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Spooked markets seem soothed by Iran-US climb-down

When Iran decided to hit back on US military facilities after president Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, there was talk of the outbreak of war.

NATO countries apparently implored Trump not to go for another attack, fearing that if he did things would escalate beyond control in very short order.

The effect of the crisis was to send global stock markets downwards (war is bad for everyone except weapons producers), and the price of oil upwards (a huge proportion of the world’s supply relies on shipping routes in the region in question).

But stock markets are rallying today after Trump responded with a sort of faux-magnanimity, claiming there was no need to go further since no Americans were killed, and, to paraphrase, he had made his point.

US stocks climbed to new record peaks in yesterday’s trading, with the S&P 500 rising 0.67% overnight. Asian stocks also rose, with the Nikkei 225 up 0.47% and the Australian ASX swelling 1.38%. European shares are expected to enjoy a similar rally.

I have to say the last week or so in international events has made the all-consuming politics of the UK seem rather parochial by comparison. Another war in the middle east would suddenly make talk of HS2 and fisheries seem like the concerns of local parishioners and their independently-wielded speed guns for catching nippy neighbours.

Boeing reveals a terrifying internal attitude, given they make planes

I have not been following the Boeing 737 Max story in any detail until now, but today the story of its crashing planes and the ensuing investigation has rather put some heat into the tale. The manufacturer has released hundreds of internal emails about the its development of flight simulators for the sometimes-faulty jet, and they do not make for comfortable reading.

As far back as 2017, two employees shared their view on an instant message exchange that: “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

Another message, from 2015, referring to the likelihood that aviation regulators would want to see simulator training for a category of cockpit alert, read: “We are going to push back very hard on this and will likely need support at the highest levels when it comes time for the final negotiation.”

The comms have been released because Boeing is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the United States Congress. The House of Representatives transportation committee chairman, Peter DeFazio, said: “[The communications] paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally.”

I think, given these tin cans fly at 500mph and nobody ever seems to survive plane crashes, these disclosures would have had me reaching for more choice language than Mr DeFazio.

Let’s drop the retail ‘winners and losers’ editorial shorthand

The Christmas ‘winners and losers’ narrative is an unfortunate collective editorial decision of the newspaper press, as any analogy to sport or contest has an air of flippancy about it, when often the New Year financial difficulty many retailers face means lost jobs and further damaged high streets.

Today the financial performance of both Superdry and Joules disappointed investors, whose shares dropped 15% and 21% respectively. The Christmas trading period has hit both brands hard, and by coincidence their profit warnings came on the same day.

Superdry apparently thinks £0 profit is a possibility for the full year, while the City had forecasted around £20m. Joules simply said that pre-tax profits would be “significantly below expectations”. Let’s hope a changed political situation means consumer confidence boosts their Q1.

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