Home Market Last Week in the City: Ross from Friends wont lead the LSE...

Last Week in the City: Ross from Friends wont lead the LSE and war drums continue to beat


The City amused itself on Friday morning, as Goldman Sachs banker David Schwimmer announced he would be there for the London Stock Exchange as chief executive. The namesake of the actor that played Ross in US sitcom Friends will get his feet under the desk in August, prompting many internet memes making jokes about the show.

Movements in commodity markets also prompted wags to question whether Donald Trump was long commodities, as the aluminium, gold, alumina and oil price all rose sharply following statements from the 45th president of the United States.

Despite trade and Syria concerns, the FTSE 100 rose 1% over the week by mid-session on Friday.


The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said UK home-buyer demand had fallen for its 12th consecutive month in March. “Apart from the implications this has for the market itself, it also has the potential to impact the wider economy, contributing to a softer trend in household spending," Simon Rubinsohn, its chief economist said.

The minutes of the most-recent Federal Reserve meeting, the first for new chair Jerome Powell, were released. All of the policymakers felt that GDP would increase and that inflation would rise in the coming months.

Eurozone industrial production unexpectedly fell in February, its third month of contraction. The output of factories, mines and utilities was 0.8% lower than in January, the largest month-to-month drop since the end of 2016. Analysts had expected a 0.2% increase.


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons backed the UKs findings that the chemical used to poison the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury was novichok. The UK called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the findings, but Russia continues to deny any involvement.

US president Donald Trump ratcheted-up talk about Syria, following a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime. Following a series of sometimes contradictory tweets, the US president said a decision on action in Syria will be made “fairly soon”, with a bombing campaign likely. French President Emmanuel Macron said he had "proof" that the Syrian government had attacked Douma with chemical weapons. The news helped boost the oil price, as did the shooting down of two missiles over the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

Beijing has sped up the pace of ownership reforms for Chinas banking, securities, futures, asset management and insurance sectors, shifting the timeline for implementation from years to just months after President Xi Jinping pledged further opening up of Chinas economy to foreign investment. Fears over a potentially damaging trade war eased after Xi also said he would reduce tariffs on imported cars and Trump praised his “kind words”. Trump also directed officials to explore rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact he withdrew from shortly after taking office.

The FBI raided the office of Trumps lawyer Michael Cohen, in what was an unprecedented move in the wider investigations into the past actions of the president. Neither Richard Nixons attorneys during the Watergate crisis or Bill Clintons legal counsel in the Starr investigations faced similar treatment from investigators.

Fixed income

Volatility in equity markets prompted a flight to quality in March, as anxious investors piled into safe haven debt markets. Charles Stanley bond analyst Jeremy Spain takes a look fixed income here.


After a period of weakness, cryptocurrencies jumped sharply this week, with the Bitcoin price rising more than 10% in just one hour. The reasons given for the reversal in fortunes were vague and hard to pin down.

Emerging markets

UK investors will get direct access to some Chinese shares in a link between the London Stock Exchange and the Shanghai bourse. For more details click here.


Shares in accounting software company Sage Group fell by the largest amount seen in almost a quarter of a century after it warned that sales had failed to hit expectations. Management said growth will be hit by a decline in recurring revenue and poor performance in its enterprise software business.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg received an easy ride in his testimony to Congress over data breaches, boosting shares in the social network. The billionaire founder apologised, but his testimony was mocked as robotic, and he did not make any gaffes.

After accusing Amazon for months of not paying its fair share of postage, President Trump ordered a review of the US Postal Services finances via an executive order. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that has been critical of his administration.

Google released a new African search app, which aimed to help internet users overcome obstacles such as the lack of high-speed connectivity and the cost of data on the continent.

Garry White asks whether technology shares have hit a bottom here.


The oil price surged to a three-year high as worries that tensions in the Middle East will lead to supply disruptions gathered pace. The issue prompted Goldman Sachs to advice clients to “buy” oil. Brent crude future rose by 5.5% over the week by mid-session on Friday, to trade at around $72.40 a barrel.

Oil cartel Opec is on the verge of “mission accomplished” in its mission to reduce the global glut of crude, the International Energy Agency said. The agency said less than 10% of the surplus in oil inventories remained, as Opec cuts were larger than expected and demand jumped.


The aluminium price had its biggest weekly gain on record, hitting its highest level since 2012 in reaction to sanction placed on Oleg Deripaskas Rusal. Three-month aluminium futures traded on the London Metals Exchange rose by almost 14%.

Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg resigned as a director of Oleg Deripaskas Rusal and the company abandoned plans to swap its stake in the Russian company with another of the oligarchs businesses, En+ Group. However, there is not expected to be a major impact on the groups bottom line.

Garry White looks at the market impact of tensions between the US and Russia and China on commodity prices here.


The London Stock Exchange appointed Goldman Sachs banker David Schwimmer as its new chief executive. He will join the group on 1 August following a 20-year career at the investment bank.


After Tesco posted better-than-expected full-year results that were ahead of expectations, Garry White asks whether the worst is over for UK supermarkets here.

Other retail

UK retail sales picked up in March, despite cold weather deterring shoppers from braving the high street. Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.4% year-on-year in March, up from 0.6% in February, according to data from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. That was above the 0.3% pencilled in by economists. Corporate news, however, was mixed.

WH Smith upped its interim dividend by 10%, despite posting flat profits that were supported by its international expansion. This prompted a rally in its shares which fizzled out by week-end.

Carpetright shares slumped after management revealed it was closing 92 stores and cutting 300 jobs as part of a restructuring plan. The company has been hit by the low number of housing transactions.

Shares in clothing retailer French Connection jumped by almost a fifth after it unveiled plans to sell its 75% stake in premium lifestyle brand Toast to Dutch firm Bestseller United.

Baby product retailer Mothercare reported a 2.8% fall in like-for-like sales in its latest 12-week trading period, as consumer footfall fell. However, internet sales were up 2.1%.

There was weakness in the share price of online clothing retailer Asos after sales growth was slightly shy of City expectations. Profits jumped sharply and the group announced increased investment in technology and warehousing infrastructure.

US retailer Toys R US announced it would close its final remaining UK store by the end of April.

French luxury group LVMH posted a better-than-expected set of quarterly results, with like-for-like sales growth of 13%. The news lifted shares in the sector, including those in UK-listed Burberry.


After being initially hit by a surge in the oil price following increased tensions in the Middle East, airlines rallied this week. British Airways owner IAG revealed it was considering a bid for Norwegian Air Shuttle, the fast-expanding budget airline. This prompted a rally in easyJet shares as this would see the taking out of a major competitor.

In the US airlines also rallied after Delta Airlines posted a better-than-expected set of first quarter profits.

Shares in bus and rail operator FirstGroup also rose after it was revealed the company, which also own iconic US bus service Greyhound, had rebuffed a taker offer from US private-equity firm Apollo Management.


Shares in shopping centre operator Hammerson fell sharply after French group Klépierre said it did not intend to make a formal offer for the company, paving the way for the Bullring owner to seal a tie-up with peer Intu.


Rupert Murdochs plans to exit his TV and film assets hit another bump in the road after the Takeover Panel ruled that The Walt Disney Co must offer to buy all of Sky if it succeeds in its planned purchase of the majority of 21st Century Fox. It means that even if Mr Murdochs plans to take over Sky are blocked by competition regulators, Disney would still have to offer Sky's shareholders a deal at the same price of £10.75 a share.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will consider whether Trinity Mirror's purchase of a chunk of Richard Desmond's media empire would dampen competition in the UK media industry. Shareholders in the owner of the Daily Mirror have already approved the purchase of the Express and Star titles.

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