April 17, 2019 / 7:47 AM / in 9 days

Daily Briefing: Portugal `energy crisis'; UK inflation seen up

LONDON (Reuters) - Portugal yesterday evening declared an "energy crisis" after a strike by fuel truck drivers hit the country, with at least one major airport having to resort to emergency fuel reserves and fire stations, ports and public transport also affected.

A plane takes off at Lisbon airport, Portugal July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

Demanding better workers’ rights, fuel truck drivers started a strike on Monday but guaranteed the operation of minimum services - a promise the Socialist government says has not been kept.

Easter is normally a busy tourist period for the country, making the timing all the more awkward.

British inflation data for March due at 0830 GMT this morning are expected to edge up close to the Bank of England’s 2.0 percent target, mostly because fuel costs rose during the month.

If anything, the BoE is more worried about pressure further down the road from rising wages - witness yesterday’s read-out showing the fastest growth in over a decade - but is not seen moving on interest rates given the Brexit uncertainty.

US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi is due to address the Irish parliament today.

She is leading a Congressional visit to Europe and has already made headlines this week by insisting that the United States will not sign a trade deal with the UK if Brexit turns out to damage the Good Friday peace agreement, signed this week 21 years ago.

She will no doubt reaffirm that message today - an uncomfortable one for hard Brexiters but most welcome in Dublin.

MARKETS AT 0655 GMT

Hopes were pinned today on China and China did not disappoint, posting first-quarter economic growth of 6.4 percent, beating forecasts.

Industrial output surged 8.5 percent in March from a year earlier, blowing away forecasts of a 5.9 percent increase and retail rose 8.7 percent.

The effects rippled through Asian markets, where shares touched their highest since July and the Aussie dollar rose to a two-month high.

But the effects are already starting to fade, with Chinese mainland stocks back in the red and world markets are now flat on the day. 

S&P500 futures are barely higher and European shares have retreated as a fall in iron ore prices pulled the mining index down 1.4 percent, offsetting gains on autos and semiconductors.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which has rallied almost 20 percent from its December lows, is down 0.2 percent.

The Chinese data appear to confirm what many had suspected — that the recent data downturn is temporary and China’s efforts at reflation are working.

There are some hopes on the U.S. trade front, too.

But doubts remain as to whether the strength will sustain into the second quarter and whether Europe can extend its tentative streak of better data.

Policymakers speaking yesterday appeared doubtful.

We’ll see today how much of the euro zone’s fall in core inflation to 0.8 percent was driven by seasonal effects related to Easter and whether that reverses in April.

In the UK, data should show inflation remaining close to 2 percent in March.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney speaks today as does Francois Villeroy de Galhau from the Bank of France.

And let’s not forget Italy!

We got a reminder of Italian risk yesterday when the Bank of Italy warned about a bigger-than-expected budget deficit, pushing bond yields 6 to 7 basis points higher.

Today, Finance Minister Giovanni Tria will speak before Parliament’s Budget Committee.

But for the time being, the Chinese data has put safe assets in the back seat – German and U.S. yields are at four-week highs, the dollar index has retreated and the yen has fallen against the dollar to its lowest since Dec 20.

European markets are usually tightly correlated to Chinese growth and the euro is up a quarter percent. In emerging markets, investors are awaiting news from Indonesia’s election; incumbent Joko Widodo has probably won, enabling him to pursue reforms. 

Indonesia is closed today so reactions on Eurobonds, CDS and currency forward markets will be evident in London.

Meanwhile, corporate results continue to roll in. Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York and Bancorp will report today and in Europe Danone, Ericsson and Handelsbanken are expected.

In corporate news, Roche raised its 2019 outlook after first-quarter sales rose 8 percent, beating analyst estimates.

L'Oreal also posted higher-than-expected first-quarter sales, powered by growth in the division that makes luxury cosmetics and strong demand in Asia.

Semiconductor equipment maker ASML Holding also posted better-than-expected first-quarter earnings and said expected growth to accelerate through the year.

Shares in Roche, L’Oreal and ASML were up 2 to 3 percent in premarket trade.

Danone kept its forecasts for a further rise in sales and profits this year after posting an in-line first quarter.

A profit warning from Pendragon is likely to cause shares in the automotive online retailer to fall 10 to 25 percent.

In dealmaking, Credit Agricole and Santander said they plan to combine their custody and asset servicing operations in a deal that would create a new global leader.

Shares in Credit Agricole were up 0.5 percent in premarket.

Other stock movers: Ericsson profit beat forecasts for fifth straight quarter as savings and 5G sales kicked in.

Hunting's core profit rose, but margins were hit at its U.S. shale unit.

TomTom posted first-quarter results above estimates.

Handelsbanken first-quarter profit topped forecasts.

BHP cut its outlook for iron ore production after an Australian cyclone.

Bunzl revenue growth slowed.

In emerging markets China’s yuan gained while Malaysia’s ringgit weakened after a blow for its bonds from index provider FTSE Russell.

FTSE Russell put the country’s bonds on a watch list for a potential downgrade from a key WGBI index because of market accessibility issues.

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

Editing by Larry King

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