17 May

@SueArthur

17 May

Good morning,

It’s been a bad week for Donald Trump.
 
In the latest chapter in the saga of his ties to Russia, yesterday reports came to light of a memo written by then FBI Director James Comey recording a conversation with Trump that had taken place about Michael Flynn (national security adviser who had been accused of becoming “compromised with the Russians”.)
 
Comey, described as a copious note taker, recorded in his memo that Trump had suggested that he shut down the investigation, telling him “I hope you can let this go”. The New York Times highlights that this is the clearest evidence yet that President Trump has tried to directly influence the FBI’s investigation into his links with Russia.

Earlier this week Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” He can’t have known that Comey had kept his own detailed record of their conversations that could be used as credible evidence in court.
 
A handful of Republicans are calling for the memos to be released to congress. Meanwhile, it has been acknowledged that the memo could raise the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump – obstruction of justice was cited in both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings.  
 
If the memos are released, many more allegations against Trump might come to light. The president’s week could get much worse….

 

NEWS

Jeremy Corbyn officially launched the Labour manifesto yesterday – with few surprises after the leak of the document last week. At the manifesto’s heart are plans to lower the threshold for top rate of tax. Labour’s claims that the increases could raise as much as £6.4 billion have been challenged by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, suggesting that the changes to tax were more likely to raise £2 billion to £3 billion – about half the amount Labour claims it will raise.

The Liberal Democrats will launch their manifesto today, with the promise of a “brighter future” for young people. The focus of the manifesto will be its offer to support young people – including through a promise to restore housing benefit for 18-21 year olds and a “rent to own” scheme where monthly payments would be used to build up a share in a home over a 30-year period. Leader Tim Farron will also vow to give the public a second vote on Brexit.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the European Union does not need to seek ratification of a trade deal by the EU’s 38 national and local parliaments. The decision is a boost to Britain’s ambition to sign a quick Free Trade agreement with the EU after Brexit, and experts note that this could substantially reduce the risk of any future deal getting bogged down in national parliaments.

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

The UK government has sold its remaining stake in Lloyds Banking Group and the reprivatisation of the bank is expected to be announced today, nearly a decade after its £20.3bn rescue.  The government is set to receive a profit of more than £500m after the sale of its final shares.

EasyJet recorded a loss of £212m in the six months to March, in comparison to a loss of £21m in the same period a year ago, partly due to the change in value of the pound. However, EasyJet said the performance had been “resilient”. Company shares dropped as much as 7% in afternoon trading yesterday.

 

MARKETS

The FTSE 100 set a record high on Tuesday, passing 7,500 for the first time ever, and rising for the ninth day in a row to close at 7,522.03.
 
A telecommunications rally lifted the index to its third consecutive record high, while oil and mining stocks tracked Brent crude, copper and gold prices higher.
 
Experts believe the index could break the 8,000 point barrier by the Autumn.
 
International stock markets were unnerved by revelations around Donald Trump’s suggested interference in the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn.  Japan's Nikkei fell 0.5 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.3 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slumped one per cent. Markets are concerned about the potential impact the allegations against Trump will have on key legislation on tax reforms.

Finals
British Land Company, C&C Group, JZ Capital Partners Ltd, Sophos Group, SSE, Wincanton

Interims
Brewin Dolphin Holdings, Patisserie Holdings, Countryside Properties, Mitchells & Butlers, Redx Pharma

AGMs
Tritax Big Box Reit, Bodycote, BP,Foxtons Group, Maven Income & Growth 4 VCT, Ophir Energy, Premier Oil, Paddy Power Betfair, Vitec Group, Zegona Communications 

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Claimant Count Rate

 

International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage applications (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Artificial intelligence could replace life insurance salesmen, according to the FT. Selling life insurance traditionally involves an assessment of the customer by a qualified underwriter. However a US based start-up Lapetus has introduced software that would allow the customer to send in a selfie, which computers would then scan and analyse for any information on how quickly the person is ageing, their body mass index and whether they smoke. Lapetus believes the prediction that the computers can come up with is a far more accurate reading of life expectancy than traditional methods – and it only takes a few minutes.

The Conversation looks inside the UN’s “political, nepotistic and elitist” appointments system  for senior officials in an effort to understand how it could be possible that Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak could be appointed to become the UN’s head of counter-terrorism.
The writer believes it is unthinkable that Kislyak, currently at the centre of the Trump national security storm, could be appointed to coordinate global counter-terrorism efforts, but it appears he is the front-runner for the position.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Scientists have discovered 467 million hectares of previously unreported forest scattered around the world, increasing the known amount of woodland by 10%.

 

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.
 
House of Lords 
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.

Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions: Communities, Social Security and Equalities

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Fisheries

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Education

TOMORROW

Scottish Parliament 

First Minister's Questions 

Scottish Government Debate: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment