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DAILY BRIEFING

The tipping point

Written by Michael Robertson, founding partner
News round-up by Li-Ann Chin, associate
23 September 2020

Good morning,

I spent the weekend clambering over three Scottish mountains. I go up there to clear my head, but thoughts of a second lockdown and my growing anxiety as a father, a son and a brother weighed almost as heavily as the load on my back.

It is often easy for those of us on the sidelines to underestimate or even belittle the scale of the challenge faced by policymakers now, as Covid-19 stubbornly resists what prime minister Boris Johnson described in a televised address to the country – nearly six months to the day since he announced the lockdown – as our “spirit of national sacrifice and community”.

This time, Johnson pointed to common sense as the most potent weapon available to us all in this war against Covid and alluded to the responsibility we must all take if the fight is to be won. He issued a stark ultimatum: follow the rules or they will become more draconian.

In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has earned a reputation through this crisis for striking a more personal chord, and a more cautious one. While she talked in her own broadcast to the country of a “tipping point” and a need to get the virus “back under control”, she also articulated – apologetically at times – the fine balance the Scottish Government is attempting to strike between beating the virus back and saving lives, protecting the NHS, and preserving jobs and livelihoods.

That is a thin line for any politician to walk and earlier in the day both premiers had announced new packages of restrictions to their respective parliaments and to an increasingly anxious public. There are differences north and south of the border, but what we now know with absolute certainly is that we are all in this crisis for the long haul and our common enemy is not only the virus itself, but the creeping fatigue that is an inevitable consequence of our collective efforts to fend it off.

Boris Johnson ended his broadcast last night with an impassioned call for the “discipline, resolve and spirit of togetherness” that will carry us through the pandemic, while Nicola Sturgeon talked more emotively of love and solidarity and implored us to “keep smiling”. It’s all good advice. 

News

In a television broadcast to the country, prime minister Boris Johnson has warned the publicthat “we must reserve the right to go further” if cases continue to rise . He also cautioned people to assume that such rules would remain in place for six months. Earlier, Johnson informed MPs that the new measures were selected to achieve a maximum reduction in the R number.

Following a first minister briefing on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that a ban on meeting households will be extended across Scotland in a bid to control the virus again before winter. This restriction will be in addition to a 10pm curfew enforced on pubs and restaurants that will be in place from Friday onwards.

In a surprise move by the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases, China has announced at the virtual UN General Assembly in New York that it plans to be carbon neutral before 2060. Beijing’s announcement will raise the pressure on the US, which is now the biggest emitter in the world that does not have a carbon-neutral target. Major economies including the EU and UK have targeted zero emissions by 2050. (£)

Mitt Romney, Republican Senator of Utah has confirmed that he would support moving forward to fill the Supreme Court seat following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – all but assuring  President Trump that he has the votes he needs for an election-season confirmation to cement a conservative majority on the high court. (£)

Business and economy

In what would be the first African debt default on private creditors since the pandemic, Zambia has requested investors in its US dollar bonds to accept delays in their interest payments into next year. The government has blamed “’a combination of declining revenues and increased unbudgeted costs caused by the pandemic’ as a reason for this. (£) 

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has backed a job furlough scheme ‘rethink’, stating that rethinking the approach going forward would be the sensible thing to do. He also struck a downbeat tone on economic prospects, warning of the difficult times ahead, as economically damaging curfews on bars and restaurants loom and working from home is once again recommended.  

According to a letter by cabinet minister Michael Gove to the freight industry, the government’s ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ entails the possibility of exporters to the EU facing 7,000-truck-long queues in Kent and two-day delays to trade after the Brexit transition period ends. This disruption is expected to build in the first two weeks of January and could last three months or longer. 

At a US Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser has confirmed that the Democratic presidential candidate would end the ‘artificial trade war’ that Donald Trump launched against the EU if he wins the US election in November.  

Columns of note

After the passing away of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell wasted no time in announcing their intent to nominate and confirm a replacement. In this Bloomberg Opinion piece, Noah Feldman argues that to do so would be a serious mistake, resulting in the long-term erosion of the Supreme Court’s legitimacy as a third branch of government and a backlash that could potentially hurt the Republican party itself.

Evidence has shown that the negative implications of COVID-19 at the office have been disproportionate towards women. And yet, research has indicated that diverse teams are more innovative, more productive and make better decisions. In City A.M, UK government minister Amanda Solloway cautions FTSE 350 companies against allowing the crisis to deter them from championing gender equality in the workplace.

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Most groups in the S&P 500 advanced, with retailers and tech companies among the biggest gainers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, on the other hand, underperformed amid a drop in banks. European markets closed higher and the FTSE 100 ended at 0.8 per cent up.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced one basis point to 0.67 per cent, while Britain’s 10-year yield gained five basis points to 0.203 per cent.

The euro decreased 0.5 per cent to $1.1708; the pound to dollar exchange rate tumbled dramatically as UK prepares for a second lockdown.

In company news: 

Deutsche Bank has announced yesterday that it plans to cut one in five bank branches in Germany as the pandemic drives more customers online. 

Facebook has warned that it will be forced to pull out of Europe, if the Irish data protection commissioner enforces a ban on sharing data with the US. This follows a landmark ruling by the European court of justice in July that there were insufficient safeguards against snooping by US intelligence agencies.  

Amazon has launched a $500 Prime Bike in a bid to enter the indoor-cycling bike market and take on Peloton Interactive. 

US private equity fund Lone Star has dropped out of the race to buy Asda, leaving rival Apollo to take control of Britain’s third-biggest supermarket. Lone Star was reportedly unable to match the price sought by Asda’s owner Walmart. 

What’s happening today?

Finals
Allergy Thera.
Pz Cussons

Interims
Cloudcall Grp
Escs Group
Equals Gp
Loopup Group
Staffline
Strix Group
Ten Ent Grp
The Mission Group
Warpaint London
Xeros Tech

AGMs
AB new India
Alpha Fin. Mkts
City Merch.high
Collagen Solutions
Dillistone
Downing Two F
First Property
Fulcrum Utility
Hornby
Joules Grp
Mothercare
Reabold Resources
Real Good Food
SDI Group
Tavistock
Twentyfour Inc
Zoo Digital

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Import Price Index (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(14:00) House Price Index (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prize in Peace was awarded to India and Pakistan – who have deputized their diplomats to ring the other country’s embassy’s doorbell and run away in the middle of the night. @qikipedia

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Women and Equalities
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Pets (Microchips)
Legislation
Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill: Second Reading
Motion
Proxy Voting
Adjournment
Secondary school provision in Lyde Green – Chris Skidmore

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Condition of Uighur internment camps in Xinjiang in China – The Lord Bishop of St Albans
Government plans to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – Lord Rose of Monewden
External expert advice prior to the use of the algorithm to determine A-level results – Baroness Garden of Frognal
Government plans to increase school spending per pupil – Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Orders and regulations
Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 – Motion to anul and Motion to regret – Baroness Grender, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 – Lord Agnew of Oulton
Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2020 – Baroness Williams of Trafford

Scottish Parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Portfolio Questions – Education and skills, health and sport
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Education
Members’ Business – David Stewart: Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week

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