Straight Bat | Housing Trade | Computer Says No

When Theresa May called a press conference at 5pm on Thursday, the editorial team at The Weekly gathered around the office TV screen half-anticipating a resignation speech from an increasingly embattled and isolated Prime Minister. Just twenty-four hours on from releasing the long-awaited EU draft withdrawal agreement, a host of resignations (including the departure of her second Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab) had left the Cabinet in disarray. And before they'd even had time to digest the contents of this weighty, 585 page document, the hard Brexiteers, galvanised by Jacob Rees-Mogg, were busy trying to secure the 48 signatures needed for a vote of no confidence.  To her credit though, the PM is not one to wilt under pressure and even likened herself to her famously stubborn cricketing hero, Geoffrey Boycott, who (on the cricket field at least) "stuck to it and got runs in the end". The PM's reference to the ex-Yorkshire and England batsman reminded us of a famous comment he made when quizzed on what it was like facing the world's fastest bowlers. Boycott's reply; "to have some idea what it's like, stand in the outside lane of a motorway, get your mate to drive his car at you at 95 mph and wait until he's 12 yards away before you decide which way to jump." With all the criticism that has been thrown at Mrs May this week, you'd forgive her for thinking that a short game of "motorway chicken" might feel like a nice break from it all!

As the pound suffered its biggest one day fall on Thursday since 27 June 2016, in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, £1.6 billion was wiped off the value of UK housebuilders by nervous traders worried about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. The likes of Persimmon (-9.6%), Taylor Wimpey (-9.2%) and Barratt Developments (-8.4%) were amongst the most significant stock market casualties on a turbulent day. Bovis also saw almost 10% wiped off the value of its group shares and warned that 'discretionary buyers' are being deterred by uncertainty. The housebuilder had previously welcomed the Government's recent extension of the Help to Buy Scheme which was extended in the Chancellor's recent Budget by a further two years to March 2023. But like the other housebuilders focused entirely on the UK market, they are seemingly at the mercy of political wrangling and buyer sentiment, the latter of which must surely have taken a battering. But wherever there are pricing corrections there are those who see opportunities. According to one UK equities fund manager at Schroders, "housebuilders are pricing in quite a lot of downside. The yield you can get probably pays back the share price within a matter of 5 years. You would have to see quite significant falls in both volumes and prices to undermine the valuation case." We'll leave you to mull over the investment prospect!

Whilst most public outrage this week has been saved up for our politicians, there was also disbelief in the world of football following the news that the outgoing Premier League boss, Richard Scudamore, is set to receive a whopping £5 million golden goodbye, with each club asked to donate £250,000.  The inquest into this apparently rather excessive payout has only just begun, but as one droll commentator rightly stated, "Spurs have now spent more money on gifts for Richard Scudamore this season than on transfers"! Scudamore's payout, however, has only reached second spot on The Weekly's list of most baffling decisions. Top spot was reserved for Japan's new cyber security minister who revealed that he has never actually used a computer. The 68 year old minister told a bemused House of Representatives committee that "secretaries and employees handle such tasks for me". This is the same minister who in his previous role overseeing preparations for the 2020 Olympics told the committee that delivering the games would cost 1,500 yen (£10.31) rather than the actual figure of 150 billion yen (£1bn)! Sounds like Japan's cyber security is in safe hands then?!