WEEKLY FAYRE – Tuesday, 6thApril 2021

April 6, 2021

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.” 

 

William Wordsworth – Poet – 1770-1850

 

 

Some of that purported £180 billion squirrelled away by consumers during last year’s incarceration, courtesy of the pandemic, is likely to have been spent over the Easter holidays and celebrations.

Easter egg sales have soared £48m, climbing by almost 50% to £153m compared with last year, according to figures from analysts Kantar. Meanwhile shoppers have already spent £37m on hot cross buns. M&S, Asda and Thornton’s are among those reporting a big rise in demand. There are certainly signs of people making a special effort this year, Beyond the Easter boost, grocery sales rose 7.4% in the 12 weeks to 21st March compared with a year earlier, although that was a marked slowdown compared with previous months. Sales officially slipped 3% in the four weeks to 21 March compared with a year earlier. Grocery growth has slowed against 2020, but sales are still much higher than the same 12 weeks in 2019 - up by 15.6%.

Some members of the financial media were very critical of the Deliveroo IPO, suggesting that its disappointing debut was due to the City not taking a serious enough approach to tech! Really? They may have a point to make. However, I venture to suggest that JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs ludicrously overvalued Deliveroo in the light of no support from many fund managers such as Aviva, M&G, L&G, Jupiter, and others, despite some positive vibes from the road shows and applications from 70,000 retail investors to buy shares. In the first two days trading Deliveroo’s share price surrendered 26% of their value, falling from its issue price of 390p to 287p, with the company being initially valued at £7.4 billion.

 

INDEX

26th March 2021

1st April 2021

% Loss/Gain

FTSE

6674

6737

+0.94%

DAX

14714

15107

+2.67%

CAC40

5979

6102

+2.06%

DJIA

32681

33153

+1.44%

S&P 500

3917

4019

+2.60%

NASDAQ

12996

13480

+3.72%

SHANGHAI

3418

#3481

+1.84%

HANG SENG

28336

# 28938

+2.12%

NIKKEI 225

29176

# 29515

+1.16%

# Denotes 2nd April 2021

 

The Street of Dreams blazed the trail and lead the charge for global stock market gains in the first quarter of 2021, with the DJIA +11% and S&P 500 +14% (both new records). With a new US administration, expectations were running very high, with the vaccination programme making great progress, and the much vaunted and necessary $2.2 trillion stimulus package eventually being delivered.

NASDAQ’s performance was very much more volatile due to investor concerns about inflated valuations and the threat of higher interest rates despite protestations to the contrary from the FED on copious occasions. Consequently, its gain over the same period of just 4.5% was rather parsimonious by comparison. Nonetheless it was not far short of reaching record levels (14,095 in February 2021). That achievement was even more remarkable when considering the gain that the NASDAQ made from 20th March 2020 to the end of 2020 – a staggering 95%! The progress of the NIKKEI 225 was also eye-catching. It added 8.7%. The prospect of the Olympic Games taking place certainly provided impetus. The FTSE 100, despite a 6% gain in the first week of January and by comparison to its European peers, was disappointing. A gain of only 4% was made. Energy, banking, and mining sectors failed to perform. The DAX with only 30 stocks added 14% and the CAC 40 just a smidgen under 10%. Last week global equities put in a decent shift, with again the FTSE lagging behind with energy and mining dragging their feet. As previously stated, agreeing the US stimulus package and the roll-out of the vaccine provided the momentum for the rally.

There were two interesting pieces of economic data posted last week. 4th Quarter GDP for the UK was confirmed at +1.3% (EST: +1%) slightly better than expected on a (quarter by quarter basis) against a background of -20.4% for the 2nd quarter and +16.1% for the third quarter. All in all, the economy was down 9.9% for 2020 as against 2019. Business investment for the 4th quarter was up by 5.9%, and house prices increased by 5.7%. Household expenditure fell by 1.7%. In the same period GDP in France was -1.3%, Germany was up 0.1%, Italy was -2% and the US +1.5%. UK mortgage lending hit a five year ‘high’ with £6.2 billion of fresh loans being lent in a frenzy to beat the stamp duty holiday, which comes to an end at the end of April.

In the US, Friday’s Non-Farm payrolls confirmed that 916,000 jobs had been created in March, while the unemployment rate declined from 6.2% to 6%. The job growth was well ahead of the Dow Jones estimates for 675,000 and it was the fastest job growth rate since August 2020. Gains were strongest in leisure and hospitality, while construction soared by 110,000. Revisions also added 156,000 jobs to the totals for January and February. These followed Thursday’s Initial Jobless Claims first-time claims for unemployment benefits totalled 719,000 last week, higher than the 675,000 Dow Jones estimate and the previous week’s 658,000. Continuing claims declined as did the total receiving benefits through all government programs.

Former Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman is to reverse his eighteen-month-old used car platform Cazoo in to a Spac Ajax I in seeking a listing in New York, valuing the operation at $7 billion. There are also two UK electric bus/electric van companies involved in US listings - Arrival and Switch. Arrival recently raised $660 million valuing the company at $13.6 billion. The competition from Amazon will be intense. Regrettably, for the City, the Hinduja brothers are offering their electric bus company, Switch, for sale again in New York, rather than London, with a price tag of $2 billion.

The same outcome applies to Britishvolt which is also heading West to New York with a view to raising £2.6 billion for its Gigafactory, which will employ 3,000 people. Britishvolt plans to start producing batteries in 2023. Notwithstanding that disappointment, IPO markets in the UK have been both robust as well as buoyant. Despite the disappointment of Deliveroo’s debut, Dr Martens, FIX price, Moonpig and TrustPilot have staged successful floats and we eagerly await Oxford Nanopore’s and Pension Bee’s public offerings, which could make the latter’s founder Romi Savova £135 million richer. Bilibili, China’s answer to YouTube made an inauspicious start as an IPO on the Hong Kong stock Exchange. Its value slipped by 4% on the first day of trading.

Corporate news made some encouraging pre-Easter headlines. Tim Martin, CEO of JD Wetherspoon unveiled plans to spend £895 million ‘opening up’ new and refurbished pubs creating 22,000 jobs over the next decade provided the Government confirmed viable plans for the hospitality industry to operate in. He also intends to bring back 37,000 employees, currently being furloughed. In announcing a £115 million loss for the year Hennes & Mauritz, the retail titan was forced to kowtow to China for voicing an opinion on human rights violation. China plays a significant role in H&M’s future development plans. Royal Mail Group has risen like the ‘phoenix from the ashes.’ It is expected to make a £700 million profit, doubling last year’s effort. Its share price has quadrupled in the past year to over 520p a share, with the parcel business leading the charge. The company intends to pay a £100 million special dividend.

Lloyds of London suffered from a £6 billion hit from Covid related claims, a loss of £900 million for the year was posted from a profit of £2.5 billion last year. Lord Simon Wolfson, the CEO of NEXT, posted very encouraging numbers. Sales only fell 15% in the last year, with on-line sales up 60% in the last 2 years. NEXT’s shares are up 113% in the last year and the profit outlook for 2021 has been increased its profit forecast by £30 million to £700 million.

The Government is doing what it can to save Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Steel. However, it has refused a £170 million bail-out request, as the holding company, GFG’s operations appear to be too opaque for the Government. It wants further clarification on its overall financial stability since the collapse of its main funder Greensill. Steel should play an important role in the Government’s ongoing industrial policy, but its future cannot be based on philanthropic goodwill. Steel under the Gupta/Liberty banner is currently on the brink of being wound up.

Good luck to Denise Coates, the daughter of Stoke City’s Chairman Peter Coates. She is the CEO of Bet365, from which she received a salary of £421 million last year plus a dividend of £49 million. She and her father are Labour party supporters, and she pays her tax. She owns 50% of the company and her salary just fell short of the £466 million paid to all FTSE 100 CEOs. It also puts emoluments made by Apple’s Tim Cook (£97m) and JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon (£23m) in the shade. Last year Sir Chris Hohn, CEO of The Children’s Trust Fund paid himself £343 million. Ms Coates also donated £85 million to charity. But Bet365’s management has been criticised for not dealing adequately with mental illness caused by gambling afflictions. That allegation has been repudiated and in fairness, the damage caused is not all down to gambling companies. Turnover fell 8% last year to £2.8 billion. Bet365 has significant overseas operations including China.

Lord Stuart Rose has joined many other business luminaries in investing substantial sums in Netwealth, a wealth operation, started in 2015 by a former Goldman CEO Charlotte Ransom, attracting significant support from Lord Michael Spencer, Harvey McGrath, Bruce Carnegie-Brown, and Edward Bonham Carter.

UK companies posting interim results this week – Tuesday – MJ Gleeson, Renishaw, Wednesday – Hilton Foods, Thursday – OneSavings Bank, Dunelm, Entain, Ferrexpo

US Companies posting interim results this week – Wednesday – Carnival. Thursday – ConAgra, Levi Strauss

Economic data to be posted this coming week – Wednesday – EU, UK PMI Final Composite for March, US MBA Mortgage Applications, US Balance of Trade, US FOMC Minutes, Thursday – UK PMI Construction (March), EU PPI, US Initial Jobless Claims, Friday – UK Halifax House Prices, US PPI (EST: +0.5%), US Wholesale Inventories