What to Watch: B&Q sales soar, William Hill raises cash, HSBC cuts

·Finance and policy reporter
·3 min read
LONDON, UK - MAY 15: Staff wear protective masks after the store adopted safe measures to protect both customers and staff at home improvement store B&Q in Chiswick as lockdown restrictions start to ease after 7 weeks on May 15, 2020 in London, England. The chain, part of the Kingfisher Group was classed as an essential retailer during the coronavirus lockdown. Shops were close in March but the chain was offering “contactless” click and collect services. Now as restrictions are eased in the eighth of Lockdown, all 288 UK B&Q stores are now open. Following the example of supermarkets, B&Q is limiting the number of customers in store at any one time and has put strict social distancing measures in place. These include sanitiser stations for trolleys; safe queuing 2 metres apart before entering the store; 2 metre navigational markers on the floor and directional arrows to guide customers through the store; perspex screens at checkouts; and card and contactless payments only. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Ming Yeung/Getty Images)
Kingfisher-owned B&Q has seen sales soar. (Ming Yeung/Getty Images)

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher sees sales soar

Shares in Kingfisher (KGF.L) leapt more than 5% on Wednesday as the B&Q and Screwfix owner said sales had soared over the past three months.

The company, which also owns Castorama and Brico Depot in France, saw “underlying” sales jump 21.8% as shoppers embraced DIY during the coronavirus lockdown.

It declined to give guidance for the full-year, but released the sales figures for its second quarter to 13 June. It also said like-for-like sales had been at least 25% higher year-on-year since the second week in May, when they had been down 74% in the first week of April.

The company also released its 2019 results, with adjusted profits down 5.2% to £544m ($682m) and total sales down 1.5% to £11.5bn.

Online sales have seen a significant rise, and its UK and French stores reopened fully from the second half of April, Reuters reports.

William Hill and De La Rue raise cash

William Hill (WMH.L) announced it had raised £224m by issuing more stocks at discount, sending its shares tumbling 5%.

It said the funds would boost its rapid expansion in the US, following de-regulation of sports gambling rules.

Meanwhile ailing passport and banknote maker De La Rue (DLAR.L) said on Wednesday that it was hoping to raise £100m ($126m) from investors to bolster its balance sheet and help it implement its cost-cutting plan.

The company, which also announced that it would cease banknote and passport printing at its Gateshead facility near Newcastle, noted that it had seen only “moderate disruption” from the coronavirus pandemic.

HSBC resumes plans to slash 35,000 jobs

HSBC (HSBA.L) has resumed plans to cut 35,000 jobs globally, ending a hiatus provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief executive Noel Quinn told staff in a memo on Wednesday morning that the bank would “lift the pause on job losses”.

“We could not pause the job losses indefinitely — it was always a question of ‘not if, but when’,” Quinn wrote in the memo, seen by Yahoo Finance UK.

UK inflation at lowest since Brexit vote

Lower fuel prices and a slump in demand during the coronavirus pandemic saw inflation in the UK tumble to 0.5% in May, its lowest level since the Brexit referendum.

The year-on-year growth in prices, down from 0.8% in April, represents the slowest price growth since June 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

While the inflation rate fell in line with analyst expectations, the usually less volatile measure of core inflation — which excludes energy, food, alcohol, and tobacco prices — fell to 1.2%, lower than predicted.

Stock rally continues on trial hopes

European stocks rallied as markets opened on Wednesday, as a coronavirus treatment “breakthrough” outweighed new fears of a second wave.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) called a clinical trial led by Oxford University “great news.” It said the study was the first treatment shown to reduce the number of deaths among severely ill patients reliant on ventilators.

WHO director-general Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the trial, using the cheap, widely used steroid dexamethasone, marked a “lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 1.1% in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 0.9% after its strongest gains in a month on Tuesday.

Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was trading 0.8% higher, and the pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) was up 0.7% at around 9am in London.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures also pointed to a higher open. S&P500 (ES=F) and Nasdaq (NQ=F) futures were up 0.6% and Dow Jones (YM=F) futures were up 0.9% at around 5am eastern time.

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