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LIVE MARKETS-UK Homebuilders: Save that cash

Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters. You can share your thoughts with Thyagaraju Adinarayan (thyagaraju.adinarayan@thomsonreuters.com), Joice Alves (joice.alves@thomsonreuters.com) and Julien Ponthus (julien.ponthus@thomsonreuters.com) in London.


UK HOMEBUILDERS: SAVE THAT CASH (1240 GMT)

There's been quite a lot of dividend cancellations among UK homebuilders: Crest Nicholson , McCarthy and Stone to name a few.

"We think others in the sector will follow to suspend / postpone dividends for the time being to protect balance sheets in these uncertain circumstances," write UBS analysts.

"Focus will now shift to cash burn in an scenario where business grinds to a halt," it adds.

Highly intuitive the thought behind that: as more and more cities go into lockdowns, demand for new homes could freeze. But with cash not coming in, homebuilders still have big fixed costs.

"This is unprecedented because in 'normal' economic downturns homebuilders are highly cash generative," UBS writes.

As homebuilders enter the saving mode, which one has the most solid balance sheets?

Here is UBS' analysis of homebuilders in the UK:

Berkeley is at -31% net cash

Persimmon -4% net cash

Barratt 9% gearing

Bellway 16% gearing

Taylor Wimpey 17% gearing

McCarthy & Stone 17% gearing

Redrow 18% gearing

Vistry c40% pro-forma

Crest Nicholson 41% gearing


(Joice Alves)

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FRENCH INVESTORS, STAY AWAY FROM THE WHISKY! (1145 GMT)

It's been difficult to find safe havens in the coronavirus-led market crash. Apart for the dollar, who reigns supreme again, other trades failed badly, such as gold or bitcoin.

But that's not a reason to go wild and explore any asset class as an alternative.

The French financial watchdog has just issued a warning against unregistered platforms which are trying to lure Gallic savers into investing into whisky.

To this day, no investment in whisky has been granted a clearance to offer such financial products, the AMF said in a press release.

"The AMF advises investors not to take on solicitations to invest into whisky and not to pass them on to third parties", the regulator wrote, adding that a dozen of platforms had already been added to its 'black list'.

(Julien Ponthus)

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VIX'S TOP IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MARKET'S BOTTOM (1126 GMT)

Stocks are staging a solid bounce back today and in Europe we're heading for the second straight session of gains - a massive feat given the steep sell-off. The S&P 500 futures are also comfortably cruising at +4%.

But is the market bottom here? Based on 2008 financial crisis charts, not necessarily. S&P 500 fell another 20% after VIX's peak before it started its record long bull run.

In the 2020 rout, VIX hit a top only day before yesterday, it could still run higher but if it doesn't, we're potentially heading for one last leg of selling.

Though the comparison should be taken with a pinch of salt as what we're going through now is obviously not the same as the 2008 financial crisis.


(Thyagaraju Adinarayan)

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POSITIVE THOUGHT OF THE DAY (1117 GMT)

Let's enjoy the relative calm provided by the with some positive thinking from UBS GW's chief economist.

"Markets always underestimate the adaptability and resilience of people in a crisis", Paul Donovan said in his morning note in which he argues that it will be key to ensure consumers can continue spending.

"If incomes can be protected, some consumer spending continues in a lockdown. Around 60% of spending is stable or increases (housing, food at home). 15% of spending is delayed. 25% of spending is lost – that is where stimulus is needed."


(Julien Ponthus)

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OPENING SNAPSHOT: IT LOOKS LIKE A RALLY (0830 GMT)

Sentiment has continuously improved this morning in Europe and we're now looking at a rally through all geographies and sectors.

It seems the trillions of stimulus poured down by central banks and governments are finally reassuring investors. At least for now.

The most impressive move is probably in the travel and leisure sectors, with many companies facing unprecedented disruption.

The sector is up a staggering 7.8% and stocks such as Cineworld, which has to close cinemas, was up 22.7% at some point! Another example of money returning to the sector this morning is French airport operator ADP up 20% despite a dramatic slump in traffic.

Oil and Gas stocks are also making a spectacular performance, up 8.4% boosted by rebounding oil prices.

Interesting to note that the FTSE 250 - which underperformed its peers throughout the crisis - is also one of the best performers among indexes with a 5.9% surge earlier today.

(Julien Ponthus)

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ON THE RADAR: M&A AND DIVIDENDS IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS (0745 GMT)

Corporate announcements overnight and this morning continue to provide some light on the impact of the epidemic on the 'real economy' with notably aluminium maker Norsk Hydro reducing or halting production of some components for the auto and construction industries.

Similar move from Jaguar Land Rover which will temporarily suspend production at its UK manufacturing facilities from next week.

Nice exclusive from Bate Felix in Paris who reported that Total would freeze recruitment, boost costs savings and halt its share buyback programme.

In a totally different sector, French lottery operator Francaise des Jeux said the French lockdown would hit as its tickets are typically sold in bars and cafes. It’s not all doom and gloom though, with trading platform CMC Markets upgrading its annual earnings targets for the fourth time in less six months, as the frantic selling driven by the coronavirus drove huge rises in financial market volatility and trading volumes.

That’s reassuring for shareholders of banks which have big trading operations which could offset the hit expected in retail banking. In the sector, note that the BoE cancelled this year's stress tests to enable them to focus on lending through the coronavirus crisis.

Interesting development for M&A in the age of corona virus: Bloomberg News reported that LVMH is considering buying shares of Tiffany through the open market at a discount rather than through its takeover offer. While it’s reassuring to see that strategic deals are not cancelled altogether, this will spook many merger arb funds.

The general assumption is that M&A comes to a total halt in times like but French supermarket retailer Casino announced it had agreed to sell 567 Leader Price stores, and three warehouses, to German discount rival Aldi in a deal worth 735 million euros.

Toilet roll rush, M&A bankers and lawyers salute you!

Still in retail, there are announcements both in the UK and in Germany that competition laws will be loosened to cope with the stress supermarkets are under.

Another piece of news which could somewhat reassure investors is Zurich keeping its dividend proposal amid the general freeze in pays out decided in the last few days by European companies. Latest example is pub operator J D Wetherspoon and Travis Perkins.

(Julien Ponthus)

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MORNING CALL: STILL IN THE BLACK (0630 GMT)

European stocks seem set to stay in the black, at least for now, after Asia's rallied and oil prices bounced back.

Futures for the STOXX 50E and the Dax are up about 1.6% after the pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 2.9% yesterday.

We're not done yet in terms of stimulus which could help lift sentiment.

The next salvo of fiscal bazookas is expected from the U.S. with a $1 trillion-plus package and from China set to unleash trillions of yuan to revive its economy.

The dollar rush is far from over however and an ongoing cause of stress on the markets.

On the epidemic front, the virus has so far infected more than 245,000 people across the world and the death toll exceeds 10,028.

Click here to read the latest on the pandemic:

(Julien Ponthus)

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(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Joice Alves, Julien Ponthus and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)