Markets remained subdued last week as confusion about the role of monetary policy in the post-crisis economy appeared to dominate the conversation. On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve announced plans to begin paring back its $4.5tn QE programme and hinted at a rate hike before the end of the year. However, with inflation figures still inexplicably low despite a robust labour market, a raise in interest rates would be a bold call.
The US is far from alone in this confusion over the relationship between growth, unemployment and inflation as the ONS released statistics in the UK showing retail sales to be up 2.4% year-on-year for August. This news came in the face of higher-than-expected inflation figures and a 0.4% fall in real wages from the same time last year, showing apparent resilience from consumers in the midst of a pay squeeze.
Such a sales boost could possibly be explained by an increase in foreign spending on the back of a weakened pound, but certainly, it has done little to clear up any of the confusion that has characterised the UK economy towards the end of Q3. However, having rocketed the pound to $1.36 midweek, what it has done is increased the likelihood that the Bank of England will affect a hawkish position in relation to rates towards the end of the year.
A fare deal
Traditionalists in London rejoiced last week as the TfL announced that it would not be renewing Uber’s operating licence. Sadiq Khan immediately declared that he was fully behind the decision, although the ruling has been met largely with cynicism throughout the world of the black cab driver, with many dismissing it as a purely political move that is unlikely to carry any real weight.
The move worsened an already miserable year for Uber that has seen Travis Kalanick resign as CEO and rival company Lyft make up ground. Certainly, if things carry on the way they are, the 18-month target for an IPO will look increasingly ambitious.
In the world of driverless vehicles, cars usually seem to steal the limelight, but Boston tech startup Sea Machine Robotics is developing the concept of autonomous boats. Although the technology may not breach the market before road vehicles, the idea has sparked excitement amongst large companies that are forced to spend hundreds of billions a year in shipping costs. For instance, BHP Billiton and Rolls-Royce have both announced plans to develop large autonomous shipping vessels that would potentially save $86bn a year in costs. In an industry that produces $334bn globally, this will undoubtedly be an area to watch in coming years.