TODAY’S FAYRE – Friday, 3rd June 2016
“I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed, by the children’s bedtime, level with the shore.
The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
To be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.
Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
Hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast? And be it assumed
That no one hears them among the talk and laughter.”
Louis MacNeice – poet – 1907-1963
To be taken to Glyndebourne fully togged out in glad rags for opera and an amazing dinner has to be one of the most memorable highlights of the annual calendar. Our invitation to see Rossini’s ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’ with Danielle de Niese (Rosina), Alessandro Corbelli (Dr Bartolo) and Björn Bürger (Figaro) manifested itself in to what was just a perfect evening. As one has come to expect the production and sets were superb and the singing under the enthusiastic and eccentric baton of Enrique Mazzola (red glasses, socks and bow tie) conducting London Philharmonic Orchestra, added to the glamour of a wonderful evening. We feel very blessed and privileged. The owner of Glyndebourne and husband of Danielle de Niese, Gus Christie, certainly does not seem to have lost his touch!
Well it sounds as if the ‘bell has finally tolled’ for BHS and most of their 11,000 employees and 164 outlets – desperately sad. In attempting to look at the situation objectively, it just took too long for any potential predator to table a realistic offer. The dye was clearly cast. The on-going losses were obviously growing thus dissuading an intelligent entrepreneur or retailer from biting off a morsel of that magnitude that was just too indigestible.
I still have to return to the basic issue. Firstly Sir Philip Green acted within the law. On the evidence submitted I am hugely critical of the professional advisors of both Sir Philip and Dominic Chappell. Witness the fact that neither side should ever have allowed to go through with the transactions. When someone puts up a ‘for sale sign for £1’ surely that is an extreme warning in itself. The compendium of failed operations from Woolworth to Army & Navy Stores to MFI to HMV and to Austin Reed is sufficient evidence that it is a prerequisite to remain competitive in difficult conditions with the right amount of stock, the best fashions at the right price. If that is not the case, survival is impossible. Just look at the success of Zara, H&M, Primark and Next. They tick all those boxes. Once a retail outlet has surrendered market share reclaiming it is nigh on impossible. M&S will tell you that! The trustees of the pension fund with a £571 million black hole also have not covered themselves in glory.
We still await the evidence of the Parliamentary select committee hearings on 8th and 15th June with Sir Philip Green. Whatever the outcome, Sir Philip does not need me to tell him what he will have do, but nonetheless I will tell him gratis. ‘Come hell or high water’ if he wants his tarnished reputation to be restored, he will have to write a big cheque out to the pension fund for moral reasons. He may well decline to do it. However that is what has to be done!
I listened to Mary Portas, the great retail advisor, pontificating with BBC’S Hue Edwards on the news re BHS’S demise. After Sir Philip’s platitudes of being saddened and disappointed that no buyer could be found, Mary Portas told us that with the right tender loving care BHS could have been rescued. That being the case and with confidence oozing from every pore – Mary – where was the colour of your money? Madam, BHS had been in decline for nearly a decade. Sir Philip and most other people knew that! That’s why the emporium was up for sale for a quid!! Apparently according to CityAM John Moulton considered putting offers in for BHS and Austin Reed.
It seems to be vogue these days to blame anything and everything on the threat of BREXIT. The fact that the world’s economy is not as robust as perhaps it was 6 months ago, which has recently seen some markets come off their better levels, seems irrelevant. BREXIT is easy meat and when the PM, the Chancellor, the BOE, the IMF and the OECD conspire together, as the kernel of the establishment, they can damage the markets with consummate ease in their role as the prophets of doom! So why not add the current bad weather and blame that on BREXIT? It would be folly not to admit to a degree of turmoil in markets in the event of ‘Vote Leave’ winning the day, but there is no need for influential bodies to recklessly drive markets below natural levels!
Yesterday the FTSE 100 eased by just 6 points to 6185, thanks in the main to some mining and banking stocks easing a tad, much of it due to the uncertainty that prevailed over what could be interpreted as spurious comments made by Mario Draghi at the ECB meeting. Draghi called for patience and to allow time for stimulus packages to the banking sector to work. He also referred to the threat of BREXIT – now there’s a surprise – as a risk to the downside to the EU’S economy. The OPEC meeting was also inconclusive, with no agreement amongst members over pricing, though some observers took comfort from the fact that few felt that Saudi Arabia had any immediate intention of flooding the market. Nymex currently stands at $49.16 a barrel and Brent $50.02. It appears that Saudi Arabia is still considering an IPO for Aramco – maybe only 5% of the company, which may be valued as high as $20 billion.
On the Street of Dreams investors sat on their hands as they ruminated over the content of the next ‘Gospel according to Yellen’ in the wake of today’s Non-Farm Payroll data due at 1.30pm BST. It is expected that 165k jobs will have been created in May against 173k created in the same period in the private sector according to Wednesday’s ADP Index. The unemployment rate likely to remain at 5.5%. Will that data be robust enough to trigger a rise in July, with June seemingly unlikely with EU referendum due on 23rd June? There was a flicker of interest in shares in Pfizer +0.35%, Ford +0.76% and JC Penney up 7.6% but from a much ‘trashed’ level.
Heading towards the close the ASX is up 0.83% with the NIKKEI up 0.30% with the current strength of the Yen restricting any further material gains today. PMI service data posted today was down from April’s level but was not disastrous coming in at 51.2 down from 51.8. At 6.45am BST the Shanghai Composite was up 0.18% with the Hang Seng also in positive territory +0.41%. Trading conditions were near enough moribund again waiting for the witching hour at 1.30pm BST. The FTSE 100 is expected to open in positive territory up circa 35 points. There are few key companies posting numbers today.
A peaceful weekend to one and all!
UK companies posting results this week – Friday – Verona Pharma
Economic diary for the coming week – Friday – US Non-Farm-payrolls & employment data, UK PMI services, EU Retail sales
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