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.
IN BIG PICTURE NEWS...
- The China lockdown is still ongoing and there’s nervousness about Beijing potentially going the same way as Shanghai (Tuesday). Gyms and cinemas were closed down and Covid testing was tightened. The Shanghai lockdowns have been hugely damaging to China’s economy, so the prospect of Beijing going down as well isn’t great.
- This was a week of interest rate increases! Australia kicked things off (Wednesday) with its first interest rate rise in 11 years, the US then followed with its biggest rise in 22 years (Thursday) and then the Bank of England raised the interest rate from 0.75% to 1% (Friday) as central banks continue to battle high inflation. However, inflation is likely to rise further as factory prices rose (Wednesday) and the ONS released figures showing that around 50% of UK businesses reported higher prices for materials, goods or services during March (Friday).
- It wasn’t that much better in Europe either as German and French manufacturing is suffering particularly acutely (Friday). Italy is backing away from its historically cordial relationship with Putin (Tuesday) and the EU is talking about further sanctions on Russia including more restrictions on SWIFT (Thursday) and an EU-wide oil embargo (Tuesday), although Hungary is holding out (Thursday) because it is heavily reliant on Russian energy. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss imposed a professional services ban on Russia (Thursday) although that didn’t include law firms or banks.
- In COMMODITIES NEWS, non state-controlled Chinese oil refiners are buying up cheap Russian oil (Wednesday) as it seems to be too tempting to overlook and both BP (Wednesday) and Shell (Friday) had stellar results thanks to the sky-high oil price, which led to increasing calls for the oil industry to pay a one-off windfall tax to help out consumers who are facing higher utility bills. This has thus far fallen on deaf ears.
- In ENERGY NEWS, there were some interesting developments in wind power (Tuesday), as the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, said that the Ukraine war would have a big impact on revenues and profits, something recently echoed by rivals including Siemens Gamesa and General Electic. The UK and South Korea are in talks about nuclear power (Tuesday) and French utility Engie signed a 15-year natural gas contract with Texan supplier NextDecade (Tuesday).
THERE WERE SOME EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY...
- The SMMT is getting less confident about car sales heading into the end of the year (Friday), taking into account rising car prices, cost of living, interest rates and supply chain problems. It was interesting to hear that VW has sold out of EVs in Europe and the US (Thursday), so it has got s considerable backlog to work through. At the top end of the car “food chain”, Aston Martin got a refresh (Thursday) with a new CEO and CTO who used to be at Ferrari, which has performed extremely well since its flotation in 2015 – something that has not been the case at Aston Martin!
- It seems that some previously-“hot” themes in the automotive sector have lost momentum of late, namely shared ownership (Wednesday) and online car sales (Wednesday) as Mercedes and BMW gave up on their car-sharing joint venture and Cazoo’s US-listed share prices have tanked since its SPAC-listing last summer respectively.
AND THIS WEEK, IN CONSUMER, RETAIL AND LEISURE DEVELOPMENTS...
- US consumers are pretty much returning to pre-pandemic behaviours (Thursday) by going to the gym, to live concerts and flying (on planes, not with their arms – that really would be impressive 🤣). However, some lockdown winners have fallen by the way-side (e.g. Peloton and Netflix) as consumer behaviour has changed. Some, like DoorDash, are continuing to win (Friday), which is interesting considering the contrasting experience of European rivals Deliveroo and Just Eat Takeaway, who are seeing a bit of a slowdown.
- European consumers are getting more thrifty as Eurostat data shows that Eurozone retail sales fell further than expected in March (Thursday).
- In the UK, the latest BRC figures show that shoppers are paying higher prices (Wednesday), with more of this going on credit (Thursday). Speaking of credit, Klarna will start reporting customer activity to credit agencies (Wednesday) from June. This is a major development and makes me wonder whether Klarna will get more confident about offering its services for higher ticket items.
- In APPAREL RETAIL NEWS, Boohoo’s profits fell off a cliff (Thursday) but its CEO reckons there’s still life in the market yet, blaming falling profits on high shipping costs and supply chain disruption. Joules had a shocking trading update (Thursday), which was topped off by news that its chief exec will be leaving.
- In FOOD RETAILER NEWS, Tesco has signed a deal with Uber to expand its rapid grocery delivery service (Wednesday) but has come under fire from pig farmers who want it to pay a “fair price” (Friday), something echoed by egg, fruit and veg producers (Tuesday).
- In ONLINE RETAIL NEWS, Etsy is causing a bit of a kerfuffle by raising its transaction fees (Friday) and Shopify’s Q1 earnings fell below expectations (Friday).
- In EMPLOYMENT NEWS, Amazon workers in Staten Island voted against unionisation (Tuesday), Starbucks announced enhanced wages and benefits to those who didn’t join a union (Wednesday) and lawsuits from disgruntled employees including the word “banter” have increased (Thursday), implying that there will be more actions to come in future if the economy takes a dive and redundancies increase as appropriate behaviour in the workplace evolves and gets called into question. Meanwhile, Eurozone unemployment numbers fell (Wednesday). Unions are feeling more powerful given the tight market and inflation outpacing wages…sound familiar?!?
...AND IN TECH NEWS...
- Apple is facing accusations of breaching competition law by the EU (Tuesday) and, if found guilty, could face a fine of up to 10% of its global turnover.
- Meta Platforms continues to face intensifying competition (Tuesday) and it announced its exit from podcasting (Wednesday).
- Netflix continues to suffer as it is facing the imminent loss of a number of hit shows (Tuesday) as their contracts end – and if that’s not bad enough, it’s now facing a lawsuit from investors accusing the company of misleading them about subscriber numbers (Friday).
- We heard that Elon Musk is thinking of bringing Twitter back to public markets (Wednesday) once he’s carried out deep surgery whilst it is taken private and there was also news that he got more financing (Friday) from a number of financial heavyweights.
AND IN OTHER NEWS...
- In AVIATION-RELATED NEWS, Heathrow decided to back down on landing charges (Tuesday), which is good news for airlines. Talking of airlines, Qantas said it bought 12 Airbus planes (Tuesday) and we also heard how much aircraft leasing company Avalon lost in Russia (Wednesday).
- In INDIVIDUAL COMPANY NEWS, things are getting so desperate at Peloton that it is now trying to sell a big chunk of itself (Friday) to bolster its flagging finances. Flutter entertainment (owner of Paddy Power and Betfair) is doing really well in the US (Thursday) and could get a boost from California’s imminent legalisation of sports betting. Uber shares fell to their lowest level since the start of Covid (Thursday) as its main US rival announced it was boosting its own efforts to sign drivers.
AND IN UPDATES FOR WATSON'S YEARLY...
- Watson’s Yearly updates 2021/22: there have been updates in the G20 statistics (some inflation and unemployment rate changes) as well as country updates. Please click HERE to see Watson’s Yearly and the changes. Changes have been highlighted in this purple colour 👍 You will be able to see how themes and countries develop throughout the year by reading this document!
My favourite “alternative” stories of the week were the incredible omelette-in-a-can story We eat a canned omelette from a Japanese vending machine and hope for the best (SoraNews24, Oona McGee) and the one about the baby sumo wrestler in Sumo wrestler vs. 16-month-old toddler: The cutest match you’ll ever see (SoraNews24, Oona McGee). He seems like a happy little boy!