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Thursday preview: BoE to lay groundwork for May hike, or not

By Oliver Haill

Date: Thursday 22 Mar 2018

LONDON (ShareCast) - (ShareCast News) - Thursday should see the Bank of England make clear its intentions on a May interest rates hike, while investors will be able to fork through results from Halma, IG Group and Ted Baker.
Elsewhere in macro news, there will be UK retail sales data that it is hard to see lifting the gloom on the high street this week, while looking overseas there are rate decisions due from the Swiss and Norwegian central banks, Aussie jobs data, eurozone PMI surveys, plus hefty macro from Germany, France and other Continentals, and US weekly jobs numbers and surveys on services and housing later in the day.

But in London the main event is unquestionably the BoE's monetary meeting, even though no immediate change to policy is expected. As there is no meeting in April, this is the committee's last real chance to lay the groundwork for a interest rate hike in May.

Analysts at Barclays Research expect the monetary policy committee vote count to revert to a split, from the recent 9-0 consensus, with hawkishly inclined Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty to again make the case for a hike.

"A repetition of the February MPC communiqué in March would definitively validate market expectations of a May hike and shift the focus towards the next step, currently priced in early next year," said Barclays on Monday.

That was even before a fall in the consumer price index on Tuesday and an acceleration in pay growth on Wednesday. Taking this week's data into account, Howard Archer, economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the combination is "likely to reinforce the hawkish instincts of the MPC and we expect the Committee to use tomorrow's meeting to lay the ground for a May rate hike".

One of the dissenting voices against a rate hike, came from Pantheon Macroeconomics, noting that GDP, retail sales and now inflation data have all surprised to the downside since the MPC met in February, while PMIs surveys point to GDP growth slowing to 0.3% in the first quarter, below the MPC's 0.4% forecast.

"We expect the MPC to vote 9-0 to keep Bank Rate at 0.50% and to refrain from signalling that it will hike in May. In the minutes of September's meeting-just before the MPC hiked in November-it expected to raise rates "over the coming months". This time-bound guidance was clearer than February's, which said that rates would need to rise again "somewhat earlier" than the MPC thought in November, when it endorsed markets' view that it would wait a year before hiking again. Virtually all the recent activity data, however, have surprised to the downside, making it hard for the MPC to justify an imminent hike."

Also out on Thursday will be UK retail sales data for February. February data for the four weeks up to February 24, before the snow fell, is expected to show a 0.4% rise.

Markets will also be closely watching the start of the EU heads of state summit Thursday after the draft Brexit transition deal announced on Monday.

Traders would likely also be scanning the headlines for any news of fresh US tariffs on China and Beijing's response.

CORPORATE NEWS

Halma will provide an update on its full year as the safety, health and environmental technology group, having reported revenues and profit before tax iup 15% and 13% for the first half to 30 September, then being promoted to the FTSE 100 group in December.

On the outlook, directors said Halma had continued to make "strong progress", with the diversity of the business through four sectors "enabling us to sustain growth in varied market conditions".

Since the second half began, order intake was said to have continued to rise ahead of revenue and order intake last year, with remaining "on track to make progress in the second half of the year in line with the board's expectations". In January, the Halma said it expected the recently enacted US tax cuts to provide a £15m non-cash credit the year to March.

The consensus is for revenue of £1.06bn, EBITA of £223m, PBT of £213m for the full year, thanks to PBT of £118m in the second half.

There's trading statements due from online brokers IG Group and CMC Markets.

IG generated record revenues in the previous quarter and with market conditions having improved, house broker Numis expected another strong performance to the end of February.

"Volatility and changes in volatility are helpful for IG and in the period we saw significant shifts in equity markets and FX rates. IG has worked hard to focus its growth on higher margin quality customers and we expect this trend to have continued in the period.

"Consequently, we expect a strong revenue per customer number for the CFD trading business. While we have not adjusted our forecasts but we do see upside risk to them."

CMC works in most of the same markets, though its customer mix is not entirely the same.

Numis said this pre-close update, released ahead of results expected in June, is not expected to contain hard numbers. Last detail on client numbers came in January, showing a fall in the third quarter. There could also be details on management's efforts in attracting higher-revenue clients and dealing with regulations.

Ted Baker is another that gave a January's trading update, revealing the opening of new stores in Shanghai and Los Angeles. The clothes retailer is looking to limit its bricks and mortar exposure by focussing on its online business as well as concessions with new shops planned in high traffic locations like Oxford and Luton Airport.

January's update confirmed management's confidence in meeting expectations for the year, pointing to operating profits in the region of £77m on revenues of around £445m.

"All being well next week's results will mark another year of steady progress on the dividend too, with an increase of at least 10% likely," said analyst George Salmon at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Perhaps most importantly, investors will be looking for signs that, following on from a strong Christmas, Ted's designs are still flying off the shelves. If momentum has continued, it'll be interesting to see if CEO and founder Ray Kelvin paints a positive picture for the rest of 2018."



Thursday March 22

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

Continuing Claims (US) (12:30)
Current Account (EU) (09:00)
IFO Business Climate (GER) (09:00)
IFO Current Assessment (GER) (09:00)
Initial Jobless Claims (US) (12:30)
PMI Manufacturing (US) (14:45)

UK ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

BoE Interest Rate Decision (12:00)
Retail Sales (09:30)

FINALS

Allied Minds , Cambridge Cognition Holdings, Cello Group, Franchise Brands, Gamma Communications, Genel Energy, India Capital Growth Fund Ltd., Inspired Energy, Lamprell, Quixant, Regional REIT Limited, Sabre Insurance Group, Safestyle UK, Sanne Group, Secure Trust Bank, Soco International, Sopheon, Ted Baker, Venture Life Group, Wentworth Resources Ltd (DI)

TRADING ANNOUNCEMENTS

Crest Nicholson Holdings, Halma

INTERIMS

Produce Investments

GMS

Banco Santander S.A.

ANNUAL REPORT

Barclays, Metro Bank

EGMS

JKX Oil & Gas

AGMS

BB Healthcare Trust (Red), Beazley, Blackrock Throgmorton Trust, Brunner Inv Trust, Crest Nicholson Holdings, Independent Inv Trust, Independent Inv Trust

FINAL DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE

Arden Partners, Treatt

FINAL EX-DIVIDEND DATE

AIB Group, Centamin (DI), Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. (Singapore), Fidelity European Values, GVC Holdings, Heavitree Brewery, Heavitree Brewery 'A' Shares, Hongkong Land Holding Ltd. (Sing.Reg), Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd (Singapore Reg), Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd. (Singapore), Kingspan Group, Low & Bonar, LSL Property Services, Mandarin Oriental International (Singapore), Meggitt, Nichols, OneSavings Bank, Randgold Resources Ltd., Schroders, Schroders (Non-Voting), SEGRO, XLMedia

INTERIM EX-DIVIDEND DATE

Brooks Macdonald Group, Clinigen Group, Close Brothers Group, Dunelm Group, ECO Animal Health Group, Kier Group, NWF Group, Revolution Bars Group, Sky, Thorpe (F.W.), Tristel

QUARTERLY EX-DIVIDEND DATE

Alpha Real Trust Ltd., BlackRock World Mining Trust, British American Tobacco, Funding Circle SME Income Fund