Live news: Fortnum & Mason predicts royal boost

Are you ready for Blue Monday, which falls earlier this year this year, to be the gloomiest 24 hours on the calendar, as former Cardiff University psychologist Cliff Arnall calculated in 2005?

Arnall’s dire conclusion about the third Monday of the first month (which he tried to dispute) was based on an analysis of data such as consumer surveys, divorce filings and weather reports. The main conclusion most of us draw from this analysis is that not all academic research is socially beneficial.

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If you’re a world leader or executive, at least the World Economic Forum in Davos can distract you from the January blues. The FT Live team will also be in the Swiss resort town hosting a series of in-person and digital events where leaders from policy, business and finance will share their insights on the big issues being debated. You can view events and register for free here.

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For the rest of us, we’ll have to live with the bad economic news coming into 2023 and hope things get better.

If you’re in the UK, the prevailing reality is a general strike. At least as my colleague Jonathan Guthrie puts it, it may not be close to a second “winter of discontent”, but there will be another strike this week among ambulance workers, and 18 new strikes by the University and College Union. This week, 150 UK universities are involved in February and March, after members voted last week to reject their latest pay proposal.

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The deadline for Northern Ireland’s protocol to restore power sharing at Stormont expires on Thursday. Don’t expect it to make you feel better about life or cross-border politics.

Abortion rights activists marched from Washington Square Park to Bryant Park in New York last June.

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

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which guaranteed Americans’ constitutional right to abortion. After last year’s decision to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision, this is of course a very lively debate that has continued even in the boardroom. Anti-abortion activists will march in Washington on Friday to provide further commentary on the fundamental fault lines of US politics.

The week ends with another man-made day, this time an astronomical Lunar New Year. A large influx of people visiting family and friends celebrating this year’s holiday will come amid rising Covid levels in China. There are concerns about the impact on the spread of disease.

Next up is an evening with FT columnist Martin Wolff. Join Martin and other thought leaders online on January 31 for a subscriber-only event to discuss the big changes needed in this time of global uncertainty. The discussion coincides with the publication of Martin’s new book. The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. Sign up for free here.

Economic data

Tesco cashierless store in High Holborn, London

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy warns UK inflation could rise further © Luke McGregor / Bloomberg

This week will be busy gathering data from China, the UK and the US. The European Central Bank will publish the minutes of its December meeting on Thursday, and various central bankers will be in Davos to discuss regional and global economic issues.

The UK inflation rate will be updated on Wednesday. The outlook is not looking good, especially after recent comments from Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill. Ken Murphy, chief executive of the UK’s largest food retailer Tesco, warned that UK inflation is likely to rise further. According to last month’s data, the cost of living, defined by the consumer price index, was 10.7 percent in November, down from 11.1 percent in October.

Companies

We’re entering the first earnings season of 2023, and it’s a cluster of companies, especially in Europe and (when Wall Street returns from Martin Luther King Jr. holidays) in the US.

Online food ordering services Just Eat Takeaway and Deliveroo will announce their holiday deals to investors on Wednesday and Thursday. Both are under pressure to increase profitability. The end of the lockdown did not bode well for food ordering apps as customers chose to return to restaurants.

The question now is whether the economic downturn will help these companies, or hit them as customers reluctantly return to their own kitchens, as more people turn to takeaways instead of eating out. Efforts to boost grocery sales in partnership with supermarkets and convenience apps such as Getir could also give Deliveroo and JET a slice of the home cooking market.

Last year was a year to forget for Ocado Retail. Marks and Spencer, the online supermarket co-owned by Ocado, which reports figures on Tuesday, has parted ways with chief executive Melanie Smith and warned several times about profits; its sales are expected to decline for the first time in its history.

A woman goes through an unclaimed bag at a Southwest Airlines baggage claim in Salt Lake City

Public attention focuses on low-cost airline Southwest Airlines’ technical failure © Rick Bowmer/AP

In its most recent update in September, Ocado said it expected customer growth and sales growth to be around 5% in the fourth quarter. It would be similar to the hikes announced by Tesco and J Sainsbury last week after UK shoppers celebrated their first Christmas in two years to avoid disruption from Covid-19.

US airlines report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings. Public attention has focused on Southwest Airlines and the low-cost airline’s failure, the country’s top airline regulator, that led to a major downturn. But for most airlines (despite increased interest in private jets post-Covid), the news will be less positive as demand for commercial air travel boosts profits.

United Airlines will report on Wednesday. Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby is expected to have a few words on Wednesday about the Federal Aviation Administration, which grounded the plane for two hours after a key safety system failed due to a corrupted database file. He said over the summer that the agency needed more air traffic controllers.

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