The spy who loves you
Written by Scott Reid , Associate Partner
Edited by Harriet Moll, Creative Director
Good morning, I don’t know about your current home-working set-up, but mine has offered that most treasured of peculiar pastimes – people watching.
From my perch at the third floor window of an Edinburgh tenement, steamy brew in hand at my new self-appointed tea break time, I truly become one with my nameless neighbours. I spy the family at number four battling with the kids before eventually settling on another hour of Disney+. I bravely challenge, but don’t quite win a staring contest with the cat across the street. And I see that the man at number seven is quite content to Zoom with his unsuspecting colleagues in a curious combo of a shirt and boxers.
But in an odd way, I’ve grown rather fond of them. Thinking that it was all getting a bit creepy after two weeks of this idle spying, my partner and I decided to balance it with some altruism and post our numbers round the doors, just in case the odd errand needed done. I can heartily recommend it – the response has been the unexpected joy of our current predicament.
In the past few days, I’ve got to know the Venezuelan couple in the flat below, Mr Becke who’s lived on the block for forty years and has a proclivity for sultana cake and the ICU nurses down the street who we’d only otherwise known from walking their Cairn terriers. When I came back from my allotted hour of exercise last night, I passed two neighbours on the stairwell who were sharing a glass of wine from their respective porches, a safe four metres apart.
I’d read of similar things taking off in Italy– pop-up serenades and shared meals over balconies – but figured that sort of thing doesn’t happen here. Instead, the internet, mobiles and apps like NextDoor are reinventing what it means to be a community in the digital age and are utterly vindicated in our hour of need. The Guardian chronicles the Wiltshire village of Chilmark this morning on their efforts to continue community life in the age of Covid-19, Thursday’s online pub quiz and all. Long may such efforts last.
Clearly our global situation is frightening, and this introduction might be my rather blithe, Richard Curtis-style avoidance of an otherwise serious subject. But it is heartening that we can be cheered in surprising ways, and by those so close, on the other side of the apartment wall.
US Congress has agreed a $2 trillion stimulus package to provide economic relief to American businesses and taxpayers hit by the coronavirus, in what looks set to become the largest bailout in US history. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, announced this morning that there was “bipartisan agreement” on “wartime level investment into our nation”, which will be detailed in full later today. Democrats are thought to have secured four extra months of unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs, and an exclusion for bailed-out airlines from issuing bonuses to chief executives.
The UK Government will recruit 35,000 extra staff into the NHS and launch a national volunteer scheme to cope with an anticipated sharp rise in coronavirus infections over the coming days. Speaking in his first Covid-19 press conference appearance yesterday evening, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that 11,788 retired NHS staff had so far volunteered to return to work. East London’sExCeL Centre will also become a makeshift field hospital with space for up to 4,000 patients.
422 people have now died from the virus in the UK, with 8,077 having tested positive for the disease. A government lockdown in China’s Hubei province, meanwhile, has been lifted allowing healthy citizens to leave. The city of Wuhan is expected to have its restrictions lifted on April 8.
And lastly, new modelling by the University of Oxford suggests that up to half of the UK population may have already contracted Covid-19. Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group estimates that the disease entered the UK in mid-January, but may have been able to spread widely due to mass asymptomatic infection with no more than one in a thousand of those infected becoming ill enough to need hospital treatment. (£)
Business and economy
Nike’s chief executive John Donahoe has predicted the worst of the coronavirus crisis “in the near future” as he reopened most of its stores in China. On Tuesday, around four out of five of its 7,000 stores were reopened. Nike’s US, Canadian and Western European stores all remain closed. The sports retailer’s share price jumped 8.5% in after-hours trading as a result.
Iata has estimated that the global airline industry faces losing more than $250 billion in revenues in 2020, representing a 40% fall from 2019. Iata has significantly revised its forecasts since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, from industry-wide losses of $30 billion and then, $113 billion.
Facebook is reportedly seeking to buy a 10% stake in Indian mobile internet provider, Reliance Jio. The Indian tech giant has grown to serve a domestic customer base of 370 million since its launch in 2016 and is valued at more than $60 billion. The timetable of the deal is thought to be have been delayed by global lockdowns caused by the coronavirus outbreak. (£)
Columns of note
InThe New Yorker, Masha Gessen looks at the ways that Estonia might be the world’s best prepared country to tackle the coronavirus. As the rest of the world races to skill up its digital infrastructure, Gessen points out that Estonia was there a decade ago, having replaced corporate and government interaction with Skype and automation. (£)
And in theFinancial Times, Tim Bradshaw takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how home living might change in an age of lockdown. Alongside serious predictions of a looming boom for the Big Tech firms, he also suggests we might see a surge in the popularity of vintage TV reruns and the menacing prospect of 24/7 Zoom streams of people’s pets as consumers search for cuddly comforts. (£)
The peeping tomcat, Edinburgh, 25 March 2020
What happened yesterday?
Global markets enjoyed a historic bounce yesterday, in anticipation that US Congress was on the verge of agreeing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. In London, the FTSE 100 ended up 9.05% at 5,446.01, with New York’s benchmark S&P 500 up 9.4%, Nasdaq up eight per cent, and the Dow Jones up 11.4% - its biggest daily increase since 1933 during the Great Depression. Sterling was stronger on both the dollar by 1.89% at $1.18 and by 1.27% on the euro at €1.09.
Earlier in the day, the IHS Markit/CIPS flash purchasing managers index plunged to 37.1 in March from 53.0 in February. This was the lowest level recorded, and fell far below expectations of 45.0, which analysts fear signals a severe downturn during this quarter.
Strong rallies by BP (+21.58%), Shell (A +20.38% and B +21.41%), and Anglo American (+20.90%) also signalled that, for now, the oil giants seem have found their floor, holding above their 2016 lows amid similar volatility in the oil price.
Other gainers on the back of announcements related to Covid-19 – albeit many – included JD Sports Fashion (+18.77%) who delayed publication of its full-year results, and housebuilder Taylor Wimpey (+1.97%) who halted all construction at its sites yesterday morning.
What's happening today?
Mhp Reg S
UK Economic Announcements
(07.00) Retail Price Index
(07.00) Producer Price Index
(07.00) Retail Sales
(07.00) Consumer Price Index
(11.00) CBI Distributive Trades Surveys
Int. Economic Announcements
(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(11:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(12:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(12:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)
(13:00) House Price Index (US)
(14:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Did you know?
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be the first ever games to be postponed. The 1916, 1940 and 1944 games are the only others to be affected by international events, but were cancelled due to the first and second world wars.
House of Commons
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Consideration of Lords amendments
Opposition Day Debate
Social cohesion and community - Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Andrew Gwynne, Valerie Vaz, Mr Nicholas Brown
Financial and social emergency support package - Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Rebecca Long Bailey, Margaret Greenwood, Jonathan Ashworth, Mr Nicholas Brown
Flood defences for Tenbury Wells - Harriett Baldwin
House of Lords
Coronavirus Bill - Committee stage and all remaining stages - Lord Bethell
Ensuring that the directors responsible for the Horizon Accounting System are held to account - Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
Use of electric vehicles - Lord Borwick
Short-selling on financial markets of shares in companies based in the UK impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic - Lord Bates
Coronavirus Bill - Committee stage and all remaining stages (continued) - Lord Bethell
No meetings scheduled.
House of Commons
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Debate on a Motion on errors in payments made to victims of the Equitable Life scandal - Bob Blackman, Mr David Davis, Sir Edward Leigh, Dame Margaret Hodge
Consideration of Lords amendments
Restoration of canals - Craig Williams
House of Lords
Appointment of a SheDecides Champion - Baroness Sheehan
Establishment of a formal inquiry into reducing the growth of dependency of the UK economy - Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
How the Department for International Development is adapting its work as a result of COVID-19 - Baroness Sanderson of Welton
Adequate income support for the self-employed and freelancers whose livelihoods are impacted by COVID-19 - Baroness Bull
Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill – Second reading - Lord Keen of Elie
No meetings scheduled.