Watson’s Weekly 01-02-2020

This is an amalgamation of the “best bits” of the daily weekday newsletter/blog woven together to form a concise and coherent view on the things that matter in the commercial and economic news of the week. 

THE DAY IN BRACKETS REFERS TO THE EDITION WHERE THE STORY APPEARED IN WATSON’S DAILY. Clicking on the day will take you to the appropriate edition of Watson’s Daily.


  • China’s health commissioner, Ma Xiaowei, warned that the coronavirus may actually have spread more widely than originally thought (Monday) because it may be passed on by people who show no symptoms and President Xi Jinping promised to defeat it (Wednesday) saying that “We have complete confidence and ability to win this defensive battle against the epidemic”. Although China was praised in some quarters for being swifter to publicise the outbreak than it was with SARS, the mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, said in an interview this week that he had to wait for authorisation before going public (Friday)! Markets wobbled on worries about the spread (Friday) while companies including Cathay Pacific and Starbucks curtailed Chinese operations (Wednesday). Foreign companies including Microsoft and Dell donated money to help the cause (Wednesday), although the amounts were dwarfed by Chinese donations and drug companies including AbbVie, Johnson & Johnnson and Gilead Sciences donated antiviral drugs (Tuesday) to see if they could help at all (a specific anti-coronavirus drug does not currently exist – but there’s hope that an existing treatment may be able to help). In the meantime, companies are struggling to keep up with demand for face masks (Friday)
  • US GDP growth appears to be slowing down (Friday), Germany’s economy is still in a rut (Tuesday) but the European unemployment rate reached new lows (Friday) and the Bank of England left interest rates unchanged (Friday)


  • The landscape for retailers continues to be tough. US restaurants and retailers continue to go out of business (Tuesday), UK retail job numbers continue to fall (Monday) along with retail sales (Wednesday). The retailer landlords are also suffering as Intu and Land Securities suffered falls in their property values (Thursday) as fellow landlord British Land predicted more carnage in the sector (Tuesday)
  • With the retailers themselves, Amazon had a great Christmas (Friday), Space NK had a good one but its investments in new stores upped costs (Monday), Reiss did well (Monday) but the struggling John Lewis decided to take some of the pressure off itself (Wednesday) by announcing that it would publish trade updates twice per year rather than on a weekly basis


  • Apple had great results (Wednesday), mainly because the company benefited from strong sales of its iPhone 11, Samsung had disappointing results (Thursday) but also predicted that this would be the year that the chip market recovered from its current slump (something that rivals TSMC and Intel have also said) and Huawei managed to hang on to playing some part in Britain’s 5G rollout (Wednesday, Friday). On the other hand, Facebook unveiled its slowest ever revenue growth (Thursday) due to higher costs. This was despite user numbers on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger reaching all-time highs and revenues from advertising shooting up by 25%


  • In vehicle-related news, Tesla posted fourth-quarter profits on record deliveries (Thursday) and promised to boost sales by almost one third this year. Then there was the encouraging news that UPS ordered 20,000 vehicles from British electric-van maker Arrival (Thursday)
  • Altria announced a big write-down of the valuation of its stake in Juul (Friday) heralding the latest development in the demise of vaping
  • The Indian government decided to have another go at selling Air India (Tuesday), with the key difference this time being that they’re selling it ALL this time, rather than hanging onto a small stake
  • In the UK, Amigo Holdings has been put up for sale (Tuesday)


  • In the “Country-by-country” section, the UK leaves Europe, Marine Le Pen looks like she’s making a comeback as President Macron’s popularity suffers, Catalonia stirs things up again for Spain as it looks to hold early elections, Matteo Salvini fails in his bid to get back into power as Italy’s regional elections don’t go his way, India unveils an important new budget and Nigeria promises to do better in cracking down on corruption


This week’s “banter” section is, once again, mainly animal-focused! My favourite stories this week were And now, a spot of everyone’s favorite winter sport: Japanese cat curling (SoraNews24, Katy Kelly https://tinyurl.com/sagq86g) – which is hilarious as the cat seems to love it – and Dog rides bus to and from dog park every day to play for two hours by herself (The Mirror, Luke Matthews https://tinyurl.com/rpzrf7n) which shows brilliant independence and teamwork with the local community! I would also say that 2 Brothers Created a Stop-Motion Remake of Toy Story 3 Using Real Toys and People (Popsugar, Victoria Messina https://tinyurl.com/r9csxr7) is particularly impressive!