Picture: 123RF/RATTANASIRI INPINTA
Picture: 123RF/RATTANASIRI INPINTA

London — European shares eked out small gains on Tuesday as talk of progress in China-US trade talks was offset by mixed corporate earnings, while sterling held below $1.30 ahead of another crucial Brexit vote.

In choppy trading, the broad European Stoxx reversed course and added 0.09%, and MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up 0.05%.

French speciality minerals company Imerys slipped 11.8% after cutting its outlook for 2019, and Norway’s Aker moved 1.7% lower as it slashed its full-year oil output target. British household goods maker Reckitt Benckiser was stranded at the base of the Stoxx index with a 5.5% fall after it cut its full-year sales forecast for the second time this year.

In Switzerland, drug maker Novartis raised its 2019 target and reported better-than-expected revenue, while Apple supplier AMS slipped 3.7%, reversing an earlier rise as demand from smartphone makers boosted operating profit.

UBS was one of the top gainers among banking stocks after Switzerland’s biggest bank reported a smaller-than-expected loss in quarterly profit.

Swedish defence firm Saab gained as much as 7% to lead the Stoxx 600 after reporting third-quarter operating earnings, well ahead of market forecasts and affirming its view that operating cash flow this year will improve compared to 2018.

“This week is an important week for earnings,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “We’ve seen a lot of talk on Brexit and trade talks and the new news is the earnings and the signal they give for the future. We’ve broadly priced in that earnings will be slightly positive for the year, but everyone is seeing how monetary policy stabilises the situation.”

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500, up 0.13%, pointed to a higher opening on Wall Street.

Trade talks, Brexit votes

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan added a modest 0.4%, with a holiday in Tokyo keeping turnover light.

China and the US have achieved some progress in their trade talks, vice-foreign minister Le Yucheng said on Tuesday, adding that as long as both sides respect each other, no problem could not be resolved.

US President Donald Trump sounded upbeat on a China deal on Monday, while White House adviser Larry Kudlow said tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for December could be withdrawn if talks go well.

Meanwhile, eurozone government bonds dipped before votes in Britain’s parliament, crucial to determining whether the country can leave the EU in an orderly way at the end of the month. Ten-year government bond yields across the eurozone were down one basis point on the day. Germany’s 10-year yield was at -0.35%, near three-month highs.

After he was forced by opponents into asking the EU for a delay that he had promised he would never request, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is battling to push legislation through the House of Commons that will enact his last-minute Brexit deal. Law makers vote at about 6pm GMT on Tuesday on the 115-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill, then vote on the government’s extremely tight timetable for approving the legislation.

Sterling added 0.1% at $1.2968 in early London trading. Against the euro, it fell 0.1% and was last trading at 0.85910.

“If the House of Commons votes in favour of the deal, the pound against the dollar could rally towards $1.3500 over the medium term. The UK would then enter a transition period that lasts until December 31 2020,” said Kim Mundy, a currency strategist at CBA.

The Canadian dollar was little changed as the ruling Liberal government of Justin Trudeau held on to power, but with a minority government after a closely fought election.

In commodity markets, spot gold edged 0.2% higher to $1,487.63 per ounce.

Oil prices edged higher on signals of progress in the US-China trade talks. Brent crude futures were up 31c at $59.27, while US crude added 16c to $53.47 a barrel.

Reuters