TODAY’S FAYRE – Wednesday 25th March 2015
“AS evening shaped I found me on a moor
Which sight could scarce sustain:
The black lean land, of featureless contour,
Was like a tract in pain.
“This scene, like my own life,”
I said, “is one Where many glooms abide;
Toned by its fortune to a deadly dun– Lightless on every side.
I glanced aloft and halted, pleasure-caught
To see the contrast there:
The ray-lit clouds gleamed glory; and I thought,
“There’s solace everywhere!”
Then bitter self-reproaches as
I stood I dealt me silently
As one perverse–misrepresenting
Good In graceless mutiny.
Against the horizon’s dim-descernèd wheel
A form rose, strange of mould:
That he was hideous, hopeless, I
could feel Rather than could behold.
“‘Tis a dead spot, where even the light lies spent
To darkness!” croaked the Thing.
“Not if you look aloft!” said I, intent
On my new reasoning.
“Yea–but await awhile!” he cried.
“Ho-ho!– Look now aloft and see!” I looked.
There, too, sat night: Heaven’s radiant show
Had gone. Then chuckled he.”
Thomas Hardy – author & poet – 1840-1928
The ordinary holiday traveller will be scratching his head as to why three Airbus A320 have come down from the skies in a relatively short space of time – Perpignan, the Air Asia crash and yesterday the German carrier claimed 150 lives in the French Alps. Yes we need to find out the content of the black boxes for more data and information, but these disasters are happening too regularly for my liking. Do we need some reassurance from Airbus, whose shares dipped 2% yesterday, that all is well? However, I must confess it strikes me that keeping a plane that is 24 years old in service is perhaps trusting providence too much. Ironically shares in IAG, EasyJet and Ryanair all finished the session in positive territory!
What a sensational cricket outfit the Black Cats (NZ) ODI side are, with their swashbuckling leader Brendon McCullum to the fore! Yesterday’s victory against South Africa was pulsating and it may be folly to think that they are not more than capable of beating Australia or India in the final at the MCG on Sunday 29th March 2015.
Equity markets seem to have run out of steam pro-tem. The earnings season is all but over; large IPOS are scarce and markets are preoccupied with oil and currency prices and their respective volatility. Add to that cocktail of excitement domestic and geopolitical issues and who can blame investors for taking stock and ruminating over the future. Yesterday on the Street of Dreams, despite new House Sales hitting a 7-year high and consumer prices rising more than anticipated last month the performance of the three main indices was rather lethargic and lack-lustre with the DOW easing by 0.58%, taking the S&P 500 down by 0.61% and the NASDAQ by 0.32%.
Then after hours rumours of a large acquisition involving Kraft Foods hit the headlines. Kraft’s share price shot up like a grilse -14.6%, thanks to a perceived, though not confirmed bid by Brazil’s 3G Capital of $40 billion for this giant food conglomerate. In 2013 3G bought HJ Heinz. Many of you will recall the rather tawdry takeover by Kraft of Cadbury Schweppes in 2009 for £10.2 billion. Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft’s CEO behave rather duplicitously in promising few redundancies, which she reneged on. Rosenfeld was replaced by John Cahill at the end of last year as CEO. Food mergers seem to becoming gargantuan in size. Not that long ago, Mondelez and DE Masters 1753 merged to form the biggest coffee shop in the world. – Jacobs, Tassimo, Douwe Egberts and Senseo amongst the brands – with total revenues of $7 billion per annum.
We also heard of a defection from New York to Silicon Valley – Morgan Stanley’s CFO Ruth Porat is returning to her native California, educated at Stanford University, to become Google’s CFO. This is a great coup for Goole. Porat has been very focused at MS on the tech and financial sectors. She also advised the government on the re-financing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and maybe wasn’t a million miles away from becoming Treasury Secretary.
In general it was a fairly muted session in Europe yesterday with the DAX losing 0.8% and the CAC 1%, thanks to a negative sentiment in regards to a sensible outcome to Greece’s financial plight. Greece may run out of money by 20th April and its high time the EU just swallowed Greece’s problem or started organising a satisfactory and controlled exit. The FTSE fared rather better adding nearly 18 points at 7065, with the likes of Diageo, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever providing some of the ballast. Wolseley and AG Barr, who posted numbers yesterday have enjoyed better sessions in their time – down 2.5% and 5% respectively.
This obsession that Vince Cable has for female directors representing at least 25% of FTSE 100 boards is certainly succeeding – 23% to date with only 17 more to meet his criteria. The current figure is 263 women directors. All I can say is, if all FTSE directors are female they must have been appointed on merit! Everyone would endorse that, but to have a set minimum requirement must be nonsense! The judgement of women is every bit as good as mens’ but ‘force majeure’ is not a good idea!
HSBC set down its stall to put up Chinese walls between retail and investment banking by agreeing to move/relocate/create 100 retail banking jobs in Birmingham to Canary Wharf’s loss. George Osborne preened himself like a peacock! However, as is always the case here in Old Blighty, to correct wrong doings, we always over compensate. We have very little investment banking left here in the UK. We will rue this hasty decision sooner rather than later – RBS all but gone, Barclays thinned out and HSBC likely to concentrate its efforts in Asia and New York – a great shame.
Rest of this week’s UK results – Wednesday – JOHNSTON PRESS, JOHN LAING, CARD FACTORY, BALFOUR BEATTY, BELLWAY, BOWLEVEN, UNITED UTILITIES, TOPPS TILES – Thursday – AMEC, SIGNET, DMGT, LAURA ASHLY, EASYJET, Friday – HOMESERVE
David Buik – market commentator
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