The Week Ahead: Nervous market awaits call from Vodafone

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The Independent Online

There has been some nervousness in the market ahead of Vodafone's interim results, which are due tomorrow. The telecoms group's shares were sold early last week on rumours that it was guiding forecasts lower.

While the talk turned out to be wide of the mark – the company was merely clarifying where certain analyst forecasts stood relative to the market average – it was indicative of mounting investor concern as the global economy slows down and sentiment towards emerging markets turns sour. Even before the rumours surfaced last Monday, Vodafone's shares were suffering as the market attempted to fill what Deutsche Bank called a "news-flow vacuum". "Nature abhors a vacuum, and investors have reacted to the news-flow hiatus at Vodafone," Deutsche said, hoping the company will use its presentation to fill the void.

The broker, which maintains a "buy" rating on the stock, is looking for 7.2p in earnings per share, up 12.3 per cent, and an interim dividend per share of 2.8p. UBS, which also has a "buy" rating on Vodafone, expects earnings to grow by 6 per cent to 6.8p with an interim dividend of 2.64p.

Today: Panmure Gordon anticipates no surprises when Dignity, the funeral services group, publishes its third-quarter update. "In our view, there is little scope for discretionary deterioration as most funerals are paid out of the deceased's estate or pre-arranged plans, therefore we would expect the trading outlook statement to remain positive." At current levels, the company's stock represents "a rare buying opportunity for investors," it said.

Results/updates: HSBC, Cable & Wireless, G4S, Hammerson, Inmarsat, Hiscox, Dignity.

ToMORROW: The engineering group Cookson's interim management statement is likely to be a gloomy affair, according to analysts at Panmure Gordon. "It's a volume-sensitive consumables player and is likely be a high-profile loser following deep production cuts across the steel and automotive sectors," the broker said. "It is also vulnerable to the weaker electronics backdrop in Asia and the economic demise across emerging markets [which accounts for 40-45 per cent of its trading profits]."

Electrocomponents, the electronic, electrical and industrial distributor, is to publish interim results. The UK remains the key source of group profits and, given the problems in domestic manufacturing and the wider economy, analysts at Charles Stanley said "it is unlikely there will be any special dividends in the current year".

Results/updates: Intercontinental Hotels, Yell, Dairy Crest, Northern Foods, Taylor Wimpey, A&J Mucklow, Electrocomponents, Cookson, Vodafone.

wednesday: Thomson Reuters is due to publish third-quarter results and, given the turmoil in the financial services industry, investors are likely to focus on the markets division, which makes up around 50 per cent of the group. Consensus estimates anticipate organic revenue growth of 4 per cent, a slowdown from 7 per cent in the second quarter and 9 per cent in the first. UBS stuck to its "sell" recommendation, saying: "We expect to see markets revenue growth turn negative in 2009 and see downside risk to consensus numbers."

UBS anticipated in-line or forecast-beating figures from Dimension Data, the IT group that is due to publish full-year results. Merrill Lynch also hopes the numbers will be in line with market expectations but anticipates cautious commentary on expectations for 2009.

Results/updates: Scottish & Southern, Land Securities, Tullow Oil, Amec, Charter, Xchanging, Smurfit Kappa, Cadogan Petroleum, Johnston Press, John Menzies, J Sainsbury, Dimension Data, Thomson Reuters.

Thursday: Results/updates: SABMiller, Reed Elsevier, Serco, Catlin, Rotork, Great Portland Estates, Paddy Power, Rightmove, JKX Oil and Gas,, Chaucer, Galiform, Trinity Mirror.

friday: The IT group Logica is due to publish a third-quarter interim management statement and Deutsche Bank anticipates a similar message to the first half, "whereby some spots of weakness are being felt but that management is confident of continuing to deliver growth".

Results/updates: Novae, Logica. Others: John Lewis weekly sales data.