UK Markets closed

What to Watch: Pound rises ahead of Brexit vote, Google fined €150m in France, and new Bank of England head

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate in the House of Commons, London, on the Queen's Speech. Photo: House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images

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

Pound rises ahead of Brexit vote

The pound was rising on Friday ahead of a vote in parliament later today on Boris Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal bill.

MPs are set to vote this afternoon on whether to approval the deal, which would see Britain leave the EU on 31 January, 2020. The new bill also contains a clause that would make it illegal to delay Brexit, potentially setting up another ‘hard’ Brexit deadline in December 2020.

“Investors continued to weigh the possibility that the UK could reach the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020 without having agreed a trade deal with the EU,” Deutsche Bank client Henry Allen wrote in a note.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: “GBP crosses may be sensitive to some of the headlines but by-and-large there ought to be no surprises with the bill expected to pass easily.”

Sterling was up 0.3% against the euro (GBPEUR=X) to €1.1733 and up 0.3% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.3046.

Google fined €150m in France

France’s competition watchdog has fined Google (GOOGL) €150m for abusing its dominance in the search advertising market.

The watchdog said Google had “opaque and difficult to understand operating rules for its advertising platform Google Ads” and applied them “unfairly and at random.”

Alongside the fine, the watchdog called on Google to clarify the rules around Google Ads and the process for suspending accounts.

Earlier this week the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said there was a “strong argument” for stricter rules governing how Facebook and Google operate in the digital advertising market.

Trade and invest with confidence on global multi-asset investment platform eToro. Join over 11 million users who invest in stocks, indices, commodities, ETFs, cryptos and currencies. Your capital is at risk.

New Bank of England governor announced

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) CEO Andrew Bailey has been named the new governor of the Bank of England.

Chancellor Sajid Javid announced on Friday that Bailey would take over at the central bank in March 2020, bringing an end to months of speculation about who would replace outgoing governor Mark Carney.

Javid said Bailey was “the stand-out candidate in a competitive field.”

“He is the right person to lead the Bank as we forge a new future outside the EU and level-up opportunity across the country,” the Chancellor said in a statement.

Leicester-born Bailey is a veteran of the Bank of England. He joined the central bank in 1985 before rising to become a deputy governor from 2013 to 2016. He left in 2016 to run the FCA, Britain’s top financial watchdog.

UK growth revised up but still sluggish

UK economic growth was slightly better than first thought in the third quarter but still sluggish, official statistics confirmed on Friday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said UK GDP grew by 0.4% between the second and third quarter of 2019. GDP grew by 1.1% in the third quarter on an annual basis, the joint worst annual growth since 2012.

Friday’s numbers were the final verdict on how the economy performed in the third quarter. An earlier estimate of the July to September period said GDP grew by 0.3% quarter-on-quarter and 1% compared to the same period a year earlier.

While the growth figures were slightly revised upwards, the ONS said the underlying data showed “signs that there is an underlying slowing in the UK economy.” The statistics body blamed “high levels of domestic and global uncertainties,” namely the US-China trade war and Brexit.

Standard Life Aberdeen takes over Woodford fund

Asset manager Aberdeen Standard (SLA.L) is set to take control of one of fallen money manager Neil Woodford’s frozen funds.

Administrators for the Woodford Income Focus Fund, which was frozen in mid-October, said on Friday that Standard Life Investments will take over as fund manager on 31 December. The fund’s name will be changed to “ASI Income Focus Fund”, scrubbing Woodford from the fund.

The appointment follows the collapse of Neil Woodford’s investment company in October. Withdrawals from the Income Focus Fund, one of Woodford’s three flagship funds, were temporarily halted shortly after as investors rushed to pull money from the fund. Around £250m is locked in the fund.

European markets drift higher

European stock markets were moving higher on Friday.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said there was “little to focus on as the Christmas wind-down commences.”

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.1%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.3%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up 0.1%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was up 0.1%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down 0.2%, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) ended up 0.2%, and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) ended down 0.4%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks futures point to a quiet open. S&P500 futures (ES=F), Dow Jones futures (YM=F), and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were all flat. 15 companies are reporting in the US later today.