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What to Watch: UK economy flatlines, Ted Baker profit warning and Wetherspoon growth

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
The UK economy is flatlining. Photo: Claire Doherty/Sipa USA

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

UK economy flatlines ahead of general election

The UK economy ground to a halt in October, with figures showing GDP flatlining just as the country gears up for a general election.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published on Tuesday show UK economic output was unchanged month-on-month in October, though it had seen a 0.1% decline in September. Analysts had expected the economy to narrowly recover by 0.1%.

The data also showed Britain’s economy grew at its slowest annual rate in seven years, with GDP up only 0.7% in the year to October compared with a year earlier.

It marked the weakest annual performance since March 2012. Growth was also flat across the three months to October.

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Ted Baker shares crash on profit warning

Ted Baker issued a profit warning. Photo: PA

Ted Baker’s (TED.L) chief executive Lindsay Page and executive chairman David Bernstein have both left the embattled fashion brand, which also issued a profit warning.

In two separate statements the retailer announced the departures.

Ted Baker said that Page, who was appointed in April, has resigned and Rachel Osborne, who was chief financial officer, will become acting CEO with immediate effect. The search for a new CEO will start in January 2020.

"I would like to thank everyone at Ted Baker whom I have had the pleasure of working with since 1997. In particular, I am grateful for the team's support over the last 12 months,” said Page. 

Wetherspoon’s £200m expansion

The pub chain Wetherspoon (JDW.L) has said it will invest more than £200m ($262.7m) into the business over the next four years and create 10,000 new jobs in the process.

It said that the money will be funnelled into developing new pubs and hotels as well as expanding its business across Britain and Republic of Ireland.

"We are looking forward to opening many more new pubs as well as investing in existing pubs over the next four years,” said chairman Tim Martin.

"We are especially pleased that a large proportion of the investment will be in smaller towns and cities which have seen a decline in investment in recent years.”

Sales slide at Mothercare stores as closures loom

Mothercare’s losses deepened in the first half of the year as sales fell at the struggling retailer, which is planning to close all its UK stores.

The company (MTC.L) saw its UK sales fall by 2% in the first half of its financial year to 12 October, shortly before the company’s UK arm was placed in administration.

The retailer said in its results published on Tuesday that its pre-tax losses grew from £18.5m to £21.1m year-on-year.

It comes after administrators confirmed last month the mother-and-baby retailer would close all 79 of its UK stores, threatening 2,500 jobs.

European stocks slide on political uncertainty

European shares fell for a second day in a major week for markets, from a tariff deadline that could exacerbate the US-China trade row to a UK election and central bank meetings in Europe and the US.

Investors appeared nervous, with the FTSE (FTSE) down almost 1% by mid-morning in London.

The French CAC 40 (^FCHI) slid 0.6%, the Euro Stoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) fell 0.9% and the German DAX (^GDAXI) was down 1.2%.

Overnight in Asia, the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was 0.2% lower and the Nikkei (^N225) fell 0.1%, but China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) was 0.1% higher.

What to expect in the US

The gloom looked set to hit US stocks, with Dow Jones futures (YM=F), S&P 500 futures (ES=F) and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) all sliding 0.3%.