What to watch: HSBC cost-cutting plan, Apple dents markets, UK employment

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
HSBC aims to cut annual costs by $4.5bn (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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

HSBC to axe 35,000 jobs as profit slumps

HSBC (HSBA.L) on Monday announced a sweeping restructure alongside worse-than-expected annual results.

The Hong Kong-British lender said it would axe 35,000 jobs around the globe as it aims to cut annual costs by $4.5bn (£3.4bn) over the next two years.

“We would expect our headcount to decrease from the current level of 235,000 to be closer to 200,000 by 2022,” interim chief executive Noel Quinn told journalists on a call.

HSBC’s chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson said there would be “meaningful” job cuts in the UK but wouldn’t give a figure.

Quinn said HSBC would try to manage the cuts by not replacing staff who leave. He said the “natural attrition” of staff was around 25,000 each year and promised HSBC would manage layoffs in a “sensitive and appropriate manner”.

Restructure plans include shrinking HSBC’s European and US investment banking operations, merging its private banking, retail banking, and wealth management divisions, and merging back office functions.

Global stocks sink as Apple warns of coronavirus impact

Stocks broadly fell on Tuesday after Apple (APPL) warned that the impact of coronavirus would cause it to miss sales targets and constrain the supply of its flagship iPhone devices.

The company said on Monday that it did not expect to meet its second-quarter revenue guidance, pointing to supply chain issues and lower Chinese demand.

China is major market for Apple, and also forms a crucial part of its supply chain.

While China’s SSE Composite Index (^SSEC) was on the level, the Hang Seng (^HSI) fell by more than 1.5% in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Japan’s Topix (1475.T) closed at near four-month lows, while the Nikkei (^N225) was down by 1.4%.

Stocks in Europe also declined. The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) was down by more than 0.5%, reversing Monday’s gains.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell by around 0.4% in London. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by 0.6%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) fell by 0.5%.

Record number of Brits in work

The number of people in work in the UK has hit a new record high, official figures show.

But the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also shows a record number and proportion of UK workers are in insecure jobs on zero-hour contracts.

Britain has seen a jobs boom in recent years, breaking several records despite Brexit uncertainty, sluggish growth and low levels of investment and productivity. More than 32.9 million people are now in work.

The employment rate reached a record 76.5% between October and December, up 0.6 percentage points in the past year. The unemployment rate remained steady at 3.8%, while the number of people defined as economically ‘inactive’ also hit a record low of 20.5%.

But official figures show an estimated 974,000 people, some 3% of all people in work in Britain, earn their main income from a job with no guaranteed hours. It marked an increase of 130,000 workers in a year.

German economy minister warns against delays to Tesla plant

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economics minister, has warned against delays to the construction of Tesla’s (TSLA) new Gigafactory near Berlin.

In an interview with the Funke Media Group on Tuesday, Altmaier said that the electric-car plant was “of great importance for more climate protection.” He added that it was one of the most important industrial developments planned for eastern Germany in a long time.

The electric-car factory will be constructed in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, on a 300-hectare (741-acre) site. It is expected to create up to 12,000 new jobs.

Tesla’s construction plans ground to a halt on Saturday when a court ordered a temporary ban on felling trees to clear the site.

The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg issued the injunction after environmental organisation Green League filed an emergency appeal. Work had already begun on Thursday last week to clear over 90 hectares of forest for the Tesla site.

What to expect in the US

Futures are pointing to a lower open for US stocks.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) are down by 0.44% and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) are down by 0.51%. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) are down by 0.8%.

Companies reporting later on Tuesday in the US include:

  • Groupon (GRPN)

  • Herbalife Nutrition (HLF)

  • Walmart (WMT)