TODAY’S FAYRE – Sunday, 19th March 2017
“The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!”
“Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.”
Robert Browning – poet – 1812-1889
“You cannot love God and Mammon.” Having had his wings clipped by Theresa May, I can understand that George Osborne might want to bring his influence to bear back into the UK corridors of political power through the back door as Editor of the Evening Standard, particularly with his obsession to ‘REMAIN’ in the EU. He must still be having nightmares over his disastrous ‘project fear’ campaign, which failed to galvanise the electorate. However, as editor of a brilliant London based newspaper, representing that electorate, which voted 65% to remain, how he can possibly represent Tatton as MP in the North of England and fill his coffers with significant largess from Blackrock and give all those appointments justifiable value, escapes me.
We all know that revenge is best served up cold. Perhaps being editor of a really powerful newspaper, owned by that politically adroit Russian, Evgeny Lebedev, will prove an excellent springboard to be a constant thorn in Mrs May’s side. He can select his lead journalists and make life as difficult as imaginably possible with editorial influence of his choosing. Let me remind George Osborne, who I thought was a decent chancellor, that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn!’ It is true to say that on a couple of budget issues she has rolled over and had her tummy tickled. However I believe she has more resolution than we have seen to date! So George, you won’t be able to call all the shots!
Suffice to say that we have heard more than enough from Nicola Sturgeon on the subject of a second referendum last week, with the flames of discontent being fuelled with unbridled relish by the media. The PM has spoken succinctly and clearly as to her objection to the idea; so can we put any referendum on hold until after March 2019 please. Very boring, excessively divisive and how can any decision be made constructively until we know what the terms for BREXIT are?
The Cheltenham Festival was full of its astonishing achievements. Gordon Elliott was champion trainer with 6 winners. Willie Mullins also had 6 winners but less placed horses. ‘Sizing John’ was a very popular winner of the Gold Cup for Jessie Harrington and Robbie Power. Everyone was gutted for Rich Ricci and connections of ‘Douvan’, a true champion that sustained an injury, thus failing to win the Champion Chase. Nicky Henderson has trained a record number of champion hurdlers and JP McManus broke through the ‘festival’ 50 winner barrier. The bookies had a field day with so many jollies rolled over! I never want to hear a bookie plead poverty again. However, I was reluctantly pleased for Mike Dillon, David Williams and Kieron O’Brien, the really great turf accountants of racing!
As for the 6-Nations it did not go to plan! Ireland were the better side on the day and England’s attacking prowess was left on the training ground. Frankly the team never turned up. To be without Heslip, Murray and Kearney and still win just shows the level of spirit displayed by Ireland with Sexton displaying always a trick too many. For me Eddie Jones remains the sporting coach of the year! – A true inspiration!
Again the past week has hardly been uneventful. The FED raised interest rates with a slightly dovish tone in its accompanying message. President Trump’s ‘want list’ for his first Budget seemed hardly likely to get through Congress unopposed apart from the infrastructure spending. The MPC in the UK kept rates on hold at 0.25%, though Kirsten Forbes voted to raise rates. The outlook understandably seemed hawkish. It seems unlikely that rates can remain at 0.25% for that much longer, if inflation is heading towards 2.7%, particularly with inflation falling to its lowest rate of 4.7% since 1975. The G20 finance ministers’ meeting looked far from an unqualified success, with no decision on climate change and the US appearing to adopt a protectionist outlook towards the rest of the world on trade issues.
Despite all these imponderables, equity markets refused to lose heart and were determined to keep the faith. The S&P 500 added 0.43 last week. The FTSE 100 breached and remained above the 7400 threshold for the week in adding 1.2%. In the case of European stocks, the average gain of the major indices was 1.4%. The Nikkei in Japan bucked the trend easing by 0.42% thanks to a stronger Yen, despite the BOJ leaving rates unchanged. Gold regained a little poise adding $3 on the week to $1225 an ounce and oil remained flat with Nymex settling at $49 and change per barrel.
The Street of Dreams was not a particularly inspiring arena of activity last week. Snap Inc’s share price fell 11.3% last week to $19.54. Tiffany posted adequate results but was very reliant on its Asian operation. Here in Old Blighty, AMEC Foster Wheeler, after the announcement of its possible69 takeover by John Wood posted news that it had secure a contract with the US Airforce. Tullow Oil’s shares tumbled by over 14% as it announced a £607 million rights issue through Barclays. Having managed to buy Agent Provocateur for a mere pittance the previous week, Sports Direct announced that his quest to build a stake in Debenhams was not yet complete. There was also further evidence that the respective managements of Unilever and Burberry were making contingency plans to avoid making themselves vulnerable to a takeover. Unilever’s share price has popped from £39 to £46.50 since Kraft Heinz expressed interest. Unilever are considering a sale of Flora, Stork and other margarine operations for £6 billion rather listening to other benign bidders such as Colgate Palmolive. We may have to wait for Burberry’s new CEO to get his feet under the table before we see an improvement.
Bank of England officials including Prudential Banking are becoming increasingly concerned about the long term future of the Coop Bank. No ready-made purchasers has yet been identified. Investors in Bovis, the troubled housebuilder have told the company to raise their game in bid talks with Redrow.
In closing, my colleagues at the coal face at Panmure Gordon are delighted at the prospect of being exposed to more capital, courtesy of Bob Diamond’s Atlas Merchant Capital and Qinvest with possible access to a wider client base, who will require financial advice for raising capital or for floatation purposes. By going private Panmure has a tremendous opportunity to compete with the best in the SME field. These are truly exciting opportunities for this venerable long-standing well respected brand name in the City of London.
UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – John Laing, Finsbury Food, Tuesday – Fever-Tree Drinks, EKF Diagnostics, Earthport, Faroe Petroleum, 888 Holdings, Amec Foster Wheeler, Bellway, IG Group, Wednesday – Savill’s, Kingfisher, Xaar, Ferrexpo, Thursday – Next, Ted Baker, Kier Group, Halma, Friday – Smiths Group
US companies posting numbers this week – Monday – MaxCyte, Tuesday – General Mills, Lennar, Nike, AAR, FedEx, – ConAgra, Micron Technology, KB Homes, Friday – Finish Line
Economic data this week – Monday – Rightmove House Prices, Tuesday – UK PPI & CPI, Thursday – BBA Mortgage approvals,
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