WEEKLY FAYRE – Monday, 1st March 2021

March 1, 2021

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours. 

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies”

To Autumn

 

John Keats – Poet – 1885-1985

 

 

I have been watching test cricket since 1953. The beach at Frinton-on-Sea, with the sea at low-tide could have made for a better wicket than that prepared for the 3rd test match at Ahmedabad. It goes without saying that India, hosting this series would want wickets prepared to suit it. Why not? England would have adopted the same measures, when playing at Lord’s. However, for the match to end before 2 days were completed, suggests this was not a test match wicket, by any stretch of the imagination. However, let us be candid, England selected the wrong bowling line up. For Captain Joe Root to take five wickets says it all. Rohit Sharma with the bat and Ashwin and Patel with the ball were in a different class than their English counterparts. It should also be recognised that both teams batted below their capabilities.

 

For England rugby supporters, the less said about the 24-40 ignominious defeat by Wales, the better. Wales was the better side, but the French referee will not be welcome at Twickenham in the foreseeable future!

 

 

INDEX

1st March 2021

5th March 2021

% Loss/Gain

FTSE

6624

6483

-2.16%

DAX

13858

13786

-0.19%

CAC40

5737

5703

-0.59%

DJIA

31381

30932

-1.43%

S&P 500

3885

3811

-1.90%

NASDAQ

13714

13192

-3.80%

SHANGHAI

3707

3509

-5.13%

HANG SENG

31071

28980

-6.7%

NIKKEI 225

29970

28966

-3.35%

 

 

Emotions were raw for investors for much of last week, especially for those who have committed their funds to the Street of Dreams, which has shown them more than admirable returns in the past year, especially the tech laden NASDAQ, which has risen like the proverbial grilse by 54% and by a staggering 91% since 23rd March 2020 – the low point at the start of the pandemic crisis. Markets should also remind themselves that the DJIA did briefly flirt to an all-time-record level on Wednesday when it briefly breached through the 32k threshold. Then a tsunami wave of sellers appeared right across the globe. Though New York was the trigger point, the Far East suffered more than most, probably because gains since the start of this year have been much more prominent. What manifested this sharp pullback? It was the threat of inflation and higher interest rates. In passing, it was the FTSE 100 that suffered much more than its peers in France and Germany. Energy and telecom stocks (BP -4%, Shell 3%+, Vodafone –2+ and BT-2%+ on Friday) were meted out some visceral treatment.

Despite reassuring comments made by Treasury Secretary Yellen and soothing comments by FED Chairman Powell in his two-day ‘Humphrey Hawkins lectures’ to the Senate Banking Committee  that inflation was not a massive problem and that interest rates were unlikely to go up for some time, these prognoses fell on deaf ears. Investors had other ideas. They have systematically taken 10-year Treasury bond yields up from 0.75% at the end of December 2020 to 1.41% on Friday. It may not look that significant a hike, but as a percentage rise it is significant. Many market observers have called this rally a rout, due to the size of that market. There are $2.1 trillion worth of 10-year Treasuries in circulation. As a comparison  10-year Gilt yields have risen from 0.2% to 0.78% in the same period. 

As for other economic issues, first-time jobless claims in the US fell to 730,000 for the week ended 20th February. That was well below the 845,000 Dow Jones estimate and a sharp decline from the 841,000 the previous week. Continuing claims hit a fresh pandemic-era low just above 4.42 million. In the UK observers focused on unemployment data. Unemployment rose to 5.1% in January. There were 726,000 less on payrolls than last January. Next Wednesday, Chancellor Sunak must wrestle with the content of his Budget. Most people believe that the Chancellor should go easy with increased taxation, despite the eye-watering amount the Government has spent on the pandemic. However, Rishi Sunak should be encouraged that the amount borrowed up to the end of December was £274 billion – 20% below expectations, as Treasury receipts were better than expected. Lord Darling, Labour’s former Chancellor believes it would be short-sighted to choke off the recovery. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Let the recovery blossom. No increase in fuel duty, maybe a modest hike in corporation tax is in the offing. An increase in CGT would not be very well received. A raid on pension relief is on the cards. That will not be popular. Help on training and apprenticeships is a must.

Stealth taxation on incomes seems inevitable. Down the road the debt incurred will need to be paid down. No one is any doubt about that; But not now. The PM has set down the roadmap to recovery. It seems that it will not be all systems go until June. Mortgage holidays and guarantees for first buyer has been rumoured. Hopefully, apart from extending furloughing, there will be some help for the self employed from the hospitality sector.  It is rumoured that a £5 billion facility will be given to the hospitality and self-employed sectors to get them back on their feet. Car production in the UK fell by 27.3 per cent in January to the lowest output since 2009, as a combination of Covid and Brexit hit output. We’ve got used to car production in the UK, although not just the UK, falling off a cliff in the midst of the Covid epidemic, with the nadir coming in April 2020 when it fell by 97.7 per cent.

As predicted the EU is behaving in a menacing manner toward the City of London in terms of financial services. Bank of England Governor was forced to ‘come off his long run’, vilifying the EU’S attitude towards the clearing of trades in the vast €681tn EU derivatives market – products bought by professional investors to protect against, or speculate on, movements in financial markets; including the price of shares, bonds, interest rates and currencies. Mr Bailey said, “Quite bluntly, that EU’S coercion would be highly controversial, and it would be something we would have to and want to resist very firmly.” Mr Bailey said some 75% of around €83.5tn in clearing positions now held at the London Stock Exchange’s LCH clearing house, the biggest in the market, are not held by EU counterparties, meaning the EU should not be targeting them. “Quite bluntly, that would be highly controversial, and it would be something we would have to and want to resist very firmly.” France’s EU Minister Beaune added to the spat by making some disingenuous comments about considering some part of equivalence with UK on financial regulation. There is much to be done for a basis of harmony and cooperation to return to the negotiation table.

The correction in US markets was centred around technology stocks, with the likes of Amazon Apple losing between 2.5% and 3.5%. Microsoft and Alphabet did not fare too badly. Unfortunately for Elon Musk, who decide to be very vociferous about his $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin, Tesla shares were clattered last week, falling by 11% last week, thus losing Musk his crown as the richest man in the world. Despite Home Depot posting third-quarter earnings that beat estimates with sales surging more than 24%, its shares fell 9% on the week. Boeing had further issues with its aeroplanes with pieces of its 777-engine falling on Denver, Colorado.

The early part of last week was dominated by bank earnings from HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered Bank. A substantial increase in impairment charges did not help their cause and very parsimonious returns on equity were disappointing. Antonio Horta Osorio heads for Credit Suisse in June leaving Charlie Nunn of HSBC to take over. Lloyds share price has halved since Horta Osorio took over. The bank has been dogged by £20 billion of PPI charges – not his fault, but he still walked out of the ring with £60 million remuneration during for his troubles during his tenure. This did not go down well. Reckitt Benckiser posted decent numbers with sales up just short of 12%, but many who stepped up the plate did not for a variety of reasons – Intercontinental Hotels posted profits down by 75% and occupation by 56%. IAG announced a humungous loss of £6.9 billion. Shares are down 56% since a year ago. Centrica experienced an underlying fall in underlying earnings of 31% for 2020. Primark, owned of course by AB Foods, told the market that it had lost sales totalling £1.6 billion during the pandemic. Sales are expected to total £2.2 billion. Aston Martin quadrupled its loss with sales down 37%, despite financial help to the tune of £750 million from Lawrence Stroll and associates. Serco’s profits rose 89% to £153 million and it returned to paying a dividend, which incurred the wrath and indignation of some members of the political glitterati.

On the corporate news front, Mondi are considering a £5 takeover of DS Smith. Despite creating 4500 new jobs in on-line service ASDA is having an overhaul of its operation since being bought by EG Group, which could cost 5000 jobs. G4S consummated its takeover by Allied Universal beating off Garda’s designs in a £3.8 billion deal. Aldi was confirmed as the number one supermarket, by ‘Which’ magazine. Internet car dealer Cazoo told the market of its intentions to go public in a £5 billion IPO.

 

UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Aggreko, Tuesday – Flutter, Robert Walters, Taylor Wimpey, Ashtead Group, Wednesday – PageGroup, Persimmon, Polymetal, Biffa, Thursday – Meggitt, Melrose, Rathbone, Rentokil, Schroders, Vesuvius, Wm Hill, Galliford Try, Friday – Pearson

US Companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Zoom, Tuesday – Autozone, Kohl’s, Target, Chico’s FAS, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Wednesday – Wendy’s, Dollar Tree, Thursday – BJ Wholesale, Kroger, Costco, Gap, JC Penney, Friday – Big Lots

Economic data to be posted this coming week – Monday – UK Mortgage Lending, BoE Consumer Credit, UK PMI Manufacturing, US PMI Manufacturing, US Construction Spending, Tuesday – Nationwide House Prices, EU Inflation (EST: 0.9%), Wednesday – EU Services and Composite PMI, UK Services and Composite PMI, US Mortgage Applications, UK BUDGET & OBR Forecasts, US ADP Employment, US Non-Manufacturing ISM, US Beige Book, Thursday – US Initial Jobless Claims, US Factory Orders, Friday – UK Halifax House Prices, US Non-farm payrolls (6k), US Unemployment rate (EST: 6.3%), US hourly Earnings (EST: 5.4%), US Consumer Credit