TODAY’S FAYRE – Wednesday, 28th December 2016
“The bells of waiting Advent sing,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
“The church looks nice” on Christmas day.
Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many -steepled London sky.
And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?”
Sir John Betjeman – Poet Laureate– 1906-1884
Even if you are not a horse racing acolyte, you may well, like me, like to experience the best on offer in any field of activity. So it was at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, where ‘Thistlecrack’, a novice chaser with just four races over birch under his belt, hosed up to win the King George VI Chase as he liked, with Tom Scudamore in the plate. Let’s hope Colin Tizzard can keep him sound until Gold’ Cup Day on 17th March 2017 – That could be a real spectacle! Were he to win there may not be a dry eye at Prestbury Park. There was also very competitive racing at Kempton on Tuesday. I will be very surprised if ‘Altior’ is not in the shake-up of the ‘Arkle’ on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. And Charli Parcs’ won’t be far away in the Triumph Hurdle
President-Elect Donald Trump has certainly made some ‘left-field’ or unorthodox appointments to his administration, none more so than the multi- billionaire business maverick Wilbur Ross, as Commerce Secretary. In yesterday’s Times he is purported to have said that BREXIT was a heaven sent opportunity for the EU to close on the UK’s trade and financial services prowess and pilfer them. This comment may have been made some months ago in Cyprus, where Mr Ross has significant, if perhaps rather imaginative investments.
However for a few years now, I have always had my doubts about this special relationship between the US and the UK. There is little evidence of it. The relationship, which was strong until the Obama regime, seems to be crumbling rather quickly. If Mr Ross made these comments out of context as a business man as a major shareholder in a Cypriot bank, he should say so! The fact that the silence has been deafening on the subject, provides further evidence that the US is likely to pursue deeper isolationist policies. In other words, I’m alright, Jack and the rest of you go to hell and a high place!
Not that Mr Ross gives a tinker’s damn but, even if he wishes to pursue a confrontational approach to the UK, he will need basic lessons in diplomacy when dealing with China. Like it or not China really does matter! Perhaps PM May and F&CS Johnson need to go on a charm offensive with a visit to the White House, sooner rather than later.
Sports Direct has decided to unload another iconic brand name – Dunlop – to Japanese owners. PM May made her feelings crystal clear that she did not want UK companies or brands to be sold abroad. However there is little the PM can do at present to prevent such deals, until there is some clarity over BREXIT and the implementation of Article 50. The UK needs as many influential friends as possible. Dunlop is a well-known brand, but not exactly key in the grand scheme of issues. So there is little point in offending or irritating potentially very influential trading partners, whilst the UK government is in dire need of great friends, whilst we grapple with the machinations of BREXIT. The likes of China, Japan, Malaysia and others may also be persuaded to invest in huge infrastructure projects here in Old Blighty. The UK needs investment of that nature whilst it services such a gargantuan public sector borrowing requirements. So if horse trading involves a few household brand names being used as bait until our trading stall is set down, so be it.
As we head towards the end of a tempestuous and tumultuous year, the like of which we have not experienced since the credit crisis in 2009, it hard to believe that global stock markets have performed with such aplomb, and in the case of the FTSE it is thanks in the main to an 18% fall in the Pound since the BREXIT result on 24th June, aided and abetted by hysteria promoted by the establishment – Treasury, OECD, IMF, BOE and most economists. To date they have all been wrong. Who knows maybe 2017 will prove to be a different year with both the UK and the EU struggling to maintain satisfactory growth rates. The EU certainly has political issues of immense magnitude to deal with – especially the French and German elections. If you value the FTSE’S performance based on the Dollar, the UK’S leading index has fallen by about 6% this year. However most US equity bourses have broken records with the NASDAQ flirting with that goal. The DJIA is within 55 points to breaching 20,000 for the first time. Many believe that Trump policies on taxation and infrastructure spending, which Congress should adopt post inauguration day on 20th January will see US equity markets make a quantum leap forward. Certainly investors will be very encouraged that GDP for 3rd quarter beat expectations at 3.5%. The Shanghai Composite, the Hang Seng and Tokyo were disappointing this year, though Japanese equities recovered strongly in the last 3 months of the year. The NIKKEI is up only 2% on the year BUT it is up 28% since 8th July 2016.
In the week leading up to Christmas Eve the S&P added a parsimonious 0.11%, the FTSE 0.81%, European bourses were near enough flat and the NIKKEI a paltry 0.14%. Amongst this morass of indifferent equity performances there were nuggets of interesting financial news. The banking sector, especially in Europe has made quite a spectacular recovery. So news that the US regulators only fined Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse $7 billion and $5 billion respectively has been seen as positive for their respective balance sheets. In the last 3 months Deutsche Bank’s share price has rallied by 66% and Credit Suisse, though not spectacular, by a respectable 22% in the same period.
Whilst on the subject of banking, Ross McEwan the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland could see his maximum pay pot slashed under plans being drawn up by its remuneration committee, reflecting directors’ conviction that the lender will remain in majority taxpayer ownership for years to come. Sky News’ Mark Kleinmann has learnt that RBS has begun consulting with leading City shareholders on proposals to reduce the long-term incentive plan award available to Ross McEwan from £3m to £1.75m from next year. If that proposal is adopted, that is a terrible idea. RBS problems were not of McEwan’s making. He should be supported. RBS should be split in to a ‘good’ bank and a ‘bad’ bank to give it the impetus to recover. By modern days standards McEwan’s pay is not excessive. If his remuneration is within the terms of his contract he should be paid it accordingly. If he is not up to the job, Ross McEwan should be removed from office. What RBS needs is management continuity at the top and a coordinated policy decided by the Chancellor, UKFI and the directors of the bank. The situation at RBS was far worse than we were all led to believe in 2008/9.
Let’s end this missive on a positive note. UK car manufacturing in November was the best for 17 years. This is great news. This ventures to suggest that the UK’s economy is far from terminally ill! And finally, the UK’s economy grew by 0.6% in the 3rd quarter when the Treasury forecasted flat. The ebullience of retail activity leading up to Christmas was very much more robust than many thought. London was also swamped by tourists looking to benefit from a cheap Pound.
Market Commentator – Panmure Gordon & co
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Panmure Gordon & Co
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D +44 (0)20 7886 2775
Panmure Gordon & Co
One New Change | London | EC4M 9AF | United Kingdom