TODAY’S FAYRE – Sunday, 5th March 2017
“We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing …
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.”
Thomas Hardy – author & poet – 1840-1928
Another gem of a play was produced at the Donmar last week – ‘LIMEHOUSE’ – a drama based on the ‘gang of four’ back in 1980 who formed SDP! It was a brilliant production – witty, sardonic and fascinating – particularly if one remembers that extraordinary time in UK politics, when Michael Foot was doing a Jeremy Corbyn. The cast included Paul Chahidi (as Bill Rodgers), with Debra Gillett (as Shirley Williams) and Roger Allam (as Roy Jenkins), Tom Goodman-Hill (as David Owen) and Nathalie Armin (as Debbie Owen).
Roger Allam’s characterisation of Roy Jenkins was superb – the voice, the intonation, the lisp, the rounded ‘Rs’ and his intellectual use of the English language. You could not fault him. It was perfect. As for Tim Goodman Hill as Dr David Owen. I thought his portrayal was too irascible, irritated and bombastic. I just cannot imagine Lord Owen behaving in that rather uncouth manner. Perhaps we all have that piece in the corner of the sardine tin that always remains there, which Alan Bennett referred to in ‘Beyond the Fringe.’ Seriously what a great and riveting 90 minutes of theatre!
Every now and again one is privileged to be exposed to real talent. That happened to me and my wife at a dinner/opera concert that we attended for aspiring singers. I think we heard the best young coloratura soprano I have heard for many a moon – Soraya Mafi from the ENO. She sang arias varying from Donizetti to Verdi to Puccini to Bernstein to Gilbert & Sullivan. Her range was off the scale with the voice of an angel.
Last week we experienced further extremes from the unconventional 45th President of the US. On Tuesday he delivered to Congress an uncharacteristic statesmanlike speech for the very first time, when providing a thumb-nail sketch about his plans for a $1 trillion infrastructure spending spree and some aggressive taxation cuts, to the unorthodox and somewhat injudicious attack on Saturday of President Obama. President Trump accused him of tapping his phone in Trump Towers. For me there was nothing like enough meat on the bones of his fiscal plans for equity markets to surge forward with such zest as they did on Wednesday. Wall Street and European bourses disagreed. They felt that an imminent FED rate rise, flagged up for this month, with the CME’S tracker telling investors that the likelihood of a rate increase this month had risen from 30% to 75% in recent weeks. It appears that the FED is not prepared to wait for more fiscal clarity before moving. Consequently Treasury yields have rallied to their highest level for 7 years.
Equities on a global basis started quietly at the beginning of the week before surging on Wednesday, but by Friday, investors were taking a more circumspect approach, wondering when President Trump was going to throw them a bit of red meat that they could really chew on! In so many words investors lost some appetite for risk and took some of it off the table. The S&P 500 ended the week up 0.54%, a record with the FTSE 100 up 1.8% another record, which was recorded on Wednesday. European stocks performed with almost the same ebullience – up 1.55% whilst Japan’s Nikkei added 0.96% thanks in the main to a weaker Yen.
There were two main attractions in terms of activity on the Street of Dreams. Firstly there is evidence that retail has come off the boil since Christmas, with evidence provided by results from Costco -5% and Abercrombie and Fitch down 8%, which did in no way pass muster. Then of course on Wednesday Snap’s IPO too centre stage and despite warnings of overly-rich valuation saw an explosion of interest with a 44% premium when shares closed at 424.48 having been issued at $17. This was an astonishing effort fir a company that lost $512 million last year. However the appeal of SnapChat to the young with 158 million users and growing all the time is plain to see. However can it attract the level of advertising revenue to sustain the share price? It is interesting to note that Google and Facebook are purported to attract 75% of the digital advertising revenue alone. Bobby Murphy and Elliot Spiegel the two Stanford educated innovators of Snap made $4 billion each, having refused a $3 billion bid from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg a couple of years ago. The shares closed up another 10.6% on Friday to $27!
In London news of three companies captured the imagination last week. Firstly 21st Century’s bid for the balance of Sky has been referred to Ofcom on fears that the Murdock Empire will have too much influence on the media in the UK. Sir Martin Sorrell, always a brilliant barometer on business activity, presented WPP’S credentials to the public with results. There was nothing wrong with them, but the outlook for growth globally was very cautious. Investors vented their spleen and took the shares down by 8% on Friday. Finally it seems that the LSE’s plan merger/takeover by Deutsche Boerse (46%/54%) may be scuppered by the EC over LSE’S refusal to sell its stake in MTS, the Italian bond broking platform. The deal is not yet dead, but the embers are only just smouldering. A great deal of hard work has been put into this deal by both parties. If the deal does fail, I suspect that LSE’S CEO Xavier Rolet will be there to steer the exchange in to other interesting strategic moves. Like it or not markets will be global, though the LSE, pro-tem, is more than capable of standing alone. Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management are rumoured to be unveiling an £11 billion merger. The ink is hardly dry on Sir Philip Green’s agreement to fund BHS’S pension black hole to the tune of £350m, as news breaks that he may have to put his hand in his pocket for Arcadia’s pension short-fall. Arcadia has closed over 600 shops since 2012 and is overall sales fell by 6.5% over Christmas.
Chancellor Philip Hammond presents his first Budget on Wednesday. A £60 billion BREXIT war chest is likely to be built up to boost the UK’s resilience to any economic turbulence or fall-out! Cuts are also expected to be made to pay for increased spending on social care.
UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Informa, Devro, Tuesday – Intertek, Paddy Power/Betfair, Direct Line, SDL, Shawbrook, Just Eat, Worldpay, Wednesday – Inmarsat, Admiral, CLS Holdings, Dignity, Restaurant Group, Foxton’s, WanDisco, PageGroup, G4S, Thursday – Aviva, Wm Morrison, Aldermore, Old Mutual, Premier Oil, Countryside, DS Smith, Domino Pizza, International Game Technology, Cineworld, Friday – eSure,
US companies posting numbers this week – Monday – Korn/Ferry, Tuesday – Dick’s Sporting Goods, Urban Outfitters, Thursday – Staples
Economic data this week – Monday – US Factory orders, Tuesday – Halifax House Price Index, Wednesday – NIESR GDP, US ADP Employment data, UK BUDGET, Thursday – US initial Jobless Claims, Friday – RICS housing data, UK manufacturing production & Consumer Inflation expectations , US Non-Farm Payrolls and employment data.
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