15 May 2018

@Lyle_h_hill

15 May 2018

Good morning,

Tensions are expected to rise even further in Gaza today, following violent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protestors yesterday.

On the day the US embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, it is thought that at least 58 Palestinians have been killed – including a 14-year-old boy – and more than 2,700 injured as protestors clashed with Israeli troops.

The violence in the region has escalated gradually to this stage over the last six weeks, as Palestinians have gathered at the Israeli border to demonstrate against the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Israeli state.

The Israeli military said it had opened fire to stop Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, from using the protests – which are believed to have garnered the support of over 40,000 Palestinians – as a distraction to break through the border fence and carry out attacks inside Israel. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the violence by arguing that every state has the right to defend its borders. Israel has found itself doing that more than most in recent weeks, and only a few days ago was engaged in an exchange of rocket fire with Iran and Syria in another contested region, the Golan Heights.

The international response to yesterday's violence has been varied. The US has backed Israel's response, claiming the responsibility for the violence lays squarely at the feet of Hamas. The United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, took a different view and condemned the "shocking" violence.

Sadly, none of this feels particularly surprising as, once again, violence between Israeli forces and the Palestinians is met with predictable responses and platitudes.

The hope today is that this recent inflammation of tensions can be subdued and does not escalate into a full-blown war, as was seen as recently as 2014. The hardline stance on both sides of the divide makes that de-escalation all the more difficult.

NEWS

Satellite images of North Korea's only known nuclear test site appear to show that Kim Jong-Un has kept good on his promise made to Donald Trump and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in to dismantle the facility ahead of the upcoming summit. The images show that key buildings and the rail line connecting the entrance has been removed.

A Modigliani nude sold for $157.2 million at Sotheby's last night. The painting that shocked audiences in 1917 is the most famous in the series of 35 nudes produced by the artist. Sotheby's had guaranteed the estimated value of $150m by lining up a bidder willing to pay that price regardless of the circumstances.

The House of Lords has voted by 252 to 213 in favour of a second phase of the Leveson Inquiry into press regulation. Supporters of the move said it would fulfil David Cameron's promise to have a two-stage inquiry. A similar vote was rejected in the House of Commons last week, with a majority of nine, and this rebellion in the House of Lords risks more controversy over its role in scrutinising government.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao will step down from his position in October, following a decade in charge of the telecoms giant. The surprise decision comes shortly after Vodafone agreed to a €18bn takeover of Liberty Global’s German and eastern European cable companies. He will be succeeded by Nick Read, who has been chief financial officer since 2014.

It is expected that ministers will terminate the contract on the East Coast Mainline within days, following heavy losses for operators Stagecoach and Virgin. The announcement would represent the third time in under a decade that the government has been forced to intervene on the running of the routes between Edinburgh and London. It is expected to re-nationalise the line or negotiate a not-for-profit arrangement with Virgin and Stagecoach.

Over £1.5 billion was added to the value of British bookmaking firms yesterdayafter the US Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law prohibiting sports betting in most states across America. It is estimated that the potential size of the new market could take in up to $150 billion of wagers a year. Shares in Paddy Power Betfair, the biggest British bookmaker, rose 12.2%.

MARKETS

What happened yesterday?
It was a rally in sterling that put a dent in stocks yesterday, as the pound rose steadily against the dollar on the back of hopes that the UK could join the European Economic Area following Brexit. Comments from Norway that it would welcome the UK into the arrangement prompted a 0.32% rise against the dollar at $1.35866.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.18% at 7,710.98. IWG was the biggest riser yesterday on the FTSE 350, up 22% after announcing late on Friday that it had received an approach from private equity group Lone Star and two separate proposals from Starwood and TDR regarding a possible cash offer for the business.

Centrica also rose yesterday, despite announcing that it had shed more than 110,000 customers in the first four months of the year. The company argued that the Beast from the East snowstorm in February had increased customer demand despite tough competition in the market.

Finals
BTG
Land Securities Group
Premier Foods
Vodafone Group
 
Interims
CYBG
Easyjet Group
ITE Group
Ten Lifestyle Group

 

AGMs
Cairn Energy
Cenkos Securities
IWG
Pittards
UBM

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Claimant Count Rate

Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GDP (Preliminary) (GER)
(13:30) Retail Sales (US)

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Brooke Masters, writing in the Financial Times, argues for increased investor activism and believes that in order to increase shareholder value, "supine" investors must stand up to company directors. She argues that moves to punish companies make headlines because they are so rare, and this should be reversed.

Raphael Behr, writing in The Guardian, believes that few can now doubt that Jeremy Corbyn wants and believes in a hard Brexit. Behr surmises that by not backing either a soft Brexit position or countenancing a public vote on the final deal, he risks losing the support of even his most "ardent supporters". 

DID YOU KNOW?

Wisconsin is the state in America that produces the largest amount of cheese, followed by California.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Representation of the People (Gibraltar) - Craig Mackinlay
 
Consideration of Lords amendments
If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments

House of Lords
Oral questions
Prospects for a negotiated end to the civil war in Syria that does not involve President Assad - Lord West of Spithead
 
Protecting the rights of wheelchair users to travel on buses - Baroness Deech
 
How much Overseas Development Assistance was spent on fossil fuel subsidies - Baroness Sheehan
 
By-elections for hereditary peers - Lord Grocott

Scottish Parliament
Topical Questions

Legislative Consent Motion: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - UK Legislation

TOMORROW

House of Commons
Oral Questions
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office

Prime Minister's Questions

Opposition Day Debate

Grenfell Tower
Brexit

House of Lords
Oral Questions
Assisting financially with the historic back pay liability of providers of commissioned care for people with learning difficulties - Baroness Richardson of Calow

Introducing a national autism and education strategy - Lord Touhig

Advice to British companies about the possible impact on their trade with the US after imposition of US sanctions on Iran 
Lord Dubs

Legislation
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Third reading - Lord Callanan

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions
Communities, Social Security and Equalities

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee Debate
Erasmus+