February 2, 2023

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Live news: Clean energy group ITM Power warns of earnings for the third time in eight months

Are you ready for Blue Monday, the day this year at the start of this week that former Cardiff University psychologist Clive Arnall calculated in 2005 as the gloomiest 24 hours on the calendar?

Arnall Eldam’s conclusion about the third Monday of the first month (which he has since tried to counter) was based on analysis of data, such as consumer surveys, divorce filings and weather reports. The main conclusion many of us draw from this analysis is that not all academic research is good for society.

If you’re a global leader or CEO at least you have the World Economic Forum in Davos to distract you from the January blues. The FT Live team will also be in the Swiss resort town, hosting many in-person and digital events where leaders in politics, business and finance share insights on the big issues being discussed. You can view events and Register for free here.

For the rest of us, we’ll just have to live with the grim economic news in 2023 and hope things get better.

If you are in the UK, the prevailing fact is the mass strike. It may not be close to being a second ‘winter of discontent’, at least according to my colleague Jonathan Guthrie, but another ballot among ambulance workers is set for this week while the Universities and Colleges Union announces a wave of 18 new strikes this week covering 150 universities. Britain in February and March after its members voted last week to reject the latest payment offer.

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Northern Ireland Protocol will rear its head again with Thursday’s deadline to restore power-sharing in Stormont. Don’t expect this to make you feel better about cross-border life or politics.

Abortion rights activists march from Washington Square Park to Bryant Park in New York last June © Alex Kent / AFP / Getty Images

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined Americans’ constitutional right to abortion. This is, of course, a very lively debate — extending even to the boardroom — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn the 1973 decision. Anti-abortion activists will march in Washington on Friday, prompting further commentary about the underlying political fault line in the United States.

The week will end with another man-made day, this time based on astronomy: the celebration of the Lunar New Year. This year’s mass movement to visit families and friends to celebrate the occasion will happen in light of the rising levels of Covid in China. Concerns about the impact on the spread of the disease are high.

Something to look forward to a bit is an evening with Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf. Join Martin and other online thought leaders for a subscriber-exclusive event on January 31 to discuss the key changes needed in this time of great global uncertainty. The discussion coincides with the publication of Martin’s new book, The crisis of democratic capitalism. Register for free here.

Economic data

Tesco Cashierless store in High Holborn, London

Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy has warned that UK inflation could rise further. © Luke MacGregor / Bloomberg

It will be a series crowded with data from China, the UK and the US this week. The European Central Bank will publish the minutes of its December meeting on Thursday, and central bankers will discuss several regional and global economies in Davos.

The UK inflation rate will be updated on Wednesday. The outlook is not good, especially after recent comments by Bank of England chief economist Hugh Bell. Even Ken Murphy, chief executive of the UK’s largest food retailer Tesco, warned that UK inflation could rise further. Last month’s release showed that the cost of living as determined by the consumer price index was 10.7 percent in November, down from 11.1 percent in October.

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We’re in the midst of the first earnings season of 2023 and it’s a great bunch of companies, particularly from Europe and (when Wall Street comes back from the Martin Luther King Day holiday) the US.

Online food ordering services Just Eat Takeaway and Deliveroo will update investors about their festive sales on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Both are under pressure to achieve improved profitability. The end of the lockdown was not good for food ordering apps as customers opted to return to restaurants.

The question now is whether the recession will help these companies — as more people get takeaway instead of eating out — or hit them further as customers reluctantly return to their kitchens. Efforts to boost grocery sales, through partnerships with supermarkets and convenience apps like Getir, may give Deliveroo and JET a slice of the home-cooking market, too.

Last year was a year to forget for Ocado Retail. The online supermarket, which is jointly owned by Ocado — which reports numbers on Tuesday — and Marks and Spencer, parted company with CEO Melanie Smith and warned about earnings several times; Its sales are expected to decline for the first time in its history.

A woman walks through unclaimed bags in the Southwest Airlines baggage claim area in Salt Lake City

Public attention has focused on low-cost Southwest Airlines’ technical glitches © Rick Bowmer / AP

In its latest update in September, Ocado said it expects strong customer growth and sales growth of about 5 percent for the fourth quarter. This will be similar to the growth Tesco and J Sainsbury’s achieved last week, after British shoppers splurged on their first Christmas in two years not to be disrupted by Covid-19.

US airlines reported fourth-quarter and full-year earnings as public attention focused on technical glitches at low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines and the nation’s largest aviation regulator that caused the high-profile meltdowns. But for most airlines, the news is likely to be rosy, as (despite the increased interest in private jets post-Covid) demand for commercial flights is driving up profits.

United Airlines will report back on Wednesday. Expect CEO Scott Kirby to have a few stinging words for the US Federal Aviation Administration, which grounded planes for two hours on Wednesday when a corrupt database file caused a major safety system to fail. Over the summer, he said, the agency needed more air traffic controllers.