Biden stimulus update, Derek Chauvin trial, England lockdown eases
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The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman accused of killing George Floyd, begins with opening arguments on Monday, the same day as England rolls out the latest stage of its road map out of lockdown. Efforts to free the container ship blocking the Suez Canal are likely to remain in focus as pressure grows on global supply chains. US President Joe Biden will lay out the latest details of his recovery plan during a midweek visit to Pittsburgh, while the country’s labour market data on Friday is expected to show the economy is getting back to work. Updates from Apple-supplier Foxconn, Walgreens Boots Alliance and the UK’s Royal Mail will provide some interest in what is a fairly light week for earnings reports.
Biden recovery package update
Joe Biden is expected to lay out more details of his $3tn-plus economic recovery package in a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, ahead of negotiations with Capitol Hill that are expected to dominate the political agenda in the next few months.
The US president, said last week that his next “major initiative” after enacting this month’s $1.9tn fiscal stimulus bill would be a multibillion-dollar plan to fund long-term infrastructure, education and childcare spending — partially funded by tax increases.
Democrats in Congress and White House officials are increasingly confident that they can pass the package worth more than $3tn in the coming months, even in the absence of Republican support.
Chauvin trial begins
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman accused of killing George Floyd, begins with opening arguments on Monday.
Proceedings will be broadcast online in an unusual move brought about in part by the pandemic and the high level of interest in the case.
Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder and other lesser charges in the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man, after pinning his neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes.
Videos of the incident set off protests across the US against police brutality and racism.
The footage of Floyd’s death will be just one of many pieces of carefully selected evidence that the jury will be allowed to consider before they render their verdict on Chauvin, a decision that could add more fuel to the volatile debate around race and policing.
Prosecutors have hedged their bets by pursuing three charges: second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. The most serious, second-degree murder, requires that prosecutors prove Chauvin unintentionally killed Floyd while committing a felony.
Manslaughter only requires proving Chauvin took an unreasonable risk of causing death and carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, compared to 40 years for second-degree murder.
England lockdown eases
Outdoor sport will be allowed to resume and people from different households can gather outdoors under the so-called rule of six restriction as England begins the next stage of its lockdown easing on Monday.
The “stay at home” order will be replaced by guidance encouraging people to stay local and work from home where possible, but most international travel will still be banned.
A new UK Health Security Agency led by Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, is due to begin operations on Thursday.
The body, which replaces the discredited Public Health England, will be charged with tackling Covid-19 and dealing with future health threats.
The head of the Suez Canal Authority has warned that efforts to free the 220,000-tonne container ship blocking one of the main arteries of global trade is likely to shift to unloading its cargo if it cannot be refloated in the coming days.
Attempts over the weekend to free the Ever Given using high-powered dredgers and tugboats proved unsuccessful.
Shipping and salvage experts say that unloading the containers from the vessel would probably delay the reopening of the canal by weeks, causing severe disruption to supply chains for everything from automobile parts and commodities such as crude oil to children’s toys.
Opec and its allies outside the oil cartel will hold their monthly output meeting on Thursday. They are unlikely to raise output quotas as lockdowns in Europe continue to weigh on demand.
WTO growth forecasts
The World Trade Organization is scheduled to issue its annual trade growth forecast on Wednesday after a sharp slide of about 9 per cent in 2020.
Demand for computers and cloud computing equipment is expected to drive up net profits for Apple supplier Foxconn this week. Since the start of the pandemic, working from home equipment has offset sluggish smartphone sales for the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.
The expected boost to profitability “reflects a reorientation towards higher-margin component business and a reduced weight of our traditional final assembly business,” said Liu Young-way, Foxconn’s chair. The company has been diversifying its business towards components for industrial automation and driverless vehicles.
Walgreens Boots Alliance, which recently became the only company in the S&P 500 to be run by a black woman after the drugstore group appointed Starbucks’s Roz Brewer, is also reporting this week. Brewer started in her new role as chief executive this month.
Brewer’s appointment comes at a time when the New York-listed group’s bricks-and-mortar stores, which include the Walgreens and Duane Reade chains in the US and the UK’s Boots, have come under additional pressure during the coronavirus crisis.
Shoppers have made fewer visits to stores in the pandemic and health services have postponed routine treatments, reducing demand for prescriptions.
UK fashion retailer Next expects profits to pick up again in the coming year. In January, the company said that the recovery will bring profits to near pre-pandemic levels, even after the last national lockdown closed its stores and freight problems delayed deliveries.
The FTSE 100 group said its central guidance was for pre-tax profit of £670m for the year to January 30 2022. It compares with profit of £729m in the year to January 2020, before coronavirus hit the UK, and market expectations of about £640m.
The next trading update for UK delivery company Royal Mail looks set to be positive as online shopping hits record volumes.
The company has already raised its profit forecast twice and revenues jumped by a fifth in the third quarter when the group predicted full-year adjusted operating profit to be “well in excess” of £500m.
In the third quarter, 496m parcels were handled during what has been defined by Keith Williams, non-executive chair, as “the busiest in our company’s long history”.
AG Barr; FactSet; Imperial Brands; Lululemon Athletica; McCormick; Foxconn; Saras; Royal Mail (trading update)
Micron Technology; Walgreens Boots Alliance;
Economic data and central banks
Monthly US unemployment data is out on Friday when economists expect a big boost to figures helped by the decline in coronavirus cases, an increase in vaccinations and the loosening of lockdown restrictions.
Non-farm payrolls are forecast to climb by 628,000 in March following a 379,000 increase in February, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. The jobless rate is projected to slide further to 6 per cent, from 6.2 per cent last month.
Economists will also be hoping to see the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index for March build on a run of positive regional manufacturing data points of recent weeks.
Analysts in Tokyo anticipate the Tankan survey of large manufacturers, one of the most closely watched economic data points in Japan, will turn positive this quarter when it is released on Wednesday.
The survey hit zero in the fourth quarter of 2019 and has been in negative territory ever since but with a global economic recovery under way, the figures are expected to bounce back.
Analysts expect Germany’s inflation to increase as the oil price continues to rise and the euro weakens. This will be partially offset by the lack of seasonal inflation boost from retail shopping as most shops were shut during March.
Inflation in Germany held steady in February at its highest level for the past year, which prompted analysts to predict that price pressures will continue to rise in Europe’s largest economy and potentially add to recent bond market uncertainty. France’s consumer prices are also expected to follow suit.
Eurozone flash inflation data for March is out this week.
Germany’s final PMI data is expected to confirm manufacturing increased at a record pace in March.
The main item on the UK’s economic agenda will be the second estimate of fourth-quarter GDP due on Wednesday.
In China official and Caixin/Markit PMI are out this week. PMIs have been trending lower since late 2020 in contrast to the recovery seen in manufacturing output elsewhere around the globe, and further declines in March could weigh on the outlook for the global recovery outside the US.
It is a quiet week for central banks with Kenya and Chile taking interest rate decisions on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Key data and events
Kenya, rate decision
Hong Kong, retail sales (Feb)
France, consumer confidence (Mar)
Germany, inflation (Mar, flash)
US, Conference Board consumer confidence (Mar)
Chile, rate decision
Japan, industrial production (Feb, flash)
China, National Bureau of Statistics PMIs (Mar)
UK, GDP (Q4, final)
UK, Nationwide house prices (Mar)
France, inflation (Mar, flash)
Germany, labour market (Mar)
Eurozone, HICP inflation (Mar, flash)
Canada, GDP (Jan)
Japan, Tankan business survey (Q1)
China, Caixin manufacturing PMI (Mar)
US, initial jobless claims
US, ISM manufacturing (Mar)
US, labour market (Mar)
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