UK markets open in 10 minutes

What to Watch: UK retailers struggling, GDP shock, oil collapse hammers Shell

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
UK high streets are struggling despite reopening. Photo: PA

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

UK retail footfall still down 53.4% despite reopening

Footfall in UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks last week stood at almost half levels seen before the virus, despite the reopening of non-essential stores in England and Northern Ireland.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), warned an easing of lockdown measures was “no magic bullet” amid low consumer confidence and continued social distancing.

The BRC’s figures show footfall has increased but nowhere near to pre-pandemic levels. It was down 53.4% year-on-year in the second week of reopening last week, compared to an 81.6% drop in May.

Coronavirus: UK economy suffered biggest fall since 1979 as pandemic struck

The UK’s official stats watchdog has confirmed the worst slump for the UK economy in 40 years — before the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had even hit.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday that UK GDP contracted by 2.2% between January and the end of March 2020. It marks the biggest quarter-on-quarter fall in GDP in 40 years.

“This is the joint-third largest quarterly contraction in GDP and reflects the imposing of public health restrictions and voluntary social distancing put in place in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the ONS said.

Oil price crash to cost Shell up to $22bn

Collapsing oil prices and dim prospects of a rebound have led Shell (RDSB.L) to write-off billions of dollars on the value of its assets.

Shell said on Tuesday that it would make impairments on its assets of between $15bn (£12bn) and $22bn. It comes after the oil giant reassessed its long-term oil price forecasts to reflect “the expected effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related macroeconomic, as well as energy market, demand and supply fundamentals.”

Shell now expects Brent crude to average $35 per barrel this year and only return to around $60 per barrel — where it started the year — by 2023.

Stocks tread water as recovery signs offset virus fears

Leading European stock indices treaded water as markets opened on Tuesday, as fresh signs of recovery in the US and China offset heightened fears over coronavirus infection rates.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) were trading near-flat at around 8.30am in London. Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) shed 0.3% however, as official figures showed the worst UK slump since 1979 even before the pandemic’s effects had been fully felt.

New economic data boosted the mood. US stocks had closed higher on Monday (29 June) and Asian stocks rose overnight on a record jump in US housing sales and a fourth straight month of growth in Chinese manufacturing.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 (^N225) rose 1.3% overnight, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (^HSI) index rose 0.4% and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) gained 0.8%.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures were pointed to a mixed open. S&P 500 (ES=F) futures and Dow Jones (YM=F) futures were down 0.3% after the leading indexes rose on Tuesday, while Nasdaq (NQ=F) futures were flat at around 3.30am eastern time.