1 August 2019

Tom Gillingham

1 August 2019

Good morning,

Welcome to the silly season. The bulk of August is a time when, despite not generally embarking on a Parisian-style mass flight from the big smoke, journalists who remain at their desks seem to loosen their collars and allow frivolous stories to top their news lists.
 
Of course, we’re not the only ones to experience slimmer papers and a slowdown in ‘hard news’ at this time of year. In the Netherlands, journalists describe this period as ‘cucumber time’, and equivalent phrases exist in Hebrew, Icelandic, Danish, Czech and Slovene.
 
Spare a thought, though, for the French, who endure the far less fun-sounding la morte-saison (the dead season) or perhaps the Swedes, who face nyhetstorka (news drought).
 
Back in Britain, cooling temperatures haven’t prevented some vintage silly season content adorning the country’s news pages in recent days.
 
You can almost hear the newsroom conversations*. Controversy about the introduction of video refereeing to jousting? Sure, that’ll do nicely. A dolphin adopts baby whale? Great, stick that in. Hang on, that whale story needs some balance - how about this one about a humpback whale swallowing a sea lion? Perfect.  
 
For those trying to place a wobbly PR story that might not otherwise make it past a gruff news editor, the month of August provides a golden opportunity for fluff - comparable to the fallow news week between Christmas and New Year.
 
It’s easy to be cynical about this sort of ‘news’ but perhaps it’s best to enjoy it while it lasts. Come September, we might well look back wistfully at the halcyon summer days, when video-based jousting decisions were amongst the biggest stories of the moment.
 
*Disclaimer: This almost definitely isn’t how journalists talk in news conferences. In fact, I’ve accidentally made them sound a bit like Dean Gallagher. Sorry, journalists.

News

The government has announced an extra £2.1bn for no-deal Brexit planning. The additional funds will be put towards more border force officers and upgrades to key pieces of transport infrastructure.
 
As protests continue in Hong Kong, the head of the Chinese army in the autonomous territory has commented on the unrest for the first time. He said the unrest has “seriously threatened the life and safety” of people and should not be tolerated.
 
A future trade deal between the UK and US would likely be blocked by the Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border. Congressional leaders and diplomats have warned that they will not support something that jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland.

Business & Economy 

Around 4,000 British Airways pilots could go on strike later this month (£), causing misery for passengers at the height of the holiday season. Crunch talks are expected today after the British Airline Pilots Association rejected above-inflation pay increases of up to £20,000.
 
The UK may become the next developed economy to embrace zero yields on two-year gilts, according to Colombia Threadneedle Investments, which oversees the equivalent of $468 billion. This assessment is based on the assumption that the Bank of England will need to cut borrowing costs to support an economy on the brink of recession.

Banking start up Revolut has launched a commission-free stock trading service for US stocks (£). In a move that is seen as a challenge to major trading platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown, it also differentiates the company from other challengers like Monzo.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks suffered moderate losses amid mixed reports from the ongoing trade talks between the US and China in Shanghai, and ahead of key interest rate decisions by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.
 
It was a particularly tough day for London-listed luxury carmaker Aston Martin Lagonda. Its share price fell to a new low after its interim results were worse than a profit warning last week suggested, with the company’s net debt also having jumped to 4.7 times operating earnings, from 2.3 times at the 2018 year end.
 
By the end of trading, the FTSE 100 was down by 0.78% to 7,586.78, while the pound regained 0.75% of its value versus the euro, trading at 1.10.
 
In the US, the Fed’s decision to cut interest rates by 0.25% during trading yesterday meant that the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 1.23% at 26,864.27. The S&P 500 also slumped by 1.09% to 2,980.38, and the Nasdaq 100 fell 1.3% to 7,848.78.

What's happening today?

Finals
Renishaw
 
Interims
Barclays           
British American Tobacco
Coats
ConvaTec
Dairy Farm Intl
Eurocell            ECEL
F.b.d.hldgs
Hong Kong Land Holdings Ld
Intertek Group
London Stock Exchange
Mandarin In.sg
Merlin Entertainments
Mondi
Rio Tinto
Royal Dutch
RPS Group
RSA Insurance
Schroders
Spirent
Standard Chartered
UK Commercial Property Trust
Vivo Energy

AGMs
7digital
Afritin Mining
Baillie Gifford
 
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) PMI Manufacturing
(12:00) BoE Interest Rate Decision
 
Intl. Economic Announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in the Guardian, Aditya Chakrabotty says that Labour is running the risk of a wipeout if it doesn’t wake up to the threat posed by Boris Johnson. His piece suggests that for the first time in years a Tory leader has a “clear strategy and an open checkbook’.
 
Offering an opposing view, Kevin Schofield wonders why Boris Johnson’s handlers are hiding him away in his piece for Politics Home. He alludes to the extraordinary spectacle of the prime minister leaving the Scottish first minister’s official residence by the back door, and suggests that there might be concerns amongst the PM’s team about what might come out of his mouth if he’s given a longer leash. He concludes by referencing the Conservative’s 10-point lead in one poll, and posits that the press team may need to just “let Boris be Boris”.

Did you know?

In an October 1861 diary entry, Charles Darwin wrote: “I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything.”

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
In recess until 3rd September
 
House of Lords
In recess until 3rd September
 
Scottish Parliament
In recess until 2nd September.