12th December 2019
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner
Good morning, Today – having exercised my right to vote – I’m making it my business to find a distraction. I’d advise you do the same, or risk being infected with election fever. Symptoms include anxious foot tapping, tummy churning, nail biting and frenzied tweeting. So settle in, make a hot cup of something, and identify a very important task. Peruse out-of-your-price-range properties on Rightmove, go deep on WebMD with some symptoms you definitely don’t have or, you know, work. All are good options to avoid the ghastly waiting game. Although, that is not to say I favour turning a blind eye to reality under normal circumstances. Over the weekend, my family sat down to watch the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Junior fight streamed live from Saudi Arabia. Having heard nothing much in the way of build-up ahead of the quite frankly poorly monikered “Clash on the Dunes”, I approached the gathering with my usual cynicism. Trotting into the front room aloft a certain high horse, I gallantly made the case for a Saudi boycott in the name of equality and human rights. Betwixt a sea of men, I had spotted two women, and wanted to make the room aware that I would not be standing for it. Alas, my virtuous appeals fell on deaf ears, muffled by over-zealous snacking and my mother’s somewhat disturbing calls for Joshua to remove his top and “end him”. Time passed, my dismay faded and, all of a sudden, I was also watching. I was also hollering. I had inadvertently become a consenting party. Cue the shame. Having done some research post-match, it became apparent that I wasn’t alone in my original opposition. Amnesty International released a statement criticising organisers for staging the fight “against a backdrop of worsening repression in Saudi Arabia”. In particular, they referenced the problem of so-called “sportswashing”, a practice which sees authorities use sporting events to distract punters from human rights abuses. This sounded familiar… Joshua and his team dismissed the criticism, citing engagement with the nation as more progressive than “accusing, pointing fingers and shouting from Great Britain”. Saudi Arabia is an apparent “game changer” for the sport, where boxers earn well in excess of the pay packet that they could generate back home. And herein lies the crux of a wider issue. Every day, companies, governments and individuals gloss over potential moral barriers in the name of ease and profit. They don’t want to stir the pot; the status quo preferential over the upheaval of dissent – and its inevitable impact on their cashflow. To counteract this, we need to compel our leaders to change. And we can start by changing our behaviour as consumers. After all, ignorance is bliss only for those at the top.
The UK goes to the polls today in the country’s third general election in less than five years. Polling stations in 650 constituencies across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are open until 10pm, after which counting will begin straight away. Most results are due to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning. New Zealand police say they are finalising a plan to retrieve the remaining bodies from White Island today, following Monday’s volcanic eruption. Eight of the 47 people on the island at the time have been confirmed dead, with another eight presumed dead. Volcanologists providing updates to the police said the likelihood of another eruption has increased every day since the initial disaster. US regulators allowed Boeing’s 737 Max to keep flying despite analysis which found the plane could have averaged a fatal crash about every two to three years. The report, dated a month after a Lion Air 737 Max crashed in October 2018 killing 189 people, concluded that the plane required design changes to prevent further crashes. A second 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March 2019, with the loss of 157 lives.
Business and economy
UN climate talks in Madrid are at risk of stalling over the question of how to create a global carbon trading market. The highly divisive issue has splintered the 197 countries that are party to the Paris climate accord and is the only part of the rule book that remains to be finalised. The COP25 summit, which is meant to conclude on Friday, has been set the task of creating a framework that would allow countries to exchange carbon offsets or pay each other for emission-reducing projects. (£) Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, will chair her first monetary policy meeting today. Analysts are not expecting any big changes, as former leader Mario Draghi only recently lowered interest rates and restarted quantitative easing. Still, investors and economists will be paying close attention to her leadership style and response to stuttering eurozone growth. Neil Woodford’s former protégé has been sacked as manager of the £1.3 billion Edinburgh Investment Trust after a long period of underperformance. The news comes as Mark Barnett was last month forced to publicly apologise for the poor performance of two other funds he runs at Invesco after Morningstar, an influential research firm, raised concerns about the portfolios. Barnett has seen increased scrutiny amid the Woodford crisis. (£)
Columns of note
Jane Li sheds light on the other side of the coin when it comes to the war on disinformation in Quartz. Beijing’s line on six months of protests in Hong Kong is that US officials are “openly colluding” with the rebel movement and demonstrators are “destroying” the city. But now they’re coming from another source too: a documentary released by Moscow-backed English-language news channel Russia Today. The video, Hong Kong Unmasked, has gained a surge in praise over recent days on Chinese social media platform Weibo for offering the “true” version of events. Users applauded the network for its international reach. And, with China now looking to imitate Russia’s propaganda strategy, the two countries are “more aligned that at any point” since the mid-1950s. Sam Knight argues that Hugh Grant is “living his best British election” in the New Yorker. Against a backdrop of low energy and unconvincing protagonists, Grant’s campaigning has garnered some much-needed attention. The actor professes to have no party affiliation and stopping Brexit is his defining political identity. (£)
What happened yesterday?
Stocks across Asia largely rose yesterday, defying political risks from a key deadline in the US-China trade war on 15 December. The clock is ticking for Washington and Beijing to firm up a “phase one” agreement and halt the impositions of additional US tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods such as smartphones and toys. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 1.3% higher, marking the benchmark’s second positive day in a row. Top performers included Apple supplier AAC Technologies — up 3% — and insurer AIA, which rose 2.5%. Meanwhile, the US central bank kept its key interest rate on hold and indicated it may not cut rates at all in 2020. Still, investors were emboldened by the Federal Reserve’s upbeat assessment of the US economy. On the currency markets, the pound was 0.2% firmer against the dollar at $1.21, its highest since March as traders bet on a Conservative majority in today’s vote. Regardless, investors are braced for potential volatility in the coming hours.
What's happening today?
Finals Caretech Hldg TUI AG Interims Dixons Carphone Fuller Smith & Turner Polar Capital Technology Trust Purplebricks Versarien Vianet Grp
Ocado Pz Cussons Serco
AGMs Amiad Water Bacanora Lithi. Bioventix Blan Tech Grp Fidelity Lok N Store Orchard Funding PipeHawk Volution Group PLS Wilmcote Hldg Ziinc Media
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER) (10:00) Industrial Production (EU) (12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU) (13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US) (13:30) Producer Price Index (US) (13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
Did you know?
Uber is giving disabled and elderly voters free rides to polling stations between 7am and 10pm today, up to the value of £10 each way. Existing users of Uber Access and Uber Assist will be given a special code to access two free trips to and from polling stations in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool and Brighton.
TODAY House of Commons The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019. House of Lords The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019. Scottish Parliament No business scheduled. TOMORROW Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.