7 June 2019

@ScottReid1992

7 June 2019

Good morning,

I don’t know about you but I’ve found myself a bit down on the world of late. So to try and pick myself up at the end of the working week, I’ve picked a suitably cheery subject to indulge in this morning; the end of the world.
 
I’m not an inherently unhappy person. And nor do I think my certain sort of glumness is focused on the nitty gritty of current affairs – which on the day thatTheresa May officially steps down as leader of the Conservative Party and the country flops into the next phase of uncertainty, could be put down to what some have called Brexit Anxiety Disorder (apparently it’s a real phenomenon. Who knew?)
 
Instead, this is about the long view. Prompted by a recent episode of the Talking Politics podcast with one of the doyens of ‘big think’ history, Jared Diamond, whose new book, Upheaval, looks at nations in crisis amid the challenges of climate change, nuclear holocaust and war, I’ve found myself asking - is everything getting worse?
 
Diamond’s cheery conclusion is that there’s a 49% chance that the world as we know it will end in 2050.
 
But think about it. Those chances are, by definition, more optimistic than not, aren’t they? The way Diamond sees it is that the odds-on money is that the world won’t ‘end’ by 2050.
 
Obviously, his numbers, like anyone else’s offering a probability on the end of the world, are bogus. That’s not his point though. The 1% difference is all about perspective
 
In an interview with The Irish Times, he points out that if, like most of the Western hemisphere, we’re checking our phones every four minutes, there’s no way our outlook is going to be about the grand sweep of history. It’s going to be about what happened in the last four minutes. And given a general rule that ‘bad news sells better than good news’, there’s a good chance that the last four minutes weren’t great.
 
History, by contrast, has a decent record on humans getting things right. We’re just equally good at forgetting it, Diamond suggests. For some, the twentieth century sowed the current seeds of our demise – two world wars, vast inequality and genocide. But it also left humans in the best shape they’ve ever been, living longer, and more economically prosperous lives on an unprecedented scale. Why should we think we won’t go on improving just because the subject or scale of the problem might be new?
 
Hopefully that’s an optimistic message to round off the working week. If nothing else, it’s a helpful reminder to read more history and get our heads out of our phones. It might just save the world.

News

Sharon White has been named as the new chair of the John Lewis Partnership. A career civil servant considered a surprise choice for the retail group, White has been chief executive of Ofcom since 2015, previously serving as second permanent secretary at the Treasury, and in various board-level positions at the Ministry of Justice and Department for International Trade. She will succeed John Lewis’ current chair, Sir Charlie Mayfield, next year.
 
Mark Carney has called for stricter regulation of open-investment fundsfollowing Neil Woodford’s decision to suspend such a fund this week. The governor of the Bank of England said new powers were needed “to guard against the build-up of systemic risks”, and although not mentioning Woodford by name, criticised “niche managers” that “may need to fire sell assets”. Woodford has seen his total assets reduced to about £5 billion. (£)
 
Scottish Power has called for stricter legislation to ensure the UK meets its target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Celebrating the 10thanniversary of the UK’s largest onshore wind farm at Whitelee near Glasgow, the company suggested that the Climate Change Act, which was passed in 2008 and furthered the development of green energy projects, could be updated to set a legal target for the UK.

Business and Economy 

Sharon White has been named as the new chair of the John Lewis Partnership. A career civil servant considered a surprise choice for the retail group, White has been chief executive of Ofcom since 2015, previously serving as second permanent secretary at the Treasury, and in various board-level positions at the Ministry of Justice and Department for International Trade. She will succeed John Lewis’ current chair, Sir Charlie Mayfield, next year.

Mark Carney has called for stricter regulation of open-investment fundsfollowing Neil Woodford’s decision to suspend such a fund this week. The governor of the Bank of England said new powers were needed “to guard against the build-up of systemic risks”, and although not mentioning Woodford by name, criticised “niche managers” that “may need to fire sell assets”. Woodford has seen his total assets reduced to about £5 billion. (£)

Scottish Power has called forstricter legislation to ensure the UK meets its target of net-zerogreenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Celebrating the 10thanniversary of the UK’s largest onshore wind farm at Whitelee near Glasgow, the company suggested that the Climate Change Act, which was passed in 2008 and furthered the development of green energy projects, could be updated to set a legal target for the UK.

Markets

What happened yesterday?
The return of good weather to the British Isles was matched by optimism on the London market, where the FTSE 100 rose by 0.55% to 7,259.85 points in response to easing anxiety over global trade.
 
The day’s headline news was that the ECB monetary policy committee voted to keep its core interest rates unchanged, also extending its forward guidance on another update until “at least” mid-2020. ECB president Mario Draghi struck a sour tone on an otherwise buoyant day, suggesting that global market “might see a much broader phenomena, where the multilateral order that we have lived in since WWII is disappearing.” On the other side of the Atlantic, however, US-Mexico trade talks resumed, with President Trump sounding upbeat on the possibility for agreement with China.
 
In company news, tobacco sellers Imperial Brands (up 5.71%) and British American Tobacco (up 3.08%) were the day’s highfliers after Barclays suggested the US Food & Drug Administration was “unlikely” to ban menthol cigarettes over the next year.
 
Aviva (up 0.73%) gained after announcing it was planning to cut 1,800 jobs amid a £300 million spending cut. It was joined by AstroZeneca (up 1.44%) who confirmed final regulatory progress for a new blood cancer drug.
 
At the top of loser’s board were Taylor Wimpey (down 7.48%), Sainsbury (down 3.78%), Kingfisher (down 4.81%) and Vodafone (down 3.85%) whose stock all fell after going ex-dividend.

Interims
Chenavari Capital Solutions Limited

Trading Announcements
Porvair
Xpediator

AGMs
Camellia
Circassia Pharmaceuticals
Golden Rock Global
Glenveagh Properties
Telefonica SA (CDI)

UK Economic Announcements
(08.30) Halifax House Prices Index =

Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07:00) Current Account (GER)
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(13:30) Non-Farm Payrolls (US)
(13:30) Unemployment Rate (US)
(17:00) Wholesales Inventories (US)
(20:00) Consumer Credit (US)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Columns of Note

Ed Conway comments in The Times on the HBO success, Chernobyl, to suggest that the threat of a disaster never goes away. He considered the lessons of Chernobyl as a “normal accident”, and concludes that the idea of an impossible accident is self-defeating – believing that one will never happen only increases its likelihood. (£)
 
The Economist runs with research showing that Google has no left or right-wing bias, but instead rewards reputable reporting. Challenging a long-held claim of political conspiracy theorists that the “mainstream media is against them”, the article uses a panel of 10,000 human evaluators judging “expertise” and “trustworthiness”. It found that Google’s main form of favouritism was to boost viral articles, equally split on left and right lines. (£)

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Did you know?

Nerve damage to any of your fingers will mean they no longer go wrinkly in the bath.

TODAY
 
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