TODAY’S FAYRE – Tuesday, 24th November 2015
“Was it a dream? We sail’d, I thought we sail’d,
Martin and I, down the green Alpine stream,
Border’d, each bank, with pines; the morning sun,
On the wet umbrage of their glossy tops,
On the red pinings of their forest-floor,
Drew a warm scent abroad; behind the pines
The mountain-skirts, with all their sylvan change
Of bright-leaf’d chestnuts and moss’d walnut-trees
And the frail scarlet-berried ash, began.
Swiss chalets glitter’d on the dewy slopes,
And from some swarded shelf, high up, there came
Notes of wild pastoral music–over all
Ranged, diamond-bright, the eternal wall of snow.
Upon the mossy rocks at the stream’s edge,
Back’d by the pines, a plank-built cottage stood,
Bright in the sun; the climbing gourd-plant’s leaves
Muffled its walls, and on the stone-strewn roof
Lay the warm golden gourds; golden, within,
Under the eaves, peer’d rows of Indian corn.
We shot beneath the cottage with the stream.
On the brown, rude-carved balcony, two forms
Came forth–Olivia’s, Marguerite! and thine.
Clad were they both in white, flowers in their breast;
Straw hats bedeck’d their heads, with ribbons blue,
Which danced, and on their shoulders, fluttering, play’d.
They saw us, they conferred; their bosoms heaved,
And more than mortal impulse fill’d their eyes.
Their lips moved; their white arms, waved eagerly,
Flash’d once, like falling streams; we rose, we gazed.
One moment, on the rapid’s top, our boat
Hung poised–and then the darting river of
Life (Such now, methought, it was), the river of Life,
Loud thundering, bore us by; swift, swift it foam’d,
Black under cliffs it raced, round headlands shone.
Soon the plank’d cottage by the sun-warm’d pines
Faded–the moss–the rocks; us burning plains,
Bristled with cities, us the sea received.
Matthew Arnold – poet – 1822-1888
I would love to have been a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ at the Oxford Union Debate last night when Nigel Farage, who with Sir Bill Cash, took on his old adversaries J-M Barroso and Nick Clegg over the ‘EU referendum! University students tend to be pro-Europe, as well as marginally ‘left of centre’, so the going was always going to be tough. Nick Clegg’s political fall from grace seemed to invigorate him as he entered the fray so familiar to him. Mr Clegg and his European bureaucrat ally trounced Farage and Cash – 283 votes to 73. However the UKIP leader was in good form comparing the UK’s relationship with the EU to that of a loveless marriage.
He said: “They fell in love and got married in their late teens. 40 years they’ve been together. In the early days it was pretty good, but it’s been getting increasingly rotten over the last 35 years. All the people say to her ‘You must stay with him. Oh I know he’s a terrible bully! I know he makes all the rules and the laws in the house! I know he forbids you from making your own friends but surely it is better that you stay together?’ There are some perhaps who tended towards her side and vex themselves with the question: ‘Could she cope on her own? Was she really up to it? Could she manage her own shopping basket and run her own life?’
To have witnessed Roger Federer, at the age of 34, play wonderful graceful tennis, despite losing the final of the Barclays ATP Final at the O2 to the indominatable Novak Djokovic, was a real privilege. – Not sure about the beard? Well, everyone seems to have one these days, apart from me!
Sky’s Ian King wrote a brilliant well-reasoned and impassioned piece in the Times yesterday on Andy Hornby, the former CEO of HBOS, who has come in for some visceral treatment in last week’s Sir Andrew Green, QC’S report. Ian’s point that he made no money, lost everything including his marriage is in many ways punishment enough. Also Mr Hornby seems to have done an exemplary job at Gala-Coral. However he was CEO when the walls of HBOS came tumbling down and let’s face it, the buck sits at the top. Perhaps just banning him from working in a bank would satisfy most ardent critics.
Nothing else seems to matter these days apart from the content of Chancellor Osborne’s Autumn Statement and the nuances as to how he is going to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul!’ The Chancellor is happy to listen to all the ‘bleeding hearts’ over austerity, policing and tax credits, but at the end of the day he is going to balance the books and cut the deficit by circa £20 billion. The Government has sailed temporarily on to the rocks over its borrowing requirement and may have over-shot the target by £10 billion to nearly £80 billion for the year. Most of the cuts are likely to come from BIS, Defence, Home Office and Justice. However with the PM announcing a £10 billion increase in defence spending on mainly aircraft and ships which won’t be delivered until 2023/5, this money will have to come from elsewhere as will the bill for the increase in security requirements against terrorism. I suspect that the MOD’s administrative staff might be the recipient of some tough cuts and redundancies. We shall see – all will be revealed at 12.30pm tomorrow. My colleague at Panmure, Simon French, will be providing comprehensive and informed comment in the next few days.
The CBI’S Carolyn Fairbairn seems very keen to make a splash, in replacing John Cridland as Director General. She has already shown her colours as a feisty supporter of EU membership. However she struck me as being very over confident that HSBC will stay domiciled here in the UK. Maybe she has direct knowledge on the subject, but there are still investors like Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management who think the ‘local’ bank is being put at a competitive disadvantage with tougher regulatory requirements and perhaps not enough concessions on bank levy charges. HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank may still require convincing and some TLC from the government, the BOE and the FPA.
Yesterday was a dreary non-plus day on equity markets, with little to get excited about in a morass of indifference. Mining and oils shares dipped, responding to prices. Supermarkets remained out of fashion, with ‘shorts’ still out there on Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison. Few believe that they can thwart the Aldi/Lidl bandwagon as we head towards Christmas with little sign of food inflation. Defence based shares such as BAE Systems, Qinetiq and Cobham added the odd penny on the back of the PM’S comments. The FTSE 100 eased by 29 points to 6305. Activity was fairly muted on the Street of Dreams as investors worried about a very strong Greenback and the damaging effect it might have on exports and the effect a modest hike in rates could have in early December. Let’s hope Thanksgiving and Black Friday can supply some much needed relief with perhaps a little Christmas joy!
Hillary Rodham-Clinton vented her spleen in a vituperative speech last night, slamming Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer for the decision to merge with Allergan in a $160 billion deal, which has very attractive tax connotations. Corporate tax in the US is 35% circa. In Dublin it is 12.5%, where Allergan is domiciled. It make sense for head office to be in Dublin. Pfizer alone would save $2.1 billion a year. Stop whinging Mrs C – get Congress to change the law! The joint company will employ 40,000 people and suffice to say there is great synergy between the two and good cost saving opportunities. Within Pfizer’s portfolio sits Lipitor (cholesterols), oncology drugs, cardiology drugs, diabetes and of course Viagra. Allergan has Botox, testosterone drugs, ophthalmic solutions, skin care and glaucoma amongst its treatments.
Rolls Royce’s Warren East announced his strategic plans this morning with running costs to be cut by £200 million. There were also some encouraging results this morning from AO World, having been horribly out of sorts for the last 6 months, Compass Group with a 10.9% increase in dividend, Drax and Pets-at-Home. Kingfisher’s efforts were slightly neutral with Q3 sales of £2.7 billion, +2.6% L-F-L and retail profit of £223 million, up 0.4%.
UK companies posting results – Tuesday – AO WORLD, CINEWORLD, BABCOCK INTERNATIONAL, KINGFISHER, INTERTEK, COMPASS GROUP, TELECOM PLUS, M&B, DRAX GROUP, PETS-AT-HOME, SHAFTESBURY, Wednesday – BRITVIC, DMGT, UNITED URILITIES, HOGG ROBINSON, THOS COOK, BETFAIR, RPC GROUP, Thursday – SEVERN TRENT, PAYPOINT, LONDONMETRIC, SSP, MARSTON’S, Friday – SVG CAPITAL, PENNON
US companies posting interim results –Tuesday – CHICO’S FAS, HORMEL FOODS, FRED’S, TIFFANY’S, DOLLAR TREE, Wednesday – DONALDSON
ECONOMIC DATA – Tuesday – US GDP update, CBI DISTRIBUTIVE SURVEY, Wednesday – BBA applications (UK), MBA MORTGAGE APPLICATIONS (US), AUTUMN STATEMENT, Thursday – INITIAL JOBLESS CLAIMS, Friday – UK CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
Market Commentator – Panmure Gordon & Co