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What to Watch: Chinese growth stumbles, Sports Direct delays results, and Micro Focus chair sells shares

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Mike Ashley (C), founder and majority shareholder of sportwear retailer Sports Direct, leads journalists on a factory tour after the company's AGM, at the company's headquarters in Shirebrook, Britain, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder of Sports Direct. Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples

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

Chinese growth stumbles

Chinese GDP growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter of 2019, according to new figures published early on Monday morning.

It marks one of the slowest expansions of the world’s second biggest economy since the early 1990s and adds to fears about what a protracted Chinese slowdown could do to global growth.

“The Chinese economy is in transition from export to consumption led,” Bill Blain, the chief strategist at Shard Capital, said. “It now exhibiting all the features of modern economics, and is lumbered with bank crashes, credit issues and the perennial problems of regulating the Chinese banking system to deliver capital to the right companies.

“The Bank of China is conflicted – trying to improve lending standards to avoid further banking failures, while pumping the economy through easing and lower reserve requirements.”

Markets rise on stimulus hopes

Despite the poor growth figures, stock markets are in the green on Monday as investors bet that China will have to introduce stimulus to boost growth.

“The People’s Bank of China will likely be forced to act to further ease rates and the effects will be felt on China main street,” Blain said.

Overnight in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 (^N225) closed up by 0.2%, China's benchmark Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was up by 0.4%, and the Hong Kong's Hang Seng index (^HSI) was up by 0.3%.

Britain's FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was flat, Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) was up by 0.8%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 0.4%, and the Euronext 100 was up by 0.3%.

Sports Direct delays results

Shares in Sports Direct (SPD.L) crashed over 10% at the open on Monday after the retailer announced it was delaying its results.

Sports Direct blamed the delay on increased audit scrutiny and its takeover of House of Fraser, saying that the delay “could materially affect the guidance” given by the retailer in December.

The discount retailer said it was delaying its preliminary results due to “complexities of the integration” of House of Fraser and “current uncertainty as to the future trading performance of this business.”

The discount retailer also blamed “increased regulatory scrutiny of auditors and audits.” Sports Direct’s auditor Grant Thornton was last week censured by the Financial Reporting Council, which ordered Grant Thornton to improve the quality of its audits.

As a result, Grant Thornton has asked for more time to complete its audit and Sports Direct has had to “compile more information than in previous years.”

Sports Direct bought House of Fraser out of administration for £90 million last August.

Results were initially due on 18 July but Sports Direct said it now expects to publish them “between 26 July 2019 and 23 August 2019.”

Amazon Prime strikes

As Amazon (AMZN) gears up for its annual Prime Day discount-shopping bonanza, its workers in the US and the EU are planning a series of strikes and protests over salaries and unsafe working conditions at Amazon’s fulfilment centres

In the UK, the GMB Union has called on workers to protest on Monday at Amazon warehouses across the country.

“The conditions our members work under at Amazon sites across the UK are appalling,” said Mick Rix, GMB National Officer in a press statement.

“The Rugeley site in particular is probably one of the most unsafe places to work in Britain — workers are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious, and being taken away in ambulances,” Rix said.

Micro Focus chair sells shares

Shares in software business Micro Focus (MCRO.L) has fallen by 5% after the executive chairman sold shares in the company.

Executive chairman Kevin Loosemore made around £11.6 million by selling more than half a million shares in the company.

Loosemore sold the shares last week, according to the company, and said the decision was due to wanting to “diversify” his personal investments.

“Until now, all of my assets have been held in Micro Focus shares,” Loosemore said in a statement. “Having recently turned 60, it is time for me to diversify a little, although around half my person wealth remains in the stock.”

He added that he remains “committed to the business as we continue to execute our established business model.”

Micro Focus shares dropped by 10% in a day earlier this month after the company warned that revenues would take a hit because of costly and complex work integrating its takeover of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise division.

UK house prices fall

House prices in Britain have declined month-on-month for the first time this year, according to new figures.

The average asking price in the UK fell by around £660 to just under £309,000 between June and July, according to data released by property website Rightmove on Monday.

One expert said the “ripple of caution” over Brexit that has dogged the property market was spreading across the country, with prices flat or falling in every single English region bar the southwest.

New £50 note design coming

The Bank of England will today announce who the new face on the £50 note will be.

The bank received 227,299 nominations during a six-week nomination period which closed in December which led to the “short list” of 989 eligible names.

Those who have been considered span across scientific fields such as astronomy, biology, bio-technology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and medical research.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures were pointing to a higher open. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up by 0.2%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were up by 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up by 0.2%.