18 April 2018

@Stu7Tay

18 April 2018

The first ever face-to-face encounter between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader is a step closer to happening as it was revealed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited the country a fortnight ago to lay the groundwork for the potentially historic meeting.
 
Although details of the visit are sparse, US media report that Pompeo, Trump’s pick for his next Secretary of State, travelled to Pyongyang with US intelligence officials over the Easter weekend in what represents the most significant contact between the two countries since 2000.
 
Trump himself confirmed yesterday that talks had taken place at “very high levels”, as he sat down with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago as part of a two-day summit in which North Korea will occupy much of the agenda alongside trade and security issues.
 
The location of any historic summit is as yet unknown but it won’t be at Trump’s Florida resort or, indeed, anywhere in America. It is believed that five locations are being considered, with options including the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, an Asian country, a neutral European capital city such as Geneva, and even at sea in international waters.
 
In terms of the date for the meeting, the US president suggested “in early June or a little before that”. While we all eagerly anticipate the encounter, it seems Kim has a fairly busy diary before then. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to make his maiden visit to North Korea since coming to power in 2012 shortly, and Kim will meet with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the end of this month as they pursue a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War. Kim is a man in demand, as Russia are believed to have also requested a personal summit, an invite the leader has so far failed to respond to.
 
With the White House currently mired in scandal, the visit and opportunity to solve one of the most complex national security challenges of the 21st century could not come quick enough for a president desperate to secure a much-needed political win.

NEWS

Former US first lady, Barbara Bush, has died at the age of 92. Bush was the wife of one president and mother to another, and transformed the role of a political spouse, becoming a prominent literacy campaigner. She founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to help parents and children from disadvantaged communities to read and write.

The Home Office has said it is investigating 49 new migration cases relating to the Windrush generation following a spate of calls yesterday. Theresa May has apologised after it emerged that landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants were destroyed by the Home Office in 2010.
 
The European Commission is expected to issue up to 40 legal measures to reduce uncertainty for business as it prepares for a no-deal scenario, either on Brexit day in March 2019 or after a transition period. The measures will cover a wide range of areas, including trade quotas, the car industry, transport companies, the bloc’s space programme, financial services and professional qualifications. (£)

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Moya Greene, the chief executive of Royal Mail, has warned governments and businesses that they will face a “big backlash” if they fail to prepare for the disruption created by new technologies. Greene said a “big question mark” remains over whether ministers and executives are in a position to handle the “deep and profound change” created by advancements in automation and artificial intelligence. (£)
 
De La Rue, the British passport supplier, has abandoned its plan to appeal against the UK government’s decision to award the contract to make UK passports to a Franco-Dutch company after it “considered all options”. The company also issued a profit warning, blaming the costs for tendering to continue making UK passports – a contract it has held since 2009 - as well as delays in other contracts.
 
Shopping centre owner Hammerson, owner of Birmingham's Bullring, is no longer urging its shareholders to vote in favour of its acquiring rival Intu, a £3.4bn takeover that would have seen the creation of the UK's biggest property company at a value of £21bn.

MARKETS

What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed slightly higher yesterday, with a lessening of fears over US sanctions resulting in Russia-exposed stocks recovering some of their recent losses. The blue-chip index was up 0.4% at the close of trade at 7,226.05 points, with the integrated steel making and mining company, Evraz the top performer on the day. Evraz, which is headquartered in London but operates mainly in Russia, saw its shares rise by 6.6%.
 
Across the pond, US stocks rose by over 1% in anticipation of the strongest earnings season in seven years. The headline performer was Netflix, which saw its shares jump as much as 9.3% to an all-time high of $336.25 after it achieved the fastest revenue and subscriber growth in its history. An increase in original content on the streaming service has contributed to it adding more than 7.4 million subscribers in the first three months of 2018, taking its total to 125 million subscribers. The company announced that they expected overseas sales to overtake those in its US home market for the first time in the next three months.
 
On the currency markets, the pound fell from a post-EU referendum high to trade at $1.4291 against the dollar, while it was flat against the euro at €1.1575.

Finals
Be Heard Group, GYG, Mercantile Investment Trust (The)

Trading Announcements
Bunzl, Chamberlin, Countryside Properties, Jupiter Fund Management, Mediclinic International, Primary Health Properties, Relx plc, SEGRO, Telford Homes

AGMs
88 Energy Limited (DI), Bunzl, European Assets Trust, Green Energy Technology Inc. GDR (Reg S), Hunting, Harwood Wealth Management Group, JPMorgan Claverhouse Inv Trust, TOC Property Backed Lending Trust, Petards Group, Primary Health Properties, RTC Group

 

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Price Index
(09:30) Producer Price Index
(09:30) Retail Price Index

International Economic Announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Real, but fragile. That is Martin Wolf’s assessment of the global economy’s recovery as he evaluates the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook, which upgraded its global growth outlook. Writing in the Financial Times, Wolf says that the UK being the only member of the group of seven leading countries to enjoy no upgrade in its forecasted growth is an early price of Brexit, while the increase in expected volume of world trade is perhaps surprising given the protectionist signals given off by the US. (£)

Writing in The Times, Alice Thomson argues the decision by Ruth Davidson to join forces with Michael Gove to launch a youth movement, Onward, is the perfect launch pad for a career in Westminster. She says the Scottish Conservative leader’s new role with the modernising think tank may be the first step that could take her all the way to Number 10 in 2022. (£)

DID YOU KNOW?

Silly string has military usage in the detection of tripwires. The string would settle onto the ground in areas without tripwires, but catch on to any that is present. The silly string reveals the wire, but it will not set it off due to its light weight.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY
 
House of Commons
Oral Questions
International Development (including Topical Questions)
 
Prime Minister’s Question Time
 
Legislation
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] – 2nd reading
 
General Debate
Industrial Strategy
 
House of Lords
Oral Questions
Effectiveness of Government plans for the NHS in dealing with the pressures during the winter of 2017–18 - Lord Clark of Windermere

Whether current electoral law adequately prevents the misuse of personal data in UK elections and referendum campaigns - Lord Tyler

What director level staffing changes, if any, the Government intend to make in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide greater capacity for that department to co-ordinate, oversee and deliver policy to advance freedom of religion and belief - Lord Suri

Preventing possible abuse of the UK’s political system following the evidence given by Mark Zuckerberg - Lord Haskel
 
Legislation 
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Report (day 1) - Lord Callanan
 
Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions: Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform; Rural Economy and Connectivity
 
Stage 1 Debate: Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill

TOMORROW

House of Commons
Oral Questions
Transport (including Topical Questions)

Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House -  Andrea Leadsom

Backbench Business 
Debate on a motion on surgical mesh -  Emma Hardy
Debate on a motion on cancer treatment -  Sarah Jones

House of Lords
Oral Questions
Criteria for an independent inquiry into a police investigation -  Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury
Availability of legal aid -  Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
Reducing childhood obesity -  Baroness Jenkin of Kennington

Scottish Parliament
General Questions

First Minister's Questions

Scottish Government Debate: Safe Injection Facilities