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The Week Ahead: UK jobs; eurozone Q1 GDP; easyJet, Walmart results

The first major events to look out for this week come on Tuesday, when the UK releases unemployment and earnings figures for March and the eurozone confirms its Q1 gross domestic product (GDP). Tuesday also sees the release of retail sales from China and the US. Indeed, US retail is a key theme this week, with major chains Home Depot, Target and Walmart all set to bag up their first-quarter results. In the UK, easyJet and BT are among the big names due to report earnings.

Our top three economic and company events in order of importance are:

1. UK unemployment, average earnings (March) – Tuesday

As expected, the Bank of England raised interest rates for the twelfth time in a row on Thursday, lifting the base rate by 0.25 percentage points to 4.5% in its latest bid to tame inflation. The Bank also said it expects to raise rates again in the coming months. 

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has warned workers not to ask their bosses for big pay rises, fearing that inflation-matching wage bumps could fuel a wage-price spiral. His wish seems to have been granted. While inflation is running at more than 10%, average weekly earnings excluding bonuses increased only 6.6% in the year to February, flat compared to January and down only slightly from the high of 6.7% in December. Indeed, pay growth has lagged the consumer price index (CPI) since October 2021. Economists expect that earnings growth eased further in March. 

Unemployment climbed to 3.8% in February, up from 3.7% in each of the four preceding months, partly because people returned to the labour market as cost-of-living pressures persisted. The unemployment rate is expected to have remained stable at 3.8% in March. 

2. Eurozone Q1 GDP – Tuesday

Recent Q1 GDP numbers from Spain, Italy, Germany and France had suggested that the eurozone economy was proving resilient to high inflation as a mild winter helped keep energy costs down. 

However, the flash estimate of euro area Q1 GDP that came out at the end of April was a little underwhelming. It showed that seasonally adjusted GDP increased just 0.1% in Q1 compared to the previous quarter. Growth in Q4 was revised downwards to a decrease of 0.1%. 

The final estimate of Q1 GDP growth isn’t likely to spring any big surprises. Looking ahead, it’s possible that weakness in the manufacturing sector and further ECB rate rises could snuff out an economic recovery in Q2.

3. easyJet half-year results – Thursday

Airline stocks have made steady gains so far this year. The easyJet share price, up approximately 50% year-to-date, hit a one-year high of 582.71p during intraday trading on 31 March as investors anticipated an increase in air travel after the disruptions that hit airports last year. 

The airline’s trading update for the six months to the end of March, published on 18 April, showed that the half-year loss was less than expected at about £400m. Passenger numbers increased 35% year-on-year during the period, while revenue per seat was up 43% year-on-year. Group revenue for the first half of the year is expected to come in at £2.69bn according to the statement, while costs are expected to rise to around £3.1bn due to higher fuel prices. In Q2, easyJet’s load factor – a measure of seating capacity that has been filled with passengers – was 88%, up from 78% a year earlier.  

For the full year, easyJet said it “anticipates exceeding current market profit expectations of £260m”. The company reiterated its guidance on capacity, saying it expects to fly 56m seats in the second half of the year, which would represent a 9% year-on-year increase. The business also raised its full-year growth expectations for easyJet holidays to 60% year-on-year, up from a previous estimate of 50%.  

More key events

Our calendar of selected upcoming economic and company announcements:

MONDAY 15 MAY

No major scheduled events

TUESDAY 16 MAY

UK unemployment, average earnings (March); Eurozone Q1 GDP

See our top three events, above

China retail sales (April)

Retail sales in China increased 10.6% year-on-year in March, up from 3.5% in the combined January-February period, as consumer activity rebounded after three consecutive months of negative readings at the end of 2022. 

March saw the fastest growth in retail sales since June 2021, raising hopes that consumers in China could help support the global economy’s post-lockdown recovery. Positive updates from the likes of luxury goods providers LVMH, Hermes and Kering have also fuelled optimism that the Chinese consumer is back, although recent PMI numbers suggest that China’s rebound may have stalled. We’ll find out whether that’s the case next month. 

As for the April retail sales figures, estimates suggest that growth could come in at around 21.1%, which be the strongest increase since March 2021. Growth in industrial production is also expected to accelerate from March’s 3.9% increase, possibly expanding 10.1%.

US retail sales (April)

US retail sales have proved reasonably resilient this year, growing 2.4% month-on-month in January, posting zero growth in February, and declining 0.4% in March. More broadly, the US economy appears to be in robust shape. Inflation has eased this year, the labour market has remained strong, and company earnings have been broadly positive. 

All this augurs well for upcoming earnings announcements from retailers Walmart and Target. That said, the recent turmoil in the US banking sector may have made some consumers more cautious, possibly affecting their spending patterns. Furthermore, one-year inflation expectations have jumped to a six-month high of 4.6%. These concerns could be reflected in the retail sales figures for April.

Home Depot Q1 results

Shares of Home Depot fell sharply in February after the home improvement retailer posted a disappointing set of Q4 results, though the stock found a short-term base just above $280 at the end of March. 

The Q4 results showed that comparable store sales fell 0.3%, against an expectation for growth of 0.3%. Other than that, though, the numbers weren’t too bad, with net sales coming in at $35.83bn, while profits beat expectations at $3.30 a share. 

The outlook, however, was disappointing. Home Depot forecast flat sales growth for 2023 and said operating margin could come in below 14.5% due to higher wage costs. For Q1, revenue is expected to come in at $38.6bn, with profit worth $3.85 a share.

WEDNESDAY 17 MAY

Eurozone inflation (April)

This month the European Central Bank (ECB) raised interest rates again to maintain its fight against high inflation, but eased the pace of the increase. The main policy rate was raised by 0.25 percentage points to 3.25%, after a half-point increase in March. 

The ECB will be hoping that its rate hikes soon begin to have the desired effect of lowering inflation. However, the headline rate of inflation, euro area CPI, is expected to have increased to 7% in the year to April, up from 6.9% in March. Although ECB president Christine Lagarde has said that policymakers will not shy away from further rate hikes aimed at taming inflation, sharp declines in producer prices suggest that consumer price inflation could start to ease in the months ahead.

Target Q1 results

After hitting six-month highs at the start of February, Target shares slipped on news of a sharp fall in Q4 profits later that month. While sales in Q4 increased 1.2% to $30.98bn, pushing full-year sales up 2.8% to $107.59bn, profits fell 41% to $1.89 a share, or $876m. Annual profit came in at $2.78bn, or $5.98 a share, a decline of 57.6%. 

Higher costs have been the retailer’s main problem. Costs rose 9.7% to $82.2bn over the year, perhaps playing a role in Target’s underwhelming Q1 guidance. Sales growth in Q1 is expected to fall somewhere within a range between a low single-digit decline and a low single-digit increase. Profit for the quarter is expected to be between $1.50 to $1.90 a share. 

For the full-year Target is expecting its sales performance to be similar to that of Q1. Consensus forecasts for same-store sales point to a potential 1.3% rise in revenue to $25.2bn, and a profit of $1.79 a share.

THURSDAY 18 MAY

easyJet half-year results

See our top three events, above

BT Group full-year results

BT shares have made decent gains since hitting a two-year low in December. The art of meeting expectations appears to have driven this outperformance, with the shares up over 25% year-to-date. 

In Q3, BT’s adjusted revenue came in slightly below expectations at £5.21bn, down 2.9%, while adjusted EBITDA increased in line with expectations to £2.01bn. For the first nine months of the year, profit after tax was running at £1.32bn, on revenue of £15.59bn, with adjusted EBITDA rising 3% to £5.88bn. 

BT reaffirmed its full-year guidance, saying full-year revenue should come in at £20.53bn, with full-year adjusted EBITDA at £7.87bn.

Burberry full-year results

The last few weeks have seen a raft of luxury retailers report strong Q1 numbers. The likes of LVMH, Kering, and Hermes all posted strong rebounds in Q1 sales due to a recovery in their Asian markets as life in China and Japan got back to something like normal post-Covid. 

Burberry shares hit record highs in April, driven by optimism over China’s economic recovery. The fashion label’s full-year numbers are expected to show revenue coming in at £3.1bn, even though sales in China fell 23% in Q3 and 19% in the quarter before that. 

Despite weakness in China, one of its core markets, Burberry’s half-year sales rose 5%. In Q3 same-store sales increased 1%. The Q4 and full-year numbers are expected to show Q4 revenue at £812m.

Walmart Q1 results

After Walmart reported its Q4 numbers in February, the shares fell sharply at first before rebounding off five-month lows and the 200-day simple moving average. The shares went on to reach an 11-month high in April. 

The initial share price fall was somewhat surprising given that the retailer had enjoyed a record quarter in Q4, with revenue coming in at $164.05bn. However, the weaker outlook may have concerned some investors. US comparable sales rose by over 8% in Q4, while profit came in at $1.71 a share, building on a solid Q3. As for the outlook, Walmart said it expected Q1 sales growth of 5%, and profit of between $1.25 and $1.30 a share. This view is supported by consensus estimates, which put expected revenue at $148.36bn and profit at $1.30 a share. Full-year earnings per share are expected to be between $5.90 and $6.05, lower than last year’s $6.29.

FRIDAY 19 MAY

No major scheduled events

INDEX DIVIDEND SCHEDULE

Dividend payments from an index's constituent shares can affect your trading account. View this week's index dividend schedule.

SELECTED COMPANY RESULTS

MONDAY 15 MAY RESULTS
Canoo (US) Q1
CentralNic Group (UK) Q1
Diploma (UK) Half-year
TUESDAY 16 MAY RESULTS
Boohoo Group (UK) Full-year
Britvic (UK) Half-year
Home Depot (US) Q1
Hyve Group (UK) Half-year
Imperial Brands (UK) Half-year
Land Securities Group (UK) Full-year
Marston's (UK) Half-year
Renew Holdings (UK) Half-year
Vodafone Group (UK) Full-year
WEDNESDAY 17 MAY RESULTS
British Land Co (UK) Full-year
Cisco Systems (US) Q3
Dynatrace (US) Q4
Jack in the Box (US) Q2
Sage Group (UK) Half-year
Synopsys (US) Q2
Target Corp (US) Q1
TJX Cos (US) Q1
Triumph Group (US) Q4
THURSDAY 18 MAY RESULTS
BT Group (UK) Full-year
Burberry Group (UK) Full-year
easyJet (UK) Half-year
Helios Towers (UK) Q1
National Grid (UK) Full-year
Premier Foods (UK) Full-year
Ross Stores (US) Q1
Walmart (US) Q1
FRIDAY 19 MAY RESULTS
Foot Locker (US) Q1
RBC Bearings (US) Q4

Note: While we check all dates carefully to ensure that they are correct at the time of writing, company announcements are subject to change.


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