More Bank Earnings, China’s Growth and Sundance Without Weinstein

Posted January 14, 2018 6:49 p.m. EST

So Long, Smart Luggage

Starting Monday, several major airlines will no longer accept checked or carry-on bags with battery packs that cannot be removed. American Airlines was the first carrier to announce a ban on such so-called smart luggage, which poses a fire risk. Delta, Southwest, United and other domestic and international airlines soon followed suit. The new rules extend Federal Aviation Administration guidelines prohibiting the checking of spare lithium batteries and recommending that rechargeable devices be kept in carry-on bags.


All Eyes on the A380

Airbus is scheduled to deliver an update on Monday about orders and sales from its commercial aircraft division, and investors hope to get some clarity on the future of the A380 superjumbo jet. Orders for the A380, a humongous double-decker, have slowed, and its fate may hinge on how many more of the jets Emirates, the Dubai airline that has been the biggest buyer of the plane, will take. Fabrice Brégier, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, is scheduled to brief reporters via webcast.


Tax Bill’s Impact on 4 Big Banks

The quarterly earnings season rolls on, with reports this week from Citigroup (Tuesday), Bank of America and Goldman Sachs (Wednesday) and Morgan Stanley (Thursday). All four are expected to detail one-time charges taken in connection with the recently enacted tax overhaul, which forces banks to revalue some assets and repatriate cash from overseas. The first two big banks to report fourth-quarter earnings, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, revealed one-time hits of $2.4 billion and $173 million. Citi’s charge could be $20 billion.


And the ‘Losers’ Are …

Will President Donald Trump proceed with his “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday as advertised? He first suggested a “FAKE NEWS TROPHY” on Nov. 27. Early this month, he wrote that the “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR” would happen at 5 p.m. on Jan. 8. But on Jan. 7, he wrote that the awards would be “presented to the losers” on Jan. 17. When Trump proposed the idea, he had yet to contend with the fallout from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”; media reports that, as president, he had used a vulgarity in discussing Haiti and African nations; and a Wall Street Journal report that his personal lawyer had paid an adult film star $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she claimed to have had with Trump. He has not specified a time or setting for the awards “event.”


Is Big Blue Bouncing Back?

IBM’s revenue, which has fallen for 22 consecutive quarters, will be the focus of attention when the big technology company reports its financial results on Thursday. Analysts say the decline may well have stopped in the most recent quarter, as the company navigates a challenging shift to new businesses like cloud computing and artificial intelligence. If so, does it signal a true turnaround — or is it merely a blip helped by strong sales of a new line of mainframe computers?


Looking for Signs of a Shift in China

China could post flat or modestly higher growth figures when it reports its fourth-quarter and full-year economic results for 2017 on Thursday. That would not surprise China watchers, who have noted that the country’s headline economic figures have become implausibly stable in recent years. There may also be indications of what is to come this year. Now that an important leadership meeting has been completed, China may begin to shift its emphasis toward fixing some of its intractable financial, environmental and social problems and to temper its focus on growth.


Assessing the Outlook for Europe

Why have wages in Europe barely budged despite vigorous economic growth? What should the region’s priorities be now that the debt crisis seems to have passed? And what to think when it comes to inflation? Those are among the topics that a roster of prominent economists and policymakers will discuss on Thursday at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany, that will be hosted by the International Monetary Fund and the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank. Speakers include Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, and Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank president.


A Fresh Snapshot of Consumer Sentiment

The University of Michigan is set to release its monthly survey of consumer sentiment on Friday. Consumer confidence was strong in 2017, although it dropped over the year’s final three months, to 95.9 in December. With the stock market booming, the jobless rate low and a new tax law in place, analysts expect the figure for January to inch up to 97. For comparison, the consumer sentiment index has averaged 86.2 since the early 1950s, peaking at 111.3 in February 2000 and bottoming out at 51.7 in May 1980.


A Sundance Without Harvey Weinstein

What is the Sundance Film Festival without Harvey Weinstein? The movie industry is about to find out. On Thursday, the festival begins its 34th year in Park City, Utah, with 121 feature-length movies on the calendar, 53 from first-time filmmakers. Sundance prides itself on discovering striking new voices, but it is also about cold, hard commerce. On that front, this will be the first festival in roughly 30 years where Weinstein will not be among the shoppers. Fox Searchlight may be hesitant to write big checks after its last two Sundance acquisitions, “The Birth of a Nation” and “Patti Cake$,” flopped. Other traditional bidders like Lionsgate and CBS Films have cut way back on Sundance purchases. That leaves Netflix and Amazon, which have come to dominate the festival, buying films like “The Big Sick” and “Mudbound” for $12 million a pop. But their rivalry is driving up prices in a way that may be unsustainable.