TODAY’S FAYRE – Sunday, 13th August 2017
“Calm is the landscape when the storm has passed,
Brighter the fields, and fresh with fallen rain.
Where gales beat out new colour from the hills
Rivers fly faster, and upon their banks
Birds preen their wings, and irises revive.
Not so the cities burnt alive with fire
Of man’s destruction.
When their smoke is spent
No phoenix rises from the ruined walls.
I ponder now the grief of many rooms.
Was it a dream, that age, when fingers found
A satisfaction sleeping in dumb stone,
When walls were built responding to the touch
In whose high gables, in the lengthening days,
Martins would nest? Though crops, though lives, would fail,
Though friends dispersed, unchanged the walls would stay,
And still those wings return to build in Spring.
Here, where the earth is green, where heaven is true
Opening the windows, touched with earliest dawn,
In the first frost of cool September days,
Chrysanthemum weather, presaging great birth,
Who in his heart could murmur or complain:
‘ The light we look for is not in this land’?
That light is present, and that distant time
Is always here, continually redeemed.
To live entwined in pastoral loveliness
May rest the eyes, throw pictures on the mind
But most, we need a metaphor of stone
Such as those painters had whose mountain-cities
Cast long, low shadows on the Umbrian hills.
There, in some courtyard on the cobbled stone,
A fountain plays, and through a cherub’s mouth
Ages are linked by water in the sunlight.”
Vernon Watkins – Poet – 1906- 1967
This visceral ongoing spat between US and North Korea has a fair bit of history tacked on to it. Between 1950 and 1953 about 25% of North Korea’s 8 million population was obliterated by that war; this will have left deep-seated scars. Also when the dissolution of the USSR took place in 1991, Russia told North Korea that it could no longer rely on Russia for nuclear support. So the demographics changed significantly, raising the temperature between the bellicose North Korea and the equally fervent but confrontational USA, which felt responsible for sustaining international peace. Though the rhetoric has reached fever-pitch, both sides are hopefully fully cognoscente that war is a deeply regrettable and unthinkable option. We know President Trump is trying to make a bold statement, but his tub-thumping challenges are unhelpful, threatening to make the world seem a very unsafe place to be.
You will travel far and wide to see a more gutsy performance than Sir Mo Farah go down in a blaze of glory in last night’s IAAF World Championship 5000 metres. Perhaps it was just a bridge to far for his long distance champion runner who has been on the ‘go’ at the top of his profession for over a decade. The same could probably be said of Usain Bolt, who was forced to pull up in his final race (relay) with a badly pulled hamstring. The world thanks you for the huge level of entertainment and excitement you have provided. What an icon! At last a gold medal for GB’S 4X100 metres relay team – a fantastic effort to vanquish the very strong US team!
For the first time for some months, volatility returned to investors’ agenda. There was a 44% surge in the VIX volatility index last Thursday, which was the highest recorded since last November. Most observers, analysts and traders were happy to put it down to Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump tub-thumping in a ludicrously inflammatory manner – certainly enough to scare the living day lights out of most ordinary folk. However I am not so sure that this contretemps was the sole reason. These global indices, since the introduction of QE in March 2009 have made eye-watering gains, resulting in many believing that they were fairly rich in value, suggesting that some sort of a correction was logical, despite a decent earnings season. We have enjoyed all but zero interest rates for a decade and many companies have resorted to share buy-backs or going on the ‘acquisition trail’ to deliver increased shareholder value. These antics may be close to running their race. Hence a further correction cannot be ruled, though alternate asset classes to invest in, do not appear that obvious. Let’s hope ‘Trump and Kim’ don’t continue to inflict unnecessary damage on the market. A modest correction would be understandable; a geopolitically triggered effort would be very unwelcome. During the past week some global indices fared as follows – S&P -1.34%, FTSE 100 -2.69%, European bourses by an average of 2.78, and the Nikkei by 1.12%.
The Street of Dreams experienced a depressing week, though by Friday, some benign inflation data and a slightly less cantankerous mood on Capitol Hill allowed marginally better sentiment to return. There had been a flight to quality with risk being taken off the table and some funds heading for Gold, which added $28 in value during the week to $1286 an ounce. The Swiss Franc and the Euro also benefitted – the latter’s benefit may only be a temporary aberration, with much of the EU currently in a holiday torpor mood. It also transpired that Germany saw its biggest drop in exports in July for two years. Despite an improved feeling there were also some setbacks on Friday. The chip maker Nvidia failed to impress and its shares fell by 7.2%. Apple added 1.7% in value. Nordstrom one of the US better retailers travelled and arrived with its numbers – down 0.6% and JC Penney missed by a country mile – shares down 16%. The Franco/US telecom & cable titan Altice is allegedly working on an offer to buy Charter Communications in the US (26 million subscribers), in a $200 billion deal. Altice and its founder Patrick Drahi have long had ambitions to expand in the US, but there has been no positive response to any overture.
Here in Old Blighty, despite significant volatility and a dissipating appetite for owning stock, there was still news of interest. Vantiv of Cincinnati finally got its act together to buy WorldPay for £9.3 billion by sweetening the deal, leaving WorldPay shareholders with 43% of the company rather than 42%. Prudential announced that it would be fully merging its operations with M&G. In the same breath it is also rumoured that L&G may be considering a £10 billion bid for some of the Pru’s annuity business, following in the wake of its successful £3 billion acquisition of Aegon’s annuity business, involving 27,000 account holders. Mining stocks had a tough week with Anglo American and Rio both shedding 3% on Friday. However it was Dixons Carphone’s numbers that fell way short of expectations with its shares being larruped by 7%. Tullow had a poor session losing 6.3% in value. When Wal-Mart reports on Thursday, its UK subsidiary ASDA is expected to show some much needed improvement in its sales with a 1.5% increase in like for like sales against a background of a 7.5% drop in sales last year. Some eyebrows will be raised across the business community. It transpired that Amazon paid 50% less corporation tax this year than last despite a 54% increase in sales breaching over £1 billion for the first time!
UK companies posting numbers this week – Tuesday – H&T Group, Hargreaves Lansdown, Wednesday – CLS Holdings, Admiral, Balfour Beatty, Lookers, Thursday – Oxford BioMedica, Kaz Minerals, Marshalls, Rank, Kingfisher
US companies posting results this week – Tuesday – TJX, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Coach, Agilent, Wednesday – Target, Cisco Systems, Thursday – Wal-Mart, Stage Stores, Ross Stores, AMAT, Friday – Foot Locker
Economic Data – Monday – Rightmove House Prices, Tuesday – UK CPI, PPI data, Germany’s ZEW, US NAHB Housing Index, Wednesday – UK Employment data, US Housing starts, US FOMC minutes, Thursday – US Initial Jobless Claims, US Industrial production
Market Commentator – Panmure Gordon & Co
Mobile – 0044 7788 144 877
Panmure Gordon & Co
One New Change | London | EC4M 9AF