13 February

@Stu7Tay

13 February

Good morning,

“One final push”.

An agreement is not quite there but, judging by Theresa May’s words outside Stormont last night, it looks like the 400-day political impasse in Northern Ireland is coming to an end.

The prime minister’s call for the main parties to work for a resolution came after a day in which she joined her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, in Belfast to have “full and frank conversations” with the DUP and Sinn Fein. The purpose of those meetings was to thrash out a deal that would restore a power-sharing government for the first time since January 2017, when the executive broke down following a number of disagreements, chiefly over the DUP's handling of a scandal over a green energy scheme.

May’s assessment that devolved government could be “up and running very soon” was echoed by DUP leader Arlene Foster, who said some “very good progress” had been made in the talks so far. The soundings from Sinn Fein were equally positive, with its leader Mary Lou McDonald stating there was “nothing insurmountable” including, presumably, what appears to be a principal stumbling block of Irish-language rights.

Given the length of Theresa May’s to-do list elsewhere, she will want to end the political stalemate in some haste if at all possible, before further Brexit talks with the EU take place. Regardless, with the stakes enormously high for Northern Ireland on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, those who gathered at Stormont yesterday will no doubt be talking much more with each over the next few months.

News

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) will today order President Jacob Zuma to resign following extensive talks by senior party officials. Zuma’s exit will pave the way for Cyril Ramaphosa – who replaced him as leader of the ANC in December – to assume power.

The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Oxfam’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by some of its aid workers in Haiti. The watchdog is concerned that the charity may not have "fully and frankly disclosed material details" and its action comes a day after the charity’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence – who was international director during the Haiti case – resigned over its response to the revelations, saying she was “ashamed that this happened on my watch”. (£)

The Commonwealth has established a “high level group” to begin considering who might succeed the Queen as its head, according to the BBC. The group is meeting later today in London to discuss the sensitive issue of the role, which is not hereditary and will therefore not pass automatically to the Prince of Wales on the Queen’s death.

Business & Economy

The White House has proposed a spending plan that will take an additional decade to balance the US budget. The $4.4tn proposal calls for $200bn in infrastructure spending over the next decade and would see the budget in deficit until 2039. The ballooning deficit has already caused apprehensions in the bond market. (£)

A report by MPs has concluded that the government's planned cap on energy bills should be introduced urgently, to stop customers from being overcharged. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said that competition was failing as it did not deliver fair prices for consumers.

The procedure for pension complaints is to be streamlined as part of an overhaul of dispute resolution services to be announced today. A change in the process will see The Pensions Ombudsman handle all pension disputes, when previously it was shared with The Pensions Advisory Service. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed higher yesterday, ending the day 84.63 points, or 1.1%, up at 7,177.06.

It was a good day for Evraz, as the steel producer saw its shares rise by 5.7% at 352.3p. Severn Trent was the biggest faller with its share price down 1.9%. The more UK-focused FTSE 250 also ended higher, up 161.84 points at 19,379.33.

Wall Street saw its recent rally continue as its three major indices rose for the second day, as investors regained some confidence following the biggest drop in US equities in two years. However, caution remains ahead of tomorrow’s release of US inflation data, when a stronger-than-expected reading on price pressures could trigger a fresh wave of selling.

Finals
Acacia Mining

Interims
A&J Mucklow Group
Oncimmune Holdings
Pan African Resources
AGMs
F&C Capital & Income Inv Trust
FastForward Innovations Limited
MXC Capital
Pressure Technologies
RWS Holdings
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI)
Watkin Jones

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Price Index
(09:30) Producer Price Index
(09:30) Retail Sales

Columns of Note

Janan Ganesh uses his Financial Times column to implore those keenest on the UK leaving the EU to offer up at least an “impressionistic picture of Britain’s post-EU economic model”. Ganesh says Leave-voting ministers must use the next few weeks to “spell out the uses to which Britain can put the freedom that comes with life outside the customs union and regulatory alignment”. (£)

The Financial Times Big Read profiles Uzbekistan, as the country considered one of the most authoritarian in the world appears to be taking its first tentative steps towards economic and political reform. (£)

Did you know?

The US Supreme Court has always been known as the “Highest Court of the Land”, but there’s one more court that sits above even it – a basketball court. The court sits on the fifth floor of the United States Supreme Court Building, three floors above the actual courtroom.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

In recess. The House will next sit on Tuesday 20 February

House of Lords

In recess. The House will next sit on Tuesday 20 February

Scottish Parliament

In recess until Monday 19 February