Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Repeat until relevant

Written by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
17 December 2020

Good morning,

And happy 31st anniversary to a ten-year-old and his dysfunctional family from the fictional American town of Springfield.
 
The Simpsons first aired as a full animated series on this day in 1989, and in 2018 it notched up the highest episode count of any series on TV. Season 31 started in November of this year.
 
In these uncertain times, that sort of longevity feels impressive. Surely, though, it’s foolish to compare the long-running cartoon with real life. The eponymous family has, after all, dealt with various implausible scenarios including a flu that originated in Asia, President Trump and the pitfalls of an Australian-style boot-based immigration system.
 
It’s perhaps very 2020 to realise that we’re living out what counted as zany parody only two decades ago. At least we don’t have any monorails.
 
The world has changed fundamentally during the show’s lifetime, and its ability to pass gently barbed comment on the issues of the day was always key to its success. While not every aspect has aged well, especially the protracted misstep of white actors voicing people of colour, The Simpsons for so long demonstrated how a well-loved format could navigate shifting cultural and political landscapes.
 
After years of best-selling box-sets and a protracted run on terrestrial TV in the UK, the entire back-catalogue was added to the UK version of Disney+ for its launch this year, a move clearly inspired by the enduring popularity of millennial staples Friends and The Office on rival streaming platforms.
 
Even though more recent seasons are proving less popular, the show has shown its ability to once again cross formats by penetrating meme culture. In the era of Covid-19 and working from home, Homer disappearing into a hedge has become a mainstay for work-shy instant messengers around the country; and even more than ever, we can all empathise with Sideshow Bob repeatedly stepping on rakes.
 
With travel so challenging over Christmas, Disney executives must be hoping that after 31 years, plenty of people are still tempted by a quick trip to Springfield.

News

Public Health Wales has announced that an extra 11,000 positive Covid-19 test results are missing from official figures, meaning that cases in the last week could be twice as high as previously thought.

 The US is expected to charge another suspect in relation to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people. A Libyan intelligence officer is expected to be extradited to the US to stand trial. In 2001, another Libyan intelligence officer – Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – was the only person convicted of the attack on Pan Am flight 103 after it exploded in mid-air.

In a UK first, Southwark Crown Court has found that dangerous levels of air pollution “made a material contribution” to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013. The coroner’s ruling follows a second inquest into the child’s death in London.

Business and economy

Bitcoin has risen by around 20% this week, pushing past $22,000 for the first time, attracting predictions that more gains lie ahead for the world’s largest cryptocurrency. Proponents argue that Bitcoin is joining gold as an important portfolio diversifier or ‘safe haven’ amid dollar weakness, but critics suggest the latest surge is a bubble that will burst spectacularly.

Despite hopes of a trade deal, increased stockpiling by UK companies before the end of the Brexit transition period on has triggered road congestion and costly delays in northern France and southern England. Ahead of the 1 January deadline, lorries have been queuing for cross-Channel ferries and the tunnel on what is one of the world’s busiest freight routes. (£)

The outgoing US administration is in talks with the UK to try to seal a ‘mini’ trade deal to reduce trade tariffs on Scotch Whisky in particular. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says he is hopeful for a deal following UK commitments to drop tariffs against the US that relate to subsidies for aerospace firms.

Columns of note

There’s no festive cheer in David Aaronovitch’s piece for The Times on Christmas Covid-19 restrictions. He worries that if ministers don’t find the courage to restrict family gatherings, thousands of people could die. He makes an impassioned plea that extended mixing when the vaccine is so close seems to make very little sense. (£)

Writing in The Guardian, Martin Kettle suggests that we may be seeing a more “consensual” government style from the prime minister after Dominic Cummings’ departure. He stresses that his observations are both relative and conditional and will not diminish the fact that Boris Johnson will always be a “marmite” figure.

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London-listed stocks finished up on Wednesday, with positive sentiment driven by rising hopes of a Brexit deal and reports of progress on a US stimulus deal. The FTSE 100 finished the session up by 0.88% at 6,570.91, and the FTSE 250 was also up, by 1.23% to reach 20,096.56.

In the US, Wall Street stocks had a more mixed day as markets reacted to the Federal Reserve decision to hold interest rates steady. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by 0.15% to 30,154.54, while the S&P 500 rose 0.18% to 3,701.17, and the Nasdaq Composite was up by 0.5% at 12,658.19.

In currency markets, sterling was also in positive territory, rising 0.29% on the dollar to $1.35, and improving very slightly by 0.03% against the euro to hit €1.11.

In company news:

UK housebuilders gained amid Brexit deal hopes, with Barratt Developments up 4.64%, Taylor Wimpey rising 2.33% and Persimmon up 1.88%. Elsewhere, electricals retailer Dixons Carphone rose sharply by 12.34% after it reported online trading was strong in the lead up to Christmas, offsetting store closures.

What’s happening today?

Finals
IntegraFin Holdings
SSP Group

Interims
Watches Switz
Yourgene

AGMs

Amiad Water
Avangardco
Batm Advanced
European Metals Holdings
European Metals Holdings
Falanx Group
Focusrite
Frontier IP
Griffin Mining
Kier
Netcall
Ovoca Bio
Petra Diamonds
SolGold
Transense
Wetherspoon (J.D)

UK economic announcements
(12:00) BoE Interest Rate Decision

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) Consumer Price Index
(13:00) Housing Starts (US)
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In the Simpsons’ opening titles, Maggie used to ring up on the cash register as $847.63. In 1989, that was the estimated price of raising a baby for one month.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)
           
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Jacob Rees-Mogg
           
Ministerial statement
Covid-19 update – Matt Hancock
          
Ministerial statement
Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement – Robert Jenrick

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Organisations representing the freight industry and arrangements to ensure that delays at ports and airports are avoided – Baroness Randerson
 
Oral questions
How many people will have received COVID-19 vaccinations by 31 December, 31 January, 28 February, and 31 March – Lord Harris of Haringey
 
Statement
Overwhelming evidence of the Chinese Government’s use of Uyghur Slave Labour in Xinjiang Region – Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay

Scottish Parliament 

First Minister’s Questions
 
Legislative Consent Motion
Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill

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