19 September 2018

Stuart Taylor

19 September 2018

Good morning,

You wait eleven years for one, then two come along in the same year.

I speak of meetings between the North and South Korean leaders, who have met once again as they attempt to strike a deal that will deliver military peace on the peninsula. Greeted like a long-lost friend by his North Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang with the issue of denuclearisation at the top of the three-day summit’s agenda.

Following a heavily choreographed ceremony to mark Moon’s arrival, beamed live to viewers in the South, it was down to business for the two leaders who looked very comfortable in each other’s company. And, by all accounts, the talks that followed went equally to plan. 

North Korea's Kim Jong-un promised to shut down one of his country’s main missile testing and launch sites, even agreeing to allow external inspectors to verify the closure of the site as a means of expressing his sincerity of the commitment. The meeting also delivered some advancement in other areas of inter-Korean relations, announcing plans to join up their railways, permit more reunions for families separated by the war and co-operate on health care. They also unveiled plans to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

Moon has extended an invitation for Kim to visit Seoul later this year, a trip that would make him the first North Korean leader to do so.

As we witness hugs and handshakes between the two men, it is easy to forget the animosity that brought us to the brink of war only 18 months ago. The next step will be to break the deadlock that has existed between the US and North Korea since Donald Trump met Kim in June, characterised by a lack of progress towards denuclearisation. South Korea appear to have positioned themselves as the mediator in these negotiations, confirming this morning that Moon will meet with Trump next week in New York.

Kim attempted to continue dialogue with the US president by agreeing to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility - where it is believed the material used in its nuclear tests is produced – as soon as the US take some reciprocal action, something the White House says still remains a stumbling block. 

Meanwhile, the US president tweeted his warm wishes for the Kim-Moon summit, raising hopes that a follow-up meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump can be pencilled into the diary.

News

The EU’s chief negotiator has said that the EU is "ready to improve" its offer on the Irish border, shifting its tone on the issue in an attempt to help break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations. Michel Barnier’s comments come as Theresa May prepares to use a dinner in Salzburg tonight to sell her Chequers plan to the other 27 EU leaders.

A British study has found that living in a polluted area increases the risk of dementia by up to 40%. Although the research cannot prove a causal link, scientists have said that thousands of cases of the illness could be prevented every year by cutting traffic fumes. (£) 

The prime minister is to announce £2bn of new funding to build affordable and social housing in England. Theresa May will say that residents of social housing should feel “proud” of where they stay and the money will be available to housing associations, local authorities and other organisations for projects after 2021.

Business & Economy

The Competition and Markets Authority has confirmed that it will launch an in-depth competition investigation into the £15bn merger between supermarkets Sainsbury's and Asda. The watchdog said the tie-up "raises sufficient concerns to be referred for a more in-depth review" and would review issues relating to fuel, general merchandise such as clothing and "increased buyer power over suppliers".

A fourth UK stakeholder has dealt a blow to Unilever and its boss Paul Polman by confirming it will vote against the consumer group’s proposed move to give up its London headquarters. M&G Investments has said it is against plans to abandon the company’s 88-year Anglo-Dutch dual governance structure. (£)

A report by MPs on the Treasury Select Committee will today say that the "Wild West" world of cryptocurrencies needs to be independently regulated to protect customers and prevent money-laundering. The committee will say that the current system of self-regulation is not fit for purpose and there are no well-functioning crypto-currencies. The report will recommend that the Financial Conduct Authority be granted the power to regulate what they refer to as "crypto-assets".

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The decision by the White House to press ahead with 10% tariffs on another $200bn of Chinese goods was met with a muted response by investors in the FTSE 100 as London’s blue-chip index closed a marginal 0.03% at 7300.23. The reason, analysts have concluded, is that the actual range of goods affected by tariffs was less than initially feared. This improvement on expectations also gave US stocks a boost, with both the Dow Jones and Nasdaq posting gains during early trading.
 
Despite the small fall overall, mining companies had a strong day thanks to talk of increased infrastructure spending from China. It wasn’t so rosy for ITV after its shares dropped by more than 3%, compounding Monday’s losses when investors were rattled by reports that ITV might bid for Endemol Shine.
 
On the currency markets, Sterling was up very slightly against the dollar at close of trading, rising 0.02% to $1.3159, and was flat against the euro at €1.126.

Finals              
InnovaDerma
Pan African Resources

Interims          
Accesso Technology Group, Alliance Pharma, Central Asia Metals, Cello Health, Electron Technology, Ergomed, Greatcoat Renewables, Kingfisher, Novacyt S.A. (CDI), Norish Units, Quixant, Ra International Group, Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings (DI), Mission Marketing Group, Yu Group
 

Trading Announcements
Babcock International Group
Stagecoach Group

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

International Economic Announcements
(09:00) Current Account (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(13:30) Current Account (US)
(13:30) Housing Starts (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

Daniel Finkelstein offers his thoughts in The Times on the idea of a new centrist party being established in Britain. Finkelstein argues that any new party must have the involvement – however minimal – of Tony Blair if it is to have any impact and succeed in shaking up the country’s politics. The difficulty, he contends, is that there is no natural leader for such a party were the former prime minister to turn down the opportunity to have any part of it. (£)

As part of the FT’s series marking a decade after the financial crash, Mark Vandevelde examines the rise of a group of private equity firms who, in the wake of the crisis, established huge lending arms that transformed them into the principal bankers for a large swathe of corporate America. However, 10 years on, Vandevelde asks whether risks have simply been transferred to a different, less regulated part of the market and problems will begin to arise when interest rates increase from historic lows. (£)

Did you know?

The Aztecs believed themselves to be living in the fifth world. The fourth was destroyed by flood, the third by fire, the second by hurricanes and the first when jaguars ate everybody. 

Parliamentary highlights

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Donald Cameron: Celebrating 10 Years of BBC ALBA

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Scottish Government Debate: Violence Reduction in Scotland - progress and future priorities