15 March 2019

Iain Gibson

15 March 2019

Good morning,

What was happening in the world 202 years ago? In 1817, Napoleon was sitting on a beach on the mid-Atlantic island of St Helena, ruing his failure at Waterloo a couple of years previously. Jane Austen breathed her last, as did the only child of the Prince Regent, beginning a succession crisis that saw several of George III’s sons rushed down the aisle in a bid to sire the next generation of royals (the result of which, by the way, was Queen Victoria). And the New York Stock Exchange was founded, operating out of a set of rented rooms at 40 Wall Street.
 
So, as years go, 1817 was eventful. It doesn’t stand out though, does it? It isn’t a 1066, a 1314 or a 1945, a year that you can automatically associate with something momentous. Which makes sense, because the above paragraph is more intended as a demonstration of how much has changed in 202 years and just how long ago it seems.
 
Who knows what will be happening 202 years from now, in 2221? Well, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that is when men and women will finally be equal in terms of global financial wealth.
 
That’s right. As welcome as the increased focus on and drive towards gender equality has been these past few years, we are still two centuries away from an equal share of global financial assets between men and women. The verdictfrom BofA’s “She-conomy” report (I applaud the intent but am not wild about the name), published earlier this month to coincide with International Women’s Day, is that despite headway being made, there is still a long way to go.
 
The findings weren’t much better for the gender pay gap either. In western Europe it might close by around 2080 and in North America by 2185. Not massively encouraging, especially for the workers of today (and tomorrow, and the rest of this century).
 
There were some bright spots – women are accumulating wealth one and a half times faster than men and are expected to hold $72trn of the world’s financial assets by 2020, which is double the amount of a decade previously.Active measures to pursue gender equality could bolster global GDP by up to $28trn by 2025. In Europe, the percentage of women on corporate boards has risen threefold this century. And that 202 year projection? Last year it stood at 217 years, so let’s hope it continues to shrink with each new report.
 
Nonetheless, it is a sobering picture. I write this as someone who lived in cheerful ignorance regarding the #EverydaySexism that persists until marriage to a proud proponent of feminism opened my eyes, for which I am eternally grateful. If only we could live to see this inequality extinguished. Changing attitudes, improved regulation and the creation of new tools that monitor progress are steps in the right direction but, for anyone alive today, it’s not moving fast enough.

News

In what is still a developing story,at least 49 people have been killed in two mass shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Whilst many details of the attacks are still to be confirmed, it appears that at least one of the shooters live streamed the horrific event on social media platforms. Jacinda Arden, the country’s Prime Minister, has described the act as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

MPs voted by 413 votes to 202in favour of the UK Government asking the EU to delay the official date of Brexit by three months, moving from March 29thto June 30th. The Prime Minister has said she will bring her twice-defeated deal back for another vote and that if it is rejected again she may ask for an even longer extension. Five Labour frontbenchers have resigned in defiance of the party’s instructions to abstain on a vote about holding another referendum.

It’s been an eventful few hours for the Liberal Democrats.Party leader Sir Vince Cable has confirmed that he will step down after the local elections in England in May. There has been confusion since last year, when Mr. Cable indicated he would step down at some unforeseen point in the future. Meanwhile, former leader of the Liberal Party Sir David Steel has been suspended from the Scottish Liberal Democrats following evidence he gave to an enquiry where he implied that he suspected the late Cyril Smith had abused young children, but chose not to act because “it did not seem to me that I had any position in the matter at all”. The party is investigating.

In a surprise development,the Republican-controlled US Senate has voted to block President Trump’s national emergency declarationat the country’s southern border. Twelve Republican senators allied with Democrats to secure a 59-41 victory. Trump has responded with a one word tweet: “VETO!”

Business & Economy 

In more bad news for General Electric, the company has confirmed that it expects its earnings to fall by as much as 23% this year, although it does expect some kind of recovery in 2020. Amongst the issues contributing to the reduced figures are ongoing costs for the insurance business GE sold a decade ago and a significant decrease in the market for gas turbines.
 
Brookfield Asset Management is buying a majority stake in Oaktree Capital, a distressed-investing expert, for nearly $5bn. Oaktree has traded publicly for the past six years but this will now end as Brookfield acquires 62% of the company. The deal represents a 12% premium to Oaktree’s closing price on Tuesday of this week.
 
Investors shared their anger as Royal Dutch Shell confirmed the doubling of its chief executive’s pay package to €20 million. Ben van Beurden receives the generous pay mainly due to a €15.2 million share award under the company’s long-term bonus scheme. Shell’s remuneration committee has described the pay as “appropriate”, notwithstanding widespread dissent last year when a quarter of investors voted against Mr van Beurden’s 2017 pay of €8.9 million.
 
Outsourcing company Interserve, which has a number of contracts with the UK Government, has a meeting with shareholders today in a bid to try and prevent its collapse. The company is hoping that the rescue deal agreed last month, which will see 95% of the firm pass to creditors, will be backed by shareholders. If it is not, then Interserve could apply for a pre-pack administration.

Markets 

What happened yesterday?

Reports that a meeting between the Presidents of the US and China would be pushed back at least a month was reflected in a slight downturn for two of the three main US indices. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were down 0.1% and 0.2% respectively, whereas the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1%, buoyed mainly by a strong showing by Apple and Visa. In China, a similar concern, coupled with figures showing industrial output had fallen to a 17-year low, saw the CSI 300 drop 0.7%.
 
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 was up 0.8%, in part due to the slightly more positive sentiment after the UK voted against leaving the EU with no deal. The FTSE 100, which closed before this vote, was also more positive, finishing up 0.4%, aided in part by a weaker pound.

Finals
Eurocell
Restaurant Group
 
Interims
JD Wetherspoon
 
AGMs
LG Electronics

International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(13:15) Capacity Utilisation (US)
(13:15) Industrial Production (US)
(14:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)

Columns of Note

In a fascinating column, the FT’s Tim Harford talks about a new working paper from two economists at New York University, which casts doubt on the idea that the ‘superstar companies’ of the US economy are anywhere close to being as productive as they should be. The economists suggest that the economic footprint of the likes of Alphabet, Amazon and Apple is smaller than the ‘superstars’ of 40 years ago, such as GE, General Motors and IBM. Large companies contribute to productivity directly by producing output and indirectly by drawing in resources from others – according to the paper, the direct contribution of these large companies is smaller now and the indirect contribution has not increased by enough to compensate. It leads to a conclusion that the overall contribution of these companies to labour productivity in the US has fallen by 40% since the year 2000.
 
In The Times, Philip Collins opines that the developments in the House of Commons this week, where Yvette Cooper moved an amendment to rule out no-deal, is helpful for the UK Government because it is now focusing attention on exactly what deal can be achieved. Some Brexiteer Tories are realising this, although others have yet to fully understand and Mr. Collins decries them for their “rank stupidity and utopian refusal to compromise [which] has toxified their cause”. He suggests that the potential for a second referendum, presented in the form of the Kyle-Wilson amendment – whereby Mrs. May’s deal is passed by the parliament and then put back to the people in a vote – might cajole enough Brexiteers and Labour MPs from strong leave areas to support the deal.

Did you know?

Officially, the longest war in history was between the Netherlands and the Scilly Isles, which lasted from 1651 to 1986. In 335 years of warfare, there were no casualties.

Parliamentary highlights 

House of Commons
 
Private Members' Bills
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill: Consideration of Lords Amendments - Tim Loughton
 
Private Members' Bills
Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill: remaining stages - Theresa Villiers
 
Private Members' Bills
Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill: remaining stages - David Warburton
 
Private Members' Bills
General Election (Leaders’ Debate) Bill: Second Reading - Mr Peter Bone
 
Private Members' Bills
Voter Registration Bill: Adjourned Debate on Second Reading [23 November 2018] - Sir Christopher Chope
 
Private Members' Bills
Border Control Bill: Second Reading - Sir Christopher Chope
 
Private Members' Bills
Green Belt (Protection) Bill: Second Reading - Sir Christopher Chope
 
Private Members' Bills
Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill: Second Reading - Sir Henry Bellingham
 
Private Members' Bills
Coastal Path (Definition) Bill: Second Reading - Sir Christopher Chope
 
Private Members' Bills
Bathing Waters Bill: Second Reading - Scott Mann
 
Private Members' Bills
Toilets (Provision and Accessibility) Bill: Second Reading - Paula Sherriff
 
Private Members' Bills
Ancient Woodland Inventory (England): Second reading - Michael Fabricant
 
Private Members' Bills
Parental Leave and Pay Arrangements (Publication) Bill: Second Reading - Jo Swinson
 
Private Members' Bills
Cats Bill: Second Reading - Rehman Chishti
 
Private Members' Bills
Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill: Second Reading - Ged Killen
 
Private Members' Bills
Access to Fertility Services Bill: Second Reading - Steve McCabe
 
Private Members' Bills
International Development (Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups) Bill: Second Reading - Stephen Twigg
 
Private Members' Bills
Smoking Prohibition (National Health Service Premises) Bill: Second Reading - Tracy Brabin
 
Private Members' Bills
Armed Forces (Derogation from European Convention on Human Rights) Bill: Second reading - Leo Docherty
 
Private Members' Bills
Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [Lords]: Second Reading - Frank Field
 
Private Members' Bills
School Uniforms Bill: Second Reading - Frank Field
 
Private Members' Bills
Employment Guarantee Bill: Second Reading - Frank Field
 
Private Members' Bills
House of Lords (Abolition and Replacement) Bill: Second Reading - Frank Field
 
Private Members' Bills
Packaging (Extended Producer Responsibility) Bill: Second Reading - Anna McMorrin
 
Private Members' Bills
Kitchens in Rented Accommodation (Benefit Claimants) Bill: Second Reading - Frank Field
 
Private Members' Bills
Energy Consumption (Innovative Technologies) Bill: Second Reading - Rebecca Pow
 
Private Members' Bills
European Union (Revocation of Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: Second Reading - Geraint Davies
 
Private Members' Bills
Terms of Withdrawal from EU (Referendum) Bill: Second Reading - Geraint Davies
 
Private Members' Bills
Plastics Bill: Second Reading - Geraint Davies
 
Private Members' Bills
Clean Air Bill: Second Reading - Geraint Davies
 
Private Members' Bills
European Union (Revocation of Notification of Withdrawal) (No. 2) Bill: Second Reading - Angus Brendan MacNeil
 
Private Members' Bills
Postal Voting Bill: Second Reading - Damien Moore
 
Private Members' Bills
Voter Registration (No.2) Bill: Second Reading - Mr Peter Bone
 
Private Members' Bills
Hospital (Parking Charges and Business Rates) Bill: Second Reading - Mr Peter Bone
 
Private Members' Bills
Drone (Regulation) (No. 2) Bill: Second Reading - Mr Peter Bone
 
Private Members' Bills
Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 2) Bill: Second Reading - Zac Goldsmith
 
Private Members' Bills
Creditworthiness Assessment Bill [Lords]: Second Reading - Justine Greening
 
Private Members' Bills
Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill: Second Reading - Mrs Madeleine Moon
 
Private Members' Bills
Forensic Science Regulator Bill: Second Reading - Chris Green
 
Private Members' Bills
Plastic Pollution Bill: 2nd reading - Mr Alistair Carmichael
 
Adjournment
Funding for the Garden Bridge - Dr Rupa Huq
 
House of Lords
 
Legislation
House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Report stage - Lord Grocott
 
Legislation
Cohabitation Rights Bill [HL] - Second reading - Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
 
Scottish Parliament
 
No business scheduled