GLE.PA - Société Générale Société anonyme

Paris - Paris Delayed price. Currency in EUR
29.20
+0.11 (+0.36%)
As of 10:12AM CET. Market open.
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Previous close29.09
Open29.24
Bid0.00 x 0
Ask0.00 x 0
Day's range29.00 - 29.30
52-week range20.81 - 31.02
Volume257,985
Avg. volume4,373,023
Market cap25B
Beta (3Y monthly)1.27
PE ratio (TTM)9.36
EPS (TTM)3.12
Earnings date6 Feb 2020
Forward dividend & yield2.20 (7.62%)
Ex-dividend date2019-05-27
1y target est43.49
  • Fear of an Inverted Yield Curve Is Still Alive for 2020
    Bloomberg

    Fear of an Inverted Yield Curve Is Still Alive for 2020

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- About a year ago to the day, the U.S. yield curve inverted for the first time during this business cycle. Sure, it wasn’t the part that has historically predicted future recessions, but it foreshadowed the more consequential inversion —  the part of the curve from three months to 10 years — which happened in March and lasted for much of the rest of the year through mid-October.This wasn’t much of a shock to Wall Street. Even in December 2017, many strategists saw an inverted yield curve as largely inevitable, with short- and longer-dated maturities meeting somewhere between 2% and 2.5%. That’s just what happened. It was enough to spur the Federal Reserve into action. The central bank proceeded to slash its benchmark lending rate by 75 basis points in just three months. Now the curve looks positively normal again.“Inverted Yield Curve’s Recession Flag Already Looks So Last Year,” a recent Bloomberg News article declared. Indeed, the prospect of the curve steepening in 2020 is drawing money from BlackRock Inc. and Aviva Investors, among others, Liz Capo McCormick and John Ainger reported. Praveen Korapaty, chief global rates strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., told them the spread between two- and 10-year yields will be wider in most sovereign debt markets. PGIM Fixed Income’s chief economist Nathan Sheets said “the global economy has skirted the recession threat.”Yet beneath that bravado, the fear of another bout of yield-curve inversion remains alive and well on Wall Street.John Briggs at NatWest Markets, for instance, predicts the curve from three months to 10 years (or two to 10 years) will invert again, possibly for a couple of months, because the Fed will resist cutting rates again after its 2019 “mid-cycle adjustment.” “I see the economy slowing to below trend growth, the market seeing it and recognizing the Fed needs to do more, especially with inflation low, but the Fed will be slow to respond,” he said in an email. Then there’s Societe Generale, which is calling for the U.S. economy to fall into a recession and for 10-year Treasury yields to end 2020 at 1.2%, which would be a record low. Even though the curve doesn’t invert in the bank’s quarter-end forecasts, it’s quite possible during a bond rally, according to Subadra Rajappa, SocGen’s head of U.S. rates strategy.“Over time, if the data weakens, the curve will likely bull flatten and possibly invert akin to what we saw in August,” she said. “If the data continue to deteriorate and the economy goes into a recession as per our expectations, then we expect the Fed to act swiftly to provide accommodation.”To be clear, another yield-curve inversion is by no means the consensus. The prevailing expectation is that the economy is in “a good place” (to borrow Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s line) and that Treasury yields will probably drift higher, particularly if the U.S. and China reach any kind of trade agreement. In that scenario, central bankers will be just fine leaving monetary policy where it is.Bank of America Corp.’s Mark Cabana summed up the bond market’s base case at the bank’s year-ahead conference in Manhattan: There will probably be no breakout higher in U.S. economic growth (capping long-term yields) but also no need for the Fed to cut aggressively (propping up short-term yields). That should leave the curve range-bound in 2020.That range, though, is not all that far from zero. Ten-year Treasury yields are now 20 basis points higher than those on two-year notes, and 22 basis points more than three-month bills. At the end of 2018, those spreads were nearly the same — 19 basis points and 31 basis points, respectively. That is to say, it’s not much of a stretch to envision the curve flattening in a hurry if anxious bond traders clash with a patient Fed.For now, traders seem to be pinning their hopes on resilient American consumers powering the global economy, using evidence of strong holiday shopping numbers to back their thesis. My colleague Karl Smith isn’t so sure that’s the best strategy, given that the spending is actually weakening relative to 2018, plus it usually serves as a lagging indicator anyway. Markets are also on alert for any cracks in the U.S. labor market, which has been the bastion of this record-long recovery. November’s jobs numbers will be released Friday.As for the Fed, its interest-rate moves are a clunky way to fine-tune the world’s largest economy. But that’s not the case for addressing angst around the U.S. yield curve. If the central bank doesn’t like its shape, it has the policy tools to directly and immediately bend it back.It comes down to which scenario Fed officials consider a bigger risk in 2020: Allowing the Treasury curve to remain flat or inverted, or moving too quickly toward the lower bound of interest rates? Judging by dissents around the more recent decisions, this is very much an open question.To get another inversion, “you’d need a Fed that wants to hold policy constant through a period of economic weakness: front end remains anchored near current levels due to policy expectations, long end drops due to diminishing growth/inflation forecasts,” said Jon Hill at BMO Capital Markets. “Not impossible by any means.” An inversion would probably come in the first or second quarter of 2020, fellow BMO interest-rate strategist Ian Lyngen said, though that’s not his base case.That sounds about right. Fed officials seem satisfied with dropping rates by the same amount as their predecessors did during other mid-cycle adjustments. Now they want to wait and see how lower interest rates trickle into the economy, perhaps making them more entrenched over the next several months. It’s hard to say for sure, though, given that Treasury yields have behaved since the central bank’s last meeting. The market simply hasn’t tested the Fed’s resolve.Relative calm like that rarely lasts, particularly when one tweet on trade sends investors into a tizzy. The path forward is almost never as linear as year-ahead forecasts make it appear.The same is true for the yield curve. We might very well be past “peak inversion,” but ruling out another push below zero could be a premature wager.To contact the author of this story: Brian Chappatta at bchappatta1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Brian Chappatta is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering debt markets. He previously covered bonds for Bloomberg News. He is also a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    UPDATE 2-CFTC enforcement fines, fees jump in 2019, even as activity, civil penalties fall

    The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission collected nearly 40% more in penalties and payments in fiscal 2019, even as civil penalties it assessed and total enforcement actions fell, the regulator said on Monday. The CFTC obtained monetary relief of more than $1.3 billion in the year ended Sept. 30 from 69 enforcement actions, a 39% increase from the previous year and the fourth-highest total in CFTC history, agency officials said in its annual enforcement report. The bulk of the monetary total came from disgorgement and restitution, and civil monetary penalties totaled $205.6 million.

  • SocGen's heads of Asia trade finance depart after bunker fuel losses
    Reuters

    SocGen's heads of Asia trade finance depart after bunker fuel losses

    SINGAPORE/PARIS (Reuters) - Societe Generale's regional heads of trade and commodities finance for Asia Pacific have left the Paris-based bank, raising concerns among Singapore-based shipping fuel traders that it may wind back financing services to the sector. France's third-biggest listed lender said this year it would shrink or exit some businesses to cut costs at its investment banking unit, and has been hit by losses from trade financing in the Singapore bunker fuel market. Societe Generale, or SocGen, confirmed on Thursday that Damien de Rosny and Timothy Siow had left the bank, without providing further details.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    LIVE MARKETS-Are European banks getting naughtier?

    * Qiagen surges as it explores sale Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Julien Ponthus. ARE EUROPEAN BANKS GETTING NAUGHTIER? "While U.S. banks were particularly hit by misconduct costs in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, European banks have been more exposed since 2015", a study published today by the ECB found.

  • U.S. Retail Sales Rebound But Details Show Consumer Cooling
    Bloomberg

    U.S. Retail Sales Rebound But Details Show Consumer Cooling

    (Bloomberg) -- Explore what’s moving the global economy in the new season of the Stephanomics podcast. Subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify or Pocket Cast.U.S. retail sales rebounded by slightly more than estimated in October on gains from auto dealers and filling stations, though declines in categories including clothing and furniture stores tempered the advance.The value of overall sales increased 0.3% from the prior month after a 0.3% drop in September, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.2% advance.Sales in the “control group” subset, which some analysts view as a more reliable gauge of underlying consumer demand, increased 0.3% as projected. The measure excludes food services, car dealers, building-materials stores and gasoline stations.The reading signals consumers remain willing to spend, though at a slower pace than earlier this year, as the robust jobs market and solid wage gains offer reasons for Americans to remain upbeat. Consumers have driven the economy forward in recent quarters, and Friday’s data suggest the trend may continue in the final three months of the year.“It’s not screaming softness on the consumer but the consumer is gradually fading,” said Stephen Gallagher, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale SA. “We’re more dependent on the consumer than ever in this expansion, and we’re getting some signs the consumer is slowing.”Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated this week that the labor market is strong, following an October jobs report that showed payroll gains intact and the jobless rate still near a half-century low. Solid employment would continue to underpin consumer spending.Mixed SignalsBut the retail report also included some signs that may point to consumers running low on steam, with seven of 13 major categories dropping. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores fell 0.9% while food service and drinking places decreased 0.3%, both posting the steepest declines of this year.Control-group sales have increased an annualized 4% over the latest three months compared with a 6.3% rate in the same period through September.A separate report Friday from the New York Fed showed manufacturing weakness persisted this month. The Empire State factory gauge, based on a survey of companies in New York, fell to 2.9, compared with forecasts for a gain, pointing to tepid growth in the sector.Later Friday, the Fed is due to report national figures for industrial production in October.Nonstore retailers, which include online shopping, were a bright spot. They posted a 0.9% gain from the prior month and were up 14.3% from a year earlier, the most of any major group.Filling-station receipts increased 1.1%, the report showed. The retail figures aren’t adjusted for price changes, so sales could reflect changes in gasoline costs, sales, or both.Auto DealersSpending at automobile dealers climbed 0.5% after decreasing 1.3% in the previous month. That contrasted with industry data from Wards Automotive Group that previously showed auto sales slumped to a six-month low in October.Excluding automobiles and gasoline, retail sales edged up 0.1% -- below forecasts -- after a decline the previous month.Retail sales estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists ranged from a 0.2% decline to a 0.7% gain from the prior month.The sales data capture don’t capture all of household purchases and tend to be volatile because they’re not adjusted for changes in prices. Personal-spending figures will offer a fuller picture of U.S. consumption in data due at the end of the month.A separate Labor Department report Friday showed the U.S. import price index fell 0.5% in October from the prior month and 3% from a year earlier, the most in three years. Excluding petroleum, the index decreased 0.1% from the prior month.(Updates with economist’s comment in fifth paragraph, adds Empire State index.)\--With assistance from Jordan Yadoo.To contact the reporter on this story: Reade Pickert in Washington at epickert@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Scott Lanman at slanman@bloomberg.net, Jeff Kearns, Alister BullFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bonds Aren’t Believers in a Synchronized Upswing
    Bloomberg

    Bonds Aren’t Believers in a Synchronized Upswing

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The global bond market rallied for a second consecutive day on Thursday in an awkward development for the growing chorus of voices that have cropped up the last few weeks contending that the synchronized global slowdown was over. From China to Germany, and from Cisco Systems Inc. to freight shipments, the latest data show  it’s too soon to turn optimistic.In China, industrial output rose 4.7% in October from a year earlier, below the median estimate of 5.4%. Germany did post a surprise expansion in its gross domestic product for the third quarter, but that came with plenty of caveats. For one, the increase was only 0.1%, and the contraction for the second quarter was deeper than initially reported — negative 0.2% versus negative 0.1%. In the U.S., economists were passing around the latest Cass Freight Index for October, which fell 5.9% to mark its 11th consecutive year-over-year decline. This gauge has been around since 1995 and tracks freight volumes and expenditures by hundreds of companies in North America conducting $28 billion of transactions annually. More important, the compilers of the index noted in the latest survey that the index “has gone from ‘warning of a potential slowdown’ to ‘signaling an economic contraction.’” Cisco is not in the freight business, but comments by Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins late Wednesday after the computer company released fiscal second-quarter results echoed the sentiment in the freight industry. “Just go around the world and you see what’s happening in Hong Kong, you look at China, what’s happening in D.C., you’ve got Brexit, uncertainty in Latin America,” he said on a conference call with investors and analysts. “Business confidence suffers when there’s a lack of clarity, and there’s been a lack of clarity for so long that it’s finally come into play.”Maybe the global economy isn’t worsening, but it’s too soon to say an upswing is underway. Despite the sell-off in the bond market since September, yields are still showing caution. Yields on bonds worldwide as measured by the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index stand at 1.45%, which is closer to its all-time low of 1.07% in 2016 than last year’s high of 2.27% in November.AWASH IN MORE DEBTThe Institute of International Finance came out with its quarterly look at the mountain of global debt, concluding that it rose by about $7 trillion in the first half of the year to a record of just more than $250 trillion. That increase is more double the $3.3 trillion expansion for all of last year. It pegs global debt, which it sees expanding to $255 trillion by the end of the year, at a lofty 320% of global GDP. It’s no surprise that the world is awash in debt, but yields show there seems to be a dearth of it for the public because of massive purchases by central banks. As of October, the collective balance-sheet assets of the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Bank of England stood at 35.7% of their countries’ total GDP, up from about 10% in 2008. Still, this is no time to be complacent. The IIF points out that much of the growth in debt has come in emerging markets, which is generally considered riskier than that of developed economies and where central banks are not doing things like quantitative easing. This could become an issue relatively quickly; the IIF pointed out that $9.4 trillion of bonds and syndicated loans from emerging markets come due by the end of 2021.CORPORATE CASH SHRINKSThe latest doubts about the strength of the economy kept the S&P 500 Index little changed for a second consecutive day. Perhaps that’s for the better because falling interest rates and bond yields are perhaps the single-biggest reason equities are up 23.4% this year in the absence of earnings growth. The second is probably share repurchases. But a new report from Societe General SA raises concern that the cash companies use to fund those buybacks is being depleted. “A boon for U.S. share buybacks” has left companies with less cash in their coffers, Societe Generale strategists Sophie Huynh and Alain Bokobza wrote in a report. Cash and money-market investments held by companies in the S&P 500 peaked in 2018’s first quarter on a per-share basis before falling 5.3% through the third quarter of this year, according to Bloomberg News’s David Wilson. S&P 500 companies have bought back the equivalent of 22% of their market value since 2010, the Societe Generale strategists noted in their report.CHILEAN CRISIS ENTERS NEW PHASEThe chaos in Chile, long known as the safest bet in Latin America, has become so bad that not even direct intervention by the nation’s central bank was able to reverse the slide in the peso. The currency fell about 1% Thursday, bringing its slide to 11.4% since mid-October. That’s the worst of the 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg and more than five times the next biggest loser, the Hungarian forint. What should have investors worried is that the peso depreciated even after the central bank announced a $4 billion currency swap program to ease liquidity in the market amid the worst civil unrest in a generation. “I don’t think it will help stop the sell-off in any way,” Brendan McKenna, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo, told Bloomberg News in reference to the swaps program. “There has to be some breakthrough on the political front for the currency to stabilize.” Foreign investors have been especially rattled since the government said Sunday that it backed plans to rewrite the constitution in response to four weeks of riots and protests in support of better pensions, wages, education and health care. If that were to happen, it’s possible the government would swing too far to the populist left to the detriment of the economy. FOLLOW THE CLIMATE CHANGE MONEYDespite the overwhelming evidence about climate change, there is still an alarming number of deniers. But if it was really all a big hoax or overblown, then why are the world’s biggest, most influential investment firms steering away from areas that are likely to be hit the hardest, such as the coasts? Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is considering real estate markets including Denver; Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Jeffrey Fine, a managing director at the firm’s merchant-banking division, said Thursday at a conference hosted by the NYU School of Professional Studies. Fine may not have specifically cited climate change, but according to Bloomberg News’s Gillian Tan, he did note that more companies and young people are moving away from the coasts. The Fed held its first conference on climate change last week in San Francisco, with one central bank official saying it has the potential to “displace people permanently” amid damaging wildfires in California and storms punishing the Eastern Seaboard. About 3 billion people — or some 40 percent of the world’s population — live within 200 kilometers (124 miles) of a coastline, according to Bloomberg News. It’s projected that by 2050 more than 1 billion will live directly at the water’s edge.TEA LEAVESThe idea that the U.S. consumer was strong and carrying the economy took a hit a month ago when Commerce Department data showed that retail sales in September fell unexpectedly. The 0.3% decline from August was directly opposite the 0.3% advance expected based on the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. That’s why Friday’s update from the government on October retail sales is so critical, especially heading into the holiday sales season. Economists are calling for a 0.2% rebound. Bloomberg Economics isn’t so optimistic, saying that decelerating wage growth suggests household demand will moderate. It is forecasting no change in spending. Although the headline number will get the attention, the smart money will be looking at sales among a control group that are used to calculate GDP and exclude food services, auto dealers, building-material stores and gas stations. By that measure, sales are seen rising 0.3% from no change in September.DON’T MISS Stock Investors Could Use a Refresher on the Basics: Nir Kaissar You Care About Earnings? The Stock Market Doesn’t: John Authers Too Many Young American Men Still Aren’t Working: Justin Fox Brazil’s Politics and Economics Are Growing Apart: Mac Margolis Matt Levine's Money Stuff: You Can Buy Almost All the StocksTo contact the author of this story: Robert Burgess at bburgess@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Robert Burgess is an editor for Bloomberg Opinion. He is the former global executive editor in charge of financial markets for Bloomberg News. As managing editor, he led the company’s news coverage of credit markets during the global financial crisis.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Rising Onion Prices Fueling India Inflation, Not Rates
    Bloomberg

    Rising Onion Prices Fueling India Inflation, Not Rates

    (Bloomberg) -- Explore what’s moving the global economy in the new season of the Stephanomics podcast. Subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify or Pocket Cast.India’s headline inflation pierced the central bank’s 4% medium-term threshold last month, but the onion-price driven surge is unlikely to distract monetary policy makers from their focus on growth.Consumer prices rose 4.62% last month from a year earlier, the Statistics Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. That is higher than the 4.35% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 34 economists and the first above-4% print since July 2018 and the highest since June last year.While the Reserve Bank of India will assess the accompanying food-price data, it may not be compelling enough to hold its attention: underlying inflation -- a measure of demand in the economy -- was benign at 3.4%, the softest pace in the new data series going back to 2014. First indications came via purchasing managers surveys, which signaled weak manufacturing and services activity in October.Core inflation “has collapsed” due to a broad-based weakness in demand, said Rupa Rege Nitsure, group chief economist at L&T Financial Services in Mumbai. “India needs to focus on growth and arrest the deflationary trends.”Read more: Why in India, 6% Economic Growth Is Cause for Alarm: QuickTakeAn overwhelming majority of data have pointed to continued weakness in the economy that expanded 5% in the quarter ended June -- the slowest pace in six years. The slump gives members of the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee reason to stick with their accommodative policy stance, although room for a deep cut may be limited given the rebound in headline inflation.“Future rate cut may be less aggressive accompanied with lack of unanimity about the rate cut path,” said Shubhada Rao, chief economist at Yes Bank Ltd. in Mumbai.With the RBI already cutting interest rates five times this year, by a cumulative 135 basis points to 5.15%, economists expect the rate to fall further to 4.9% by the end of March 2020.“We expect the RBI to maintain its easing bias on the back of sluggish growth, and weak generalized inflation pressures,” Teresa John, an economist at Nirmal Bang Equities Pvt., said before the data. While John expects a 15 basis-point cut at the next policy meeting in December, she didn’t rule out a large cut should growth numbers “surprise substantially on the downside below 5%.”Gross domestic product data for the three months to September is due Nov. 29 and will probably show a mild recovery in growth to 5.5%. Economists, however, say the main reason for that may be more because of a favorable base effect.Onion ImportsThe inflation-targeting RBI expects food prices to stabilize, while forecasting headline inflation to stay well below its medium-term target of 4% for the rest of the fiscal year through March.India’s government moved to control prices of onions by importing 100,000 tons of the vegetable, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said via Twitter. The kitchen staple will be available for distribution in local markets between Nov. 15 to Dec. 15.Bloomberg Economics’ Abhishek Gupta said the elevated readings will not last long enough with plentiful rains bolstering farm output and keeping a lid on prices. However, worries about slowing growth will keep alive expectations of more monetary stimulus.“A widening output gap continues to sap underlying inflation pressures, with the core gauge set to ease further below target -- allowing room for further monetary stimulus to spur growth,” he said.On Monday, data showed industrial production contracted 4.3% in September, the steepest decline in eight years. That follows output in the nation’s core infrastructure industries shrinking to the lowest since at least 2005, amid a prolonged economic slowdown.“The probability is rising that the RBI might wait to get a better sense of the inflationary trajectory,” said Kunal Kundu, an analyst at Societe Generale Gsc Pvt. in Bengaluru. “The easing cycle has not ended since RBI would be expected to do the heavy lifting for the economy in the absence of fiscal space for pump priming the economy.”\--With assistance from Tomoko Sato.To contact the reporters on this story: Anirban Nag in Mumbai at anag8@bloomberg.net;Vrishti Beniwal in New Delhi at vbeniwal1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net, Karthikeyan Sundaram, Jeanette RodriguesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Those Who Purchased Société Générale Société anonyme (EPA:GLE) Shares Three Years Ago Have A 29% Loss To Show For It
    Simply Wall St.

    Those Who Purchased Société Générale Société anonyme (EPA:GLE) Shares Three Years Ago Have A 29% Loss To Show For It

    Société Générale Société anonyme (EPA:GLE) shareholders will doubtless be very grateful to see the share price up 34...

  • FOMO Doesn't Cut It as a Buy Signal for Stocks
    Bloomberg

    FOMO Doesn't Cut It as a Buy Signal for Stocks

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- According to the Thundering Herd, the herd is thundering back into risk-taking. And the greatest spur leading it on has little to do with politics, or the economy, or the corporate sector. Instead, it is driven by that most basic human emotion: fear of missing out. President Donald Trump’s much-heralded New York speech on Tuesday provided almost nothing that was newsworthy, but it did give him an opportunity to gloat — quite accurately — about the state of the stock markets. They have been on  a tear, with most of the key U.S. benchmarks breaking out of the ranges in which they have been stuck since early last year, to set new highs. They have done this even though, as the president never ceases to complain, the Federal Reserve raised rates repeatedly last year, before reversing much of that move over the last three months. The problem is to identify just why stock markets have suddenly strengthened. It isn’t because of an end to the trade war. Despite hopes, Trump failed to roll back any tariffs in his speech, or offer any promises on when a deal with China might be signed. His surprise announcement of new tariffs on Aug. 1 plainly forced the S&P 500 Index lower; nothing that has happened on the trade front since then would justify the 9% rally in stocks since markets troughed after that news hit.It is also hard to attribute the rally to the economy. When stocks took a dive late last year, they did so against a background of nasty surprises in the U.S. data, as measured by Bloomberg’s U.S. economic surprise index. In the summer, that data  started to surprise much more positively — but stocks were becalmed during that period. The rally has only come since the economic surprise indexes stalled, in mid-September. The S&P’s rally also roughly coincided with the season of corporate earnings announcements for the third quarter, which came in 3.8% ahead of expectations, according to FactSet. But earnings almost always exceed expectations, thanks to the games played by corporate investor relations departments. Over the last five years, they have on average beaten forecasts by more — 4.9%.  Further, third-quarter earnings were accompanied by such downbeat assessments of the future that the consensus estimate for earnings growth for the next 12 months has actually gone negative, according to SocGen Quantitative Research. And yet, despite all of this, there is no doubt that market sentiment has turned on a dime. In mid-summer, the U.S. yield curve inverted, a classic recession signal, and many braced for an economic downturn. That’s over. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest global survey of fund managers, we have just witnessed the greatest month-on-month improvement in economic sentiment since the survey began in 1994. A month ago, a net 37% of fund managers expected the global economy to deteriorate over the next 12 months; now, a net 6% expect an improvement.What could possibly be behind this? The president may have at least nodded at the answer with his claim that that the U.S. indexes would be 25% higher now if the Fed had negative rates. This is a dubious assertion, as only disastrous economic conditions would prompt the U.S. central bank to take such desperate measures.But that sudden improvement in investors’ sentiment did indeed come as the Fed reversed its policy of five years, and started to expand its balance sheet again. It did this to restore liquidity to the repo market, where banks raise their short-term funding, and the Fed has protested repeatedly that this is not a return to “QE” asset purchases to boost the economy. For all these protestations, the market has treated it as a turning point. Added to this, as mentioned, there is the age-old fear of missing out. The end of the year is coming, when investment managers will be judged on their performance. Those who are behind have an incentive to clamber into the market now, while there is still time. And the rally has been unbalanced, with most gains going to a small group of large U.S. stocks.  If the stars align for a broad recovery, there is ample potential for big rallies by smaller companies, and by stocks outside the U.S.  The rest of the world has joined in this rally, but there is still a long way to go before they catch up — and nervous investment managers are conscious of this. It is tempting to fit a narrative of economic and trade optimism to the rebound in appetite for risk. But sadly, this looks a lot like a return to the pathology that has dominated throughout the post-crisis decade: markets await free money from central banks, and fear missing out when that money arrives.To contact the author of this story: John Authers at jauthers@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.John Authers is a senior editor for markets. Before Bloomberg, he spent 29 years with the Financial Times, where he was head of the Lex Column and chief markets commentator. He is the author of “The Fearful Rise of Markets” and other books.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Commerzbank Cuts Profit Outlook
    Bloomberg

    Commerzbank Cuts Profit Outlook

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Commerzbank AG downgraded its full-year profit outlook, marking a second retreat in weeks by Chief Executive Officer Martin Zielke after the European Central Bank took rates deeper into negative territory.The bank said net income for this year will now probably be lower than in 2018, down from the lender’s target of a slight increase, after the ECB cut the deposit rate to minus 0.5% and because of higher taxes. While the more pessimistic outlook comes after the lender abandoned its ambitions of increasing revenue this year, Commerzbank did join lenders including Societe Generale and UniCredit SpA boosting its capital buffers in the third quarter.European banks are struggling with the impact of negative rates on lending income and a worsening economic environment. German finance minister Olaf Scholz on Wednesday reopened the debate on consolidation as a potential solution to the continent’s banking ills with proposals to break the deadlock on banking union -- seen by many executives as necessary before deals can take place.Commerzbank shares gained as much as 2.6% in early Frankfurt trading, before paring gains to rise 1.1% as of 9:07 a.m.Several top investors and regulators have privately expressed skepticism about the latest turnaround plan, people familiar with the matter have said. In addition to promising to reduce the workforce by over 2,000, Zielke has also said he’s selling one of the company’s strongest profit engines, its Polish subsidiary mBank, while saying profitability will remain well below that of the competition for at least the next four years.“The further monetary policy easing announced by the European Central Bank in September and the resulting pressure on margins will have a negative impact on earnings,” Commerzbank said in its earnings statement, adding that it expects a “significantly higher tax rate in the fourth quarter.”The bank is grappling with strategy after talks to create a merger with German rival Deutsche Bank AG fell through earlier this year. Germany had been interested to create a large domestic-focused lender to ensure credit to its export-oriented economy during a downturn, but Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing balked at the execution risks of a deal.Commerzbank last week released preliminary results for the third quarter showing net income jumped 35% in the period as risk provisions and other costs declined. The bank also sold a unit in the quarter, accounting for one-off revenue of 103 million euros ($114 million).Corporate ClientsThe corporate clients division, which has long been a particularly sore spot, continued to show a weak performance as revenue fell for a fifth consecutive quarter. The current division head Michael Reuther, will be succeeded in January by former ING Groep NV executive Roland Boekhout. The bank is also seeing more change in the board, with Chief Financial Officer Stephan Engels set to join Danske Bank A/S.Though the lender’s other core division, the one catering to retail clients, posted revenue growth, most of that came from the Polish subsidiary it’s now seeking to sell. By contrast, the German retail unit, which is the division’s biggest source of revenue by far, contracted 6%. The bank has said it’s shifting its focus from rapid client acquisition to getting existing clients to spend more money on banking services.As part of the September revamp, the lender also decided to scrap its previous promise -- and a major element of its previous marketing campaign -- to keep a network of about 1,000 branches in Germany. The retail division under Michael Mandel said it’s going to close about a fifth of those.(Adds failed merger talks with Deutsche Bank in sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Arons in Frankfurt at sarons@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net, Ross LarsenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Stocks Drift Into Close as Trade Picture Clouds: Markets Wrap
    Bloomberg

    Stocks Drift Into Close as Trade Picture Clouds: Markets Wrap

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.U.S. stocks drifted after reports that any signing of a partial trade deal with China won’t happen until at least December, deflating early-session gains. Treasuries rebounded after dropping for three days.The S&P 500 Index eked out a narrow advance Wednesday while the Nasdaq Composite retreated on word that the signing of a preliminary trade agreement could be delayed as the parties wrangle over a venue. Tech stocks slid and shares in energy companies declined alongside West Texas crude after the EIA reported a big buildup in inventories. Health care and financials rallied.“It seems like markets are really treading water here, trying to decide where to go based on what’s happening with trade later on this year and what’s going on with earnings,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer of Independent Advisor Alliance LLC.The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fluctuated before closing higher as data suggesting that the euro-area economy may be gathering momentum was offset by the International Monetary Fund’s warning of clouds on the horizon. Banks advanced after Societe Generale SA strengthened its key capital ratio, while global cleaning giant ISS A/S slumped after cutting its full-year outlook.A wave of interest-rate cuts by central banks and mounting hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal have buoyed confidence in markets just as key economic indicators show signs of stabilization. While the latest data from Europe suggest a robust recovery may not be on the cards, the relative improvement eased fears that the global economy was hurtling toward a recession, prompting traders to temper bets for further monetary easing.In Asia, benchmarks rose in Japan and Mumbai, but fell in Shanghai and Sydney. The yuan strengthened past 7 per dollar for a second day, while the greenback held steady as investors awaited fresh developments on the U.S.-China trade front. Bloomberg’s gauge of raw-material spot prices climbed to its highest level since April.Elsewhere, gold, which slumped Tuesday, scored small gains. Emerging-market stocks slipped for the first time in five days.Here are some key events coming up this week:Earnings are due this week from companies including: Walt Disney and Deutsche Telekom.A Bank of England monetary decision is due Thursday.The USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report for November comes out Friday.These are the main moves in markets:\--With assistance from Joanna Ossinger, Cormac Mullen, Adam Haigh and Robert Brand.To contact the reporters on this story: Claire Ballentine in New York at cballentine@bloomberg.net;Sarah Ponczek in New York at sponczek2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Andrew DunnFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • SocGen Boosts Capital for Second Quarter as Equities Slump
    Bloomberg

    SocGen Boosts Capital for Second Quarter as Equities Slump

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Societe Generale SA boosted a key measure of financial strength for a second straight quarter and shrank the trading division faster than planned as Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea restructures the investment bank.The French lender said the CET1 ratio -- a closely-watched metric of its ability to absorb losses -- gained almost 50 basis points to 12.5% after the sale of businesses. The lender also met early its goal of cutting 8 billion euros ($8.9 billion) of risk-weighted assets from its markets business as the bank pivots to focus on areas of strength.The capital strength in the third quarter helped counter a 20% decline in the business of buying and selling equities and net income and revenue that missed analyst estimates. The bank blamed “adverse market conditions in August” and waning client demand for structured products for the decline in equities. The shares rose as much as 5.5%.The longest-serving CEO of a top European bank is undertaking the bank’s biggest restructuring in years, cutting 1,600 jobs, slashing costs and paring risk after giving up his main mid-term targets for growth and profitability. The French lender exceeded its capital requirement by the narrowest margin of the eurozone’s top 10 listed banks last year, prompting analysts to question whether the lender would need to tap markets.In equities, “our franchise is more geared, more driven by structured products,” where demand was low in the quarter due to global uncertainties such as trade disputes and Brexit, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Severin Cabannes said in a Bloomberg Television interview, adding adding that on a nine-month basis, the equities franchise remained solid.The bank “had a significant improvement in terms of capital position,” he said, which is “our current financial priority.”SocGen traded 5.3% higher at 28.4 euros as of 12:13 p.m.The bank also took a charge of 113 million euros ($125 million) to close some businesses in the Balkans, helping push third-quarter net income down 35% from a year earlier.The bank still plans to take market share in investment and structured products, financing solutions, and advisory on “smart flow” activities.Fixed IncomeRevenue from fixed income did better than equities, rising 1% versus the same quarter a year earlier. SocGen cited “strong client activity in financing and rates and credit.”SocGen achieved its 2020 target for its common equity tier one ratio of 12% ahead of time last quarter. The bank had been working with McKinsey & Co. to find ways to bolster its CET1 ratio, a person familiar with the matter said in May. The bank is also targeting a return on tangible equity -- a measure of profitability -- of between 9% and 10% next year, with that figure nearer 6% in the third quarter.“Progress on capital is significant,” UBS Group AG analyst Lorraine Quoirez wrote in a note to analysts, saying that the lagging ROTE performance in the most recent period “raises questions on SocGen’s ability to meet its 2020 ROTE target.”Oudea is seeking to preserve the bank’s traditional leadership in businesses such as equity derivatives while strengthening capital and exiting or refocusing fixed-income activities. Still, the stock has trailed larger rival BNP Paribas SA, which also outperformed SocGen in fixed income and equities in the most recent quarter.Some analysts have said that ongoing turnover at the trading unit might dent revenue, and that the changes come with high risks. In February, SocGen replaced the markets unit’s head, and the head of the fixed-income business is also leaving.Read more about the cuts to the investment bank here.The performance in fixed-income trading trailed the gain of about 10% reported by the large Wall Street peers and a 35% surge at BNP. Among European investment banks, the results were uneven, with Barclays Plc posting a 19% gain, while HSBC Holdings Plc saw a 21% slump in revenue from that business.SocGen has been scrambling to reduce or exit some trading activities to shore up capital. At the same time, its expanding in some emerging markets and is considering a fully-owned brokerage in China, joining a rush by the world’s biggest banks as the country speeds up the liberalization of ownership restrictions in the financial sector.(Adds analyst comment in 12th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Caroline Connan.To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Campbell in London at k.campbell@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net, Keith CampbellFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    UPDATE 2-European shares hold four-year peak, creep towards record highs

    The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed 0.2% higher and was about 2% away from reclaiming its record high level, hit last in April 2015. European shares have logged strong gains this week on growing optimism over a trade truce between the United States and China. "All the good news regarding trade has also been largely priced in, so if the rumors prove to be wrong the risk to the potential downside are actually far bigger," said Simona Gambarini, markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

  • PR Newswire

    Societe Generale CEO Interview - Q3 2019 Results (Video)

    PARIS , Nov. 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Societe Generale, one of the largest European financial services groups, reports results for Q3 2019. CEO Frédéric Oudéa comments on the Group's results. Watch video ...

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    UPDATE 2-SocGen balance sheet progress lifts shares, outweighs trading weakness

    France's Societe Generale raised its capital ratio on Wednesday, giving its shares a lift despite a profit fall and some parts of its trading business lagging rival banks. SocGen shares were up 5% to 28.3 euros at 1102 GMT, making the bank's stock one of the top performers on France's CAC40 index, as investors focused on progress in areas such as the balance sheet. "We have achieved results very much in line with our objectives and priorities," Chief Executive Frederic Oudea said in a statement as SocGen said its common-equity tier-one ratio rose to 12.5% at the end of September.

  • SocGen balance sheet progress lifts shares, outweighs trading weakness
    Reuters

    SocGen balance sheet progress lifts shares, outweighs trading weakness

    France's Societe Generale raised its capital ratio on Wednesday, giving its shares a lift despite a profit fall and some parts of its trading business lagging rival banks. SocGen shares were up 5% to 28.3 euros at 1102 GMT, making the bank's stock one of the top performers on France's CAC40 index , as investors focused on progress in areas such as the balance sheet. "We have achieved results very much in line with our objectives and priorities," Chief Executive Frederic Oudea said in a statement as SocGen said its common-equity tier-one ratio rose to 12.5% at the end of September.

  • The OUTstanding Top 50 LGBT+ Ally Executives
    Yahoo Finance UK

    The OUTstanding Top 50 LGBT+ Ally Executives

    All of the allies — who must be senior executives who are not LGBT+ but support LGBT+ inclusion — were nominated by peers and colleagues, or put themselves forward.

  • Fed Wants a Break From Rate Cuts. Will Bond Traders Allow It?
    Bloomberg

    Fed Wants a Break From Rate Cuts. Will Bond Traders Allow It?

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Heading into the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate decision this week, the consensus is that the central bank will cut its lending benchmark for the third time in as many meetings. But, unlike the past two, there’s belief that Chair Jerome Powell will strongly suggest a timeout on monetary easing this time around.Perhaps the strongest case for this conviction is the recent moves in the $16 trillion U.S. Treasury market. Two-year yields, at 1.64%, are up almost 30 basis points from earlier this month, while 10-year yields have climbed more than 40 basis points from their lows. The yield curve between those two maturities is the most positively sloped since before the Fed’s first rate cut in July — a far cry from August’s “doom and gloom.” Just since Oct. 3, fed funds futures have priced out about one-and-a-half quarter-point rate cuts by the central bank through the end of 2020. A gauge of interest-rate volatility fell last week by the most since early April.Taken together, the evidence suggests that bond traders are on board with this week marking the end of the central bank’s “mid-cycle adjustment.” I wouldn’t be so sure about that. By now, it should be clear to all Fed watchers that “data dependency” takes a backseat to bond markets when push comes to shove. The central bank simply doesn’t shock traders with its decisions. That was true in July, it was true in September and it will be true again this month. The bond market’s more cheery outlook in recent weeks is effectively summarized by this quote from Subadra Rajappa, head of U.S. rates strategy at Societe Generale: “We’ve seen a mood switch to optimism on Brexit, optimism on the trade front,” she said. And for that reason, “this might be the most opportune time, if the Fed does want to pause, to go ahead and suggest that.”Powell can “suggest” his view of the path ahead all he wants. But recent history has shown that whatever he says in his post-meeting press conference doesn’t really matter when it comes to the next interest-rate decision. Especially when the reasons for optimism are so fragile and subject to change at any moment.Consider July’s rate cut. Powell indicated that the committee was thinking of the move as a “mid-cycle adjustment to policy” as opposed to “the beginning of a lengthy cutting cycle.” That mattered for less than 24 hours. President Donald Trump announced additional tariffs on Chinese goods, sending investors running to Treasuries and giving the Fed little choice but to further ease policy as the yield curve inverted the most since 2007.Even September’s meeting provided something of a “hawkish cut.” Esther George and Eric Rosengren openly dissented against dropping interest rates, and a total of five Fed officials indicated they disagreed with the move, judging by the “dot plot.” And yet, a few bad readings on the U.S. economy at the start of October sealed this week’s rate cut. The dot plot, by the way, illustrates why the Fed feels it needs a break. Policy makers won’t update their forecasts at this meeting, but as it stood last month, not a single official saw the fed funds rate dropping below the range of 1.5% to 1.75% at any point through at least 2022. To reiterate: 41 days ago, when looking three years into the future, not even the most dovish Fed members expected to lower their benchmark beyond where it’ll almost certainly end up this week. Of course, the constraints of the dot plot have never stopped the Fed before. It’s worth remembering that the median forecast as recently as June was for the fed funds rate to remain in a range of 2.25% to 2.5% through 2019 — the same level as the start of the year. The projections have been scratched out and revised so frequently over the years that it’s no wonder the bond market’s view is taken as gospel.All this is to say, just because traders haven’t fully priced in another interest-rate cut by year-end doesn’t mean they won’t by the time the Fed’s next decision rolls around on Dec. 11. I’m sure part of the reason they pared back expectations for further easing is because in other instances of mid-cycle adjustments in the 1990s, lowering rates by 75 basis points was enough to get the economy on stable footing. That could very well be the case this time around.But it would be misguided to simply use history as a guide. There are too many wild cards at play. For instance, Mark Spindel, chief executive officer of Potomac River Capital, says the Fed is one bad jobs report away from fretting that it hasn’t done enough easing. BMO Capital Markets sees a scenario in which Powell struggles so much in explaining the Fed’s outlook that it triggers a fresh “policy error flattening” of the yield curve. Chris Low at FTN Financial expects Powell will take the path of least resistance: “Given a choice between ruling out further cuts and leaving the door open, we expect Powell to leave the door open. Participants can always talk down future rate-cut probabilities if data strengthen.”That might be wishful thinking. Time and again, the Fed has seen bond traders take any opening for further easing and running with it. At the July press conference, after Powell was told that stocks were tumbling based on how he described the rate cut, he quickly changed tone and said “I didn’t say it’s just one.” Fast-forward to the present, and we’re on the cusp of the third consecutive quarter-point reduction with the S&P 500 at an all-time high.If Powell is serious about pressing pause on the interest-rate cuts, he will have to put on his most convincing performance to date. Otherwise, expect bond traders to push for more on any signs of bad news.To contact the author of this story: Brian Chappatta at bchappatta1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Brian Chappatta is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering debt markets. He previously covered bonds for Bloomberg News. He is also a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Goldman Should Take Its Chance for 1MDB Closure
    Bloomberg

    Goldman Should Take Its Chance for 1MDB Closure

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. should take the opportunity to settle its legal case with Malaysia and put the 1MDB scandal to bed.Negotiators for Malaysia have discussed figures of around $2 billion to $3 billion in talks with Goldman, Bloomberg News reported this week, citing people with knowledge of the matter. A settlement at the lower end of that range could turn out to be a relative bargain for the New York-based bank.Malaysia has charged Goldman units as well as 17 of its current and former directors over their involvement in arranging $6.5 billion of bond sales for the troubled state fund, much of which later went missing. Prosecutors accuse them of misleading investors while knowing that the money would be misappropriated. Goldman has denied the allegations and said it will defend against the charges.While $3 billion is a hefty fine by any standards, it’s less than half than the $7.5 billion that Malaysia has been demanding publicly that the Wall Street bank pay. Granted, that target may be ambitious. At the same time, there’s plenty to support a penalty in the region of $2 billion.The U.S. has also been pursuing Goldman over the 1MDB affair. Based on statutes and similar cases, the Department of Justice could seek fines of up to two times the $600 million that the bank earned for underwriting 1MDB bonds, plus disgorgement of those fees for a total of $1.8 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Elliott Stein. That would reflect the formula in cases such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., which paid U.S. regulators $264 million in 2016 to settle allegations that it hired children of Chinese decision-makers to win business in violation of anti-bribery laws. There’s also precedent for a shared settlement that would cover both countries: Societe Generale SA agreed last year to pay $585 million that was split evenly between U.S. and French enforcement agencies to settle a probe into bribery of Libyan officials. In the Goldman case, Stein says a global resolution in the range of $2 billion to $4 billion is possible.There are risks in allowing the case to drag on. Goldman has previously blamed its entanglement on its former Southeast Asia chairman, Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to U.S. charges that he conspired to launder money and violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That defense was undercut when U.S. prosecutors last year charged another former Goldman banker, Roger Ng, who’s denied any complicity in wrongdoing.Perhaps more importantly, an extended court battle promises to keep the episode in the public mind, delaying Goldman’s efforts to rebuild its reputation. A case of this complexity is likely to move slowly, even if Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will be keen to show progress on his pledge to recoup funds plundered from 1MDB.Goldman’s business has suffered in the region, though admittedly this is a small fraction of its global operations. It’s been shut out of the Malaysian investment banking market and may have lost other deals in Southeast Asia as a result of the hit to its reputation. The bank fell to 20th in the underwriter rankings for U.S. dollar and euro bonds in Southeast Asia this year, from first in 2012.That’s added to the pressure from a global decline in investment-banking revenues since the financial crisis. In Asia-Pacific, revenue for the industry dropped to $12.7 billion in the first half, from $14.6 billion a year earlier, according to data from Coalition Development Ltd., a London-based analytics company.Set against last year’s pretax profit of $13.3 billion, a bill of even $3 billion to escape the shadow of one of the world’s biggest financial scandals might seem like good business. It could be the smartest Asian trade the bank has made in a long time. (Updates with data on Asian investment banking revenue in the second-last paragraph.)To contact the author of this story: Nisha Gopalan at ngopalan3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at mbrooker1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • UBS warns 'low and negative interest rates' hitting business
    Yahoo Finance UK

    UBS warns 'low and negative interest rates' hitting business

    UBS reported a fall in third-quarter income and pre-tax profit on Tuesday.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    HSBC taps Lazard to sell French retail business - source

    HSBC Holdings has hired U.S. investment bank Lazard Ltd to sell its French retail business, a source close to the matter told Reuters, as part of a plan by new interim chief executive Noel Quinn to reduce costs across the banking group. HSBC, Europe's biggest bank by assets, has carried out a strategic review of the French retail business, which has around 270 branches and employs up to 3,000 staff out of 8,000 in France overall. Lazard declined to comment.

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