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What to Watch: BP hikes dividend, stocks rebound, construction PMI

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
BP raised its dividend. Photo: Richard Drew/AP Photo

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

Outgoing BP boss raises dividend

Shares in BP (BP.L) jumped on Tuesday after its outgoing CEO Bob Dudley announced a 2.4% leap in dividends for shareholders.

The oil and gas giant saw a decline in its favoured measure of underlying ‘replacement cost’ profit, which seeks to exclude the impact of changing crude oil and product prices.

Profits tumbled from £2.7bn ($3.5bn) in the fourth-quarter of 2018 to £2bn ($2.6bn) in the same quarter last year.

BP blamed a “weaker environment” for falling profits. Its latest results also showed it paid $2.4bn after tax in payments over the oil spill disaster in its full 2019 financial year.

But Dudley said: “BP is performing well, with safe and reliable operations, continued strategic progress and strong cash delivery. This all supports our commitment to growing distributions to shareholders over the long term.”

Its shares rose 4.6% in early trading in London.

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Stock markets rebound after China stimulus

Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside Beijing's railway station. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

Stock prices rebounded around the world on Tuesday, as China’s central bank moved to prop up its banking system in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

The People’s Bank of China on Tuesday said it had injected 500bn renminbi ($71.5bn, £55bn) into China’s banking system to support liquidity “during the period of epidemic prevention and control.” The injection follows a $172bn stimulus package on Monday, aimed at supporting the country during the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Asian stock markets bounced off lows in response. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) rose 1.4%, following a near 8% drop Monday, and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 1.2%. It follows the worst stock market rout for mainland Chinese stocks in five years on Monday.

READ MORE: Coronavirus sparks biggest Chinese stock crash since 2015

The rally in Asia helped spur a strong open in Europe. The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened 1.5% higher in London, the German DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.8%, and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) climbed 0.8%.

UK construction downturn eases

The downturn in UK construction is easing amid growing “signs of a turnaround” in demand for housebuilding projects, according to new figures.

Activity continued to fall in January but at a much slower pace, according to a closely watched purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the industry. Optimism among building firms also hit its highest level since 2018.

It is the latest in a string of recent data pointing to higher business and consumer confidence since prime minister Boris Johnson’s decisive election victory in December.

Last month the headline figure on its index for December had slid to an unexpected low of 44.4 when analysts had tipped it to pick up. This month it jumped to 48.4, a significant leap but still marking a decline in activity.

The latest data comes a day after PMI figures for manufacturing showed it emerging from its longest run of declining fortunes since the financial crisis.

Oil prices rise as OPEC meet ‘to discuss virus outbreak

Representatives from top oil producing nations are set to meet in Vienna on Tuesday to discuss the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in China.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, will hold an emergency meeting of its technical committee on 4 and 5 February to discuss coronavirus and its impact on oil prices, according to multiple reports.

A secretary at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna confirmed that a meeting was taking place on Tuesday but said they couldn’t comment on what it was about.

What to expect in the US

US futures also climbed after China announced its intervention in the markets. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up by 0.9%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were up by 0.9%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were 1% higher.