Festive Squabbles | Students Rock | Vanishing Blues

Happy New Year!  Another indulgent Christmas has come and gone, The Weekly is back, and everyone is gradually filtering back to their respective offices wondering why their office trousers feel rather tight around the waistline.  Yet, whilst most of us will be exchanging stories of presents, merriment and the odd hangover, it appears that not everyone was enjoying the season of goodwill.  Figures released by the Ministry of Justice this week showed that thirteen people actually filed for divorce on Christmas Day by completing online applications, with a further 77 on New Year's Day.  The figures don't reveal whether these applications were triggered by a stressful Christmas with the in-laws, or a New Year's Eve indiscretion, but the good news is that the arrival of the "digital divorce" doesn't mean we are all hopping onto the computer after every marital squabble.  Far from it.  The same figures reveal that divorce rates are at their lowest level since 1973, which means that even if your wife, or husband was unimpressed with the electronic scales you gave them for Christmas, there is a good chance you've got time to redeem yourself!

This week it was the turn of university leaders to raise their fears over a no-deal Brexit stating that it would constitute “one of the biggest threats” ever faced by the sector after figures revealed a further decline in EU student enrolment, particularly in postgraduate research.  According to the Russell Group of universities, there was a 9% decrease in the number of EU postgraduate research students enrolling at its institutions this academic year. The fall follows another 9% decline the previous year, and has worrying potential consequences for Britain’s research capacity.  This warning comes in rather stark contrast, however, to Knight Frank's property investment assessment of the wider UK purpose-built student accommodation sector (PBSA), which looks set to reach a total combined value of £53bn by the end of 2019.  Indeed Knight Frank are predicting that in excess of 29,000 additional purpose-built student beds will be delivered next year - that's a similar figure to the population of Gibraltar!  Despite Brexit uncertainties, global investors' appetite for PBSA assets in the UK so far appears unperturbed.  And Arlington Advisors' double acquisition of Merlin Heights in Leicester and the £232 million Stellar portfolio this week shows that UK investors are happy to put their money there too!

For anyone who cared to glance at the stock markets over the festive period, in between glugs of mulled wine and another bite-size mince pie, their return to the office may have been filled with a sense of trepidation.  The stock markets had a rough ride at the end of the year meaning that 2018 was the worst year for global financial markets since the GFC. And there are certainly some threatening clouds on the horizon for the global economy.  Will President Trump's tax cuts have a lasting impact that will support growth in the US economy in the longer term?  What will happen if the Trump-led trade war between the US and China escalates?  And closer to home, Europe appears to have its own problems. The economic data for Q3 2018, for example, showed a marked slowdown in growth in the eurozone.   Add to this list the fact that the UK is due to leave the EU (softly or otherwise!) on 29 March and you'd be forgiven for suffering a sharp dose of the January blues!  The Weekly, however, isn't siding with the doom-mongers just yet.  As the late Nobel winning economist, Paul Samuelson once said, "Wall Street indexes predicted nine of the last five recessions" (!) and investors in both London and on Wall Street seemed to be filled with an end of week confidence (call it a Friday feeling) boosted by strong US jobs growth data and news that the US and China will resume trade talks.  No doubt the ever-modest Mr Trump will somehow try and take full credit for both @realdonaldtrump #toomuchsuccess!