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A week for reflection: Afghanistan a year on, and 75 years since partition


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Hello and welcome to the working week.

There is an anniversary on almost every day of the year, but some carry more historical significance than others, and this is one of those weeks.

Afghanistan has two anniversaries coming up. Friday is Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, in which Britain granted Afghanistan self-determination over its foreign affairs. However, most will be more concerned with Monday, which marks a year since the Taliban regained control. The FT has produced a series of articles about how society and the economy has changed since the religious group’s return to power 12 months ago, and they are worth a read.

This week also begins with the 75th anniversary of the British withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent, marking the partition of India and Pakistan. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is to address the nation from historic Red Fort in Delhi with the focus likely to be on the troubles in Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

For British schoolchildren, it is all about the present as students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on Thursday receive the emails and envelopes containing their A-level and vocational exam results. The task of accepting and finding university places through the clearing process will then begin in earnest.

As with the Advanced Higher exam scores announced for Scottish school students last week, the A-level results are expected to be down on last year, but probably up on pre-pandemic years. The exam body AQA has said papers will be more generously graded to reflect the return to normal test conditions. Maybe, you’re of an opinion that the whole system of examinations should be abolished? FT columnist-turned-teacher Lucy Kellaway looks at the pressures facing schoolchildren and the issue of anxiety in schools.

Some events are happening at a more frequent rate this year, namely British strikes. The UK’s summer of discontent will be marked by another national rail strike this week, made worse by a general walkout across London’s public transport networks. Next Sunday, more than 1,900 workers at Britain’s biggest container port Felixstowe are set to strike, plus we have another week of the criminal barristers’ strike at courts in England and Wales, with no resolution in sight.

So how about some good news? We are about to take a significant step forward — a giant leap, even — in Nasa’s Artemis space programme. The mission aims to land the first woman and minority ethnic astronaut on the Moon, preparing for a long-term lunar presence and providing a stepping stone to sending humans to Mars. Nasa plans to livestream the transfer of the Artemis 1 rocket to the launch pad on Wednesday with the aim of completing lift-off by the end of the month.

Economic data

Inflation watchers will be kept busy this week with updates from the EU, Japan and Canada, plus, on Wednesday the publication of the Federal Open Market Committee’s latest meeting minutes will perhaps give some indication of the Fed’s willingness to tighten monetary policy.

It is also going to be a busy week for British economic news with figures on employment, inflation, productivity, retail sales, consumer confidence and house prices (is the market at a turning point?). All are likely to garner comment on the state of UK plc.

Companies

Online sellers had a pretty good pandemic, largely because consumers had few other options when making purchases during the lockdowns. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, it is the turn of the service sector to profit, as shown in recent results for airlines and hotel chains. My colleague Brooke Masters explains.

This week we reach the tail-end of the current reporting season with results from a clutch of retailers that are either purely online or have benefited greatly from ecommerce, notably Walmart on Tuesday, Target and Tencent a day later, and AO World on Thursday.

AO World is trying to shift its business model away from sales growth to building and maintaining margins. The problem for such retailers as we enter an economic slowdown will be maintaining sufficient sales demand.

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.

Monday

  • Canada, monthly manufacturing survey plus wholesale trade figures

  • China, July retail sales and industrial production figures

  • India, monthly trade statistics

  • Japan, monthly industrial production figures

  • Nigeria, monthly inflation data

  • UK, Rightmove house price index

  • US, Federal Reserve board of governors member Christopher Waller gives opening remarks to the 2022 Summer Workshop on Money, Banking, Payments, and Finance hosted by the Fed

  • Results: HelloFresh H1, Henkel H1, Phoenix Group H1, Saudi Aramco H1 financial statement (results and dividend announced on Sunday), Westpac Q3 trading update

Tuesday

  • Australia, minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s August policy meeting

  • Colombia, Q2 GDP data

  • EU, international goods trade figures

  • Germany, ZEW economic sentiment survey

  • UK, flash Q2 productivity estimate plus employment statistics

  • US, July industrial production plus residential construction figures

  • Results: BHP Billiton FY, Genuit Group H1, Home Depot Q2, Pandora H1, Softline Q1 trading update, Walmart Q2

Wednesday

  • Bulgaria, flash Q2 GDP data

  • Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international passenger traffic, reports passenger traffic figures for the first half of the year

  • France, wheat harvest quality report

  • New Zealand, interest rate decision

  • UK, July producer price index (PPI) data, plus Office for National Statistics (ONS) private housing rental price data and house price index

  • US, Federal Open Market Committee publishes the minutes of its July meeting

  • Results: Balfour Beatty H1, Carlsberg H1, Cisco Systems Q4, Glanbia H1, Lowe’s Cos Q2, Persimmon H1, Santos H1, Swiss Life H1, Target Q2, Tencent Q2

Thursday

  • Canada, July consumer price index (CPI), plus industrial product and raw materials price indices

  • EU, July inflation figures

  • Results: AO World FY, AutoStore Q2, Estée Lauder Q4, Geberit H1, Hella FY, Kohl’s Q2, Marshalls H1, Origin Energy FY, Rank Group FY

Friday

  • Canada, monthly retail trade figures

  • Germany, monthly PPI figures for industrial products

  • Japan, July CPI figures

  • UK, GfK consumer confidence survey, ONS July retail sales data and monthly trade figures

  • Results: Deere & Company Q3, Kingspan H1, Standard Bank H1

World events

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

Monday

  • Afghanistan, first anniversary since the Taliban seized back power

  • France, Italy, Spain: Assumption Day public holiday

  • India, Independence Day celebrations on the 75th anniversary of the end of British rule

  • Japan, 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of the second world war. Emperor Naruhito, empress Masako and prime minister Yoshihide Suga attend a commemorative ceremony at the Budokan stadium in Tokyo.

  • UK, further industrial action from criminal barristers in England and Wales, who have been striking over legal aid funding. Also, more than 500 Unite members at Liverpool’s container ports will close their ballot for strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Tuesday

  • Bahamas, leaders of the Caribbean nations meet for a two-day conference at the Baha Mar resort to discuss the region’s approach to the COP27 climate talks in Egypt in November

  • US, the 45th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley at his home in Memphis

Wednesday

  • Belgium, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg meets Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti in Brussels amid rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. A day later, Kurti is due to meet Serbian president Aleksandr Vucic.

  • Indonesia, Independence Day national holiday

  • Norway, the country’s oil wealth fund, one of the world’s largest funds, reports half-year figures at Arendalsuka

  • US, former vice-president Mike Pence speaks at Politics & Eggs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics

Thursday

  • UK, A-level and vocational exam results — including the new T-Level technical qualifications — for school students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Plus, about 40,000 members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT), Unite and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) unions to stage national train strike over pay and redundancies issues.

  • US, Nasa’s Space Launch System will be rolled out to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of the Artemis 1 moon mission.

Friday

  • Montenegro, no-confidence vote expected on the minority government led by prime minister Dritan Abazović after he signed a controversial agreement with the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church, opposed by human rights activists and pro-western parties

  • UK, about 10,000 members of the RMT union employed by Transport for London, 400 Overground staff working at Arriva Rail London and more than 1,600 bus drivers, mainly in west London, will strike in separate disputes over jobs and pay. Also, Welsh Water imposes its first hosepipe ban for Pembrokeshire since 1976 due to the arid weather conditions.

Saturday

  • Hungary, State Foundation Day public holiday celebrated with fireworks on the banks of the River Danube

  • UK, the RMT, Unite and the TSSA union members will hold another day of strike action on the national railways over pay and redundancies issues. Plus, a demonstration is planned in London calling for an early general election.

Sunday

  • Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz begins a state visit to Canada

  • US, Hawaii Statehood Day commemorating its establishment as the 50th state admitted into the union in 1959

  • UK, members of the Unite union at Britain’s largest container port, Felixstowe, begin strike action in a dispute over pay

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