Recession doom, ‘first in line’ Brexit Britain and the ‘most powerful woman in media’

Planet Business: It’s not only Thomas Cook that’s feeling the heat

Downing Street cheer: US national security adviser and Brexit-enthusiast John Bolton is greeted by UK chancellor Sajid Javid. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

Downing Street cheer: US national security adviser and Brexit-enthusiast John Bolton is greeted by UK chancellor Sajid Javid. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

 

Image of the week: Joining the queue

US national security adviser John Bolton, as a veteran government official and ex-diplomat, isn’t especially renowned for his cross-cultural sensitivities. But while assuring Britain’s Brexiteer government that the UK would be “first in line” for a trade deal with the US, the American remembered to translate this into British-English by adding that the UK was “constantly at the front of the trade queue”. Bolton’s Brexit-backing visit to London, where he was greeted outside number 11 Downing Street by chancellor Sajid Javid, simultaneously provided cheery support for no-deal fantasists while reminding everyone else that being “first in line” for trade talks with the testy, erratic Trump administration – a negotiation in which the US holds all the cards – might actually equate to a place in the fast-track to ignominious financial shafting.

In numbers: Thomas Cooked?

92%

One-year plunge in the share price of debt-laden travel giant Thomas Cook, which has been knocked sideways by Brexit and other headwinds.

€1 billion

The 178-year-old company has said it needs almost this much of a recapitalisation (€970 million) to tide it through the winter and make it to the age of 179.

46%

Decline in quarterly core earnings for TUI. The European holiday group isn’t in the same desperate position as Thomas Cook, but it has still been affected by the grounding of 737 Max jets and sterling losses.

Getting to know: Shari Redstone

In scenes reminiscent of HBO’s King Lear-ish corporate saga Succession, Shari Redstone once emailed her son to say “your grandfather says I will be chair over his dead body”. The media mogul grandfather, Sumner Redstone (96), isn’t dead, but he was declared incapacitated in a Californian court last year and the daughter with whom he fell out years ago – she made “little or no contribution”, he once wrote – has since taken control of his business affairs. Shari (65) has this week won the moniker “most powerful woman in media” after the boards of Redstone’s CBS and Viacom companies agreed to merge – the not-to-be-underestimated daughter is set to both chair and control the voting stock of the combined empire. Shari deserves credit for having a strategic vision and “executing on that very carefully”, one media analyst told Bloomberg, while an entertainment lawyer phrased it like this for the Los Angeles Times: “She’s obtained a lot of her father’s characteristics.”

The list: Recession warning signs

Ideally, words such as “doom”, “gloom” and “teetering” wouldn’t make it anywhere near headlines about the global economy, but when they do, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to just back into the hedge, Homer Simpson-style. So what has triggered the latest downturn fears?

1. German contraction. US-China trade tensions have evidently taken their toll on Europe’s biggest exporter, where the economy shrank 0.1 per cent in the second quarter. If it does the same in the third, it will be deemed in recession.

2. Inverted yield curves. US and UK yield curves have inverted for the first time since the financial crisis, meaning bond investors are not being given their standard rewards for holding longer-term debt. In the US, this has typically heralded a slump.

3. Chinese data. Growth in the industrial output of the world’s second largest economy is at a 17-year low. It’s still expanding by 4.8 per cent, though, so there’s barely a climate emergency upside to be found here.

4. Political instability. This catch-all category of madness includes, but is not limited to, Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit brinkmanship. Now is not the time to engage in a “tough old haggle” with Donald Trump.

5. Cornered central banks. Ever since the last financial crisis triggered massive waves of stimulus, economists have warned of a day of reckoning when central banks simply run out of policy ammunition.

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