Beware of the Bern

Written by Adam Shaw, Associate Partner

Edited by Harriet Moll, Partner


Good morning,


Monday saw the latest unedifying episode of Donald Trump’s presidency, as he abruptly left a White House press conference, taking umbrage at CBS reporter Weijia Jiang’s question.


We haven’t come to expect any better from this president. However, there is certainly less tolerance for it at this time. Tens of thousands of Americans have died from Covid-19 and this was his first press briefing since 27 April. The episode drew further attention to the fact that his administration is not handling the coronavirus pandemic well. According to a CNN poll, 54% of Americans believe the government is doing a poor job at preventing the spread of Covid-19.


Add in the fact that 30 million Americans have lost their jobs and you would think that Trump is surely on course to be a one-term president.


However, Trump’s approval overall rating has barely moved and still stands at around the 45% mark. Furthermore, bookmakers remain split over November’s result prediction.


Joe Biden, the former vice president and Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, is ahead in both national polling and in many of the key swing states. However, he and his campaign will be acutely conscious that Hillary Clinton was in a similar position this time four years ago. And, as we know, winning the popular vote does not win the presidency.


Bernie Sanders, Biden’s opponent for the Democratic nomination, may be out of the race but he still has a big role to play.


The Vermont senator was swift to officially endorse Biden, which he didn’t do with Clinton until July. However, he has sent mixed signals since.


Sanders continues to send fundraising emails to his supporters and his Twitter bio still says “candidate for President of the United States”. He also continues to fight for delegates in order to secure more leverage over the party’s platform and Biden’s policy choices.


It’s understandable that Sanders wants to pull Biden to the left and force him to embrace as much of his agenda as possible. However, the risk is that Sanders supporters are alienated and don’t turn out for Biden in November, or even worse, vote for Trump.


There’s a reason that Trump is more reserved in his criticism of Sanders than with other Democratic candidates. Partly, it’s because the two men, despite sitting on opposite ends of the left-right political spectrum, fish in some of the same pools of voters. In 2016, about 216,000 voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – states that were key to Trump's victory – backed Sanders in the spring and Trump in the autumn, according to an analysis of exit polling.


Even if enough Sanders supporters don’t support Trump outright, they could split Biden’s vote.


It’s still the case that elections are won in the centre, but they can also be lost on the flank.


News

The chancellor of the exchequer announced yesterday that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), through which the government pays furloughed employees 80% of their monthly salary up to £2,500, will be extended to October. However, Rishi Sunak said that the scheme would be more flexible to support the transition back to work and the government will ask employers to “start sharing” the cost from August.


The Telegraphreports that a confidential Treasury assessment estimates that the CJRS will cost the government £300 billion this year and require a series of measures, including an increase in income tax, the end of the state pension triple lock, and a two-year public sector pay freeze in order to "enhance credibility and boost investor confidence" in the British economy. (£)


Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has condemned an attack on a maternity ward in Kabul, Afghanistan as “a sheer act of evil”. Two babies and 12 mothers and nurses were killed when several gunmen stormed the hospital yesterday. President Ashraf Ghani said he was ordering the resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban and other extremist groups in response.


Business and economy

Figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that the UK economy shrank two per cent – the fastest pace since the financial crisis – during the first quarter of 2020. The period covers the beginning of the lockdown in March. A larger contraction is expected in the second quarter.


Tui is to cut 8,000 jobs worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said that is it aiming for a 30% permanent reduction in its overhead cost base as it faces “the greatest crisis” the travel industry has faced. This comes as the group posted losses of €845.8m (£747m) for the first half of 2020.


England’s housing market has reopened as part of an easing of lockdown restrictions. The sector has been effectively frozen since March, however, under the new regulations which take effect today, people will be able to visit estate agents, view properties and move house without breaking lockdown rules.


Columns of note

InThe Telegraph, Camilla Tominey criticises the government ‘roadmap’ for exiting lockdown as being more kin to spaghetti junction and argues that “such an omnishambles of a plan, full of blind spots and obvious pitfalls, could only have been drafted by men”. She highlights the male dominance of the government’s Covid-19 response – the Covid-19 subcommittee making the decisions is comprised entirely of men and Priti Patel is the only female minister to have been trusted with leading a Downing Street press conference – and suggests that Boris Johnson should reflect on the famous words of Margaret Thatcher: “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country”. (£)


Writing inThe Atlantic, Deborah Copaken recounts her experience of being made redundant over Zoom. She writes that it’s as unpleasant and awkward as one would imagine, even though the company’s CEO handled the process as well as could be expected in the circumstances. Copaken’s piece also underlines the poor levels of protection for employees in US employment contracts.

Source: The Times


Markets


What happened yesterday?


Most major stock markets across the world saw losses as governments sought to strike a balance between easing lockdown restrictions and minimising the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.


In the US, the S&P 500 was down 2.05% to 2,870.12, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.89% to 23,764.78, and the Nasdaq dropped 2.06% to 9,002.55.


Meanwhile, in Asia, the Nikkei was down 0.12% to 20,366.48 and the Hang Seng fell 1.45% to 24,245.68.


The FTSE 100 bucked the trend, climbing 0.93% to 5,994.77.


Vodafone was the biggest riser on the main index, gaining 8.33% after it confirmed its dividend but pulled its guidance for 2021 due to coronavirus uncertainties.


Standard Life Aberdeen was another strong performer, climbing 3.91%. The investment manager said that it had seen only “a modest impact” on the service it provides and reiterated its commitment to paying the 2019 dividend.


Morrisons also made progress, rising 3.36%, as it reported an increase in like-for-like sales for the first quarter.


Land Securities Group was the day’s biggest faller, dropping 12.75% after it pulled its final dividend as full-year losses widened and asset values fell.


Its peer, British Land, which reports its full-year results today, followed closely in its wake – shedding 10.33%.


On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.4% against the dollar at $1.2286 and 0.82% weaker against the euro at €1.1315.


What's happening today?


Finals

British Land


Interims

Compass Group, Sage Group, Stock Spirit


Trading Announcements

Spirax-sarco


AGMs

Burford Capital Ld, Cineworld, Dialight, Foxtons, Greggs, Kenmare Res., Marshalls, Rentokil Initl, Robert Walt, Spirax-sarco, Tp lcap, Transglobe Ene, Tritax Big Box, Ultra Elec, Vesuvius


UK Economic Announcements

(00:01) Retail Sales

(07:00) Industrial Production

(07:00) Balance of Trade

(07:00) Manufacturing Production

(07:00) GDP (Preliminary)

(07:00) Index of Services

(7:00) Gross Domestic Product


International Economic Announcements

(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)


Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times


Did you know?

In response to the lyric "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" in OutKast’s hit song ‘Hey Ya!’, Polaroid released a statement warning its customers that “shaking or waving can actually damage the image”.


Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

Oral questions

Northern Ireland


Prime Minister’s Question Time


Business Statement

Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg


House of Lords

Impact of the benefit cap on the incomes of universal credit claimants following the increase in the universal credit standard allowance announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer - virtual proceeding - Baroness Lister of Burtersett


Government steps to initiate the lifting of sanctions on Syria - virtual proceeding - Baroness Cox

Support available for sports across the UK affected by the COVID-19 pandemic - virtual proceeding - Lord Caine


Forecasts for the economy included in the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Report and Interim Financial Stability Report - virtual proceeding - Lord Lamont of Lerwick


Legislation: Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill [HL] - Committee stage - virtual proceeding - Lord Keen of Elie


Scottish Parliament

First Minister’s Question Time


Stage 1 Debate: Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill