Could this be industrial disease?

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Hello and welcome to the working week.

Or if you are in the UK, the not working week — today’s headline is for Dire Straits fans. Britain’s industrial unrest has been branded the second winter of discontent (although not a patch on the mass walkouts that hit the UK in 1978-79) and is set to peak in the coming days, with rail and postal workers, NHS staff and driving instructors (yes, that one surprised me too) all walking out over pay and conditions.

A ballot among RMT members for the latest pay offer to rail workers closes on Monday with the rail union recommending that members reject the proposed deal. The offer could have been significantly higher but a 10 per cent pay rise over two years was blocked by government ministers, the Financial Times revealed last week. The latest in several 48-hour RMT walkouts planned by the RMT over the Christmas period will begin on Tuesday.

More than 1mn working days are expected to be lost to strikes in the UK in December, the worst disruption of any month since the tail-end of Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.

Pressure is growing on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration to enact anti-strike legislation, and we might hear more about that this week, but successive Tory prime ministers have made similar pledges that have come to nothing. And whatever Sunak does now will be too late for the escalation in industrial action over the Christmas holidays.

Want some better news? On Tuesday, the first of a new generation of European weather satellites will be launched into space from Kourou in French Guiana. Despite what Billy Bragg sang about wishing on space hardware, the €4.3bn Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) system provides a real leap forward for meteorologists, providing more accurate forecasts, including better warnings of imminent storms.

Three satellites will hover in geostationary orbit 36,000km above the equator over Africa. From there they will provide images of Europe every two and a half minutes, including the first comprehensive observations of lightning from space. In so doing, the system is forecast to save lives that could have been lost in extreme weather.

And then there is the football.

If you hate the Fifa World Cup, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s the last week of the tournament. If you love it, you can relish the crescendo of an extraordinary month for the beautiful game with the remaining four teams playing in the semis on Wednesday ahead of Sunday’s final — read the FT’s coverage for full details.

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Economic data

It is not just strikes that are clustering this week. The markets are focused on a trio of interest rate announcements from the acronym economies: the US, EU and UK. All three are expected to ease off somewhat on the levels of planned rises.

There is also a wealth of data from the US and UK that influences rate-setting committees. The gulf between short and long-term borrowing costs — at its widest level since 1981 — has strengthened expectations among investors that the Fed will stay the course on its monetary policy tightening to tame inflation, despite increased worries about recession.

The last time the UK’s Monetary Policy Committee met, in early November, attention was focused on restoring confidence in the country’s economic management. The Bank of England continues to talk tough, but this time the MPC’s response is expected to be more measured. Expectations are for a 0.5 percentage point rise in the base rate on Thursday, rather than repeating the 0.75 percentage point rise of last month.

The week ends with G7 flash purchasing managers’ index (PMI) figures. There is also an EU leaders’ summit and Opec publishes its monthly outlook report.


It’s a quiet week for earnings announcements, but one with some notable companies reporting from specific sectors. In retail fashion, there is H&M, which has been talking up its recovery in the Chinese market after a long-running consumer boycott. Expectations are also high for Spain’s Inditex, home to the Zara brand among others. For tech, there is the acquisitive Oracle. And in the outsourcing arena, Capita and Serco are representing.

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.


  • India, November consumer price index (CPI) inflation figures

  • UK, October GDP estimate, industrial production and trade balance data

  • Results: Oracle Q2


  • Germany, ZEW survey and November Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) inflation figures

  • UK, December labour market statistics

  • US, November CPI inflation rate figures

  • Results: Capita trading update


  • EU, October industrial production figures

  • Japan, revised October industrial production figures (AM local time)

  • OPEC issues its latest monthly oil market report

  • UK, November CPI and producer price index (PPI) inflation rate figures

  • US, Federal Open Market Committee’s interest-rate decision

  • Results: Inditex Q3, Tui FY, Weber Q4


  • China, November retail sales and industrial production figures

  • EU, European Central Bank governing council’s monetary policy meeting

  • Japan, November trade balance data (AM local time)

  • New Zealand, Q3 GDP figures

  • UK, Bank of England MPC rate-setting meeting

  • UK, Budget statement in the Scottish Parliament, including tax and spending plans for 2023-24

  • US, November retail sales and industrial production figures

  • Results: Adobe Q4, Biffa H1, Currys H1, H&M Q4 sales update, OVS Q3, Serco Q3


  • Quadruple Witching Day, when during the final hour of stock market trading stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single-stock futures expire

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

  • EU, November HCIP inflation rate figures

  • Russia, central bank rate-setting decision

  • UK, FTSE UK Index quarterly review with Abrdn, Beazley and Weir Group set to replace Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Harbour Energy and Intermediate Capital Group in the FTSE 100

  • UK, November retail sales figures and GfK consumer confidence survey

  • Results: Hollywood Bowl FY

World events

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


  • France, international conference held in Paris to support Ukrainian civil resilience, organised by French president Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy

  • Kenya, Independence Day public holiday

  • US, 80th Golden Globe Awards nominations announced ahead of the awards ceremony on January 10


  • The annual Geminids meteor shower is likely to peak this evening, with sightings of shooting stars set to accelerate as the night progresses

  • French Guiana, Ariane 5 rocket launch carrying the European Space Agency’s Meteosat third generation satellite

  • UK, 48-hour strike by more than 40,000 workers across Network Rail and 14 train companies begins in a long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions. Driving examiners in the Public and Commercial Services Union are also striking in a separate dispute over pay. Nurses, Royal Mail staff in the Communication Workers Union, bus drivers and baggage handlers are all due to strike later this week.

  • UK, Ofsted publishes its annual report on schools in England

  • US, President Joe Biden hosts a Washington summit with leaders of African nations



  • EU, European Council meeting of EU heads of state and government, chaired by the council’s president Charles Michel

  • US, Nasa to launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, the focus of an international mission to conduct the world’s first comprehensive survey of Earth’s water surfaces, from oceans to lakes and rivers.


  • Kazakhstan, Independence Day public holiday

  • South Africa, the governing African National Congress begins a meeting to review its policies and elect new leadership, including the party’s president Cyril Ramaphosa

  • UK, 72-hour strike begins by 350 ground handling staff at Heathrow employed by Menzies. Also, more than 100 Eurostar security staff employed by facilities management company Mitie are due to walk out in a dispute over pay.



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