Alpha Portfolio Service Brochure
The last major nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States, the New START Treaty, is due to expire in 2021. It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads the world’s two biggest nuclear powers can deploy. In a ramping up of its nuclear deterrent, Russia has successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile […]
Not a new chapter in the film series Star Wars but the saga surrounding the award of a new cloud-based computer contract in the USA, involving no less than President Donald Trump and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The Pentagon has recently awarded a $10bn cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, following a heavily scrutinised bidding process […]
The latest film in the Terminator franchise, Dark Fate starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is currently in cinemas, so this week, we return to one of our past themes, the ‘Rise of the Machines’. The Terminator film franchise spans 35 years and like Arnold, might be getting a bit old in the tooth but reality does appear […]
The challenge with any new technological development is making it commercially viable. While many investors have been getting very excited about the development of electric vehicles and associated technology such as batteries and the raw material components, there have been a few high-profile setbacks recently. For example, Dyson, best known for its vacuum cleaners, has […]
Flygskam – ‘flight shame’ appears to be spreading. High-profile environmental campaigns led by Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg, has helped push the climate crisis up the political agenda. Separately, a report out today commissioned by the government’s climate change adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has called for an end to ‘air miles’ incentives for […]
Will we drop the green baton? The IMF has called upon governments to pick up the baton from central banks and undertake fiscal stimulus. Central banks remain in supportive mode providing stimulus for the global economy. However, while the US Federal Reserve has a bit more scope to cut interest rates, it does feel as […]
Helium (He), is an inert gas with one of the lowest boiling points of any element. It is therefore used as a cooling medium in a range of applications from satellites to medical MRI scanners, as well as the Large Hadron Collider. A mixture of helium and oxygen is also used by deep sea divers. […]
With apologies to John McEnroe* Last week, Sirius Minerals announced it had been forced to cancel plans to issue a $500m bond to help partly fund a £3bn mining project it is developing in the North Yorkshire moors. The shares fell by over 50% on the news. The Sirius Minerals project was set to be […]
The total PPI claims bill has still to be finalised, but is now expected to be well in excess of £50bn! A staggering amount of money and a major windfall for consumers. The FCA’s PPI claims advertising campaign in the run up to the final deadline of 29th August 2019, appears to have worked too […]
Russia’s weather service, recently reported that radiation levels had spiked sixteen times higher than normal in the far north of the country. This appeared to follow a fatal explosion in the port city of Severodvinsk where Russia’s state nuclear agency, said a nuclear-powered engine was being tested. Western military experts believe that this could be […]
An estimated 30% of food consumed in the UK comes from the EU. However, in the case of some products such as spinach and olive oil, the EU is practically the UK’s sole supplier. This has raised concerns about product availability in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Fortunately, British food producers supply about 50% […]
On June 30th 2019, President Trump made history by becoming the first serving US President to step into North Korea in a meeting with Kim Jong-Un at the demilitarised zone. Trump said he had ‘developed a great relationship’ with the North Korean leader. However, just a few months later and tensions have resurfaced. North Korea […]
Trump to buy Greenland? Danes were scratching their heads on Friday, as rumours started that Donald Trump had floated the idea of purchasing Greenland from Denmark. Initially the news was greeted with some humour, with a former prime minister describing it as an April Fool’s Joke. However, over the weekend, when confronted, Trump confirmed his […]
One in six people in England are living in properties at risk of flooding. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion are becoming an increasing concern for many small communities, along parts of Britain’s shore line. This is particularly so for Norfolk where several metres of coastline can be washed away during big storms. Those property […]
A recent study estimates that the world produces over 2.1 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) or general rubbish waste every year, enough to fill over 800,000 Olympic size swimming pools. MSW is waste collected by local authorities from residential and commercial premises. The report suggests that globally only 16% of this amount is […]
Britain’s intelligence gathering agency GCHQ has recently revealed that it stopped 140,000 separate computer ‘phishing’ attacks last year. ‘Phishing’ is an attempted online theft of bank details and other sensitive information by impersonating a trustworthy person or organisation. Fraudsters are even impersonating real-life vicars and barristers to gain peoples trust. GCHQ believes it has been […]
Apparently, an African Plume is about to bring us the hottest July day on record. Last week, controversial climate protesters Extinction Rebellion took to the streets in London, Glasgow, Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol in a so-called summer uprising. Many towns and cities across the UK have already declared ‘a climate emergency’, although there is no […]
While New Zealand may accuse England’s cricket team of hijacking the World Cup after the freak six-runs from the incredible Ben Stokes deflection, it was one of the most thrilling matches ever, with both sides showing a lot of heart, down to the last ball of the Super Over. Who said cricket was boring? Talking […]
The Government is falling short of its own R&D investment target. An additional £21bn of investment is needed if the UK is to achieve its vision of becoming a science-led economy. The UK’s leading independent science advocacy, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), is calling for a material step-up in science funding for the UK […]
Temperatures across Europe have hit record levels, presenting a major health threat. We are reminded that that water is becoming increasingly scarce and in many areas is putting agricultural productivity under risk. Scientists are developing a satellite system to survey fields of crops to estimate water-use by plants and to also show how they transfer […]
Tension is increasing between the US and Iran. US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has landed in Saudi Arabia in a hastily arranged visit. The recent downing of a $100m US surveillance drone, reportedly brought us within 15 minutes of a military strike, before Trump intervention. However, the US and Turkey, one of Washington’s long […]
Western consumers are becoming more vocal about plastic waste and politicians are under pressure to introduce more regulation to increase recycling. Historically, many wealthy countries have sent their recyclable waste overseas helping them meet recycling targets and reduce domestic landfill. The US and EU are the largest exporters of plastic waste. The United Nations has […]
Once dismissed as a nautical myth, rogue waves that can be as tall as a ten-storey apartment block have been accepted as a leading cause of large ships sinking. In 1995 the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II was hit by a 29-metre high rogue wave which the Captain Ronald Warwick described as ‘a great wall […]
Global warming and rising sea levels are very much making headlines at the moment. Unfortunately, some cities which were originally built on swamps are proving particularly vulnerable. Jakarta is sinking. Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has recently announced that it is to move the country’s capital away from Jakarta. The city is the home to over […]
The recent protests in London by climate activists were a reminder, if one were required, that we need to tackle global warming. Scientists at Cambridge are setting up a research centre to develop new ways to repair the Earth’s climate because they feel that current approaches will not be sufficient and governments appear more […]
A deadline of 29 August 2019 has been set by the UK’s financial regulator for final PPI-mis-selling claims to be made. As many as 64 million PPI policies were sold by UK banks as long ago as the 1970’s. They were designed to cover loan repayments if borrowers fell ill or lost their job. Not […]
A vegan sausage roll launched by UK bakery Greggs in January caused a flurry of headlines. Veganism is becoming more popular in the UK and supermarket chains are beginning to stock more vegan options, while Burger King has been trialling a new veggie burger made by Impossible Foods. Silicon Valley based Impossible Foods and Beyond […]
2019 is ‘Year of the Pig’ in China but it is ironic in that the country’s pig population is being decimated by African swine fever. While, not yet a threat to humans, this is a highly contagious virus with no known cure and is currently spreading through Asia killing virtually every pig it infects. African […]
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), some 1.5million people or 5% of workers in England are likely to lose their jobs due to automation. Worryingly, 70% of the roles at high risk of automation are currently held by women. Part-timers workers and the young are the next most at risk. We are in the […]
Airports are a key part of any country’s infrastructure and a vital asset to support long-term economic growth, so it is interesting to compare London and Beijing. The expansion of Heathrow Airport has dragged on for decades but in 2016 a new runway and terminal was approved by the Government. The new runway will add […]
Having a problem with your passport sounds a classic summer holiday crisis. For once, the issue is not related to Brexit, but actually refers to something far more dangerous! In 2005, the US Congress set NASA a task to identify 90% of near-Earth asteroids of 140 metres in size or larger by 2020. Asteroids of […]
Last week’s dramatic water leakage at the House of Commons prompted a halt to the Brexit debate, as water started pouring in through the roof! MP’s joked about another major leak in Parliament and even legendary spoon bender Uri Geller, tapped in and sought to take the credit to block Brexit! Water companies also need […]
…At the Royal Mint. Chancellor Philip Hammond had previously confirmed a commemorative 50p coin to mark the UK’s departure from the EU, in last year’s Autumn Budget. The original design, featured the phrase “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, as well as the date of 29th March. Whilst no cost has been borne by […]
Deal or no deal? Did we vote to leave or not? Should we revoke Article 50? Another General Election? Leadership contests? No wonder many are disillusioned with our politicians and the current debates. Let’s briefly ponder something that, before Brexit, used to get us energised… Next weekend, as part of Daylight Saving Time, our clocks will […]
‘Freak’ weather is disruptive and is making life harder for UK businesses. In 2018, we had the ‘Beast from the East’, then the joint hottest summer on record. In February 2019, the Sahara heatwave, caused temperatures to soar to all-time highs. At least March seems to be returning to normal with a series of storms! It’s […]
The United Nations estimates the current population of the world is 7.3 billion and is projected to reach a rather crowded 9.7 billion by 2050. However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 2015 and 2050 the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will increase significantly from 12% to 22%. Improved […]
Make a note for 6th April, it’s a rollover. No, not the National Lottery but the anniversary for older satnav devices whose weekly counters roll over from 1023 to zero. This means older devices will not be able to use Global Positioning System (GPS) from 6th April 2019, unless they have been updated. A ‘Y2K’ […]
Catfishing is the act of pretending to be someone you are not online. Creating a false identity to lure the unsuspecting, can have sinister consequences. Data protection and personal security on social media are a hot topic these days, but are the social media platforms doing enough to protect us? Some app settings have been […]
That save, from Pele at the 1970 World Cup. Everyone with a knowledge of football, considers it one of the greatest. RIP Gordon Banks OBE, the safest pair of hands. Banks’ career spanned 15 years, but was sadly cut short by injury. In comparison, today’s Premiership club managers are staying in their jobs for increasingly […]
The US and Russia have suspended a crucial nuclear weapon ban raising the spectre of another Cold War. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces or INF Treaty, prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched missiles with a range of up to 3,400 miles. The INF Treaty has kept nuclear-tipped cruise missiles off the European continent for over […]
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently published oil production forecasts which could alarm the Middle Eastern oil producers as well as other members of OPEC. The EIA forecasts the US is set to become a net exporter of crude oil and refined products by the end of 2020. Soaring US production, driven by the […]
Climate change – the link between humans eating meat and the associated CO2 and methane emissions from cattle and pigs, is now well established. We never fail to be amazed by the innovative idea’s entrepreneurs come up with – dog food using black soldier flies. Start-up pet food manufacturer Yora, claims that 40% of its […]
The IMF has flagged sub-Saharan Africa as home to several of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, almost 40% of the sub-Saharan Africa countries are in danger of slipping into a major debt crisis according to the Overseas Development Institute. The IMF is also concerned that Africa is heading towards a new debt crisis, with the […]
China is showing little inclination to let things go. In fact, the world’s second largest economy rarely seems out of the news these days as it continues to flex its muscles globally. In recent weeks Beijing has been accused of a worldwide campaign of cyber-attacks against the US, Britain and their allies, aimed at stealing […]
2018 was the year of the Dog in the Chinese Zodiac. China’s stock market proved to be a dog with the largest fall in 2018 of over 24%. However, it wasn’t much better for many other markets. Those markets more exposed to global economic slowdown suffered the most, with Germany down over 18% and Japan […]
Huawei (pronounced Wah Wey) is one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment. The New Zealand government is the latest to prevent Huawei supplying a local mobile network with 5G equipment. Three members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance have now acted against the Shenzhen-based company whilst Canada is carrying out a security […]
The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change – with emissions reduced by more than 40% since 1990. However, in its first major update on climate change in almost 10 years, the Met Office has warned of significant temperature rises in the decades ahead. The UK Climate Projections 2018 or UKCP18 study suggests summer […]
Under fire audit watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, is investigating a growing number of cases involving the UK’s leading accountancy firms. The latest investigation involves alleged misconduct relating to audit work carried out at mattress company Silentnight. This adds to a growing list of other well publicised audit criticisms including Carillion and more recently Patisserie […]
Charismatic entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has been a prominent advocate of Brexit and recently insisted that the UK leaving the EU with no deal, would ‘make no difference’. With a massive research and development capability in the UK but a manufacturing presence in Singapore, it is understandable that Dyson would not envisage being impacted by […]
Japan’s ageing population is well documented and is creating many economic challenges. It is also reflective of demographic trends within many other countries. In Japan, a third of construction workers are over 54 years of age and they are not being replaced fast enough by younger workers. Japan’s pool of construction workers is forecast to […]
At a time when we have chance to reflect on the war to end all wars, around 70 world leaders gathered in Paris to attend a peace conference – the Paris Peace Forum. Recent political disharmony has centred on national interests and spurred increased military tensions. As we approach a new era of independence, where does […]
There are a record number of global billionaires. The recent growth in Chinese super rich has been staggering. According to a report by Swiss bank UBS, the largest communist state, China produced billionaires at the rate of two a week in 2017, with some 373 by the end of the year and an estimated wealth […]
Italy’s populist government won this year’s elections with promises to spend big. However, are their promises already underwater? National debt already stands at €2.3trillion which is 131% of the economy. That means that Greece is the only country in the eurozone with a bigger debt burden at 178%. Italy is bound by the EU Stability […]
Notorious supervillain Gru is the main character of animated film Despicable Me. Some would say equally accident prone, but far more dangerous is GRU -Russia’s military intelligence unit. What are Putin’s minions up to? British and Dutch authorities recently named four members of Russia’s GRU caught red-handed trying to infiltrate the inquiry into the Salisbury […]
Autumn officially started on the 23rd September. Intriguingly, the season is referred to as ‘Fall’ in America and is roughly marked the recent peak of the US stock market. Along with many other global markets UK equities have taken something of a battering over the last week. While UK media has tended to focus on […]
Just in Time is a very simple concept, but one that is essential in modern manufacturing. Global supply chains and tight control of working capital means manufacturers and retailers rely on smooth running logistics, with delivery ‘just in time’ of components and finished goods. We appear to be entering the final countdown in the Brexit standoff. […]
You may not be surprised to hear that the Met Office has confirmed 2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole and hotter than the sizzling summer of 1976 for England. However, according to the British Pest Control Association, the recent heatwave resulted in a significant increase in the […]
Xi Jinping and Putin – What are you cooking up? At a time of increasing tension between the East and West, Russia recently carried out its largest war game since the fall of the Soviet Union. The military training exercise, Vostok 2018, involved some 300,000 troops, including joint exercises and units from China. As both […]
Is it goodbye or until the next time? Pub chain JD Wetherspoon is calling time on the infamous Jäger bomb. The German herbal spirit Jägermeister is being replaced, along with a number of well-known European branded spirits, by domestic alternatives. Well known as a champion of Brexit and free trade, Tim Martin, has made a […]
The halfpenny was abolished in 1984 and the value of the 1p coin has subsequently been reduced by inflation. Furthermore, the Treasury estimates that six in ten 1p and 2p coins are only used once before being put in a jar or discarded while one in twelve is thrown into a bin. The government has […]
Tolls on the bridges across the River Severn between England and Wales will be scrapped by the end of 2018, when ownership passes to Highways England. This will remove the current toll of £6.70 for cars and up to £20 for lorries. This is in line with previous pledges by both the Conservative and Labour […]
When it comes to the environment, it appears even mining companies are exploring greener manufacturing options these days. This is in response to interest from major global brand owners who want to ensure consumers view their products and the packaging they are sold in, are as environmentally friendly as possible. Iron, steel and aluminium production […]
Despite the term ‘sea’ being used in its name, the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland body of water and technically a salt water lake. Home to the sturgeon and producing between 80%-90% of the world’s caviar, the Caspian Sea is also highly-prized for its vast oil and gas reserves, estimated to be 50 […]
Despite apparent close government oversight, the sudden collapse of Carillion last year was a surprise to them and sent shockwaves through the UK construction sector. This has led to calls for a review of the government’s policy on outsourcing of public services to the private sector. Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn reiterated that a Labour government would look […]
Twice as many youngsters are believed to have applied to appear in ITV2 reality show Love Island as applied to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities. A sad reflection on our country or the new reality of easy money to be made from social media? The winners Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham, besides picking up the […]
Those of us of a certain age might well have some fond memories of the golden summer of 1976. Whilst many of us enjoyed the endless days of summer sun, the country was actually in crisis, caught up in the worst drought for 250 years. This led to the appointment of Denis Howell […]
Overnight the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that over half of the packaging reported as recycled, is actually being sent abroad to be ‘processed’. For decades, China was the world’s largest importer of waste — a status that many countries took for granted, However, from January this year in a surprise move, Beijing […]
The Piccadilly line tube station in Enfield, North London, will be temporarily rebranded Gareth Southgate for 48 hours from Monday, Transport for London has today revealed. Now onto other notable disruptions this morning… Some traditional business models, that have existed for many years, are now under threat from a new age of internet- based disruptors. […]
As the UK swelters in a heatwave and the nation’s thoughts turn to Moscow, lets ponder a taxing question. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently published a report examining the growth of electric vehicles and the repercussions for the oil market. This included looking at the possible impact on the tax revenue of governments globally […]
Our banks and building societies are closing branches at an alarming rate as they seek to reduce costs in the face of changes in consumer banking trends. Last month, Royal Bank of Scotland announced it was to close a further 162 branches bringing the total planned closures so far in 2018 to approximately 800. Half […]
A pan European shortage of CO2 could take the fizz out of our summer celebrations. At least five producers in northern Europe are reportedly closed due to a combination of technical failures and planned repairs causing the worst supply situation to hit the European CO2 business in decades. Carbon dioxide is actually a by-product of […]
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the World Cup is underway, which made us think. Investing can be a bit like a football match. Why? Well, it’s the result that matters, but often it can be ‘a game of two halves’. These days, more companies are issuing trading updates to keep investors up to speed […]
The term ‘vanilla’ when investing, typically describes a simplistic or basic version of a financial instrument, not exotic or with leverage for those seeking extra spice. Talking of spices, saffron is more valuable than gold. Vanilla, due to the difficulty in cultivating the delicate vanilla orchid flower, is now as expensive as silver. Madagascar, which […]
The spring Bank Holiday weekend saw thunderstorms and torrential rain sweeping across parts of Britain, with dramatic lightning flashes across the sky. Around 15,000 lightning strikes were recorded in the early hours of Saturday morning. This week we expect more lightning. However, this is the long-awaited arrival of the first £100m new ‘game changer’ F-35 […]
Napoleon famously described us as a nation of shopkeepers. However, Britain is rapidly becoming an island of inventors and entrepreneurs. London is Europe’s leading start-up economy, despite the uncertainty around Brexit. Encouragingly, according to a recent research report small business survival rates are over 90% after one year of trading, although after five years just […]
Technological change seems to be moving at an even faster pace these days and where America leads the rest of the world tends to follow. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has previously had extremely tight rules on the use of drones but has selected ten commercial drone projects to test new ways for unmanned […]
Oil recently hit a 3-year high as tensions in the Middle East have escalated and President Trump has pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal. However, this has distracted attention from elsewhere in the resource rich region. A major geopolitical crisis involving Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan has erupted over who controls the Nile, the world’s […]
Car workers at BMW in Germany are wearing ‘smart’ gloves that can scan objects when they put their thumb and forefinger together and the data is sent wirelessly to a central computer. The smart gloves have replaced hand-held barcode readers and allows the workers to keep hold of items with both hands speeding up the […]
A recent study by structural warranty provider, LABC Warranty, has revealed that over a 50-year period new houses built in the UK have been shrinking in size. Along with the size, the number of houses has diminished, as regulations and guidelines for new housing developments have increased. The analysis concluded that house sizes are smaller […]
The 2013 multi-Oscar winning film ‘Gravity’, featured two American astronauts attempting to return to Earth after the mid-orbit destruction of their shuttle by space debris. After 60-years of space exploration the Earth’s atmosphere has a mass of debris, ranging from old rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft to screws and even flecks of paint. The average […]
Top Trumps may be fondly remembered from its original heyday in the playgrounds of the 1970’s and 1980’s. In the digital era, how has the game ensured its longevity? It appears to have attracted young players by offering a broad range of popular subjects from volcanoes and dinosaurs to bugs and predators. It has further […]
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for environmental protection and food production – covering both agriculture and fishing. Defra covers arguably the two most nationally sensitive and certainly well publicised links between the UK and the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. Defra also oversees £3bn […]
‘Rules of Origin’ might sound like the sequel to ‘Game of Thrones’ but with under a year to go to the Brexit Article 50 deadline could prove significant. It is effectively how you define where a product comes from and whether we can say ‘Made in Britain’. For some industries, this could prove quite a […]
Absolutely Nothing! The global economy is growing nicely. Having done their job, central banks are starting to withdraw previous stimulus measures and some have embarked on the longer-term path to normalising interest rates. Central banks have to manage inflation, but not choke off growth, given the high level of global debt. Their challenge has suddenly […]
MPs have demanded an end to the UK’s ‘poisonous air’ in an unprecedented report from four Commons Committees. The Environment, Health, Transport and Environment Audit Committees want a new Clean Air Act along with a clean air fund financed by the transport industry. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have responded, by saying that […]
US President Donald Trump is in the eye of a storm – ‘Stormy’ Daniels. However, it’s not just the US ‘actress’ that is stormy or that Donald Trump is provoking a legal fight with. In a calculated move, Trump has raised the spectre of a trade war by implementing a 25% tariff on steel imports […]
Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ caused havoc across most parts of the UK. On one hand it has seen great community spirit with 4×4 drivers taking nurses to hospitals and people handing out hot drinks and food to drivers stranded in their cars. On the other hand, despite the herculean efforts of gritting […]
#Chickengate A lack of chickens is a serious issue for a company whose business model relies on selling fried chicken! Delivery problems meant that at the peak of the chicken crisis, more than 600 KFC outlets were forced to close last week, while others offered a reduced menu or shortened hours. KFC recently switched its […]
As the FA sells off the latest batch of broadcasting rights to Premier League matches, we look at the politics of business. In the UK, there is still a chance that divisions within the Conservative party could lead to another leadership contest. Would this in turn lead to another general election? In its shift to […]
If Trump manages the US economy like his former Atlantic Casino, then, then we all have a problem. Last year, Channel 4 aired a critical 4-part documentary about Donald Trump’s life. In summary, a ‘story of audacious deals, enormous gambles, catastrophic misjudgements, wives, mistresses, ego, dynastic ambitions, politics and celebrity’. This included the collapse of […]
‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently admitted it had made mistakes in the way it had measured the telecoms sector between 2010 and 2015. The Deputy Chief Economist for the ONS, highlighted just how far the current statistics could […]
The world remains a dangerous place with ongoing geo-political tension in the Korean peninsula and fighting in many parts of the Middle East. In addition, there is China’s build-up in the South China Sea disturbing smaller neighbours and Russian military training exercises making former eastern-bloc countries increasingly uneasy. Increased Russian spy plane and submarine activity […]
New York City has filed a lawsuit against five major oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell – to recoup money spent on protecting the City from the effect of climate change. The suit requests a judgement to determine, the current and future costs incurred by the city and what […]
2018 looks as it is starting where 2017 ended, with President Donald Trump pushing the buttons. Cancelling his high-profile visit to London, a suggested pay off to an ‘adult entertainer’, defending racist accusations, and of course tweets about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. Trump has tweeted ‘Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works’. Latterly, North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, in February. The North and South have also agreed to hold military talks to defuse border tension.
2018 will see some important milestones, most notably the 100th anniversary of end of the Great War. In addition, for the UK, it will be the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS. In the field of entertainment, it will mark Led Zeppelin’s 50th anniversary. In sport, 2018 will see the Winter Olympic Games […]
With the festive season finally here, retailers have revealed the top selling toys. The biggest seller this Christmas appears to be unicorns! This could well be due to the success of the 3D computer-animated comedy film series Despicable Me. Why is a unicorn special? Well, ‘it’s so fluffy’.
The University of Bristol has submitted an outline planning application for its new £300m city centre campus which will transform the landmark seven-acre site next to Bristol Temple Meads railway station. The campus will include a new £43m Quantum Technologies Information Centre as well as an innovation hub based on the successful Engine Shed, with the aim of helping more start-up businesses. When opened in 2021, some 3,500 students will be catered for initially with teaching and research focused on digital technologies.
Most of us might be surprised to learn that Tencent, a Chinese technology company, recently surpassed sector behemoth, Facebook in market capitalisation terms, making it the world’s most valuable social media company. Passing $500bn mark, it is the first Chinese technology company to join an elite group dominated by the US internet businesses. Tencent is not only bigger than any FTSE 100 constituent, it is actually larger than the top three index constituents – combined.
Investing in our transport infrastructure is vital to the UK to attract inward investment and compete in the world following Brexit. In case you haven’t noticed, ‘we have one of the most reliable railways in Europe’*. However, passenger numbers have doubled over the last 20 years and the rail network is currently creaking. To compound matters, passenger numbers are forecast to double again, over the next 25 years.
*Source: Network Rail
Blue Planet II is a reminder (if we needed one) of how precious our oceans are. It is captivating viewing, but a reminder that water is a precious commodity and that we need a greater global commitment on pollution – notably plastics. In the UK, every person uses approximately 150 litres of water a day. If you take into account the water that is needed to produce the food and products you consume or use in your day-to-day life, known as embedded water, we actually consume a staggering 3,400 litres – per day.
China has launched a new dredging ship capable of creating islands, such as those Beijing has already built in the disputed South China Sea. The ‘Tian Kun Hao’ has been dubbed the ‘magic island maker’ by Chinese state media. According to the designers, it is the largest dredger in Asia and can dig 6,000 cubic metres an hour, the equivalent of three standard swimming pools from 35 metres below the surface of the sea. China’s Belt and Road initiative is seeking to revive Silk Road trade routes, linking China with Africa and Europe. This includes developing a number of ports in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East and the ‘Tian Kun Hao’ could be used in deep water port construction.
We are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution or 4IR, bringing together the benefits of robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. Siemens UK, Rolls Royce, GKN, IBM and other manufacturers along with academics from the universities of Cambridge and Newcastle have produced a report to help the government’s industrial strategy plans.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported a total of 121 recorded incidents of maritime piracy and robbery in the year-to-date. At present, pirates seem to be very active in the Gulf of Aden and Indian ocean, off the Somali coast, and in the strait of Malacca. However, could shipping be facing an even greater threat from ‘cyber piracy’ given the increasing use of computers in shipping control and navigation?
With only a month to go to the Budget, embattled Chancellor Philip Hammond is apparently planning to promote ‘intergenerational fairness’. Tax breaks could be offered to the newly influential younger generation, paid for by cutting reliefs for older and better off workers. Risking the wrath of the Party, the policy, which has been dubbed ‘tax on age’, could prove controversial as it is likely to target voters who typically might be expected to vote Conservative and would follow the poorly thought through ‘dementia tax’, that contributed to the disastrous election result. A cut in pension tax relief has latterly been mooted. This does highlight the challenge for politicians to address the gulf between older and younger voters that emerged during the EU referendum and General Election.
As we sit here reading about Ophelia, 30 years on from the great storm of ’87, Theresa May is heading off to Brussels in an attempt to resolve a Brexit deadlock. If only all her troubles could be resolved so easily. Our accident-prone PM is limping along, but has found herself in the eye of a storm – of her own making. Having botched a general election that she did not need to call, her popularity has plummeted, unfortunately she also fluffed her key party conference speech, due to a coughing fit and fell ‘victim’ to a prankster with a P45. On the face of it, Cabinet ministers have rallied around her, for now. Surely, the Conservative Party does not have the appetite for another leadership contest? More likely, in the midst of a power vacuum, who sees themselves as a unifying leader? Is it time for bungling Boris Johnson to make a move?
Europe’s largest carmakers have more than doubled the amount of lending on their Balance Sheets since the financial crisis with the growing use of credit in car sales. Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and Renault are estimated to have €400bn of exposure to loans and leases to support car sales by providing attractive lending options to customers. The finance arms of the car manufacturers, many of which have banking licences, fund their lending through deposits and corporate bond issuance as well as complex securitisation, where loans are packaged up and sold to investors. Remind anyone of an earlier credit bubble?
The economic case for renewable energy in the UK has recently been given a boost as an auction to provide electricity from offshore wind farms proved cheaper than nuclear power for the first time. The price of electricity guaranteed to developers of new offshore wind power farms for 2022-23 has dropped to £57.50 per megawatt hour. The latest strike price for offshore wind, which is guaranteed for 15 years and rises with inflation, is substantially lower than the £92.50 per megawatt hour for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, which is also inflation linked and has been secured for 35 years.
The world remains a dangerous place and besides the ever- present terror threat, there is ongoing military tension with North Korea continuing to launch missiles and ongoing unease between Ukraine and Russia. Sanctions have been imposed on Russia, whose submarine and aircraft patrol activity seems to be as high as that seen during the Cold War. In the Pacific, China is turning into a major naval power to rival the US navy and is already in dispute with a number of neighbouring countries over the Spratly Islands.
The UK’s financial services regulator, the FCA, have enlisted the help of Hollywood legend and former Governor of the California, Arnold Schwarzenegger to draw the public’s attention to the ending of the PPI miss-selling claims – August 2019. Featuring an animatronic model head of Arnie, somewhat reminiscent of his acting roles, this is the latest in the annoying PPI related adverts that we have suffered over the years. Interestingly the eye-catching £42m bill is being met by the 18 institutions with the most PPI complaints.
When it comes to the causes of hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma, climate change is not a smoking gun. However, according to the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, a hotter atmosphere holds more moisture. For every degree in warming, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water. This tends to make rainfall events more extreme when they occur. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are currently estimated to be about 1.5 degrees warmer than between 1980-2010 according to the Grantham Institute for Climate Change.
One thing that caught our attention over the summer was the record amount spent by Premier League clubs during the transfer window. According to data from Deloitte, the 20 clubs spent a record £1.2bn on players. Manchester United paid Everton an initial £75m for striker Romelu Lukaku, while Chelsea paid Real Madrid £70m for Alvaro Morata. Record broadcast, commercial and matchday revenues have enabled Premier league clubs to splash out on new talent.
Japan is reported to be preparing to repel an invasion. Given the latest news on missile tests many of you might suspect from North Korea, but the Japanese are actually preparing for an invasion from red fire ants. The South American invader has been found in shipping containers at a number of Japanese ports. Red […]
According to Ofcom, we are overdosing our TV viewing. However, technology is transforming how we watch our TV. Whilst we are spending less actual time watching live broadcasts, nearly 80% of us now makes use of catch up services like BBC iPlayer or streaming services such as Netflix. Watching our favourite programmes when it suits […]
Moody’s, the credit rating agency, estimates that non-financial US companies are holding record cash levels – over $1.8trillion in fact. This is about two-and-a-half times the level of cash held back in the financial crisis of 2008, unfortunately 70% of this amount is being held overseas. Technology companies such as Apple, Google owner Alphabet, […]
While we haven’t seen a giant silver top hat, an old boot or a Scottie dog on the streets of London, are foreign investors playing a real-life game of Monopoly in our capital city? A number of trophy buildings on London’s skyline are now either owned by foreign investors or have recently been acquired by […]
As regular readers will observe, we love a good space themed story… Luxembourg’s asteroid mining law takes effect tomorrow. As a result, the first commercial mission to harvest mineral resources from asteroids could be launched within five years. Luxembourg’s government is working on a joint mission with two US space research companies, to prospect for […]
Fans of the original Star Trek TV series will fondly recall Scotty’s reply to Captain Kirk, whenever he ordered the engine room of the USS Enterprise to increase speed: ‘I can’t do it Captain. I don’t have the power!’ Could we all one day end up like the Enterprise? Energy production from coal-fired power stations […]
This week in ‘Game of Drones’ we are revisiting a previous theme of Alpha Bites, drones and it just happens to coincide with one of our all-time favourite TV series. The battle for the seven kingdoms is about to reach its climax as the premier of the new and final series of Game of […]
It’s not just us Brits that are becoming obsessed with the heat. The recent record-breaking heatwave in the UK, which saw the hottest day since 1976, made us grateful for an air conditioned office. Air conditioning was invented by a young American engineer, Willis Carrier in 1902. By 1980, America was using half of […]
A British company has announced its intention to launch a new constellation of Earth observation satellites. Earth-i is planning to launch a prototype satellite later this year for testing, with the expectation of a further five platforms to follow in 2019. The satellites will deliver rapid high-resolution imagery of the planet in still and video […]
When an 800-pound gorilla has you in its sights, it is time to be worried. Amazon.Com was founded in 1994, but by 2015 had already overtaken the largest US retailer Walmart by market value. It is currently the fourth most valuable public company in the world and largest internet company by revenue. It is the […]
Three Mile Island, the power plant that was the site of America’s worst civil nuclear accident could be shut down in 2019 – 15 years before its operating licence expires. The planned closure is a sign of the increased competition from cheap gas-fired power generation as a result of the US shale oil and gas […]
What a classic own goal! PM Theresa May undertook the gamble of an election to further increase her majority heading into Brexit negotiations and lost badly. The UK now has a ‘hung parliament’. Brexit talks are due to start on June 19th, but realistically nothing is likely to be addressed until after the German election […]
Politicians fighting for our votes later this week say they represent ‘ordinary hard working people’. With record numbers of people in work in the UK, we thought it was interesting to look at the current structure of the British workforce. About 30% are estimated to work in public administration, education and the health service. […]
On 18th July, the Bank of England will mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, by unveiling the new £10 note featuring the renowned writer. The new polymer £10 note will be issued in September 2017. Oddly, in a digital age with the rise of electronic payment methods, the value of notes and coins in […]
3D or not 3D? (with apologies to Shakespeare). That is the question; many manufacturers are no doubt currently asking themselves. Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing could be transformational for supply chains globally. AM appears to be on the cusp of moving from batch trial testing, into full-scale commercial production. 3D printing is progressing into […]
Work has finally commenced in Somerset on the construction of the Hinkley C nuclear power plant. The £20bn project, will be the UK’s first nuclear power station built since the 1990s. While nuclear power is seen by some as a potential ‘green’ energy solution to the problem of generating sufficient non-carbon power, it does generate […]
A historic weekend in France. Emmanuel Macron is their youngest leader since Napoleon. Local lad and renowned artist #Banksy, appears to have got the current political tone spot on, with his latest work on display in Dover. Talking of sand… Land makes up 29% of the earth’s surface, but of this about 33% is desert. […]
Tropic Seamount. No, not a hot favourite running tomorrow at Ascot, but an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles from the Canary Islands, that is believed to contain rare earth minerals. The seamount is some 1,000 metres below sea level and has a thin coating of minerals across its surface. Samples recovered from […]
Sulphur dioxide is produced during combustion of fossil fuels and is a toxic atmospheric pollutant. ‘Ultra-low sulphur’ diesel has been available for road vehicles for over a decade. New global pollution rules are due to come into force in 2020, requiring shipping companies to use fuel with significantly lower sulphur content. Shipping diesel can contain […]
No, not Yul Brynner or Steve McQueen, but Emma Walmsley and Alison Cooper. The FTSE 100 now has seven companies with a female chief executive officer (CEO). The seven companies are EasyJet, Imperial Brands, Royal Mail, Severn Trent, Kingfisher, Whitbread and GlaxoSmithKline. However, four of these are relatively recent appointments since 2014. Furthermore, women […]
MV Hammonia Grenada was built in 2010 at a cost of £37m. Some seven years later, it is the youngest ever container ship being sold for scrap, with an estimated price of just £4.4m. Why? The globalisation of trade and central bank low interest rate policy of recent years led the container shipping industry […]
With the Brexit process now formally underway the Government is going to have its hands pretty full. Nonetheless, it still intends to press ahead with much of its existing UK legislation plans. One of these plans is the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (Sugar tax or Levy) on soft drinks. The UK […]
No, not Brexit, but driverless cars. The introduction of autonomous vehicles has the potential to revolutionise urban transport and could be on the streets, as soon as 2020. US chip maker Intel has recently announced the $15bn takeover of Israeli sensor business Mobileye.
China is sending rockets into space, manufacturing high-speed trains and many of the world’s leading electronic products. However, until now, there is one bit of engineering that has eluded China: the tip of the ballpoint pen! Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, while appearing on national television, complained about the country’s inability to produce their own, quality […]
The UK’s thirst for sparkling wine continues to grow. Indeed, UK drinkers of Prosecco, are estimated to drink more than two and a half times the amount the Italians consume! Some will no doubt cheer the triggering of Article 50 with a glass of bubbly. However, Brexit will come with a ‘sting in the […]
Are you a slapper, banger, walloper, shaker or squeezer? Admit it, whether its toothpaste, glue or sauce, we all like to get that last little bit out the bottom of the tube or bottle to get our money’s worth. However, no matter how much you try there always seems to be a small amount that […]
Ever since ‘Marmite-gate’, caused a dispute between Unilever and Tesco in October last year, food prices have progressively risen and has been a key ingredient in building UK inflationary pressures in the UK.
In the popular BBC series ‘Poldark,’ Ross Poldark tries to build his fortune on copper and tin mining in Cornwall. Sadly, for him he was potentially sitting on something that today is far more valuable, lithium (Li).
Love him or loathe him, controversial US President, Donald Trump continues to dominate our media.
One of Donald Trump’s election ‘pledges’ was to build a wall between the US and Mexico, thereby provoking a major diplomatic spat with Mexico. Openly mocked at the time as shock politics, it is hardly surprising the arrival of President Trump has created market jitters. He can’t be so controversial, surely?
The annual ‘winter crisis’ in the NHS, has once again highlighted an underlying problem – the nation’s age demographics.
Last year, PM Theresa May gave the go ahead to the construction of the new Hinkley C nuclear power station. Now, plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay are to be backed in a government-commissioned review
Those savers of a nervous disposition may need to buy a safe, larger mattress or perhaps start using a piggy bank!
Britain is quite adventurous when it comes to eating and drinking, at least according to Waitrose. In its food trend predictions for 2017, Waitrose expects us to be drinking more ‘alternative’ waters based on demand last year for birch, bamboo and cactus water.
China has a strategy to become a ‘world football superpower’ by 2050 with plans to get 50 million adults playing the game by 2020.
It’s getting towards that time of the year with many households beginning to panic over the most important meal of the year, the Christmas meal. An estimated 10 million turkeys will be eaten in the UK this Christmas.
Accident Exchange, which loans courtesy cars estimates that there has been a 35% rise in parking accidents since 2014. It estimates that the number of crashes and scratches incurred while parking is now costing UK insurers about £1.4bn a year. Parking-related incidents now account for 30% of all traffic accidents.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister in July she pledged to do more to help families who are ‘Just About Managing’ (JAM). ‘If you’re from an ordinary working- class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise’. ‘The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours’.
Forty-nine years ago, almost to the day, in 1967, Britain was in the grips of a financial crisis. On 18th November, the British government devalued the pound from $2.80 to $2.40.
Contrary to initial fears, equities initially reacted positively to Trump. Bond holders however, have taken some pain where extreme yield levels, give little margin for error
US voters are facing an election day ‘trick or treat’. Nobody has known a US election campaign like this.
Brexit – more twists and turns than a soap opera.
As an island nation, the United Kingdom remains highly dependent on the free movement of goods. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign of World War II. The Axis powers sought to gain a strategic advantage by strangling Britain’s supplies. Over seventy years after the end of the War, air travel has transformed the ‘free’ movement of goods or cargo.
Rates are a tax on businesses. Broadly they are based on the rentable value of the commercial property in question, then adjusted by the ’multiplier’. In England, some 1.85m properties are affected by the current review.
The Cretaceous period extinction event caused by an asteroid strike, in what is now the Gulf of Mexico some 65 million years ago, wiped out most of the dinosaurs. This is perhaps the most well- known mass extinction event but there are believed to have been five mass extinction events in earth’s history.
Yahoo recently confirmed that user details for half a billion people, including names, passwords, email addresses, phone numbers and security questions were taken from the company’s network in 2014.
One of the reasons for the UK Government’s decision to push ahead with the Hinkley Point nuclear plant was no doubt due to the need to address long term international carbon emission standards. Green campaigners have been pushing for greater investment instead in wind power, although onshore planning issues or ‘not in my back yard’ (Nimby) have possibly restricted expansion. Instead the UK is therefore seeing sizeable investment in offshore wind production.
North Korea is an enigma and continues to make the headlines, for all the wrong reasons.
On a more positive note, North Korea recently opened its doors to its first ever beer festival. Tourists from the West sat on the banks of the Taedong river drinking Taedonggang beer, named after the river. There were seven beers on tap: Beer 1, Beer 2, Beer 3, Beer 4, Beer 5, Beer 6, and — you guessed it — Beer 7. Why should this interest us here in the UK?
According to press reports, George Osborne remains committed to the ‘northern powerhouse’ dream and will chair a new body imaginatively titled, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. A lot has been written of the apparent North / South divide in the UK post the EU referendum, are there any themes emerging?
One of the greatest achievements from the last century has been the introduction of antibiotics. However, England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has re-iterated globally expressed concerns over the catastrophic threat posed from antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to antibiotics.
An increasing feature arising from global stimulus measures by central banks has been negative interest rates and negative bond yields. Indeed, it is estimated that there is now over $13 trillion of Government bonds globally offering a negative return to redemption.
One of my favourite TV adverts is for Specsavers. This shows a vet working on what he thinks is a cat but is in fact a furry hat which prompts the strapline ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’. The US space shuttle crew landing at Luton airport by accident is another of my favourite ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ adverts.
Wow! Congratulations to Great Britain’s Olympians, who have delivered in spectacular fashion in Rio 2016.
Some of us may be a little bleary eyed this morning. As we write, ‘Team GB’ is second in the overall Olympic medal table. An inspiration to us all!
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Last year to mark its centenary, Ladybird Books released a series for ‘Grown-Ups’ using the original Ladybird style artwork alongside tongue-in-cheek text.
It’s the story of Summer 2016 – no, not Brexit but Pokémon Go.
According to the United Nations the World’s population is expected to grow by about 83 million a year to 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2050.
After one of the most ruthless Cabinet ‘reshuffles’ ever witnessed, one member of 10 Downing Street was at least breathing sigh of relief last week. Chief Mouser to the Cabinet, Larry the cat is to remain at number 10.
Eton mess is a traditional English dessert that typically consists of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream.
However you voted, just over one week on, how do you feel?
UK voters have chosen to leave the EU by 52% to 48%. However, there are clear fault lines across the UK between remain in and leave.
No, not the means of deciding whether the UK remains in or leaves the EU, but what is on the reverse side of Britain’s coins.
Euro 2016 has ‘kicked off’ in France and the EU referendum debate continues to rage. In the meantime, other parts of Europe are getting closer.
Age is just a number, or so the saying goes. Some say life begins at 40, others are in denial. However there’s no denying that when you hit 40 these days, retirement is now getting further away than ever.
Goldfinger, the seventh novel in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. Originally titled The Richest Man in the World it sees gold obsessed Auric Goldfinger planning to contaminate the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox. Compared to the US government, which stores its gold bullion on a fortified army base, the UK’s gold is stored in […]
As many Bristolians will testify, Bristol’s traffic and particularly its traffic light system can drive you ‘up the wall’.
For decades the US had the highest proportion of students attending university and reflecting this, among 55 to 64 year olds, almost a third of all graduates in the world’s major economies are US citizens.
Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson could both be up in arms again, with yet another example of the Eurozone’s porous border ahead of the EU referendum on 23rd June. So, what is the latest scandal?
Congratulations to Leicester City and fans. Leicester City are now set for a potential £150m boost for winning the Premier League title according to some sport data and marketing agencies
Water is unlike any other commodity on earth. It covers 71% of the planet and without it life on earth couldn’t have started.
No, not the current EU referendum debate but a massive natural gas leak which happened last year near Los Angeles.
Contrary to popular belief, Victorian plumber Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, but he did much to increase its use
It is some 34 years since the Falklands War. The UK has maintained a military presence in the Falkland Islands although due to Russian naval activity closer to home and engine problems with the Type 45 destroyer, the Royal Navy has not despatched a warship to the South Atlantic in 2016.
Given that everything from rail fares to pensions are linked to inflation, it is always useful to keep an eye on just what the Office of National Statistics (ONS) includes in its basket for measuring inflation.
Napoleon Bonaparte is believed to have described Britain as a nation of shopkeepers. Will this still be true by 2025?
Medical advances and greater health awareness mean that Britons are tending to live longer. With over 85’s expected to double by 2032, it is the fastest growing age group, as a result the UK is going to have to devote more resources to the care of the elderly.
In the final quarter of 2015 there appeared a distinct divergence in central bank interest rate policy. In December, the US Federal Reserve announced its first rate rise in seven years and flagged a progressive gradual tightening of monetary policy through 2016.
The House Divided Speech was a defining address given by Abraham Lincoln before he became president in 1858 and just three years ahead of the start of the American Civil War. The best known passage of the speech includes the line ’A house divided against itself cannot stand’
Possibly the most important vote since 1975? No, not the EU referendum but changes to the way voting will be undertaken in the 61st Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden in May 2016.
Driving on Britain’s roads it’s difficult to escape the number of lorries, especially when you are in a traffic jam behind one. Subconsciously I tend to track brands I see.
The recent release of the new Dad’s Army film got us thinking about the original BBC series. ‘Put that light out!’ is a classic episode from Dad’s Army but also became the catch phrase, during the ‘black out’, of Captain Mainwaring’s nemesis, air raid warden Hodges, played by the late Bill Pertwee.
Those of you visiting London and using the underground will no doubt have heard the warning ‘Mind the gap!’ when alighting the tube train at the Bank or other underground stations. Which got us thinking.
Yes it’s that time of the year again where many of us change our diet, join a gym or take up running to get fitter. As many personal trainers and sports coaches say ‘there is no gain without pain’.
No not North Korea and Iran, nor Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, nor Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini but very young children!
The Amazon rainforest covers some 7 million square kilometres and includes territory belonging to nine nations. Amazon.com, Inc. the electronic commerce and cloud computing company is the largest internet based retailer in the USA. Both Amazons have one thing in common, they are massive!
Lord Alan Sugar has one: AMS 1. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drove away from their wedding with one that read JU5T WED and broadcaster Chris Evans has several. Personalised number plates are big business these days with the UK market worth an estimated £2.3bn a year.
Some 147 world leaders are currently attending the COP21 UN conference in Paris to agree a new global approach to climate change. Fossil fuels and coal in particular are seen as the biggest culprit for global warming.
‘You are what you eat’ is the old saying. Healthy eating, or to be correct unhealthy eating presents a challenge to healthcare budgets, particularly in western developed economies. However, in the future, eating unhealthily may start to cost you more.
‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is an ancient proverb that pretty well sums up the global political situation following the Paris terror attack. What short memories some politicians appear to have.
A bleak Friday indeed for democracy with the shocking terror attack on Paris although, in a sign of solidarity and that life goes on, #Parisisaboutlife, is already widely circulating on social media.
The BBC recently presented a week long feature on artificial intelligence and whether people’s jobs were at risk of being replaced by a robot. Which got us thinking. Could our jobs at Alpha be at risk from robots?
What is going on with the weather? The weekend saw record temperatures across parts of Britain. Usually November sees the onset of much colder mornings which, I find, tends to make it even more difficult to get out of bed. Am I feeling SAD?
‘I feel a disturbance in the force’. Yes, it’s approaching faster than the Millennium Falcon. A trailer for the new Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens’ has just been shown two months before the film release. An analyst in the USA has estimated that new consumer products tied to the film franchise could bring in revenue of $5bn in the first year.
We recently learned of a £37,000 project to make music from the sound of beech mast falling from a giant 100 year old beech tree in Bristol. The project has been funded by a grant from Bristol City Council from its 2015 European Green Capital fund.
Its more than 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to venture into ‘outer space’. Throughout the five decades of subsequent space flight, just over 550 individuals have made the journey into space.
Good news! The ONS has recently announced we are living longer. A new born baby boy could expect to live to over 79 years and a new born baby girl almost 83 years.
Members of the public are to be given the opportunity to name wind storms affecting the UK and Ireland. It is hoped that naming storms will help raise awareness of severe weather conditions and ensure people protect themselves and their property before it strikes.
With the Rugby World Cup underway many fund managers will no doubt be out the office at various matches. Talk of rugby and thoughts turn to the favourites, the New Zealand All Blacks.
As a nation, we are well known for turning to a nice cup of tea in a crisis. Which got us thinking. With all the recent financial turmoil arising from China, investors should have been drinking more tea, but apparently not so.
Bristol street artist Banksy has recently opened the Dismaland Bemusement Park in the derelict former Tropicana lido in Weston-Super-Mare. The exhibition, which is a dark take on theme parks includes a dilapidated fairy castle and a boat pond where all the boats are filled with models of migrants.
The Great Wall of China actually comprises many different walls built over successive periods by the Chinese to control the migration of marauding hordes of invaders. Which got us thinking.
Last year the CMA issued a record number of licenses to fly small drones in the UK, which was up a staggering 80% on the previous year. However, this could well be exceeded in 2015 as a drone is apparently the must have Christmas gift this year. This could well create challenges in itself from privacy infringement to aircraft safety.
Unfortunately not the classic comedy film starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis but office air conditioning! Our office is, no doubt, like many others in that there is usually a lively debate about the temperature.
A recent ruling by the UK Supreme Court has set a deadline of the end of the year for plans to improve air quality in the UK and tackle dangerously high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Currently diesel cars produce less CO2 but emit much more NO2 and it is estimated that diesel road traffic is responsible for 40% of London’s NO2 emmissions.
To mark Bristol’s green capital status, a sculpture of two life sized whales has been made from Somerset willow and 70,000 old plastic bottles. The blue whale and humpback whale weigh a whopping six tonnes. The bottles were collected from the Bath half marathon and Bristol 10K race. The sculpture highlights the threat of plastic pollution to the world’s oceans, particularly from plastic bags.
In the musical ‘My Fair Lady’, Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) drills Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) with speech exercises such as ‘The rain in Spain, stays mainly in the plain’ to help drop her ‘mockney’ accent.
Walking into work recently, past a tall building, I was almost blown off my feet by a sudden gust of wind. Apparently accelerated winds near skyscrapers is caused by the ‘downdraught effect’. This is where air hits a building and with nowhere else to go is pushed up and down and around the sides. The air forced downwards increases wind speed at street level.
No, not the Alpha Team, although some of you may have spotted a familiar looking Mexican moustache! However, spaghetti westerns got us thinking about ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. In this case, perhaps the USA, Greece and China?
With all the negative financial news headlines on Greece, the glorious weather makes us look forward to the weekend and enjoying the great British countryside.
We keep hearing of the term ‘global market place’. At a time when the fabric of the EU is being tested by the prospect of a Greek debt default, it is perhaps worth remembering the ability to trade freely in a ‘common market’ was one of the original pillars of the European Union. Globalisation is changing the way business is being done. The EU is the largest economy in the world, along with being the biggest exporter and importer.
The old sea-faring expression is ‘any port in a storm’. Which got us thinking. We suspect for financial markets, it is actually not a case of finding ‘any port’ but more importantly the ‘safest port in a storm’. This is because, we are currently sailing in unchartered waters.
Last week, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win a majority in the parliamentary election. This in turn led to considerable volatility in the Turkish stock market.
China has an insatiable appetite for natural resources to meet its long term economic growth ambitions and as a result appears to be putting its footprint down from the South China Sea to the Antarctic. The former sea has a number of countries contesting ownership of the potentially natural resource rich waters including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
It’s a curious thing. Why do some people like the feeling of being scared while others don’t? One only needs to consider the growing hype surrounding Halloween to see the commercial value we put on being scared.
According to the US National Atmospheric Administration, global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have reached a new monthly average record of 400 parts per million. As a result, global levels of carbon dioxide are estimated to be at the highest level for over 2 million years!
No, not politicians, nor Greece but pistachio nuts! We have been keeping an eye on developments in the Middle East, but had assumed that, when sanctions are lifted on Iran, it could lead to oil flooding onto the global market. Instead, it is likely to be pistachio nuts, as Iran is the world’s leading producer alongside the USA.
Who’d have thought it? Now that the dust is beginning to settle, the post- election recriminations and investigations have begun. One thing for sure is that the new Parliament will have a very different look to the last.
With just a few days to go until the UK General Election the polls are suggesting a hung parliament with the likelihood that the Conservatives will just about win the most votes and seats, but not enough to form a majority on their own. In addition, the SNP continues to look the most significant minority party with possibly over 50 seats.
Some of the World’s leading global economies are being challenged to consider putting a famous woman on their banknotes. American bills have portraits of the country’s founding fathers and former presidents, Chinese notes have Mao Zedong and India have Mahatma Gandi, but none of them feature any women.
We recently read that a rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants book was returned to the Camden Library in Sydney, Australia, after 122 years! The late fees were thought to be in the region of £22,800, but the book was astutely returned during the library’s ‘fine amnesty month’, although one senses that the library was just over the moon to get the first edition back.
A new global code of conduct is being introduced in the foreign exchange market by the world’s major central banks. This is designed to stop traders and dealers sharing information and is part of efforts to head off abuses after two years of scandal over currency manipulation.
We recently read that a keen eyed shopper had noticed that Unilever has reduced the amount of tea in its PG Tips tea bags, as a pack of 80 regular tea bags now weighs 232g, down from 250g previously.
Later this year see’s the return of Daniel Craig as 007 in the latest bond movie ‘SPECTRE’, an incredible 24th in the franchise. In the trailer, Bond is likened to ‘A kite dancing in a hurricane’. Which got us thinking. This seems like a pretty good description of Greece currently.
The top end of the London property market has had a stellar run in recent years. This has no doubt reflected central banks printing money as well as supportive Government measures for the housing market.
Many of you will be aware that Bristol is currently European Green Capital. To reflect this a new bus service is being run between Bath and Bristol Airport using a ‘Bio-Bus’ which is powered by bio-methane gas generated from human sewage and food waste. Locally it has been nicknamed the ‘number two’.
…keeps the doctor away. A well-known saying that could prove to be even more accurate in future with the growing use of smart phones, tablet computers and PDAs to monitor our health and general well-being.
Bristol has a very diverse culture and this abundance of nationalities leads to a bewildering variety of foods from around the globe being imported into Royal Portbury Dock. Unfortunately, along with imported foods, comes bugs, insects and spiders of every kind. The Dock has been found to hold no fewer than eight different species of scorpion!
A Russian bomber over Cornwall, a Russian warship in the English Channel and worries that Russia may try to destabilise the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Are we heading for another Cold War?
The Chinese New Year is upon us and 2015 is the ‘year of the goat’ or possibly the sheep. Apparently, the S&P 500 index has risen 26% on average making it one of the best years to buy US equities. However, the indicator could be 12 months behind the curve with the US interest rate cycle turning.
By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 1.4 billion urban dwellers and with city space at a premium, offices are inevitably going to get taller. Another driver is the prestige of having the world’s tallest building with cities constantly trying to outdo one another in the race sky words.
In previous Alpha-Bites we have highlighted various threats to mankind from asteroids to Ebola. We noted with interest therefore, the recent warning from Stephen Hawking that ‘the development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race’. [Read more]
Following the move by the EU in September last year to address carbon emissions by reducing the wattage of vacuum cleaners, they are now going after coffee drinkers.
As if we needed any further proof that 2015 is going to be another challenging year we now have official confirmation of a global slowdown. According to the world’s time keeping agency, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service which is based at the Paris Observatory, the earth is moving so slowly that an extra second is to be added in an adjustment to clocks on the 30th June this year.
A question which is no doubt familiar to anyone who over the holiday period undertook a long car journey with young children to visit in-laws.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again! When we all try to start afresh and make resolutions whether it be to join a gym to get fit, eat healthily, give up smoking or take up a new hobby.
Yes it’s that magical time of year again. Children of all ages excitedly listen for the sound of sleigh bells heralding Santa’s night time arrival and traditional passage down the chimney bearing those longed for presents.
‘The scouts have come in, sir and they report Zulus, thousands of ‘em’. A great line from a classic action film ‘Zulu’.
As we approach the end of the year and thoughts turn to the outlook for 2015 all eyes remain on Europe and possible QE by the ECB.
The Met Office recently announced that it is to invest £97m in a new ‘supercomputer’ at its South West office to improve weather forecasting and modelling. This is thirteen times more powerful than the current system and is expected to reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in weather and climate prediction. As we all know, we Brits do like to talk about the weather!
Along with HS2 it was recently announced that work was underway to electrify the Great Western Line between South Wales, Bristol and London. Network Rail is laying 1.5km of track per night with a view to completing the line to Bristol by the end of 2016.
A thank you letter apparently written by the new Star Wars film’s producers suggests that part of the latest movie to be released in December 2015, may have been shot north-west of Bristol in ‘Puzzlewood’ in the Forest of Dean.
Bristol is at the forefront of a global initiative, as it is to become a ‘laboratory for change’ as part of the UK government’s smart cities programme using a superfast, high capacity fibre network. What is a smart city?
Bristol artist Banksy has recently reworked Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ with the definitive pearl earring replaced by an ADT burglar alarm box.
In previous Alpha Bites we have highlighted many of the good things to come out of Bristol, from the M32 and Banksy to the Bloodhound supersonic car.
That may possibly be radioactivity levels with news that a £24.5bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset is to go ahead after it received final approval from the European Union.
In the film ‘Back to the Future II’ the main character Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) finds himself in the USA of 2015 with a host of modern gadgets including the levitating Hoverboard.
The Americans may have lost the Ryder Cup but when it comes to oil, look to be a clear winner.
It appears that it’s not only Europe’s golfers that are in good voice today.
There we were, all worried about a possible power vacuum in Westminster post a possible Scotland yes vote when all the time we should have been watching the EU.
‘A very, very close call’…no, not the Scottish independence vote but how astronomers described an asteroid nicknamed ‘Pitbull’ that recently flew closer to Earth’s surface than some TV satellites.
The clock is ticking down for an increasing fraught sounding Alistair Darling.
In a recent study Ofcom discovered that the average Briton spends more time using technology devices than they do sleeping.
You will have no doubt be aware that another volcano in Iceland is apparently getting ready to blow.
That’s one small step….for mankind, one giant leap for….the tourist industry (with apologies to Neil Armstrong).
The remains of Hurricane Bertha have hopefully passed over without apparent major damage or loss of life.
The surviving members of the iconic and influential comedy group Monty Python, recently closed out their reunion show. [Read more]
Loch Ness has ‘Nessie’, the Americans have ‘Big Foot’ ad apparently Bristol has ‘The Crocodile’.
Shockingly, three years have now past following the tragic events of the Fukushima tsunami in Japan.
Yes, it is that time of year again, with the start of the great migration.
A few weeks ago we featured an artist who was re-creating works by Banksy in Lego.
The clock is ticking down……..no, not to the Scottish independence vote but to the supersonic car speed test.
Argentinian World Cup captain Lionel Messi has been living up to pre-tournament expectations.
We featured an article on renowned Bristol artist Banksy a few weeks ago. We were therefore amused to notice that a Canadian artist who calls himself Bricksy had started creating copies of Banksy works in LEGO
Many of our readers may have noticed a slightly European theme to Alpha Bites in recent weeks with Eurovision, euro elections and European contestants in BGT. We were therefore amused to see last week that the UK is to join a number of European countries including Austria, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden by adding prostitution and drug dealing in the measurement of GDP.
Yes it’s that time of year again when Simon Cowell discovers a new star to perform in front of the Queen but not one who is necessarily British. The Britain’s Got Talent 2013 series was won by Hungarian artists Attraction, albeit with a very patriotic performance. The 2014 BGT series seems to have followed a similar path with a number of non –British acts reaching the semi-finals ranging from a Canadian magician and Ukrainian dance troupe to a 79 year old dancer and her much younger dance partner who live in Spain. Which got us thinking that perhaps the Stock Market is not too dissimilar? In the FTSE 100 there appears to be a fair sprinkling of non -British businesses such as Coca-Cola HBC, CRH, Mondi, Antofagasta, Randgold and Fresnillo. Non-British participants in our talent shows and blue chip index? What would Nigel Farage say? It’s just not cricket!
Following Eurovision it has been European’s chance to vote again but this time for MEPs, all 751 of them. Following this we now have the bizarre situation where about 1 in 3 MEP’s are in the ‘anti-European’ union. Does this represent an earthquake or a minor tremor in the history of the EU? Only time will tell.
We will let our loyal readers decide for themselves whether the popularity of last weekend’s Polish Eurovision entry was based on the quality of the song, the multicultural nature of the UK or the fact that the act featured a number of attractive female performers, dressed as milk maids, who suggestively churned butter and washed laundry on stage.
Many good things have come out of Bristol over the years and not just the M32! Renowned Bristol artist Banksy has been in the headlines, with his latest disputed artwork Mobile Lovers.
Half of the City in mourning this week at the relegation from the football league of Bristol Rovers.
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