1) Fed meeting – 10/06 – the latest Fed meeting isn’t expected to offer up too many surprises in terms of interest rate policy. There has been a great deal of speculation about the prospect that the US could go down the negative rate route, despite a number of various Fed policymakers pushing back on the prospect of the idea. In recent comments Fed Chair Jay Powell has suggested instead of negative rates, the central bank was more minded to look at ways to control the yield curve by way attempting to cap yields. One of the main problems in having low rates is a flat yield curve. There has been talk that the Fed could control the slope of the curve, thus relieving pressure on bank balance sheets by keeping short rates down, while allowing longer terms rates more latitude to rise. The health of the banking system in the US is one of many areas that has Fed officials worried, particularly if the economic slump is prolonged, and even more so in light of the recent unrest across the US, which could cause more businesses to fail in the short term.
2) China trade (May) – 07/06 – the most recent China trade numbers for April showed little evidence of a recovery in economic activity despite the lifting of lockdown back at the beginning of March. Exports did improve rising 3.5%, though this was probably helped by the shipping of medical products like PPE as the rest of the world wrestled with the virus while in various states of lockdown. In worrying signs that internal demand remains weak imports slid much more than expected, falling sharply, by 14.2%, suggesting that while the economy was reopening activity was far from normal, with consumers behaving more cautiously. The latest numbers for May, particularly on imports where demand inside China has continued to look weak, will be particularly instructive in terms of how the Chinese consumer is recovering as we head into the summer months.
3) OPEC+ meeting – 06/06/09/06 – when OPEC+ agreed to production cuts of almost 10m barrels a day from May 1st there was some scepticism that the deal would stick, given previous examples of non-compliance. It soon became apparent that some countries were falling short on the compliance front, however that didn’t stop oil output from falling in May to its lowest level since 2002, helping to drive Brent prices back to $40 a barrel. The biggest drop in supply came from Saudi Arabia, which helped pull oil prices from the lows that saw US WTI hit a negative price of -$37 a barrel. As OPEC+ members get set to meet again this coming week there is rising irritation amongst some members about the lack of compliance from countries like Iraq and Nigeria who haven’t lived up to their part of the bargain. This week’s meeting is likely to determine how much long these agreed cuts will last with consensus between Russia and Saudi Arabia for another month, however there is growing annoyance about the continued flouting by smaller countries which could see a possible extension deal flounder unless the smaller countries start to live up to their end of the bargain. A failure to agree a deal extension could well see oil prices slip back.
4) UK Industrial/Manufacturing Production, GDP (Apr) - 12/06 – with the UK economy shutdown for all of April, these numbers aren’t expected to be pretty, though in comparison to the services sector there was still some limited economic activity taking place, if the PMI numbers are any kind of accurate guide. Expectations are for industrial production to decline 13.9%, and manufacturing production to decline 15.5%. The GDP numbers are also expected to be horrendous, with a monthly decline in April estimated to be -18%, from -5.8% in March, while the rolling three-month number is expected to slide from 0.1% to -10%.
5) EU Q1 GDP – 09/06 – the most recent revision to EU Q1 GDP showed a contraction of 3.8%. This final revision isn’t expected to be significantly different to the last one, with the only surprise that it’s not worse, given the in excess of 5% contractions seen in in the economies of France, Italy and Spain in the first quarter of this year.
6) Germany Trade (Apr) – 09/06 – as with China in March the picture for trade in Germany is likely to be similarly true in that we could well see some sharp drops in both imports and exports. The March numbers showed sharp falls in both exports, a fall of 11.7%, as well as a decline in imports of 5%. With most of the economy locked down in April we are likely to see similar weakness at the beginning of Q2. As poor as the March data was for Germany the economy only contracted 2.2%. The damage is likely to be much worse for Q2 and the latest April trade numbers could well reflect the collapse in demand across Europe, both inside Germany and outside as well.
7) British American Tobacco Q2 20 – 09/06 – income investors have traditionally gravitated towards sin stocks in years gone by, despite various restrictions on when and where tobacco is advertised, given that revenues and dividends have generally held up fairly well. Even the vaping and e-cigarette industry, which could have proved to be a problem saw the big tobacco company’s get in on the act. This blew up in the industry’s face during 2019 over concerns about health and respiratory problems related to the use of e-cigarettes in the younger age cohort of 18-35 which reported lung problems. As a result of these concerns BAT said they expected product volumes to decline around 4% in 2020, when they last updated investors in March.
8) TalkTalk Telecom FY20 – 11/06 – having postponed the sale of FibreNation just prior to last year’s general election, the transaction finally went through in the first quarter of this year, for the sum of £200m. The timing could not have been better given the shutdown of the UK economy, giving as it did TalkTalk a decent buffer to its balance sheet for the uncertainty to come. The company still needs to accelerate its Full Fibre strategy and in Q3 the company added another 148k new clients. Of those new clients 42% took the faster fibre product, however the company still needs to do its best to improve its infrastructure after an outage at the end of May caused a lot of negative headlines for the firm. A lot of ISP’s have reported an increase in home usage over the period of the last few weeks and investors will be hoping that TalkTalk will benefit from that in terms of new clients as well as package upgrades.
9) AMC Entertainment Holdings Q1 20 – 08/06 – with most of the world in lockdown, cinema chains, amongst many other in the hospitality and retail sector have been on the front line when it comes to job losses, as well as concerns about their long-term viability in the post Covid-19 era. In a new age of social distancing cinemas and theatres will have to rethink visitor numbers when they look at reopening their businesses. AMC may have found a route out of its problem if recent news reports are any guide that Amazon is looking to buy the business outright. On the face it this seems a rather strange move, which probably means there is little truth in it, however given the amount of money Amazon has, it might make sense given that Amazon is making more and more of its own content. Having a delivery mechanism that allows this content displayed on a big screen to Prime subscription members might make sense, as it would allow Amazon to control the numbers, and make a more rounded movie experience. Last week AMC outlined the size of the fiscal hole it was in. Having come off a Q4 loss of $13.5m, the company announced it was taking a Q1 impairment charge of between $1.8bn and $2.1bn, which would equate to a net loss of over $2.1bn. Even without the impairments the company would have made a loss of $224.5m, with revenues sliding to $941.5m. Management have said further delays in reopening could well see the company struggle to survive, and even if they do, they may not get the footfall in any case. The shares are currently trading near $5, well over 80% down from their $35 peaks back in 2016.
10) Brown Forman Q4 20 – 09/06 – the Brown-Forman share pricehas recovered fairly well from the declines seen in the March sell-off. The company has managed to navigate the increase in tariffs that it was on the receiving end of in the US/EU trade spat. In the first half of the year Brown Forman was able to report a 5% increase in net sales to the tune of $1.8bn, driven largely by a decent US market performance, driven by good sales of its new Tennessee Apple brand. In May the company announced that it would be paying a dividend of $0.174c a share, due on 1st July, despite revising its full year outlook lower in March, as a result of slowdowns in its international markets. In Q3 the company saw EPS come in at $0.48c a share, however in Q4, due to the various global lockdowns this is expected to fall back to around $0.29c a share.
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