Friday Feeling, Biden escapes prosecution, interview with Putin airs in the US, military changes in Ukraine, news from earlier in the week, and what's happening in todays market.
I think we can safely call yesterday one of the strangest news days of 2024…
A US Special Counsel decided not to prosecute Joe Biden over his mishandling of classified documents as he was likely to present himself at trial as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and nobody would convict such a person! The report by Robert Hur raised serious questions about the president’s memory, saying it “appeared to have significant limitations”.
Joe Biden has responded by saying “I’m well meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing”!
Donald Trump has responded by saying it is a two-tiered system of justice, as his mishandling of classified documents has led to ongoing actions against the former president.
Also from the US; former fox News anchor Tucker Carlson interviewed Vladimir Putin this week, and it aired in the US and on X last night. The two-hour interview contained everything you would have expected, with Putin repeating his much-used justifications for the war and saying that if the US stopped supplying weapons to Ukraine the war would be over in weeks. He’s also talked about wanting to get back to the negotiating table and that in 2022 they came close to a deal but the West, and Boris Johnson in particular, wasn’t in favour of the deal being signed.
The interview, from a firm favourite of the American right wing, comes at a tricky time, with more funding for Ukraine stuck in Congress and a handful of republican senators blocking the passing of the deal. There’s concern that this interview might lead to a few more siding with those holding out, which would make appeasing them all the harder.
Zelensky has sacked his commander in chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Mr Zaluzhyni has been the head of the military since the invasion began but is now being replaced by Oleksandr Syrsky as part of part of a renewal for the armed forces.
The move hasn’t gone down well with Ukrainians who see Mr Zaluzhyni as a national hero and is highly respected amongst Ukraine’s armed forces. There is concern that, though he has a long military career his replacement, Mr Syrsky is a political appointee and not of the same tactical calibre of his predecessor.
Jeremy Hunt has said he wants the UK stock market to be “the Nasdaq of Europe” but in order to attract the companies and foster that kind of environment and become a “dynamo economy” business taxes must be lower. This is another allusion to possible tax cuts ahead of his budget next month, but still the IMF and the OBR warn that doing so would be a big risk given how narrow the economic forecasting bandwidth is that shows there is room to do so.
Some quite amazing news that slipped us earlier in the week: Meta announced it’s fourth quarter earnings and managed an incredible 25% increase in earnings to $40.1bn. What was perhaps more amazing was that they grew those earnings and managed to reduce their costs by 8%, allowing them to pay their first dividend ever at fifty cents per share and buy back $50bn of stock. Even more impressive still was that the news led to a 20% jump in the share price, which added $200bn of market cap in a single day, which is probably a record on the stock market… Think what you will of Mark Zuckerberg and his empire, but those numbers are incredibly hard to argue with.
Today the markets have started quietly as it’s a market holiday in several Asian countries ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which officially beings tomorrow and ushers in the year of the Dragon – which represents power, strength, good luck and wisdom. The European and US data sheet is reasonably light, so we’re holding out for thinner markets providing some interesting moves!
Have a great weekend.
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Thought for Thursday, House of Commons ceasefire vote decision, minutes released from Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, geo-political update in Russia and Gaza, and looking at today's data.
Word of the week Wednesday, data indicates public sector net borrowing in surplus, this afternoons House of Commons vote for a ceasefire in Gaza, and release of FOMC policy me.eting minutes
Travel Tuesday, changes for China's property market, attacks on Red Sea Vessels cause further shipping disruption, EU defensive naval operation launched, and US propose a UN Security Council Resolution in the Middle East.
Macro Monday, update on Israel-Gaza conflict, town in Ukraine in full control of Russian forces, and pressure for creation of more public-private partnerships in the UK from insurers.
Friday Feeling, Labour take comfort in by-election results, potential for income tax cut plans to be dropped, president of European Commission speaks on European Union defence production.
Thought for Thursday, data released this morning shows UK in technical recession, Sunak's pledge for economic growth takes a blow, increasing number of MPs not looking for re-election for the Conservative party, and Labour party lead drops seven percentage points.
Word of the week Wednesday, hotter than expected US inflation, inflation data in the UK comes in double than BoE's target, US Senate agrees foreign aid package, and today's data.
Travel Tuesday, plight of US commercial real estate owners according to Bloomberg, data shows increase in UK wage growth, easing UK unemployment, and talks to revive negotiations in the Middle East.