UK high streets face quietest Christmas since credit crunch

With consumer confidence low, footfall is likely to decline for ninth December out of last 10

The crisis on Britain’s high streets is to intensify this Christmas, with shopkeepers preparing themselves for the quietest festive period since the credit crunch, according to forecasts.

A combination of low consumer confidence because of Brexit, more agile online competitors and Christmas shoppers increasingly buying experiences such as concert tickets instead of products, will combine to ruin the season for more high-street stores, said the retail research group Springboard.

Related: Spending at UK department stores falls for 13th month in a row

Related: Why switching on Christmas lights is now a big turn-off

Continue reading…

Never mind the Brexit sideshow – recession is the real worry | Larry Elliot

Markets are more jittery about the prospect of a downturn than May’s doomed deal

Theresa May will face her moment of truth in the House of Commons with the financial markets in turmoil. The drama at Westminster has been mirrored by drama on stock markets, with share prices tumbling and money flooding into the customary safe haven assets – gold and government bonds.

None of this really has much to do with May’s doomed Brexit agreement, because the City has known since the minute the deal was signed that it had zero chance of getting parliamentary approval. Investors will only really get interested in events at Westminster if defeat for May is followed by a period of political paralysis or – even worse as far as the financial markets are concerned – the prospect of a Labour government.

Continue reading…

The Guardian view on women’s rights: do not take progress for granted | Editorial

Austerity, as the UN’s poverty expert noted, is especially harmful to women. The economic shock from Brexit is likely to widen the inequality gap

When Theresa May became prime minister and set out her vision, women were among the groups she promised to champion. She cited unequal pay on a list of “burning injustices” alongside race and class inequalities. This year companies with more than 250 employees were for the first time compelled to report on their gender pay gap. This can be calculated in different ways, but the Office for National Statistics has it at 17.9%, down 0.5% from last year. At this rate it will be decades before women and men are paid the same, but the data is moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately, even such modest progress is the exception rather than the rule in 21st-century Britain. Unpalatable though it may be both to ministers and feminists, the evidence suggests that women’s advancement has stalled and is in danger of going backwards – if it is not doing so already. The government did not accept last year’s finding by the House of Commons Library that 86% of the burden of austerity since 2010 has fallen on women – £79bn, against £13bn for men – and refuses to conduct its own analysis. But work by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Women’s Budget Group and Runnymede Trust has shown that women, and particularly BAME women, are disproportionately affected by cuts to public services and other spending.

Continue reading…

UK ‘will need to cut taxes or boost spending at next downturn’

Effectiveness of monetary policy will be limited in next recession due to already low interest rates, former BoE officials say

The government will need to cut taxes or boost spending when the next economic downturn arrives, according to two former Bank of England officials who said the central bank was low on firepower.

The former deputy governors Rachel Lomax and Sir Charles Bean warned ministers they will be unable to rely on monetary policy to combat the next recession now that interest rates are at historically low levels.

Related: Central bank warnings on the global economy are getting louder

Continue reading…

EU support for austerity opens door to far right, Corbyn says

Failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship, leader tells European socialists

Jeremy Corbyn has told an audience of European socialists that EU “support for austerity” had caused hardship for ordinary people and unless something changes there is a risk that “the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum”.

Speaking at the Congress of European Socialists in Lisbon, the Labour leader added that his party respected the result of the Brexit vote and said it was the duty of the left in the UK to “shape what comes next”.

Continue reading…

Brexit is about more than immigration | Letters

John Whitley says anger over austerity should be directed against the UK government, and Danny Tanzey thinks simplistic explanations do not apply here

Dan Rainey letter (6 December) on immigration accurately reflects some of the perceptions about immigration. But perceptions are not evidence when they are not supported by facts. Most studies show that immigration has not reduced wage levels and has actually increased economic activity since immigrants are typically younger and pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits.

The lack of housing is not from extra demand from immigrants but rather a decade-long failure of housing policy to increase the number of homes available. More importantly, the reason why incomes of the average worker have stagnated is not immigration but the effects of austerity. Immigration is the wrong target.

Continue reading…

Markets rebound as US jobs report misses forecasts – business live

Interest rate hike fears recede as US economy only created 155,000 new jobs last month and wage growth disappoints

Marina Mensah-Afoakwah, senior economist at the CEBR, suspects that the US Federal Reserve will vote to raise interest rates later this month.

While today’s figures in isolation may not give a reason for concern, the context in which they have arisen could cause some anxiety.

If the weak global outlook persists amid current trade tensions, future job growth in the US may continue to disappoint.”

The Dow is pushing higher…. now up 120 points, as New York investors recover their nerve. But will it last?…

So far, so calm…..

Stocks mostly higher in early trading after weaker-than-expected jobs report https://t.co/aaSJKDTQda pic.twitter.com/aXwPQE2rf7

This time yesterday, Wall Street was falling heavily as global markets were riled by the arrest of Huawei’s CFO.

Today’s jobs report shows that the US economy is slowing, but not drastically, says Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics.

He’s written a thorough note on November’s Non-Farm Payroll….and here it is:

The slightly more modest 155,000 gain in payroll employment in November may not go down well in markets given the heightened nervousness in recent months, but this is still a solid gain that suggests economic growth is gradually slowing back towards its potential pace.

There is nothing here to suggest the economy is suffering a more sudden downturn.

The European stock markets are all pushing higher, clawing back more of yesterday’s losses.

Britain’s FTSE 100 is leading the way, up almost 2%, with solid gains on Germany’s DAX (0.8%) and France’s CAC (+1.5%).

Matt Weller of Faraday Investment Research says:

See my Top 3 Takeaways from today’s #NFP report: pic.twitter.com/waPFOGJ2Cj

America created tens of thousands more jobs in transportation and warehousing last month, as online shopping continued to expand.

Today’s non-farm payroll report shows that:

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 25,000 in November

Job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+10,000) and in warehousing and storage (+6,000). Over the year, transportation and warehousing has added 192,000 jobs.

America’s service sector created the bulk of the new jobs last month, hiring around 132,000 new workers.

Factories also expanded their workforces, with 27,000 new hires.

Lots of talk about manufacturing slowdown given GM, tariff concerns, etc. But no sign of that in jobs report: +27k manufacturing jobs in November, continuing strong run. (Slight decline in auto manufacturing jobs, though.) pic.twitter.com/Vb4VpA7Hgb

Economics professor Justin Wolfers reckons today’s jobs report will reassure the Federal Reserve that they have the situation under control.

With jobs still being created, and wages rising modestly, there’s little sign that the economy is over-heating.

Payrolls growth slows a little, but to a more sustainable +155k in November. The unemployment rate remains steady at 3.7%. Revisions suggest the two previous months weren’t quite as strong.

While some may be disappointed, this pace of expansion is more likely to be sustainable.

Hourly earnings rose by +0.2% this month, and are up by 3.1% over the year. That’s still not enough wage pressure to seriously threaten the Fed’s inflation target, but we’re getting closer.

This is the sort of jobs report that manages to both calm folks at the Fed a bit — no, we’re not right on the cusp of overheating — while also continuing the narrative of robust ongoing jobs growth that will, if it continues, keep bringing unemployment down.

This jobs report doesn’t have much cheer for US workers, although the unemployment rate remained at just 3.7%.

Bad news IS good news for the markets!

Dow futures rise to pre-market session high despite jobs report missing expectations https://t.co/aaSJKDTQda pic.twitter.com/4rrjTvPQFu

More disappointment! US wages only grew by 0.2% month-on-month in November, dashing hopes of a 0.3% rise.

That’s a blow to US families in the run-up to the festive season.

BREAKING: The US economy created 155,000 new jobs last month, fewer than the 200,000 which Wall Street had expected.

And in another blow, October’s figures was revised down to 237,000, from a first estimate of 250,000.

Brad Bechtel, global head of FX at Jefferies, predicts that shares will fall if the US jobs report beats forecasts….and rise if it misses.

As he puts it on Bloomberg TV:

Good equals bad, and bad equals good.

Word from the White House….

China talks are going very well!

As City traders grab a quick sandwich before the US jobs report (oh the glamour!), here’s a look at the markets.

A reminder of how the US monthly job-creation figures have bounced around in recent months:

The London stock exchange is holding onto most of its early gains, as City traders turn their attention across the Atlantic.

China and the US continue to have frosty relations and this has seen investors prefer to stay away than get involved in what has proven to be a volatile market for quite some time now. This reversed the hope felt earlier in the week after it was announced the US would delay tariffs on China in the aim of making progress but it is now clear that this negativity will last until the new year.”

The Bank of England is already under fire over its warning about a no-deal Brexit. But it now faces another storm.

The Bank is reportedly due to meet Calixto Ortega Sanchez, president of the Venezuelan Central Bank, and Simon Zerpa, the Venezuelan minister of finance, over the repatriation of 550 million US dollars (431 million) of gold.

The Bank is the second largest depository of gold and has been holding Venezuela’s gold deposits since the 1980s.

Although the markets are up today, fears over the global economy haven’t gone away.

Royal Bank of Canada have cautioned that Chinese trade data due out on Saturday should be watched very closely, for signs that export growth have dropped.

There is compelling evidence that exports, which have surprised significantly to the upside in the last three months, have been boosted by front-loading ahead of successive tranches of tariffs.

Export growth (in yuan terms) is expected to slow to 14% year-on-year from 20% previously (or from 16% to 9% in US dollar terms).

The FTSE 250 index, which contains smaller UK-focused companies, is also recovering today.

Related: No-deal Brexit would ‘devastate’ UK gaming industry, says report

Paul Donovan of UBS Wealth Management believes the threat of new US tariffs on Chinese goods caused Thursday’s sell-off.

But on the upside, he reckons today’s non-farm payroll jobs report will show American workers are in demand.

Equity markets had a bad day on Thursday. The fear of additional US trade taxes is really not being well received, and investors seem to see the risk as rising.

Otherwise, economic data was generally pretty good. Today’s US employment report is more likely to show firms struggling to find people to hire, than a lack of jobs available.

Speaking of slowing economies…new data have confirmed that the eurozone only grew by 0.2% in the last quarter.

The single currency bloc was dragged down by Germany, which contracted by 0.2%, and Italy which shrank by 0.1%.

Euro area #GDP +0.2% in Q3 2018, +1.6% compared with Q3 2017 https://t.co/1i6OErjggo pic.twitter.com/KZrSTIXZQi

Ralf Preusser, head of rates research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says recent market instability is mainly due to concerns about the underlying global economy.

That includes the impact of the US-China trade dispute, and worries that we are approaching the end of the economic cycle (ie, heading towards a recession)

Consumer-facing firms, telecoms, tech and industrial companies are leading the rally in London:

Good news! £27bn has been wiped back onto the value of Britain’s biggest companies this morning.

Britain’s stock markets has now clawed back half of yesterday’s slump — while European markets are also holding onto their moderate gains.

But after such a choppy few weeks in the markets, further swings must be likely.

“A 1.6% rally in the FTSE 100 is welcome relief after yesterday’s horrible session, although this only claws back some of the losses. The important point to note is the large swings in the market on a daily basis in recent weeks, which may suggest volatility could become one of the key themes in 2019.

“It would be possible to draw the conclusion that investors are overreacting to every little bit of information related to politics, economics and the markets. Ultimately it does tell you that investors are extremely nervous and confidence cannot be very high as we approach the end of the year.

Several property experts are blaming Brexit uncertainty for the slowdown in UK property prices.

Here’s Mike Scott, chief property analyst at estate agent Yopa,

‘This suggests that the usual Christmas slowdown in the housing market has started early this year, as people wait for the outcome of the current political turmoil before making long-term commitments, such as buying a new home.

‘However, the economic fundamentals of low unemployment, low interest rates, growing wages and limited supply are all positive for house prices, and we therefore expect the market to pick up again in the new year.’

“The lowest rate of growth for six years is a reflection of how Brexit uncertainty has hit the property market for six.

“Without wanting to appear overly pessimistic, there’s every chance 2019 could be 2009 all over again.“People need to be preparing for that eventuality and the low level of transactions suggests they are.

OUCH! UK house prices growth has slowed to a six year low.

The Halifax has reported that the average house price declined by 1.4% in November, a substantial fall. On a quarterly basis, prices in September-November were 1.1% lower than in June-August.

“House price growth has slowed as we approach the end of the year, falling from 1.5% in October to 0.3% in November, with the average cost of a home now £224,578. While this is the lowest rate of growth in six years, it remains within our forecast range of 0% to 3% for 2018.

High employment, wage growth and historically low mortgage rates continue to make home ownership more affordable for many, though the need to raise a significant deposit still acts as something of a restraint on the market. This is largely offset by relatively limited supply of new and existing properties for sale, which continues to sustain house prices nationally.”

Connor Campbell of SpreadEx says the markets are recovering today thanks to the last minute recovery on Wall Street last night.

The European markets were granted a reprieve on Friday, the Dow Jones’ last minute retreat from the cliff edge on Thursday night paving the way for a greener end to the week.

Though Beijing are very much displeased with the arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou – China’s media labelled her detention as ‘despicable’ – the fact the country nevertheless announced it was ‘immediately’ applying the trade truce measures agreed with the US appears to have helped reassure the markets that the relationship between the two superpowers hasn’t yet reverted back to its warmongering worst.

Shares continue to climb in London, pushing the FTSE 100 index up by 80 points.

All but three members of the Footsie have jumped this morning – quite a contrast with yesterday when all but three fell.

Neil Wilson of Markets.com thinks the Brexit crisis has also hurt UK shares.

The FTSE suffered a bruising session on Thursday, declining more than three per cent to close at 6,704.05.

There is still lots of pressure on the UK. For the FTSE this is about more than trade wars and the Fed, there is a real political risk premium being factored into shares now as we approach the Brexit crunch.

European stock markets have bounced back from their lowest levels in two years, as trading gets underway across the region.

In the City, the FTSE 100 index has risen by 0.8%, or 55 points, to 6,758.

China’s media are usually a good indication of how leaders in Beijing see an issue.

And today, they’ve savaged the US over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, calling it a ‘despicable’ attempt to undermine Chinese enterprise.

State-run China Daily said the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer appeared to be part of US efforts to contain the company, which is the world’s largest telecoms equipment provider, as well as its second-largest mobile phone maker.

“One thing that is undoubtedly true and proven is the US is trying to do whatever it can to contain Huawei’s expansion in the world simply because the company is the point man for China’s competitive technology companies,” the editorial said.

Asia-Pacific stock markets recovered after the Chinese government announced it would ‘immediately’ enforce measures agreed with the US under their trade war truce.

Asian shares are moderately higher as worries over U.S.-China trade friction were calmed by conciliatory comments from Beijing.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.8 percent to 21,678.68, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 5,681.50. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,075.76. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.1 percent lower to 26,133.53, while the Shanghai Composite was flat at 2,605.89. Shares also rose in India, Indonesia and Taiwan.

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

Related: £56bn wiped off FTSE 100 in biggest market fall since Brexit vote

Markets breathe a sigh of relief following an afternoon rally on Wall St that erased most of day’s losses as investors grappled w/shifting indications on Sino-American trade talks & prospects for a pause in Fed tightening. 10y US yield holds around 2.90%. Oil lower ahead of Opec. pic.twitter.com/UI5RdUbW49

The wall of worry to hurdle for flipping to bullish sentiment is about as big as the Great Wall of China.

Continue reading…

UK house price growth slips to six-year low amid Brexit uncertainty

Prices grew by only 0.3% in the year to November, down from 1.5% in October, Halifax says

House prices grew at the slowest rate in almost six years in November as wavering consumer confidence before the UK’s departure from the EU took its toll on the housing market.

Prices grew by only 0.3% in the year to November, down from 1.5% in October, according to the Halifax house price index, published on Friday.

Continue reading…