Whilst most of the attention in US political circles is on next month’s mid-term elections, at least one person appears to be taking a slightly longer-term view – Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the financial information and news company which bears his name, and former mayor of New York City.
Yesterday, Bloomberg re-registered as a Democrat, prompting speculation, from his own organisation amongst others, that he is preparing to run for the presidency in 2020.
In an Instagram post, he wrote: “At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats.
“Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat – I had been a member for most of my life – because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.”
Of course, this is by no means confirmation of anything. However, running for president is an idea Bloomberg has repeatedly flirted with in the past. And, with no clear Democrat front runner (Hillary Clinton was widely regarded to be the candidate in waiting at this point in the cycle four years ago) Bloomberg may fancy his chances of securing the nomination and leading the fight against President Trump, who he has repeatedly criticised.
Bloomberg actually has several things in common with his potential opponent; both are New Yorkers, both are billionaires, and both used the Republican Party as a vehicle to elected office (Bloomberg won the mayoralty as a Republican in 2001 before becoming an independent).
However, that is where the similarities cease. Most would describe Bloomberg as a liberal. He’s pro-choice, supports same-sex marriage, favours gun control measures, is an environmentalist and is an advocate for offering amnesty to illegal immigrants currently in the US.
He has already pledged $80 million to support Democrat candidates in the mid-terms and, as one former staffer told the Financial Times: “That’s a hell of a lot of IOUs”.
Whether the timing is right for another billionaire executive candidate remains to be seen, especially at a time when progressive voters have flocked to Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
However, as the world’s 11th richest man, with an estimated net worth of $51.8 billion, Bloomberg certainly has the war chest to put himself in the mix.
A Brexit deal is reported to be close after Theresa May accepted a proposal to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU until a trade deal can be agreed, with no fixed end date. The prime minister briefed the plans to senior cabinet colleagues yesterday, and is already facing a backlash, with three cabinet ministers thought to be considering resignation. Furthermore, DUP leader Arlene Foster has reiterated her party’s disquiet, saying that May cannot “in good conscience” recommend a deal that places trade barriers between Northern Ireland the rest of the UK.
The government is coming under pressure to increase funding for universal credit after a report suggested 3.2 million households will lose more than £2,000 a year under the new system. Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, was yesterday forced to defend universal credit, which combines six current benefits into one monthly payment, but acknowledged that some people will be worse off. There is growing concern on the Tory backbenches about the rollout, with Iain Duncan Smith, the original architect of universal credit, urging Philip Hammond to find an extra £2 billion in funding for the scheme in the upcoming Budget.
Hurricane Michael has left “unimaginable destruction”, according to Rick Scott, governor of Florida. Six people in the US – four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina – have been confirmed dead after the hurricane, with winds of 155mph, made landfall on Wednesday. Now a tropical storm with reduced winds of 50mph, Michael has moved north-east crossing Georgia and is now closing in on Greensboro, North Carolina.
Heavy rains have caused a landslide in eastern Uganda which has killed at least 31 people, according to a government official. Martin Owor, the country’s commissioner for disaster preparedness and management, said that the landslide had hit the area surrounding Mt Elgon, wrecking homes and burying people and animals.
Business & Economy
The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has prompted Sir Richard Branson to halt discussions with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund about a proposed £1 billion investment in Virgin’s space companies, and suspend his membership of two Saudi tourism advisory boards. Saudi Arabia is coming under increasing pressure to explain the disappearance of Khashoggi, who vanished after visiting the country’s consulate in Istanbul last week. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, has told the BBC he is “concerned” about Khashoggi but that it would be “premature” to comment further at present.
Coast has become the latest high street casualty after going into administration – putting 300 jobs at risk. The collapse will result in the immediate closure of the female fashion retailer’s 24 stores. Karen Millen has bought some parts of Coast and about 600 staff will transfer over as part of the deal, however, the future of the remaining 300 workers is uncertain.
Motoring groups have criticised the government’s decision to cut grants for new electric and hybrid cars. Currently, buyers of category one cars – those meeting the toughest restrictions – can claim up to £4,500 towards the cost of the vehicle, whilst category two cars are eligible for grants of up to £2,500. The changes will result in the maximum grant for category one vehicles reduced to £3,500, with grants for the other two categories scrapped completely. The AA and RAC have warned that the move will make it more difficult to cut emissions.
What happened yesterday?
Global stocks fell further yesterday, with the markets heading toward their worst week in six months, as increasing concern surrounding US interest rates, trade tensions and rising bond yields prompted investors to sell equities.
All major indices ended Thursday down. In the US, the S&P 500 fell 2.06%, following on from losses earlier in the week – it’s longest losing streak of the Trump administration, with the president blaming the “out of control” US Federal Reserve for the downturn.
Here in the UK, the FTSE 100 dropped 1.94% and the FTSE 250 was down 2.14%. Hargreaves Lansdowne was one of the day’s biggest losers, shedding 5.01%, after it reported a sharp downturn in quarterly flows.
Aston Martin also performed poorly, hitting a fresh low after Jefferies – the first major bank to begin tracking the company – advised selling, criticising the decision not to raise new money in last week’s float. The share price was down 7.02% at the close of trading yesterday, meaning that the luxury car manufacturer has lost £900 million, or 21%, of its value since listing.
Amongst the stocks bucking the trend were miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources, which climbed 8.65% and 8.36% respectively. Meanwhile, Tesco was up 0.97% and Wm Morrison rose 0.67%.
On the currency markets, the pound was unchanged against both the euro and the dollar at €1.1412 and $1.3233.
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Columns of Note
In the Financial Times, Michael Mackenzie examines whether this week’s US stock market losses are merely a blip, or mark the end of the bull market. Whilst acknowledging that the bull market has “looked very long in the tooth for some time”, he expects momentum to resume as lower stock prices and strong earnings encourages investors. However, he warns that bull markets die during recessions and that we are nearing the end of the cycle, pointing out that “stock market leadership tends to persist right up until the music stops”.
Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Cooper, the pollster and former adviser to David Cameron, argues that the Conservative Party is increasingly out of step with those who grew up in the age of openness and liberalism. He contends that the Tories will not be able to move beyond Brexit, as it is a proxy for people’s worldview and a range of social and cultural values. This, Cooper says, is an existential issue, and “in an ever more diverse country with a growing majority in favour of open values, there is no future in being the closed values party of the past”.
Did you know?
The official residence of the US president was officially given the name "The White House" by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901. It was previously known at various points in history as "The President's House", and "The Executive Mansion".
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