January 16, 2018 / 2:26 PM / a year ago

LIVE MARKETS-All aboard the equity express

    * European stocks rise
    * Cyclicals underperform after rally
    * UK inflation down from November peak

    Jan 16 (Reuters) - Welcome to the home for real time coverage of European equity markets
brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Julien Ponthus. Reach him on
Messenger to share your thoughts on market moves: julien.ponthus.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net

    It looks like equities and cyclicals are fast becoming the flavour of the day with BAML's
January fund manager survey revealing that investors have raised their stock allocations to
two-year highs and cut cash positions to five-year lows.   
    Likewise private bank Coutts also voiced a preference for equities in its investment outlook
for 2018: "With company earnings in the major markets likely to continue rising and no sign of
U.S. recession on the horizon, we continue to have confidence in equities, with a bias towards
those regions where we see the growth cycle persisting for longer, like Europe and Japan."
    (Kit Rees)
    The DAX index remains comfortably close to the all-time high it hit in November, up
1 percent, seemingly unperturbed by the rising euro. But shouldn't the stronger currency be a
headwind for the heavily export-oriented German benchmark index?
    DZ Bank chief investment strategist Christian Kahler in Frankfurt doesn't believe so and
says corporate Germany should be able to weather the appreciation, despite possible hits to
    "German companies are known for their strong export trade. Based on our analyses, the share
of sales of the German HDAX companies invoiced in USD was 28% (the HDAX comprises the
companies included in the DAX, MDAX and TecDAX indices). This exposes them to increased risks
through changes in exchange rates.  However, 23% of the costs are also incurred on a USD basis,
which puts the approach into perspective," he says. 
    He adds that factors such as natural hedging in the form of local production capacity and 
borrowing in USD could also mitigate the rise in the single currency, while the broader strong
economic backdrop is also likely to help.
    To be sure, not everyone sees the glass half full. Deutsche Bank, for example, said
yesterday continued EUR strength could boost its long-standing recommendation of underweight
Europe relative to U.S. equities.
    (Danilo Masoni)
    Shares in BAE Systems didn't suffer much from the decision of Norway's sovereign
fund this morning to exclude the British group from its portfolio, citing its policy regarding
firms involved in the production of nuclear weapons. 
    As you can see on this chart, the fund's statement around 0900 GMT triggered a spike in
volumes but didn't prevent BAE from ticking slightly higher. BAE shares later edged down to
their initial levels. At the beginning of 2017 the fund held 1.47 percent of BAE.
    Here's a link to the statement of Norway's sovereign fund, which has excluded other
corporations for the same reason but also on other grounds such as "risk of severe environmental
damage" or "serious or systematic violations of human rights". goo.gl/32GNrw
    (Julien Ponthus and Terje Solsvik)
    Cyclicals may be underperforming today but have done great so far this year. 
    So how long is this latest rally in European cyclicals going to go on for? UBS' European
equity strategists think that the cyclical outperformance we've seen at the beginning of 2018
could be a sign of things to come: "With the recent rise in yields, cyclicals and especially the
Banks have again gained support. We believe this year might carry on largely as it started: with
cyclicals leading the way."  
    (Kit Rees)
    While the European Healthcare index has been quite an underperformer since the
beginning of the year, analysts from Jefferies posted an upbeat note after meeting the
management of over 30 European biotechs during a conference in San Francisco. 
    "Overall the tone was notably upbeat", they said noting exciting clinical results in the
pipeline, satisfactory funding and, cherry on the cake, M&A activity such as Novo's
bid for Ablynx .
    So far however, as you can see from the snapshot below, few sectors (travel and leisure
, personal and household goods, food and beverages and real estate
) have fared worst:  
    (Julien Ponthus) 
    A number of investors had predicted the euro to remain weak throughout 2017 only to
be wrong footed by its rapid and seemingly unstoppable surge that started last summer. While the
jury is still out on whether this could stop gains in euro zone equities, predictions
on the single currency are being revisited.
    Natixis, which had forecast the euro heading towards parity against the dollar by end-2017,
admits it got it wrong and in a note today it formulates a new forecast for 2018:
    "No question of parity, but rather of just when the EUR/USD's ascent will peter out. The
euro has been under the spotlight since the start of the year. It could be the factor that
scuppers the mood of optimism that has carried out over from 2017... a strong euro would end up
affecting the economic recovery in the eurozone".
    They conclude however: "we do not see the EUR/USD as having much more upside potential."  
    In this two-year chart you can see how euro zone stocks have risen despite the stronger
    (Danilo Masoni)
    UK inflation has dipped slightly after six months of gains, suggesting the effects of the
pound's slide after the 2016 Brexit vote may be starting to fade.
    The FTSE has had a little rally on the numbers but some economists are wondering how to read
the data, with retail prices jumping sharply last month but consumer prices down. With household
incomes still failing to keep pace with rising prices, there appears little relief in sight for
embattled retailers.
    Right now, it's hard to interpret the equity market response. The FTSE is now up 0.24
percent, driven mostly by rate-sensitive consumer staples and banks.
    (Tom Pfeiffer)
    While the price action is fairly muted early on in the session, Steinhoff is the
top riser, up 2.8 percent though this is a relatively small move for such a volatile stock.
    Hugo Boss is also a top gainer, up 2.1 percent, thanks to its Q4 sales update.
    On the downside, shares in RPC Group have touched their lowest level since last July
following a downgrade from Berenberg, who have cut the plastic packaging maker to "hold" from
     "The combination of low growth and an uncertain return to acquisitions leads us to
downgrade (RPC) to Hold and move our price target to 920p (from 1,120p)," Berenberg analysts
    Here are the biggest STOXX movers while we await the UK inflation data:
    (Kit Rees)
    In the first half hour of trading, European shares are climbing higher. While it's a
broad-based move into positive territory, shares in banks and commodity stocks are notably being
left behind this morning on the back of a weaker oil price and a slide in copper prices.
    Here's your early snapshot:    
    (Kit Rees)
    Major European bourses are expected to open slightly higher this morning, with a heavier
news flow and the U.S. markets reopening after MLK day.
    In the UK, all eyes will be on inflation, which is expected to have gone down from a 3.1
percent peak in November, giving a bit of room for manoeuvre to the BoE. 
    M&A and special situations are making the headlines with GKN facing pressure from activist
fund Elliott to engage with Melrose, Continental (according to sources) hiring JP Morgan for a
potential break-up and HSH Nordbank suitors J.C. Flowers and Cerberus beginning exclusive talks.
     The aftermath of Carillon’s collapse is also a period where its former rivals are under
intense scrutiny. 
    In terms of earnings, a number of blue chips have published trading updates such as
Peugeot, Hugo Boss, Lindt & Spruengli and Rio Tinto. French utility Engie said it hopes to boost
earnings growth in its core businesses of renewable energy, grids and energy services this year,
after an estimated five percent gain in core earnings in 2017. 
    While a number of strategists are advising their clients to start investing in banks in a
new world of rising yields, a headline today may look all too familiar with the last ten years. 
    Deutsche Bank, which is trying hard to convince investors that the bulk of financial
scandals it suffered this last decade is behind it, has been accused in a lawsuit of conspiring
to rig a Canadian rate benchmark.
    Still in the financial sector, ABN Amro said Q4 results would include several incidentals
regarding its operating income and expenses​.
    (Julien Ponthus) 
    We're getting a flurry of updates in the food and retail sectors today.
    Hugo Boss reported quarterly sales growth driven by footfall in its own store
network. Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli also posted higher sales. 
    In the UK, bakery chain Greggs reported a rise in Christmas sales and expects to
meet profit expectations in 2017. One trader sees Greggs' shares rising slightly. 
    JD Sports also had a strong Christmas and expects annual profit to be ahead of
expectations. JD shares only saw a moderate gain in 2017 after four years of stronger growth,
but perhaps today's update can push them higher.
    (Kit Rees)
    FUTURES POINT UP (0705) 
    European stocks futures have opened slightly higher, and while London, Paris and Frankfurt
seem set to open in positive territory, the picture is less clear with the pan-European market
and the Euro STOXX 50.  
    Here's the snapshot:  
    (Julien Ponthus)
    Consensus is that headline inflation in the UK edged down from the 3.1 percent peak it
reached in November and therefore back within 3 percent. The answer is due at 0930 GMT but some
analysts have voiced a few "what-ifs?". 
    "One can't help feeling that this optimism might well be misplaced", wrote CMC Markets
analyst Michael Hewson, noting that airfaires and fuel prices might have misbehaved in December.
    On the other hand and looking a bit further ahead, ING argues that slower than expected wage
growth could give the BoE room for manoeuvre. 
    "We caution that a 2018 rate hike still isn't a given - although admittedly it will be a
close call", the Dutch bank's analysts wrote.    
    (Julien Ponthus) 
    Good morning. Financial spreadbetters see European shares rising slightly, with Germany's
DAX and Britain's FTSE 100 expected both to climb 8 points and France's CAC
 1 point.
    Asian shares closed higher, erasing early modest losses while the euro stood near a 3-year
peak on rising expectations that the European Central Bank could pare its monetary stimulus.
U.S. markets will reopen later today after being closed for a public holiday.
    (Julien Ponthus)

 (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Helen Reid, Kit Rees and Julien Ponthus)
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