What to Watch: Pound rises on potential Brexit deal as markets ignore trade war hopes

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves a news conference at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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

Pound rises on potential Brexit deal

Sterling was rising modestly against the dollar and euro on Tuesday, amid hopes that a no-deal Brexit at the end of October can be avoided.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson met key European leaders over the last week, including at the G7 summit in Biarritz over the weekend, and appears to have made some progress in winning concessions for a new deal.

The Telegraph reported on Tuesday that Johnson’s chief Brexit advisor will travel to Brussels on Wednesday as EU leaders “want this thing done.”

Sterling was up 0.1% against the euro to €1.1024 (GBPEUR=X) at 9.38am UK time and up 0.2% to $1.2245 (GBPUSD=X).

Markets ignore trade war hopes

European markets were in the red on Tuesday, despite suggestions from US President Donald Trump that the trade war with China could be easing.

Trump said on Monday that trade talks with Beijing were set to restart and predicted that a deal could be done soon. Global markets rallied on Monday after the comments but European stocks were retreated by Tuesday.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE), which was closed on Monday, was down by 0.5%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down by 0.2%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by 0.1%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was down by 0.1%.

“The lack of follow through from yesterday’s rebound in European markets appears to be predicated on the basis that we’ve been here so many times before,” Micheal Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said. “The US President talking up progress on the one hand, only to upend quite soon afterwards.”

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed up by 0.9%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was flat, and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) closed up by 1.3%.

Bunzl holds deal talks

Distribution and outsourcing giant Bunzl (BNZL.L) is talking to “a number of acquisition targets” as it looks to accelerate growth.

The FTSE 100 firm reported a 1.6% rise in pre-tax profits to £200.5m for the six months to June 30, while revenues also lifted higher.

Bunzl said it hopes to boost its finances for the rest of the year through “additional deals”, following “active discussions” with possible acquisition targets.

Frank van Zanten, chief executive of Bunzl, said: “Despite continuing economic uncertainties, the board believes that the combination of our strong competitive position, diversified and resilient businesses and ability to consolidate our fragmented markets will lead to further progress.”

Muddy Waters attack Burford again

US short-seller Muddy Waters Research has released another report attacking London-listed Burford Capital (BUR.L), doubling down on claims that it has manipulated its accounts.

Muddy Waters put out a 12-page report on Tuesday renewing claims that litigation financing firm Burford manipulated its accounts to show inflated gains on legal cases it has funded.

In the new report, Muddy Waters focuses on one case it had previously highlighted alleged issues with.

Muddy Waters claims Burford “egregiously manipulated” returns from the case and said Burford’s initial response to the accusations were “outrageously misleading.” The report contains US legal filings that Muddy Waters argues support its claims.

A spokesperson for Burford Capital told Yahoo Finance UK: “We have already explained at length on 8 August why Muddy Waters’ claim in relation to this matter is false.”

UK credit card spending hits all-time high

Spending on UK credit cards hit an all-time high in July as Brits splurged on credit ahead of Brexit.

According to new figures from the trade body for UK banking and financial services UK Finance, £12bn ($14.6bn) was spent using credit cards in July. The total was 8.2% more than in the same month a year earlier and represents an all-time high.

The findings may fuel fears that the UK economy is being propped up by an unsustainable consumer spending bubble. Consumer spending has been a key driver of GDP growth in recent years but have been spending more than they earn fro a record nine consecutive quarters.

Data published earlier this month showed that UK wages were growing at the fastest pace in 11 years, which may help to ease pressure on consumer finances.

What to expect in the US

US stocks future are pointing to weaker open later today. S&P500 futures (ES=F) were down by 0.3%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were down by 0.4%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down by 0.4%.