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Davidson takes swing at plotters

May promises ‘calm leadership’ amid Tory divisions

Theresa May’s future is hanging over the markets


Theresa May today insisted she was not stepping down and could bring “calm leadership” to the country.

Sterling fell amid reports of a plot to remove the Prime Minister following her spluttering address to the party conference on Wednesday.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson criticised Tory “plotters” who want the PM to resign, saying they should “put up, or shut up” and were not led by anyone “serious”.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been urging Mrs May to carry on but the former party chairman, Grant Shapps, said she should call a leadership contest following the bungled general election, her failure to unite the Cabinet and a poor party conference.

Mr Shapps, who chaired the party between 2012 and 2015, said up to 30 Conservative MPs, including five former Cabinet ministers, were keen for a change of leader.

To trigger a formal leadership challenge, 48 Conservative MPs need to write to the chairman of the party’s so-called 1922 Committee.

But Mrs Mays insisted she had the backing of her Cabinet to remain in Downing Street.

The political fracas came against a mixed picture of the economy.

Figures released today show productivity fell at its joint-fastest rate since 2013.

Output per hour last year was 15.1% below that in other major advanced economies, a gap that has widened sharply since the 2008 financial crisis and shows no sign of narrowing significantly.

Output per hour worked in the three months to June was 0.3% below its level in the three months to June 2016, the Office for National Statistics said. No bigger fall has been recorded since the third quarter of 2013.

Before the crisis, annual productivity growth averaged more than 2%.

There was better news for retailers. British shops enjoyed their biggest jump in sales in more than three years in September, showing consumers finding ways to cope with the squeeze on incomes.

Accountancy firm BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker found overall like-for-like store sales rose by an annual 2.9%, building on a slight rise in August.

However, weak GDP figures have raised questions about an interest rate rise in November. Sterling was trading 0.29% lower against the dollar at £1.307.

The FTSE100 traded higher, following Asian stocks which rose overnight, and another record day on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 posted its sixth straight record high close, its longest run since 1997, and Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.3%, a new two-year high.

The dollar rose again on Friday after data showed the US labour market lost jobs in September but the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 2001.

Jacob Deppe, head of trading at trading platform Infinox.com, said the markets will largely ignore the data. 

“While this is the first fall for non-farm payrolls since September 2010, it doesn’t really reflect the underlying strength of the US economy.

“As bleak as the headline jobs number appears on the surface, it won’t change the view that the US economy is fundamentally strong.

“The unemployment rate still declined to its lowest point since February 2001, to 4.2% from 4.4% in August, while hourly wages also saw strong growth potentially boosting inflation pressures.”

Marcus Bullus, trading director of MB Capital, said: “In any normal month, this print would have sent tremors across global markets, but September was no normal month. 

“Traders were pricing in a weak print given the severe disruption caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and even though it came in far worse than expected the markets will go into the weekend feeling there is no reason to panic.

“The unemployment rate nudged down and wage growth went up in September, underlining how the headline figure is an anomaly.

“There is every chance October’s number will see non-farm payrolls get back on track and the US economy push into 2018 and a year of continued momentum.”

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