Good morning. David Meyer here, filling in for Alan from sunny Cape Town this time.
Markets seem set to enjoy a brighter start to the week, following last week’s sell-off. The Hang Seng and Nikkei 225 popped by 1.7% and 0.8% respectively today, and European indices are up by more than 1%—U.S. futures indicate similar behavior for today.
A recovery in oil prices has much to do with the possible turnaround, but there’s also a spot of potentially market-friendly news coming from the south of Europe.
Per Reuters, Italy’s populist coalition is considering scaling back its budget deficit target for next year from 2.4% to 2%. Italy already has a debt burden of around 130% of GDP, and the European Commission has been incensed at the sudden raising of the country’s deficit target—the previous administration targeted a 0.8% deficit for 2019.
Why does this matter? It’s a question of stability, but also about the butting of heads between populists and the establishment within the fractious club that is the Eurozone.
The Italian government wants to stimulate growth while fulfilling campaign promises around rising pensions and the introduction of a basic income. From the Commission’s more conservative perspective, the budget represents the breaking of Italy’s previous commitments and creates the potential for a Eurozone-wide debt crisis.
Last week, the Commission took the first steps toward hitting Rome with massive fines for refusing to comply with Eurozone deficit rules. Other EU countries are currently deciding whether to support this procedure, so if Italy’s government really is considering backing down a little, that could help its case.
Especially in these uncertain times, the markets aren’t terribly keen on high-stakes standoffs of this sort. So the news of a possible budget revision—albeit one that will no doubt maintain features such as the “citizens’ income”—is clearly calming nerves a little. Bear in mind, though, that European Parliament elections are coming up and populists are hoping to make big gains. Perhaps expect to see more showdowns coming up.
More news below. And do also check out Geoff Colvin’s in-depth Fortune piece out this morning on activist investor Nelson Peltz’s involvement in GE’s ongoing turmoil.
GM is expected to announce today that it is shuttering an assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, with the potential loss of 2,500 jobs. The automaker, which has operated the Oshawa plant for the last 65 years, apparently told local unions yesterday that it “will make a major announcement [on Monday] that will impact its global operations.” CBC
British lawmakers have taken the unusual step of seizing Facebook documents that they believe will aid them in their Cambridge Analytica enquiry. A U.S. businessman whose company, Six4Three, is suing the social network in that country entered the U.K. with documents he had won in that suit, only to have Parliamentary officials force him to turn them over. The documents apparently detail how Facebook deals with user data. Fortune
There’s been a dramatic escalation in Russian-Ukrainian tensions, after Russian ships fired upon and seized Ukrainian vessels off the Crimean Peninsula. The Russians blocked (and has now reopened) the narrow Kerch Strait, which is the only way in and out of the Sea of Azov—a body of water that’s shared between the two countries. Russia claims the three Ukrainian ships entered its waters illegally. Ukraine is in the process of declaring martial law. CNN
In case you missed it on Black Friday (as was possibly the intention,) the Trump administration released a congressionally-mandated report on the effects of climate change in the U.S. It makes for dire yet familiar reading—wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves are worsening; they’re worsening because of climate change; and they’re going to get worse because not enough is being done to counter climate change. Washington Post
Around the Water Cooler
A Chinese researcher claims to have edited the DNA of twin baby girls in order to make them resistant to HIV. If true, this would be a world first. Many see genetic editing as too dangerous to put into practice just yet, due to the fact that changes could be passed down future generations. Scientists are calling He Jiankui’s claim “unconscionable”—again, there is as yet no independent confirmation that he did what he said he did, though. Bloomberg
Emerging markets’ lousy year is unlikely to follow through to next year, according to Morgan Stanley analysts who reckon now’s the time to buy into countries such as India, Peru and Poland. The company forecasts stable growth in emerging markets, but a slowdown in the U.S. that brings with it a weakening of the dollar—good news for emerging markets with dollar-denominated debts. CNBC
The Brexit deal has been approved by the 27 remaining EU member states, and it is now British Prime Minister Theresa May’s task to sell it to her own parliamentarians ahead of a vote in a couple weeks’ time. Rejecting the deal “would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail,” she is expected to tell MPs today. Most observers expect MPs to reject the deal, because it leaves the U.K. worse off than before Brexit—something that has been glaringly obvious since before the 2016 referendum on the issue. Financial Times
Local elections in Taiwan turned out very badly for the independence-leaning DPP party that runs the state, with the relatively pro-Beijing Kuomintang party being the big winner. President Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as the chairwoman of the DPP in response to the results, although she’s still president of Taiwan until 2020. South China Morning Post