WEEKLY FAYRE – Monday 26th February 2018
“Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?
Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat — nay, drink your blood?
Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?
Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?
The seed ye sow another reaps;
The wealth ye find another keeps;
The robes ye weave another wears;
The arms ye forge another bears.
Sow seed, — but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, — let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, — let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear.
Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.
With plough and spade and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre!”
Percy Bysshe Shelley – poet – 1792-1822
Everyone, regardless of their passion and political persuasion are heartily sick to death with BREXIT and I am certainly not going to expound on my views on the subject, which are already well-chronicled. Perhaps the Government doesn’t deserve an easy ride for their handling of a very sensitive and tricky set of negotiations. However, suffice to say that the constant negative briefing against the UK, without knowing what is being offered or suggested, by the likes of Tusk, Varadkar, Barnier, Juncker and his bag carrier Martin Selmayr will not help bring these deliberations to a satisfactory conclusion. They will all have earned a first-class honours degree on how to get as many backs up of the UK electorate as possible! PM May is also likely to meet with considerable resistance in getting what many MPs perceive to be disagreeable legislation through the lobbies. So, eyes down for a full house with the Government’s presentation of its proposed plans to the EU on Friday and the European Council’s response next week.
The rugby on offer over the weekend was high quality with Ireland worthy winners at the Allianz against a spirited Welsh side, which just refused to lie down. The score line of 37-27 illustrates the open nature of the game. The same cannot be said of Scotland’s well-deserved Calcutta Cup win against England at Murrayfield. Scotland were superior in every department. England failed to record any turnover ball of note throughout the match. I cannot remember this happening in recent years. Scotland were never in danger throughout the game and England only woke up in the last 10 minutes, when it was too late!
If observers look at the table above, it is hardly reflective on what went on in global stock markets last week. Chinese markets were closed for much of the week; hence Shanghai was playing catch up on Thursday. On the Street of Dreams volatility was there in spades and sentiment for the early part of the week remained very weak, though a strong rally was evident on Friday. With 10-year US Treasury yields hitting their highest level of 2.95% since 2009, driven up by fears of inflation and wage inflation, traders and observers could see the case for higher interest rates, which had already been guided by the FED. Coupled with the economy appearing to remain robust, investors were encouraged to take some risk off the table. There remains a ‘school of thought’ in the US, which believes equities might have peaked out. Walmart, one of the US’s main bellwether stocks, despite increased revenues to $136 billion, saw its share price plunge by a gargantuan 10% on Tuesday, thanks in the main to earnings missing analysts’ expectations for the holiday period, as e-commerce growth slowing to 23 percent. That is a fall in share value of over $25 billion! There was a decent bounce in NASDAQ stocks for most of the main constituent stocks, despite Kylie Jenner, a well-known celebrity, whom I have never heard of, telling her followers that she no longer uses Snap Chat, causing the shares to fall by 15% on the week amounting to over $2 billion in value. After two months of the year, the deal flow seems to be quite slow in the US. However General Mills did serve notice to buy pet food giant Blue Buffalo in an $8 billion deal.
Here in Old Blighty the FTSE 100 for much of the week was rudderless looking for guidance from across the pond. Wage inflation increased from 2.3% to 2.5, with unemployment increasing a smidgen for the first time in almost a decade. BOE Sir Dave Ramsden joins the bears in looking for a hike in rates this coming May. Also, UK GDP estimate was lowered a pip to 0.4% on an annualised basis to 1.7%. The week was dominated by banking results, starting with HSBC on Tuesday. Investors said goodbye to Stuart Gulliver and Hello to John Flint as CEO. They were underwhelmed by the numbers, despite being a great improvement on last year’s effort. However, margins were seen to be eroded and on the week its shares fell by all but 5% to 723p. HSBC now executes 75% of its business in Asia. Lloyds Banking Group posted a 24% increase in profits for the year on Tuesday to £5.3 billion. The dividend of 3.05p per share was also well received, but there was ANOTHER £1 billion provision for PPI! Lloyds shares were up 0.5p on the week to 68.65p. The question everyone is asking is will Antonio Horta-Osorio stay after 7 years in the plate? Despite its litigation problems Barclays attracted attention as a recovery operation on Wednesday and its shares were up 4% on the week to 209.8p. Finally, RBS on Friday posted its first profit for 10 years of £752 million. However, this bank, though trading satisfactorily with an operating profit of over £2 billion, is still attracting adverse publicity with its GRG division, which will cost the bank money, as will the DOJ’s fine, yet to be announced for mortgage securities manipulation. It could cost RBS as much as $5 billion. Once this fine is finalised, RBS can consider paying a dividend. RBS’s share price was down 4.5% on the week to 268p, way below the 503p breakeven for the taxpayer.
AA’s share price fell by 25% on a profits warning and Moneysupermarket’s fell by 17% for similar reasons. William Hill’s effort was not helped by a fine of £6.2 million being imposed for a money-laundering associated offence, though the shares were up 3% on the week on an improved outlook. BAE Systems and IAG slightly disappointed with their numbers. The GKN saga bats on with Melrose still in the frame as a predator, but the level of enthusiasm appears to be waning for this deal to be consummated. Persimmon reports next week. CEO Jeff Fairbairn has agreed to cut his long-term bonus of £110 million by £30 million – how magnanimous is that? Also, Serco’s Rupert Soames will take a 20% pay cut (last Year £2.2 million) as the company’s share price has fallen by almost two thirds. Some major shareholders in Unilever have warned that it may not be in the company’s best interest to have its Head Office in Rotterdam only. The spat between the Sunday Times and Sir Philip Green over whether there have been early talks about selling Arcadia or just Top Shop and Topman to a potential Chines buyer, Shandong Rui, has gathered momentum. Sir Philip vehemently denies there has been any conversations neither direct and nor does it appear that HSBC or Goldman have been involved as an advisor or as an intermediary on the subject. Any sale of Arcadia or part of that emporium is likely to incur a pension payment, which is rumoured to be about £500m.
UK companies posting results this week – Monday – AB Foods, Hammerson, Senior, Bunzl, One Media, Hiscox, Keller, Dechra Pharmaceuticals – Tuesday – Croda, Direct Line, Drax, Fresnillio, GKN, , Meggitt, Virgin money, Standard Chartered Bank, Provident Financial, Persimmon, James Fisher, Inchcape, Wednesday – Admiral, Foxtons, Go-Compare, , Informa, ITV, , Man Group, Taylor Wimpey, Travis Perkins, St James’s Place, Jardine Lloyd Thompson, UBM, Genus, Weir Group, Thursday – Capita, Cobham, CRH, Hastings, Howden Joinery, Merlin Entertainment, Bovis Homes, RPS Group, Evraz, National Express, Petrofac, Rentokil, Schroders, Vesuvius, WPP, Friday – London Stock Exchange, Spire Healthcare, Essentra, Mondi
US companies posting results this week – Monday – Dean Foods, Tuesday – Toll Brothers, Autozone, Macy’s, Hertz, Wednesday – Chico’s FAS, Worldpay, Office Depot, L-Brands, Thursday – Kohl’s, Sotheby’s, Liberty Media, Best Buy, American Outdoor Brands, Friday – JC Penney, Revlon, Foot Locker
Economic data posted this week – Wednesday – US GDP, Thursday – UK PMI Manufacturing, Friday – UK PMI Construction
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