Just another blue Monday | Financial Times


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Hello and welcome to the working week.

How are feeling? Are you ready for Blue Monday, the day that falls this year at the start of this week, calculated by former Cardiff University psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005 to be the most depressing 24 hours in the calendar? Arnall’s damning conclusion about the third Monday in the first month (which he has since tried to counter) was based on analysis of data, such as consumer surveys, divorce filings and weather reports. The main conclusion many of us draw from this analysis is that not all academic research is useful to society.

If you are a world leader or senior executive at least you have the World Economic Forum in Davos to distract you from the January blues. The FT Live team will also be at the Swiss resort town, hosting several in-person and digital events in which leaders in policy, business and finance will share insights into the big issues being debated. You can view the events and register for free here.

For the rest of us, we will just have to live with the grim economic news going into 2023 and hope things can only get better.

If you’re in the UK, the dominant reality is mass strike action. This might not yet be near to being a second “winter of discontent”, at least according to my colleague Jonathan Guthrie, but another strike ballot among ambulance workers is due this week while the University and College Union will announce a wave of 18 strike days covering 150 British universities in February and March after its members voted last week to reject their latest pay offer. More details of this week’s walkouts below.

The Gordian knot of a problem that is the Northern Ireland Protocol will rear its head again with Thursday’s deadline for the restoration of power-sharing at Stormont. Do not expect this to make you feel better about life or cross-border politics.

Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade ruling by the US Supreme Court that enshrined Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion. This is of course a very live debate — stretching even into the boardroom — in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the 1973 decision. Pro-life campaigners will march in Washington on Friday, sparking further commentary on a fundamental US political faultline.

The week will end with another man-made day, this time based on astronomy: the lunar new year celebration. This year’s mass movement of people to visit families and friends celebrating the occasion will take place under the shadow of rising Covid-19 levels in China. Concerns about the impact on the spread of illness are high.

Something to look forward to a bit further ahead is an evening with Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf. Join Martin and other leading economic thinkers online for a subscriber-exclusive event on January 31, debating the big changes required at this time of great global uncertainty. The discussion coincides with the publication of Martin’s new book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. Register for free

Thank you for your ongoing encouragements and suggestions about this newsletter. Email me at jonathan.moules@ft.com or (if you have received this in your inbox) hit reply.

Economic data

It will be a busy run of data from China, the UK and the US this week including inflation figures, retail sales and the Fed’s Beige Book on the economic outlook. The European Central Bank will publish the minutes of its December meeting on Thursday and various central bankers will be discussing regional and global economics at Davos.

The UK inflation rate will be updated on Wednesday. The outlook is not good, particularly after recent comments by Bank of England chief economist Huw Pill. Ken Murphy, chief executive of the UK’s largest food retailer Tesco, even warned that UK inflation could climb further. Last month’s release showed that the cost of living as defined by the consumer price index (CPI) was 10.7 per cent in November, down from 11.1 per cent in October.

Companies

We are in the thick of the first earnings season of 2023 and it’s a smorgasbord of companies, particularly from Europe and (when Wall Street returns from the Martin Luther King Day break) the US.

Online food ordering services Just Eat Takeaway and Deliveroo will update investors on their festive sales on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both are under pressure to deliver improved profitability. The end of lockdown was not good for the food ordering apps as customers chose to return to restaurants.

The question now is whether recession will help these companies — as more people get takeaways instead of eating out — or hit them further as customers return reluctantly to their own kitchens. Efforts to increase sales of groceries, through partnerships with supermarkets and convenience apps such as Getir, may give Deliveroo and JET a slice of the home-cooking market too.

Last year was one to forget for Ocado Retail. The online supermarket, jointly owned by Ocado — which reports numbers on Tuesday — and Marks and Spencer, parted company with chief executive Melanie Smith and warned on profits several times. Its sales are expected to fall for the first time in its history.

At its last update in September, Ocado said it expected strong growth in customers and sales growth of about 5 per cent for the fourth quarter. That would be similar to the growth posted last week by Tesco and J Sainsbury, after British shoppers splashed out for the first Christmas in two years not to be disrupted by Covid-19.

US airlines are reporting fourth-quarter and full-year earnings as public attention focuses on technical glitches at low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines and the country’s top aviation regulator that caused high-profile meltdowns. But for most airlines the news is still likely to be rosy, as (despite the increased interest in private jets post Covid) demand for commercial air travel drives profits.

United Airlines will report on Wednesday. Expect chief executive officer Scott Kirby to have a few tart words for the US Federal Aviation Administration, which grounded planes for two hours on Wednesday when a damaged database file caused a safety system to fail. He said over the summer that the agency needed more air traffic controllers.

Key economic and company reports

Here is a more complete list of what to expect in terms of company reports and economic data this week.

Monday

  • India, December wholesale price index (WPI) inflation rate data

  • Results: Ashmore Q2 trading update, Rio Tinto Q4 operations review (Tuesday AM local time in Sydney, Australia), UMC 4Q

Tuesday

  • Canada, December consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate data

  • China, December retail sales and industrial production figures

  • China, Q4 GDP figures

  • EU, Ecofin meetings

  • Germany, December harmonised index of consumer prices (HICP) and CPI inflation rate data

  • Germany, ZEW economic sentiment survey

  • UK, monthly labour market statistics

  • UK, December insolvency statistics

  • Dominic Paul becomes Whitbread chief executive, succeeding Alison Brittain, who leaves after seven years in the top job

  • Results: Alliance Pharma FY trading update, Citizens Financial Group Q4, Crest Nicholson FY, Experian Q3 trading update, Goldman Sachs Q4, Hays Q2 trading update, Morgan Stanley Q4, Lindt & Sprungli sales update, Ocado Q4 trading statement, THG Q4 trading update, Wise Q3 trading update

Wednesday

  • EU, final core December HICP inflation rate data

  • International Energy Agency monthly oil market report

  • Japan, Bank of Japan rate-setting meeting announcement

  • UK, December CPI and producer price index (PPI) inflation rate data

  • UK, November house price inflation index

  • US, December retail sales figures

  • US, December PPI inflation rate data

  • US, Federal Reserve issues its Beige Book on economic conditions

  • US, December industrial production figures

  • Results: Barry Callebaut Q1 sales figures, Burberry Q3 trading update, Charles Schwab Q4, Currys trading update, Galliford Try trading update, JB Hunt Transport Services Q4, Just Eat Takeaway Q4 trading update, Liontrust Asset Management Q3 trading update, Pearson trading update, Qinetiq Q3 trading update, PNC Financial Services Group Q4, Prologis Q4, Rathbones Q4 trading update, Richemont Q3 trading update, United Airlines Q4, Vistry Group trading update, WHSmith Christmas trading statement

Thursday

  • EU, ECB’s December monetary policy committee meeting minutes published

  • UK, RICS house price survey

  • Results: Boohoo trading statement, Centamin Q4, Deliveroo Q4 trading update, Discover Financial Services Q4, Kier trading update, Netflix Q4, Northern Trust Q4, Premier Foods Q3 trading update, Procter & Gamble Q3, Sage Q1 trading update, Workspace Group Q3 trading update

Friday

  • China, monetary policy rate-setting announcement

  • Germany, December PPI inflation rate data

  • Japan, December CPI inflation rate data (AM local time)

  • UK, GfK consumer confidence survey

  • UK, December trade data

  • Results: Close Brothers trading update, Schlumberger Q4, State Street Q4

World events

Finally, here is a rundown of other events and milestones this week.

Monday

  • Australia, the annual tennis grand slam begins with the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne

  • Belarus, Belarus and Russia begin joint aviation drills of air divisions as part of the two countries’ regional grouping of troops

  • Switzerland, World Economic Forum opens in Davos, bringing together world leaders and business heads to discuss pressing geopolitical issues

  • US, Martin Luther King Day national holiday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Belgium, Nato military chiefs of defence gather in Brussels for a two-day meeting, including counterparts invited from membership applicants Finland and Sweden.

  • UK, members of the Royal College of Nursing begin a 48-hour walkout, the latest strike in ongoing industrial action over pay. Also, Unison members at the Environment Agency are staging a one-day strike in a separate pay dispute.

Thursday

  • France, Billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, is due to appear at the court of appeals in Chambéry, in south-east France, following Ukraine’s request to extradite him. The businessman is wanted on suspicion of embezzlement and money-laundering.

  • UK, deadline for restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland, after a second six-week extension by the Westminster government last month

Friday

  • Tunisia, parliamentary run-off elections due to be held

  • US, anti-abortion demonstrators plan to march on Washington for the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade. Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the case being first settled by the Supreme Court.

Saturday

  • China, new year’s eve markets closed

  • UK, former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Stop the War Coalition Trade Union Conference in London

Sunday

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