18 October

Ania Lewandowska

18 October

Good morning,

Home renovations, gym classes, model airplane flights and a host of other everyday activities were all suspended in Beijing as China’s capital prepared for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the country’s biggest political event.

Opening the meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed some 2,300 delegates for over three hours. In his speech, Xi listed China's recent achievements, pledged to continue his signature anti-corruption campaign, and said that "socialism with Chinese characteristics in this new era" meant that China had "become a great power in the world". Alluding to recent political events in the West, Xi cautioned that the country should not copy foreign political systems and - in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong - warned against separatism, reiterating the government's principle that Taiwan is part of China.

Foreign investors watching were keen to see signs that Xi finally intends to follow through on long-promised reforms to further open the economy. However, his reassurance that China "would not close its doors to the world" and “protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors” is unlikely to deliver rapid reforms, as true market reforms in Xi’s second term would mean handing back much of the control he has fought to acquire – agreed by many to be an unlikely prospect.

A compromise candidate when he came to power in 2012, Xi did not get to choose most of his colleagues within the party's top leadership. Going forward, according to the Daily Telegraph, President Xi is expected “to cement his position as Beijing’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong”. Powerful players are expected to emerge in new roles and speculation has already begun on his intent to lead beyond the traditional ten-year term.

News

Inflation surged to its highest level for more than five years last month, increasing the financial pressure on households and boosting the prospect of an interest rate hike. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation reached 3% in September. The step-up in CPI was driven by higher food and transport costs, pushing the headline rate to levels not seen since April 2012.

In a rare public speech, the head of MI5 Andrew Parker has warned that there has been a ‘dramatic’ jump in the scale and pace of the terror threat facing Britain. Parker spoke out about how the danger to the UK is now at the highest level he has seen at any point in his 34-year career in intelligence. He said there has been a “dramatic upshift” this year which resulted in the London and Manchester attacks that killed a total of 36 people. Parker added that it is impossible for MI5 to stop every attack, but that the service is identifying and disrupting threats all the time.

A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters says it has taken full control of Raqqa, ending three years of rule in the city by so-called Islamic State. A small number of Isis fighters holding out in the sports stadium were overrun by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and fighting has ceased everywhere according to a spokesman for the SDF. Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, he added. However, a US military spokesman later said he could only confirm that about 90% of the city had been cleared.

Business & Economy

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and two of its former executives have been charged with fraud in the US, accused of hiding losses by inflating the value of African coal assets. The FTSE 100 company was charged together with two of its former executives for allegedly inflating the value of the assets, which it bought at $3.7bn (£2.8bn) in 2011, but sold a few years later at $50m.

The UK's second biggest supermarket chain Sainsbury's has announced plans to axe 2,000 jobs under major plans to cut £500m from its cost base amid an intensifying price war with Aldi and Lidl. The majority of the headcount losses will be from within its supermarket stores. The 600 roles on which the group is consulting are predominantly HR roles across the supermarket chain, its newly acquired Argos chain, as well as Sainsbury's bank.

Markets

What happened yesterday?
The fall in the pound helped to boost the FTSE 100 in early trading, but the index lost ground later and closed 10.80 points lower at 7,516.17 yesterday.

Education group Pearson led the index, up 7.56% to 668.5p after publishing an upbeat outlook on full-year figures.

Shares in Madame Tussauds owner Merlin Entertainments sank 16% after it said summer trading had been poor due to bad weather and terror attacks.

The company, which also runs Legoland theme parks, said it now expected full-year like-for-like revenues to be unchanged from last year.

The FTSE 250 fell 86.18 points to 20,130.95.

The UK currency was 0.1% lower against the euro at €1.12 when the London market closed. The pound fell 0.4% against the dollar to $1.3195, the first time in four days it has dropped below $1.32.

Finals
Softcat plc (SCT)

Interims
U and I Group plc (UAI)

Trading Announcements
Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (RB.)

AGMs
BATM Advanced Communications Ltd (BVC)
India Capital Growth Fund Ltd (IGC)

UK Economic Announcements
(9:30) Claimant Count Rate
(9:30) Unemployment Rate

International Economic Announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(13:30) Housing Starts (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

In The Times this morning, Daniel Finkelstein gives his take on the progress of Brexit negotiations. The author concludes that “there is no deal that is worse than a failure to reach a deal”

Patrick Collinson, The Guardian’s personal finance editor, reflects on the latest inflation figures and how they affect our savings, property prices and the economy more generally. Collinson comments that “every central bank wants a little bit of inflation”, but warns that “everyone’s terrified of it going much above 4% or 5%”.

Did you know?

The word 'Ski' is derived from the Norwegian word 'skíð' which means a split piece of wood. The first recorded downhill skiing race was held in Sweden, in 1879.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions – International Development (including Topical Questions)

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Opposition Day Debate – Pause and fix of roll-out of universal credit

House of Lords

Oral questions

The product recall system and tumble driers - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Consultation on the introduction of medical examiners and reforms to death certification - Lord Low of Dalston
Creative industries and Brexit - Baroness Quin
Legislation - Space Industry Bill [HL] - Committee stage (day 2) - Committee of the Whole House - Lord Callanan

Scottish Parliament

In recess until 23rd October

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions - Transport (including Topical Questions)

Business Statement - Business Questions - Andrea Leadsom

General Debate - Tobacco control plan - subject nominated by the Backbench Business Committee - Sir Kevin Barron

Valproate and fetal anticonvulsant syndrome - subject nominated by the Backbench Business Committee - Norman Lamb

House of Lords

Oral questions

Preventing money laundering through British banks by families and businesspeople linked to the government of South Africa - Lord Hain
Fuel poverty - Baroness Donaghy
Moderate opposition groups in Syria and political support - Lord Green of Deddington

Short Debate - Assessment of the impact on the economy of failure to agree a transition deal with the European Union - Baroness McIntosh of Pickering