Scottish and London Mayor elections, Bank of England meets

After a holiday-shortened week for some parts of the world there will be plenty of reports as earnings season rolls on, including Covid-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna as well as carmakers General Motors and Volkswagen. Meetings from the Bank of England and Turkey will provide interest on the central bank front. It will also be a busy week for regional and local elections, particularly in the UK, with polls to decide who will govern in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and London choosing its mayor. In Spain voters in Madrid will also decide on their regional leader.

UK elections

The UK has a host of elections on Thursday. Votes at the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and metropolitan mayoral elections, including London, will head the week’s news but local council elections will give a sense of how the public gauges the performance of the national government in Westminster.

Data from pollster YouGov suggest that across the UK, the ruling Conservatives enjoy about 44 per cent support, 11 points more than Labour.

But in the London mayoral election, polling indicates that Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan is set to buck the national trend and win a second term as mayor relatively easily.

Analysts attribute the change to the capital’s population being younger, and more ethnically diverse and pro-EU than Britain as a whole.

A recent poll by Savanta ComRes placed Khan 13 points ahead of his Conservative challenger, London assembly member Shaun Bailey.

The by-election for the Hartlepool seat following the resignation of MP Mike Hill will also help to give a good sense of the mood of the electorate.

Labour won the seat in 2019, but some opinion polls suggest the Conservatives could take it for the first time.

In Scotland the polls point to a pro-independence majority — or outright Scottish National party majority — which could strengthen the case for a second independence referendum.

The Conservative showing is projected to improve in the Welsh Senedd elections. Labour is projected to remain the largest party, though without a majority.

Madrid regional elections

Madrid regional elections take place on Tuesday after the conservative regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso called a snap election as a clash intensified between centrist and rightwing parties at the national level.

Díaz Ayuso will go head to head against Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the far left Podemos party and a man as reviled by the right as Díaz Ayuso is by the left and who this week resigned as deputy prime minister to face off against her. 

Díaz Ayuso’s administration has imposed one of Spain’s loosest curfews and has consistently refused to shut bars and restaurants, in defiance of national recommendations.

The polls suggest that Díaz Ayuso will virtually double her tally of seats in the regional assembly — increasing the People’s party vote by almost 20 percentage points — although she may need the far-right Vox party to secure a majority. Analysts argue that the consequences of such a success will be profound, and felt at the national level.

For the election she has chosen a left versus right slogan: “Communism or liberty” (before Iglesias’s entry into the race it was “Socialism or liberty”).

“When people call you a fascist you know you are doing well, that you are on the right side of history,” the Madrid leader said during the election campaign.

Elsewhere . . . 

Earnings

US drugmaker Pfizer and Boston-based biotech Moderna report this week after having announced promising revenue forecasts as the pandemic transforms the fortunes of the two companies.

Pfizer said in February that it expected about $15bn in revenue this year from its Covid-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech and had raised its 2021 profit guidance on hopes that having one of the first and most effective vaccines would boost its prospects.

Pfizer forecast that the profit margin as a percentage of revenue for the Covid-19 vaccine would be in the high 20s. Based on the group’s adjusted income before tax from the jab, this could top $4bn. This margin could increase after the pandemic ends, with the price of the vaccine rising and costs coming down.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine revenue forecast, published in February, was far higher ($18.4bn) than the $11.2bn analysts had predicted for 2021, as well as the $15bn expected by Pfizer.

Moderna said this number could rise because it was in discussions with governments about more vaccine orders for 2021 and 2022, as well as Covax, the vaccination programme for the developing world.

Growth in Uber’s food-delivery business will be closely monitored by analysts this week after the last quarter outperformed forecasts but was not enough to offset dwindling demand for ride shares.

The company’s revenues for the final quarter of 2020 fell short of Wall Street expectations with gross ride-share bookings down 50 per cent in the October-December period, as lockdowns were reinstated in some markets.

Lyft, which is selling its autonomous driving unit to Toyota for $550m, will also publish its results this week. Uber’s ride-share competitor in February said revenues fell 44 per cent from the previous year in the fourth quarter.

However, it also said ebitda profitability was possible, if the number of vaccinations kept pace and demand for rides increased.

The global shortage of semiconductors is expected to have a short-term impact on General Motors’ earnings and cash this year, even as it reported profits for 2020.

Chief executive Mary Barra in February said it was too early to know how the chip shortage would affect production in the first half of the year. However, the company estimated it would have to shave up to $2bn from adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, and up to $2.5bn in free cash flow.

Volkswagen, which is also publishing its earnings this week, issued a warning to top managers in April to be braced for a bigger production hit in the second quarter than the first because of the global chip shortage.

The warning raised the possibility of higher losses for the world’s second-largest carmaker, which said last year it expected production output to fall by 100,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2021 because of semiconductor shortages.

The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev expects better sales and profits in 2021, after last year lockdowns and social-distancing measures delivered a hit to drinks volumes around the world, with Europe and Asia particularly badly hit.

The brewer said in February that like-for-like revenues, stripping out the impact of acquisitions and disposals, dropped 3.7 per cent to $47bn.

While AB InBev expects an improved outlook for 2021, it also cautioned that pressure on margins would continue thanks to rising commodity prices and the higher cost of packaging for drinks consumed at home.

British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group reports this week. The airline announced in February the biggest loss in its history after the coronavirus pandemic closed borders and grounded its aircraft.

The company reported a full-year operating loss after exceptional items of €7.4bn, but as large numbers of people in the developed world are vaccinated, airline executives are hopeful the industry could start to recover in the second half of this year.

Key reports

Monday

Enterprise Products Partners; Estée Lauder

Tuesday

ConocoPhillips; Dominion Resources; Global Payments; Pfizer; T-Mobile US; KKR; Ferrari; Hello Fresh; Axa; Thomson Reuters; RingCentral; Lyft; Warner Music Group

Wednesday

Booking Holdings; PayPal; Sempra Energy; Uber; General Motors; Etsy; Fox Corp; Stellantis; Hilton; CVS Health; Virgin Money UK; Direct Line Insurance; Hiscox; ITV; Boohoo

Thursday

Becton, Dickinson and Co; Linde; Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; Zoetis; Volkswagen; AB InBev; Moderna; Nintendo; ING; Zalando; Brookfield Infrastructure Partners; News Corp; Kellogg; UniCredit; Enel; Peloton Interactive; Trainline; Barratt Developments; Next; Reach; Rio Tinto; Superdry

Friday

Cigna; BMW; Siemens; adidas; International Airlines Group; InterContinental Hotels

Economic data and central banks

The US Department of Labour releases its non-farm payroll data for April on Friday. March data marked a sharp improvement from the previous month, but many economists surveyed by Bloomberg are optimistic that the number of new jobs will climb yet again.

For April, analysts on average are expecting that 991,000 new jobs were added, with the median number hovering around 950,000. In March, the US economy gained 916,000 non-farming jobs, the highest month-on-month increase since August last year.

The US unemployment rate, released with non-farm payrolls, has also steadily declined, landing at 6 per cent in March. The two labour department data points are the most closely watched indicators of the strength of the US reopening.

Some analysts expect the Bank of England will announce at its policy meeting on Thursday a significant change in its £150bn bond-buying programme as the economy improves and the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee prepares to scale back its support.

Others predict that the BoE will keep interest rates unchanged and “endorse” market expectations that the central bank will raise rates twice between now and the end of 2024.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that the partial reopening of the UK economy on April 12 has boosted consumption,” noted Rabobank analysts.

Key data and events

Monday

Hong Kong: GDP (Q1, advance)

US, ISM manufacturing (Apr, Index)

Tuesday

UK, Markit manufacturing PMI (Apr, final)

UK, Net consumer credit (Mar)

Australia, rate decision

Wednesday

Indonesia, GDP (Q1)

US, ISM services index (Apr)

Thailand; Brazil; Poland, rate decisions

Thursday

Germany, industrial orders (Mar)

US, weekly initial jobless claims

UK; Malaysia; Norway; Turkey; Czech Republic, rate decisions

Friday

US, labour market (Apr)

China, trade data (Apr)

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