European stock markets open lower as IMF head warns on trade wars – business live

Christine Lagarde warns the system for world trade is in ‘danger of being torn apart’

Germany’s VDMA engineering association has called on the West to lift some sanctions against Moscow.

Its president, Carl Martin Welcker, has told Reuters that the association is hoping for a sustained recovery in demand from the Russian market. German engineering exports to Russia rose 22.5% to €5.3bn last year, but that was still far below a peak of almost €8bn peak in 2012.

Russia has developed very positively over the past year, after all the disappointing years before.

Economic sanctions have little political impact in this respect, we want them to be critically scrutinised. The things that work should be upheld and others should be loosened if possible.

A report released this morning shows that Britain’s high streets suffered more store closures in 2017 than in any year since 2010. Fashion retailers, shoe shops, travel agents and estate agents have been driven out by the rise of internet shopping.

A net 1,700 chain shops closed their doors in 2017, according to analysis of the UK’s top 500 towns compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC) for PricewaterhouseCoopers. An average of 11 stores a day opened, while 16 a day closed. The data does not include independent shops.

Fashion and footwear stores were the hardest hit in 2017, according to LDC, as shoppers’ freedom to spend on non-essentials was diminished by rising food price inflation, partly fuelled by the fall in the value of the pound after the vote for Brexit in 2016.

Tesco is the biggest riser on the FTSE 100 index in early trading after its better-than-expected results, with the shares up 3.6%. Other supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s are also up.

Asos shares have fallen as much as 7% despite strong results, after the company upped its investment plans.

European stock markets have opened lower, as expected, with trade tensions simmering.

FTSE 100 index in London down 0.27% at 7246.85

Hammerson, which runs the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham and Brent Cross in London, said this morning that it has rejected a sweetened £5bn bid from bigger French rival Klépierre.

The French shopping mall operator offered to pay 635p a share in a mix of Klépierre shares and cash, up from its £4.9bn proposal on 8 March (615p a share).

The board has considered the revised proposal from Klépierre carefully. At 635p, it is only a 3% increase on the previous proposal and continues very significantly to undervalue the company.”

Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco has reported a 28% rise in operating profits, beating City expectations. Profits were boosted by better than expected sales in the last three months of its financial year.

Online fashion retailer Asos, which targets shoppers in their 20s, has also reported strong numbers. Sales were up 27% in the first half and it expects similar growth in the second half. Chief executive Nick Beighton said the firm would step up investment in distribution and logistics.

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has issued a stark warning that the current system for world trade is “in danger of being torn apart”, with the potential to upset the present global economic upswing and make consumers poorer. She urged governments around the world to steer clear of protectionism or face negative consequences.

Let us redouble our efforts to reduce trade barriers and resolve disagreements without using exceptional measures.

For equity markets to regain a sense of equilibrium we need to start to see progress on the road away from a potential trade war, and currently there is no evidence of that whatsoever.

The strange thing is that for all the warm words, and President Trump’s positive response to them, is that what President Xi actually said wasn’t much different to previous speeches he has made in the past, which means that eventually these words will need to be turned into actions. The easiest one to deliver is probably the reduction in tariffs on cars, but even that is likely to be difficult, particularly since further talks between the various parties aren’t actually planned at the moment.

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