Monday, 25 February: The usual headlines continued to play on investor sentiment as the final few days of February take hold. In case you are wondering what these might be, think US/China trade talks and Brexit. Optimism was in the air surrounding the former as President Trump tweeted he was delaying the upcoming tariffs on Chinese goods, which were meant to come in to effect at the end of this week. With no specific extension date, Trump further added that with further progress talks, he would plan a summit with President Xi, looking to end the year-long trade saga between the two largest economies. Buoyed by the renewed optimism, much of Asian indices were trading higher, a sentiment that flowed into European equity markets at the open.
It’s rather unlikely PM Theresa May had much chance to enjoy some Egyptian sun over the weekend, but that’s where she has been. Attending the EU-League of Arab States summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh, May has held a number of meetings with EU leaders, seeking further concessions on her Brexit deal. Despite all set plans for the UK to leave the EU on 29 March (that’s right, the end of next month), May announced a delay to her Brexit vote, with MPs now gathering on March 12 to have their “final” vote…. A mere 17 days before the eviction notice lapses.
British housebuilder Persimmon were one of the biggest losers on the main London index, falling more than 8% in early trade amid fears the Government are concerned over Persimmon’s Help-to-Buy practices. Reports from the weekend speculate that Persimmon could be banned from using the Government scheme after allegations of poor housebuild quality and hidden charges, such as leases. No such action would be taken till 2021 when the Government decides which housebuilders are permitted to sell homes under the scheme. Housebuilders were dragged lower on the reports although Persimmon were by far the biggest loser, falling 4.7% at the close.
At the close of European trade, major indices closed in the red; the FTSE 100 clinging on to marginal gains of 0.07%. Over in the US, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones traded higher as Wall Street looked to further march on 2019 gains. Brent oil traded more than 3% lower at the time of writing after Trump turned his tweeting attention to OPEC. Urging them to lower the cost of crude, Trump added that “oil prices are getting too high” following production cuts at the back end of 2018. Brent trades c.$65/bbl.