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HAMISH MCRAE: Sick Trump won’t infect shares

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hamish mcrae sick trump wont infect shares

It is the biggest story in the world right now. What happens in the US matters more than anything else for our economy and our savings – and the possibility that Donald Trump might be incapacitated a month before the presidential election piles uncertainty onto uncertainty for all of us.

So what does it mean for us as investors? I don’t think it is much help for people on this side of the Atlantic to try to gauge how Trump’s illness might change the election outcome. It is much more important to focus on what will not change – and the implications for the rest of us.

One thing won’t change: US monetary policy. The Federal Reserve will continue to flood the US (and hence the world) with dollars. Interest rates will remain near zero and stay there for at least three years.

'What happens to Trump is a huge, riveting fable – and we all want to know the next twist. But set against this technical and financial dominance of America, it is a blip', says McRae

‘What happens to Trump is a huge, riveting fable – and we all want to know the next twist. But set against this technical and financial dominance of America, it is a blip’, says McRae

There would be some tweaks to tax and spending policies were Joe Biden to win the presidency, but the big numbers will not change very much. The US debt-to-GDP ratio will head above 100 per cent and the size of its national debt will continue to soar.

As money is sprayed around the US, some of those dollars will end up elsewhere in the world. In theory, that ought to mean a weaker dollar, and quite a few of the big investment banks are expecting that. But I’m not so sure.

What other currency do you choose? Where else do you invest? Any British investor who stuck to investing in UK-based companies will be feeling pretty disappointed, while if they had the nous or luck to invest in high-tech America they will be feeling rather relieved.

The Nasdaq index, which represents most of the high-tech companies, has come back a bit from its all-time high of more than 12,000 at the beginning of September, but it is still at 11,075. A year ago it was 7,800.

The wider story here is that high-tech America has been one of the great beneficiaries of Covid-19. Think of Amazon. Think of Zoom.

You may believe that the US response to the virus has been less competent than, for example, that of Germany. You would probably be right.

The big numbers will not change very much 

But the structure of the US economy, with its restless, innovative, driving high-tech giants, is more resistant to a blow such as this than that of Germany, which is trying to sell the world diesel cars.

The markets can see this. The value of Tesla is $387billion (£300billion). That of VW is about £63billion.

Markets give a snapshot of the mood of the moment, and that mood will of course change. But what I can’t see changing is US corporate dominance of our daily lives. Do we want to give up Google? Or Facebook? Or our iPhones? The answer is we can’t.

What happens to Trump is a huge, riveting fable – and we all want to know the next twist. But set against this technical and financial dominance of America, it is a blip – all right a darned big blip, but a blip nonetheless.

So what are the practical takeaways for us? There are, I suggest, two. One is that if you accept that the flood of dollars will continue whoever is President, you have to think through where those dollars will go.

'American fiscal and monetary policy will put a floor under asset prices', says McRae

‘American fiscal and monetary policy will put a floor under asset prices’, says McRae

They may not continue to go into the US share markets but they have to go somewhere. So the message I think is that American fiscal and monetary policy will put a floor under asset prices. That will in the first instance be US assets, but that will spread to the rest of the world.

Add in the flood of euros, zen, renminbi and pounds that are also being created, and there will be a floor under asset prices in general.

The other is that at some stage, maybe sooner than everyone seems to expect, inflation in goods and services will start to show through again.

In other words, asset price inflation will spread to current inflation. Costs will rise, wages will start to be bid up, and savers will find the real value of those savings whittled away.

And our own finances? The old rules still apply: set money aside, spread your risk across a wide range of investments, and rely on compound interest to grow the wealth.

Presidents change and policies change; the rules of financial planning stay the same.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Bloomsbury posts best first-half profits in 12 years

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bloomsbury posts best first half profits in 12 years

Bloomsbury has posted its best first-half profits in 12 years after the coronavirus crisis boosted online sales of books and ebooks. 

The Harry Potter publisher said families had ‘rediscovered the pleasure of reading’ during the pandemic, when lockdown measures forced people to spend more time indoors. 

Bloomsbury said this helped boost its profits for the six months to August 31 from £2.5m to £4m – its best performance since 2008. 

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34924152 8885677 image m 54 1603836957269

Best-selling fiction titles included a Harry Potter spin-off book by JK Rowling and Crescent City: House Of Earth And Blood by Sarah J Maas.

Non-fiction titles including Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and White Rage by Carol Anderson also proved popular, as did a cookbook by Indian restaurant chain Dishoom. 

The strong financial performance prompted Bloomsbury to bring back its dividend, which was paused earlier on in the pandemic to save cash. 

It also highlighted Bloomsbury’s focus on higher-margin online sales, which the company said rose ‘significantly’ during the period as many High Street shops faced virus restrictions. 

The online boost was reflected in the 60 per cent rise in profits – despite the company reporting only a 10 per cent rise in first-half revenues to £73m. 

Nigel Newton, Bloomsbury’s boss, said he initially feared lockdown measures would hurt the company. 

But there was a ‘real uptake in reading’ as the lockdown wore on, he said. 

Shares surged 18.1 per cent, or 38p, to 248p.

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MARKET REPORT: Rolls-Royce investors back £2bn cash call

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market report rolls royce investors back 2bn cash call

Rolls-Royce shareholders have backed the British engineer’s £2bn cash call, throwing it a lifeline as its tries to survive the Covid crisis. 

The emergency fundraising – through the sale of new shares – will allow the jet engine maker to unlock a wider support package worth £5billion in total. 

This includes £2billion of bonds that will be sold on the debt market and another £1bn through refinancing with its banks. 

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029257D400000578 6865851 image a 1 1562603221949

It gives Rolls vital breathing room after the pandemic caused demand for aircraft to collapse, hammering the engineering firm’s main source of income. 

But Rolls, which slumped to a £5.4billion half-year loss in August, is still struggling to cut costs and faces its first industrial action in 41 years over plans to move several hundred jobs to Singapore. 

Issuing new shares has been one of the company’s main strategies to raise cash quickly, with investors able to buy ten new shares for every three they already owned under the rights issue. The new shares were on sale for 32p each – a discount of more than a third on their usual price. 

Chairman Ian Davis said the plan had been ‘passed overwhelmingly’ at a one-off meeting yesterday, with virtually all votes cast – or 99.5 per cent – in favour. 

But despite the respite, Rolls shares closed down 3.1 per cent, or 7.1p, at 219p on a generally gloomy day for stocks. 

London’s FTSE 100 index struggled to stay above water, falling 1.1 per cent, or 63.02 points, to 5728.99 – its second red day in a row. 

Among the top fallers were asset managers that tend to track global markets, with M&G down by 7.5 per cent, or 12.4p, to 153.85p and rival Legal & General down 5.1 per cent, or 9.95p, to 185.65p. 

Other stocks whose fortunes are largely tied to the economy also suffered, with advertising agency WPP, falling 5.1 per cent, or 33.4p, to 625.2p, and housebuilder Persimmon, down 5.5 per cent, or 137p, to 2378p. 

The FTSE 250 index of mid-sized companies joined the downward march too, falling 1.5pc, or 265.59 points, to 17587.71. 

Easyjet shares dropped 3 per cent, or 15.6p, to 504p, after it raised £307m by selling aircraft as it battles to survive the pandemic. 

The airline sold five of Airbus’s best-selling A320 aircraft to Irish-based Wilmington Trust SP Services. And it offloaded another four of the same aircraft to Sky High 112 Leasing Company. 

Easyjet has arranged leaseback agreements with both groups – meaning it can still use the planes even though it will not own them. 

Spread betting firm Plus 500, which has enjoyed a bumper year thanks to wild swings in stock markets, saw its shares plunge despite posting blowout third-quarter results. 

The company revealed that revenues nearly doubled to £166m during the three months to September 29 when compared to a year ago, while profits similarly leapt from £54m to £103m. 

However, the growth was slower than the second quarter’s, with bosses warning that this ‘gradual reduction’ had continued into the fourth quarter as well. 

It sent shares falling 8.2 per cent, or 132.5p, to 1488.5p – although shareholders are still sitting on paper gains of more than 70 per cent so far this year. 

Revolution Bars, a business hit hard by pandemic restrictions, fell 2.5 per cent, or 0.25p, to 9.65p as it pushed forward with plans to shut venues and seek lower rents. 

The embattled chain is set to close six venues, resulting in 130 job losses, under a proposed company voluntary arrangement that must be approved by creditors. 

It is also seeking better terms on seven others, including short-term relief from rent payments.

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Get set for the Halloween horror show as furlough ends

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get set for the halloween horror show as furlough ends

Ever since the coronavirus crippled the UK, hundreds of billions of pounds of aid have been on offer to those worst affected. But now some of that support will be pulled on Halloween. 

The generous furlough scheme will end, and mortgage and loan holidays will be taken off the table — along with interest-free overdrafts. 

Yet it comes as swathes of the country are still under lockdown and millions of jobs remain under threat. 

Money to burn?: The FCA has told banks and lenders it expects them to work with customers to ease their money troubles

Money to burn?: The FCA has told banks and lenders it expects them to work with customers to ease their money troubles

Money to burn?: The FCA has told banks and lenders it expects them to work with customers to ease their money troubles

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned that 12 million Britons might soon struggle to pay their bills — two million more than at the start of the pandemic. 

The regulator has told banks and lenders it expects them to work with customers to ease their money troubles. 

And while some new support packages have been made available, experts fear an explosion of repossessions as many fall deeper into debt. 

Here, Money Mail guides you through the support available… 

WAGE CUT MISERY

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s bailout package meant those who could not work still received 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 every month. 

This promise back in March has since seen £35billion paid out to more than nine million workers. The scheme will end on Saturday and will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme, which will run for six months. It will see workers in businesses forced to shut down by Tier Three restrictions paid 67 per cent of their wages, up to £2,100 a month. 

Businesses suffering can also ask the Government to pay 49 per cent of wages up to £1,541.75, providing staff work 20 per cent of their hours and the employer pays 24 per cent of wages. It means staff are left with 73 per cent of their salary. 

But Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor, says: ‘Lockdown measures in the coming weeks will put the income of thousands of affected workers in peril. The new support in the winter plan might not prevent the nightmare facing some workers.’ 

GOING IT ALONE

The Government has extended its support for the self-employed until April 30 next year. The first two grants have now closed but a third will cover the period from November 1 to January 31. 

The original criteria remains, including having to earn more than 50 per cent of your income from self-employment and making less than £50,000 a year. 

If eligible, you can claim 40 per cent of three months’ worth of average monthly profits up to £3,750. This is only around half of the first two grants. A fourth grant will cover the period from February 1 until April 31. 

Authorities in Tier Two areas will receive grants based on the number and size of hospitality, accommodation and leisure firms in their area. Grants will be worth up to £2,100 per month for properties with a rateable value of more than £51,000. 

Councils will have responsibility for determining eligible firms in their areas. They will also receive a 5 per cent ‘top-up’ to help struggling firms in other sectors. 

In Tier Three, grants of up to £3,000 per month will be available to businesses forced to close because of restrictions. 

The Government has also extended the deadline for applying for a bounce-back loan of up to £50,000 to November 30.

MORTGAGE HELL

Homeowners worried about meeting mortgage payments have been able to get up to six months off the bills — no questions asked. 

About 2.5 million borrowers took at least a three-month break from payments. But on Saturday, the payment breaks will be no longer widely on offer, and instead will be available only to those who need them. Any help will be recorded on your credit report. 

If you fear you cannot make p­ayments, talk to your lender. It may be that you can have another break from payments, or make reduced payments, or the term of your mortgage could be extended. You could also be moved on to an interest-only arrangement. 

Tenants should speak to their landlord about a payment plan if struggling to pay rent. Private landlords must give six months’ notice if they want to evict you. 

Renters in England and Wales cannot be evicted between December 11 and January 11 as part of a ‘winter truce’.

I FEAR I WON’T BE ABLE TO COPE 

Grandmother Gail Diovisalvi fears she won’t be able to afford repayments when her six-month mortgage holiday ends this month. 

Gail, 62, paused payments in May after her work as a freelance examiner dried up. 

Worry: Grandmother Gail Diovisalvi fears she won't be able to afford repayments when her six-month mortgage holiday

Worry: Grandmother Gail Diovisalvi fears she won't be able to afford repayments when her six-month mortgage holiday

Worry: Grandmother Gail Diovisalvi fears she won’t be able to afford repayments when her six-month mortgage holiday

She says she has ‘no choice’ but to resume repayments — which are now £32 higher — even though she cannot afford it. 

Gail, who lives in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, was ineligible for selfemployed income support because the firms she worked for paid her via PAYE. But she was also ineligible for the f­urlough scheme because HMRC said she was self-employed. 

‘It’s a disgraceful situation to be in,’ she says. ‘I’ve worked for 46 years and paid all my taxes. I just feel like I’m being penalised. 

‘My surname means ‘God save us’. It feels appropriate.’

ENERGY BILL BLOW 

Energy regulator Ofgem is bringing in new rules from December 15 to help those struggling to pay their bills. 

Suppliers will be required to offer emergency credit to customers who cannot top up prepayment meters and ‘realistic’ repayment plans must be provided to those in debt. Disconnections of standard credit meters have been suspended. 

Broadband providers say anyone struggling to pay their bills should contact them as soon as possible. Regulator Ofcom has told firms not to disconnect customers who cannot pay. 

Speak to your local authority if you are struggling to pay council tax. Saturday. More than 4.4 million loan repayment breaks have been granted. As with mortgage holidays, the interest mounts while the debt is unpaid so those borrowers will face bigger bills. 

Those still struggling should talk to their lender, but further deferrals will affect their credit score. 

Banking body UK Finance says lenders might reduce payments for a short period if the customer’s circumstances are expected to improve, or agree a long-term repayment plan if the borrower is having serious difficulties. 

Banks have handed out more than 27 million £500 interest-free overdrafts during the crisis, but they will no longer be required to do so and will be free to charge rates of up to 40 per cent or more. 

If you are struggling to pay off your overdraft, your bank could reduce or waive interest, allowing you to settle the debt gradually. 

  • Charity StepChange has launched a payment plan to help hard-up households out of debt. The Covid Payment Plan has been developed in consultation with HM Treasury and is supported by The Money and Pensions Service. For details, visit stepchange.org or call 0800 138 1111.

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