What to watch: Heathrow passengers down 82%, BA chief leaves, Bank eyes negative rates

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·4-min read
Passengers at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5, after people returning from Spain were told they must quarantine when they return home.
Heathrow passenger numbers were down 82% in September. Photo: PA

Here are the latest top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Heathrow passenger numbers down 82% in September

The CEO of Heathrow has warned UK government must “act quickly to save millions of jobs,” as the airport said its passenger numbers were down 82% in September versus the previous year.

The airport said traffic declined in September, with just over 1.2 million passengers mostly travelling between Britain and Europe in countries on the government’s travel corridor list.

Heathrow said in a statement on Monday: “The number of countries on this list has steadily declined since its launch, with 61 countries now requiring a 14-day quarantine period.

“Long-haul business travel, which is vital for the UK’s economic recovery, continues to be restricted by international border closures and a lack of testing.”

CEO John Holland-Kaye called for Britain to implement a new “test and release” system limiting quarantine to five days.

Most airline stocks were trading lower on Monday. Ryanair (RYA.L) was down 0.7%, while EasyJet (EZJ.L) was down 1.5%

British Airways chief suddenly steps down

IAG stocks (IAG.L) were also down 0.8% as it was announced British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz had quit with immediate effect, to be replaced by Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.

BA and Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group (IAG.L) head Luis Gallego said the decision came as the company faced "the worst crisis in our industry."

This is Gallego’s first announcement since taking over from Willie Walsh.

He said Cruz had "worked tirelessly to modernise the airline" and that he had "led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.

Bank of England asks banks how ready they are for negative interest rates

Watch: BOE asks banks if they’re ready for negative rates

The Bank of England (BoE) has written to leading UK banks, asking them how ready they are for zero or negative interest rates.

In a letter published online, deputy Bank governor Sam Woods said the central bank is “requesting specific information about your firm’s current readiness to deal with a zero Bank Rate, a negative Bank Rate, or a tiered system of reserves remuneration – and the steps that you would need to take to prepare for the implementation of these."

On 18 September, speculation mounted that the central bank could take interest rates into negative territory for the first time in history next year if the UK economy weakens further.

At the start of the month, governor Andrew Bailey said that negative interest rates were “in the box of tools” but said the Bank had “no plans to use it imminently.”

“The Bank of England is laying the groundwork for a descent into negative interest rates. This should worry us all,” wrote Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.

“It looks as though there are some clear ideological disputes among rate setters that needs to be worked out over the autumn, implying as Andrew Bailey suggested last week that negative rates are not likely on the near horizon, albeit they are being considered actively.

“The problem for the Bank would be an unemployment crisis into Christmas that could put pressure on the MPC to act.”

Stocks rise on China's economic recovery and reforms

European markets edged higher on Monday, after Chinese stocks rallied on fresh signs of strong economic recovery and market reforms.

The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) rose 0.2% on the open to its highest level in almost a month, despite its troubles getting a grip on the coronavirus.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) also rose 0.2% and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was trading 0.3% higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) lost 0.2%, with concerns over tighter economic restrictions looming in parts of the country.

It followed gains in much of Asian in trading overnight.

“Equity markets in the region have... started the week on the front foot with the Shanghai Composite (^SSEC) leading the gains partly on the back of news that Chinese President Xi could unveil plans to further open parts of the economy to foreign investment,” noted Deutsche Bank analysts in a note.

READ MORE: UK services sector recovery slows as restrictions reintroduced

Stocks were trading 2.6% higher in Shanghai. China’s government is exploring ways for institutional investors to attract more mid and long-term funds, according to Reuters.

The most recent data also shows sustained growth in China’s services sector, a rebound in tourism and limited COVID-19 cases while other regions struggle with a resurgent virus.

The Hang Seng (^HSI) in Hong Kong rose 2.2%, and the Kospi (^KS11) in South Korea rose 0.5%, but Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) shed 0.3%.

Watch: Biggest gains in three months for Chinese stocks

What to expect in the US

US markets looked set to rise on the open. S&P 500 (ES=F) futures rose 0.2%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were flat, and Nasdaq (NQ=F) were up 0.4% as European markets opened.