Central bankers queue to ease tapering fears
Global markets began the week wrong-footed by fears of a reduction in monetary stimulus (tapering) in the US, sparked by the Federal Reserve (Fed) chairman’s comments a few days earlier. Continuing tight liquidity conditions in China and concerns for its impact on the country’s economic growth further prayed on investors’ minds. Soothing remarks from a succession of central bankers including officials from the Fed, the European Central Bank, ex-governor of the Bank of England, and People’s Bank of China helped bring a degree of calm. While the latter’s officials pledged to maintain financial stability, the message from the rest was dovish regarding an imminent end to stimulus, in Europe as well as the US.
One piece of economic data that helped ease tapering concerns was a sharp downward revision to the US first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth, revised to 1.8% annualised against 2.4% expected, making it less likely that the Fed would scale back its stimulus programme imminently. In Europe, the rise in the latest German Ifo business climate index for June helped sentiment, while the European Council finalised an agreement on a bank resolution framework on how to handle failing banks in the region and bolster confidence. In the UK, key corporate news included the move by Vodafone to buy German cable operator Kabel Deutschland for €7.7bn.
In fixed income markets the weaker US GDP number helped US Treasuries break a seven-day losing streak on Wednesday, however, higher US yields saw yields on European peripheral government bonds trail higher (ie, prices fell) before easing back towards the end of the week. Meanwhile, the price of gold continued to decline ending the week down 5.8%.
Shaping the markets – this week:
Between now and the next important Fed meeting in September, US economic data will likely provide a roller coaster ride for global markets. The next critical release is the June employment report out this Friday, which is generally expected to show the number of new jobs added (change in non-farm payrolls) to be 165K. While a number in line with consensus will not resolve tapering fears, anything significantly below or above it will likely cause an aggressive reaction in either direction. Released a day after the Independence Day holiday (4 July), the reaction could be muted due to fewer participants in the market. June’s unemployment rate is also widely expected to edge down to 7.5% from 7.6% the previous month.
Across the Atlantic, data of note will be a series of Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) manufacturing and services releases in Europe (Monday and Wednesday respectively). Strong gains are expected in the manufacturing PMI for Spain and Italy, while that for the euro area could remain unchanged, and likely be only slightly higher in the UK. PMI services data may paint a similar picture. German factory orders out on Friday could provide a positive note; expectations are for a 1.2% rise over the month of May versus a decline of 2.3% the previous month. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England, with the new governor Carney at the helm, hold their regular meetings on Thursday; no change in policy is expected.
In Asia, Monday morning saw the release of the latest Bank of Japan quarterly Tankan report, which revealed that business confidence moved into positive territory for the first time since September 2011 (+4 from -8 in March). Another significant data release came from China where the official manufacturing PMI fell from 50.8 in May to 50.1 in June, the lowest reading in four months, as the sector weakened sharply, signalling further slowdown in growth.
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