Watson’s Weekly 13-09-2019

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.


  • The week started with both sides of the US-China trade divide suffering (Monday), but tariffs were eased (Thursday) ahead of talks scheduled for next month. Trump continued to push the Fed to lower interest rates (Thursday) to stimulate the economy and even goaded them to cut them to zero
  • In Europe, outgoing ECB president Mario Draghi announced stimulus measures (Friday) to kick-start a sluggish eurozone economy, although Trump objected saying that it would weaken the Euro and thus dent US imports into the bloc
  • There was a major change in Saudi Arabia this week as Khalid al-Falih was removed as its energy minister (Monday) to be replaced by Prince Abdulaziz, a member of the royal family. This is a rare move as such a position is usually taken up by someone from outside the royal family and is generally seen to be a cushy number – but it shows the ruthlessness of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as he gears up for the much-anticipated Saudi Aramco flotation and moves to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil revenues
  • Boris Johnson had another torrid week as MPs foiled his second attempt to hold a snap general election (Tuesday) while Scotland’s highest court concluded that prorogation of UK parliament was unlawful (Thursday), although this will be debated in the UK Supreme Court next week. Still, at least wages are still going up and unemployment is going down (Wednesday) – so things could definitely be worse


  • Conditions in the UK remain tough for retailers as stores continue to close (Wednesday) and footfall is dropping (Monday). Topshop continues to suffer (Friday), as does Sports Direct (Thursday) but there are still winners in this space including JD Sports (Wednesday) and Honest Burger (Wednesday). Given the deluge of PPI claims before last month’s deadline, it’s possible that consumers may get a windfall going into the end of the year (Tuesday) that they spend on the high street…
  • Outside the UK, Zara’s parent company Inditex puts in a solid performance (Thursday) but Forever 21 looks like it will slide into bankruptcy (Thursday) and Old Navy outlines plans regarding its split from Gap (Friday)


  • It was a grim week for tobacco majors as US health authorities are now advising people to stop using e-cigs (Monday) and other vaping products while they conduct investigations into three more deaths from mysterious illnesses relating to severe lung injury. Then the FDA warned Juul about misleading marketing practices (Tuesday) and Trump followed this up by saying that he was thinking about pulling most vaping products from the market (Thursday) due to health concerns and the massive rise in teenage use. Clearly, this is not ideal for tobacco companies who are making strategic decisions (Friday) in an attempt to focus more on non-tobacco products


  • California passed some landmark legislation that will force companies to reclassify some of its contract workers as employees (Thursday), which could have huge implications on ride-hailing companies and food delivery specialists as well as many others in the gig economy. Unsurprisingly, Uber said it will fight the changes
  • Apple announced new phones and other gizmos (Wednesday) with evolution and not revolution in evidence. Sales of the iPhone accounted for less than 50% of Apple’s overall revenues this summer for the first time since 2012 as the company continues its efforts to beef-up revenues from its services segment
  • Meanwhile, car manufacturers used the Frankfurt Car Show to unveil new models. VW announced its first ground-up electric car (Wednesday) while Jaguar Land Rover announced the arrival of the new Defender (Wednesday). All very nice, but electric charging networks are still rather patchy and car sales globally are looking pretty sluggish


My favourite stories this week were Nintendo’s crazy new Ring-con and RingFit Adventure are its new exercise/gaming hybrid (SoraNews24, Casey Baseel https://tinyurl.com/y3ww9ozf), which looks rather less alarming than it sounds 😂 – and Egyptian masseur plays with fire to ease muscle pain (Reuters, https://tinyurl.com/y37c5t3a) which is also supposedly the case! I think I’d pass on the massage thanks…

I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!