EXTRA BOOST. British housebuilder Persimmon said on Thursday that revenue plunged more than 30% to 1.2 billion pounds for the six months ended June 30 after the housing market screeched to a halt during two months of lockdown as potential buyers were generally unable to visit homes.
But things aren’t all bad. Customer demand in the six weeks since its sales offices in England reopened in mid-May showed signs of life, with around 30% more weekly average net private sales reservations than last year.
On top of that, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed on Wednesday that he will give the housing market a tax break, at a cost of 3.8 billion pounds. Thursday’s hint of a recovery pushed Persimmon shares up more than 5% and suggests Sunak jumped the gun. With the economy expected to contract almost 9% this year, the money may be needed elsewhere. (By Dasha Afanasieva)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the principal forum for setting the rules of international trade. In its two and a half decades, it has helped reduce barriers to trade of both goods and services and created a dispute resolution system that supporters say reduced the threat of trade wars.
However, the institution is under considerable pressure. Negotiations on a comprehensive development agenda have foundered due to disagreements over agricultural subsidies and intellectual property rights, while members have increasingly turned to separate bilateral and regional free trade agreements to advance their trade interests.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald J. Trump has criticized the WTO for what he sees as its weakness in confronting China’s trade abuses and constraints on U.S. sovereignty. His administration has intentionally crippled the organization’s appeals body, ensuring that its decisions cannot be enforced and placing the future of global trade rules into doubt.
Argentina pushed back the deadline for its restructuring to the end of July, after failing to reach agreement with a majority of its creditors on terms for the restructuring of Argentina’s $65 billion in bonded debt.
Differences have narrowed to the point—a few cents on the dollar—that it isn’t that difficult to see how a deal could be struck in July. But the narrowing of differences with some creditors (Argentina’s most recent offer was worth around 50 cents on the dollar at a ten percent discount rate on the new cash flow, with the high coupon “discount” bonds offered about five cents more) has made the gap between Argentina and the subset of creditors who want a richer deal much clearer.
Once an administration strikes a deal with China, it often ends up finding itself playing the role of China’s defense attorney. Admitting that China isn’t living up to the deal would cast doubt on the wisdom of the initial deal.
And right now, it would also raise a second awkward question for President Trump, namely what if anything is he willing to do ahead of the election if China isn’t living up to its end of the bargain. Going back to tariff threats might trigger a stock market sell-off (and it obviously wouldn’t do anything to help contain the virus).
From our vantage point today, 2020 looks like the year when an unknown virus spun out of control, killed hundreds of thousands and altered the way we live day to day. In the future, we may look back at 2020 as the year we decided to keep driving off the climate cliff–or to take the last exit.
Taking the threat seriously would mean using the opportunity presented by this crisis to spend on solar panels and wind farms, push companies being bailed out to cut emissions and foster greener forms of transport in cities.
If we instead choose to fund new coal-fired power plants and oil wells and thoughtlessly fire up factories to urge growth, we will lock in a pathway toward climate catastrophe. There’s a divide about which way to go.
Nearly four years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, we are back to a familiar conundrum: deal or no deal. Except that this time we are talking about the trade agreement that will govern future EU-UK relations.
If the result is ‘no deal’, the UK will leave the Single Market on 1 January and trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.
So what are the main dividing lines?
The UK is seeking a ‘zero tariff, zero quota’ free trade agreement, similar to the EU-Canada trade pact.
It has also rejected the EU’s demands for unchanged access to UK fishing waters, the UK committing not to roll back standards in environment and labor law – known as the ‘level playing field’ – and the UK following EU state aid law now and into the future.
This is the price the EU is asking for a free trade agreement. But on all three counts little progress has been made.
UK ministers complain that the EU does not recognize the UK as a sovereign equal. “The EU, essentially, wants us to obey the rules of their club, even though we’re no longer members,” Cabinet minister Michael Gove told the House of Commons this month.
BREAKUP BREAKDOWN. FirstGroup’s plans to flog its iconic U.S. Greyhound and yellow school buses have hit a coronavirus-shaped pothole. The UK transport operator’s shares fell more than 15% on Wednesday after it flagged concerns about its future given the plunge in passenger numbers and the uncertainty over lockdowns.
Before the crisis, activists like Coast Capital Management were pushing for disposals to unlock value. Good luck with that.
Austrian Airlines will cease operating its Vienna-Salzburg route, the flag-carrier announced on Thursday (2 July). Instead, the service will be replaced by more direct trains in an effort to honor the terms of the government’s recent bailout deal.
Up to 31 train services will operate daily between the Austrian capital’s main airport and Salzburg’s central station, without the need to change in Vienna, marking a tenfold increase in rail options as of 20 July.
As part of its €600 million bailout from the government, Austrian Airlines is obligated to make emission cuts and flights that can be substituted for a rail journey of three hours and under should be eliminated.
“Vienna Airport can be reached by train from Salzburg in well under three hours and without changing trains. This is why our AIRail offer is a good and more environmentally friendly alternative to flying,” said airline CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech.
Near-silent buses shift around in a residential neighborhood in the province of Groningen, home to one of the greenest industrial areas in the world. We’re in 2026 and the Netherlands gives the world a preview of what a “hydrogen economy” could look like.
Inside the farms and dwellings of Northern Netherlands, the cracks in the walls are the only reminders of the region’s industrial past when natural gas provided jobs and wealth to the entire country, and drilling-induced tremors frequently shook the grounds on which the houses are seated.
By 2026, the Northern Netherlands region aims to become a “Hydrogen Valley”, a geographical area hosting an entire hydrogen value chain – from production to distribution, storage and local end-use.
The region’s plan is to generate both demand and supply for hydrogen, and break the deadlock which is currently stifling growth in the nascent hydrogen economy.
The Northern Netherlands recently won a European grant of €20 million to further develop its hydrogen valley in the coming six years.