WEEKLY FAYRE – Monday, 8th February 2021

February 8, 2021

“Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;

And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;

I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other:

And if King Edward be as true and just

As I am subtle, false and treacherous,

This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,

About a prophecy, which says that 'G'

Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.

Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here

Clarence comes.”

 

 

William Shakespeare – Poet & Playwright – 1564-1606

 

 

By the Grace of God, sport has come to the rescue of our turgid lives this past week, starting with the four Test match series in India, which started in Chennai on Friday. Watching Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Dom Sibley with modest contributions from Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler and Dom Bess master Messrs Bumrah, Sharma, Ashwin, Nadeem and Sundai was a sight for sore eyes during these dark early chilly mornings. Decent bowling performances by Dom Bess and Jofra Archer have put England in an all but an unassailable position.

 

Then we thought we would be served up with a festival of Rugby. It was not to be on Saturday. The Calcutta Cup was a famine not a feast of rugby, though Scotland thoroughly deserved to win a truly terrible spectacle 6-11; Scotland’s first win at Twickenham since 1983. I have been watching England play rugby since 1954 - the halcyon days of Sharp, Jeeps, Butterfield, Marques & Currie - I can never remember such a woeful performance by an England team than Saturday’s night's effort against Scotland. Only 30% of the ball at Twickers! Wow!

 

There was, I am pleased to say top quality racing at Sandown Park and in Ireland, as well as enjoyable Premiership football fayre. At Leopardstown, Rich Ricci’s ‘Chacun Pou Soir’ and Kenny Alexander’s ‘Honeysuckle’, both trained by Willie Mullins, put in breath-taking performances, and look like ‘good things’ for the Queen Mother and Champion Hurdle respectively at the Cheltenham Festival in March, barring accidents.

 

The small retail investors ‘had their day in the sun’ on the ‘Street of Dreams’ the week before last, putting some large hedge fund managers to the sword, which cost a reputed $19 billion on the ‘shorts’ these ‘Wall Street’ professionals took out, up to 140% of the value of Game Stop, a modest video game retailer. These retail investors held ranks through the Reddit and RobinHood Apps  and others for as long as they could, but in the long term, there was only ever going to be one winner – the market professionals. The likes of Game Stop’s shares fell from $483 a share at their height to $53.50 on Friday. However, many of these retail investors turned their attention to the silver market and little-known US biotech operations such as Cassava (+280%), Annovis Bio (+145%) and Anavex Life (+145%) by Friday. What happens in the immediate future with these bold investments is in ‘the lap of Gods’! I fear the market will eventually win, but there is no doubt these ‘on-line’ retail investors, who are incandescent with Wall Street’s ruthless treatment of out-of-favour stocks, have made a very bold statement.

  

INDEX

1st February 2021

5th February 2021

% Loss/Gain

FTSE

6407

6489

+1.28%

DAX

13559

14056

+3.66%

CAC40

5441

5659

+4.01%

DJIA

30054

31148

+3.65%

S&P 500

3731

3886

+4.15%

NASDAQ

13226

13856

+4.76%

SHANGHAI

3477

3496

+0.63%

HANG SENG

28457

29288

+2.92%

NIKKEI 225

27649

28779

+4.09%

 

The week before last’s measurable global equity reverses were largely regained last week, apart from the FTSE 100 and the Shanghai Composite. The FTSE 100 has been dogged by under-performing energy and banking sectors and the Shanghai Composite by China’s economic data being less robust than had been hoped for. Despite oil nudging $60 a barrel, BP and Royal Dutch Shell concluded terrible years posting losses of $13 billion and $15 billion, respectively. Oil prices were close to zero last May and in many investors’ opinion, these two oil Colossuses were too ‘hell-bent’ on focusing on renewable energy, rather than nurturing their balance sheets back into good health for the next two years.

Not for the first time, the US lead the recovery charge. The vaccination programme is now ‘under a wet sail’ across the US, which is more than can be said for the EU. The Biden administration has run out of patience with the Republicans’ filibustering tactics in attempting to block the $1.9 trillion stimulus package and Congress has been told to fast track the process. Last week was a decent earnings week for many US corporates, with Amazon, Alphabet, Abbvie and Uber Technologies to the fore.  Peloton enjoyed a decent week but its numbers on Friday triggered some profit taking. Pfizer, despite expecting sales of Covid vaccination totalling $15 billion, and Bristol Myers Squibs, both slightly disappointed their acolytes. Exxon Mobil suffered similarly to BP and Shell, in losing $22.4 billion last year. US Initial Jobless claims, though still brutal. However, those claiming benefits fell to 779,000 last week. US Non-farm payroll posted on Friday, showed that the U.S. economy added more jobs than it lost in January, as easing stay-in-place restrictions and fiscal stimulus measures out of Washington alleviated some of the pressure on the labour market. However, the number of jobs regained fell short of expectations, with just 49,000 jobs being created last month (EST: +105,000) expected. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% in December.

The MPC meeting in London last Thursday proved to be anything but a normal standard event. Governor Andrew Bailey served notice that negative interest rates in the future will remain on the agenda as an option, and he served six months’ notice to the 160 banks that have licences in the UK to get their act together – in the same mode as notice was served for Y2K in 1999. Though rates were left unchanged at 0.1% by unanimous voting (9-0), with quantitative easing remaining at $895 billion, the Governor had a variety messages to get across. Firstly, the recent lockdown meant that the Bank estimated that GDP for the first quarter of 2021 could come at -4%. Adding that to an estimate of -8% last year, the overall picture looks very disconcerting. However, courtesy of the Government’s vaccination policy, the BoE expected the economy to bounce sharply and grow by 5% this year, down from an initial forecast of 7.25%. For 2022, the BoE predicts growth of 7.25%, up from a previously forecast 6.25%.However, there was little chance of growth reaching 2019 levels until the beginning of  2023. There was another alarming statistic posted on Friday by the Daily Telegraph: since the pandemic, London’s population has shrunk by 700,000 (circa 9% of the population), with many European workers having repatriated themselves to their motherlands. This does not bode well for the immediate future of London’s economy.

The UK’s damaged economy will pose many problems for Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Treasury, especially the size of the UK’s debt, and how to service it. Imposing higher taxes is inevitable. It is essential that the Chancellor does not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ by killing incentive. A rise in corporation tax from 19% to say 24.25% is likely as is a rise in fuel duty in March’s Budget. The Chancellor would be well advised to leave CGT well alone for a couple of years.

Unsurprisingly Amazon posted stellar results, which included sales breaching the $100 billion threshold for the first time -  $125 billion for the last quarter (up 44% on 2019), with a profit of $7.2 billion. What was interesting from a British perspective was that revenues in the UK were up 51% at $26.4 billion – the equivalent of every person in the UK spending £290 during the year! With Jeff Bezos heading upstairs as Chairman handing over to Andy Jassy, it will be interesting to see how much influence to bear he, as owner of the Washington Post, will have on proposed legislation on tech companies threatened by the Biden administration. Alphabet (Google) grew its revenue by 23% in the last quarter, with advertising revenues of $46.2 billion.

Compass Group’s trading statement saw revenues for this catering giant down by 34% in the last quarter. Barratt Development saw house sales up by 9.2% and profits up by 10.1%. GSK, though sales were up 3% at £34 billion and profits up by 16%, this drug and healthcare giant seems to have disappointed its acolytes, with Astra Zeneca grabbing all the headlines. GSK’s CEO, Emma Walmsley is hoping for an improved trading period.  Unilever posted a 3.5% increase in sales for the 4th quarter to €12.1 billion. Vodafone and BT group have been very unexciting investments in recent years. The former saw revenues up by 0.4% and revenues at BT were down 7% in the last quarter. Both numbers were better than expected. Most of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group (Top Shop, Top Man, Miss Selfridge and HIIT) were sold to ASOS for £295 million, mainly for the on-line business.

Hargreaves Lansdown saw profits rise by 10% with funds under management rising by 15% to £120.6 billion. Oaktree have backed Rooney Anand, previously CEO of Greene King for 13 years until 2016 to rekindle life in certain areas of the pub industry with a £500 of investment fund.

In their relentless quest to bully the UK, the EU agreed to open-up to the US clearing houses. This is another pathetic, revengeful, but understandable action to drive a wider wedge in the UK’s financial services quest for pre-eminence.  The Government has done very little to protect these services in the BREXIT agreement. Its about time they responded to the challenge. Thank goodness Barclays CEO Jas Staley recognised that the real challenge could come from New York and Asia and not the EU and the City of London should be mindful of the threat. Financial services employ 1.1 million and is responsible for about 11% of UK GDP. I am confident that the UK will win through, but the challenge is Herculean.

Finally, we hear that former Chancellor George Osborne is to quit his appointments at Blackrock and the Evening Standard and join the highly successful boutique investment bank, Robey Warshaw, run very successfully by Sir Simon Robey, a former partner of Morgan Stanley. In recent years Robey Warshaw has advised Astra Zeneca, SAB Miller and British Gas in the defence and support of huge deals with Pfizer, Shell, and Anheuser Busch.

UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Electrocomponents, Tuesday – Micro Focus, Ocado, RMG, Bellway, Wednesday – Dunelm, Lancashire Holdings, Ashmore, Thursday – Astra Zeneca, Coca-Cola HBC, Relx, MJ Gleeson

US Companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Loew’s Corp, KKR, Hasbro, Tuesday – Goodyear, Cisco Systems, Coty, Dupont, Wednesday – Bunge, Coca-Cola, CME, General Motors, Thursday – BJ Restaurants, Molson Coors, Kraft Heinz, Walt Disney, Kellogg, Expedia, Fidelity

Economic data to be posted this coming week – Monday - EU Mme Lagarde Speech, US Consumer Inflation Expectations, Tuesday – US MBA Mortgage Applications, US Inflation, UK BoE Governor Bailey Speech, US Fed Reserve Powell Speech, Thursday – US Initial Jobless Claims, Friday – UK Trade Balances, UK GDP 2020 EST: -8.6%, UK GDP Dec 2020 Est: -2.6%, UK GDP Dec Y/O/Y Est: -8.9%, UK Industrial Production and Construction, US Michigan Consumer Confidence