Politics takes centre stage this week. Is it politics or just a who-can-shout-the-loudest contest? I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure: we’re living through extraordinary and uncertain times, and politics on both sides of the pond is becoming increasingly shouty.
As I write this, the ‘debate’ in the US has not yet taken place. Trump might be the most puerile debater of all time, so it promises to be entertaining if not enlightening. At least it will be a debate of sorts and not the ‘kinder sort of (unless you don’t agree with me) politics’ bonanza that’s in full swing in Liverpool.
Maybe it’s apt that Twitter, the shoutiest of companies, is subject to takeover speculation, its shares having rallied. Among the candidates are Disney, Microsoft and Google. Bear in mind this is a company that has never made a profit and with a share price languishing well below its IPO. Am I missing something?
Closer to home, equities have had an underwhelming start to the week with the FTSE 100 suffering its worst fall since the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, losing £23.5bn in value, or 1.32pc, to close at 6,818.04. Banks led the fall with Lloyds dropped, and Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays all falling over 2%. The fall was unaided by the ongoing fallout from Deutsche Bank’s continuing dispute in the US, its shares touching a record low amid speculation that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out state aid for the lender.
Banks are struggling to maintain margins in a low-interest-rate environment, and it appears Intercontinental Hotels have found the equivalent to low interest rates in its world might be the sharing economy. US investment bank Morgan Stanley raised questions about the hotel chain’s US revenues in stating that growth will weaken, citing data suggesting Airbnb and Independent Hotels are now having an impact and ‘outperforming brands’.
Maybe this is good news for Boris Johnson, who was in New York visiting the UN. On message as ever, he suggested the UK would trigger Brexit early next year and take only two years to negotiate everything, only to be slapped down by the Prime Minister the very same day. The German finance minister also offered to send the Lisbon Treaty to Boris when he suggested the four freedoms were ‘baloney’.
Faced with Boris basically standing in the middle of a playground with his fingers in his ears saying ‘la la la la’, Mario Draggi repeated in a speech on Monday that the four freedoms are immutable and that the EU will take a hard line with the UK. Apparently Berlin’s stance is also hardening. But don’t worry, Liam Fox wants us to become an independent member of the WTO, and walk away from the Customs Union and the Single Market… problem solved. ‘A shambles’ doesn’t even get close – Philip Hammond seems to have hit the nail on the head when he said ‘it is all rather difficult’ when asked who’s in charge of Brexit.
No wonder, the pound fell on Thursday following Boris’s intervention and slid to a six-week low against the euro on Monday, when it fell by as much as half a per cent to 87.16p – its lowest level since 16 August. He should have said the UK would probably remain just to get a few cheap meals out in New York.
Despite the economy being remarkably resilient since Brexit, it was found last week that three-quarters of British company bosses are considering moving operations abroad following the vote to leave the European Union, and that optimism about the outlook for Britain’s financial services sector is at its lowest point since the financial crisis.
Last week we saw the BOJ and Fed deliver pretty much what the market expected and equities rose broadly as a result. The central banks’ hand can be seen in the fact that, according to Dealogic, global debt issuance is on course to hit a record high in 2016. Debt issuance rose to $5.02trln in the nine months to 22nd September, according to Dealogic, putting 2016 on course to beat the all-time high of $6.6trln recorded in 2006. More than $13trln of global sovereign and corporate debt trades are at negative yields, highlighting the influence of central banks and giving some indication as to why equities are so buoyant relative to earnings. #theonlyshowintown
A side meeting to watch this week is that between Opec members at the International Energy Forum in Algeria, where they intend to discuss the possibility of an output freeze. It looks like it could go either way, but given that Iran is still ramping up production since sanctions were removed, it looks unlikely.
Brent crude jumped by as much as 3.79pc on Monday afternoon touching $47.63 a barrel. Surely, if there was a surge in the oil price inflation would finally rise, which in turn might well have an impact on current monetary policy. Perhaps this sideshow is more than just a sideshow.
By the time that you read this, the main event of Trump vs Clinton Part 1 will be complete. If Trump performs well, expect markets to falter. But at least the arguments will have ebbed and flowed, the moderator will have meticulously checked each and every fact, and the mutual respect between the candidates will have been palpable. #LOL