19 December 2018

Stuart Taylor

19 December 2018

Good morning,

Like the Royal Variety Performance and Sports Personality of the Year, it’s customary in December to see a cascade of reviews of the past 12 months (an honourable mention here for last week’s View from the Street).

Yesterday, it was the turn of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), which summed up 2018 in numbers. Now in its second year, the list gives an intriguing, disquieting but also encouraging account of the world we currently inhabit and some of the trends happening before our eyes.

Given the dominance of the environmental debate this year, it's perhaps not surprising that the winning international statistic of the year was 90.5% - the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled. The issue has been of growing concern ever since the screening of David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ at the tail end of last year and "single-use" - referring to plastic waste - was named as the word of the year earlier this month.

It was an eco-friendly stat that won the UK award, with 27.8% - the highest percentage of all electricity which was generated by solar power – coming out on top. The figure was reached on the last day of June during the country’s heatwave, and briefly propelled solar to the country’s number one power source, ahead of gas.

The stats also touched on other pertinent topics that have dominated the news agenda over the past 365 days. The various troubles of the high street have been well documented this year so the fact that 82% of British retail shopping is still done in-store rather than online came as a surprise; while 85.9% - the proportion of British trains that ran on time – is a statistic that will make regular commuters believe they must ride on the 14.1%.

The 9.5% reduction in worldwide ‘absolute poverty’ in the last decade – evidencing that the proportion of those living in this condition has more than halved since 2008 – shows that the trend is going in the right direction; while the figure of 6.4% of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies highlights that there is still a huge amount of work to be done on improving female representation on senior leadership teams. 

And, although not a winning statistic, the power of social media and celebrity was starkly displayed in the figure $1.3 billion: the amount lost from the value of Snapchat within a single day after Kylie Jenner took to Twitter to question if anyone actually still used the app.

Finally, there might be 16.7% less Jaffa cake to go around the family on Christmas Day due to the ‘shrinkflation’ of their festive tubes, but you can 100% guarantee that the long-running dispute over whether they are a cake or a biscuit will rumble on for another 12 months. 

News

Today marks 100 days until Brexit, and the European Commission will unveil a package of 14 contingency proposals as part of a no-deal exit scenario. Although the commission looks to mitigate the possible impact of no-deal on core areas of the modern economy, such as scrapping plans to limit quotas for road haulage permits to avoid major disturbances in trade, the plans do not offer the kind of side-deals to Britain that some Brexiters were confident would be available. (£)

Donald Trump yesterday dissolved his personal charitable foundation amid allegations that he and others illegally misused its funds. Prosecutors said that the Donald J Trump Foundation was mired in a “shocking pattern of illegality” and has been referred to the US tax authorities for further investigation. (£)

Charles Michel has offered to resign as Belgian prime minister after one of his main coalition partners quit in a row over migration. Nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) quit the coalition over Michel’s support for a UN migration deal signed in Marrakech last week. King Philippe has yet to announce whether he will accept the resignation.

Business & Economy

Pharmaceuticals giants GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer have announced that they are combining their consumer healthcare businesses in a joint venture that will have combined sales of about £9.8bn. GSK will have a majority controlling equity interest of 68% in the venture and say that they intend to demerge the consumer division into two separate businesses within three years of closing the transaction. 

RBS has announced the appointment of Katie Murray as its new chief financial officer. Murray joined the bank in 2015 as finance director and has been carrying out the job on an interim basis since Ewen Stevenson’s departure for HSBC in October. She has also been appointed as executive director and CFO on the boards of NatWest Holdings, The Royal Bank of Scotland, National Westminster Bank and Ulster Bank.

The UK is set to drop to seventh in the list of world’s largest economies, according to the IMF’s latest projections based on estimates of gross domestic product, measured in dollar terms at market exchange rates. Currently the fifth-largest economy in the world, the country will be overtaken by India and France in the new set of rankings. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 slumped to its lowest close since November 2016 as it slipped 1.1% lower at 6,701.59. However, it was a different story for the more UK-focused FTSE 250 as it managed to climb 0.5% higher at 17,495.04.

The cause for the drop on the blue-chip index was predominately oil, with prices dropping 4% to $57.23 per barrel over supply glut concerns and potentially lower demand. This put pressure on Royal Dutch Shell and BP, major companies on the index.

National Grid also saw shares fall after it announced its disappointment with consultation documents published by the UK regulator, claiming that it made it harder to provide fair returns to shareholders. Shares fell 9.2% to 758.7p, with other utility stocks following suit, including Severn Trent and British Gas owner Centrica dimming by some 1.9% each.

Across the pond, Wall Street enjoyed robust gains ahead of an anticipated hike in US interest rates on Wednesday, while, on the currency markets, the pound rose 0.2% against the dollar to $1.265 and 0.07% against the euro to €1.1132. 

Interims
Begbies Traynor Group
Manolete Partners
           
AGMs
British Empire Trust
Frontier IP Group
JPMorgan Elect Managed Growth Shares
Proactis Holdings
Red Rock Resources

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Price Index
(09:30) Producer Price Index
(09:30) Retail Price Index
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Producer Price Index (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Current Account (US)
(15:00) Existing Home Sales (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

With open revolt, votes of confidence and a separate whipping system and policy platforms, Daniel Finkelstein writes that the Conservative party is so divided as a result of Brexit it is on the verge of splitting. He says the party has a blend of pragmatism, romanticism and nationalism that can be a electoral strength but, at times of weakness, threaten to tear the party apart. (£)

Simon Kuper says that José Mourinho has failed to reinvent himself while football has evolved, following his sacking by Manchester United yesterday. Kuper says that the self-confessed ‘Special One’ was a pioneer in his early years but that his time at Old Trafford indicates a manager who has been left trailing when it comes to his style and methods. (£)

Did you know?

In October 1994, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King and Jurassic Park were all in cinemas at the same time.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY 

House of Commons
Oral Questions
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)

Prime Minister's Question Time

House of Lords
Oral questions
Requiring banks to maintain a presence of high street - Lord Lea of Crondall

Debate
How sport, recreation and the arts contribute to the wellbeing of society - Lord Moynihan

Scottish Parliament 
Portfolio Questions
Social Security and Older People

Communities and Local Government

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
 
Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
 
Backbench Business
UN report on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis - Rushanara Ali, Mrs Anne Main

House of Lords
Oral questions
Ensuring healthy and nutritious food does not become more expensive after Brexit. - Baroness Boycott
 
Government commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year - Lord Shipley
 
Imprisonment for public protection prisoners - Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
 
Providing humanitarian relief to Yemen - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
 
Debate
Impact of Islamophobia in the UK - Lord Sheikh

Scottish Parliament
General Questions

First MInister's Questions