Is hirsute Bob hoping to shrug off the Atlas Mara fiasco?

The African investment firm has its AGM this week. And Diamond’s new goatee could be telling

City types have often debated whether Bob Diamond’s impressively dark locks would retain their hue should he be caught in a heavy rain shower. But, as a City figure, Bob the Banker has been remarkably enduring.

He is back in action this week with the annual general meeting of Atlas Mara, the London-listed African investment vehicle he founded after being ousted from Barclays in 2012 over the Libor rate-rigging scandal – which has proved a total disaster.

Its shares have steadily fallen from more than $12 to around $2.50 now, and Diamond had to step in as chairman after the departure of Arnold Ekpe. John Vitalo, who worked for Diamond when he ran Barclays, also abruptly left Atlas Mara in February and has yet to be replaced.

Anyway, that makes Diamond the main draw at Wednesday’s meeting – to be held in New York – when investors will obviously want to know when the company plans to sort this mess out, as well as (possibly) asking: “What is that thing Bob the Banker has brought with him?”

Diamond has been spotted around the Square Mile of late sporting a Paul Hollywood-style grey goatee beard which, apart from failing to quite match his coiffure, keeps distracting those in meetings from a) maintaining eye contact and b) important matters at hand. Maybe that’s the point.

Big data week

There won’t be much going on in the corporate world this week, and the Financial Conduct Authority’s diary for the next seven days looks a tad sparse, too. (“There are no publications or announcements for the operational note this week,” it reads.)

But if you like economic statistics (and who doesn’t?) there’s a packed fixture list. On Thursday, it’s UK manufacturing PMI figures, which “will provide a further pointer on whether the UK’s export-focused manufacturers continue to benefit from past, post-Brexit vote, falls in the pound”, Investec reckons. There’s also the GfK consumer confidence survey for May, providing the latest look at how perky the British punter is feeling – what with inflation starting to outpace wage rises.

Obviously, all that has an inevitable Brexit angle, but that may also be true for the big US economic data announcement of the week. The non-farm payrolls (a measure of the number of people in employment, excluding a few sectors such as agriculture) are out just after supposed comments from President Trump about Brexit costing US jobs. That would seemingly be a U-turn, you’ll be astonished to learn.

Doing the sums

As the political parties concentrate on the final full week of campaigning, currency traders will be punting on what the election means for the pound.

One explanation given for dips in sterling’s value against the dollar last week was traders getting spooked by a Labour boost in the polls. As a rule, City traders tend not to view a potential Labour government with much enthusiasm.

Still, to be fair to them, traders’ lives tend to work out slightly less disastrously if they can view everything as a binary choice (lager chaser or another sambuca?), which is why there may be some concern for how they’ll play the currency markets this week, following Friday’s assessment by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The thinktank reckons neither of the two main parties “has set out an honest set of choices”, with the Tory focus on cutting immigration risking a £6bn hit to the exchequer, while continued austerity could prove impossible to deliver without causing serious damage to services.

Meanwhile, the IFS said that Labour’s proposals would raise taxes to record levels for peacetime, while the party’s plans for taxing the rich may “not raise anything like” the expected £48.6bn and could be “economically damaging”. Developing.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

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