Read our pick of the top stories to look out for this week (30 March - 3 April), and view our key company earnings schedule.
UK final Q4 gross domestic product
Tuesday: In what will probably be one of the last relevant pieces of data this week, the final adjustment of the last quarter of UK economic activity in 2019 is likely to be confirmed at 0%, after a late recovery following the December election. There was some hope of a rebound at the beginning of Q1; however, these green shoots look likely to be snuffed out due to the impact of coronavirus on March’s economic activity. We’ll also get an insight into mortgage approvals and lending for February, an area of the economy that is likely to suffer a significant slowdown in the coming weeks as consumers pull in their horns from a financial point of view.
Global manufacturing PMIs (March)
Wednesday: In February, the latest China data showed the shocking impact of the one-month lockdown on its economy. Last week, we saw some ugly flash purchasing manager indices (PMIs) numbers from the UK, France and Germany. If anything, Wednesday’s data is likely to be even worse given that it will include the remainder of March. The manufacturing readings had already been a weak spot for Europe, so a poor number won’t be a surprise. It’s the US economy that is likely to be the laggard here, but at some point we could see a sudden stop. Keep an eye on the ISM manufacturing reports as they will offer the main clues as to how recent events have hit the US economy.
Saga full-year results
Thursday: We’ve already seen the impact of coronavirus on the travel industry with respect to airlines. The cruise ship sector has also taken a beating, with Carnival suspending cruise operations for the next few months. Saga is in a similar boat, so to speak, given it runs travel operations and cruises for the over 50s. It’s this demographic that has been worse-affected by the virus, and there has to be some concern as to whether Saga will be able to recover once the crisis is over.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Q2 results
Thursday: US pharmaceutical chain, Walgreens Boots Alliance, has seen its share price come under pressure over the last few months – sinking to five-year lows earlier in March. It’s now on the frontline of the response to coronavirus in the US and UK, as its pharmacies gear up to find test kits, masks, gloves and other protective gear for health workers and others. Walgreens is also likely to have recorded record sales of hand sanitiser, as well as hygiene and flu products. Profit is expected to come in at $1.456 a share.
Constellation Brands Q4 results
Friday: Since the coronavirus outbreak, there has been anecdotal evidence that sales of one of Constellation Brands’ best-selling products has slumped There have been some reports that some consumers have stopped buying the company’s Corona beer, due to it having the same name as the ubiquitous virus. While Corona isn’t the only brand the company produces, it does have the highest profile, and there are reports that liquor stores can’t give it away. At the end of February, the company denied that the unfortunate name association had hurt sales. However, it’s hard to ignore that we could see a slowdown in sales, and this is reflected in the fall in the share price, which is at a five-year low. Expectations are for Q4 earnings of $1.64 a share. When this is over, the company may have to undergo a rebrand of one of its highest profile products.
US non-farm payrolls report (March)
Friday: This has the potential to be an absolute train wreck of a number, assuming the US Bureau of Labor Statistics actually releases the report. Last week’s weekly jobless claims figure was eye-wateringly bad at 3.3m, and this week’s report is likely to be equally as bad. Expectations around March’s payrolls have slipped sharply in the past few days, after February’s bumper figure of 273,000. The consensus view is already at -100,000. However, this is likely to be revised much lower, with the prospect that the March 2009 record low of -663,000 could be comfortably surpassed, if not this month, then in subsequent reports.
Global services PMIs (March)
Friday: China’s February data illustrated the devastating effect that the one-month lockdown had on the economy, and last week the UK, France and Germany released disappointing flash PMI numbers. As Friday’s readings will be collating data for the rest of March, they are likely to be even worse. The services industry has been in a fairly solid state, with most economies expanding over the last year. That is expected to change this week, and while the March numbers are likely to be weak, they are only likely to be an unpleasant appetiser to what lies ahead.
Smiths Group half-year results
Rescheduled from Tuesday 31 March to Monday 6 April: As a specialist in the production of medical ventilators, Smiths Group is at the forefront of the coronavirus outbreak, with the NHS scrambling to boost the number of breathing aids as coronavirus sweeps across the UK. The company makes the ventilators at its Luton site, and has ramped up production, as well as providing intellectual property advice to other companies to help boost production. Management said its ambition is to supply an extra 30,000 ventilators over the next three months.
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 30 March Results
Cal-Maine Foods (US) Q3
Quadrise Fuels International (UK) Half-year
Tuesday 31 March Results
AA (UK) Full-year
Capital Senior Living (US) Q4
Conagra Brands (US) Q3
Landec (US) Q3
Henry Boot (UK) Full-year
James Halstead (UK) Half-year
JKX Oil & Gas (UK) Full-year
MP Evans (UK) Full-year
Smiths Group (UK) Half-year
Wednesday 1 April Results
Central Asia Metals (UK) Full-year
iMedia Brands (US) Q4
Lamb Weston (US) Q3
PVH (US) Q4
UniFirst (US) Q2
Thursday 2 April Results
Acuity Brands (US) Q2
CarMax (US) Q4
Chewy (US) Q4
Franklin Covey (US) Q2
Resources Connection (US) Q3
Saga (UK) Full-year
Schnitzer Steel Industries (US) Q2
Walgreens Boots Alliance (US) Q2
Friday 3 April Results
Constellation Brands (US) Q4
Company announcements are subject to change. All the events listed above were correct at the time of writing.