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Good morning. China data broadly disappointed, a Brexit delay appears inevitable, there’s more misery for U.K. homebuilders and OPEC will update on demand and production. Here’s what’s moving markets.
China’s economic slowdown deepened in the first two months of 2019, with unemployment sharply higher, industrial output posting its worst start to a year since 2009, and retail sales expanding at the slowest pace since at least 2012. On the plus side, fixed-asset investment picked up, allaying concern that the ongoing trade war could start to hinder a recovery that began last summer. Asian stocks were mixed.
No-deal, no more
It’s not legally binding, but we can now push the phrase “no-deal Brexit” to the back of our minds after U.K. lawmakers decided they don’t want the nation to leave the European Union without some sort of divorce deal. There will be more voting tonight when Parliament decides whether the U.K. should request an extension to Brexit. If a new deal can be reached with the trading bloc, May said she’ll ask for a short “technical” extension, but if there’s no agreement by March 20 -- the eve of the next summit of European leaders -- the delay will be much longer. The pound pared some of Wednesday’s big gains this morning, and shorts are at the highest level of the year.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries publishes its monthly update on demand forecasts and production data today. Last month the group reduced its estimate for the amount of crude the world needs it to pump this year, due to thriving U.S. production and faltering demand. Futures have gained this week as OPEC members like Saudi Arabia press on with planned curbs and the Venezuela crisis and Iran sanctions also support prices.
U.K. homebuilders just can’t catch a break: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors headline price index dropped in February to the lowest level since 2011, its fifth straight monthly decline. Over three-quarters of respondents to the RICS survey said a lack of clarity over Brexit is holding back activity. Bank analysts have become somewhat more bullish on homebuilder shares in recent weeks, citing depressed valuations, but a rebound in purchases of big-ticket items isn’t expected in the short term.
Thursday means corporate earnings: This morning we’ll get numbers from French grocer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA, a target of short sellers that was also hurt by last year’s Yellow Vest protests in France, while in airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa reported adjusted 2018 earnings that were slightly ahead of forecasts, just a day after announcing a $12 billion jet order. In the U.K., we’ll shortly get updates from support services group Capita Plc and everyone’s favorite sofa retailer, DFS Furniture Plc.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.
- When Elon Musk tried to destroy a whistleblower.
- Bank faces lawsuit from executive it once named Woman of the Year.
- How a pop artist came to create a psychedelic hotel room in Vegas.
- Costly break-up: A look at the biggest impacts of Brexit so far.
- Why Hong Kong investors are looking enviously across the China border.
- Facebook weighs refunding advertisers as outage persists.
- Joe Nocera asks where top CEOs went to college.
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