WEEKLY FAYRE – Monday, 22nd February 2021

February 22, 2021

Call it a good marriage -
For no one ever questioned
Her warmth, his masculinity,
Their interlocking views;
Except one stray graphologist
Who frowned in speculation
At her h's and her s's,
His p's and w's.


Though few would still subscribe
To the monogamic axiom
That strife below the hip-bones
Need not estrange the heart,
Call it a good marriage:
More drew those two together,
Despite a lack of children,
Than pulled them apart.

Call it a good marriage:
They never fought in public,
They acted circumspectly
And faced the world with pride;
Thus the hazards of their love-bed
Were none of our damned business -
Till as jurymen we sat on
Two deaths by suicide.

“Call it a good marriage!”

Robert Graves – Poet & Author – 1885-1985

 

With England’s cricketers thoroughly chastened after their ignominious defeat at Chennai to level the series at 1-1, both teams head for the more temperate Ahmedabad, north of Delhi. The conditions should suit England better. With Anderson and hopefully Archer returning, what a prospect is in store from this hugely exciting test series. India’s batsmen returned to form with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin making great contributions, having won the toss, which was vital. Their runs all but sealed victory. Well though Leach and Moeen bowled, Ashwin was in a league of his own.

Having gained seven out of the last 9 points up for grabs, I am quietly starting to believe that Fulham might just escape the drop to the Championship. If their players could find their way to goal, it might almost be ‘job done!’

 

INDEX

15th February 2021

19th February 2021

% Loss/Gain

FTSE

6589

6624

+0.53%

DAX

13931

13993

+0.46%

CAC40

5732

5773

+0.72%

DJIA

31420

31494

+0.24%

S&P 500

3911

3906

-0.13%

NASDAQ

13979

13874

-0.75%

SHANGHAI

3504

3696

+5.48%

HANG SENG

29995

30644

+2.17%

NIKKEI 225

29662

30017

+1.20

 

 

European investors ‘leapt out of the blocks’ last Monday morning like scalded cats – eager to add to their equity portfolios, even though there was no input from New York (George Washington Day) and sparse help from China courtesy of the Chinese New Year. The vaccination programme, especially in the UK, was ‘under a wet sail’, with hopes that energy, banking, and mining sectors, would crack on. By the middle of the week enthusiasm was starting to wane, with 10-year US Treasury yields starting to spike and oil prices started to dip below $60 a barrel. So, as can be seen from the table above, apart from the Far East, which seems largely over their respective health issues, gains were on the parsimonious side, with the Street of Dreams falling in the main below the Plimsoll line. However, on Friday, US Treasury Secretary Yellen put a bit of cheer back in the market, in suggesting that stimulus packages would be forthcoming and to forget about interest rates officially rising for some time, regardless of inflation threats. Since the beginning of the year, Japan’s Nikkei 225 has seen eye-catching gains of 10%, with Europe’s indices averaging gains close to 3.2% and the S&P 500 by 4.2%. Encouragement from Elon Musk and peripheral interest from Apple provided significant momentum for Bitcoin, which broke through the $50k barrier – up 72% on the year.

On the economic front, US Initial Jobless Claims saw the number of people filing first-time unemployment claims increased 13,000 to 861,000 last week. There are 10.1 million jobless Americans since the coronavirus pandemic-hit US economy, which shed 22 million positions in March and April 2020. UK economic announcements were far from encouraging, apart from public sector borrowing numbers posted on Friday. The figure was genuinely much better than expected. Tax receipts have held up well and self-assessment revenue came in above a year ago. Public borrowing so far in this financial year is £270bn vs £340bn projected - 20 percent lower than expected. Retail sales in January in the UK were dispiriting; hardly surprising considering the lockdown - -8.2% month on month (EST: -2.5%) and year on year -5.9% (EST: -1.3%). UK inflation (CPI) rose in January from 0.8% to 0.9%. House prices rose in the UK last year by 8.5%.

It looks likely that the Chancellor will be forced to extend the furlough period beyond the end of April through the summer. Two million people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Many believe that furloughing has already been too generous, and the self-employed have not had ‘the rub of the green.!” There will also, likely to be an extension of the business rate holiday period. NEXT’S CEO Lord Simon Wolfson has warned the government of the need for a radical change in business rates is a pre-requisite, if the high street is not to look like ‘Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona.’ 175,000 retail jobs have already been lost during this pandemic and Lord Wolfson believes a reduction of 35% in rates payable for high street units and a 50% increase for on-line warehouse operators is fully justified. Then there is the small matter of the Budget on the 3rd of March to consider. Some increased taxation seems inevitable, though incentive during this recovery period must not be killed off. A hike in corporation tax and maintaining current income tax thresholds seem likely options.

Despite revenues of $152.1 billion for the last quarter, with sales up 8.6% and e commerce sales up 69%, Walmart disappointed the Street of Dreams, falling short od expectations. Its shares fell 6% on Thursday, though are up 11% on the year. The Pandemic has cost the giant supermarket over $1 billion costs and together with other write-downs, Walmart posted a loss of $2.09 billion. Facebook has blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on its platform. This news coincides with Google agreeing a deal with New Corporation to pay a fee for top quality news content. This initiative is likely to trigger other similar arrangement.

Last week saw the start of the bank earning season, with Barclays and NatWest stepping up to the plate. Barclays on Thursday posted a drop in net profits to £3.1 billion on revenue of £21.8 billion. Tier One Capital at 15.1% was positive. Return on equity of 3.2% was disappointing and impairment charges of £4.8 billion attributable to the pandemic may never be recouped. Investment banking profits were up 22% at £12.5 billion and so were bonuses - £1.6 billion. This number was felt to be excessive and was resented by many. NatWest’s earnings were perceived to be very much better than I thought. A loss of £351 million was posted. Tier One Capital of 18.5% was reassuring in terms of liquidity. Unsurprisingly a loss meant a negative return on equity - -2.4%. The recovery process since the Fred Goodwin dynasty in 2008 has proved painfully slow, with the taxpayer still owning 61.9% of the equity, with shares needing to reach 501p to breakeven. NatWest will be closing its Republic of Ireland operation. NatWest’s shares rallied 5% on Friday to 180p, mostly due to the return of a modest dividend and are up 53% since August. In passing Credit Suisse posted a loss of CHF353 million, thanks to credit write-downs and litigation provisions. 

Glencore, BHP Billiton, and Rio all posted encouraging earnings in concert with the improving industrial conditions, especially noticeable in China. Smith & Nephew’s shares dipped by 5% on Thursday. The medical device/prosthetic limb maker saw a slump in revenue and profits thanks to the pandemic. Revenues fell by 11.2% to £4.6 billion with profits easing by 60% to £295 million. British American Tobacco saw a 3% dip in global tobacco usage. However, a 7.65% yield on its shares continue to make this company an attractive investment. Ford Motor company announced that it will go all electric by 2030 and Nissan’s car factory in Sunderland is heading in that direction, with a new Qashqai. Airbus, despite a €1.1 billion loss, remains committed to the UK and its workers at Filton and Broughton, according to CEO Guillaume Faury.

Three distinguished businessmen have increased their wealth or crystalised it last week. Outgoing Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg bagged a £104 million dividend. Peter Hargreaves, the founder of the very successful stockbroker/fund manager realised £300 million from the sale of shares and Astra Zeneca’s hugely respected CEO Pascal Soriot scooped a £15.4 million pay packet last year – richly deserved in my opinion. A £350 million bail-out package provided by Joe Lewis, John Magnier, JP McManus, and Derek Smith for M&B did not go unnoticed. M&B are haemorrhaging £40 million a month, with a £50 million interest charge due next month, the pressure is on. There is clearly a belief that come the ‘opening-up’ of the economy, the All Bar One, Harvester and Toby Carvery brands will thrive.

Europe’s earning season also experienced mixed news. Allianz’s 2020 operating profit of €10.8 billion included a negative COVID-19 impact of 1.3 billion euros. AIR FRANCE KLM warned there was more pain to come, but the airline is poised to seal another volley of state aid after recording a €7.1bn net loss in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Danone experienced a tough first quarter, driven by BREXIT related headwinds. It expects to return to growth in the 2ndquarter, returning to profit in the second half of the year.

Controversial fund manager Neil Woodford has risen like the phoenix from the ashes. He is facing calls for transparency about his new role with a US firm that bought stocks from his collapsed fund at knockdown prices. Mr Woodford has relaunched his career by acting as an 'adviser' to Acacia Research on the stocks once held in his Equity Income fund. The fact he is teaming up with Acacia – where backers include activist investor Starboard Value, whose boss Jeff Smith has been dubbed 'the most feared man in corporate America' – has raised eyebrows in the fund management world. So many investors were closed out of his fund or lost money and understandably they want answers from the FCA.

The Sunday Times tells us that sadly, John Lewis will be shutting more stores. It has already closed 8 stores with 1300 redundancies plus 1500 further redundancies at head office. There are currently 42 stores, and this may be cut to 34 by Dame Sharon White and her team. On-line business has picked up dramatically and the JLP expects that between 60-70% of sales will be on-line. JLP has repaid £300 million to the Bank of England coronavirus lending scheme. After posting a £635 million loss last September, the 80k partners were told there would be no bonuses.

Cazoo, the used car internet operator let it be known it intends to have an IPO, possibly valuing the company at £5 billion. This business was launched by Zoopla and Love Film founder Alex Chesterman. The DMGT also owns 20% of Cazoo and could enjoy a decent pay day. Mr Chesterman is thought to have off-loaded stock, valued at £100 million.

UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Finsbury Food, Pendragon, Tuesday - HSBC, IHG, McBride, Wednesday – Lloyds Banking Group, Metro Bank, Reckitt Benckiser, Thursday – Standard Chartered Bank, Anglo-American, Aston Martin, BAE Systems, Centrica, Drax, Evraz, Genus, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Howden Joinery, St James’s Place, Inchcape, Kaz Minerals, Mondi, Morgan Siddall, Serco, Friday – IAG, RSA, Rightmove

US Companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Marathon Oil, Unisys, Korn Ferry, Hertz, Tuesday – Brinks, Toll Bros, Home Depot, Dillard’s, Wednesday – BGC Partners, Nvidia, L-Brands, Thursday – ADT, Airbnb, Best Buy, Big Lots, Beyond Meat, Friday – Liberty Media, Foot Locker

Economic data to be posted this coming week – Monday – ECB President Lagarde Speech, Tuesday – UK Unemployment (EST: 5%), UK Average Earnings, EU Inflation (EST: 0.2%), US House Price Index, US FED Chairman Powell Testimony, Wednesday – US FED Chairman Powell Testimony, US MBA Mortgage Applications, US New Homes Sales, Thursday – US Durable Goods, US Initial Jobless Claims, US Pending Home Sales, Friday – Nationwide House Prices, UK Car Production, US Chicago PMI, US Goods Trade Balance