Week in review: New Year, new me…


Try a new career: With each New Year’s Day comes the usual ritual of making New Year’s Resolutions. Getting healthier, saving more money, or trying a new career are among the top cited promises we proclaim in front of our friends and family.

And just three days into the New Year, Sir Ivan Rogers was well on his way to fulfilling the latter promise. On Tuesday he quit his role as the UK’s Ambassador to the European Union. Sir Ivan, who was appointed by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013, did not explain the reasons for his abrupt departure. However, the career diplomat had been subjected to intense criticism following a leak to the BBC of his suggestion that it could take 10 years to finalise Brexit negotiations. Sir Ivan has been swiftly replaced by Sir Tim Barrow, formerly UK ambassador to Moscow.

Be more optimistic

The New Year is a time for self-reflection. After the jollity of the festive season, however, it’s back to work, with the attendant danger of lapsing into the ’January blues’. Clothing retailer Next epitomised this “glass half empty” feel, unveiling disappointing Christmas season results. A second successive year of declining seasonal sales at Next – usually the first retailer to report in the new year – sparked a decline in share prices across the sector. Marks & Spencer and Debenhams were among the main fallers.

This post-holiday tristesse was not reflected in market observers’ expectations on the other side of the Atlantic. Wall Street has high hopes for the upcoming corporate reporting season. President-elect Donald Trump’s promises of infrastructure investment, corporate tax reform and the loosening of regulations are anticipated to provide a further fillip to US equity markets, which have gained strongly since his election in November. Analysts currently forecast that the profits of S&P 500 companies will grow by 11.5% during 2017.

Eat less junk food

Burger giant McDonald’s could lose its position as America’s most valuable restaurant chain. Starbucks is tipped by Wall Street analysts to take the title over the next few years with anticipated worldwide sales growth of 5%, earnings per share growth of 12% and a rapid growth in outlet numbers. Last year, the coffee bean behemoth suffered in the wake of unwelcome tax avoidance headlines and the departure of the company’s long-standing chief executive officer. There is still some ground to make up – its market cap stands at roughly $80 billion, compared to McDonald’s $98 billion, and the world’s appetite for fast food shows few signs of abating. But if its rate of expansion continues, Starbucks could be the first restaurant chain in many years to mount a serious challenge to the Golden Arches.

And finally…

Exercise more: Frenchman Robert Marchand has already achieved something remarkable for the year, cycling 22 kilometres in just one hour at the national velodrome. While this may not seem a newsworthy achievement, it is made more notable by the simple fact that M. Marchand was born in 1911. According to his spokesperson, the cycling centenarian only had time to take up the sport when he retired, aged 68, yet he has now entered the record books, setting a new record for the furthest distance cycled in one hour – for riders over 105 years old. The current hour record for all age groups is held by Bradley Wiggins, who covered 54 kilometres in 2015. Whether this feat persuades Sir Bradley to back-pedal out of retirement remains to be seen….


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