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What to Watch: MPs launch Brexit voting, Debenham shares spike, loss at Lloyd's of London

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK

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

MPs vote on Brexit options

British members of parliament (MPs) are set to begin a voting process today that will indicate which Brexit scenario would be most palatable to the greatest number of lawmakers.

The so-called “indicative” voting begins in the afternoon and is designed to break the parliamentary gridlock over prime minister Theresa May’s much-hated Brexit deal, which was backed by all 27 members of the European Union.

Talk of a potential resignation from May has been swirling lately and there have been predictions that she may make a statement about this issue in the afternoon.

British prime minister Theresa May is facing increased pressure to resign as members of parliament have taken control of Brexit voting. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images


Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk called on the European Parliament this morning to be open-minded about the idea of a long Brexit extension.

“You cannot betray the six million people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50, the one million people who marched for a People’s Vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union,” Tusk said in a speech. He also tweeted a similar message.

The UK pound (GBPUSD=XGBPEUR=X) was not making any big moves on Wednesday ahead of voting.

Debenhams stock “behaving like a kangaroo”

Shares in the struggling retail group Debenhams (DEB.L) surged by about 50% in morning trading in London after Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct unveiled the terms of a possible offer.

Ashley’s British sportswear firm, which has a near 30% stake in Debenhams, said it was looking to make a firm takeover bid. It said it values Debenhams at £61.4m.

The proposal comes a day after Debenhams said Ashley’s takeover plans wouldn’t address its pressing funding requirements.

“If Mike Ashley wants to make this stick, he needs to come out with an offer pretty quickly, along with a plan to meet Debenhams’ immediate funding needs. It would be nice to think a longer term strategy for the business might be forthcoming too,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf.

“While all this plays out, the share price is behaving like a kangaroo in a trampoline park,” he said.

Debenhams shares have fallen by about 85% over the past year.

Lloyd’s of London reports £1bn loss

The Lloyd’s of London insurance market recorded a loss of £1bn in 2018 due to major natural catastrophes such as hurricanes and wildfires, according to results released on Wednesday.

However, this latest annual loss is half the size of the £2bn loss in 2017.

Lloyd’s insures complex risks from oil rigs to footballer’s legs. It houses around 80 member syndicates and publishes results that are an aggregate of its members’ financial performance.

Global stock market overview

European stock markets were not making any big moves on Wednesday morning, with Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) notching a tiny gain while Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was essentially flat.

Asian markets closed the day with mixed results. The biggest mover of the day was China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite (000001.SS), which closed out Wednesday with a 0.9% gain.

Meanwhile, US stock futures were pushing up a tad in the hours before the opening bell. The S&P 500 (ES=F), Dow Jones industrial average (YM=F) and Nasdaq (NQ=F) all look set to climb when trading begins.