It seems rarely a week goes by without politics taking centre stage. This week started with the fallout from last weekend’s Turkish referendum, followed by the announcement of a snap general election in the UK, while the French election campaign rallies entered their final stages.
Theresa May surprised everyone on Tuesday as she called for a UK general election on 8 June, contrary to her previous statements on the subject. On Wednesday afternoon MPs approved the election by 522 votes to 13 as May urged them to “trust the people”. The prime minister said she was seeking unity in Westminster to help make a success of Brexit. Currently the Conservative Party only has a majority of 17 in the House of Commons, which May is clearly seeking to increase.
Last Sunday’s Turkish referendum result also surprised many political analysts. President Erdogan gained executive powers and radically changed Turkey’s constitution, but only with a narrow majority – 51.4% of votes went in his favour. Erdogan will move from a largely ceremonial position to one that is much more influential.
Investors reacted negatively to news of the UK election and the FTSE 100 index ended down by 2.6% for the week at Thursday’s close. There was a positive reaction in currency markets, though, and sterling rose against most other major currencies. European equities also fell, with the FTSE World Europe (ex-UK) index down 0.3%. In the US, the S&P 500 index rose 1.2%.
US investors were encouraged by generally positive corporate results and on Wednesday, online marketplace eBay reported better-than-expected profits and a year-on-year increase in revenue. Efforts to revamp its platform clearly paid off as active buyers increased to 169 million over the quarter. Over the past 12 months, eBay shares have risen more than 40%.
In Europe, Volkswagen posted higher profits as its efforts to control costs paid off, and on Thursday BMW became the third German carmaker to release its results ahead of expectations as it outperformed expectations with strong profits. Sales remain healthy, despite widespread concerns that the top of the sales cycle for the sector had been reached in 2016.
Piano tuner Martin Backhouse was carrying out business as usual, tuning a piano that had been donated to a local school, when he came across a startling discovery. He initially thought the neatly wrapped cloth packets Haydn at the Bach of the piano were bags of moth repellent. In fact he had uncovered a stash of 91.7% pure gold coins dating from the reign of Queen Victoria and with a monetary value of £350,000. The piano’s previous owners Graham and Meg Hemmings were unaware of the scale of the stash. Given that they won’t be eligible to receive the proceeds from the sale of the coins, which will now go to the school, their mood must, er, be flat.