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The Year Ahead: expect the unexpected

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This article is an on-site version of our The Week Ahead newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Sunday

Hello and welcome to the first working week of the year. It is now an annual tradition (well, I did it last year) to use this edition to take a long look forward to the year ahead.

The one thing that 2022 made obvious was the stupidity of trying to predict the future. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the (related) energy crisis being just two examples. The death of Queen Elizabeth II was a possibility this time last year but I focused instead on her platinum jubilee celebrations, which (thankfully) she and the nation still managed to enjoy. I was pleased to have sufficiently caveated my US midterm prediction to say that the Republicans might only win control of one of the chambers of Congress.

What we do know going into 2023 is that all these happenings from 2022 will provide news lines to look out for in the coming weeks and months.

The cost and supply of gas and electricity will continue to challenge governments and complicate politics and economics in 2023. Governments became key players in energy in 2022 and they will continue in this role in the coming 12 months, as my colleagues on the Energy Source team explain.

What will happen with the war in Ukraine? Russia will launch further counter-attacks, though doubts have been raised about its ability to arm its troops. Will the US, by far the biggest external provider of military and financial support, provide enough new weaponry for the Ukrainian forces to reclaim more land? What impact will Sweden — as a born-again Nato fan — have on the EU’s position now that it is taking up the revolving EU presidency?

2022 was the year that workers took to the picket lines again, raising industrial disputes in the UK to levels last seen in the 1980s and encouraging workers not formally unionised in the US at Starbucks and (to a limited extent) Amazon to band together for increased rights.

But so far there are few signs that this has achieved much — UK households face the steepest decline in living standards in six decades over the next two years, according to official figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Worker remuneration is weakening across the world with global wages falling for the first time on record in 2022, according to the International Labour Organization. Will this encourage the industrial unrest to spread?

2023 will begin in the UK with more rail strikes, with RMT union members walking out on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, while members of rival Aslef — representing drivers at 15 train companies — are due to strike on January 5.

Ballots will close in January for the NASUWT and Fire Brigades Union to decide whether teachers in England and Wales and firefighters strike over pay. Further action has been planned by the nurses union and airport staff.

Behind the British labour disputes is a broader concern that not enough is being spent to maintain and repair the UK’s infrastructure, with crumbling courts in England and Wales as well as inadequate staffing for rail services. The zeal of the austerity drive started by the 2010 coalition government is to blame, according to the FT’s John Burn-Murdoch — and he has the data to prove it. This may well be a significant theme of British politics in 2023.

Rishi Sunak’s government has so far refused to give an inch in pay demands and the unions are short of cash to maintain their industrial action, but FT political columnist Stephen Bush believes the UK prime minister will be forced to fold in 2023. This can only be bad for the Conservative party’s electoral chances (already extremely weak), but if 2022 is anything to go by, British politics is never easy to predict.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your support and comments about The Week Ahead over the past year. I will be back with the regular format on January 8. Here is the rest of the 2023 corporate and economic round-up.

Economic data

The big macroeconomic themes of 2023 are going to be (much like 2022) inflation and recession, in particular whether the former can be tamed without exacerbating the latter. There is little consensus on where rates will end for different countries, or indeed what pivots will be made to cut rates as 2023 draws to a close — US markets are discounting 50 basis points of cuts by year end.

There is also uncertainty about when individual countries will enter recession — the UK probably already has, but the US has not yet — and how long the period of negative growth will last. My colleague Rob Armstrong, writer of the excellent Unhedged newsletter, has predicted that the US recession will not begin until later in the year, but that this will then drag down the markets such that US stocks end the year down.

Interest rates will remain high throughout the year, according to Rob. He also heavily caveats such forecasts. Click here to read his 2023 market predictions in full.

Companies

The new year brings a changing of the guard at several major companies.

Shell lifer Wael Sawan takes the helm of the oil and gas business in January with the London-based company in rude health but with some challenging decisions to make in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

In the same month, Héctor Grisi will be promoted from head of Santander’s North America operations to group chief executive. Grisi joined Santander in 2015 from Credit Suisse, where he was an investment banker. His promotion draws a line under the failed appointment of Andrea Orcel more than three years ago.

Last but not least, Robert Kyncl becomes chief executive of Warner Music. The former chief business officer at YouTube joins as the music industry is riding a wave of streaming revenues. It is clearly hoped that Kyncl’s grasp of the tech sector will help Warner further profit from the digitisation of tunes.

Expect more headlines about the exploits of Elon Musk — not a difficult prediction given that this is the business journalism gift that keeps on giving.

Key world, economic and corporate events

Here is a more complete list of what to expect in terms of world events, company reports and economic data in the year ahead.

January

  • The eurozone expands with Croatia becoming the 20th member of the currency union on January 1.

  • On the same day, Sweden takes over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.

  • The newly Republican-controlled US House of Representatives convenes for its first session of the year on January 3.

  • Czech presidential elections take place on January 13-14.

  • India’s Supreme Court has given the national government until January 6 to provide its response to petitions to legalise same-sex marriage in the country.

  • The Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg is scheduled to be sentenced in New York in January after pleading guilty to tax fraud and testifying against the former president’s real estate company at trial.

  • US president Joe Biden travels to Mexico City for a North American leaders summit with his Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

  • The World Economic Forum summit returns to Davos with the theme “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”. FT Live will host a number of in-person and digital events alongside the event, with leaders in policy, business and finance sharing insights into the issues being debated. Register for free here.

February

  • An EU ban on Russian petroleum products comes into force on February 5, having already banned Russian crude oil on December 5 2022, backed by the UK and other G7 countries.

  • The 65th Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on February 5.

  • Biden announces his Budget for the US fiscal year 2024 on February 6.

  • The Super Bowl, the climax of the American football league calendar, is played on February 12.

  • February 24 is the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • The annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona kicks off at the end of the month, bringing together key players in the telecoms and tech sector.

March

  • March 1 is the 50th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, one of the bestselling albums worldwide with estimated sales of more than 50mn.

  • The National People’s Congress annual session for China’s top legislature opens on March 4.

  • The 95th Academy Awards — the Oscars — are held in Hollywood on March 12.

  • UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt must beware the Ides of March as he has set March 15 as the date for his annual Budget speech, outlining tax and spending plans.

April

  • This month sees the 20th anniversary of the launch of the iTunes Store. It now carries over 26mn tracks, selling an average of 15,000 songs per minute in 119 countries.

  • The UK tax year begins on April 1 when the main rate of corporation tax rises from 19 per cent to 25 per cent on profits over £250,000.

  • Easter Sunday falls on April 9.

  • The next day is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Belfast Agreement, better known as the Good Friday Agreement, which outlined plans for a Northern Ireland Assembly that shared power between Unionists and Nationalists after 30 years of conflict.

May

  • Local elections across district councils in England, plus unitary authorities and directly elected mayors, and all local councils across Northern Ireland will be held on May 4.

  • The Coronation of King Charles III will be held at Westminster Abbey on May 6, with a public holiday for the UK on May 8.

  • The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Liverpool, UK, on May 13. Ukraine won last year’s contest but was considered too dangerous to host the event.

  • Japan hosts the G7 Summit in Hiroshima this year, running from May 19-21.

  • The US edition of the FTWeekend Festival returns to Washington, DC, on May 20 with speakers including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alice Waters, Darren Walker and several FT writers. Register as a newsletter subscriber and save $20 using promo code NewslettersxFestival at ft.com/festival-us.

June

  • The Ashes cricket test match series between England and Australia starts on June 16 with the hosts hoping to regain the prize the team last won in 2015.

  • Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 18.

July

  • Spain takes over the revolving EU presidency on July 1.

  • The Nato summit begins in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11.

  • UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey are due to make their annual Mansion House speeches in the City of London on July 18.

  • The Fifa Women’s World Cup, staged in Australia and New Zealand, kicks off on July 20 at Eden Park in Auckland.

August

  • The 80th Venice International Film Festival begins on August 30.

  • The final of the Fifa Women’s World Cup will be played on August 20 in Sydney, Australia.

  • The Jackson Hole economic policy symposium begins on August 24.

September

  • Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s term of office ends on September 1, having already been extended by a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • The G20 Leaders’ Summit begins in New Delhi on September 9.

October

  • The annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group begin on October 13, bringing together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives and academics.

  • Two big international sporting events happen this month. The ICC Cricket World Cup begins in India on October 1 and the Rugby World Cup comes to France, with the final to be played in Paris on October 28.

  • October 19 was Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s desired date to hold an independence referendum, as announced at Holyrood in June.

  • The 50th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House opening will be marked on October 20 with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

  • October 22 is the 60th anniversary of the National Theatre in London’s first performance under the leadership of its first artistic director Laurence Olivier.

November

  • UK prime minister Rishi Sunak is due to set out his foreign policy in the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet speech in the City of London on November 13.

  • November 22 will be the 60th anniversary of the assassination of US president John F Kennedy.

  • The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, aka Cop28, begins in the United Arab Emirates on November 30.

December

  • Brazil takes over the one-year presidency of the G20 from India and will host 2024’s summit.

  • December 2023 will be a month of significant anniversaries. December 5 is the 10th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death. December 10 is the 75th anniversary of the UN General Assembly adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 13 will be 20 years since Saddam Hussein was captured. December 16 is the 75th anniversary of board game Scrabble.

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Economic

We need to pay more attention to skewed economic signals

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The writer is chair of Queen’s College, Cambridge and advisor to Allianz and Gramercy

Inflation was the dominant economic and financial issue of 2022 for most countries around the world, especially for advanced economies that have a consequential impact on the global economy and markets.

The effects have been seen in declining living standards, increasing inequality, increasing borrowing costs, stock and bond market losses, and occasional financial mishaps (fortunately small and so far contained).

In this new year, recession, both actual and feared, has joined inflation in the driving seat of the global economy and is likely to replace it. It’s a development that makes the global economy and investment portfolios subject to a wide range of possible outcomes — something that a growing number of bond investors seem to be aware of more than their equity counterparts.

International Monetary Fund iYou will likely review soon Her economic growth forecasts again, predicting that “a third of the world will be hit by recession this year”. What is particularly notable to me about these worsening global prospects is not only that the world’s three major economic regions – China, the European Union and the United States – are slowing down together, but also that this is happening for different reasons.

In China, a chaotic exit from the wrong Covid-19 policy is undermining demand and causing more supply disruptions. Such headwinds to domestic and global economic well-being will continue as long as China fails to improve the coverage and effectiveness of its vaccination efforts. The strength and sustainability of the subsequent recovery will also require that the country more vigorously renew a growth model that can no longer rely on greater globalization.

The European Union continues to deal with energy supply disruptions as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. Strengthening inventory management and reorientation of energy supplies is well advanced in many countries. However, it is not yet sufficient to lift immediate constraints on growth, let alone resolve long-term structural headwinds.

The United States has the least problematic view. The headwinds to growth are due to the Fed’s struggle to contain inflation after mischaracterizing rate increases as fleeting and then initially being too timid to adjust monetary policy.

The Fed’s shift to an aggressive front-load of interest rate hikes came too late to prevent the spread of inflation in the services sector and wages. As such, inflation is likely to remain stubborn at around 4 percent, be less sensitive to interest rate policies and expose the economy to greater risk for accidents from additional policy errors that undermine growth.

The uncertainties facing each of these three economic areas suggest that analysts should be more careful in reassuring us that recessionary pressures will be “short and shallow”. They need to be open, if only to avoid repeating the mistake of prematurely dismissing inflation as transient.

This is especially important because these diverse drivers of recessionary risk make financial fragility more threatening and policy shifts more difficult, including potentially Japan. Get out of interest rate control Policy. The range of possible outcomes is extraordinarily large.

On the one hand, a better policy response, including improving the supply response and protecting the most vulnerable populations, can counteract the global economic slowdown and, in the case of the United States, avert a recession.

On the other hand, additional policy errors and market turmoil can lead to self-reinforcing vicious cycles with rising inflation and rising interest rates, weakening credit and compressed earnings, and stressing market performance.

Judging by market prices, more bond investors are better understanding this, including by refusing to follow the Fed’s interest rate guidance this year. Instead of a sustainable path to higher rates for 2023, they believe recessionary pressures will lead to cuts later this year. If true, government bonds would provide the yield and potential for badly missed portfolio risk mitigation in 2022.

However, parts of the stock market is still weakly bearish pricing. Reconciling these different scenarios is more important than investors. Without better alignment within markets and with policy signals, the positive economic and financial outcomes we all desire will be no less likely. They will also be challenged by the risk of more unpleasant outcomes at a time of less economic and human resilience.

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Macro hedge funds end 2022 higher, investors say, while many others take big losses By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, US, January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Svea Herbst Baylis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some hedge funds betting on macroeconomic trends have boasted of double and even triple-digit gains for 2022, while other high-profile companies that have long been on technology stocks have suffered heavy losses in volatile markets, investors said.

Rokos Capital, run by Chris Rokos and one of a handful of so-called global macro companies, gained 51% last year. Fund investors this week, who asked not to be identified, said Brevan Howard Asset Management, the company where Rokos once worked, posted a gain of 20.14% and Caxton Associates returned 16.73%.

Haider Capital Management’s Haider Jupiter Fund rose 193%, an investor said.

Data from hedge fund research showed that many macro managers have avoided crumbling stock markets that have been rocked by rapid interest rate increases and geopolitical turmoil, including the war in Ukraine, to rank among the best performers in the hedge fund industry. The company’s macro index rose 14.2% while the general index of hedge funds fell 4.25%, its first loss since 2018.

Equity hedge funds, where the bulk of the industry’s roughly $3.7 trillion in assets are invested, fared worse with a loss of 10.4%, according to HFR data. And while that beat the broader stock market’s loss of 19.4%, some high-profile funds posted even bigger losses.

Tiger Global Management lost 56% while Whale Rock Capital Management ended the year with a 43% loss and Maverick Capital lost 23%. Coatue Management ended 2022 with a loss of 19%.

But not all companies that bet on technology stocks suffered. John Thaler JAT Capital finished the year with a 3.7% gain after fees after a 33% increase in 2021 and a 46% gain in 2020.

Sculptor Capital Management (NYSE::), where founder Dan Och is fighting the company’s current CEO in court over his salary increase, posted a 13% drop.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital, which bet that Elon Musk would be forced to buy Twitter, ended the year up 37% while Rick Sandler’s Eminence Capital rose 7%.

A number of so-called multi-manager companies where teams of portfolio managers bet on a variety of sectors also boast positive returns and have been able to deliver on their promise that hedge funds can deliver better returns in distressed markets.

Balyasny’s Atlas Fund (NYSE: Enhanced) gained 9.7%, while Point72 Asset Management gained 10%. Millennium Management gained 12% while Carlson Capital ended the year with a 7% gain.

Representatives for the companies either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.

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German automakers point to easing supply chain problems

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Sales at BMW and Mercedes-Benz jumped in the final months of 2022 as the German premium auto brands indicated supply chain problems plaguing the industry were abating.

Automakers around the world have experienced parts shortages since the pandemic, especially semiconductors, leaving many of them with large fleets of incomplete vehicles that can’t be delivered to customers.

BMW and Mercedes each said their full-year vehicle deliveries fell last year by 4.8 percent and 1 percent, respectively, due to Suppliers Bottlenecks as well as lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine.

But supply pressures eased in the last quarter of the year, as BMW recorded a 10.6 percent jump in sales, with 651,798 vehicles delivered, and Mercedes fulfilling 540,800 orders, up 17 percent from the same period in 2022.

BMW He said the main effects of supply chain bottlenecks and continued lockdowns were felt in the first six months of the year, adding that “sales were steadily picking up in the second half.”

Mercedes boss Ula Kallenius told the Financial Times last week that the list of problems in the auto supply chain was declining, but added that long waits for cars would continue into 2023.

“One chip is enough to be vital [ . . .] Missing, and then you can’t finish the car, even if you have everything else.

Both brands recorded strong sales growth electric car. Mercedes, which last week announced a plan to build 10,000 charging docks, said EV shipments grew 124 percent to 117,800 last year compared with its predecessor.

Similarly, BMW reported strong growth in electric vehicle sales, with deliveries of fully electric vehicles doubling last year to 215,755.

Analysts at Bank of America said that sales of electric vehicles, including hybrid cars, reached a historic peak last November, with 1.1 million units sold. They attributed this largely to the upcoming phase-out of customer subsidies in Germany.

Participate in Mercedes BMW and BMW prices held steady Tuesday morning as investors priced in an image of an improving showing.

Rolls-Royce, a subsidiary of BMW, announced Monday that sales have hit a 119-year record, driven by strong demand in the United States, its largest market.

The luxury brand has been largely unaffected by the semiconductor pressure, mainly because it makes relatively few compounds and therefore needs fewer chips.

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