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What to Watch: Trade in the spotlight, UK economy slowing, stocks in recovery mode

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK
European stock markets were jumping in morning trading. Photo: Christophe Morin/Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:  

Trade in the spotlight

The UK is set to sign an agreement with Switzerland on Monday to continue trading on preferential terms after Brexit, protecting a trade relationship worth £32bn ($41.4bn).

The UK has signed similar deals to continue its current trading terms with Chile, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Zimbabwe, and the tiny Faroe Islands. These deals have been completed over the past few days as the UK scrambles to lock in current trade deals before the Brexit deadline of 29 March.

The UK risks losing its free trade deals with dozens of other countries around the world after Brexit — including Japan, South Korea, and Canada — since it would no longer be part of trade agreements arranged by the European Union.

Also on Monday, the economy minister for the United Arab Emirates said Britain had approached the UAE and other Gulf countries about a possible post-Brexit trade pact. Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri said Britain had approached members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Trade is also on the agenda in the United States and China.

China struck an upbeat note as trade talks resumed with the US on Monday, but also expressed anger about a US Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea, casting a shadow over the prospect for improved ties between them.

UK economy slowing down

Britain’s economy slowed in the final three months of last year, pushing growth in 2018 to its weakest since the global financial crisis, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on Monday.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the final quarter of 2018 fell to a quarterly rate of 0.2% from 0.6% in the previous quarter. This was in line with forecasts from most economists who have warned that Brexit uncertainties would hurt business sentiment and investment. 

Looking at 2018 as a whole, GDP growth slowed to 1.4%, the weakest level since 2009.

The Bank of England predicted last week that Britain’s economy would grow by just 1.2% this year and 1.5% in 2020. Back in November, the central bank forecast that the economy would grow by 1.7% each year.

Stock market overview

European stock markets were in recovery mode on Monday, rallying after a string of declines at the end of last week. Most of the major European indices rose by 1% on Monday morning.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was buoyed by strength in global oil and mining companies.

In Asia, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) surged by 1.4% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng index (^HSI) was up by 0.6%.

US stock futures were also riding the market momentum, indicating that the S&P 500 (ES=F), Dow Jones industrial average (YM=F), and Nasdaq (NQ=F) would all rise after the opening bell.

With files from Reuters