15 February

@lyle_h_hill

15 February

Good morning,

The small town of Parkland, Florida has become the latest in a long line of US towns to be hit by a mass shooting at a school.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19 year old former pupil at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, launched a deadly attack on his former teachers and classmates just hours ago. As of writing, 17 people have been confirmed dead and three others remain in a critical condition.

Cruz, who had been expelled for "disciplinary reasons" has been taken into custody without incident or struggle.

The shooting is the most deadly school incident in the United States since 26 people were killed in Sandy Hook in 2012. That shooting led to a long and protracted gun law debate, spearheaded by President Obama, who was regularly brought to tears when responding to yet more gun deaths throughout the United States.

The issue for many is that nothing has changed or looks likely to change anytime soon. This is the sixth school shooting incident throughout the United States in 2018 alone, but Republican law makers, including President Trump, seem unwilling to engage in meaningful gun reform debate.

In the meantime, school shootings and gun deaths will undoubtedly continue throughout the United States. The Senator for Connecticut said on the Senate floor following the Sandy Hook disaster: "this happens no where else", and shootings of this scale will continue to be a uniquely American problem until any meaningful gun reform is proposed and passed.

News

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma has resigned from office following months of pressure from within his own party. The embattled Zuma had faced multiple accusations of corruption and had recently been replaced as leader of the ANC party by Cyril Ramaphosa, his own deputy president. In a statement Zuma said he was standing down despite disagreeing with the decision.

French researchers studying the diets of over 100,000 people have discovered that eating factory-made foods, including cereal and pizza, can increase the risk of cancer by up to a third. The risk of cancer from highly processed foods would also be above the risks of the sugar and fat these meals contain.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe, has died of colon cancer aged 65. Tsvangirai had been suffering from the illness for two years, but his rapidly deteriorating health has led to a power struggle within his Movement for Democratic Change party, with three deputies openly manoeuvring to succeed him in the face of the resurgent ruling Zanu-PF party.

Business & Economy

The IMF has warned that the pound could plummet more than 15% from its current level if the UK leaves the EU in a "disorderly" fashion. In the annual Article IV assessment of the UK economy, the IMF said sterling was 15 per cent overvalued on fundamentals and any poorly perceived exit from the EU could cause a reset.

A report by the work and pensions select committee has warned that up to 50,000 British steel workers are being cheated out of part of their pensions annually, in what has been dubbed a “major mis-selling scandal”. The report argues that in some cases workers were “shamelessly bamboozled” by financial advisers who persuaded pensions to be transfered to funds with larger annual fees.

Airbus has agreed to a €1.3bn charge to cover costs with ongoing difficulties to its flagship A400M military transport aircraft, while also putting aside more than €115 million to pay for anti-corruption inquiries against the manufacturer. The military project has turned into a nightmare for Airbus and has been renegotiated twice, but the group has insisted this will be the last payment and that underlying group performance remained strong.

Markets

What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 had a reasonable day on Wednesday, rising 45.96 points to close at 7,213.97, an increase of 0.64%.

The biggest riser on the index was Coca-Cola HBC AG, gaining almost 5% after strong Q4 results beat market expectations.

At the other end of the FTSE 100, travel company TUI fell 4.58% despite announcing that losses had narrowed in the last three months of 2017.

On the currency markets, the dollar was boosted by stronger than expected inflation data from the United States. The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% last month, a far larger rise than had been anticipated by analysts.

Following the announcement, the dollar rose from €0.81 to €0.814 against the euro at lunchtime. However, much of the momentum slipped away throughout the day, and the dollar currently sits at $1.40000 against sterling, a change of +0.01060 for the pound.

Finals
Georgia Healthcare, Indivior, Lancashire Holding Limited, Primary Health Properties, Relx Plc

Interims
City of London Inv Trust, InnovaDerma

AGMs
Inspirit Energy Holdings, Petro Matad Ltd, Paragon Banking Group, Sanderson Group

International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Philadelphia Fed Index (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(14:15) Capacity Utilization (US)
(14:15) Industrial Production (US)

Columns of Note

John Thornhill, in the Financial Times magazine, looks at the rise of mini-satellites. These tiny machines can be small enough to be held by a single person, and have reduced the cost of surveillance drastically. But Thornhill asks what risk these new machines may pose to our privacy.

In The Times Thunderer column, Raphael Hogarth argues that we should introduce a similar exam to the mandatory four hour philosophy exam taken by French 18 year olds. By doing this, Hogarth argues we would improve our political discourse and our writing skills.

Did you know?

Morgan Tsvangirai had been the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, and principal opposition leader to Mugabe, since September 1999. He became Mugabe's deputy prime minister from 2009-2013.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

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

House of Lords

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

Scottish Parliament

In recess until Monday 19th February.