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What to Watch: Imperial's vaping troubles, Primark profits, services PMI

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Blu e-cigarettes, owned by Imperial. Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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

Vaping concerns hurt Imperial Brands

Imperial Brands (IMB.L) has had a “challenging year” amid growing controversy and safety fears over e-cigarettes, according to the company’s CEO Alison Cooper.

The UK company, which owns e-cigarette firm blu, Golden Virginia and Winston, reported a. 3.9% rise in third-quarter total revenue to £7.99bn ($10.29bn), above analysts’ expectations.

The news lifted shares, up 1.6% at 10.15am in London.

But Cooper said in a statement: “2019 has been a challenging year with results below our expectations due to tough trading in next generation products."

Vaping-related deaths and illness in parts of the US have sparked a backlash from several state authorities, while there are fears flavoured e-cigarettes encourage children to smoke.

President Donald Trump announced a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes in September in the US, where Reuters reports Imperial makes around 30% of its profits.

Primark owner profits fall as it warns over Brexit and sterling

Associated British Foods (ABF.L), which owns Primark, Twinings and other brands, reported a 5% decline in operating profit to £1.28bn in its full-year results up to 14 September.

The company issued a warning on Tuesday over how Brexit’s impact on sterling exchange rates would hit its outlook for the first half of the next financial year.

But its finance director John Bason reassured shoppers in September they would not see price hikes in Primark stores, saying it would accept lower margins.

The results were better than expected when accounting for ‘exceptional costs,’ sending its shares soaring 4.3% at 10.15am in London.

UK services stagnate as Brexit looms

Key UK industries have faced their worst run of falling output since the financial crisis amid political turmoil over Brexit, according to a widely watched business survey.

Levels of new business dropped at one of the fastest rates in a decade across the UK’s dominant services sector, manufacturing and construction in October, a composite index published on Tuesday shows.

The services sector, which includes everything from retail to finance to creative industries, has stagnated over the past month, according to the latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS).

Services managers reported that business levels were unchanged on the previous month, with a measure of 50 on the headline index. Figures above 50 show growth in trade, while figures below 50 show decline.

Global stocks keep rising on trade hopes

Global stock markets are continuing yesterday’s surge, with Wall Street shares at record highs and indices around the world recording gains.

The rise reflects growing optimism for global trade prospects as the US and Chinese authorities edge towards dialling down the trade dispute that has rattled markets since US president Donald Trump came to power.

MSCI’S all-country index is rising for the ninth day out of the past 10 to its highest in 21 months, Reuters reports.

Britain’s FTSE (FTSE) rose 0.3%, the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) and the Euro Stoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) rose 0.2% and the German DAX (^GDAXI) was 0.1% higher.

Asian stocks all leapt overnight, with Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) 1.8% higher, and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) both up 0.5%.

What to expect in the US

The mood on trade took US shares to record highs on Monday, with futures trading higher.

Dow Jones futures (YM=F) and S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were both 0.3% higher, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up 0.4% at around 11am in London.