11 January


11 January

Good morning,

They may sound like a poorly-named comedy duo, but Davis & Hammond’s trade offensive in Germany yesterday might actually have done the trick.
The Brexit secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer – a pairing not known for their shared views on Brexit-related matters – travelled to Germany to speak with business leaders, urging both sides to think creatively about ways that Britain’s trading relationship with the EU might be protected once it leaves the bloc in 2019.
And perhaps some good news; The Times this morning reports that Britain’s financial services industry could be granted special status to continue trading on the continent after Brexit  in return for “substantial” and “continuing” payments from Britain to the EU budget.
Caution is warranted. Both Michel Barnier, chief Brexit negotiator for the EU, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have warned Britain against “cherry-picking”, preferring instead an off-the-shelf post-Brexit model akin to the EU’s relationship with Norway or Canada. Convincing these two would be a rather more impressive second act for Davis & Hammond.
Mrs Merkel, however, hasn’t been short of issues to entertain herself with of late.
Following four days of coalition talks in the wake of September’s indecisive election result, the German chancellor’s conservative Christian democrats are said to be closing in on a deal with their former governing partner, the centre-left Social Democratic Party. Party insiders put the chances of a deal at around 70 per cent with apparent progress made on issues including greater skilled immigration and a 40 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.
This is most certainly last-chance saloon for the beleaguered chancellor. Since the election, attention in the German media has shifted from Mrs Merkel’s 12-year record in office to her faltering popularity as leader.
And in a cruel twist of fate, Davis & Hammond might be the ones to suffer if she doesn’t play her cards right. Fresh elections or a new leader at the helm in Germany would give the pair a Brexit headache of new magnitudes to deal with.


An armed gang has stolen jewellery worth an estimated €4.5 million from the Ritz Hotel in Paris, using an axe to smash into display cases. Five men entered the hotel at around 6.30pm on Wednesday evening, with three eventually arrested by police patrolling outside who used stun guns to immobilise them. Two others escaped on motorcycles and were still on the run last night.
Supermarket aisles should be free of plastic packaging by 2040, the prime minister is expected to announce today. In a speech in London setting out the government’s new 25-year environment plan, Theresa May will pledge action against the use of unnecessary plastic packaging, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables. The government will call for evidence next month on how taxes or charges could discourage the use of single-use plastic such as takeaway containers.
President Trump has said that the US could “conceivably” return to the 2015 Paris climate accord if a new deal was made fairer to America. The president announced last June that the US would be the first and, in effect, the only country to pull out from the agreement, suggesting it would cost the US $3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million jobs. French president Emmanuel Macron has said he would not agree to a renegotiation.
Exiled leader, Carles Puigdemont, could be sworn in remotely as the Catalan president after pro-independence parties agreed him as their preferred candidate yesterday. The pro-independence parties now hold a majority in the assembly following regional elections in December, and could be addressed via videolink by Mr Puigdemont, who is currently in self-imposed exile in Belgium and risks arrest should he return to Spain.


Business & Economy

Trading results at Tesco, M&S and John Lewis have shown a tough Christmas trading period for the nation’s largest retailers, with M&S reporting a fall in both food and clothing sales. Tesco saw like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% in the 13 weeks to the end of 2017, boosted by strong growth of 3.4% in its foods business, whilst John Lewis saw a 2.5% increase and its best Black Friday sales on record. Sales at M&S fell by 1.4%, with food down by 0.4% and clothing by 2.8%.
The manufacturing sector is now growing at its fastest pace in seven years according to new research from the Office for National Statistics. Factories grew by an annualised rate of 3.9% in the three months to November, the biggest rise since March 2011. Economists attribute the growth to the lower value of the pound and believe the boost will mean a much higher than expected GDP in 2017 of around two per cent.
Deloitte is to divert part of its British output into legal services, seeking formal recognition as a law firm. The move will mean that all of the Big Four accounting firms will be licensed as law firms in England and Wales, after PWC, EY and KPMG were approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2014.
Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are to be banned in South Korea following new legislation to be introduced this month. This would be the first country where virtual currencies are outlawed, and has led to a fall in the value of Bitcoin in early Asian trading. Several Seoul cryptocurrency exchanges have also been raided this week in a probe into alleged tax evasions. 


What happened yesterday?
Boosted by buoyant banking stocks rising on the back of higher bond yields, the FTSE 100 squeezed to another record high yesterday, closing 0.23% higher at 7,748.51.
Royal Bank of Scotland (up 4.5%) was at the top of the leader board following a surprise upgrade and note from Morgan Stanley that the majority government-owned bank had cleaned itself up ahead of the chancellor’s proposed sale process from March 2019 onwards. Close behind were both HSBC Holdings (up 3.7%) and Standard Chartered (up 3.2%) which both benefited from optimistic outlooks and the rise in bond yields.
Yesterday’s big loser was the housing sector including Taylor Wimpey which, hit by market jitters over the health of the new-build housing market, fell four per cent. Rivals Persimmon and Barratt Developments were also affected, dropping 2.3% and 1.65% respectively.
On a day when the dollar otherwise slid against other currencies, the pound was the exception, down at $1.35 and also against the euro at €1.13.


Trading Announcements
AO World
Barratt Developments
Booker Group
Hilton Food Group
Jupiter Fund Management
Marks & Spencer Group
Premier Oil
Rathbone Brothers

Domino’s Pizza Group

European Investment Trust
MySquar Limited (DI)
Unicorn AIM VCT

International Economic Announcements
(10.00) Industrial Production (EU)
(13.30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13.30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13.30) Producer Prize Index (US)


Columns of note

Commenting on the leak of EU warnings of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, Joanthan Lis writes in The Guardian that David Davis’ complaints in response are just the latest example of “cakeism”; a persistence of the government’s “have-its-cake-and-eat-it” attitude towards Brexit. Lis suggests the government face up to some home truths – that we will not leave without a deal and that the EU holds all the cards – lest it risk further loss of face.
Writing in the FT, Philip Stephens comments that Angela Merkel’s struggles to create a majority government in Germany have allowed French president Emmanuel Macron to take the helm in guiding the EU’s agenda. Although Macron faces a struggle to push through his domestic reform agenda, Stephens predicts the president’s indomitable optimism will see him home dry.

Did you know?

Ricardo Abad of Tafalla, Spain, holds the word record for consecutive marathons run on consecutive days, totalling 607. He completed these marathons whilst also working eight hours a day in a factory, and due to evening shift work, Abad sometimes completed two full marathons in a single day, one in the morning and one at night. Abad also raised one euro for each of the 21,000 kilometres he ran, abandoning his marathon-a-day project in May 2012 after failing to secure further funding.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)
Business Statement
Business questions to the Leader of the House – Andrea Leadsom
Backbench Business
Debate on a motion relating to Defence – Vernon Coaker
Plumbers’ pension scheme – Kirstene Hair
House of Lords
Oral questions
UK’s decision to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention of 1962 – Lord Hannay of Chiswick
Impact of additional funding to the NHS to prepare for winter – Baroness Thornton
Ensuring UK food safety standards are not undermined by the import of poorer quality food produced to lower animal welfare standards from the US – Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Performance of the UK’s major housebuilders – Lord Best
Role played by social media and online platforms as news and content publishers – Baroness Kidron
Short Debate
China’s ban on imports of plastic and other waste – Lord Greaves
Protecting the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq – the Lord Bishop of Coventry
Scottish Parliament
General Questions
First Questions
Members' Business
Carer Positive Employer Initiative – Tom Arthur
Scottish Government Debate
Developing the Young Workforce: Review of Progress at the Midpoint of the Seven-year Programme
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
No business scheduled
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled