18 May

@AdamDShaw

18 May

Good morning,

 Pressure is mounting on President Donald Trump as he battles allegations that he pressured former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into links between then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia before he fired Comey unceremoniously from the job last week.

Speaking in Connecticut yesterday, Trump played the victim: “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Were he alive, Nelson Mandela may well have had something to say about that.

Meanwhile Democrats were delighted when the deputy attorney general named Robert Mueller, a former FBI boss, as special counsel to oversee the inquiry into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

And so the distant prospect of impeachment continues to hang over Trump's presidency with Congressman Al Green – the US Representative from Texas’ 9th district – now calling for Trump to be impeached for obstruction of justice.

It’s all very well for a junior congressman from the opposition party to call for impeachment, but to get to that point, it will require not only the Democratic leadership but large segments of the Republicans to follow suit.

 After that, it’s an arduous process involving investigation by a congressional committee, reports and debate, before the full House of Representatives votes, with a simple majority required for a trial to be conducted in the Senate. At that stage, a two-thirds majority is needed to remove the president from office.

 It’s worth remembering that only two presidents – Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson - have been impeached and both were acquitted. In addition, Richard Nixon resigned before impeachment went to a vote. In all three of these cases, the president in question was facing a hostile Congress.

Trump on the other hand would need his own party to turn on him in order to be told: “You’re fired”.

News

The Conservative’s general election manifesto entitled “Forward Together” will be launched today. Some policies have been pre-briefed to the media including a commitment to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands, the means testing of winter fuel payments and new funding mechanisms for social care all expected to be included.

The UK will “pay a price” – such as goods being kept in storage for checks at the border - for stopping the free movement of workers in Europe, Angela Merkel warned yesterday. The German chancellor was answering a question from Frances O’Grady, head of the Trades Union Congress, at an international labour conference in Berlin. Merkel insisted that this “is not malicious, but I cannot have all the good sides and then say there is a cap of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens, more are not allowed into Britain”.

 Brexit has paralysed the NHS and general practice is on the “brink of collapse”, according to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee. Dr Nagpaul is set to speak at an annual medical conference where he will highlight concerns surrounding understaffing and accuse politicians of turning a blind eye to the needs of health and social care systems in England.

Business & Economy

Wage growth fell behind inflation for the first time since 2014 during the first three months of 2017, according to the Office National Statistics. This resulted in real terms pay cut of 0.2% and hitting spending power. This is despite the unemployment rate falling to 4.6% - its lowest level since 1975.

 Profit margins at SSE have risen to their highest level in eight years, boosting group profits at the UK’s second largest energy supplier to £1.5 billion. Despite losing 190,000 retail customer accounts in 2016-2017, a reduction in wholesale costs allowed the FTSE 100 listed company to generate more profit per household.

Royal Mail has posted flat annual revenues of £9.7 billion. The UK is posting fewer and fewer letters, with revenues in this section of the business standing at £4.3 billion – down 5% on last year. However, the growth in online shopping boosted Royal Mail’s parcel business and General Logistics Systems – the overseas division – also performed strongly, leading operating profit increasing by a fifth.

Markets

FTSE 100 shares fell yesterday after ending at a record 7,522.03 points on Tuesday. 

At close of trading, the index was down 18.56 points, or 0.25%. at 7,503.47.

Lloyds Banking Group was up 2% following news that the the government had sold its last remaining stake, thereby returning it to the public sectors. 

Fresnillo, Tesco, Kingfisher and Randgold also performed well.

 However, shared in British Land were down 3.3%, despite the property investment trust posting a 7.4% increase in full-year profit.

Ashtead Group, CRH, Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Rolls-Royce Holdings were amongst the other fallers.

US stock indices had their worst day of trading in eight months due to concerns that political turmoil in Washington could derail President Trump’s growth stimulation policies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index ended the day down 372.82 points at 20,603.93, whilst the S&P 500 fell 43.25 points to 2,356.71, and the Nasdaq was down 158.636 points at 6,011.23.

On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.22% against the dollar at $1.2945 but fell 0.33% against the euro to 1.1616 euros.

Finals

Bloomsbury Publishing, Booker Group, Burberry Group, Dairy Crest Group, Elektron Technology, Experian, 3i Group, Investec, Land Securities Group, Mothercare, National Grid, Royal Mail

Interims

Euromoney Institutional Investor, Marston’s, SSP Group, Thomas Cook Group

 Trading Announcements

Balfour Beatty, Cineworld Group, Greggs, Hargreaves Lansdown, S&U, Wilmington

AGMs

Balfour Beatty, Cineworld Group, Great Western Mining Corporation, Hiscox Limited (DI), Next, Prudential

UK Economic Announcements

(09:30) Retail Sales

International Economic Announcements

(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)

(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in The Telegraph, Allister Heath warns that Theresa May’s interventionism could threaten job creation. He argues that the liberal, free-market approach initiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, which has created a jobs boom, is an extraordinary achievement, and urges her embrace free markets rather than retreating to the economic certainties of the Sixties. 

In The New Statesman, Stephen Bush looks at why the Liberal Democrat recovery has stalled. On paper, the opportunity is there – the Conservatives have abandoned its liberal strand that David Cameron pushed, whilst Labour is controlled by the hard-left and bitterly divided. However, Tim Farron’s proposal for a second referendum is unappealing to the vast majority of voters, and many of those who are pro-EU do not believe the Lib Dems can halt Brexit.

Did you know?

It does not actually make a difference whether you add the milk to your cup before or after you pour your tea. The tendency to pour the tea first stems from a time when china crockery was still used. Poor-quality cups were inclined to crack when subjected to hot liquid, so pouring the tea first was a status symbol and a sign that you could afford higher quality china.

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

General Questions

First Minister’s Questions

Scottish Government Debate: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) 

TOMORROW

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled