I’m feeling a bit down on my luck this morning. Having exhausted myself trying to find something to write about that’s not Brexit, I’ve just put spoiled milk in my lovely cuppa. Back to the kettle for me to hold my face precariously above the steam for warmth (and an ad-lib facial).
In Japan, however, people are feeling much more optimistic. Thousands have taken to department stores across the country to buy Fukubukuro – or lucky bags – which have become a staple of the Japanese new year. A variation on a lucky dip, the bags are filled with old stock at discount prices and have rapidly become an annual craze as customers vie for the best haul.
Perhaps some of Britain’s troubled retail outlets could learn a thing or two from the phenomenon. New data from KPMG shows that Britain’s retailers suffered their worst Christmas trading period since the depths of the financial crisis.
Yesterday, Sainsbury’s posted disappointing Christmas sales figures, reporting a 1.1% drop in the five weeks to January. They blamed cautious shoppers for the decline.
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com, had expected a more positive outlook given the demise of Toys R Us, a major competitor for its Argos franchise. He also warned that the retailer is “putting all its eggs in one basket with the planned Asda merger, but if that fails where does it leave the business?”
Today is Super Thursday, one of the biggest retail reporting days of the year, which will hopefully deliver a bit more insight into the winners and washouts when it comes to selling Christmas stash.
John Lewis, Joules, and Selfridges have already recorded encouraging sales figures, with Tesco joining them this morning in posting a 2.6% rise in like-for-like sales for the UK and Ireland over the Christmas period.
Back in the land of the rising sun, shoppers are in for another treat. Japan announced yesterday that it was going to lift a 23-year ban on British beef and lamb, coinciding happily with prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the UK.
A much more contentious decision was revealed by Japan before Christmas, of course, with the news that it would resume commercial whaling, to the horror of environmentalists and others.
So, I’ve got my fingers crossed for Britain’s retailers this morning – let’s hope they have a better 2019 than Japan’s whales inevitably will.
Tory Remainer rebels have united with Labour over Brexit following Theresa May’s defeat in the Commons yesterday. The prime minister will now have to produce a plan B within three days of Tuesday’s “meaningful vote”, which she is expected to lose. Speaker John Bercow outraged ministers yesterday when he overruled advice from officials to help the alliance of Tory rebels and Labour MPs inflict the defeat. (£)
Donald Trump has walked out of a shutdown meeting with top Democrats, calling it a “total waste of time”. Some Republicans have declared that they would support the reopening of government without funding, but Trump urged them to “stick together”. Meanwhile, House Democrats are planning to start passing individual spending bills to reopen some closed departments and ramp up pressure on the president.
A car has been recovered in London following the murder of Jayden Moodie, 14, who was stabbed “up to seven times” after a car collided with his moped. Scotland Yard officers have located a black Mercedes that they believe was involved in the crash, marking a “significant development” in the murder investigation.
Business & Economy
Jaguar Land Rover will announce today that it is cutting up to 5,000 jobs from its 40,000 strong UK workforce. Management, marketing and administrative roles are expected to bear the brunt of layoffs, but some production staff may also be affected. The decision comes as part of a £2.5 billion cost-cutting plan, amid what industry insiders have referred to as a “perfect storm” of Brexit uncertainty, a downturn in Chinese sales and a slump in diesel sales.
The US risks losing its gold-plated credit rating later this year due to rising debt prompted by president Trump’s tax cuts and the government shutdown. According to ratings agency Fitch, the measures have cost an estimated $1.5 trillion, raising the risk that the government will default on its debt this year. (£)
Dockless bike-sharing start-up Ofo is preparing for bankruptcy or acquisition, after shutting its overseas department. Bikes have been rounded up across the UK and secured in depots to ensure they’re “in good order” in case the business shuts. In London there are now fewer than 10 bikes showing as available for hire on its app.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE closed up 0.7% yesterday as part of an upward global trend which saw stocks buoyed by the optimism surrounding trade talks between the US and China.
Sainsbury’s was a market winner, with shares up 2.1% despite announcing falling sales. Taylor Wimpey was also a success story and shares climbed 6.5% following a positive trading update.
Oil prices were bolstered by the positive trade talks, with Brent crude reaching over $60 a barrel for the first time in three weeks.
It was a bad day for the dollar: it dropped to its lowest level in nearly three months against a number of currencies following cautious comments from Federal Reserve officials which added to the uncertainty surrounding the future of US monetary policy. The pound was up 0.59% at $1.27.
Meanwhile the euro was strong despite recent speculation that the eurozone economy was faltering, and the pound settled down 0.3% at €1.10.
B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI)
Marks & Spencer Group
Hilton Food Group
Premier Asset Management Group
Unicorn AIM VCT
Baring Emerging Europe
UK Economic Announcements
RICS Housing Market Survey
Int. Economic Announcements
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Wholesales Inventories (US)
(15:00) New Homes Sales (US)
Columns of Note
According to Roger Boyes, Syria is back in business. Writing in The Times he notes that tyrant leader Bashar al-Assad is secure in power; the US military is withdrawing, and the regime propped up by the Kremlin and Tehran is poised to survive. Now China is sniffing around, anticipating huge business in the rebuilding of cities that have been ravaged by war. And as Assad begins his rebrand, opening Arab embassies and reconstructing homes, there is little doubt that Iran will be eagerly eyeing up Saudi’s role as hegemon in the region.
Sam Gyimah writes in The Spectator this week that Britain is on the brink of the greatest political and constitutional emergency that we’ve ever seen in peacetime – and it’s self-inflicted. When Theresa May’s deal is – inevitably – voted down next week, he argues that the government should hold another referendum. He asks: “How can we be frightened of asking a more informed question?”
Did you know?
A study published in the BMJ before Christmas proved that parachutes are useless. However, the airplane used to conduct the study was both on the ground and stationary, which explains the fact that a normal rucksack performed just as effectively as a parachute in the circumstances. The spoof paper makes the researchers' larger point - beware of misleading headlines.
House of Commons
Transport (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House
Section 13(1)b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 - continued
House of Lords
Ensuring new properties are designed to avoid the occurrence of accidents in the home - Lord Jordan
Time required for parliamentary consideration of statutory instruments arising from the UK's withdrawal from the EU - Lord Beith
Violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and
religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech - Lord Alton of Liverpool
Impact of benefit reforms on families with children - The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
Further debate, for the purposes of section 13(1)(c) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, taking note of the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship (day 2 of 3) - Lord Callanan
First Minister's Questions
Implications of the white paper on immigration and the population of Scotland
Scottish Government debate: Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland
House of Commons
Section 13(1)b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 – the House may meet to continue this Debate is the Business Motion is approved
Route for the Oxford Cambridge Expressway – Subject to the agreement of the House – Layla Moran
House of Lords
No business scheduled.
No business scheduled.