India and Israel elections, Tesco and JPMorgan results
The FT's Daniel Garrahan previews some of the top stories the Financial Times will be watching in the week ahead, including India and Israel going the polls,preliminary annual results from Tesco and first-quarter earnings from JPMorgan Chase
Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Produced by Daniel Garrahan
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Here are just some of the stories the Financial Times will be watching in the week ahead. India and Israel go to the polls. The UK supermarket group, Tesco, reports preliminary annual results as the shadow of Brexit looms large. And we'll get a sense of how the US banks did in the first quarter when JPMorgan Chase reports earnings. First to India, where an estimated 900m eligible voters will begin casting their ballots in general elections on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping to win a second five-year term. But the Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi and a group of other smaller parties, hope to stop him. India's elections are a massive logistical exercise. Voters cast their ballots in seven different phases, spread out over six weeks, with their precise voting day dependent on where they live. Vote counting is due to begin on May 23 and is supposed to be completed within three days. But the trend should be clear by the end of the first day.
At the start of this year, India looks set for a highly competitive election contest. Mr Modi was under fire from farmers angry about squeezed incomes, and the opposition Congress party seemed to be gaining ground. But a terrorist attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir, in February, has really changed the dynamics of the election contest.
Two weeks after the attack, Mr Modi authorised a missile strike on an alleged terrorist training camp in neighbouring Pakistan. It was a dramatic break from India's past practise of strategic restraint in the face of terrorist provocations, and it reinforced his image as a strong and decisive leader. Analysts now say that the prime minister should have few difficulties securing his coveted second term.
And now to Israel, where voters go to the polls on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term. If his rightwing Likud party wins, Mr Netanyahu, a wily political survivor who's been in office since 2009, will become the country's longest serving premier. That's despite the threat of an indictment over corruption allegations hanging over him.
But it's expected to be one of the closest races in years with Likud's main opponent, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz, who's a former chief of staff for the Israel Defence Forces, performing strongly in the polls. Much will depend on the performance of smaller parties and who's able to build a coalition. Negotiations for a coalition could take weeks.
Now, to UK supermarket giant, Tesco, which has preliminary annual results on Wednesday. The coming financial year should be all about the margin. In 2014, Tesco's chief executive Dave Lewis pledged to get operating profits back to at least 3.5 per cent of sales. Back then, Tesco was struggling with pricing strategy, disillusioned customers, and too much debt. But when he set himself the margin target, Mr Lewis couldn't have dreamed that the shadow of Brexit would go on to loom over the entire UK retail sector.
Many of those problems have now been fixed. Debt is back down to a manageable level. Tesco's prices versus competitors, like Aldi and Lidl, are much more competitive and customer satisfaction scores have shot up again. Most analysts now rank the shares "Buy," and think that he will come within a whisker of hitting his margin target of 3.5 per cent to 4 per cent this coming year.
But he's getting precious little credit from the stock market. Tesco's shares are more or less the same level now as they were when he took over. And the reason for that, in one word, is Brexit. And that just shows that for all Mr Lewis's achievements, there are some things that he just can't control.
And finally, investors will get their first glimpse into how America's biggest banks did in the first quarter when JPMorgan Chase reports results. And the backdrop is grim. The biggest bank shares fell sharply in March after the Federal Reserve's signalled it would pause interest rate rises. Banks had been hoping that rising interest rates would translate into bigger profits across their lending businesses.
Executives have been upfront about the challenges their trading businesses faced in the first quarter when the unprecedented US government shutdown contributed to an environment where clients were more comfortable sitting on the sidelines than making big bets. JPMorgan's own investment bank boss, Daniel Pinto, warned in February that his trading business suffered a high teen percentage fall in revenue in the first quarter of this year versus 2018. It's not all bad news though. Analysts expect the big banks to post higher loan growth, while loan losses are also expected to remain reassuringly low, helping to drive a modest increase in earnings per share across Wall Street's top players.
And that's what the week ahead looks like from the Financial Times in London.