Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Auguri, Italy!

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate 
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
21 December 2021

Good morning,

Something incredible happened over the weekend: Italy was proclaimed country of the year, according to The Economist. While The Economist has praised previous winners for doing what many would categorise as the bare minimum of human decency (Uzbekistan abolishing slavery in 2019, for example), this time the publication seems to have gotten it right. I say this not just as an Italian, but because it picked up on something truly exciting – genuine change.
 
Known informally as the “sick man of Europe” (long lost are the days the Ottoman Empire held the moniker) for its stagnant economy and frazzled politics, things are looking to be on the up for the boot-shaped country. In May, Italian rock band Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest, rocking the judges with their performance of Zitti e Buoni. Just a couple of months later, the Italian national football team won the Euro 2020 football championships in a 3-2 penalty shootout against England. Then, at the Tokyo Olympics, the should-be underdog brought home 40 medals in total, tying on golds with Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
 
For the first time in over two decades, Italy has begun to cautiously redeem itself on the political side as well, foregoing being solely associated with tourism, food, art and luxury fashion. Mario Draghi’s premiership not only shepherded the country through national economic and pandemic-related turmoil, but effectively boosted its trustworthiness. His plan to spend €191.5 billion from the EU Next Generation Fund, plus around €30 billion of Italy’s own funds on infrastructure, energy transition and digitalisation has been met with praise. According to The Economist, “[Italy’s] economy is recovering more speedily than those of France or Germany”.
 
Battered by Covid at the beginning of the pandemic, the country now boasts an admirable vaccination rate. According to the latest data by Statista (as of 16 December 2021), measuring the share of adults who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the European Economic Area (EEA), Italy sits comfortably at 12th, with 83%. To show for it, public confidence in Draghi has remained high since he took office in March, wavering between 63% and 69%.
 
However, things are about to get tricky for the come-back country. Italy has a history of short-lived campaign promises, with little accountability when elected representatives fail to deliver. Sergio Mattarella’s term as president is due to end early next year, opening up the alluring possibility of Mario Draghi stepping in. Draghi has never expressed an interest in becoming president – but neither did he of becoming prime minister. Becoming president would offer legislative and executive oversight, but only in the limited capacities of a veto vote. However, it would also be a political compromise for Brothers of Italy and the Northern League. Both parties, incentivised by their promising polling ratings, have started calling for elections early next year.
 
There will likely be difficulties ahead. However, for a country from which good news has previously been hard to come by and with the festive season soon approaching us, rejoicing seems most appropriate. Auguroni!

News

The hospitality and leisure industry has called for a clarity from the government on whether to expect further Covid restrictions in the coming days. No new measures were announed, following the UK government cabinet meeting yesterday. However, Boris Johnson said data is being reviewed “hour by hour” and that the government may need to “reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public”.
 
On Monday, biotechnology company Moderna announced that its preliminary research suggests half-dose booster shots increase antibody levels against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. While it’s still too early to tell how well the booster doses work on a large-scale against Omicron, Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel said that the booster increased antibodies by 37%. 
 
Relatives of two men who died at sea have started a legal process in the UK, calling for an independent public inquiry into the deaths of 27 refugees while crossing the Channel last month. The inquiry would determine whether “acts or omissions” by British agencies contributed to human rights breaches and resulted in unnecessary deaths of the refugees.

Business and economy

A joint report by the CBI and advisory services firm KPMG has revealed that Scotland is lagging behind the UK annual productivity index average. The report highlighted a decline in business investment and in the proportion of companies actively innovating, as well as high levels of workplace sickness absence and poor internet speed. The report comes shortly after the Scottish Fiscal Commission warned that despite the continuing recovery, Scotland’s economy is lagging behind the UK overall. (£)
 
The World Economic Forum in Davos has been postponed from mid-January to early summer 2022 amid rising fears of the spread of Omicron. In addition, Switzerland has become the latest country to introduce new Covid restrictions, including a mandatory work-from-home order, making an in-person gathering of heads of state and business nearly impossible.
 
Dubai will become the first financial centre to host a specialised crypto zonefor digital assets, products, operators and exchanges, as economic competition in the region ramps up. Dubai’s government has announced that it is working with the private sector to set up a regulatory ecosystem with rigorous standards for investor protection, anti-money laundering, combating financing for terrorism, and monitoring compliance and cross border payments.

Columns of note

Throughout the pandemic we’ve heard time and time again that the NHS isn’t “fit for purpose”; but is that really so? Sonia Sodha takes a look at the argument that the NHS is “structurally unsound” in The Guardian, and concludes that this type of rhetoric is problematic at best. The author attacks pro-marketisation proponents’ stance that the NHS is a money-sucking, “ideological predilection of a nation”. Instead, she argues that not only does the UK spend less on healthcare per capita than our European counterparts, but also that the NHS is a necessary symbol of pride for all Brits. Or, as Sodha puts it, “the institution to which we collectively turn in times of need”.
 
As Eric Adams prepares to become New York’s mayor in January 2022, the mood seems far from festive – at least according to Joshua Chaffin in the FT. It’s unclear what type of city Adams will run, let alone the type of mayor he will be: his background as a former cop, mixed with the rising crime and violence rates, would suggest a reviving of the city’s police force. At the same time activists have also placed high expectations on the city’s second-ever black mayor, expecting him to take the role of a social reformer. The contrast culminates with Adams’ shedding of his working-class background, to stand instead against Democrat Socialists and betting his campaign and mayoral agenda on reviving the city’s businesses. The pressure is on. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Equity and oil markets took a hit worldwide on Monday, as the spread of the Omicron variant picks up speed. In the UK, travel and leisure shares added pressure to British indices, as the prime minister, Boris Johnson, chaired an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss possible further restrictions. The FTSE 100 closed the day 0.99% lower, dragged down by faltering retail, leisure and travel equities.
 
IAG, parent company of British Airways, lost 0.83%; Cineworld Group tumbled 7.1%; and business events business Infoma closed the day down 5.3%.
 
Sterling was also in negative territory, falling 0.26% against the dollar and down 0.68% against the euro, trading at $1.32 and €1.17 respectively.
 
On the continent, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 1.4%, while France CAC 40 dropped 0.8% and Germany’s Dax was down 1.9%.

What’s happening today?

AGMs

Northamber
Go-Ahead
 
Drilling Report

Empyrean

Final Dividend Payment Date

Finsbury Food
Baillie Gifford Japan Trust PLC
Craneware

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In the 1850s, George Merryweather devised the tempest prognosticator. It had leeches in bottles which, when sensing a nearing rain, would climb out and trigger a bell-striking mechanism. He wanted to build one attached to the largest bell in St. Paul’s Cathedral. (@qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on 5 January 2022.

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 5 January 2022.

Scottish parliament 

Time for Reflection
Rev David Burt, Minister, Old Gourock and Ashton Church
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Topical Questions (if selected)
 
First Minister’s Statement
COVID-19 Update
 
Scottish Government Debate
A New Deal for Tenants
 
Committee Announcements
 
Business Motions
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Decision Time
 
Members’ Business
S6M-02360 Sarah Boyack: Ending Pharmaceutical Monopolies of COVID-19 Vaccines

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