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What to watch: Rolls-Royce stock rout continues, markets react to Trump catching COVID-19, and Brexit talks in focus

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
08 April 2020, Bavaria, Nuremberg: A Rolls Royce aircraft engine can be seen on a plane at Albrecht Dürer Airport Nuremberg. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa (Photo by Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A Rolls Royce aircraft engine can be seen on a plane at Albrecht Dürer Airport, Nuremberg, Germany. Photo: Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

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

Rolls-Royce stock rout continues

Shares in troubled engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) continued to fall on Friday, extending the stock’s rout to a fourth day.

Rolls-Royce shares fell over 5% on Friday, making it the biggest faller on the FTSE 100 for the second day in a row. On Thursday, shares had dropped over 10% to hit a 17-year low.

The slump came after Rolls-Royce announced plans to raise £5bn ($6.4bn) to repair its balance sheet. The fundraising efforts included a deeply discounted rights issue.

The rights issue is fully underwritten by banks — meaning they will buy newly issued shares in Rolls-Royce if investor appetite is too weak to fill the order book.

However, late on Thursday, the Financial Times reported that Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) — two of the lead banks working on the fundraising plan — had drastically scaled back their exposure last week. The pair were originally due to backstop around 60% of the rights issue but now are on the hook for only around 30%, according to the report.

Friday’s share price slide means Rolls-Royce has now fallen almost 25% since the start of the week. The stock is down over 80% since the start of the year.

Stocks fall as Trump tests positive for COVID-19

Stocks fell around the world on Friday, reacting to news that US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had both tested positive for COVID-19.

The president announced in a tweet that he and his wife had tested positive for the virus, hours after first confirming they were getting a test.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!,” Trump tweeted.

News that the pandemic had reached the heart of the White House hit stocks around the world. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) reversed earlier gains to close down 0.6% and Australia’s ASX 200 (^AXJO) slumped to close down 1.4%. European stock markets opened lower and US futures slumped.

“The biggest question for investors and traders is how this situation is going to impact the Trump’s presidential campaign?” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) dropped 1.2% and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) fell 1.6%.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell 1.1% at the open, the German DAX (^GDAXI) dropped 1.4%, and the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) fell 1.3%.

Pound boosted by Boris Johnson’s Brexit intervention

The pound jumped on Friday after Downing Street said UK prime minister Boris Johnson would step in to direct Brexit trade talks for the first time in months.

A spokesman for the prime minister on Friday morning said Johnson would speak with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday to “take stock” of negotiations and “discuss next steps”.

The pound jumped higher against both the euro and the dollar on the news. Shortly after the statement, sterling was up 0.4% against the euro (GBPEUR=X) to €1.1006 and up 0.1% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.2902.

The ninth round of trade talks between the EU and UK are due to conclude in Brussels today (Friday). Speculation had mounted that both sides could enter the “tunnel” — the secret final stage of negotiations where the final text of a deal would be agreed. A statement on the progress of negotiations from both sides is likely later today.

US jobs numbers

The September US jobs report is due at 1.30pm London time.

Non-farm payrolls are expected to show 850,000 new jobs created last month, down from 1.3m in August. The headline unemployment rate is forecast to fall from 8.4% to 8.2%.

“President Trump will be hoping for a decent number in order to make the point that the US economy is continuing to recover from its Covid shock,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

“While this is welcome, we can’t ignore the fact that the US labour market looks a radically different beast to the one we saw earlier in the year. We can’t even be sure that the unemployment rate is an accurate reflection of what is going on around the US as a whole.”

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