Democracy goes under the microscope

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Hello and welcome to the working week.

Democracy can be a messy business, as several events coming up this week will show.

There has been much excitement in the British media about the publication of the partygate report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into how prime minister Boris Johnson and members of his government broke lockdown rules. It could be published on Monday, but it’s more likely to be Tuesday or Wednesday. However, when it does appear we may all have to curb our enthusiasm.

The details are likely to be uncomfortable (to say the least) for Johnson, but received wisdom is that he will cling on in office because his Conservative MPs do not have a plan B.

Perhaps those with most to worry about are the civil servants, who Gray is likely to name, resulting in disciplinary action. The most senior of these, Cabinet secretary Simon Case, has already reportedly been assessing his options outside Westminster. It would be somewhat ironic if the main casualties of partygate were the unelected officials carrying out the nefarious requests of elected politicians.

This week’s election watch (should I make this a new permanent section?) is Colombia’s presidential contest this Sunday, most likely to be won by the leftwing former anti-US guerrilla fighter, Gustavo Petro.

If you want to learn more, our man in Latin America, Michael Stott, had first-hand experience of being stopped and searched by M-19 guerrillas back in the 1980s, when he was teaching English to university students as part of his degree course. Petro’s only serious political rival appears to be Federico Gutiérrez, the former mayor of Medellín, who has emerged as the main “stop Petro” candidate.

Colombia is a breathtakingly beautiful country — just ask Unhedged writer Rob Armstrong — but a victory for Petro is concerning to politicians in Washington, who view Colombia as its most important strategic alliance in South America.

A Petro administration is likely to rethink some key tenets of the US-Colombia relationship, such as the war on drugs, a free trade deal and a US-led push to unseat the revolutionary socialist government in next-door Venezuela. The country is on edge amid rumours of a possible military coup or an election postponement.

While we are diarising, you might want to note down the next significant South American election: Brazil in October.

What are you looking out for this week? I’m interested. Email me at jonathan.moules@ft.com

Economic data

The US, France and Germany all report first-quarter gross domestic product estimates this week.

There will also be a chance for international comparisons from the S&P Global purchasing managers’ index data, out on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, US markets will digest the publication of the Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes from its May meeting.

Companies

The end to another earnings season is approaching so company reports are relatively thin this week. Retail is a theme as is the utility industry in the UK. Twitter is among those holding their annual general meetings this week — should be lively.

Marks and Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe will be checking out after 39 years with the British retailer when he presents the company’s full-year results on Wednesday.

Over the past year M&S has surprised on the upside, twice increasing its profit forecasts. However, those upgrades along with the change of chief executive are already baked into the share price, so all eyes will be on the outlook for the current year.

Rivals such as Next and Primark have already telegraphed price increases to offset the impact of rising commodity and other costs — and that was before US titans Walmart and Target sent the sector into a tailspin last week with their own warnings.

That does not bode well for dividends. M&S has not paid one since January 2020 and had already indicated a resumption of payouts was “unlikely” this year.

Meat processing business Cranwick is expected to report healthier profits on Tuesday owing to cost-cutting measures. However, investors will want to know how the UK company is addressing the challenges in the pig farming industry from labour shortages to the impact of the Ukraine war on feed prices.

Key economic and company reports

Here is a more complete list of what to expect in terms of company reports and economic data this week.

Monday

  • EU, European Central Bank publishes eurozone investment fund statistics

  • Germany, monthly IfA business confidence index

  • Results: Kingfisher Q1 trading update, Zoom Q1

Tuesday

  • Eurozone, France, Germany, UK, US: S&P Global flash composite (manufacturing and services) purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data

  • UK, CBI quarterly distributive trades survey plus April public finances and public sector net borrowing data

  • Results: Best Buy Q1, Cranswick FY, Homeserve FY, Ralph Lauren Q4

Wednesday

  • EU, ECB publishes its twice-yearly stability review plus OECD publishes economic outlook for the eurozone

  • France, consumer confidence figures

  • Germany, final Q1 GDP figures plus GfK consumer confidence survey

  • New Zealand, Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s monetary policy statement

  • Switzerland, ECB president Christine Lagarde, Ireland’s taoiseach Micheál Martin, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and the president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola join a Davos forum on the EU’s unity in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

  • Twitter AGM

  • US, Federal Open Market Committee releases minutes of its May meeting

  • Results: Hollywood Bowl 1H, Marks and Spencer FY, Nvidia Q1, Pets At Home FY, Severn Trent FY, SSE FY

Thursday

  • Canada, March retail trade figures

  • UK, CBI quarterly service sector survey plus official figures for the number of 16-24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (Neet).

  • US, Q1 GDP figures (second estimate) and Q1 consumer spending data

  • Results: Alibaba FY, Baidu Q1, Dell Technologies Q1, Intermediate Capital Group FY, Johnson Matthey FY, Macy’s Q1, Ted Baker FY, United Utilities FY

Friday

  • France, Q1 preliminary employment figures plus final Q1 GDP figures

  • US, April personal income and spending data

World events

Finally, here is a rundown of other events and milestones this week.

Monday

  • Austria, Germany: the European Geoscience Union 2021 begins its annual general assembly in Vienna plus in Bonn the European Space Agency holds its Living Planet Symposium, described as the largest earth observation conference in the world

  • EU, the eurogroup of 19 finance ministers from member states that adopted the single currency meet in Brussels ahead of the Ecofin council meeting of all EU finance ministers. Plus, the EU General Affairs Council meets in Brussels.

  • Ghana, the 57th annual meeting of the African Development Bank and the 48th annual meeting of the African Development Fund begin in Accra

  • Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visits Israel and the Palestinian Authority to discuss the appointment of ambassadors with his Israeli counterpart as part of improving relations between the countries

  • Tokyo, US president Joe Biden will present his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, diluted at the eleventh-hour on Friday in a move designed to attract more countries to join the deal

Tuesday

  • UK, London’s £18.9bn east-west express rail link, the Elizabeth Line, officially opens, three-and-a-half years later than originally planned. Meanwhile, a ballot for strike action over jobs and pay involving thousands of workers with some of the UK’s biggest train operators and Network Rail will close. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said a Yes vote among its 40,000 members could lead to the biggest UK rail strike in modern history. Separately, in the capital, the Chelsea Flower Show opens at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Wednesday

  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and UN secretary-general António Guterres meet in Ankara

  • US, second anniversary of the death of George Floyd, which ignited Black Lives Matter protests in various countries. Thursday is the 10th anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, which sparked the creation of Black Lives Matter.

Thursday

  • Ascension day celebrated by the western protestant church

  • Australia, Sorry Day commemorates the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their parents

  • Germany, the presentation of the international Charlemagne Award for European unity is scheduled to take place in the town of Aachen

  • UK, Hay Literary Festival begins, this year both online and in person in the Welsh market town of Hay-on-Wye

  • US, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern gives commencement speech to graduates at Harvard University

Friday

  • Lithuania, Nato parliamentary assembly begins its annual spring session in Vilnius

  • UK, MCM London Comic Con opens at the ExCeL conference centre

Saturday

  • France, the Uefa Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid kicks off at the Stade de France. Plus, the winners of the Palme d’Or awards are announced at the close of the Cannes Film Festival.

Sunday

  • Colombia, presidential election. If no candidate gains a majority of the vote, a second round will be held on June 19.

  • US president Joe Biden gives the University of Delaware’s graduation ceremony commencement address

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