20 December


20 December

Good morning,

As we count down to the end of another year, the internet helpfully jogs our memory of the past 12 months with articles that compile the good, the bad, and the ugly, be it books, music, events or those people that have made it memorable for one reason or another.

One of the most compelling lists so far identifies the various incredible scientific breakthroughs that have occurred this year. Each entry serve as a reminder that innovation in technology and learning does wonders to improve our understanding of the world we live in today. 

For example, scientists this year recognised Zealandia for the first time, a 4.9 million square kilometre mass in the South Pacific, which is now acknowledged as the world's newest, smallest, leanest and most submerged continent on earth. At one point in time it stood above the ocean waves, its mountain-less landscape providing perfect terrain for most groups of dinosaurs to roam, and maybe also the giant, human-sized penguins that we now know used to exist.
Indeed, what we previously understood of the dinosaurs themselves has been disputed, with new research back in March leading to calls that the family tree of our prehistoric predecessors may have to be redrawn for the first time in more than a century.
Finally, these past 354 days have delivered some groundbreaking facts in medicine and the human body. Lungs not only help us breathe but were found to be capable of producing blood, genes are still undergoing a process of evolution, and there is a newly discovered organ in the intestine.
The above examples highlight the incredible work that goes on, unnoticed by many, to aid what we know of the world – it’s exciting to think what will be unearthed in 2018. Who knows, the invention this year of the maths behind time travel might be soon followed by the technology needed to turn it into reality.
Dinosaur safari in Zealandia, anyone?


The Bank of England is due to announce today plans that will allow European banks to operate in the UK as normal post-Brexit. Under the proposals, wholesale finance - money and services provided to businesses and each other - would continue to operate within existing rules and EU banks operating through branches can avoid the expensive process of having to establish subsidiaries. The plans will apply in a "no deal" scenario.
Donald Trump is one step away from the biggest legislative victory of his presidency after the Senate passed the most sweeping overhaul of the US tax system in more than three decades. Republicans argue their package of $1.5tn in tax cuts for corporations, small businesses and individuals will boost economic growth. Trump is expected to sign the bill into law later today. (£)
The Metropolitan Police has launched an investigation into all current rape and sex abuse cases after a second case within a week collapsed. A review will examine whether all digital evidence is being properly documented and shared under correct disclosure procedures. Both collapsed trials were halted due to claims that police withheld crucial evidence, with The Met confirming the same officer worked on both cases and remains on full duty. (£)

Business & Economy

The Competition and Markets Authority has given final clearance to Tesco's £3.7bn takeover of Booker, concluding that the deal will not raise competition concerns. The CMA had provisionally cleared the transaction last month.

The UK government has said it would provide £370m of funding to the Post Office network over the next years, as he Post Office announced it had moved into profit for the first time in 16 years. About £160m of the money will be used to protect village community branches, with the remaining funds being invested in order to modernise services and technology.
The finance ministry in Saudi Arabia has unveiled a record $261bn budget in an attempt to boost spending and drag the economy out of recession. The boost in expenditure to more than 978bn riyals ($261bn) in 2018, up from 926bn riyals the previous year, comes at a crucial time for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he tries to implement ambitious reforms while dealing with an economy that has been struggling since the collapse in oil prices in 2014. (£)



What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed very slightly higher yesterday, up 0.09% or 7.1 points at 7,544.09, with the index continuing to be supported by a weaker pound.
Shire Plc saw a rise in its shares of 3.7%, despite the news that its experimental drug for children with Hunter syndrome failed to meet late-stage clinical trial goals. Mediclinic International was down 4.9% to 578p, making the international private healthcare provider the day’s biggest loser.
The more UK-focused FTSE 250 ended up 0.43% or 86.1 points to 20,341.51.
Sterling remained almost unchanged over the course of trading, down a touch - 0.08% to be exact – against the dollar at $1.3371. It was also down 0.25% against the euro at €1.133.

Ecofin Global Utilities and Infrastructure Trust
AFI Development
British Empire Trust
Creo Medical Group
Green Dragon Gas Ltd. (DI)
Webis Holdings


UK Economic Announcements
(11:00) CBI Distributive Trades Surveys

International Economic Announcements
(07:00) Producer Price Index (GER)
(09:00) Current Account (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(14:00) Existing Home Sales (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

The FT View looks ahead to next year as the talks about a future relationship start between the UK and the EU. They argue that one of the genuinely reciprocal negotiations that will take place will be around financial services, given how important the UK is in this sector for the rest of the EU. However, they warn that the EU’s plans for regulatory equivalence carries a heavy price for the City of London. (£)

As Saudi Arabia prepares to open its first ever cinema, the Financial Times’ Roula Khalaf sets out the vision of the country’s future through the medium of a plot for an imaginary film. The Saudi Year of Living Dangerously documents the story of a young prince who woke up to discover that he not only has a kingdom, but that this kingdom had forgotten it was a superpower, and sets out to transform it into a modern, super-charged state. (£)


Did you know?

An iPhone has about 75 elements in it—two-thirds of the periodic table

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
Northern Ireland
Prime Minister's Question Time
House of Lords
Oral questions
Situation in Syria - Baroness Cox
Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions
Finance and the Constitution
Economy, Jobs and Fair Work
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party DebateFinance

House of Commons
Oral Questions
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (including Topical Questions)

Attorney General

Backbench Business
Russian interference in UK politics and society -  Tom Brake

House of Lords
Oral Questions
Impact of the UK leaving the EU on the provision of housing that people can afford -  Lord Greaves

Number of social houses built as a consequence of the Budget Statement -  Lord Shipley

Scottish Parliament
General Questions

First Minister's Questions