UK markets closed

LIVE MARKETS-"Most obvious trades": Long real estate/Short autos?

* European stocks in choppy waters; STOXX up 0.15%

* Autos, DAX rally on report Trump plans to delay import tariffs

* Germany returns to growth, Euro zone economy accelerates

* China data paints grim picture

* Wall Street also pares losses, now positive

May 15 - Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to

you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Helen Reid. Reach her on Messenger to

share your thoughts on market moves: rm://helen.reid.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net

"MOST OBVIOUS TRADES": LONG REAL ESTATE/SHORT AUTOS? (1443 GMT)

Tariff threats and uncertainty over the macro outlook are back and investors are

rediscovering the benefits of being positioned in companies that are less dependent on the

economic cycle as they seek shelter from the risk of a possible slowdown.

And more and more strategists are making calls in favour of defensive positioning.

We saw yesterday Kepler's Potts saying "Our super-defensive positioning is exactly where we

want to be..." and today the asset allocation team at French bank Societe Generale

is also making a similar recommendation.

Among the "Most obvious trades" to trade the trade wars, Societe Generale's Charles de

Boissezon advises a long real estate and utilities against a short autos and metal and mining.

"The two shorts are highly cyclical sectors, hit directly by this trade war. Autos has

regularly been Trump's primary target in Europe, and Miners are a clear China/Global growth

proxy," he adds.


Of course there are risks. Europe's auto sector has just shot up suddenly, to trade

up 1.5 percent, helping the DAX return to positive territory, after a report said Trump plans to

delay imposing tariffs on auto imports. It's fuelled renewed buying after Reuters last week

reported automakers expect him to delay.

Still for most of today's session in Europe, sector leadership was quite telling: real

estate, consumer staples and utilities helped limit losses on the STOXX 600 with the likes of

Nestle, Deutsche Wohnen and EDF being among the few stocks trading

in the black. Now the STOXX 600 is back up 0.15% after the report on autos tariffs.

In this chart below you can see how defensives have started to recover relative to cyclicals

since Trump announced earlier this month that he would hike U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth

of Chinese good - as he later did. Expectations of a trade deal had helped cyclicals return to

favour during Q1 after a torrid end to 2018.


(Danilo Masoni)

*****

LONDON'S TARNISHED RETURNS (1414 GMT)

Vodafone's move to cut its dividend for the first time yesterday was long expected

(see our blog from January:) as the world's No. 2 mobile operator seeks to slash

debt while it struggles with the rising costs of rolling out its 5G network.

But it has tarnished London's reputation for paying out juicy dividends. The FTSE 100 and

250 indices' bumper returns are often cited as a reason to invest in London despite the

country's chaotic Brexit process that has put many investors off.

"The UK's been the place to go for dividends," says John Chatfeild-Roberts, who heads up the

independent funds team at Jupiter Asset Management.

The move has highlighted the risk of chasing a chunky payout without considering the

company's fundamental health, Jupiter Asset Management's fund managers say.

Previously the company had one of the biggest payouts in Britain. Today it's ranked 17th

with a yield of 6.17%.

That's still above the 4.5% average yield for the blue chip index (see the chart below).

But it's worth remembering "there's no rule that says you have to pay a dividend," says

Chatfeild-Roberts.

Other telecom operators may follow, like BT, he cautions. BT is 9th place with a yield of

7.45%.

Big payouts may seem "attractive, but beware," agrees David Lewis, fund manager at Jupiter.

"Although we're looking for income, we're also looking for quality."

Believe it or not, they reckon Tokyo may have better dividend returns than London these

days.

Investors seem to have taken note - Vodafone shares touched a near decade low yesterday.

(Josephine Mason)

*****

COMMERZBANK ACQUISITION: WHAT'S IN IT FOR UNICREDIT OR ING? (1014 GMT)

Commerzbank M&A speculation is rife: a report ING may also be interested in the bank

followed Reuters' initial report that Unicredit is advancing towards a bid.

Citi analysts set out their take on the chatter.

First, the costs: a deal, they estimate, would be EPS dilutive for ING and Unicredit. What

might make it viable is, for ING, if it re-domiciles to Germany and its D-SIB buffer declines by

at least 100 basis points, while for Unicredit it would be if it can reduce its linkage to the

Italian sovereign and recognise 25%+ synergies.

For ING/Commerzbank they estimate a 35-45% chance of any deal and 20-25% chance of a deal

involving re-domicile. They see a 20% probability of a Unicredit/Commerzbank deal.

Citi analysts are negative on the prospect of an ING tie-up: "In light of tight financial

benefits versus the execution risks, we believe the negatives outweigh the positives."

They see retail customer acquisition, exposure to German SMEs, and cost synergies as some of

the potential advantages for ING.

They're less rosy about Unicredit. "If Unicredit's interest is confirmed, it would be a

significant change of strategy," they write, adding that the market would have to change its

appraisal of the bank's M&A appetite. "This could put an overhang on the shares as it is a

significant change from the current focus on organic growth."

Russell Quelch, financials analyst at Redburn, echoes this view: "I am not sure however that

shareholders are ready for such a move given they have bought into UniCredit’s organic recovery

story.

"It's also unlikely the German government would allow their second biggest bank to fall into

the hands of the Italians considering the current political tension between the two countries,"

he adds.

Meanwhile results today from Raiffeisen Bank, Credit Agricole, and ABN Amro haven't been

brilliant, a reminder of the stress euro zone banks are under. Analysts have been cutting their

earnings forecasts for them for more than 12 months:

(Helen Reid)

*****

NO ONE WINS A TRADE WAR (0916 GMT)

Soothing comments from China and the U.S. have given a glimmer of hope for markets this week

but that doesn't stop asset managers, sell-side brokers and traders from assessing a potential

impact from the less-likely full blown trade-war scenario.

If the worst-case scenario plays out, expectations are global equities could sell-off 20 to

30%, wiping out at least $10 trillion in value. That and the global economy could tip into a

recession.

Yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump called the trade war with China "a little squabble",

insisting talks between the word's two biggest economies had not collapsed.

The comments offered little support to markets, which failed to extend Monday's rally. Major

European indices and U.S. stock futures are in red this morning.

"When trade breaks down, everybody loses. Investors should brace themselves for a new

fallout from the latest tit-for-tat trade dispute, where Beijing announced retaliatory tariffs

in response to Washington's move to increase duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods," Pictet

Asset Management warns.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees 20-30% drop in equities, while Pictet pegs it at 15-20%.

-- This is in case of a full blown trade war.

"Washington and Beijing may still be able to reach a deal at the June G20 meeting. But

should they fail, the planned tariff increases would cause both economies to suffer," Pictet

adds.


(Thyagaraju Adinarayan)

*****

TECH TARIFFS + CHINA STIMULUS = EXPECT EUROPE TO BEAT WALL ST (0852 GMT)

Some European indices are now outperforming U.S. counterparts on a year-to-date basis - with

the STOXX 600 ahead of the Dow Jones - and that's fuelling an interesting debate on its drivers

and whether the move is just a flash in the pan or something more meaningful.

Robert Griffiths, equity strategist at Credit Suisse, has weighed in and believes that part

of the explanation is tied to possible developments in trade talks between China and the U.S. as

well as to the heavy weighing of the tech sector on Wall Street, something that so far has

provided a big tailwind for the U.S. market.

That means that Europe is at a rather interesting point with regard to the trade talks.

"If it's the case, as it seems, that China responds to these tariffs with a little bit of

stimulus at the margins, it's possible that European companies, given their exposure to China,

actually benefit from the stimulus measures without themselves having to pay the costs of

tariffs which a U.S. company would," he says.

"iPhones have been excluded by the tariffs so far but the next round of tariffs could suck

the iPhone in... The lack of technology in Europe has been a hugely negative thing for relative

European performance over the last 1-5 years but at this point in time when there is this

negative reassessment of tech, actually that's something where Europe could deliver some

relative performance," he adds.

To conclude, Griffiths says that ultimately if there is de-escalation in these tariff

threats, then people will re-engage with tech and Europe might start lagging again.

For more on the debate and some charts check out this graphic piece we published yesterday:

European stocks outperform Wall Street as China trade row intensifies

(Danilo Masoni)

*****

COSTING THE "LITTLE SQUABBLE" (0836 GMT)

It's perhaps a little early to give it this accolade, but "little squabble" might just be

the biggest understatement of the year. Following the recent resurgence in the trade war,

Goldman Sachs economists are ramping up their estimates of the hit to the world's biggest

economy.

"A deal is far from certain, and we think the risk of across-the-board tariffs has now risen

to about 30%," write GS economists.

They note that the hike in the U.S. tariff rate from 10% to 25% only applies to post-May 10

shipments (which usually take 2-3 weeks to arrive) and Chinese retaliation won't start until

June 1, but they don't expect an agreement before these tariffs start to hurt economic activity.

The main impact of higher tariffs is inflation - and the economists say there's evidence

that tariffs have caused a larger boost to inflation than previously expected.

They estimate the Trump tariffs imposed so far - not only on China but also goods like

washing machines and steel - are currently boosting core PCE inflation by 0.2 percentage points.

That could rise to 0.6 percentage points if the across-the-board tariffs are triggered, and to

0.9 percentage points if Trump also imposes a 25% car tariff.

That has knock-on effects on U.S. GDP and the economists see a downside risk to their 2.5%

growth forecast for the second half.

(Helen Reid)

*****

ITALY TUMBLES AS YIELDS RISE (0804 GMT)

Italian stocks are by far the laggards this morning, down 0.6 percent with banks suffering

the biggest losses. The driver is sovereign yields which have surged again, extending a rise

from Tuesday after deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said Rome was ready to break EU fiscal

rules.

Di Maio followed up by criticising his coalition partner Salvini over "irresponsible"

remarks on debt.

"In normal times that might be encouraging to hear from an Italian politician," writes

Deutsche Bank macro strategist Jim Reid, "but since it currently also implies stress within the

coalition and potentially elevated odds of an early election, such internal dissent is not

optimal."

The resurgent stress over Italy's fiscal position has sent the Italian banks index

to a three-month low.

(Helen Reid)

*****

OPENING SNAPSHOT: FALLING BACK AGAIN (0726 GMT)

European stocks are rapidly losing early gains and Germany's DAX, which was expected to get

a boost from GDP data, is down 0.2%.

The German data has to be weighed up against very poor figures from China with retail sales

growth falling to a 16-year low. And it seems the market isn't in agreement with Trump that the

U.S.-China trade war is just "a little squabble".

Back to the stocks, what's weighing today? Autos stocks and utilities.

German utility E.ON is bringing up the rear, down 5.7% after a downgrade from Goldman Sachs

and also trading ex-dividend. It's a much bigger move than for its rival RWE which reported

strong results, up 1.7%.

Raiffeisen Bank is down 3.8% after its results missed expectations with net interest income

lagging.

JCDecaux is also an earnings disappointment, down 3.9%, while Eutelsat falls 3.1% after yet

another revenue guidance cut.

A bright spot is UK lender CYBG, top of the STOXX and up 9% after swinging to a first-half

profit.

Renault shares are down 3% after Nissan said it saw sharp falls in profits in FY2019/20,

sending the Japanese carmaker's shares to 6-1/2 year lows.

(Helen Reid)

*****

WHAT'S ON THE RADAR: EUTELSAT, ABN AMRO DISAPPOINT WHILE LAFARGE, RWE BEAT (0645 GMT)

European stocks are set to rise further on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump

talked down a trade war with China, calling it "a little squabble".

Germany’s DAX was leading the way with futures up 0.5% after German GDP data offered what

the economy minister called a "first ray of hope" that the euro zone’s economic engine was

recovering.

A steady stream of earnings continues to drive stock-level action.

Dutch bank ABN Amro missed expectations with a 20% fall in Q1 net profit, while France’s

Credit Agricole also reported a decline in Q1 net profit as two one-off events offset

profitability increases in all its main business lines. ABN Amro is seen falling 2% and Credit

Agricole is expected to lose 1%.

Building materials firm LafargeHolcim said a strong performance in Europe helped its Q1

profit jump nearly 16%, and its shares are up 2% in pre-market.

Germany's largest electricity producer RWE also beat forecasts, delivering higher than

expected Q1 profits. Its shares climbed 1.6% in pre-market.

Satellite firm Eutelsat issued a warning, cutting its full-year operating revenue forecast,

and sending its shares down 3% in pre-market, while billboard company JCDecaux reported a rise

in Q1 revenue.

Anglo-German tour operator TUI warned it would take another hit on profit if it doesn’t get

clarity over the status of its grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes by the end of May.

Aurubis, Europe’s largest copper producer, confirmed a reduced full-year earnings forecast

due to weak market environments and plant shutdowns, but its shares are seen gaining 1-2% as the

earnings hit had already been announced.

In UK results, home improvement retailer Kingfisher’s shares are seen falling 2% as traders

said like-for-like sales growth missed expectations. Retail investment platform Hargreaves

Lansdown reported market gains and net inflows that drove a 13.9% rise in assets in the first

four months of 2019.

France’s Eiffage confirmed its guidance and also said it had started exclusive talks with

Chinese investment vehicle Casil Europe to acquire a 49.99% stake in Toulouse-Blagnac airport.

A Reuters report that Trump is expected to sign an order paving the way for a U.S. telecoms

ban on Huawei may boost European handset and telecoms equipment makers Nokia and Ericsson.

(Helen Reid)

*****

EUROPEAN FUTURES RISE, GERMAN GDP DATA "FIRST RAY OF HOPE" (0610 GMT)

European futures are up 0.1 to 0.4 percent, suggesting today's gains may not be as strong as

yesterday's.

On the data front there's reason for positivity: Germany returned to growth in the first

quarter, helped by higher household spending and booming construction, something the economy

minister called a "first ray of hope", adding however that ongoing international trade disputes

are still a concern.

Chinese data, however, offers a grim picture of the world's second biggest economy, though,

and makes clear the hit from a trade war. "Today's China data release missed expectations on

every measure and will no doubt embolden Trump into an increasingly bold and belligerent public

show," writes a trader.

(Helen Reid)

*****

BANK EARNINGS, EUTELSAT WARNING AND STRONG LAFARGEHOLCIM (0553 GMT)

There's still a steady stream of earnings to drive stock-level action, with banks ABN Amro

and Credit Agricole among the most important results today while LafargeHolcim delivers a

relatively positive reflection of European activity.

The Dutch bank missed expectations with a 20% fall in Q1 net profit, while the French lender

also reported Q1 net profit fell as two one-off events offset profitability increases in all its

main business lines.

Building materials firm LafargeHolcim said a strong performance in Europe helped its Q1

profit jump nearly 16%.

Germany's largest electricity producer RWE also beat forecasts, delivering higher than

expected Q1 profits.

After the close yesterday reports also came out from Eutelsat and JCDecaux in France. The

satellite firm issued a warning, cutting its full-year operating revenue forecast, while

billboard company JCDecaux reported Q1 revenue rose.

"Another strong organic growth quarter of 5.4% for Q1, although inline with consensus which

has caught up - whereas the last two quarters were characterised by upside surprise," writes

Mirabaud Securities' Neil Campling on JC Decaux.

Eiffage confirmed its guidance and also said it had started exclusive talks with Chinese

investment vehicle Casil Europe to acquire a 49.99 stake in Toulouse-Blagnac airport.

Here are your early headlines:

ABN Amro Q1 profit drops 20%, missing expectations

Credit Agricole's Q1 net profit fell 11% to 763 mln euros

Strong Europe helps LafargeHolcim to Q1 earnings beat

Eutelsat cuts full-year operating revenue forecast

JCDecaux Q1 Adjusted Revenue Up At 840.0 Million Euros

RWE beats Q1 forecasts on strong trading performance

Eiffage in exclusive talks to buy a 49.99 percent stake in Toulouse airport

Novartis' cancer treatment Kymriah gets Japan nod at cost of $305,800

Volvo signs EV battery supply deals with LG Chem, CATL

(Helen Reid)

*****

EUROPEAN STOCKS TO CLIMB FURTHER AS TRUMP DOWNPLAYS TRADE WAR (0522 GMT)

Europe is set to build on its rally today, following in the footsteps of Wall Street and

Asian stocks which gained overnight after U.S. President Donald Trump called the trade war with

China "a little squabble", insisting talks between the word's two biggest economies had not

collapsed.

Asian stocks bounced from a 3-1/2-month low as a slight softening in rhetoric from Trump

helped ease worries about the U.S.-China tariff war and on expectations Beijing could release

more economic stimulus.

Financial spreadbetters expect London's FTSE to open 11 points higher at 7,252, Frankfurt's

DAX to open 123 points higher at 12,000, and Paris' CAC to open 87 points higher at 5,350.

(Helen Reid)

*****

(Reporting by Helen Reid, Danilo Masoni, Josephine Mason and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)

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