27 February


27 February

Good morning,

Yesterday’s speech by Jeremy Corbyn marked the Labour leader's first divergence from government Brexit policy. Well, the first divergence that wasn’t just rhetoric.
Speaking in Coventry, Corbyn announced a tangible policy shift, saying that a permanent customs union between the UK and EU following the transition would ensure free-flowing trade and avoid the need for a hard Irish border.
This is in contrast to government which says that a customs union is off the table because it would prevent the signing of new free trade agreements.
The new Labour position was welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) which said that Corbyn was putting “jobs and living standards first”. Other trade bodies, such as the manufacturers’ organisation EEF and technology sector body TechUK echoed the sentiment.
Considering business concerns over Corbyn policies more generally, the support from industry bodies was notable.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is, unsurprisingly, set to criticise Labour’s “confused policy” (pot, kettle, black?) in his own speech today. Of course, Fox has a bigger interest than most in avoiding a customs union. If new free trade deals cannot be struck, he is out of a job.


Women in Syria have been sexually exploited by men working on behalf of the UN and international charities, according to the BBC. A report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that humanitarian assistance was being exchanged for sexual favours. The allegations were first reported three years ago, however, the report found it was continuing. Another report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) surveyed 190 women and girls in Dara’a and Quneitra. It suggested that 40% had experienced sexual violence when accessing services.
Four right-wing terrorist plots were foiled last year, according to Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police and the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer. Rowley, who retires in two weeks, said the plots were becoming more organised and a matter of “real concern”, with the threat requiring a “whole society response”.

In case you hadn't  heard, major disruption is being expected on Britain’s roads as the so-called “Beast from the East” is set to dump up more than 20cm of snow, with the Met Office warning of “treacherous driving conditions”. Amber weather warnings are in place in the South East, North East of England and the East Midlands. A yellow warning is in place across much of the rest of the country.


Business & Economy

Comcast, the US cable TV giant, has made a £22.1 billion takeover bid for Sky, rivalling the existing offer from 21st Century Fox. Comcast claimed the bid of £12.50 a share was 16% higher than the offer from 21st Century Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. 21st Century Fox had already agreed a £18.5 billion deal to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own.
Qualcomm, the American semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company, has dropped its objections to being acquired by Singapore’s Broadcom, provided the offer is increased by 15 per cent to above $90 per share. This would mean a total price of $160 billion, which would represent the biggest tech deal ever struck. The management of Qualcomm had previously objected to the deal on antitrust grounds.
David Atkins, the chief executive of Hammerson, has insisted that there is strong shareholder support for the proposed merger with Intu Properties. Speaking as the retail property developer announced its full-year results, Atkins said he had held “very positive” one-to-one meetings with 70 per cent of the shareholder register. However, Hammerson’s shares have fallen more than 10 per cent since January, reducing the offer of the value to Intu shareholders. A shareholder vote is expected in April.
Emma Mercer, who became Carillion’s finance director, raised concerns about accounting irregularities six weeks into her role as finance director of the company’s construction services division. Mercer approached human resources after being left dissatisfied with explanations given to her by Richard Howson, then chief executive, and Zafar Khan, then finance director. Alison Horner, a Carillion non-executive director, noted that “Mercer appeared to be a whistleblower who did not feel she was listened to”.


What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 was up 32.3, or 1.18% on a day when all major global indices made gains.
Anglo American was the day’s big winner, climbing 3.09%. Associated British Foods and IAG in followed, climbing 3.06% and 2.66% respectively.
However, Hammerson was the biggest loser on the main index. The property developer, which owns a number of shopping centres, fell 2.18%, despite increasing net rental income. However, investors were pessimistic amid worries about the future of “bricks and mortar” retail and shrinking sales.
The FTSE 250 was up 27.86 points, or 0.14%, to 19,828.73. Ascential was the best performer, gaining 5.92%, whilst AA led the losses, dropping 12.23%.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, US equities made gains ahead of the inaugural testimony by new Federal reserve chair Jay Powell. He is appearing in front of the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday and and the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday – “a get to know the new Fed chair week”.
The S&P 500 increased 1.18%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.58% and the Nasdaq was up 1.15%.
On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.01% against the dollar at $1.3964 but up 0.02% against the euro at €1.1339.

Coats Group, Croda International, Dalata Hotel Group, Direct Line Insurance Group, Derwent London, Drax Group, Devro, Elementis, FBD Holdings, Fresnillo, Fisher (James) & Sons, GKN, Greggs, Inchape, Johnson Service Group, Jupiter Fund Management, Morgan Advanced Materials, Meggitt, Provident Financial, Persimmon, Standard Chartered, Virgin Money Holdings (UK), Verona Pharma
Bluefield Solar Income Fund Limted, Clinigen Group, DotDigital Group, Swallowfield
Trading Announcements
Image Scan Holdings


Chrysalis VCT, Image Scan Holdings, John Lewis of Hungerford, LXB Retail Properties, River and Mercantile UK Micro Cap Investment Company Limited, SSP Group, Velocity Composites

Aberdeen Private Equity Fund Ltd. Sterling Part Shares
Infrastrata, Trinity Mirror
International Economic Announcements
(09:00) M3 Money Supply (EU)
(10:00) Business Climate indicator (EU)
(10:00) Consumer Confidence
(10:00) Economic Sentiment Indicator (EU)
(10:00) Industrial Confidence (EU)
(10:00) Services Confidence (EU)
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(14:00) House Price Index (US)

Columns of Note

In The Times, Hugo Rifkind argues that the Conservatives’ position as the party of the old will be lost if they do not start tackling the issue of elderly care. He cites ONS figures predicting that a quarter of the population will be aged over 65 by 2046 – a mighty electoral force. However, these older voters will be much poorer than today’s older voters due to lower homeownership, with their care needing to be funded by somebody else. He says that if no action is taken to prevent this outcome, Labour will be the winners.
The Financial Times Big Read looks ahead to the Italian election which takes place on Sunday. Although the economic indicators in the country are positive – confidence among big business is high, GDP increased 1.5 per cent in 2017 and the country’s 10-year bond yield has remained low – the ruling pro-EU, centre-left Democrats are expected to suffer due to a resentment towards continued austerity and feeling amongst the people that the benefits of economic growth are not trickling down.


Did you know?

The modern-day sports huddle was invented by Paul D. Hubbard, an American football quarterback at Gallaudet University. Gallaudet was among the first schools intended for the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, meaning the players used sign language to call plays. Hubbard realised that his hand signals could be read by opposing players so, to remedy this, he had his players form a circle so that his sign-language signals could be sent and received without anyone on the side-lines or on the opposing team seeing.

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

Oral Questions: HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion: Access to banking services - Ben Lake
Estimates Day: Estimates Day - 2nd Allotted Day - Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government relating to homelessness, Department for Transport - Mel Stride
House of Lords
Oral Questions
Whether remaining in the European Single Market, post-Brexit, would require the UK to retain membership of the European Economic Area and associated EU agencies through re-joining the European Free Trade Agency - Lord Lea of Crondall
Removing the need for candidates for higher education with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities to pay for new assessments for the disabled students’ allowance if they have an existing diagnosis acquired before the age of 16 and a history of support - Lord Addington
Rebuilding the lives of people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire - Lord Goddard of Stockport
Space Industry Bill - Consideration of Commons amendments - Baroness Sugg
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL] - Report stage - Baroness Sugg
Scottish Parliament
Topical Questions
Scottish Government Debate: Developing a Scottish healthy weight strategy
House of Commons
Oral Questions: International Development (including Topical Questions)
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Legislation: Motion on the Independent Complaints and Grievance policy - Andrea Leadsom, Valerie Vaz, Pete Wishart, Liz Saville Roberts, Emma Little Pengelly, Caroline Lucas, Dawn Butler, Jo Swinson
House of Lords
Oral Questions
Discussions with the Competition and Markets Authority about the impact on UK retail trade of online suppliers such as Amazon - Lord Naseby
Cost benefits to the NHS and police of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England - Lord Rennard
Legislation: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 3) - Lord Callanan
Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions: Culture, Tourism and External Affairs; Justice and the Law Officers
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Business: Early Years