Business: Agenda: City payouts will be no jokeSIMON GOODLEYGuardian
MAKING THE NEWS
Humorists get ready for bank bonus season
The problem with banker jokes, as the old saying goes, is that bankers don't think they're funny while normal people don't think they're jokes.
Vince Cable once tried one (with limited success) but his travails have failed to deter other thrusting wags from having a crack at the genre, so expect a few new efforts this week as the major American banks report earnings.
There will be outings for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Bank of America, who will also tell us how much their jumped-up bookmakers are set to trouser this year.
Broadly, bonuses are expected to be down - possibly by as much as 50% in some London-based banks, where the courageous actions of a few shareholders last spring have meant obscene awards are (currently) out of vogue, especially if bonuses are larger than dividends. Meanwhile, the Financial Services Authority is telling the sector's remuneration committees that bonuses need to reflect recent scandals - of which, you might have noticed, there have been a few.
Still, lower bonuses does not mean no bonuses, and recent analysis by the Guardian showed that the top 1,500 UK bank staff received an average of pounds 1m in 2011. Ironically, bankers find that figure amusing - while most normal people know it's a joke. Comment, page 42
You still wouldn't bet against IG Group
When Stuart Wheeler founded the Investors Gold Index in the 1970s, it allowed punters to have a bet on the price of gold bullion when you could end up in prison for buying the real thing. His clever idea grew into what we now know as the spread-betting giant IG Group, which made Wheeler so rich that he could afford to attempt restorations of crumbling old relics such as Kent's Chilham Castle in 2002 and the Conservative party in 2001.
Wheeler no longer has any of his shares, but IG's success has continued. Still, after a stellar start to the financial crisis, when volatile markets meant more punters fancied a bet, the calmer past few months have started to hit IG's top line. It will release interim figures on Tuesday, when it is expected to say conditions remain tough, and indeed Investec has already cut 2013 revenue expectations by 6%.
That sounds like bad news, but it may not really prove to be. IG has loyal customers and is growing in emerging markets - which means it isn't finding life nearly as tough as the smaller rivals from whom it is stealing market share. Those gains will come in handy when conditions improve. Some bookies, it seems, really do always win.
The old order changeth on the high street
Just how bad can the high street get? We'll get some clues this week as the Office for National Statistics gives us news on retail sales, while Tuesday will see December's inflation figures, which look likely to have eroded consumer spending power further.
Currently there is a growing consensus that inflation - which is standing at 2.7% on the CPI measure - could climb back above 3% fairly soon (if it hasn't done already), and if the economists break their run and call it correctly, chancellor George Osborne will be receiving an explanation on Bank of England notepaper presently.
All that comes against last week's news of the collapse of camera chain Jessops, while we also get updates this week from retailers ranging from the embattled to the recovering, as Burberry, Dixons, Home Retail Group, Mothercare and Halfords report.
Some thinkers have begun arguing that the high street is being blown over not just by economic woe, but also by Schumpeter's gale - a period of "creative destruction" whereby an old economic order is replaced by the new.
And who knows? These intellectuals might even be right and we really will require fewer shops in the future. Whatever, whether we need fewer shops or not, that's certainly what we're getting.
The Eddie Stobart trucking logo went up in smoke last week as one of its famous lorries burst into flames on the M6. The driver escaped unhurt - and is presumably awaiting "a new truck for my deliveries", as the firm's charity Christmas single puts it - but investors in Stobart Group will be praying the pictures prove an inapt metaphor for its trading statement on Thursday.
The figures could give us further clues about just how woeful Christmas was for most retailers - as Stobart gets to shift much of their stock up and down our motorways - and we'll also get news on how its other businesses are motoring.
Apart from the well-known logistics arm, Stobart also has divisions dealing with property, civil engineering and biomass, where it supplies lower-carbon fuels such as "life-expired" timber, low-grade softwood and waste materials. It also has an air division and passenger numbers at its "London" Southend airport are climbing.
Confused by the mix? Even some at the company are. As one adviser puts it: "The air division has been going like a train."