Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Europe's wunderkind

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
27 April 2021

Good morning,

In April 2009, the German chancellor Angela Merkel stood waiting on the banks of the Rhine for the then Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to walk together over the bridge onto the French side of the river.

The ceremonious journey was a symbolic one, honouring the fallen victims of conflict between NATO countries on the continent over 60 years before. Berlusconi arrived, wandered out holding his phone in one hand and gestured to the German chancellor that he would be continuing this call. Merkel would make the crossing alone.

Italy’s ability to repeatedly mock diplomatic convention and allow its debt-to-GDP ratio to climb unchecked during the post-2008 recovery, made it the European establishment’s enfant terrible. Growing Eurosceptism in Italy, coupled with distrust from the heads of European institutions that Italy was a reliable partner, made the country the rebel teammate.

It would take a European insider to undo almost a decade of bad reputation, the establishment wunderkind, Mario Draghi. Famous for a spotless resume, Draghi is turning out to be not only the solution to Italy’s internal political disarray, but also to European unity. The prime minister is turning the country from juvenile delinquent into proper “model European”.

Long gone are the days of the Troika. Rome’s relationship with Paris and Berlin has suddenly blossomed, and according to diplomats from both countries, Draghi holds regular calls with Macron and Merkel.

Draghi’s decision in early March to block vaccine exports by AstraZeneca was applauded as a “muscular approach” to a company that defied the EU. His use of the European Commission’s legal arm in blocking the vaccine exports signalled to the EU his—and Italy’s—commitment to European unity. 

When Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, was snubbed by Turkish president Erdogan, Draghi called him out, labelling him a dictator. This signalled the return of Italy’s focus inwards, towards the European continent, and less towards alternative partners such as Moscow and Beijing, with whom it was becoming dangerously close during the pandemic.

Yesterday, Draghi presented Italy’s plans to spend €200 billion of the European Central Bank’s recovery fund. His strategy is a multi-pronged approach to restore Italy’s economic ills. More than half the funds will be allocated to green energy and digitalisation, others will focus on boosting competition and making it easier for companies to invest and hire.

The question remains as to whether Draghi can bring Italy back into the fold for good, or whether he will now struggle to meet the high expectations he has set.

News

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Anglo-Iranian charity worker who served five years in prison in Iran for “espionage”, has been sentenced to a further 12 months and a one-year ban from leaving the country. Speculation has risen that her continued detention may be linked to the UK’s unresolved £400 million debt to Iran for tanks. (£)

The European Union is suing AstraZeneca over vaccine delivery delays. The European Commission said it was proceeding with legal action against the vaccine manufacturer because the company was in breach of contract for not respecting vaccine supply and for failing to have a “reliable plan” to ensure timely deliveries.

The UK will come under scrutiny in Italy’s largest anti-organised crime trial in decades. The UK will have to answer allegations that criminal organisations laundered billions of pounds each year through its banks.

Business and economy

Economists are raising their forecasts for UK economic growth this year from 4.2% expected in February to 5.4%. Consensus Economics—a company that averages forecasts—says the change in growth expectation is due to the fast vaccine rollout, the extension of government support and the resilience shown by businesses during the last lockdown. (£)

Standard Life Aberdeen is changing its name to “Abrdn” to reflect a “modern, agile, digitally-enabled brand”. The Edinburgh-based asset manager, which traces its history back to 1825, said the change in name reflects a “clarity of focus”, although many financial consultants and brand experts have questioned  the move.

HSBC has reported an increase of 79% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020. Over the pandemic, HSBC had struggled, posting a 34% drop in profits for 2020, in part due to the impact of Covid-19. The bulk of the bank’s new earnings come from Asia, however it hopes growth in consumer lending in 2021 will allow the bank to bounce back globally.

Columns of note

Growing anxiety that post-pandemic economic recovery will be marked by an unchecked rise in inflation is misplaced, suggests The Economist. As economists turn to the history books for clues as to what lies ahead, this piece highlights that post-recession periods are marked by three features. The record shows that first, while people are enticed to spend, uncertainty lingers for some time. Second, pandemics encourage businesses to diversify and the market to churn out new ideas of business, which upends the structure of the economy. Lastly, post-pandemic times are often marked by a period of significant political upheaval, which tends to peak two years after the pandemic ends. (£)

As high streets start reopening thanks to easing of lockdown restrictions, The Guardian asks why we keep clicking on Buy Now buttons? During the pandemic, when we were all locked at home, it seemed like one of the few ways to spend time. Yet, the Amazon phenomenon remains hard to resist, with foreseeable consequences for the high street. Ultimately, “we just can’t seem to stop”. 

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Ahead of first quarter earnings reports, the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.9%, mostly driven by positive early signals by Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. The S&P 500 similarly closed 0.2% up, signalling a week expected to be dominated by strong results from corporate America. Investors are expecting earnings growth to be the strongest since 2018, and a quarter of constituents of the S&P 50 index have already reported results beating analysts’ forecasts.

Across the Atlantic, stocks in London finished in positive territory on Monday, up 0.35% from the previous day. Investor confidence rose after the European Commission signalled that the European Union may open its borders to non-essential travel by the summer.

Sterling gained 0.11% on the euro and 0.06% on the dollar, despite the dollar’s strong performance against a basket of its peers.

In Europe, the European Commission’s positive signalling on the reopening of European frontiers pushed the Stoxx 600 in positive territory, closing 0.26% up from the previous day.

What’s happening today?

Finals

Anexo Group Plc

Gaming Realms

Inspiration Hlt

Interims

Focusrite

Q1 Results

BP

AGMs

Aquis Exchange

Maven l&g Vct5

Omv Petrom S

Travis Perkins

Tribal Grp.

Interim Dividend Payment Date

Invesco Asia

Source: Financial Times

did you know

When the Post Office Tower (now BT Tower) opened in 1965 in the middle of London, the Official Secrets Act meant it was technically classified and couldn’t be included on maps. It was officially ‘revealed’ three decades later in parliament. [Source: QI Twitter]

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions

HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)

Urgent question

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs if he will make a statement on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Ministerial statement

Post Office Court of Appeal Judgment

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Tool Theft (Prevention)

Consideration of Lords message

Consideration of Lords message on the Fire Safety Bill

Consideration of Lords amendments

If necessary

Motion

Motion to approve the Draft Warm Home Discount (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021

Motion to Approve the Trade and Official Control (Transitional Arrangements for Prior Notifications) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (S.i., 2021, No. 429)

Adjournment

Labelling of alcohol products

Westminster Hall debate

The effectiveness of asylum accommodation and the dispersal scheme in providing support for asylum seekers

Enabling access to nature to support mental health

Fire and rehire practices

Effect of immigration detention on potential victims of trafficking

Air pollution in London

House of Lords 

Oral questions

Hazards that arise when cyclists fail to make use of bicycle bells

Electrical power requirements needed to enable reliable hydrogen, and battery, availability in order to meet their zero-carbon transport sector target

Recommendations in the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech

A government-backed insurance scheme to provide cover for music festivals this summer against Covid-related cancellations

Private Notice Question

Support the government will provide to the government of India

Statement

Update the House on the Ministerial Code

Reductions in the ODA budget

Legislation

Domestic Abuse Bill – consideration of Commons amendments

Statement

Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions

Legislation

Fire Safety Bill – consideration of Commons amendments

Scottish Parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess ahead of the election on 6 May

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