About Me

My photo
I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Or half of 'Me' anyway.........

You LOST OK, now just shut up about it…..

Pound and FTSE 100 lose ground.

UK shares have dipped further and the pound has lost ground as investors continue to digest the Bank of England's latest pronouncement. On Thursday, the Bank stunned the markets by keeping interest rates on hold, following speculation that it would cut rates from 0.5% to 0.25%. By mid-afternoon on Friday, the FTSE 100 was down 10.04 points at 6,644.43. The pound was down 0.47% against the dollar at $1.3281. Against the euro, it was down 0.17% at €1.1983. Among individual shares, airlines bore the brunt in the wake of Thursday night's Bastille Day attack in the French resort of Nice. Easyjet and British Airways owner IAG were down 3.2% and 1.3% respectively. At the same time, High Street mainstays Morrisons and Marks and Spencer fell 2% and 2.5% respectively. Other European share indexes were also down, reflecting market gloom at the French terror attack. The Cac index in Paris was down by about 0.6%, while Frankfurt's Dax dropped about 0.2%.

Bank of England economist says sledgehammer needed for economy.

The Bank of England's chief economist supports a "sledgehammer" approach to stabilising the post-Brexit economy as he admitted unemployment could rise. In a speech, Andy Haldane supported easing monetary policy next month. He said it needed to be "delivered promptly as well as muscularly", adding: "By promptly, I mean next month." On Thursday, the Bank kept the interest rate on hold at a record low of 0.5%, where it has been since March 2009. But minutes from the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, which includes Mr Haldane, said: "Most members of the committee expect monetary policy to be loosened in August. The precise size and nature of any stimulatory measures will be determined during the August forecast and Inflation Report round.” Speaking at a gathering in Port Talbot on June 30, before the speech was released on Friday, Mr Haldane said there is evidence that companies are reducing both hiring and investment. He said: "There is no sense of slash and burn. But there is a strong sense of trim and singe." He also admitted that there is a risk that "perhaps" unemployment could rise.

David Davis: Trigger Brexit by start of 2017.

The new minister in charge of Brexit says the UK should be able to formally trigger its departure from the EU "before or by the start of next year". David Davis called for a "brisk but measured" approach, with a likely exit from the EU around December 2018. He said the "first order of business" should be to strike trade deals with non EU countries. Meanwhile his predecessor, Oliver Letwin, warned the UK had no trade negotiators to lead its exit talks. Mr Davis, a longstanding campaigner for Brexit, was appointed as secretary of state for leaving the EU by new Prime Minister Theresa May. Mrs May has previously said she will not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts a two-year process of leaving, before the end of 2016.

UK offered Brexit free trade deal with Australia.

Australia has called for a free trade deal with Britain following its exit from the European Union. Theresa May described the move as "very encouraging" and insisted it showed Brexit can work for Britain. In a phone call to the new PM, her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said he urgently wanted to open up trading between the two countries. Liam Fox, the new international trade secretary, said he was already "scoping about a dozen free trade deals". But Britain cannot sign any deals while it is still an EU member. Mrs May said: "I have been very clear that this government will make a success of our exit from the European Union. One of the ways we will do this is by embracing the opportunities to strike free trade deals with our partners across the globe. It is very encouraging that one of our closest international partners is already seeking to establish just such a deal. This shows that we can make Brexit work for Britain," she added.

Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland 'could stay in UK and EU'.

Scotland could stay in the UK and the EU, while the rest of the UK leaves the bloc, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, the first minister said there was effectively a "blank sheet of paper", creating an opportunity to explore previously "unthinkable" options. The UK minister responsible for Brexit said he did not think this would work. But the prime minister said she would listen to any options brought forward by the Scottish government. Ms Sturgeon also said she thought Scotland was in a "very strong" position in the UK's Brexit talks after Theresa May said she would not begin the formal process of leaving the EU until there was a "UK approach and objectives".

Eurotunnel cuts profit forecast due to weak pound.

The fall in the pound after the UK referendum on EU membership has forced Eurotunnel to lower its 2016 profit forecast by 4.5% to €535m ($700m). It also cut its profit forecast for 2017 by 4.3%. Eurotunnel assumes the pound will be 7% lower versus the euro, reducing its profits when converted back into euros. Two thirds of its income is from vehicle shuttle services, and UK customers make up 80% of its car passengers. Shares in Eurotunnel, which runs train services between Britain and France, fell 30% after the EU referendum vote and are still 16% below pre-Brexit levels. The firm said the impact of Brexit on the level of cross-Channel transport was uncertain, but that it did not expect any significant impact on its activities in the short term. Chief Executive Jacques Gounon said: "Despite the financial market uncertainty generated by the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, the Group remains confident in the performance of its economic model and in its outlook." However, other factors have had an impact on its business. Eurostar's passenger traffic fell 3% in the first half of 2016 due to attacks in Brussels in March and rail strikes in Belgium and France. Meanwhile truck shuttle traffic was up 10% in the same period. Overall profits in the first half of the year rose 4% to €249m, with revenues up 2% at €582m.

EU nationals with permanent residence 'can stay in UK'.

EU nationals with a right to permanent residence can stay in the UK after it leaves the EU and enjoy the same rights, a top civil servant has said. Mark Sedwill said the rights of those granted residence after five years were "quite clear" in law and it amounted to a guarantee of their future status. But he told MPs the rights of other EU nationals were subject to negotiations on Brexit and the "will of Parliament". Ministers have been urged not to use EU citizens as "bargaining chips". The UK says it will seek curbs on free movement rules - which currently give EU nationals the right to live and work in other member states - as part of its EU exit deal but it is unclear how this will work and what implications it will have for EU nationals already in the UK. The government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying this is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent.

[It’s pretty quiet now at work. Brexit hardly gets a mention – even from me. Last week I mentioned to my boss that inflation had gone up by ½ a percent and my ex-boss jumped down my throat complete with hand waving and shouts of scaremongering….. I think I can guess who’s actually scared by what’s happening to our economy, and it’s not me because I can see it and have a pretty good idea of what’s coming next. Plus I have nothing to regret from my vote cast last month.]

All details above from BBC News website.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Japan 'to stop making VCR machines'

By Chris Baraniuk, BBC Technology reporter

21 July 2016

The last videocassette recorder (VCR) in Japan will be produced by the end of the month, according to the Nikkei newspaper. Funai Electric has been producing VHS-playing VCRs for 33 years, most recently in China for Sanyo. But last year it sold just 750,000 units, down from a peak of 15 million a year, and has been finding it difficult to source the necessary parts. VCRs were introduced in the 1970s but were superseded by DVD technology. Last year, Sony announced it would stop selling Betamax video cassettes - a rival to the VHS. VCRs were required to play or record such tapes. It was 12 years ago that UK High Street retailer Dixons decided to phase out the sale of VCRs due to the popularity of DVD players.

Some vintage technologies - such as vinyl - have enjoyed a renaissance. However, Tania Loeffler, an analyst at IHS Technology, does not think the same nostalgia will ever be felt for VCR-playable formats. "I don't see VCR becoming like vinyl, where a lot of people appreciated the warmness of how something sounds on vinyl," she told the BBC. "The quality on VHS is not something I think anyone would want to go back to." However, she added that a niche market for accessing VHS content, perhaps for archival purposes, would probably mourn the loss of VCRs if they became unavailable.

[I ditched my VCR ages ago as I was never playing my videos and I was essentially using it as an electronic clock. Over the last 6-8 months I’ve been slowly ditching my tapes which are taking up far too much room that could be used by my DVD collection. It’s all about usage and volume. It’s kind of sad though. I ‘grew up’ with VCR cassettes in the 70’s and 80’s and watched countless classics and honestly terrible films in that format. VCR – RIP!]

Friday, July 22, 2016

All Plain Sailing from Here……..

Wetherspoon's boss decries Brexit 'doom-mongering'.

JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said pre-Brexit "doom-mongering" by George Osborne, the Bank of England and other economic institutions could cause a future economic slowdown. Tim Martin, who was a vocal supporter of Brexit, called into question their "honesty" and economic judgement. His comments are in the firm's latest trading update, which saw like-for-like sales rise by 4% in the final quarter. Total like-for-like sales for the year to 10 July increased by 3.4%. He singled out comments made before the referendum vote by the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, as well those from Bank of England governor Mark Carney and outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron. In May, Mr Martin printed 200,000 beer mats criticising Ms Lagarde for saying that a vote to leave the EU would be "pretty bad to very, very bad". In Wednesday's trading statement, he also said that the CBI, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, PWC and many FTSE 100 chief executives supported a "negative view" of Brexit. Mr Martin said: "In my opinion, the above individuals and organisations are either dishonest or they have a poor understanding of economics, since democracy and prosperity are closely linked and the EU is clearly undemocratic."

Merkel says negotiations with UK will be difficult.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU on leaving the bloc will not be easy. She said it was important that the 27 other member states asked themselves what kind of EU they wanted. Mrs Merkel was speaking before it was confirmed that Theresa May is to become the UK's new prime minister. Meanwhile Austria's finance minister, Hans Schelling, warned that "Great Britain will become Little Britain". Speaking as he arrived in Brussels for talks, Mr Schelling predicted that Scotland and Northern Ireland would not leave the EU following the referendum. Both voted against so-called Brexit.

Philip Hammond: Financial markets 'rattled' by Leave vote.

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has said the UK's vote to leave the European Union has "rattled" financial markets. He added the UK would face "challenges" in managing the economy, because it had suffered a "shock" as a result of the Brexit vote. He said the decision had caused companies to put plans on hold. The challenge was to send "signals of reassurance" to kick-start investment and spending decisions, he said. He added he did not anticipate the need for an emergency Budget as a result of the Brexit vote. Mr Hammond said the outcome of the referendum had surprised the markets and business. However, he said the fact that the Conservatives had "moved quickly" to elect a new leader would help to restore confidence. He said he would be holding meetings today to assess "where the economy is". Mr Hammond also said he thought Bank of England governor Mark Carney was doing an "excellent job".

Housing market 'falters amid Brexit campaign and vote'.

The supply of homes on the UK market fell at its sharpest rate to date and buyer demand hit an eight-year low as Brexit was confirmed, surveyors say. House prices are expected to fall across the UK in the next three months, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) survey suggested. The dip in prices is only expected to persist over the next year in London and East Anglia, surveyors predicted. This is the first significant housing survey judging the impact of Brexit. The Rics survey reflects housing market sentiment among the institution's members. In its June survey, it said surveyors across the whole of the UK were generally expecting prices to fall in the coming three months, with 27% more surveyors expecting to see prices decrease rather than rise in the near term. That will be welcomed by potential first-time buyers but met with disappointment by property investors and many homeowners.

Brexiteer Lord Wolfson warns over cuts to immigration.

One of the business world's most prominent campaigners for Brexit has told the BBC that a big reduction in immigration will damage the UK economy. Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next, said: "Any move to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands would be very dangerous for the economy." It sounds, at first, like a curious thing for a Leave voter to say. But Lord Wolfson insists that immigration was NOT the key issue for many who wanted out of the EU. Now the result is in, he hopes new alliances can be struck between members of both sides which will be good for business. Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Lord Wolfson said: "I believe we should gain some control but we can either try and trade our way out of this mess or we can try and protect ourselves by erecting barriers to trade and movement of people. If we try and protect our way out of this, we are doomed." That may be good for business, but many voters will feel that is not the prospectus they were offered by a Leave campaign that he sided with. I put it to him that if immigration is not reduced below 100,000 in a few years’ time, many voters will feel betrayed. "I voted Leave and I certainly won't feel betrayed - you only have to go into our hospitals and other services to see the vital role immigrants play in our country."

PM is 'willing to listen to options' on Scotland.

Prime Minister Theresa May has told First Minister Nicola Sturgeon she is "willing to listen to options" on Scotland's future relationship with the European Union. But after talks in Edinburgh, Mrs May appeared unwilling to consider a second referendum on Scottish independence. She said people in Scotland sent a "very clear message" in 2014. Ms Sturgeon said blocking a referendum, if it was wanted by the Scottish people, would be "completely wrong". The first minister believes Scottish interests have been put "at risk" by the result of the EU referendum. She has said she wants to explore all options - including independence - to maintain Scotland's relationship with the EU.

[Has it been only four weeks since the Vote? It’s hard to believe really. It’s even harder to believe that it’s still newsworthy, still being talked about all over Europe, still being argued about all over the country…. Of course one thing people over here still fail to understand is that the British people have only expressed an opinion. We haven’t left yet. There’s a legal challenge (so I understand) working its way through the system and, of course Parliament gets the final say. Then it’s Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome and then it’s up to 2 years to work that through. As Article 50 won’t be activated this year (so we’re told) we’re looking at leaving the EU in 2018/19. After that we can START renegotiating the terms of our new arrangement with the Continent. Fun, isn’t it!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just Finished Reading: Wings – The RAF at War 1912-2012 by Patrick Bishop (FP: 2012)

It seems to be written into our DNA that whenever a new technology is developed we either use it to race against others, use it as a weapon or to get someone into bed. The invention of the aircraft turned out to be useful in all three areas of human endeavour. But here the author concentrates on its adoption, adaptation and perfection by the RAF over the last century.

Shortly after its invention it became clear both to the Army and Navy that aircraft could extend the reach of commander’s eyes ‘over the horizon’ and help to dissipate the ever present fog of war. Not only did the first flight across the English Channel (especially as the plane came from France TO the British mainland) concentrate minds wonderfully, at least after the initial panic, but early tests of aircraft dedicated to the requirements of reconnaissance previously the role of the ground based cavalry proved them to be far superior to horses in the mud. With these ideas in mind and little doctrine to work on initially the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and its naval equivalent the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) stepped up for action in WW1. Quickly proving their worth by spotting enemy units and averting potential disaster they moved from an interesting and novel toy to a vital element in war planning. Their ability to fly over enemy positions and accurately map their trenches, correct fall of shot and, if possible, attack targets of opportunity became an early defining role for this new weapon. Of course the enemy had them too which led to the inevitable development of the fighter and the rise of the iconic air ‘aces’ still famous to this day. Less glamourous but with even heavier portents for the future was the development of large bombers and the beginnings of the belief that ‘the bomber would always get through’ with resulting devastation and panic on a previously unimaginable scale.

A mere 20 years after the RFC and RNAS amalgamated in 1918 to create the Royal Air Force (RAF) everything so patiently and expensively learnt in WW1 was put to good use. Often criticised for being short sighted and adverse to innovation the RAF (through the Air Ministry) already had in place two of the most iconic fighter aircraft in the world – The Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire (apparently no one knows exactly where the name Spitfire originated. Its designer apparently called it a ‘bloody stupid name’). So when Hitler decided to knock us out of the war he very soon discovered that he had a real fight on his hands. In the defining Battle of Britain that followed the Germans, for the first time in WW2 failed in their objective and arguably sealed their fate from that point on. With the new Lancaster bombers eventually coming on line replacing older and obsolete models and with American aid pouring across the Atlantic it was only a matter of time before the Axis where eventually defeated. With the development of jets in the closing months of the war and the independent development of the atomic bomb soon after Britain developed the V Force to project our nuclear deterrent wherever it was needed. Later still the revamped Fleet Air Arm (freed from the RAF just before the start of WW2) showed its metal and teeth in the short and sharp Falklands Conflict in the 1980’s.

It’s quite a story and is told here with some passion and with plenty of little details that were unfamiliar even to someone who has read a great deal on the subject. Being told very much from a war perspective the author concentrates on combat so seems to leap across the decades missing out huge chunks of RAF history. Such a book would be much larger than this 369 page volume. No doubt there are books available in numbers for those who want to delve into the years of non-combat flying. A useful and sometimes fascinating look at the development of a modern weapon and the men who fought with it. Recommended to all 20th century military history buffs.

Next in History: The Vikings are Coming!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Now for Some (much needed) Stability……….

Carney defends private Osborne Brexit meetings.

The Bank of England governor has said it is "important" that he and Chancellor George Osborne are allowed to have private meetings. However, Mark Carney has agreed minutes of their private talks on Brexit may be examined "discreetly" by MPs. It was his first time giving evidence to MPs since the vote. He denied again that the Bank of England had tried to "frighten" the public about the negative effect a Brexit vote could have on the economy. Supporters of Leave - including two former Conservative Chancellors - accused him last month of "peddling phoney forecasts". But Mr Carney said: "It is our responsibility to give these assessments... we have an obligation to make these assessments. The debate cannot be about whether we should have made an assessment. If we view something as the biggest risk, we have an obligation, a statutory obligation, to make that clear to parliament. We have an obligation to the people of the United Kingdom to come straight with them."

Debate on second EU referendum after millions sign petition.

An online petition that calls for a second EU referendum will be debated in Parliament after it was signed by more than 4.1 million people. The Petitions Committee said the debate would be on 5 September as a "huge number" had signed it. But the committee said the debate did not mean it was supporting the call for a second referendum and it was "too late" to change the referendum rules. The UK voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48% in the referendum on 23 June. The petition, set up on 25 May before the referendum, states: "We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60%, based on a turnout of less than 75%, there should be another referendum."

Pound rallies further on May victory.

The pound rose above $1.32 as markets welcomed the removal of uncertainty from the Conservatives Party's leadership contest, with Theresa May set to be the new prime minister. Sterling rose 1.86% against the dollar to $1.32.40, and was 1.73% higher against the euro at €1.19.57. The FTSE 100 share index hit fresh 11-month highs before falling back and closing scarcely changed at 6,680.69, that is a slight fall of 2.17 points or 0.03%. The more UK-focused FTSE 250 index rose 68.75 points, or 0.4%, to 16,775.14. The property sector - which saw a steep sell-off immediately after the Brexit vote - received a boost from Galliford Try. The housebuilder said it still expected full-year profits to be in line with expectations sending its shares up 8.5%. Financial stocks - another victim of the post-referendum sell-off - were also having a better day. Shares in insurer Aviva rose 4.26% while Lloyds Banking Group gained 2.55%. "Theresa May's virtual 'coronation' as prime minister has delivered a boost to the pound as the clouds of uncertainty following the Brexit vote start to disperse," said Neil Wilson, markets analyst at ETX Capital. "The leadership question has been settled and two months earlier than markets had been anticipating. This is feeding into strong bids for sterling and property stocks as investors eye potential bargains."

Siemens promises UK investment despite Brexit warning.

German industrial giant Siemens has said it will continue to invest in the UK, despite earlier warnings that a vote to leave the EU could affect its future activities in the country. Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser told a number of media organisations that the company remained fully committed to manufacturing in the UK. The company has 13 plants in the UK and employs about 14,000 people. Siemens UK had warned investment could be hit if the UK voted to leave the EU. The engineering and technology giant manufactures and exports high value goods including MRI scanners and gas turbines. At an event at the House of Commons, Mr Kaeser said the UK continued to matter and be a "good place to do business" whether it was inside or outside the EU. But he called on Theresa May to clarify the UK's trade position as soon as possible to give business some certainty.

High Street sales fall in June, survey says.

UK retail sales fell in June triggered by weak clothing sales, according to the latest British Retail Consortium-KPMG survey. The survey indicates they fell by 0.5% in June on a like-for-like basis, which strips out variables in store space. Helen Dickinson, BRC's chief executive, said it was "too early" to say if shoppers were affected by the result of the EU referendum. The wet weather is thought to have dampened shoppers' enthusiasm. "While the ramifications from the Brexit vote may well affect consumer confidence, retailers will be hoping the long-promised heatwave and potential stay-at-home holidays will be enough to drive shoppers back to the high-streets," said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG the accountancy firm which sponsored the survey. In May spending rose by 1.4% and like-for-like sales, which takes into account changes in the amount of retail space open to shoppers over the past 12 months, increased by 0.5%. Total retail sales were up 0.2% in June compared with a year ago, but slowed towards the end of the month.

Barratt mulls construction slowdown following Brexit.

The UK's biggest housebuilder, Barratt, could slow its pace of construction in the light of Brexit. The builder told the Reuters news agency it would also review its commitments of land on which to build, after the UK voted to leave the EU. Despite increasing new property completions by 5% last year, it said there was greater uncertainty facing the UK economy. Mortgage lenders also said there would be uncertainty among potential buyers. "Brexit, and its likely effect on the market, is a question to which the answer will not immediately be forthcoming," said Paul Smee, director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. "Lenders will continue to be open for business as usual, but lending volumes may be affected by uncertain consumer sentiment."

[Great efforts are being made to keep the Markets happy. I get the feeling that many people are ‘whistling as they pass the graveyard’ and that’s why any mention of bad news or bad forecasts is howled down as dangerous scaremongering. Talking to people at work it seems that Brexit is practically a taboo subject and that some of them at least are regretting their decisions although they’d rather die than admit it even to themselves. But with Article 50 looking like it’s not happening this year I wonder if, when it happens, it’ll just make the shock that much the worse? We’re off the map people – here be monsters!]

All details above from BBC News website.

Cartoon Time.