April 3, 2018 / 7:32 AM / 8 months ago

Daily Briefing: Trouble on the line - Macron reforms

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly one in two French rail staff say they will join today's strike against Emmanuel Macron's reform plans, making it the biggest labour protest in years.

A man sits on a platform at the Gare Lille Flandres railway station a few hours before a nationwide strike by French SNCF railway workers, in Lille, France, April 2, 2018

Commuter lines into Paris will be hit hard and only one in eight high-speed TGVs will operate, as part of a series of rolling strikes on two of every five days over the next three months. Polls show the French are fairly equally split on whether the strike is justified or not, and Macron’s government is betting that in the end, the strike will not gain momentum and spread.

A spike in killings last month means that London’s murder rate has now overtaken that of New York, figures show. Knife crime has long been a matter of concern in the British capital - no fewer than 31 of the 44 murder investigations launched in London this year were linked to stabbings. Among the complex mix of factors involved, some are pointing increasingly to disputes on social media as a trigger to many incidents.

Manufacturing PMI data due out this morning across the euro zone will paint a stable to slightly weaker picture of the region’s economy, economists predict. The UK reading is seen around 54.7 compared with 55.2 in February, but data this week are expected to show the overall economy grew by 0.3 or 0.4 percent in the first quarter - enough to keep expectations of a May rate increase on track.

MARKETS

The first trading days for the second quarter bode ill for world stock markets. As London markets return from the long Easter break, they're being greeted by heavy losses on Wall Street on Monday, on a mix of technology sector worries, Chinese trade war retaliation and deteriorating chart and momentum signals.

After the first quarter in the red for the MSCI all-country index of world stocks since mid-2016, the index is already down more than 1 percent for the second quarter.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost almost 3 percent on Monday as Amazon became the latest of the leading FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet – to come into the firing line. All tech shares were hit hard after U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Amazon over the pricing of its deliveries through the United States Postal Service and promised unspecified changes.

Adding to the mood shift in tech generally, shares of Tesla fell 5.1 percent after the company was reported to be making 2,000 Model 3s per week, missing its 2,500 target. The electric automaker's losses extend last week's near 14 percent decline as investigations of a fatal California crash and a Moody's credit downgrade weighed on the stock.

An overnight report that Apple plans to replace Intel chips in Mac computers with its own was likely to weigh further on European Apple suppliers, and traders indicated the semiconductor firms down 2 percent.

The broader market was down sharply too, with the S&P500 falling more than 2 percent after China increased tariffs by up to 25 percent on 128 U.S. products, from frozen pork and wine to certain fruits and nuts, escalating a dispute between the world's biggest economies in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminium and steel.

The gloom on Wall Street was compounded as the S&P500 fell below its 200-day moving average, a potentially negative signal for momentum-chasing trading models.

U.S. equity futures have stabilised a bit first thing, but the selling continued through Asia bourses. Both Shanghai and Tokyo benchmark indices were down earlier, and European stock futures are shaping up for cash market losses of more than 1 percent at the open too.

Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields have been hit hard by the equity rout, falling below 2.72 percent at one stage to their lowest since early February. Oil prices fell sharply too, with Brent losing almost $3 per barrel to below $68. Currency markets were more stable, with the dollar a touch weaker against the euro.

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

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