The Week Ahead In Charts: Covid, Auto Earnings And Us Gdp
Every Monday, Mint’s Plain Facts section features key data releases and events to look for in the coming week. Two leading automobile companies—Bajaj Auto and Maruti Suzuki—are set to release their quarterly earnings reports this week. The national capital is witnessing a fresh surge of covid-19, forcing several states to bring back face mask mandates. Here’s all that you need to watch for this week:
1. Covid updates
Covid-19 infections are again on the rise in India, primarily in and around Delhi. A new sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2.12, and its sub-lineage BA.2.12.1, are said to be responsible for the spike. The daily infection count has crossed 1,000 in Delhi, and the number of active cases nationally is inching towards 15,000. India’s effective reproduction number, or R-value, has crossed 1 for the first time since January. Some experts have called for reducing the gap between the second and third dose of the vaccine to six months, and the Centre is likely to take a call on the matter in the coming days to ensure more Indians are ready for any further surge.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is expected to release data this week that could throw light on excess mortalities during the pandemic. Media reports suggest the WHO data will put India’s likely covid-19 toll several times the official number.
2. Auto earnings
Commodity- and consumption-led sectors such as automobiles faced a tough January-March quarter. Gradual recovery after the third covid-19 wave in January was interrupted by the ramifications of the Russia-Ukraine war since February. Elevated raw material prices and input costs may have weighed on automakers’ earnings. This will be evident when Bajaj Auto and Maruti Suzuki announce their financial results on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
Analysts at Axis Securities expect Maruti Suzuki’s volumes to have declined by 1% year-on-year (y-o-y) owing to persistent supply chain issues and semiconductor chip shortages. Bajaj Auto’s operating profit is estimated to decline by 27% and the headwinds presented by the raw material costs could hurt gross margins. Market participants will watch out for the companies’ commentary on the impact of commodity cost pressures on product prices for the end consumer.
3. US GDP
The US is set to release its GDP growth data for the March-ended quarter on Thursday. The economy had grown 6.9% sequentially in the December quarter, but is likely to have put up a poor show this time as high inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine have taken a toll. Some forecasters predict that the growth rate could fall to as much as 0.5%. A big part of the dim projections could be attributed to the waning effect of the inventory build-up by companies, seen ahead of the winter holidays in the previous quarter. Inflation also surged to a 40-year high during the quarter, prompting the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates. The higher prices will weigh heavily on consumer spending. Exports may weaken as supply chains are disrupted by the Ukraine war, say analysts.
4. Russia interest rate
The Central Bank of the Russian Federation is set to hold its next interest rate review meeting on Friday. On 28 February, the central bank had raised the benchmark interest rate from 9.5% to 20% in an emergency move to counter the risk of inflationary pressures due to sanctions imposed by the US and some European countries in retaliation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, at an unscheduled meeting on 8 April, the apex bank scaled it back to 17%, hinting that a disastrous hit to the financial system had been contained.
Recent weekly figures show a significant slowing in the inflation rate for the sixth week in a row as the price surge, which had affected Russian household demand in particular, has retreated. The ruble, which fell dramatically after the invasion, has also rebounded sharply. The central bank could have leeway to lower interest rates further at the upcoming meeting.
5. Labour Day
The first day of May is commemorated around the world as Labour Day, also known as May Day and International Workers‘ Day. The holiday honouring workers first came into play in the late 19th century, when American labourers, tired of working 12 hours a day under testing conditions and for little pay, went on a strike to demand better conditions and work timings. Almost a decade later, in 1894, the US declared Labour Day a holiday. Many nations now observe it as a public holiday, while some observe it on a different date.
The pandemic has altered the notion of work for white-collar workers in some industries, who even call for four-day workweeks now. However, the reality is hardly rosy for the working class, especially in exploitative industries. Even today, few countries adhere to the standard 40-hour workweek, data from the International Labour Organization shows. In India, this figure is 48 hours a week.