With little good news this morning, it’s no surprise that European stock markets are flat in early trading.
The UK’s FTSE 100, the German DAX and the French CAC are all becalmed are investors ponder the health of the eurozone economy.
South Korean tech firm Samsung has stunned traders overnight with a surprise profit warning, due to a slide in memory chip prices.
The world’s largest smartphone seller warned that it will market estimates for the first quarter of this year, due to amid falling prices for LCD screens and semi-conductors.
In a regulatory filing, it revealed:
“The company expects the scope of price declines in main memory chip products to be larger than expected.”
Chip prices have been hit by weaker-than-expected sales of new phones such as the iPhone X, and the general economic slowdown.
So Samsung’s profit warning could be a significant sign that Big Tech is hitting tough times.
French industrial confidence drops too
More eurozone gloom! French industrial confidence has fallen to its lowest level in almost two and a half years.
The INSEE statistics agency has just reported that its monthly industrial confidence index fell to 102 points this month, from 103 in February. That’s the lowest reading since November 2016.
It’s another sign that manufacturers are in the doldrums. More encouragingly, service sector firms are more positive, nudging INSEE’s broader measure of private sector confidence up to 104 from 103.
Reuters reckons French firms are shaking off their worries about the “yellow vest” protests:
Business confidence plunged in December after a series of protests over the high cost of living turned violent, sparking some of the worst rioting and vandalism in decades during the peak pre-holiday shopping season.
While confidence in the dominant service sector was stable in March, it rebounded in the wholesale industry and was unchanged in retail.
German consumer confidence drops
Newsflash: German consumer confidence has taken a knock, adding to concerns that the eurozone economy is struggling.
Market research group GfK has reported that morale deteriorated this month, with Germans saying they are rather less willing to splash out on new goods.
The survey of around 2,000 Germans showed that income expectations fell slightly and propensity to buy dropped to its lowest level since December 2016.
This dragged GfK’s consumer sentiment index down to 10.4, worse than forecasts of 10.8, and down from 10.7 a month ago. That will add to anxiety that the global economy is running short of steam.
Germany’s economy has been struggling for several months, as its exporters have been caught up in America’s trade dispute with China, and the EU.
GfK researcher Rolf Buerkl explains:
Whilst consumers are certainly not assuming that Germany will fall into recession this year, they do see a noticeable cooling off of economic activity.
Buerkl also fears that Brexit has spooked German consumers…and could continue to act as a drag on the economy:
The lack of decisiveness regarding the nature and date of the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as the growing trade conflict between the EU and USA are clearly creating ever more uncertainty among consumers. Barriers to trade, such as increases in customs duties, are currently creating a burden for German exports.
Introduction: Markets still edgy
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Global stock markets continue to be gripped by anxiety that we could be heading towards a recession.
After two days of losses, there’s a rather jittery feeling in the City today. Shares might nudge higher, but there’s not much momentum behind any rally.
Asian markets are looking rather mixed too — China’s Shanghai Composite has shed 1.5% today, while Japan’s Nikkei has bounced back from Monday’s rout (-3%) with a 2% gain.
With the eurozone slowing, China struggling to reach a trade deal with America, and the UK bogged down in unending Brexit mess, there’s little to cheer investors.
And the recent steady decline in government bond yields (as nervous traders drive bond prices higher) is fuelling the tensions.
After a surge of money into US Treasuries, longer-term US debt is now offering a worse return than short-dated bonds. That suggests markets are pricing in a sharp slowdown, perhaps even a recession.
David Madden of CMC Markets says:
Investors are aware the US economy is in rude health, and growth is tipped to cool in 2019, but at the same time they don’t want to ignore the moves in yield curve inversion as it been a reliable recession indicator.
On the corporate side, City traders will have drinks on their mind as tonic maker Fevertree and Irn-Bru brewer AG Barr report financial results, along with United Utilities and formal wear outfit Moss Bros.
We’ll also get a healthcheck on the US economy, with new consumer confidence and house price data. Are Americans feeling more chipper than their German friends?
- 7.45am GMT: French GDP for Q4 2018 (final estimate)
- 1pm GMT: The S&P/Case-Shiller index of US house prices for January
- 2pm GMT: US consumer confidence data for March