Dec 13, 2018, by Samuel Potter
The contest for the biggest political mess in the developed world is still underway, so let’s do a check on the medal table. Still in pole position for gold is the U.K., which may actually be using some sort of performance-diminishing substance. Prime Minister Theresa May is heading back to Europe in a last-minute bid to beef up her Brexit deal — with wholesale changes unlikely — having just won a vote of no-confidence among her Conservative Party. For all the chaos of recent days, Britain is exactly where it was a week ago, only with less time and the certainty that over a third of May’s own MPs lack faith in her leadership. Second on the table is the U.S. After Donald Trump vowed he would proudly oversee a partial government shutdown, ‘Tariff Man’ has gone a bit quiet. It could have something to do with the emerging details of how his loyalists conspired to keep American voters from learning about alleged affairs when he was a candidate for president. Other lines of inquiry appear to be closing in. And a special mention for France, in bronze-medal position. Perhaps in a show of unity with the embattled U.K., the government faces a no-confidence vote today.
Just detaining people now
There were more glimmers of hope in the trade war for investors this morning, as China reiterated a willingness to talk with the U.S. and resumed buying of American soybeans. The White House said yesterday Beijing will have to do more to end the showdown; whether the latest developments are enough for a breakthrough is unclear. Whatever your view of the lingering tensions between China and North America – trade war, ideological dispute, economic battle, all of the above – detaining people is very much a thing right now. A second Canadian national is being questioned by Chinese authorities for “suspected activities harming state security,” just days after the detention of a former Canadian diplomat, which itself came just over a week after the arrest of Huawei’s CFO. Speaking of which, the ramifications of that have now spread to Japan, where one of the Chinese company’s suppliers says all orders for its machines have been put on hold.
Another one bites the dust
At this rate, our grandchildren may never know a world in which hedge funds roam in the wild. Philippe Jabre is returning money to investors after an “especially challenging” year, adding to the swelling list of hedge-fund veterans giving up on an industry where money-making opportunities have dwindled. Geneva-based Jabre Capital Partners SA is selling positions in a “disciplined manner” and intends to return most of the proceeds by February, founder and chief investment officer Jabre wrote in an investor newsletter. An estimated 174 hedge funds were liquidated in the third quarter globally, outstripping new starts by 30, data from Hedge Fund Research Inc. show. In other money-manager news, GAM Holding AG’s bad year just got a lot worse after the Swiss firm forecast a 925 million-franc ($931 million) loss for the full-year related to a series of goodwill charges at the group and its Cantab quant funds. Shares fell a record 30 percent.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index extended its gains, rising 0.6 percent as shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai led the way. Japan’s Topix ended 0.6 percent higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gave up an early gain to slip 0.2 percent as of 6 a.m. Eastern time, while futures on the S&P 500 edged upward. Ten-year U.S. Treasuries yielded 2.895 percent, and gold declined.
It’s a bit of a Europe-fest today, with a summit of EU leaders getting underway, a European Central Bank rate decision at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time followed by a press conference with Mario Draghi, and the release of the euro area’s macroeconomic projections shortly after that. And all the U.S. can really muster are the jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. On the plus side, it’s the highlight of the year for people who like meteors.