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Week Ahead: Astra and Unilever stand out in busy week

The end of first quarter updates season gets into full swing with many heavyweights, such as Astra and Unilever reporting.

Swiss bank UBS is predicting drugs giant AstraZeneca will announce first quarter sales of US$6.33bn, versus a consensus forecast of US$6.37bn.

The bank forecasts core operating profit of US$2.00bn (consensus = US$2.05bn), and basic core earnings per share (EPS) of US$1.18, a couple of cents below the consensus forecast.

"Despite a potential delay of US generic Nexium beyond May 27th (in view of Ranbaxy's import ban) we don't expect AZN to update the FY guidance yet (sales to decline by low- to mid-single digit, Core EPS to decline in the teens). We estimate the impact of delayed generic Nexium at +$100m sales, +6c EPS, +1.4% 2014 EPS per month," UBS said.

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has already tipped the wink that first quarter performance will be weak.

JP Morgan Cazenove reckons the group achieved 3.3% growth in like-like-like sales in the first quarter "driven by weak volumes of 2.0% (on the back of Easter timing, US weather and weak EM demand) coupled with weak pricing at 1.3%".

"We see a potentially weakening trend in pricing (from +1.4% in Q413) as pricing up in emerging markets may be less straight forward than the market has been used to, and could be a source of concern for margin and top-line acceleration in emerging markets. In developed markets, weaker pricing amid a tough retail and competitive environment could also lead to price declines (especially in household) and margin pressure," the broker continued.

On the macroeconomic front, the Bank of England's release of the minutes from the April meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee on Wednesday will, as usual, have the economists poring over the notes for any signs of changes to economic policy.

Significant announcements expected

Monday

Companies: None

Economic: UK: Rightmove house price index. US: Leading indicators.

Tuesday

Companies: Trading Statement: Dragon Oil (LON:DGO), Genel Energy (LON:GENL)

Economic: US: House price index, Existing home sales. EU: Consumer confidence

Wednesday

Companies: Interims: Fenner (LON:FENR), Avacta (LON:AVCT), ARM Group (LON:ARM), Smiths News (LON:NWS), Associated British Foods (LON:ABF). Finals: Mobile Tornado (LON:MBT), Phaunos Timber Fund (LON:PTF). Trading Statement: Moneysupermarket(LON:MONY), Petra Diamonds (LON:PDL), Hammerson (LON:HMSO), Carpetright (LON:CPR), Record (LON:REC), STV (LON:STV), AMEC (LON:AMEC), Biome (LON:BIOM), Spirent (LON:SPT), Reed Elsevier (LON:REL), Sports Direct (LON:SPD).

The following widely held stocks are trading in ex-dividend form on Wednesday: Mondi, Old Mutual, Lookers, Legal & General, Tullett Prebon, bwin.party, Centrica, HR Owen, Balfour Beatty, Antofagasta, Drax, Man Group, Aggreko

Economic: Asia: HSBC China manufacturing PMI. EU: EU Markit Services PMI. UK: Bank of England minutes, Public finances. US: US Markit manufacturing PMI, New home sales

Thursday

Companies: Interims: Unilever (LON:ULVR), Premier Foods (LON:PFD), AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), African Barrick (LON:ABG). Finals: Camellia (LON:CAM), PuriCore (LON:PURI), Trap Oil (LON:TRAP). Trading statements: Travis Perkins (LON:TPK), Senior (LON:SNR), Mecom (LON:MEC), Pace (LON:PIC), Henderson Group (LON:HGG), Computacenter (LON:CCC), Berendsen (LON:BRSN), AZ Electronic Materials (LON:AZEM), Anglo American (LON:AAL), Kenmare Resources (LON:KMR), Cobham (LON:COB), International Ferro Metals (LON:IFL), Elementis (LON:ELM), Croda International (LON:CRDA).

Economic: UK: CBI reported sales. US: Durable goods orders, jobless claims

Friday

Companies: Interims: Egdon Resources (LON:EDR). Finals: Harvey Nash Group (LON:HVN). Trading statement: William Hill (LON:WMH), Rotork (LON:ROR), COLT Telecom (LON:COLT), Spectris (LON:SXS)

Economic: UK: Retail sales, BBA loans for house purchase. US: Markit composite PMI, Markit services PMI, University of Michigan confidence

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