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LIVE MARKETS-Tariffs tit-for-tat: Luxury brands are the French FAANGs

Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Julien Ponthus. Reach him on Messenger to share your thoughts on market moves: julien.ponthus.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net TARIFFS TIT-FOR-TAT: LUXURY BRANDS ARE THE FRENCH FAANGS (1114 GMT) Is Washington's threat to slap hefty tariffs on French luxury goods a perfect tit-for-tat? Looks like it is. Luxury stocks such as LVMH, Kering and Hermes are all down 1.3% to 2% this morning after the U.S. govt threatened 100% tariffs on $2.4 billion of imports from France in reply to Paris' digital services tax that would hit the likes of Google or Facebook. The French luxury groups are to local investors what the Amazon or Apple are to Wall Street. In a word, they are the FAANGs of European equities as they are the key drivers of growth in their respective indexes (see chart below). In fact, some of them have done better than the FAANGs in the last five years. Jonathan Bell, Chief Investment Officer at Stanhope Capital, has LVMH on his "buy list" because of its success in managing and growing expensive brands, which makes it an equivalent to the FAANG stocks and unlikely to be damaged by tariffs. "In the short term it could easily be hit by these sorts of concerns but these things can turn around very quickly and in the long run I think most of the owners of LVMH are people that – a bit like Warren Buffet in Coca Cola – they buy it and own it for the long term." Bell said for LVMH the threat of tariffs "is likely to be a short-term issue which may dent them for a quarter’s earnings but probably not longer than that" "The bigger trends would be if consumers in China suddenly decided that they didn’t want to buy goods that they consider to be French, that sort of thing would have a much bigger impact than this," he said. Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu on the other hand struck a more cautious note: "It's too risky to go into the luxury sector. The sector was hit first of all by the Hong Kong protests, and now this will hit it even more." (Elizabeth Howcroft) ***** CINEWORLD: BAD PREVIEWS BUT A HIT AMONG TRADERS (1052 GMT) If there's a silverlining to be found in this morning price action on Cineworld is that you should never let bad previews prevent you from going to see a movie you fancy. Pre market indications (we saw 6 of them) for the stock were pointing out to a fall of between 1 and 5% at the open after the company warned its full year earnings would be below forecast. "We would expect focus on the box office underperformance and weaker FY expectations, which may see the shares lower today", UBS analysts wrote before the bell. So at first it did look like the expected flop, but then this happened, a 10% comeback within 40 minutes: Why? That's obviously the question on everybody's mind, particularly those who got burnt on the basis of the pre market indications. "A rise in Cineworld’s share price on today’s news is probably down to short sellers closing out their positions now we’ve had confirmation of weaker trading", wrote Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. Another view from CMC Market's Michael Hewson is that Frozen 2 - a Thanksgiving hit - and the imminent release of the latest Star Wars "could well pick up the slack in the next few weeks". Writing after the dust had settled, The Share Centre took the view that the company's fundamentals don't actually look bad even if its debt pile could be seen as spooky for cautious investors. "With more potential benefits from Regal (their multi-billion U.S. acquisition) to come and a good dividend yield in place, we retain our ‘Buy’ recommendation for investors willing to accept a higher level of risk". (Julien Ponthus) ***** ANOTHER 12 MONTHS OF TRADE PAIN? (1037 GMT) Once again, a bright morning for markets gets clouded by Trump's comments on global trade and this time it's on the U.S.-China trade. What were the odds of a no trade deal for another twelve months, until this morning? Very low. But that's changed after this comment from Trump: "I have no deadline, no. In some ways I think I think it's better to wait until after the election with China". The bounce back we saw this morning quickly disappeared after Trump's comment and December turns out to be a disaster so far for stock markets. (Thyagaraju Adinarayan) ***** NO SANTA CLAUS RALLY, AGAIN? (0918 GMT) It took just a couple of tweets to bring the pre-Christmas rally down to a screeching halt! Trump's tweet on reinstating tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Argentina and Brazil triggered the downfall. "In the last 24 hours we’ve gone from a potential Santa Claus rally to a more Scrooge-like environment as the ghost of trade wars past came back to haunt the market," Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid says. To make things worse Washington threatened to slap 100% duties on French goods such as Champagne or handbags. That clearly is visible in CAC 40's underperformance today. Speaking of a Santa Claus rally, in the last 5 years, we've had only two positive Decembers (see seasonality chart below). Last year was one of the (Thyagaraju Adinarayan) ***** OPENING SNAPSHOT: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (0832 GMT) One thing is for sure, there is no hysteria on European trading floors over the trade war's latest developments: the DAX, the typical barometer on the issue, is up 0.7%. In a nutshell, the bulk of the trade war losses were made yesterday. Traders aren't taking positions indiscriminately: selling is clearly targeted at those companies who could suffer from the Trump's administration desire to punish France for its new digital services tax aimed at U.S. tech companies. So logically on Paris' CAC 40, Hermes, LVMH and Kering are leading the losers. Funny to note that France's luxury groups - the likely target of U.S. tariffs - are a bit to the French stock market what the FANGs are to Wall Street. Both sectors are key to local investors and are used as proxies in the trade war. The only other sectors feeling the heat this morning from the trade war are basic materials, with the sector down 0.8%. This, in turn, is weighing on the FTSE 100 and its big mining groups. (Julien Ponthus) ***** ON THE RADAR: CHAMPAGNE, HANDBAGS AND SPOILS OF TRADE WAR (0747 GMT) With new fronts in Brazil, Argentina, Europe and France, the trade war is likely to be the key driver for this session, especially with Trump in the UK for the NATO summit. After the U.S. threatened to slap punitive duties of up to 100% on $2.4 billion of imports from France on products such as champagne or handbags, French companies such as LVMH, Kering and Laurent-Perrier will be closely watched. Not to say that the war or words could weigh generally on the CAC 40 with junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher promising France will be “pugnacious”. European stocks could also suffer as a whole after the U.S. said it may set retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of European goods after the WTO rejected EU Airbus subsidies claims. In terms of individual stocks, Italy's biggest bank UniCredit will be under the spotlight after it said it would shed 8,000 jobs to reduce costs by 1 billion euros in Western Europe under a new plan to 2023. Still in Italy, Enel joined a race with at least five other bidders to buy the Renvico wind farm portfolio in Italy and France being sold by a Macquarie-run infrastructure fund. Pre market indications also point out to losses for Cineworld after it issued a warning on full year results. Another one will be Spanish media group Atresmedia which is seen falling at the open after a share placing. (Julien Ponthus) ***** MORNING CALL: TENTATIVE (TECHNICAL?) REBOUND (0630 GMT) There are not many reasons out there for European shares to rise at the open after Wall Street and Asian stock market fell due to Trump's surprise tariffs announcements. One reason though is that after falling 1.6% on Monday, the worst single-day drop in two months, there's probably room for the STOXX 600 to enjoy some kind of technical rebound. According to CMC Markets, London's FTSE 100 is expected to open 14 points higher, Frankfurt's DAX up 60 points and Paris' CAC40 to rise 13 points. (Julien Ponthus) ***** (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Joice Alves, Julien Ponthus and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)