What to Watch: German recession fears, Berkeley soars and Greene King sales fall

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
German chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

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

German recession fears as industry falters

Fears are growing that Germany could fall into recession in the third quarter after figures showed an unexpected decline in industrial output.

Production by industry in Europe’s biggest economy dipped by 0.6% in July as capital goods output fell, according to official figures from Germany’s statistics office.

It had been expected to rise by 0.3%, but German exporters have been hit hard by a global slowdown, US president Donald Trump’s trade war with China and Brexit uncertainty.

The move comes as German chancellor Angela Merkel called for a resolution to the trade spat on a visit to Beijing on Friday, and could increase pressure for a European Central Bank stimulus next week.

Berkeley shares up as it backs London property market

Housebuilder Berkeley (BKG.L) is confident of the “long-term resilience and attraction” of the property market in London, Birmingham and the south-east, it said in a trading statement.

The comments come in spite of widespread uncertainty linked to Brexit that has weighed heavily on property sales and London prices in recent years.

Separate figures from Halifax on Friday showed house prices were up 0.3% month-on-month in August, but remained barely changed on six months ago.

READ MORE: The single biggest issue driving UK property prices

Berkeley said pricing had remained “stable” and its forward sales position remained above £1.8bn ($2.2bn) in the first four months of its financial year.

It said it was targeting pre-tax profits of £500-700m a year over the next six years, adding up to £3.3bn by 30 April 2025.

The firm was the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) in morning trading on Friday, up more than 2% at 10am in London.

Greene King sales dip blamed on World Cup

Greene King saw its sales slide. Photo: PA

Pub giant Greene King (GNK.L) saw its sales slip 1.8% in the first 18 weeks of its financial year, but it blamed “the tough comparatives of last year’s successful World Cup and good weather.”

The company, which operates 2,730 pubs, said like-for-like sales were up 1% on the same period two years ago, and up 1.5% over the past seven weeks. Its shares were flat on the announcement.

READ MORE: Wetherspoon knocks 20p off pint in Brexit stunt

Greene King is currently on a cost-cutting drive, and expects to sell up to 95 pubs this year but opening eight new ones.

The 220-year-old company agreed to a takeover bid by CK Noble, a subsidiary of Hong Kong giant CK Asset Holdings, on 19 August.

European markets flat, Asian markets higher

European markets had a muted open on Friday, with the FTSE 100 (^FTSE), FTSE 250 (^FTMC) and Euronext 100 (^N100) all flat at around 10am in London.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) and the German DAX (^GDAXI) were both up around 0.1%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) were both up 0.5%, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was 0.7% higher.

What to expect in the US

US stocks also looked set for a higher open. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were 0.2% higher, S&P500 futures (ES=F) rose 1.3% and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were up 1.4%.