Europe is plunging into a serious “second wave” of coronavirus, yet record numbers of companies are beating profit expectations, with many upgrading earnings forecasts too. Some of the dissonance dissolves under scrutiny. A portion persists disturbingly.

Shell, BT and Lloyds, businesses worth £100bn in total, all exceeded third-quarter forecasts. Notably, the UK’s largest high street bank was buoyed by surging mortgages and lower-than-expected loan loss provisions...

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