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The week ahead: US Fed & ECB rate decisions; Ted Baker, Ocado & Superdry results

Watch our week ahead video preview, read our pick of the top stories to look out for this week (8-13 December), and view our key company earnings schedule.

Chief market analyst, Michael Hewson, looks back at the latest trade developments and the outlook for sterling against a backdrop of the upcoming UK election. He also looks ahead to the latest central bank meetings from the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank.

China trade balance (Nov)

Sunday: Recent improvements in purchasing manager indices (PMI) data would appear to suggest that the Chinese economy is starting to show signs of picking up, as recent stimulus starts to increase domestic demand. There is little in the way of evidence that this is rippling out elsewhere in the global economy, though there does appear to be some uplift in manufacturing. Exports data will be closely scrutinised for signs of improvement, though judging by recent data from South Korea and Japan, any improvement is likely to come in trade data towards Europe and the US.   

US Federal Reserve rate decision

Wednesday: When the Federal Reserve cut rates in October for the third time in a row, it was widely expected that we could see another one this month. For several reasons, it now looks unlikely to happen. Not only is US data not showing any significant signs of further weakness, but various Fed policymakers have said that the central bank doesn’t need to cut further, with some even saying the October move may have been premature.    

Ted Baker Q3 results

Wednesday: Having warned on profit again in October, we saw further weakness last week after Ted Baker reported that its inventory estimates had been overstated by more than £20m; sending the shares to their lowest levels since 2009. The brand’s implosion has been nothing short of spectacular in the last two years, having seen its founder Ray Kelvin depart earlier this year over improper behaviour, the company has lurched from one crisis to another. Its Q3 update will need to be a good one to arrest the slide in investor confidence so far this year. The company has signed some positive deals in the past 12 months, though events in Hong Kong, where retail sales activity has collapsed, aren’t helping. There may be further bad news in this week’s update, though any downside could be constrained by takeover speculation.  

UK general election 

Thursday: With only days to go until the election, financial markets appear to be pricing in the prospect that the Conservatives will be able to win enough seats to gain a majority. This of course assumes that all the new voters who signed up to vote for the very first time, vote along the same lines as recent opinion polls suggest. As we know from the 2017 experience, this is not the slam-dunk some think it might be. With traditional party allegiances breaking down, it wouldn’t take much for the opinion pollsters to end up red-faced, and to bring about a rapid repricing in the wake of any surprise exit poll. Thursday’s exit poll will be the first indication that we get as to which direction voters have decided to break. We should also be mindful of the Brexit referendum in 2016, which financial markets got completely wrong. There’s still all to play for. 

European Central Bank rate decision

Thursday: This will be Christine Lagarde’s first meeting as ECB president, and while expectations are low that the governing council will adopt any new policy, markets will be looking for clues as to the style of press conference the president will host. It was notable that previous incumbent, Mario Draghi, was able to fend off or use innovative responses to a range of technical questions on policy issues. Christine Lagarde will be ill-equipped to deal with these type of questions given her background as a lawyer, so she will need guidance from her fellow governing council members when she hosts her first press conference. Mr Draghi usually had Luis De Guindos sitting next to him, however he isn’t a central banker either, which means that someone who understands central bank policy will need to be on hand to answer technical questions on monetary policy when they arise. Chief economist Philip Lane could draw the short straw in this regard.

Purplebricks half-year results

Thursday: Is the new CEO of Purplebricks, Vic Darvey, the key to turning things around? After a promising start in 2015, the company has run into trouble – having to sell its overseas business in the US and Australia to stem big losses. Last month, the company reported it had returned to profit, with revenue expected to come in flat, compared to a year ago. Management also said they expected to maintain market share at 4%, while its business in Canada is also performing as expected. Despite this, the shares are still down over 30% year to date, and with the UK housing market already in a bit of a slow patch, they will have to go some to meet new CEO Vic Darvey’s target to get to 10% market share any time soon. 

Ocado Q4 results

Thursday: Ocado has seen decent gains this year despite fires at two of its distribution warehouses, which hit output earlier in the year. In July, management put the cost of the fires at more than £100m, although that hasn’t stopped Ocado ramping up its growth plans. Only last month the company signed another deal, this time in Asia with Japan’s Aeon supermarket chain, which is expected to see sales capacity rise by £4.2bn by 2030. The company is looking to raise up to £500bn as it focuses on boosting its capacity to fulfil these deals.  

Superdry half-year results

Thursday: Superdry is yet another retailer that has had its fair share of problems. Earlier this year, Julian Dunkerton managed to regain his place on the board, prompting the existing board to resign en masse. Since then the shares have broadly traded sideways, as investors weigh up whether he can deliver a plan to turn the business around. In May, the company posted yet another profit warning – the third in 12 months. However, there are signs of a recovery, but this year is likely to be a period of consolidation. In its most recent trading statement, there was a fall of 11.3% to £367.8m, with stores, e-commerce and wholesales all underperforming as the company worked off legacy stock. The decision to focus less on discounting has seen margins improve, and this week’s interim statement is expected to see the delivery of a full review of the first-half profit and cash performance.   

Index dividend schedule

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

Selected UK & US company announcements

Monday 9 DecemberResults
Ascena (US)Q1
Avid Bioservices (US)Q2
Chewy (US)Q3
Stitch Fix (US)Q1
Thor Industries (US)Q1
Toll Brothers (US)Q4
Tuesday 10 DecemberResults
Ashtead (UK)Half-year
AutoZone (US)Q1
Designer Brands (US)Q3
GameStop (US)Q3
HD Supply (US)Q3
Liquidity Services (US)Q4
Ollie's Bargain Outlet (US)Q3
Photo-Me International (UK)Half-year
RWS (UK)Full-year
Wednesday 11 DecemberResults
Nordson (US)Q4
Oxford Industries (US)Q3
Stagecoach (UK)Half-year
Tailored Brands (US)Q3
Ted Baker (UK)Q3
United Natural Foods (US)Q1
Thursday 12 December Results
Adobe (US)Q4
Broadcom (US)Q4
Costco Wholesale (US)Q1
Dixons Carphone (UK)Half-year
Ocado (UK)Q4
Panhandle Oil and Gas (US)Q4
Purplebricks (UK)Half-year
Superdry (UK)Half-year
Tungsten (UK)Half-year
Versarien (UK)Half-year
Watches of Switzerland (UK)Q2
Friday 13 DecemberResults
Hollywood Bowl (UK)Full-year

Company announcements are subject to change. All the events listed above were correct at the time of writing.

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