28th January 2020
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, Associate Partner
Good morning, As a seasoned hypochondriac, the recent coronavirus outbreak is weighing heavily on my mind. But, despite its rapid spread and a rising death toll in China, is it right to let my worst fears bubble over? My usual form of defence from London’s sewer of disease (the tube), is to plant my feet surfer-style – avoiding handrails at all costs – and pray that I don’t fall into the warm, incubated embrace of a viral fellow commuter. Now I’m considering a protective mask or perhaps just a letter to my employers explaining that I shan’t be coming in until the threat has truly abated (consider this a written warning). What really confounded my panic though was a striking visual analysis. According to the documentary Pandemic, which has eerily just been released on Netflix, more people are likely to have died during the Spanish flu of 1918, than in the first and second world wars combined. The graphic used to illustrate the loss of life shows the enormous potential scale and impact of viruses – the first episode is worth a watch for this alone. And it is with this ghastly backdrop that I track the death and infection rate from the latest strand of coronavirus as it ticks steadily up. At the time of writing, at least 106 people have died from the disease, with almost 5,000 cases reported in a number of countries, including the US, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Germany and Canada. This potential pandemic has the capacity to devastate human life across the globe if it is not contained. Still, I can’t help but feel as if I’ve fallen into a classic trap. Humans are - after all - notoriously bad at evaluating risks, so, the fear-monger inside me can’t help but catastrophise, convincing myself of imminent death and weeping quietly into a box of choccy swiss rolls. When it comes to the coronavirus – despite its seriousness – it’s probably time to ditch the panic parade and focus on the many issues on our doorstep – at least for now. Better find somewhere safe to store my rubber onesie in the meantime…
The decision on whether to allow Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G network will be taken later today at a meeting of the National Security Council. Boris Johnson is expected to grant Huawei a restricted role in providing equipment for the UK’s “non-core” infrastructure, in an effort to balance the consumer and economic benefits of a fast rollout of 5G against the national security concerns raised by the Trump administration. An internal Brussels diplomatic document, seen by The Times, reveals that the EU will insist that the European Court of Justice be able to enforce the terms of a trade, fishing and security deal. The move, which comes days before Britain leaves the EU at 11pm on Friday, has been rejected by Downing Street sources, who say that the court is “by very definition not a neutral arbiter.” (£) The Duke of York was last night accused of ignoring FBI requests to be interviewed over his links with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Geoffrey Berman, the US prosecutor investigating Epstein’s crimes and alleged accomplices, said Prince Andrew had “provided zero co-operation”.
Business and economy
A government fund is to be launched later to restore historical railway lines closed more than 50 years ago under the so-called Beeching cuts. The £500 million fund was promised in the Tory election manifesto in November. Transport secretary Grant Shapps will visit Fleetwood to announce £21.9 million for two railway lines and a New Stations Fund. Several thousand Aviva customers have received an apology after the insurer mistakenly called them all Michael. The company, which has millions of customers, blamed a “temporary technical error” for the incorrect emails. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been fined £2,000 for failures in the running of its own pension scheme. The FCA was among organisations named and shamed by the Pensions Regulator, in a rare instance of one watchdog training its fire on another.
Columns of note
In this morning’s Telegraph Charles Moore argues that allowing our infrastructure to be infected by Huawei is a far bigger risk than the coronavirus. Go ahead with the current plans to adopt the technology only for “non-core” services and succeed in annoying both the Americans and the Chinese all at once, he argues. Granted Boris Johnson’s government may have its heart set on making Britain a hub of innovation and technology post-Brexit, but it shouldn’t rush into the embrace of China to do so. (£) Marina Koren details the collection of defunct spacecraft which glide silently in the Earth’s vicinity in The Atlantic. This week, NASA will add another to the space graveyard when it turns off the Spitzer telescope, which has spent 16 years observing the cosmos. The telescope trails the Earth, looping around the sun, and little by little, it has drifted away from us. Objects in space are considered debris when they no longer have a function. Now, we have a chronicle of historic space exploration floating around above us, and archaeologists who study it.
What happened yesterday?
The spread of the new strain of coronavirus has triggered a strong reaction across markets, illustrating how fears about economic growth are casting a cloud over the optimistic new-year thesis that investors have seemingly embraced. Concern is focused largely on China’s economy, which suffered under recent sanctions from President Trump. China’s financial markets will remain closed until next Monday and assets that track the country’s largest stocks have nosedived. Alibaba Group Holding took a hit and Invesco China Technology dropped more than 3.5%. The knock-on effects of this uncertainty were felt worldwide. The S&P 500 Index fell to its lowest level in almost four months, the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased its 2020 gains and the Nasdaq-100 Index had the biggest drop since August. Chipmakers, cruise lines and casino operators were among the hardest hit, as investors fled companies with close links to China. The FTSE 100 closed down 173.93 points or 2.29%. Meanwhile the mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 2.11% in yesterday’s trading. On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.02% against the dollar at $1.31. Sterling fared worse against the euro though, down 0.07% at €1.18.
What's happening today
Finals Crest Nicholson Mccarthy Interims Nwf Pz Cussons Trading Announcements Barr (A.G.) Dp Eurasia UDG Healthcare
Euromoney Greencore Lowland Inv. Schroder UK Mid & Small Cap Fund Wey Education
UK Economic Announcements
(11:00) CBI Distributive Trades Surveys
Int. Economic Announcements (13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US) (15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)
Did you know?
According to Leicester University it would take 2,425,907 seagulls to lift James's giant peach, not the 501 that Roald Dahl suggested.
TODAY House of Commons Oral questions Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions) Legislation Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill: Committee and Remaining Stages Motions To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019 To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (Consequential Amendment) Regulations 2019 Adjournment Case of Sara Al Amoudi - Sir Paul Beresford Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 - Sir Paul Beresford House of Lords Oral questions NHS compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation - Lord Clement-Jones Children looked after by local authorities and those who are adopted - The Lord Bishop of Gloucester Increased participation of SMEs in the Apprenticeship Levy - Lord Young of Norwood Green Assessment of the CBI’s quarterly business confidence survey - Lord Borwick Legislation Pension Schemes Bill - Second reading - Baroness Stedman-Scott Debate Formulating the government's pledge at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth 2020 summit, and what the government are doing to build commitments from other countries - Lord Collins of Highbury Scottish Parliament Ministerial Statement Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Oversight Board Update Scottish Government Debate Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 – 75th Anniversary Committee Announcements Members' Business — S5M-20306 Sandra White: Alasdair Gray, a Creative Force
House of Commons Oral questions International Development (including Topical Questions) Prime Minister’s question time Opposition day debate Home Affairs - Jeremy Corbyn Homelessness - Jeremy Corbyn Adjournment Redevelopment of Wards Corner - Mr David Lammy House of Lords Oral questions When the government expect the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to be established - Lord Lisvane Priority given to Sudan and South Sudan among the government's foreign policy objectives - The Earl of Sandwich Godfray Report, A Strategy for achieving Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England, published in November 2018 - Lord Krebs Legislation Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill (Money Bill) – Second reading and remaining stages - Lord Gardiner of Kimble Short debate Improving social mobility proposed in the Sutton Trust’s Mobility Manifesto, and the recommendations of the Social Mobility Commission’s report 'State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain' - Baroness Tyler of Enfield Scottish Parliament Portfolio questions Health and sport Communities and local government Scottish government debate Scotland’s future