Uncertainty ahead of this evening’s US interest-rate decision, disappointing Apple earnings and weakness in Chinese stocks after data showed declining industrial profits led to a soft start for European markets.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics, who’s head is incidentally being investigated for corruption reported that full-year industrial profits fell 2.3% in 2015 with the mining sector seeing profits down by 58% and the oil and gas sector seeing earnings slump by an eye-watering 75%.
Markets are lower but there is a semblance of stability stemming from relative calm in crude oil prices. Volatility in crude is likely to return as traders place bets in both directions on whether a bottom has been put in. Yesterday’s huge oil rally ended off the highs following a bigger than expected build in US inventories was reported by the API.
A weak outlook from RBS dragged the financial sector lower as commodity stocks slumped after weak Chinese economic data on the FTSE 100.
Shares of RBS lost over 2% after the bank reported a surprise £7bn hit to its balance sheet thanks to a large contribution to its pension pot, more charges for US mortgage security and UK PPI mis-selling and a write-down at Coutts. The message from chief exec Ross McEwan is an all-to-familiar message of “putting the issues of the past behind us” but investors will be dismayed that there always seem to be more issues in front.
US stocks look set for a weaker start with disappointing results from Apple to contribute to a triple digit loss on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and an over 1% decline on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 ahead of the latest FOMC meeting.
Apple confirmed investors’ worst fear; that iPhone sales would likely see their first year-over-year decline in the current quarter. The forecasted decline comes on the back of just a 0.4% rise year-over-year last quarter. CEO Tim Cook’s reasoning that “Extreme” global economic conditions explain the below par sales doesn’t really stack up. Mr Cook cited particularly weak sales from China and Hong Kong but Chinese consumer spending has been on the rise in 2015 despite a slowing overall economy. Everybody knows iPhone sales had to peak out at some point and because the iPhone 6s added little reason to upgrade over the 6, it’s happened now.