WEEKLY FAYRE – Monday, 8th March 2021

March 8, 2021

“She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

 

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!”

 

“She Walks in Beauty”.

 

George Gordon, Lord Byron – Poet – 1788-1824

 

Congratulations to India’s cricket test team, who beat England very convincingly 3-1, winning the final test in Ahmedabad by an innings and 25 runs. There was a significant gulf between these two sides. As a batsman, Rohit Sharma was in a league of his own on wickets which were, always challenging. The Indian spinners, Ashwin and Patel were far more penetrating than Leach, Bess, and Root.  I do not think that the rotation system adopted by England worked on this tour. Though New Zealand are thought to be the best side in the world, they have played most of their matches at home recently. India has recently beaten Australia away from home and in my humble opinion, with their battery of fast bowlers, spinners, and world class batsmen, they will take some beating anywhere in the world.

 

The two test series with New Zealand and India in England this summer offer mouth-watering prospects. Roll on June 2021! 

 

Manchester City should close out the Premiership in the next couple of weeks. What a privilege it has been to watch their brand of football since Christmas. Again, Pep Guardiola’s troops are from a different planet. My thoughts are with Fulham in their fight to avoid relegation. The team is good enough. Maybe the Cottagers’ forwards need a compass and the use of a Davy lamp to find their way to the goal! Ironically, the ‘Men in White’ did manage to find the net on Sunday - just once – but it was enough to win 0-1 against Liverpool. Whilst there’s life there’s hope!

 

INDEX

1st March 2021

5th March 2021

% Loss/Gain

FTSE

6483

6630

+2.27%

DAX

13962

13926

-0.20%

CAC40

5770

5783

+0.23%

DJIA

31065

31496

+1.39%

S&P 500

3842

3841

-0.02%

NASDAQ

13406

12920

-3.63%

SHANGHAI

3531

3501

-0.85%

HANG SENG

29457

29098

-1.22%

NIKKEI 225

29419

28864

-1.89%

 

In this week’s missive I shall attempt to be not too parochial, even though this last Budget Day, after such a tumultuous and damaging year, is probably the most important day for the UK Government, in living memory, from a political and financial perspective, even more so than 23rd June 2016, when the UK voted to leave the EU or at the time of the financial crisis in 2008. Chancellor Sunak looks to have all but an insurmountable challenge, hoping to stimulate the economy’s recovery, whilst at the same time preventing the country’s finances and borrowing from getting totally out of hand. The Budget was relatively well received, with the generous furlough scheme being extended to the end of September, amongst many other financial benefits. Regrettably, there was nothing for the 2.3 million self-employed, who are currently in dire straits. Also, criticism was levelled at the idea of 2 million more people paying tax by 2026.  Then there was the question of business rates. Once the holiday period finishes at the end of June, rates would remain discounted by two thirds, up to a value of £2 million if businesses are closed. According to many retailers, with Fraser’s Mike Ashley leading the charge, the relief was wholly inadequate and could result in the closure of many more shops and units. It appears that none of the Debenhams shops will remain under the Boohoo banner. Though interest rates remain close to rock bottom levels, it will cost the government £2 billion a month to service its borrowing requirement.

In the US, the content of the Beige Book on Tuesday suggested that economic activity had expanded modestly from January to mid-February and ADP report shows private companies added 117,000 jobs in February. Initial Jobless claims posted on Thursday saw those seeking benefits rose slightly to 745,000 last week but they have eased since the start of the year. Friday’s non-farm payroll figures showed that the unemployment rate dipped by 0.1% to 6.2%, as 379,000 jobs were added to the US economy. The December number was also revised to 306,000 from 220,000. Unemployment is now well below April’s ‘peak’  level of 14.7% in 2020.  Most of the jobs (355,000) came from the leisure and hospitality sector, as dining restrictions were eased in parts of the country. 

Though the beginning of last week started off brightly, the “Doubting Thomas investors” soon returned in their droves. With 10-year yields persisting to rise across global bond markers, investors continued to be fearful from the threat of inflation, leading to higher interest rates. The Street of Dreams ‘had a monkey on its back by the middle of the week.’ However, by Friday afternoon, investors were starting to have second thoughts on the back of such robust set of payroll figures. Maybe the economy was starting to really buzz. The NASDAQ was the worst affected of all the US indices last week. By Thursday, it had surrendered this year’s gains. Amazon. Apple and Microsoft suffered more than most, easing by 4-5% during the week. Most of the European indices spent the week oscillating between within narrow margins, apart from the FTSE, which enjoyed decent gains early in the week in energy and retail stocks, despite West Texas oil dipping quite sharply to below $60 a barrel before ending the week strongly at $66.28. Some of the negative sentiment which prevailed in New York spilt over into Asia, as can be seen from the table above. China only forecasted GDP to hit 6% in 2021 – a far cry from 10% a decade ago.

It was an important reporting week for retail operators in the US. The results were mixed with Chico’s FAS, JC Penney, Nordstrom and Kohl’s disappointing their acolytes, as did Target, which despite a 21% increase in sales in the last quarter saw its shares price drift by 5% last week due to the US’S 2nd largest supermarket falling short on expectations. Conversely, Kroger, Dollar Tree and Urban Outfitters met the market’s requirements.  Unsurprisingly, Zoom saw its sales, which totalled $882m, jump by 369% in the three months to the end of January. In the past eighteen months, Zoom’s shares have exploded – up by 520%!

Though fewer UK companies posted earnings last week, there was plenty of corporate news to satisfy the voracious appetites of market watchers, analysts, and traders. Having been a doyen of FTSE 100 companies such as BAT and Rio and SAB Miller for 17 years, Jan Du Plessis served notice to resign as chairman of BT.  It appears that his relationship with Philip Janson, the CEO, was not harmonious, especially over the future of Openreach. Having consummated its future with Caesar’s Entertainment in a £2.9 billion deal, William Hill posted revenues of £1.32 billion, with on-line betting up 9% and revenue in the US up by 32%. Impairment charges of £125 million and takeover costs of £170 prevented a profit, but shareholders have seen Hill’s share price bounce by 95% in the last year to 272p, Flutter, better known as Paddy Power Betfair experienced a 19% growth in the number of their punters, including 350k who signed during the Super Bowl. The merger with Star Group of Canada in a $12 billion deal triggered a 71% gain in its share price in the past year. Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon posted solid number with both having a positive outlook on life. However, their respective shares enjoyed different outcomes in the past year. Taylor Wimpey (-19%) and Persimmon (+16%).

Amazon finds it difficult to stay out of the headlines. News on their account this week had a UK flavour about it. Amazon has opened a shop in Ealing. Amazon tracks each customer as it enters the shop on its shopping app. The shopper’s account is charged automatically. Subsequently Micro Focus, which some years ago reversed into Hewlett-Packard Enterprises,  joined forces with Amazon Web Services to broaden the base of large organisations’ cloud ecosystems. Micro Focus shares bounced by 17% on Thursday. Sir David McMurtry and John Deer, who have built up Renishaw, into a World leading manufacturer of precision measurement devices, are both octogenarians. They have decided to sell up. The company employs 4,500 people. On the news its shares bounced by 19% and the two will probably share a £2.6 billion windfall. It is thought an Asian operation may be attracted to Renishaw. Halfords posted 6.2% increase in like for like sales in the seven weeks to the end of February and have returned its £10.7 million furloughing grant.  Amanda Blanc, CEO of Aviva announced plans to reach net zero by 2040 on its green plan for the pensions of 3.5 million customers. Rolls Royce has started to develop its electric plane. This hopefully will be a very exciting innovation. The struggle to save 1000 jobs at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant continues. Vauxhall’s owners Stellantis (a mongrel of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot) are insisting the government provides financial help as well as the company itself. Rio’s Chairman Simon Thompson has tendered his resignation, due to the controversial mining destruction of an ancient Aboriginal site in Western Australia. 

Markets are expecting to say ‘Sayonara’ to Morrison and Pennon at this next reshuffle of the FTSE 100 constituent companies and ‘Konichi-wa’ to Tui Travel and Weir Group. Dr Martens and The B.46ytes Group are expected to enter the FTSE 100. Deliveroo announced their plans for their forthcoming £5 billion IPO to be staged by the London Stock Exchange. This is very positive news as the City grapples with the EU, which continues as uncooperative as it possibly can, over financial issues. The battle is on and I believe the City of London will prevail as Europe’s leading financial centre. Deliveroo CEO, Will Shu, ex Goldman Sachs, as was Tim Steiner who was the brains behind Ocado, will be ever indebted to Amazon, which invested $575 million, when the pandemic started to bite.  This has been a huge success story, but there is considerable pressure on this delivery operation to justify the public quotation. There is likely to be a £16 million pay-out for the riders. On a slightly smaller scale Adam Frisby brings his fashion empire, Style, valued at £100 million to the market later this month. We also have the debuts of Klarna, DarkFace and Trust Port to look forward to.

Retail enthusiasts will be looking forward to more initiatives from John Lewis, as chairman Dame Sharon White continues to orchestrate the closure of 8 department stores and refocuses its business plans to on-line operations and by contributing JLP services to the 250 Waitrose outlets. UK equipment rental company Aggreko said on Friday that it would endorse a £2.32billion buyout offer from private equity firms TDR Capital LLP and I Squared Capital. The company said the offer of 880p per share represents a premium of about 39 per cent to its 4 February share price. Sanjeev Gupta’s steel empire and business operations appear to be in ‘hock’ to the tune of £4 billion to ailing Greensill  and other major banks. Time is in short supply and will be of the essence if Mr Gupta’s empire is to survive in its current form. 

UK companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Clarkson, Direct Line, Abcam, Tuesday – Cairn Energy, RPS Group, Headlam, IWG, Standard Life Aberdeen, TPICAP, Wednesday – Balfour Beatty, CLS Holdings, Foxtons, Hill & Smith, Just Eat Takeaway, L&G, Thursday – James Fisher, Gem Diamonds, Marshalls, Just Group, Playtech, Savills, WM Morrison, Spiral, WPP

US Companies posting interim results this week – Monday – Casey’s General Stores, Revlon, Tuesday – H&R Block, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wednesday – Oracle, Campbell Soup, Thursday – Vail Resorts

Economic data to be posted this coming week – Monday – US Consumer Inflation and Wholesale inventories, Japan GDP 4thQuarter, Tuesday – EU GDP 4th Quarter, Wednesday – US MBA Mortgage Applications, US Inflation, Thursday – US Initial Jobless Claims, Friday – UK Manufacturing & Construction, UK GDP (Y/O/Y January EST: -6.5%, M/O/M of Jan +1.2%), US PPI & CPI. US Michigan Consumer Confidence