What to Watch: EU PMI beats low expectations, EasyJet returns, AstraZeneca vaccine

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
People stroll at Trocadero square next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. (Michel Euler/AP)

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Eurozone PMI data ‘buries hope of V-shaped recovery’

A closely watched purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data for the eurozone showed economic activity continuing to contract significantly for most firms as the pandemic and lockdown hammered firms in May.

The headline figure on the index came in at a grim 30.5, on a scale where figures below 50 show decline and above 50 show growth.

But the survey figures were less bleak than the reading of 25 expected by economists in a Reuters poll. It also showed the number of firms reporting decline falling as some reopened with lockdowns easing. The figure came in well above a record low 13.6 reading last month, the worst since the survey began 22 years ago.

The data brings “reassuring signs that the downturn likely bottomed out in April," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

Bert Colijn, a senior eurozone economist at ING, said: “The majority of businesses are still experiencing contraction or no change from a very low base. The data does suggest that unemployment is rising significantly across the eurozone at the moment.”

The survey overall “buries any final hopes of a V-shaped recovery,” he added, with firms continuing to slash jobs at a rapid pace and the bounce-back slower than China’s when it began easing restriction in March.

European stocks fall on PMI data and second wave fears

European stocks fell as markets opened on Thursday, with investors anticipating the bleak business survey data and fears growing of a ‘second wave’ of the coronavirus.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) were both trading 0.8% lower at around 10am in London, while in Germany the DAX (^GDAXI) was down 1%.

Markets closed lower overnight in Asia too. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) fell 0.2%, the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong (^HSI) dropped 0.5% and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) closed 0.6% lower.

“While tech shares help to drive the rebound in stock markets in the US, markets in Asia, as well as here in Europe are struggling to find similar catalysts to help drive their own rebounds, even though by and large it has been a positive week so far for markets here in Europe,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets.

“For all of the underlying optimism that the worst is over in the short term, as we head into the heat of the European summer months, and the talk of holiday destinations re-opening from July 1st, there is some concern that a second wave is only a matter of time.”

EasyJet plans to resume flights on 15 June

EasyJet (EZJ.L) announced that it will resume flights from a number of UK airports from 15 June.

The airline, which is one of Europe’s largest low-cost carriers, said flights will restart on mainly domestic routes between 22 European airports.

Gatwick, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Belfast are among the first to reopen in Britain.

EasyJet added that it will implement new safety and hygiene measures and that passengers and crew will be required to wear masks when on board the aircraft. It will also not sell food on the flights and disinfection wipes and hand sanitiser will be made available to passengers.

AstraZeneca aims for September vaccine

AstraZeneca (AZN) has confirmed it will supply a potential vaccine to battle the COVID-19 infection by September, if clinical trials prove successful.

The pharmaceutical giant said in a statement that it has the capacity to manufacture 1 billion doses of the University of Oxford’s potential vaccine through 2020 and 2021, and it has already secured the first agreements for at least 400 million doses of the vaccine.

The new coronavirus has so far infected nearly 5 million people and killed more than 300,000 across the globe.

The vaccine, previously known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, but now known as AZD1222, is being developed by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford.

What to expect in the US

US stocks look set to slide on Thursday, after closing higher the previous day. S&P500 futures (ES=F) and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were down 0.7%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down 0.6% shortly before 5.30am eastern time.

“Another positive session for US markets last night, with new record highs for Amazon and Facebook, gave way to a rather mixed Asia session this morning as investors wrestle with the dilemma of a rise in infection rates as various economies start to ease their lockdowns,” said Hewson.

“US markets look set to take their cues from the weakness being seen in European trading this morning. Weekly jobless claims are also expected to remain in the multimillion bracket, albeit rising at a slower rate than previous weeks.”