TODAY’S FAYRE – Tuesday, 28th November 2017
“By noon your breathing had changed from normal
to shallow and panicky. That’s when the nurse said
Nearly there now, in the gentle voice of a parent
comforting a child used to failure, slipping her arms
beneath your shoulders to hoist you up the pillows,
then pressing a startling gauze pad under your jaw.
Nearly there now. The whole world seemed to agree—
as the late April sky deepened through the afternoon
into high August blue, the vapour trails of two planes
converged to sketch a cross on the brow of heaven.
My brother Kit and I kept our backs turned to that
except now and again. It was the room I wanted to see,
because it contained your last example of everything:
the broken metal window-catch that meant no fresh air;
your toothbrush standing to attention in its plastic mug;
the neutral pink walls flushed into definite pale red
by sunlight rejoicing in the flowering cherry outside;
your dressing-gown like a stranger within the wardrobe
eavesdropping. That should have been a sign to warn us,
but unhappiness made us brave, or do I mean cowardly,
and Kit and I talked as if we were already quite certain
you could no longer hear us, saying how easy you were
to love, but how difficult always to satisfy and relax—
how impossible to talk to, in fact, how expert with silence.
You breathed more easily by the time we were done,
although the thought you might have heard us after all,
and our words be settling into your soft brain like stones
onto the bed of a stream—that made our own breathing
tighter. Then the nurse looked in: Nothing will change
here for a while boys, and we ducked out like criminals.
I was ordering two large gins in the pub half a mile off
when my mobile rang. It was the hospital. You had died.
I put my drink down, then thought again and finished it.
Five minutes later we were back at the door of your room
wondering whether to knock. Would everything we said
be written on your face, like the white cross on the heavens?
Of course not. It was written in us, where no one could find it
except ourselves. Your own face was wiped entirely clean—
and so, with your particular worries solved, and your sadness,
I could see more clearly than ever how like mine it was,
and therefore how my head will eventually look on the pillow
when the wall opens behind me, and I depart with my failings.”
Andrew Motion – poet laureate – 1952-
I noticed some months ago that the Labour Party’s ‘Momentum’ drive had developed the use of social media very effectively to another level of contemptuous hatred with the most appallingly vituperative language, which is some cases was threatening and frightening. It is at times like this that one wonders whether it has altered inexorably previously reasonable exchanges between members of the human race. However I suspect that I am out of kilter with most members of society and that behaviour of this nature is now the norm.
To my horror I have noticed unacceptably visceral hatred and bile being exchanged between ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’ in the Brexit debate. Passions run high in this emotive forum, but personally I want no part of this hideous behaviour. It does not augur well for the future! I doubt I shall ever comment again about Brexit on Twitter! There are some truly vile exchanges manifesting themselves.
When tfl, endorsed by Mayor Khan, blamed the drop in passenger numbers on the uncertainty created by BREXIT, I was “gob-smacked!!” Absolute Bunkum! The drop in numbers is down to three issues – A shocking service, expensive tariffs and the threat of terrorism! The last mentioned is sadly unavoidable. We know Mayor Khan is obsessively ‘REMAIN’ but ill-thought-out-anal comments continue to drive a characteristically and increasingly unpleasant wedge between both parties.
On the first day of the first test match at the Gabba, it looked as though both sides were evenly matched. It would appear after 5 days and an ignominious defeat by 10 wickets that England was not at the races! Australia has not lost in Brisbane since 1988, but that is no reason for England to perform so poorly. Steve Smith’s brilliant century and their better balanced bowling attack may prove to be the difference between the two sides. As we head for Adelaide this weekend, let’s hope I am wrong. Conditions in this day-night match might favour England initially, but I shall not be holding my breath!
Currently papers make desperate reading and TV unattractive viewing when it comes to international news and politics. So yesterday it was great to have confirmation of the forthcoming betrothal of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – they gave a great interview to BBC’S Mishal Husain. It was also splendid to hear that two drug and healthcare companies – Qiagen and Merk were committed to spending £1 billion in London and Manchester on research which could generate 1750 jobs to add to what is becoming an increasingly important sector, which the FT told us employs 233k people and is responsible for a turnover of £64 billion in a year. There was also enlightening news that despite BREXIT the City of London and the financial sector had generated £72 billion of revenue for the Treasury last year. I am sure that will not have escaped Philip Hammond’s notice. Hopefully the Cabinet and particularly David Davis will do all they can to agree a decent transition period without delay! Before moving on, I must confess I had a little chuckle at the possibility of Persimmon’s Jeff Fairburn earning £80 million as performance bonus over a few years. Many were incandescent with rage at this huge amount of money going to one individual. Mr Fairbairn has been there man and boy since the age of 17. In ten years Persimmon’s share price has risen from 230p to £26! So maybe that is why he will claim so much largesse! Considering there was no money on the table, I thought the Government’s business plan had considerable merit.
The Bank of England posted some quite stringent stress tests. That was inevitable since our Central bank has been so downbeat about the economy for the last 17 months. Apparently these figures assume a 30% drop in house prices, a 4% drop in GDP and unemployment at 9.5%. Governor Carney says the UK needs 18-24 month transition period. Simon French Panmure’s chief economists points out a few idiosyncrasies in these tests. He says “Just to put those Lloyds results in context. In 2016 the company saw the stress test reduce their Tier 1 capital from 12.8% to 10.3% (down 250 bp). This year it went from 13.6% to 7.9% (down 570bp). To put this in context RBS was down 880bp in the 2016 stress tests but just 640bp this year.
So the marginal move on the year is that the Lloyds business model has become far, far more sensitive to an economic downturn (almost certainly due to MBNA acquisition), while RBS has done in the other direction and become relatively safer to this particular stress scenario. With RBS due to be pumped up to facilitate £3bn worth of share sales by UKFI it appears well placed to outperform Lloyds over the near term.”
Yesterday’s session in New York was somewhat nebulous post Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where sales for the latter in the US were up 17% totalling $6.6 billion, whereas in Old Blighty sales may have only increased by 3%. Time Inc may be bought by Meredith with the support of the Koch brothers for £2 billion. The Street of Dreams closed as follows – DOW +0.10%, S&P -0.04%, NASDAQ -0.15%. Asian stocks initially did not fare well as investors took risk off the table in China and Hong Kong. However these markets recovered and closed as follows – ASX -0.04%, Shanghai +0.3%%, Hang Seng unchanged, Nikkei -0.10%. This morning the FTSE is 14 points in credit at 7398 at 9.05am. The star performer was OCADO – up 27% at 327.6p, thanks to an announcement that it will be delivering for France’s Casino. We have been waiting for this. The ‘short sellers’ have been temporarily to put to the sword – hence the exaggerated gain!
Yesterday Bitcoin approached the $10k threshold in price. This crypto-currency stood at $235 in May 2013, rose to $945 in December 2015 and yesterday it was $9804. This is not a market for the faint-hearted. Bitcoin is not a “share” it is a distributed ledger system. It is very clever. Think peer to peer share/land registry without single point of trust/authority/failure. The BoE cannot “regulate” it. That’s the whole point; it is out of the hands of central planners. CME is planning to open a futures contract. Good luck!
UK companies posting results this coming week – Tuesday – Shaftesbury, Cranswick, ITE Group, Pets at Home, Sanderson Group, Greencore Wednesday – LondonMetric, RPC. Brewin Dolphin, Thursday – Greene King, Grainger, Go-Ahead, Pay-Point, Marston’s
US Companies posting interim results this coming week – Tuesday – American Eagle Outfitters, Christopher & Banks, Autodesk, Wednesday – Tiffany & Co, Jack-in-the-Box, La-Z-Boy, Thursday – Costco, Barnes & Noble, Friday, Big Lots , Genesco
Economic data due this coming week – Tuesday – Nationwide House Prices, Wednesday – BRC shop prices, UK Consumer Credit and Mortgage Applications, Thursday – UK Consumer Confidence, Friday – UK PMI Manufacturing, US PMI Manufacturing
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