Though perhaps not best known for creating belly-laughs, I suspect the Government’s chief bean counter has quite a subtle sense of humour and hopefully Philip Hammond’s wit will come to light during his spring statement at 12.30pm – the Budget, as I understand it, will be officially presented in the autumn.
I suspect the Chancellor to post an upbeat appraisal, a long way from what he expected nine months ago, resulting in the OBS raising growth for 2107 from 1.4% to 1.9%. It goes without saying in the same breath that he will caution us as to the vagaries of BREXIT and will this keep his powder dry for potentially unseen setbacks during what might be quite testing negotiations.
The UK still has debt of £1.7 trillion and even though the UK’s borrowing requirement may be £12 billion less than expected at £57 billion this year, Chancellor Hammond will be keen to not only look after the public finances, whilst at the same time laying out a long term plan for the future with policies for Social Care, NHS, housing, education, technology and infrastructure spending. So much of this stuff has been flagged up, nothing is a surprise in the Budget these days. New Schools and technology spend we know about. We need more meat on the bone as to housing for first time buyers. Will people be encouraged to sell land at a reasonable price? How much regional emphasis on business stimulation will there be? We understand that £1.3 billion will go to local authorities for social care. Who will pay – pension tax relief, NIC increase for self-employed, fags, booze, ‘Death-tax?’ Will the Chancellor postpone new business rates subject to a sensible and pragmatic review? There are many brighter people than me to commentate on the detail – all will be revealed at 12.30pm.
For activity today in FTSE 100 to be anything else but dull would have been unrealistic. We have not been disappointed – down 10 points at 7328 at 11.30am. On a weak, Pound miners have been strong. Banks have held their ‘own’ and media have attracted buyers – often do when confidence is mildly shaken
Of those companies reporting today Restaurant Group was stand-out– big recovery +8.6%, followed by Inmarsat +7%. CLS Holdings was almost standout – up 5.5% but only 686 shares traded at the time of writing! Admiral was up 0.5% with PageGroup +1.3%. L&G saw profit takers -1.5% and Foxton’s lost only 1.5% after a torrid year.