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What to Watch: Nissan Brexit plans, manufacturing PMI, and China stocks nosedive

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Nissan denied reports of a radical post-Brexit contingency plan. Photo: Scott Heppell/AP Photo

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

Nissan deny radical Brexit contingency plans

Nissan has denied reports it is drawing up plans to double down on its UK operations if fresh Brexit trade talks lead to a significant UK rupture with the EU.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s hardline Brexit stance could risk new EU tariffs being slapped on UK goods, hitting British carmakers who export hard. But such a scenario could also see Britain curb EU carmakers’ access to the UK through new tariffs, giving any UK firms with a focus on the domestic market the edge.

Two sources told the FT one of several contingency plans drawn up by Nissan would see them embrace such an opportunity to corner the domestic market. The Japanese firm would focus on UK production at its Sunderland plant while closing facilities in France and Spain, according to the report.

But a spokesman for Nissan Europe denied the plan existed, and warned its UK and EU operations were “not sustainable” if heavy tariffs were imposed.

“We want our UK team of more than 7,000 people to have the best possible chance of future success,” he said. The company continued to urge UK and EU officials to secure an “orderly balanced Brexit,” he added.

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‘Boris bounce’ halts UK manufacturing decline

UK manufacturing appears to have halted a nine-month decline as a ‘Boris bounce’ lifted industry fortunes, new figures suggest.

The latest UK purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data for industry showed firms’ activity remaining steady for the first time since April 2019. The headline figure on the index came in at 50 for January, indicating neither growth or decline. Last month it had come in at 47.5.

Output is no longer falling, but remains stagnant amid continued troubles including a global slowdown in demand and Brexit uncertainty.

Industry managers reported employment was no longer falling for the first time in nine months, but it also remained flat. Optimism hit an eight-month high, but was still low by historical standards.

The figures are based on a survey of around 600 manufacturers, and compiled by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Supply (CIPS).

Coronavirus sparks biggest Chinese stock crash since 2015

Chinese stocks suffered their biggest one-day sell-off since 2015 on Monday, as anxiety continued about the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.

The Shenzen Component index (399001.SZ) fell 11.6% and the Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) dropped 7.7%.

Stock markets on mainland China had been closed for over a week for an extended Lunar New Year holiday and Monday was the first time investors could react to the coronavirus epidemic spreading across the country.

Concerns about the virus also hit Japanese stocks, with the Nikkei 225 (^N225) down 1%.

Ryanair warns Boeing 737 Max delays could hit growth

Ryanair (RYA.L) on Monday warned that delays in the delivery of Boeing’s (BA) 737 Max aircraft could force the airline to push back its goal of flying 200 million passengers a year by up to two years.

The low-cost carrier had planned to fly that many passengers in its 2024 financial year, but CEO Michael O’Leary said that it would now not happen until at least 2025.

Ryanair also reported net profit of €88m (£75m) in the three months to the end of December 2019, the third quarter of its financial year. That was a 230% climb on its €66m loss in the same period in its previous financial year. Shares in Ryanair climbed by more than 4.5% on the announcement.

Rizla and Golden Virginia-owner appoints new CEO

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB.L) on Monday named car executive Stefan Bomhard as its new chief executive.

Bomhard, who currently runs high-end car retailer Inchcape, will take over from Alison Cooper, who announced plans to leave last October. Cooper will step down with immediate effect, Imperial said.

“Stefan has significant experience across multiple consumer sectors and within large multinational organisations, particularly in brand building and consumer-led sales and marketing,” said Imperial chair Thérèse Esperdy.

European shares edge higher despite virus fears

European shares edged higher on Monday, recovering slightly after fears over the coronavirus outbreak had sparked their worst week in almost seven months.

Analysts said markets were now in “wait and see mode” as they waited for news. The FTSE in London (^FTSE) was 0.4% higher, the German DAX (^GDAXI) and French CAC (^FCHI) were both up 0.2%.

What to expect in the US

US futures also looked set to open higher. The Dow Jones (YM=F) were set to open 0.3% higher, while S&P 500 futures (ES=F) and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were both 0.4% in early trading in London.