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What to watch: Saudi oil earnings, Thomas Cook shares nosedive and Burford Capital fightback

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
EMBARGOED TO 0001 MONDAY AUGUST 05 File photo dated 9/3/2017 of the London skyline as seen from Tower 42 with the 'Gherkin' (foreground), 30 St Mary Axe and Canary Wharf (background) prominent. Listed British firms posted their weakest performance in three years over the last quarter as the economic slowdown took its toll, data has revealed.
Burford Capital is alleging 'illegal market manipulation'. Photo: PA

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

Burford Capital claims ‘illegal market manipulation’

The financier Burford Capital (BUR.L) claims it has been the victim of “illegal market manipulation,” releasing a statement fighting back after its share price plunged over the past week.

The company’s stock decline continued on Monday, down 10.6% in early trading.

Its decline since last week came after US short-seller Muddy Waters took a short position on the stock and then published a highly critical report on the company’s financials.

But Burford said a forensic examination of detailed trading data on 6 and 7 August, as Muddy Waters released its short “attack”, showed “trading activity consistent with material illegal activity.”

Such activity includes methods of driving down share prices known as spoofing and layering, according to the company.

It said it had made regulators and criminal prosecutors aware of its “preliminary conclusions” and was considering its own options.

Saudi oil giant reveals earnings

Saudi Aramco has reported a 12% slide in profit in its first half results statement, but it still makes more money than other company in the world.

The oil price has fallen to around $58 per barrel (CL=F; BZ=F), down from $69 to $66 per barrel in the same period in 2018. The energy titan says it was a key reason for why net income has dropped 4%, to $46.9bn (£38.8bn).

Reduced oil prices and oil production was another reason for a drop in Aramco’s total revenues to $163.88bn, from $167.68bn a year earlier.

The move by Saudi Arabia’s state oil producer to declare its results publicly is seen as rare, as it is notoriously private when it comes to the group’s financials. Monday marks the first time it will ever host an earnings call.

Thomas Cook shares plummet

Thomas Cook (TCG.L) shares sank 25% in early Monday morning trading after the troubled travel operator revealed it was seeking an additional £150m ($180.6m) worth of funding from creditors.

The cash injection would be on top of the £750m already planned from Chinese firm Fosun and a range of banks.

The stock price fell to 7.15p. Last year, Thomas Cook shares were worth around £1.

Undated handout photo issued by Thomas Cook Airlines of some of their airplanes.
Undated handout photo issued by Thomas Cook Airlines of some of their airplanes.

Brits stockpile amid warnings MPs cannot stop no-deal Brexit

Britons have already spent £4bn ($4.81bn) stockpiling goods in case of a no-deal Brexit, according to new research from finance provider Premium Credit.

The survey found that 800,000 people had already spent more than £1,000 preparing for potential food shortages, with one in five having spent an extra £380 ahead of the 31 October deadline.

It comes as the Institute for Government warns MPs may struggle to block a no-deal Brexit when they return to parliament in September.

The report said they had only limited parliamentary tools at their disposal, with fears of a no-deal Brexit battering the economy pushing the pound down significantly in recent weeks.

Sterling is now trading at less than $1.21 against the dollar, compared to $1.70 just five years ago.

European markets muted

The Euronext 100 (^N100 ) and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) were both flat at around 9.30am in London, while Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.2%. But Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) index was down 0.2%, with Thomas Cook leading the decline.

Overnight in Asia Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) was up 0.5%, China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) up 1.5%, and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was down 0.5%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks look set for a lower open on Monday. S&P500 futures (ES=F), Dow Jones futures (YM=F) and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were all down 0.3%