11 April 2019

Stuart Taylor

11 April 2019

Good morning,
 
If you read yesterday’s briefing you will be aware of a promise that today’s instalment will be a lighter affair. While the author’s intention in making that promise was admirable, it is easier said – or written - than done.
 
The truth is there is much to be unhappy about – the diminishing profile of the UK high street as we know it, the news that traffic pollution here is the worst in Europe and the seemingly never-ending Brexit.
 
But there is room for optimism and hope. A team of astronomers across the world, using eight different telescopes, has published the first picture of a black hole – at 3.3 million times the size of the Earth and 300 million trillion kilometres from earth, one of the scientists responsible for this remarkable image says that “everything that passes through this region will never, ever be able to come back”, and talks with a brilliant sense of wonder about what else we can learn from this image and what it all means for the rest of the universe.
 
Back on Earth, we learn that researchers are working with a revolutionary gene editing tool that takes cancer cells apart piece-by-piece to reveal their weaknesses. If successful, the work could revolutionise cancer treatments, allowing researchers to target 600 new cancer vulnerabilities with more targeted and cost-effective drugs.
 
So pioneering science has allowed us to fulfil the promise of a lighter read, but I suppose we should nod in the direction of Brussels.
 
Late last night – too late for many of the first editions of the newspapers - Theresa May agreed a further delay to our departure time from the EU. It will now be a Halloween leaving date – just the latest in a long line of ‘you couldn’t make it up’ moments. The extension will be in place "only as long as necessary", but as things stand, European elections will take place in May, creating more turbulence for an already beleaguered prime minister, perhaps looking longingly through the telescope at that black hole.

News

Australia will go to the polls on May 18 after the country’s prime minister called a general election. The election is expected to be keenly contested as voters decide whether Scott Morrison’s conservative government wins a third term or is replaced by a Labor administration led by Bill Shorten.
 
Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to form new right-wing coalition after the election threw up a clear route for him to secure a record fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. He is expected to make legislation giving a serving prime minister immunity from prosecution his first priority back in office, though this idea has been given short shrift by some of his coalition partners. (£)

Business & Economy

Troubled retailer Ted Baker has announced the appointment of Lindsay Page as chief executive. Page has been acting chief executive since December last year after he replaced the company's founder, Ray Kelvin, who stepped down from the position following allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
 
The American private equity firm that went into partnership with Sir Philip Green to help expand Topshop in the US has sold its 25% stake back to Arcadia. The decision by Leonard Green & Partners to sell its 25% stake that it purchased in 2012 comes as the Arcadia retail empire prepares to undergo a major restructure. (£)
 
US airline JetBlue has announced that it will launch its first transatlantic services in 2021 in what will be its first foray into the European market. The 20-year-old company will establish flights from New York and Boston to London, though has yet to decide on what London airport it will choose.

Official figures published yesterday showed the UK economy grew by 0.2% in February, better than the zero growth rate forecast by economists. The manufacturing sector contributed to about half of overall growth, with a rise in stockpiling activity playing a significant part in the increase. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The release of economic data from the UK, US and ECB policy did little to move the FTSE 100 yesterday, as the index ended the day flat. London’s blue-chip index closed down 0.05% at 7,421.91, with Brexit looming large on the minds of investors.
 
The day’s big winner was Tesco, with the retailer announcing a rise in profits of 28% despite CEO Dave Lewis describing the market as “uncertain”. A rise in the dividend to 5.77p a share from 3p went down well with shareholders and this was reflected in the share price at the day’s close, closing up 3.59% at 242.30 to end the day top of the index’s leaderboard. Severn Trent also saw its share price go up, increasing 1.92% to 1,967.00.
 
The FTSE 250 was up 0.3% to 19,484.84, with more than half of the gains coming from security company G4S, which surged on M&A chatter. It was a different story for Indivior, with the pharmaceutical company seeing shares plummet by a mammoth 71.64% to close at 30.05p following news that a federal grand jury in Virginia issued an indictment on Tuesday night, which included 28 charges, including healthcare fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud.
 
On the currency markets, sterling was up 0.25% against the dollar to $1.3092, and rose 0.14% against the euro at €1.1611.

Finals
Corero Network Security
Hvivo
Trackwise Designs
 
Interims
WH Smith
 
Trading Announcements
Man Group

UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)

Columns of Note

The FT’s Janan Ganesh takes a cynical look at Donald Trump’s motives for starting – and subsequently descaling – a trade war with China. Ganesh says that an agreement between the two superpowers being close is convenient for a president who will enjoy the economic boon that a truce will bring, just 18 months away from the next election. He also writes that behind Trump’s belligerent style, the president holds no deep philosophical grievance towards China and only sees the relationship as a transactional one. (£)
 
'It's the economy, stupid' was coined by Bill Clinton's election strategist, James Carville, in 1992 to emphasise the single most important issue to voters in the election and this is a sentiment adopted by Martha Gill in The Times as she advises the Conservatives on the best route to win over young voters. Gill says that the party must become more vague when delivering cultural messages and instead focus on their economic message. (£)

Did you know?

Salt has played such an important part throughout human history that the word ‘salary’ derives from the Latin word salārium, referring to money given to soldiers so that they could buy salt.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY 

House of Commons
Oral questions
Digital, culture, media and sport (including Topical Questions)
 
Attorney General
 
Business statement
Business questions to the leader of the house – Andrea Leadsom
 
Backbench business
General debate on the definition of Islamophobia – Wes Streeting, Anna Soubry
 
Introduction of the 2019 Loan Charge (resumed debate) – Ross Thomson, Sir Edward Davey, Ruth Cadbury, Dr David Drew, Anna Turley, Caroline Lucas
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Purchasing Managers’ Index figure of 55.1 for the UK and the company performance in Germany – Lord Borwick
 
Encouraging local authorities to improve the provision of public conveniences to address health issues faced by taxi drivers – Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldirst
 
Great British Spring Clean and encouraging all Year 6 primary school children to assist in litter picking – Lord Robathan

Scottish Parliament

In recess until 22nd April 2019

TOMORROW

House of Commons

No business scheduled

House of Lords
No business scheduled