Biden inauguration, ECB meeting, China GDP


This week brings the inauguration of Joe Biden, growing concerns over the spread of coronavirus and the challenges facing vaccination programmes. China’s gross domestic product figures for the final three months of 2020 are expected to cement the bouceback in the world’s second-largest economy after its historic downturn last year. Fourth-quarter earnings season is starting to warm up in the US with Netflix reporting alongside the remainder of the Wall Street Banks after their rivals posted bumper results last week.

US politics

Joe Biden, US president-elect, will take office next week with an ambitious legislative agenda including the quick passage through Congress of a $1.9tn stimulus for the pandemic-battered economy.

The inauguration is set to be the most unorthodox in modern US history — with Donald Trump facing a Senate impeachment trial and the pandemic forcing a scaled-back event.

Thousands of National Guard troops are moving into Washington ahead of the inauguration amid fears of a repeat of the violence that killed five people on Capitol Hill on January 6.

Mr Biden’s address is set to be a message of unity and the need for quick implementation. He is planning immediate actions to tackle the pandemic and other crises.

These include coronavirus, economic recovery, climate change and racial inequity.

Mr Biden is set to rescind the Muslim travel ban that Mr Trump installed. He will also propose legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11m immigrants who live illegally in America.

Mr Biden will assume office as the Senate prepares to try Mr Trump after the House impeached him for inciting the insurrection that led to the death of five people.

He is also expected to launch a “100-day masking challenge” that will include a mandate that masks be worn on federal property and also when travelling from between states.

Further reading


The already slow rollout of inoculations across European countries, including the UK, is likely to be complicated this week as production of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines is reorganised to increase capacity from 1.3bn to 2bn doses this year.

A growing second wave is threatening to overwhelm fragile healthcare systems across Africa after months of relatively mild impact, officials have warned. 

Authorities in Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as international organisations, say hospital capacity and oxygen supplies are running out as the continent-wide death rate this month surpassed the global average for the first time.

In India Narendra Modi kicked off one of the world’s most ambitious inoculation drives in the midst of growing vaccine scepticism over the approval of an indigenously developed jab. The prime minister launched the campaign with an emotional live address at the weekend, saying “the nation has been desperately waiting for this moment” and warned against “false propaganda” about vaccine safety.

India, a country of 1.4bn people, has the world’s second-highest number of infections at 10.5m.

Italy politics

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte faces a parliamentary vote on his future on Tuesday after former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s small Italia Viva party resigned from the coalition government, criticising its handling of the pandemic. 

The coalition still commands a majority in the lower house, where Mr Conte will speak on Monday, but he will need to win the support of a majority of Italian senators in the upper chamber. 

This looks likely after the two largest parties in the coalition, the Five Star Movement and the Democratic party, backed Mr Conte and attacked Mr Renzi for causing political uncertainty at a time when Italy faces a grave health and economic crisis.


JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup’s fourth straight quarter of blowout trading results last week tempered fears that Wall Street’s boom was slowing, setting the scene for strong earnings from the remainder of the US banks this week, headed by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Wall Street has enjoyed a bumper year, benefiting from the mix of volatility inspired by the pandemic and the actions by central bank actions to ease the impact.

However senior Wall Street executives are keen to stress the extraordinary nature of the marketplaces and are talking down the prospect of a continued boom.

Netflix is expected to post better than-expected subscriber additions in the fourth quarter as the streaming giant’s original releases brought more viewers during the holiday season amid fresh pandemic restrictions.

In the UK a range of trading updates will be released from the holiday season across the market, including retailers Burberry, WHSmith, Dixons Carphone, while pub group JD Wetherspoon will offer a snapshot from the hospitality sector and Ladbrokes-owner Entain has an update that should show whether online gambling is taking up the slack from the closure of high street bookies.

Miners Rio Tinto, BHP and Antofagasta issue trading updates with the sector looking well-placed to benefit when recovery from the pandemic does arrive.

Further reading

This week’s reports


Rio Tinto; Centamin; Experian; Premier Foods; Kier Group; Bank of America; Netflix; Charles Schwab; Goldman Sachs; State Street


Antofagasta; BHP; Burberry Group; WHSmith; CMC Markets; Pearson; JD Wetherspoon; Dixons Carphone; Cairn Energy; Morgan Stanley; US Bancorp; Bank of New York Mellon; Procter & Gamble; United Airlines


Entain; Sage Group; Intel; IBM; Northern Trust; Woodside Petroleum; Baker Hughes

Central banks and economic data

China kicks off the week with a slew of data, including fourth-quarter GDP. China avoided recession last year despite its fall of 6.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2020. The economy recovered in the second quarter growing respectively by 3.2 and 4.9 per cent. This week’s figures are expected to clarify the strength of the recovery, with growth forecast at 6.2 per cent year on year.

Column chart of Annual % change in gross domestic product showing Chinese economy powers through pandemic

Flash global PMI data at the end of the week are not expected to fall to the level of the first lockdowns in March 2020, but the latest restrictions across Europe are once again likely to widen the gap between services and manufacturing there.

On top of lockdowns, the UK PMIs will also indicate the disruption to trade since the country broke with EU customs arrangements at the start of the year.

UK inflation numbers for December will also be crucial in shaping investors’ expectations about the central bank’s next move.

The latest lockdowns, the pace of vaccinations and the prospects for a recovery will all be in focus when the ECB holds its first rate-setting meeting of the year on Thursday.

While the central bank is widely expected to keep its main monetary policies unchanged on Thursday, Christine Lagarde, ECB president, has already signalled that it could expand its main bond-buying programme further if vaccinations are delayed and lockdowns remain in place for longer than expected.

Turkey’s central bank will also be in focus. New central bank governor Naci Agbal increased interest rates for the second month in a row in December as the country sought to rebuild its shattered credibility. No more changes are expected for the time being, but inflation will be closely watched in the months ahead.

Further reading

This week’s data and meetings


China GDP (Q4); Retail sales (Dec); Industrial production (Dec)


Germany ZEW survey (Jan)


UK inflation (Dec) Rates are expected to edge up slightly after slowing more than forecast in November as prices of clothing, food and recreation fell while the country battled a second Covid wave.

China; Malaysia; Canada; Brazil, central bank meetings The only change likely is Malaysia, where a 25 basis point rate cut is forecast.


US initial jobs data The pace of new US jobless claims rose last week to the highest level since August, with 965,000 initial applications. The forecast for this week is a fall to 868,000.

Japan; ECB; Turkey; Indonesia; Norway; South African, central bank meetings No changes expected.


Japan; eurozone; Germany; France; UK; US; flash PMIs (Jan)

UK retail sales (Dec) Online sales for the holiday period are expected to provide a small boost after November’s 3.8 per cent fall.

Canada retail sales (Nov)

Additional reporting by Elena Losavio


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