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The Week Ahead: Recruiter will reveal clues to sentiment of employers




When SThree revealed last month that it had suffered a sharp slowdown near the end of 2011, the recruiter plummeted close to 10 per cent in just one session, so at least the market has had its expectations dampened before today's annual results.

Still, with the company also saying its profits would meet forecasts, Collins Stewart's James Gilbert believes the figures themselves are unlikely "to have a material impact on the investment case". He instead will be keeping a watchful eye on comments regarding temporary staff coming back to work after Christmas, saying this will provide "a clear indication as to the sentiment of employers across the globe".

Results/Updates: Centamin and SThree.


BSkyB has not enjoyed a great run-up to the release of its second-quarter figures on Tuesday. The satellite broadcaster has been hit by a number of analysts cutting their forecasts, and although many of the concerns cited have been based on events in the future – such as competition for the rights to show Premier League football – any comments on these issues will be pored over by the City.

On the figures themselves, Investec's Steve Liechti is expecting BSkyB to have added 38,000 net TV subscribers, which would be a sharp drop from the 140,000 it managed to gain in the same period the year before, and he also forecasts a 6.7 per cent jump in its first-half sales to £3.4bn.

Nomura's Matthew Walker, meanwhile, points out that the numbers will show the full reaction to its recent decision to freeze prices, while he is more positive on the number of new TV subscribers than Mr Liechti, predicting a net add of 55,000.

Tomorrow also sees Arm Holdings announce its fourth-quarter figures, and there are high hopes the chip designer could surpass market expectations, especially following fantastic results from Apple – which uses its technology – last week. The current consensus is that the group will announce revenues of $197.5m, but Citigroup believes it could in fact surpass this by more than $6m.

The broker's analysts suggest that this could be the first time Arm has managed to ship more than 2 billion chips, although they also note that they expect average royalties per chip to once again see a sequential decline.

Results/Updates: Arm Holdings, Babcock International, BSkyB, Carpetright, F&C Asset Management, National Grid, Ocado, Porvair, Vedanta Resources and Xstrata.


While investors fled from riskier stocks, Imperial Tobacco rather enjoyed 2011. Yet the cigarette maker, whose brands include Davidoff and Lambert & Butler, has not been in demand this year, and Nomura's analysts are expecting it to announce weak volumes with its first-quarter update on Wednesday. They believe its cigarette volumes will have seen a decline in the "mid- to high single digits", although they add that the group's loose tobacco products may have enjoyed a small increase.

Results/Updates: Brewin Dolphin, Creston, Eurasian Natural Resources, Icap, Imperial Tobacco and United Utilities.


Earlier in the month rumours were doing the rounds that Royal Dutch Shell had been playing down expectations ahead of its fourth-quarter results, and with US rival Chevron issuing a profits warning earlier in the month, there will be a few nerves ahead of Thursday's numbers. Collin Stewart's Gordon Gray is expecting weak figures, following on from the trend seen in the final three months of last year as well as the year before that.

The analyst is forecasting Shell's income dropping 25 per cent from the previous quarter to roughly $5.3bn, almost all of which is set to come from its upstream operations. Mr Gray expects its downstream business to "be hit hard", saying that "severe refine margin weakness ... has combined with weaker marketing and chemicals margins and pressure on trading".

Results/Updates: AstraZeneca, Compass, Great Portland Estates, Royal Dutch Shell, Smith & Nephew and Unilever.


The UBS analyst Nick Lyall may be expecting BT's third-quarter results to be "solid", but he does have concerns over what the rest of 2012 will bring. Pointing out that this year could see BSkyB roll out its fibre broadband service as well as the launch of the YouView television venture, the analyst said both of these issues "introduce greater uncertainty" so any comments related to either will be under examination.

Results/Updates: BT, Electrocomponents and International Airlines Group.

Economics Diary


Eurozone retail PMI; US personal income data.


Eurozone unemployment rate; GfK consumer confidence; Mortgage approvals; US Chicago PMI;US consumer confidence data.


Eurozone manufacturing PMI; Manufacturing PMI; US construction spending; US manufacturing ISM; US vehicle sales.


Construction PMI; US productivity data.


Eurozone services PMI; Services PMI; US employment report; US factory orders; US non-manufacturing IMS.