FTSE-100 rises despite rising talk of Boris Johnson undermining Brexit negotiations

Brexit takes over from Covid-19 on traders’ news agendas today after reports that the Government was planning to renege on parts of Boris Johnson’s EU withrdrawal agreement on Northern Ireland.

The Financial Times reported late last night that Johnson would this week be announcing legislation that would override key elements of last October’s deal, risking the collapse of Brexit talks and a No Deal exit.

State aid elements of the withdrawal agreement will also be scrapped, but the most contentious aspect is a move to undermine the Northern Ireland agreement Johnson signed to avoid a return to a hard border in the region, the FT said.

The report came as Johnson reportedly said if a free trade deal with the EU is not done by 15 October, the government would just settle for basic World Trade Organisation terms. Expect a volatile pound today.

The shape of our exit from the EU is one of the key factors affecting sentiment to UK shares and has led to the FTSE-100 and other British indices carrying a discount to other nation’s companies, so UK stocks may have a tricky few days as the Brexit newsflow proceeds.

Despite that, the FTSE-100 rose 59 points to 6858.28 amid a general European rebound from the previous weak sessions.

Thursday and Friday had seen big sell-offs in US tech stocks which spilled over into falls in Europe.

Today’s Brexit worries may be outweighed by strong data from China showing exports up stronger than expected, suggesting the world’s economy was bouncing back strongly from its Covid shutdowns. Economists cautioned that the figures come with a health warning, however, as much of the export bump will have been due to sales of PPE rather than underlying strength in demand from China’s clients.

Meanwhile, Chinese imports remained weak, showing internal demand is wobbly at best.

Shares may make some moves in companies reporting results and trading updates this week as investors try to second guess their fortunes.

Fevertree, the tonics maker, is a big retail punter’s stock. It has figures out tomorrow with analysts at Numis looking for half-year revenues of £104 million and underlying profits of £29.6 million. Those profits would be down nearly 20% on last year’s for obvious reasons, with the most of the world’s bars having been closed for months on end.

Investors will be keen to hear how sales have picked up since then, and also how successful Fevertree has been in finding new sources of revenue.

Tomorrow also sees JD Sports, Ashtead and DS Smith come up with half-year numbers on what will be a busy session.

Later in the week we have figures in from Wm Morrison supermarkets, which are likely to show a hefty fall in half-year profits due to the costs of getting stores geared up for Covid-19 compliance and hiring thousands of new staff to cope with demand. Sales on a like-for-like basis should be strong, however, approaching 10% in the second quarter.

Traders will not only be looking at corporate earnings this week, though. Economics news will also dominate trading as Thursday sees the key UK GDP data for July.

Having crashed in the second quarter of the year by more than a fifth, the recovery began to kick in in May, at 2.4% growth, followed by June’s 8.7%. Thursday’s July figure is tipped by economists to come in at around 9.8% growth.