What to Watch: Boeing deal probe, pound falls, oil rates surge

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
An Embraer aircraft lands at Zaventem airport in Brussels. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Embraer says Boeing deal will face EU probe

Brazil’s Embraer (ERJ) said late on Thursday that the European Commission intends to open an investigation into Boeing’s (BA) plan to take a controlling stake in its commercial aircraft division.

In a regulatory filing, Embraer said that both companies had been informed by the commission, which is set to release the findings of its preliminary review on 4 October.

The investigation could affect the timeline of the $4.75bn (£3.8bn) deal, which had been expected to close by the end of 2019.

The investigation by the commission, the EU’s executive arm, could take as long as five months.

Embraer makes a series of smaller commercial passenger aircraft. In February, Boeing and Embraer announced the establishment of the joint venture, of which 80% will be owned by Boeing.

Boeing has already used a bond offering to raise funding for the deal, and would have to pay $100m to Embraer if the deal is blocked by regulatory probes.

Pound plunges after policymaker signals rate cut

The pound on Friday plunged sharply after a Bank of England policymaker said he thought it possible that interest rates would be cut even if the UK avoided a no-deal Brexit.

Michael Saunders, an external member of the bank’s rate-setting committee, said that he thought it was “quite plausible that the next move in bank rate would be down rather than up.”

The Bank of England has continually signalled that it plans to increase interest rates, in part because the assumption of a smooth Brexit is built into its forecasts.

It has nevertheless acknowledged that rates could go either way if the UK crashes out of the EU.

The pound declined by about 0.4% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) on Friday, falling below $1.23 for the first time since earlier this month. It similarly fell against the euro (GBPEUR=X).

Speaking to a chamber of commerce in Barnsley, Saunders said it was “perhaps more likely” that there could be “prolonged high Brexit uncertainty” even if a no-deal Brexit does not occur.

Oil shipping rates surge after US sanctions

The cost of shipping oil from the Middle East to Asia surged by as much as 28% on Friday, after the US imposed sanctions on COSCO (F83.SI), a Chinese company that operates dozens of oil supertankers.

The US believes COSCO was knowingly involved in ferrying crude oil out of Iran, in direct contravention of sanctions designed to put economic pressure on the country.

The unexpected move, described by the US state department as “one of the largest sanctions actions the US has taken” in the Iran dispute, have shaken the global oil shipping market.

Rates for chartering oil supertankers from the Middle East to north Asia in October climbed by almost 20% overnight, according to Reuters.

China’s foreign ministry on Thursday hit back at the sanctions, saying it always opposed “so-called long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions.”

“We also oppose the bullying practice of the US,” it said.

Announcing the sanctions, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned “China and all nations” that the US “will sanction every violation of sanctions.”

Johnson tax cuts to benefit high earners

The UK prime minister’s tax cut plans would cost £8bn a year and disproportionately help the highest earners, according to a leading think tank.

The richest 10% of British households would receive 75% of the tax giveaway first proposed by Boris Johnson in the Conservative party leadership contest this summer, new analysis suggests.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) released its assessment of Johnson’s proposals to raise the threshold at which earners start paying the 40% highest rate tax band from £50,000 to £80,000.

It said the move would reverse the trend of three decades of gradually rising higher-rate taxpayers, taking the number down to its lowest level since the current system began in 1990.

European stocks climb even as confidence dented

European stocks rose on Friday, with the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) up 1.03%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) up 0.52%, and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) up 0.17%.

The boost to European markets came even as a key indicator of confidence in the eurozone industrial economy dropped to its lowest level in six years.

The sentiment report, published by the European Commission, said that industry managers were “markedly more pessimistic” about most aspects of the eurozone’s economy, including with respect to production expectations, orders, and stocks of completed products.

Though it remains close to its lowest level in more than four years, confidence in the services sector improved slightly.

What to expect in the US

Futures are pointing to a slightly higher open for US stocks.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) are up by 0.21% and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) are up by 0.19%. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) are up by 0.16%.