14 February 2019

Stuart Taylor

14 February 2019

Good morning,
 
Last month, US comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live kicked off its first episode of the new year by having Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump play a special ‘Government Shutdown Edition’ of the gameshow Deal or No Deal. The skit had the fictional president reject a number of offers to bring an end to the shutdown before electing to make a deal in exchange for a hamburger.
 
Today, fiction and reality blur as the man himself prepares to play the game, though the stakes are somewhat higher than fast food.
 
The president is running out of time to decide whether to sign or veto a Congressional bipartisan agreement that, among many other measures, would provide $1.375 billion for border barriers. If he is to avert a second shutdown in as many months, he must sign the deal by Friday. However, doing so would leave him short of the money he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico, estimated to cost $5.7 billion.
 
Even at this late stage, it is unclear what path the president is going to take. He will be keen to avoid a repeat of the last partial shutdown which stretched to 35 days and was widely seen as having accomplished nothing, with the president personally shouldering much of the blame.
 
However, compromising hasn’t been a trademark characteristic of an administration not afraid to take risks, and this has achieved some policy success over the past 25 months. However, even policymakers in Trump’s own party have reached the conclusion that this is the best deal on offer and the president would be out on his own were he to turn it down. Despite this, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, was non-committal yesterday, saying that the administration was waiting until it is clear exactly what lawmakers are proposing.
 
The other option is to sign-off the deal as it stands and then look to secure the funds for the wall unilaterally. He could use the powers of the office to declare a national emergency – a move that would almost certainly end up in the courts – or, more likely, begin to hunt behind the sofa of various agencies to find unspent money that could be reallocated towards the funding for the wall.
 
With these alternative measures available, the odds are tipped in favour of an agreement being reached over the next 24 hours because, stripping away the funding for the wall, the deal is comprehensive and complex enough to allow both Democrats and Republicans to cherry-pick their own victories.

News

Shamima Begum, who was one of the three schoolgirls who left east London in 2015 to join Islamic State, has told The Times that she wants to return to the UK. Speaking from a refugee camp in Syria, Begum said she had no regrets about making the move but wants to return home to have her third child in the UK.
 
Theresa May is facing the threat of yet another rebellion by her own backbenchers today as she tries to preserve support for her Brexit deal. The House of Commons is due to vote on the next steps in the process. Some of the most hardline Tory Brexiters have said they cannot back the motion as it currently stands, claiming it effectively abandons the option of a no-deal Brexit.
 
A US district judge has found Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, lied to special counsel Robert Mueller in a breach of his plea deal. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort "made multiple false statements" to the FBI, Mueller's office and a grand jury. Manafort could now potentially face harsher sentences or have charges against him re-filed. (£)

Business & Economy 

Four of Deutsche Bank’s top 10 shareholders are calling on Christian Sewing, the chief executive, to shrink its perennially loss-making US investment bank as they lose patience with the lender’s poor performance and tumbling share price. Sewing, who has been in charge of Germany’s largest bank for 10 months, is under pressure to take more decisive action having seen the bank’s share price falling by a third since he took over. (£)

The plane maker Airbus which has factories in the UK has announced plans to cease production of the superjumbo A380 from 2021. It’s the world’s biggest passenger aircraft but the manufacturer has said it has failed to secure sufficient orders to maintain production. Around 200 jobs are at risk in the UK.
 
Utilitywise, Britain’s largest energy broker, has fallen into administration after a last-ditch lifeline from the company’s founder failed to save its 1,000 strong workforce. Once valued at over £300m on the UK’s junior market, Utilitywise had been scrambling to raise at least £10m in fresh funds to avoid its lenders wresting control of the business through its unpaid debts at the end of March. Former chairman Geoffrey Thompson had hoped to save the struggling company but with a “credible plan” but saw talks break down.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

It was a reversal of fortunes for the FTSE 100 yesterday after Tuesday’s sluggish day as London’s blue-chip index became the biggest riser among European and US stocks. The index rose by 0.8% to 7,190, reaching its highest level since October. The increase was caused by growing expectations that negotiations to end the US-China trade war will result in a truce, lifting global commodity giants such as Glencore and Antofagasta.
 
Shares in Smurfit Kappa rose 7% to £24.24, despite the company posting an annual loss after it discontinued its operations in Venezuela. Underlying earnings rose at the packaging giant after management improved margins by successfully passing higher input costs onto customers.
 
Elsewhere on the equities market, the decision by Intercontinental Hotels to expand its luxury offering by acquiring Six Senses Hotels from Pegasus Capital Advisors for $300, gave the company a boost to the tune of 2.2%, taking shares to £45.55. Dunelm climbed 3.5% to 742.4p following a rise in first-half profit supported by higher same-store sales.
 
On the currency markets, sterling dipped slightly against the dollar to $1.2861, a fall of 0.22%. It was up 0.12% against the euro to €1.1394.

Finals
Attraqt Group
AstraZeneca
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI)
Convatec Group
Indivior
Lancashire Holdings Limited
Micro Focus International
Moneysupermarket.com Group
Trifast

Interims
Ashmore Group
MJ Gleeson
Grit Real Estate Income Group Limited NPV (DI)

UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey

AGMs
Aquis Exchange
Barloworld Ltd.
Chrysalis VCT
GCP Infrastructure Investments Ltd
MXC Capital
Paragon Banking Group
Stock Spirits Group
Watkin Jones
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GDP (Preliminary) (GER)
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) GDP (Preliminary) (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(13:30) Retail Sales (US)
(15:00) Business Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

The FT’s Janan Ganesh looks at the current crop of Democratic candidates for the US presidential elections in 2020 and says that for all the talk of the party moving to the left, hope still remains for a more moderate candidate to run and prevail. Ganesh reasons that for all the talk of leftist ideas and policies, the party faithful really want to win, pointing to a dull and narrow – but successful – campaign in the midterm elections. (£)
 
City AM’s Rachel Cunliffe looks at yesterday’s “Happy Now?” report by the Resolution Foundation, which aims to measure UK wellbeing. Cunliffe says the conclusion that employment, higher incomes and home-ownership all contribute towards greater happiness shouldn’t come as any great shock, but should serve as the antithesis to the growing cohort who claim the pursuit of economic growth is undesirable.

Did you know?

“Tsundoku” is the Japanese word for the habit of buying too many books but letting them pile up in one's home without ever reading them.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions
Transport (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House of Commons - Andrea Leadsom
 
Motion
Debate on a Motion relating to the UK's withdrawal from the EU

House of Lords
Oral questions
Progress made implementing the EU Settlement Scheme - Lord Greaves
 
Salary levels in multi-academy trusts - Lord Storey
 
Cost to parents and local authorities of appealing education, health and care plan decisions - Lord Addington
 
Crown Prosecution Service’s policy for prosecutors in respect of cases of encouraging or assisting suicide - Baroness Blackstone

TOMORROW

House of Commons

No business scheduled

House of Lords
No business scheduled