The Week Ahead

Posted May 6, 2018 6:41 p.m. EDT

Final Push in NAFTA Talks

Negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico will gather again in Washington on Monday to begin what government officials and industry leaders hope is the final leg of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Although the countries continue to have significant differences of opinion about the deal, the Trump administration is pushing to have talks finalized soon to meet all the necessary deadlines to submit the deal for a vote in the Republican-controlled Congress. Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative charged with negotiating the deal, said last week that he aimed to wrap up talks within the next week or two.


Disney Reports Earnings, but the Big Issue Is Fox

Disney is expected to report strong results for its fiscal second quarter on Tuesday. ESPN is sound (for the moment). The theme park business is going up, up, up. And Walt Disney Studios, which released “Black Panther” in the quarter, is the envy of Hollywood. Analysts expect per-share profit to increase about 12 percent, and revenue to climb about 6 percent.

But Disney’s near-term performance is not what Wall Street cares about most right now — not with Comcast positioning itself to upend Disney’s pending $52.4 billion acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox assets. If Comcast does make a renewed push for Fox, is Disney willing to go to war? What happens if Fox slips out of Disney’s grip? Does Disney have a Plan B?

Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, will probably sidestep direct questions about the Fox acquisition on Disney’s earnings conference call. But some tea leaves may emerge.


Google’s Artificial Intelligence Conference

Google is holding its annual conference for developers near its Mountain View, California, headquarters this week. The event opens Tuesday with a keynote speech by Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, who is expected to talk about its latest efforts around artificial intelligence — a technology the company believes will be instrumental to its future.

The conference comes as Google faces a growing backlash against its vast data collection practices in the wake of Facebook’s scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.


Microsoft To Show Off New Initiatives

One of the other centers of gravity in the technology industry, Microsoft, will hold its own technical conference for developers, Build, in Seattle through Wednesday.

There was a time no company was better at rallying developers to write software for its underlying technologies — the Windows operating system, in Microsoft’s case. But during the past decade, a lot of developer activity has shifted to mobile technologies from Apple and Google.

Build is expected to showcase a variety of Microsoft initiatives that have helped the company maintain its influence in the tech industry, including its Azure cloud computing service and tools for adding artificial intelligence to software.


Bank of England Seen as Unlikely to Increase Rates

The Bank of England, Britain’s central bank, faces a tricky balancing act when its rate-setting committee meets Thursday. With inflation still sharply above the bank’s target, traders had been betting that policymakers would raise the benchmark interest rate.

But a recent run of poor economic data — including disappointing growth figures and worse-than-anticipated results in the manufacturing sector — has prompted traders to revise those expectations. Mark J. Carney, the bank’s governor, has also played down the possibility of a rate increase.


Inflation Data May Show a Rise

Friday’s jobs report showed that the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent for the first time since 2000. That’s good news for workers, but it may add to fears that the tightening labor market will lead to faster inflation. Data that is to be released by the Labor Department on Thursday could add more fuel to the fire.

Economists expect the report to show that consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in April and were up 2.5 percent from a year earlier, which would mark the fastest growth in more than a year. That acceleration would partly reflect higher oil prices, but inflation most likely picked up even setting aside volatile food and energy prices.

The Federal Reserve has already factored somewhat faster inflation into its forecasts, but an unexpected spike could force the central bank to raise interest rates more quickly than planned.