April 16, 2019 / 7:40 AM / 6 days ago

Daily Briefing: France wakes up to Notre-Dame aftermath

LONDON (Reuters) - Live images of Notre-Dame on fire gripped much of the world last night.

View of Notre-Dame Cathedral after a fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

By around midnight local time fire chiefs were saying they were confident they could save the structure itself and this morning confirmed the fire was under control.

A tweeted suggestion by Donald Trump that Paris emergency services use flying water tankers to douse the flames was immediately shot down by Paris officials, who pointed out that dropping large quantities of water would likely have brought down the rest of the edifice.

Questions remain open about what exactly caused the fire and to what extent past failures to look after the building had left it vulnerable.

Emmanuel Macron, who cancelled the TV address he had planned last night on policy response to the “yellow vest” protests, has promised a full re-building.

The Arnault family and LVMH group have pledged 200 million euros to that end.

Britain’s labour market remains an island of good news for Theresa May’s government: it has defied the Brexit slowdown with the unemployment rate tumbling to its lowest since 1975 and wages rising at their fastest pace in a decade.

Economists polled by Reuters reckon the latest official data to February due at 0830 GMT will continue to show this as a bright spot for Britain’s economy.

In the eurozone, markets will be watching the latest survey by the ZEW research institute on German investor morale - April data is due at 0900 GMT.

MARKETS AT 0655 GMT

It looks like another modestly positive day for risk sentiment on world markets, with equity indexes inching rather than bounding higher.

Wall Street, which closed lower on Monday, looks set for a firmer open with futures up 0.2 percent.

Asian shares are just below 9-month highs and Europe too is opening higher.

Chinese shares jumped almost 2 percent at one point after brisk home sales data and relatively strong earnings at big state run firms in Q1.

Eyes will be on Q1 GDP which is due on Wednesday.

Today though will bring more clues on whether the tentative signs of an uptick in growth momentum are for real – Germany releases its ZEW reading on the economy at 0900 GMT which will show whether the improvement in March has been carried further.

Analysts reckon that better recent data from China could see the expectations component of the ZEW survey improve at least.

But no one thinks markets and the economy are out of the woods just yet – there are some signs a US-EU trade spat is the next risk on the horizon once the dispute with China is resolved and EU states have given the commission tough guidelines for upcoming negotiations with Washington.

Goldman Sachs earnings too tempered the equity bullishness that was fuelled by JPMorgan’s earnings at the end of last week and GS shares dropped almost 4 percent last night.

Analysts now expect S&P500 companies to post a 2.1 percent year-on-year decline in earnings in Q1, the first annual decline in earnings since 2016.

On currency markets, the Aussie dollar posted sharp drops, falling 0.4 percent and falling off seven-week highs after the central bank left the door open to rate cuts.

New Zealand’s central bank head also said an easing bias would be retained.

Bond yields have also inched higher as investors tentatively made their way back to equities but a raft of data ahead would well alter the state of play.

US industrial production figures for March are due today while the UK will report Feb jobs data.

In terms of US earnings, BlackRock, Netflix, IBM and Bank of America are among those who will report.

European shares are slightly higher today as stronger China March house price data reinforces hopes that Beijing’s stimulus measures have helped shore up the world’s No. 2 economy, offsetting weaker sentiment on Wall Street overnight.

All the major indexes are up around 0.1 percent.

The biggest corporate news this morning is from Germany: a profit warning from Lufthansa and a better-than-expected earnings outlook from online clothes marketplace Zalando.

Lufthansa has blamed soaring fuel costs and stiff competition in Europe that has dampened fare prices for weaker Q1 profits, sending its shares down 5 percent in early Frankfurt trade.

The news underscores worries across the industry that are likely to weigh on rivals and follows a downbeat outlook from budget airline easyJet earlier this month and the bankruptcy of Iceland’s WOW in late March.

In contrast, Zalando forecast its Q1 profits will be above market consensus, hot on the heels of an upbeat update from British online fashion retailer ASOS last week.

Zalando’s shares are up 3.6 percent in early trade, and the news may give ASOS and other rivals including Boohoo and Next a boost.

Miner Rio Tinto is likely to get a lift even after cutting its 2019 iron ore shipments guidance amid hopes that any loss of output would be offset by higher prices of the steel-making raw material.

Elsewhere in the UK, a blow to housebuilders after FTSE 250-listed builder Galliford Try cut its FY profit forecast and launched a strategic review of its construction business.

Shares are seen falling as much as 25 percent.

In Italy, traders say the market is taking in its stride news overnight that the country’s top bank UniCredit has agreed to pay $1.3 billion to U.S. authorities following investigations into violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries.

Turkey’s lira inches higher after four straight days of falls.

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak held talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and he said Trump took a "reasonable" stance regarding Turkey's planned purchase of a Russian air defence missile system, Turkish media reported.

Ankara’s plan to buy the S-400 system has fuelled tensions between the NATO allies and Washington has said Ankara could face sanctions over the issue.

China's stimulus measures will shore up economic growth this year and next but may undermine the country's drive to control debt and worsen structural distortions over the medium term, the OECD said in a report on Tuesday.

A look at the day ahead from European Economics and Politics Editor Mark John and EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are their own. 

Editing by Andrew Heavens

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