13 April

Ania Lewandowska

13 April

Good morning,

Moscow delivered a remarkably hostile reception for US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was on a difficult diplomatic mission to persuade the Kremlin to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Relations between the two nuclear powers have grown so tense that it was unclear whether Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would agree to see Tillerson, a man to whom he once awarded a medal of friendship. Eventually, Tillerson and Putin met in the Kremlin for two hours, joined by Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.

At the press conference after that meeting, Tillerson and Lavrov made it clear there were still profound disagreements over the future of the Syrian president, and allegations of Russian meddling in the US election, among other issues. Lavrov was also expansively critical of historic US foreign policy, from Iraq to Yugoslavia.

In an interview broadcast on Russian television yesterday, Putin admitted that relations with the US had worsened in the first few months of Donald Trump’s presidency. This comes only weeks after it appeared that Trump was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russia. Today this notion would seem to be a thing of the past – a bit like Trump’s disdain for NATO.

Following a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House yesterday, President Trump performed a breathtaking pirouette by saying the threat of terrorism had underlined the alliance's importance and that NATO is "no longer obsolete".

With US-Russian relations at a low point, the nature of any future relationship between the two countries may well depend on how far Putin is prepared to go to defend the Syrian President and whether Trump resolves to topple him.

NEWS

Scotland Yard has recorded a surge in violent, gun and knife crime in what officers warned is a phenomenon of people feeling the need to protect themselves. The Metropolitan
Police registered annual rises across a number of serious offences in the last 12 months, following several years of falls. There were jumps in robbery, theft, violence, gun and knife crime in 2016/17 in London and police say the pattern is being replicated around England and Wales.

Turkish citizens will head to the polls on Sunday to vote on a new draft constitution, which could dramatically increase the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The 'Yes' and 'No' camps are increasingly polarized on the question of whether to shift Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic.

The Daily Mail has apologised to Melania Trump and agreed to pay damages after the wife of the US president brought a libel lawsuit against the newspaper. The payout settles the case both in New York and the UK. The amount accepted by Trump was not disclosed in court, however reports suggest the payout was closer to $3m than the $150m Trump sought, including legal costs and damages.

English football fans were involved in running battles with Spanish police in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid last night, following the UEFA Champions League match between Leicester and Atletico Madrid. Videos posted on social media show football fans chanting: "Gibraltar is ours".

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

US mobile chip giant Qualcomm is to refund BlackBerry $814.9 million in royalties overpaid by the Canadian company, according to a tentative arbitration award announced yesterday. The payout comes as Qualcomm is facing a barrage of legal and regulatory attacks over its pricing and business practices. (£)

KPMG has fired six employees, including the head of its US audit practice, after the accountancy firm found they had improperly received advance warning of audits the accounting watchdog planned to inspect. The leaks potentially undermined the integrity of the regulatory process and violated KPMG’s code of conduct.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump has said his administration will not label China a currency manipulator, despite his campaign rhetoric. In the Treasury Department's most recent review in October, China met only one of three criteria under which the United States would consider the communist country a currency manipulator. The Treasury is expected to update the report this month.

MARKETS

London's top share market slipped on Wednesday, following a poor performance by the supermarket sector. By the end of the day, the FTSE 100 had lost 16.51 points or 0.22% to 7,348.99.

Tesco was the biggest loser, diving 5.73% despite posting its first UK growth figures in seven years. Rival Sainsbury's also came under strain, dropping 1.32%, while Morrisons shed 1.07%.

Miners also did badly with Rio Tinto, Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore among the day's worst performers.

Engine-maker Rolls-Royce led the risers, up 2.47% at 830.5p.

On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.05% against the dollar to $1.24980 and was 0.02% up against the euro at 1.17820 euros.

AGMs
Drax Group plc (DRX)
Heavitree Brewery (HVT)

Trading Announcements
Hays plc (HAS)

Int. Economic Announcements
(7:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Writing in The Times, David Aaronovitch discusses the case of Sean Spicer, press spokesman for the President of the United States. He suggests that Spicer was wrongly condemned as his “mega-gaffe was a mistake”. He writes that whereas Spicer’s error arose from his stupidity, ignorance and lack of knowledge, the same cannot be said about the views articulated by Ken Livingstone and Marine Le Pen, as these were knowing and intentional. Aaronovitch concludes: “They are in the business of revisionism, of revising the historical record to suit their own ideological needs.”

Geoffrey Robertson analyses in The Independent the legality of the US strikes on an airbase in Syria last week. He says that only the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Jeremy Corbyn showed concern that the US's Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base was “unlawful”. The author quotes the UN Charter and concludes the strikes were not legal, as they did not fall under the right of self-defence.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2007, the Rothschild Faberge Egg covered in diamonds sold for almost £9 million. Every hour a cockerel made of jewels pops out from the top of the egg, flaps its wings four times and nods its head three times.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

House of Commons

In recess until April 18th

House of Lords

In recess until April 24th

Scottish Parliament

In recess until April 18th