronger than banks had expected in the previous quarter and points to a persistent weakening of loan dynamics.”
The decline in net demand from firms was more than foreseen by banks in the previous three months, and the most since the global financial crisis, it said.
The poll is the first to offer concrete indications of the knock-on effects of Silicon Valley Bank’s demise and Credit Suisse’s takeover by UBS in March.
ECB officials had suggested that evidence of a tightening in financial conditions from the banking stress could persuade them to raise rates by a smaller amount at their next decision on Thursday, when the Governing Council is expected to choose between a quarter- or a half-point move.
BP ‘yet to feel full impact of loss of Russian assets’
After BP posted quarterly profits of £4bn, Roberto Rivero, market analyst at Admirals, said:
Considering oil and gas prices traded at much lower levels in Q1 than they did the previous year, it is unsurprising to see underlying profit fall year on year.
The profits of BP and other oil and gas majors were given a boost in the first quarter of 2022 as energy prices spiralled in response to the war in Ukraine.
Despite receiving support recently from Opec+ production cuts, the outlook for oil prices remains somewhat unclear.
Continuing uncertainty surrounding the global economy, exacerbated by recent turbulence in the banking industry, could see energy prices continue the downward trajectory which started in the middle of last year. Naturally, lower oil and gas prices will result in less money for BP, which could see earnings return to more normal levels after a period of outsized profits.
If this is the case, BP may start to feel the loss of its Rosneft shareholding more acutely, which it exited last year amidst an exodus of Western businesses from Russia.
More than a year after BP’s exit from Rosneft, we have arguably not yet seen the full impact of the loss of its Russian assets, which accounted for around 12pc of profit in 2021.
This loss in earnings has been well-masked by exceptionally high oil and gas prices, but if energy prices continue to retreat, the loss of Rosneft may begin to bite.
Oil inches up as First Republic rescue calms markets
Oil has inched up after a day of losses fuelled by concerns over China’s economic outlook and caution in financial markets before JP Morgan’s rescue of First Republic Bank.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, crept up 0.3pc towards $80 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate has risen 0.2pc above $75 a barrel after dropping 1.5pc on Monday.
China’s recovery remains patchy with recent data pointing to a contraction in manufacturing.
Still, tourism and travel activity soared on the first day of the country’s five-day Labor Day holiday, possibly signalling increased demand for fuels in the world’s largest crude importer.
In the US, JPMorgan agreed to acquire First Republic, the latest lender to fail.
While the deal could help to stabilise the financial system, there are still concerns over the fate of other weak banks in the country.
Oil has shed more than 5pc this year despite a move by the Opec+ cartel to cut supply from this week.
Losses have been spurred by a darkening economic outlook, with central banks including the Federal Reserve continuing to raise rates.
FTSE 100 inches higher amid HSBC profits
The FTSE 100 has edged higher, boosted by a jump in shares of HSBC after the lender’s quarterly profit tripled, though overall gains were limited by weakness in energy stocks.
The internationally-focused FTSE 100 rose 0.2pc, while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 was up 0.6pc.
HSBC has advanced 4.6pc to the top of the FTSE 100 after its first-quarter profit topped expectations as rising interest rates worldwide boosted income and helped it pay its first quarterly dividend since 2019.
BP has fallen 4.8pc after the oil major pared back its share buyback programme. The company, however, made a $5bn (£4bn) profit in the first quarter of 2023, up from the previous three months due to strong oil and gas trading.
Superdry earlier fell 2.7pc but is now 2.1pc higher after the struggling fashion brand said it is in “positive” talks with investors regarding an equity raise of up to 20pc.
Windfall tax would pay for council tax freeze, says Starmer
Labour would use the profits made by BP and other fossil fuel companies to freeze council tax, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The oil giant’s profit was more than half a billion pounds more than expected in the first three months of the year as the business continued to benefit from elevated energy prices.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Labour ;eader said that “of course we want BP and others to make profits so they can invest”, but that these profits are “over and above” what BP expected and should contribute to a “proper windfall tax”. He said:
What we say in the Labour Party is use that money, have a proper windfall tax that’s effective and use that money directly to freeze council tax.
The government has loopholes in the windfall tax they’ve put in place, so they aren’t using their money effectively.
Sir Keir said that the number one issue ahead of Thursday’s local elections is the cost of living crisis.
Transaction levels ‘stable’ say estate agents
Nationwide Building Society suggested its latest figures showing house prices rose 0.5pc in April could be “tentative signs of a recovery”.
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of estate agents’ body Propertymark, said:
Our member agents are reporting transaction levels year on year to be stable as a stream of new properties enter the market with serious buyers still keen to move.
Sellers are still in a strong position to sell; however, they can no longer test the market at higher prices and align with those achieved last year. Instead, they will need to reduce or be open to offers for a more realistic and efficient sale.
Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at estate agent Knight Frank, said: “The reverberations from the mini-budget that shook the UK property market are fading.
“Price declines are bottoming out and many buyers have accepted the new normal for mortgage rates as stability returns to the lending market.”
Markets open higher in UK
Markets in London have shrugged off any concerns about the banking sector following the rescue of First Republic Bank in the US by JP Morgan.
The FTSE 100 has opened 0.5pc higher at 7,873.97 while the midcap FTSE 250 has begun the day 0.2pc higher at 19,469.25.
‘Sellers are being much more realistic on price,’ says estate agent
After the latest Nationwide house price data, Nick Harris, co-founder at Wokingham-based Quarters Residential Estate Agents, said:
The rise in house prices in April shows that there’s more life in the property market than many think.
House prices are still down on an annual basis but demand has been steadily increasing in the first four months of the year and this may be the beginning of the bounce back from the turbulence caused by the mini-Budget.
While some discretionary buyers continue to sit tight, serious buyers remain very active.
Sellers are being much more realistic on price, and are typically also buyers so they appreciate a more balanced property market.
The property market armageddon some predicted is simply unlikely to materialise.
Data aligning on housing market
Nationwide’s latest figures chime with readings from other surveys indicating signs of strength in the housing market.
Halifax has reported that prices based on its loan book have been rising for three months, reversing some of the decline it showed at the end of 2022.
Property surveyors for the first time in a year are anticipating sales will increase, and their outlook for prices is at the strongest it has been since September, according to the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors.
Investors anticipate the Bank of England’s tightening cycle has further to run, which may weigh on property prices in the months ahead.
Money markets are fully pricing in another quarter-point increase in the base rate to 4.5pc on May 11 and a peak of almost 5pc in September.
Housing supply ‘is slowly improving’
Following the Nationwide data showing house prices are growing again from month to month, Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of the property buying agency Garrington Property Finders, said:
Settling mortgage rates haven’t yet reversed the correction in property prices, but they have returned some much-needed calm and pragmatism to the market.
With average prices still falling in many areas, this is unquestionably a buyer’s market.
Proceedable buyers who have their finances in place invariably hold a strong hand, with sellers fighting for their attention and often agreeing to a significant discount just to get a deal done.
While all buyers remain price sensitive, the more pragmatic are taking an increasingly long-term view in their plans rather than agonising over how prices might change over the next month or two.
Sales volumes are low and there was no spring bounce this year, but supply is slowly improving – helped by the many buy-to-let landlords selling off investment properties which no longer break even following the surge in interest rates.
Nevertheless, things are far from back to normal. With inflation still in double digits, the Bank of England may increase interest rates again later this month – and this would push affordability further out of reach for more first-time buyers.
BP profits hit nearly $5bn in three months
Oil giant BP has significantly beaten expectations by reaching a profit of close to $5bn in the first three months of the year, the group revealed on Tuesday.
Bosses said BP had made an underlying replacement cost profit – the measure that analysts most closely track – of $4.96bn (£4bn).
The result was a reduction from the $6.2bn (£5bn) that BP had made in the same quarter last year, but well ahead of the $4.3bn (£3.4bn) that analysts had expected it to make.
House prices grow for the first time in eight months
House prices grew in April after seven straight months of falls amid signs that mortgage applications are picking up, according to Nationwide.
Prices rose by 0.5pc compared to the previous month, the lender said, with the annual rate of price declines also slowing to 2.7pc from a fall of 3.1pc in March.
The average house price stood at £260,441 in April, according to the building society. Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner said:
Recent Bank of England data suggests that housing market activity remained subdued in the opening months of 2023, with the number of mortgages approved for house purchase in February nearly 40pc below the level prevailing a year ago, and around a third lower than pre-pandemic levels.
However, in recent months industry data on mortgage applications point to signs of a pickup.
This also chimes with the recent shifts in consumer sentiment.
While confidence remains subdued by historic standards, people’s views of their own financial position over the next twelve months, and general economic conditions in the year ahead, have both improved markedly in recent months.
If inflation falls sharply in the second half of the year, as most analysts expect, this would likely further bolster sentiment, especially if labour market conditions remain strong.
HSBC gets £1.2bn boost from Silicon Valley Bank rescue
HSBC’s takeover of Silicon Valley Bank for £1 in March amid concerns of a fresh global banking crisis gave the bank a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) boost to its balance sheet in the first three months of the year.
HSBC’s pre-tax profits soared by more than $4bn (£3.2bn) in the first quarter and revenue shot up by 64pc to $20.2bn (£16.2bn) compared to the same period 12 months ago, with the company crediting the rise to higher net interest income due to rate rises across the globe.
The increase has seen the banking group announce its first dividend of 10 cents per share since before the pandemic in 2019, as well as a share buy-back of up to $2bn (£1.6bn).
This was as its pre-tax profits rose from $8.7bn (£7bn) to $12.9bn (£10.3bn) from a year ago as operating expenses fell by 7pc to $7.6bn dollars, primarily due to lower restructuring and related costs following the group’s cost-saving programme at the end of 2022.
Its results also included a provisional gain of £1.2bn on the Silicon Valley Bank deal, which was brokered by the Bank of England and the Government within days of the collapse of the bank in the US.
The figures come a day after it emerged First Republic Bank will be sold to JP Morgan after becoming the third major US lender to fall in two months.
The Californian lender was seized by regulators on Monday morning amid concerns about its financial health following a plunge in deposits and its share price.
HSBC group chief executive Noel Quinn said: “We remain focused on continuing to improve our performance and maintaining tight cost discipline, but we also saw an opportunity to invest in SVB UK to accelerate our growth plans.”
HSBC said in its first quarter results that it expects net interest income of at least $34bn (£27.2bn) in 2023 after its profits were boosted by the surge in global interest rates.
Its statement said: “While the interest rate outlook remains positive, we expect continued pressure from increased migration to term deposits as interest rates rise.”
Mr Quinn added:
Our strong first quarter performance provides further evidence that our strategy is working.
Our profits were spread across out major geographies and all three global business performed well as we continued to meet our customers’ needs through our internationally connected franchises.
With the good momentum we have in our business, we expect to have substantial future distribution capacity for dividends and share buy-backs.
HSBC’s pre-tax profits soared by more than $4bn (£3.2bn) in the first three months of the year as it was given a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) boost from its acquisition of Silicon Valley Bank’s UK arm in March for £1.
The deal helped the bank’s pre-tax profits soar by more than $4bn (£3.2bn) as it announced its first dividend of 10 cents per share since before the pandemic in 2019, as well as a share buy-back of up to $2bn (£1.6bn).
Its results come a day after it emerged First Republic Bank will be sold to JP Morgan after becoming the third major US lender to fall in two months.
5 things to start your day
1) US banking crisis ‘over’ says JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon | The Wall Street giant’s takeover of First Republic deepens its systemic importance
2) US risks running out of cash by June without higher debt limit | Congress urged to provide long-term certainty that the government will not default
3) Landlord capital of Britain defies the gloom with soaring house sales | Low property prices and consistently high rents continue to attract investors
4) BT challenger Zzoomm lays off hundreds of engineers as broadband woes deepen | Industry’s funding squeeze has heightened expectations of a wave of consolidation
5) The blue tick loophole that gets around Elon Musk’s subscription plan | Bug may further frustrate the tech mogul’s attempts to monetise the platform
What happened overnight
Markets were positioned for Australia’s central bank to stay on hold and a 25 basis point hike sent the Aussie dollar up about 0.8pc to its highest in a week at $0.6692.
Three-year Aussie government bond yields also jumped, while Australian stocks slipped 0.7pc.
Elsewhere there were jitters at short tenors in the US Treasury market as the government’s borrowing ceiling looms, and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat.
Mainland China markets were closed. Japan’s Nikkei hit a 16-month high, before backing off slightly, with the bank sector a drag.
Wall Street stocks ended slightly lower on Monday after JPMorgan Chase acquired the embattled First Republic Bank, as markets traded cautiously ahead of a Federal Reserve decision.
The S&P 500 fell less than 0.1pc to 4,167.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1pc to 34,051.70. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1pc to 12,212.60.
Treasury yields rose amid firming expectations for the Federal Reserve to raise rates again later this week. The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced 13 basis points to 3.55pc.