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The week ahead: UK CPI & retail sales, Swiss National Bank rate, FedEx results

Our Market Analysts, Michael Hewson and David Madden, assess this week's major market events.

See the week ahead video, the top events to watch, plus our key company earnings schedule. They look at the various central bank updates made at the end of last week, as well as the US-China trade dispute, plus look ahead to next week’s BoJ and SNB meeting.

FedEx Q1 results
Monday: The online shopping boom may be causing problems for the high street and traditional retail brands, but for companies that deliver parcels it’s been an absolute boon. At its last trading update, FedEx posted full-year numbers that showed an acceleration in both revenue and profit growth which exceeded expectations. The company also raised its guidance for the upcoming year; it expects revenues to rise 9% despite continued integration costs after the acquisition of TNT Express two years ago. The shares inexplicably slid sharply in the wake of the company’s June update, but have since rebounded. This week’s Q1 results should show whether FedEx remains on track to meet its target for the current fiscal year. It would be surprising if we didn’t see a positive outlook given how strong recent US consumer data has been. 

UK CPI inflation & retail sales
Wednesday/Thursday: Last week wages growth managed to match its highest level this year and best level since 2015. On a one-month basis, wages climbed by 3.1% in July, raising expectations that a tightening labour market is finally translating into rising wage pressure. The latest inflation numbers for August are expected to soften a little to 2.4%, while core prices also look to be showing signs of sliding back after falling below 2% in July. It's still a difficult retail environment despite a strong rebound in consumer spending in Q2, and Q3 got off to a good start with a 0.7% gain in July. Spending patterns did show signs of softening in August, with the BRC survey coming in significantly softer than July. On the positive side, we could see back-to-school spending support the numbers, but a small 0.1% decline is still expected.

Bank of Japan rate decision (August)
Wednesday: This week’s Bank of Japan rate decision isn’t likely to throw up any surprises. In a recent interview Bank of Japan governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, pushed back against speculation that tweaks to monetary policy by the central bank amounted to a tightening of monetary policy. At its last meeting, the bank widened the band around the 10-year yield to allow more flexibility in managing the slope of the yield curve. The Japanese economy is showing some signs of improvement, with GDP growth at its best level since 2015. However, prices still remain well short of the bank’s inflation target, which means that any significant change of tone remains highly unlikely at this week’s meeting. 

Kingfisher half-year results 
Wednesday: Having seen its closest competitor Homebase make a series of poor decisions over the past few years, B&Q-owner Kingfisher has presided over a slightly more positive outlook, although problems in the UK retail sector have still weighed on overall performance in the last six months. The company did report a much better-than-expected Q2 as a result of the hot weather, though it could be argued that some of the rebound was as a consequence of a weak Q1. Whatever the reasons, the turnaround is welcome, with UK and Ireland like-for-like sales at B&Q rising 3.6%, while Screwfix contributed a 5.5% rise in sales. There was no Q2 rebound on the perennial drag caused by the company’s French unit Castorama, where like-for-like sales declined 3.8%. It would appear that further measures will be needed to help bring the French business back into favour, and store closures can’t be ruled out. Overall, sales revenue came in at £3.26bn in a fairly encouraging quarter. This week’s update should tell us whether the company is on course to meet its full-year guidance.

Swiss National Bank rate decision
Thursday: The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is yet another central bank where negative rates have become the norm, as opposed to the exception. The SNB’s biggest problem is that the stability of the economy has seen the currency strengthen to the point that it is difficult for the bank to meet its inflation target. At the same time, the economy has just expanded at its best rate in over four years. A GDP growth of 1% in Q1 and 0.7% in Q2 reinforces the case for a rise in rates. While it can be argued that a move off currently low levels is required, this is unlikely to happen given concerns about the effects a strong currency might have on the bank’s ability to hit its inflation target.

Darden Restaurants Q1 results 
Thursday: There’s nothing more American than bread sticks and an Olive Garden never-ending pasta bowl, and US consumers certainly seem to think so. The owner of this US consumer staple has seen its share price go from strength to strength in the last few years. At its last quarterly update earnings grew 18%, while revenue increased by 10% to $2.13bn. All chains in the Darden portfolio showed positive comparable numbers on same-store sales, with Olive Garden up 2.4%, LongHorn Steakhouse up 2.4%, Eddie V’s up 3.6% and Yard House up 1.4%. This week’s Q1 trading update has a very high bar in terms of outlook and headline numbers, given the share price is already at record highs, and US consumers appear to be showing signs of more confidence in the economic outlook. 

Smith’s Group full-year results 
Friday: Investors have been concerned for some time now about falling profits in all parts of the business. At Smith’s Group’s first-half update in March the company, which specialises in airport scanners and medical devices for hospitals, saw headline profit decline 12% to £217m. Despite this setback management remained constructive, particularly in the security area where demand was robust. The bigger concern remains around its medical devices division, as changes to EU rules in 2020 may affect whether these stay compliant. Despite these fears, the shares have remained supported by speculation over a potential merger with US-listed company ICU Medical, though this has ebbed in recent weeks following reports that talks may be running into a cul-de-sac. 

Canada CPI & retail sales
Friday: There’s been a great deal of speculation in recent weeks that the Bank of Canada may raise rates when they meet next month to discuss the health of the Canadian economy. The August payrolls report was a little disappointing, contrasting with a fairly decent figure in July, while concerns about a breakdown in NAFTA talks has also been acting as a headwind. This week’s inflation and retail sales numbers are likely to offer a fresh insight into how resilient Canadian consumers are feeling, particularly since the US – their closest neighbour – is booming in both its services and manufacturing sectors. Inflation is expected to remain around the 2% level it was in July, but retail sales have been patchy at best, showing some significant swings between positive and negative numbers in recent months.   

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Index dividend schedule

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Selected UK & US company announcements

Monday 17 September Results
City of London Investment Group Full-year
FedEx Q1
MP Evans Group Half-year
Oracle Q1
Tuesday 18 September Results
Apogee Enterprises Q2
AutoZone Q4
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Q4
Faroe Petroleum Half-year
General Mills Q1
Smart Metering Systems Half-year
Spire Healthcare Group Half-year
Wednesday 19 September Results
accesso Technology Group Half-year
Central Asia Metals Half-year
Herman Miller Q1
Kingfisher Half-year
Pan African Resources Full-year
Red Hat Q2
Thursday 20 September Results
Darden Restaurants Q1
Kier Group Full-year
Micron Technology Q4
SafeStyle UK Half-year
Soco International Half-year
Steelcase Q2
Thor Industries Q4
United Natural Foods Q4
Friday 21 September Results
M&C Saatchi Half-year
SIG Half-year
Smiths Group Full-year

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

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