News

It is another week of British industrial unrest. Civil servants at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will also strike on Monday, followed on Wednesday by university staff — although no longer teaching staff in Wales — and then ambulance workers in Northern Ireland on Friday.

At the least the UK government will be hard at work, with negotiations with the EU over the post-Brexit settlement for Northern Ireland rapidly coming to a head. The issue is not on the formal agenda for the meeting of EU member state heads in Brussels on Thursday, but London hopes it can make progress in discussions with these European leaders in the coming days.

Nato defence chiefs will also be meeting this week in Brussels to discuss the next steps in the brinkmanship with Russia. Invitees include Ukraine’s defence minister and his counterparts from Finland and Sweden.

And the good news? Kosovo will celebrate 15 years of independence on Friday and in Rio the annual Carnival kicks off on Saturday.

Economic data

Inflation and gross domestic product are this week’s main economic themes with data on the former from the UK, US, India and France and the latter from the EU and Japan. The UK also provides updates on its labour market with a new unemployment figure.

There are no monetary policy committee meetings from the big economies but on Tuesday Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida is expected to nominate as the next central bank governor the respected expert and supporter of the country’s ultra-loose monetary policy, Kazuo Ueda.

That would ensure a smooth transition from the incumbent Haruhiko Kuroda, who is due to step down in April after overseeing a decade of policies designed to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels by buying vast quantities of government bonds.

Companies

We are over the hump of the current earnings season, especially in the US, but there are plenty in the diary for the next seven days.

Consumer goods brands are going large this week with figures out from Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Krispy Kreme and Kraft Heinz. These companies’ products might not be the most healthy items on the supermarket shelf, but then neither is inflation, which — if Unilever’s earnings report last week is anything to go by — is at least likely to be of benefit to the top line of these companies’ accounts. However, people are cutting back, meaning the potential for a drop in sales volumes.

The interest-rate rises to tame inflation have been good news for the retail banks with widening net interest margins for lenders such as NatWest, which is reporting full-year figures on Friday. This is good for shareholders because it will push up capital levels to much more than regulatory minimums and open the door to some quite lucrative dividend increases and stock buybacks. Also, NatWest is still 44.98 per cent owned by the UK government so the current earnings bonanza is good for British taxpayers, though as my colleague Helen Thomas notes it will not last.

Barclays, which reports on Wednesday, is a bit of a different story. Its UK business should benefit from rate rises, but it is much more of a credit card business, so people will be focused on default rates and provisions in the UK and US. Also the decline in earnings at its investment bank, particularly the advisory and capital markets unit, will be in sharp focus. You can get a fuller picture by reading this Inside Business report from FT deputy editor Patrick Jenkins.

Read the full week ahead calendar here.

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