Market sentiment has been relatively pessimistic today, with the FTSE 100 down around 0.4% so far. It appears some of the relief experienced earlier this week with regards to Brexit negotiations has been tempered, with investors and traders now switching their focus to new challenges. The pound has given back some of its early-week gains, currently trading around $1.28 to the US dollar.
The European Union appears to have agreed to offer the UK an extension to the Brexit process, although they will wait to formally extend the offer until Monday, when Parliament votes on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a 12 December election.
A two-thirds supermajority is needed to trigger a general election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stated that he will not support the vote unless a no-deal exit on 31 October is eliminated as an option.
This has created a strange situation wherein the EU wants Parliament to vote on the election question before granting the extension, but parliamentarians want an extension before they vote on the election.
As impasses go, one would expect this one to be resolved quickly with a quick phone call between EU and UK party leaders, but who really knows at this stage?
Yesterday, I wrote that Royal Bank of Scotland’s third-quarter earnings results were hit by a £900m charge related to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI), which turned a would-be profit into an £8m loss.
Today, Barclays (LSE: BARC) posted third-quarter pretax profits of £400m for its UK division, shrugging off a £1.4bn PPI charge of its own. The banking giant’s stock initially traded up as high as 2.5%, although it is now sitting at 1% higher than the open.
Investor elation may have been tempered by the comments made by management. Chief executive officer Jes Staley acknowledged that the conditions in the UK economy were weighing on the bank’s performance, stating that economic and interest rate uncertainty were contributing to difficulties in meeting earnings targets.
Advertising behemoth WPP (LSE: WPP) was the biggest winner in the FTSE 100 today, with shares up more than 6% on the day due to a surprisingly good trading update. The group showed an unexpected growth in organic sales in the third quarter – 0.6% growth versus an expected decline of 0.7%.
This marks the first time that WPP has shown quarterly growth this year, which could explain the extremely positive market reaction.
These results are, to a certain extent, a vindication of chief executive officer Mark Read’s cost-cutting strategy. Read, who took over from Martin Sorrell last year, cautioned that the recovery would “not be a linear process” and that his expectations for 2019 remained unchanged: a 1.5% to 2% fall in overall revenues on a like-for-like basis. Still, today was undoubtedly a bright spot for shareholders.
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Stepan Lavrouk owns no shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.