21 June 2019


21 June 2019

Good morning,

Here’s a novel idea – what if ‘paying attention’ literally meant coughing up the dough? Say, a pay-by-the-meter for five minutes of conversation? Or a scalable subscription service to how many times I looked at you during the day?
The curiously flattering estimation of my worth aside, there is of course nothing new in the phrase that “time is money”. The attention economy has been alive and well since the 1950s. In it, everybody is vying for my time; from the lifestyle influencer on Instagram trying to get me to buy that Zara Home throw, to my poor mum attempting to harangue me into a phone call once a week (I’m clearly a very busy man – sorry Mum).
It’s the oldest rule in the economic bible; scarcity leads to demand, which in turn leads to competition.
But think about it. In a world in which many of us in the affluent West have everything, attention is perhaps the one thing that can’t be scaled up. A new app might help us get stuff done quicker, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there is evidence that ‘too much stuff’, seen or done during that time, is frying our brains.
In the past, you could put a price tag on it. But now, in the era of peak-attention span, there is simply nothing else to wring out from our frail human minds. Burnout is the new black, and you read about the rise of mental health issues as a result of tech use everywhere.
It’s a suggestion that’s been bugging me since reading an article in The New Yorker a while ago; what does it take to put your phone away? The article’s author, Jia Tolentino, writes that as a result of abundance our attention has become scarcer, less effective, therefore more valuable – and crucially – in need of repair.  
Perhaps having seen the writing on the wall, the likes of Facebook and Apple self-imposed screen time limiters on their apps or devices. The danger being – and here’s the real innovation in the attention economy – that people quit the system altogether. Or – like buying an app or self-help book to impose discipline – we’re now literally paying to get our attention back.
It’s a trend I see accelerating in the near future and which will come to affect industry in everything from communication styles to investment channels as we try to carve out mental peace. Productivity becomes less important to the human experience, replaced by wellness and the value of ‘doing nothing’.
Hopefully that’s useful food for thought as you, like me, look forward to a weekend of precisely that.


Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been selected as the final two candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election. Sajid Javid and Michael Gove were eliminated in the fourth and fifth rounds of voting respectively yesterday, with Gove securing just two less votes than Hunt’s 77 in the final ballot. Party members will now vote until the week of July 22 when the new leader will be announced.
The EU Council summit has ended without an agreement on successors to key posts within the European institutions. European Council President Donald Tusk has confirmed a new summit will take place on June 30, which will decide roles including his successor, the next president of the European Central Bank and the EU’s high representative for foreign policy.
Climate emergency protestors disrupted Chancellor Philip Hammond’s annual Mansion House speech yesterday evening, with video footage appearing which shows Mark Field MP heavy-handedly ejecting an activist. Dozens of the Greenpeace protestors entered the room as Hammond began his speech to City financiers, “hoping to discuss climate change and economic reforms.” Field suggests he acted “instinctively” and has been widely condemned for his actions.

Business & Economy

Hargreaves Lansdown has said it is “putting pressure” on Neil Woodford to repay his customers following a fund suspension earlier in June. Chris Hill, who is chief executive at Hargreaves Lansdown which invests around £1.6 billion in assets held with Woodford, said he was “angered” by the lack of resolution to close the LF Woodford Equity Income Fund outright.
The Bank of England has blamed global economic headwinds for its forecast of just 0.2% GDP growth during the second quarter of 2019. The forecast came as the nine-member committee announced it had voted unanimously to keep UK interest rates at 0.75%. During the Bank’s quarterly update, governor Mark Carney also gave a cautious welcome to Facebook’s launch of a new digital currency, Libra.
Shares in the messaging app, Slack, surged 49% as it floated on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. Slack set a guide price of $26 a share, rising 60% at the start of trading before easing back to finish at $39. Slack is the second tech company to directly list on the stock market in recent months, rejecting the use of third-party advisers and underwriters, which follows the style of Spotify’s IPO earlier in 2019.


What happened yesterday?

The Bank of England was the main drag on the London market yesterday, after announcing lower-than-expected growth forecasts for the second quarter and cautioning that “gradual” interest rate hikes will be needed in future despite retaining rates at 0.75%. Elsewhere, the ONS showed that retail sales slowed by 0.5% overall in May due to unseasonably cold weather.
The bad news was offset by “dovish” comments made by the US Federal Reserve overnight, however, leading the FTSE 100 to close up by a respectable 0.28% at 7,424.44 points. The pound was trading up 0.41% on the dollar at $1.27, and down by 0.14% on the euro at €1.12.
The US central bank’s remarks helped miner Fresnillo to top the gainers on the equity markets, rising 5.54% as the price of gold rose to its highest in five years. On the FTSE 250, BCA Marketplace was the day’s runaway gainer, jumping 22.3% as confirmed that it was in advanced discussions with private equity firm TDR Capital about a possible £1.9bn cash offer for the company.
On the downside was cruise operator Carnival, whose stock fell 12.0% after the company cut its guidance for 2019 earnings per share by 10-20 cents to between $4.25 and $4.35. Steelmaker Evraz (down 3.7%) was also hit after the chair and chief exec announced the sale of their 1.7% stake.

What's happening today?

BH Global Ltd. GBP Shares
Boohoo Group 
EJF Investments Ltd NPV
Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd Com Shs (DI)
Phoenix Spree Deutschland Limited Shs NPV
Sigma Capital Group
Tiger Resource
Xtract Resources

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Public Sector Net Borrowing
(11.00) CBI Industrial Trends Surveys
Intl. Economic Announcements
(15.00) Existing Home Sales (US)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Columns of Note

Sathnam Sanghera questions in The Times Business pages, why is it that only posh men seem to get away with winging it? Looking at the race to be next PM, he suggests that the phenomena comes with a pedigree; from James Bond to Elizabethan poetry, the British have a way of celebrating the comic virtue of being apparently haphazard but then, somehow, going onto achieve great things. The difference for us, Sanghera points out, is that Boris Johnson’s premiership is not going to be a work of fiction. (£)
On the same issue, Jason Cowley writes a long-read in the New Statesman that Johnson vs Hunt has set the stage for an ideological battle over the recent Conservative past. His profile of Jeremy Hunt as “the last Cameroon” is insightful. Unlike Johnson, Cowley suggests Hunt knows his message and policy platform to a tee, which might yet prove to be a secret weapon.

Cartoon source:  The New Yorker 

Did you know?
The vault in the New York Federal Reserve contains 6,190 tons of gold. The floor is only able to support this weight because it rests on the bedrock of Manhattan Island, 80 feet below street level.

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons
No business scheduled

House of Lords
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Scottish Parliament
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