What to Watch: House prices rise ahead of election, Bonmarche rescue, and European markets slip

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Estate agent's signs hang from houses in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham, Britain. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

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

House prices rise ahead of election

House prices rose by 0.8% in November compared to a year earlier, Nationwide said Thursday.

Nationwide’s House Price Index registered growth at a 7-month high but marked the 12th consecutive month that price growth has remained below 1%.

Alongside the price growth data, Nationwide published analysis showing that elections have historically had little impact on the UK housing market.

“Rightly or wrongly, for most home buyers, elections are not foremost in their minds while buying or selling their home,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist.

Bonmarche rescue deal

Fashion retailer Peacocks is set to rescue rival Bonmarche out of administration, according to reports.

The Press Association reported that nine companies are understood to have been in the running for Bonmarche, with Peacocks chosen as the preferred bidder.

“Whilst we are optimistic that a transaction can be completed, ultimately it will depend on ongoing negotiations between our preferred bidder and landlords on market rents, and there remains a risk that the business could cease to trade,” administrator Tony Wright from FRP Advisory said.

Bonmarche fell into administration last month and has been seeking a buyer to save the business.

About 240 jobs could be on the line as 30 “underperforming” stores are set to be closed even if the rescue deal goes through. The 285 stores that are left will continue to trade but they will be kept under review, administrators said.

Virgin Money suspends dividend over PPI

Virgin Money (VMUK.L) fell to a loss last year and has suspended its dividend, after a big surge in PPI claims dented profits.

The lender, which was formerly known as Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group (CYBG), said Thursday it lost £194m in the year to 30 September 2019. Virgin Money blamed an “unprecedented” surge in PPI claims around the 29 August deadline for claims, which forced it to set aside £385m in the fourth quarter to cover compensation.

“Our statutory result was significantly affected by additional PPI provisions, driven by the unprecedented surge in PPI information requests in August, along with anticipated Virgin Money acquisition-related costs,” said chief executive David Duffy.

Ocado plans new Bristol warehouse

Online supermarket Ocado (OCDO.L) said on Thursday that it will open a new “mini” hi-tech distribution warehouse in Bristol, in a move that is expected to support around 815 jobs in the local area.

The warehouse, Ocado’s sixth customer fulfilment centre (CFC) in the UK, will have the capacity to process about 30,000 orders per week, compared with its Essex centre, which can process as many as 85,000 a week.

The supermarket firm said on Thursday that the facility, which will be built in an existing warehouse, is expected to go live at the end of 2020 or in 2021.

Car production hit by Brexit uncertainty

UK carmakers saw a steep 4% drop in production in October, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on Thursday warning that Brexit-related uncertainty made it “extremely worrying times” for the sector.

The data means that car production in the UK has now fallen in 16 of the last 17 months.

Manufacturing output fell to 134,752 last month, which meant that 5,000 fewer units rolled off production lines than did so in October 2018.

Production for the UK market itself fell sharply, with the SMMT blaming a waning in consumer and business confidence for the 10.7% fall off.

Overseas orders, meanwhile, fell 2.6%. The SMMT said that fewer model changeovers also played a part in the downturn.

Markets drift lower

European markets slid on Thursday, amid fears that a new legislation passed in the US supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong could threaten trade talks.

“The move prompted Beijing to lambast the bill as ‘full of prejudice and arrogance’, potentially doing damage to the relationship between the superpowers just as things were starting to look up,” said Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at spread betting firm SpreadEx.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down 0.5%, not helped by a rally for the pound which made sterling-denominated share prices for dollar earning businesses look more expensive.

Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.3%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down 0.2%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was down 0.2%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down 0.1%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was down by 0.2%, and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was down by 0.4%.

What to expect in the US

US stock markets are closed on Thursday for the national Thanksgiving holiday.