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What to Watch: Hong Kong tensions hit stocks, UK retail woes, Nissan job cuts

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Protests have resumed in Hong Kong over China's efforts to take more control over the territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

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

Hong Kong tensions rattle markets

European markets fell for a second day in early trading on Friday, with US-China tensions over Hong Kong and fears of slow economic recovery from the coronavirus denting stocks.

Britain’s FTSE 100 index (^FTSE) was trading 1.2% lower at around 10.40am in London. Stocks most exposed to the tensions in Hong Kong took a particular hit, with banking giant HSBC (HSBA.L) tumbling 5.3% and insurer and financial services firm Prudential (PRU.L) down 7.2% in London.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was trading 0.3% lower, and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.6%.

It comes after the Chinese government announced it would impose new national security legislation likely to curtail Hong Kong’s autonomy, which has already sparked fresh protests.

US president Donald Trump ratcheted up already-escalating tensions with China over the coronavirus in recent weeks by warning his administration would react “very strongly” to the move.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index (^HSI) dropped 5.4% overnight to a seven-week low. China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) fell 1.9%, and Japan’s Nikkei index (^N225) shed 0.8%.

UK retailers suffer record-breaking decline in April

British retail sales cratered by 18.1% in April from March — the biggest fall since records began in 1988 — due to the impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in the full month since the UK government placed the nation under lockdown, the drop in sales was significantly worse than the 16% drop expected by a Reuters poll of economists.

“High street retailers have never experienced a fall in sales this dramatic before but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the government’s announcement that non-essential retail stores can provisionally start to re-open in June,” said Lee Lucas, principal and CEO of the Fashion Retail Academy.

Nissan ‘could slash 20,000 job cuts worldwide’

Japanese carmaker Nissan (NSANY) is considering cutting up to 20,000 jobs across its global network, according to Kyodo News. Kyodo said on Friday that Nissan would make the bulk of the job cuts in Europe and developing markets.

The carmaker, which is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, has seen sales and profits slump. Kyodo News said that Nissan is expected to announce the extensive job cuts as part of its new mid-term strategy.

Bloomberg reported last week that Nissan is planning to make $2.8bn (£2.3bn) worth of cost cuts overall, as part of a three-year plan to turn the company’s fortunes around.

What to expect in the US

US stocks look set to slide for a second consecutive day on Friday. S&P500 futures (ES=F) and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were down 0.4%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down 0.5% at around 5.15am eastern ttime.