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April 20, 2015
"Job security and income improvements aren't castles in the air"
The week in review...
China: Growing, but slowing The official GDP figure for 1Q2015 was 7.0%, in line with stated expectations, but the slowest quarterly growth rate since 2009, the second lowest since 2001, and below 4Q2014's 7.3% rate. More signs of the slowdown: exports slid 15% and imports fell 12.7% in US dollar terms, vs. an expected rebound. Industrial production also reflected the slowdown: up 5.6% Y/y in March, also below expectations. The challenge: Rekindling overall growth while deflating a real-estate driven credit bubble.
Japan: Wholesale prices still soft For March, wholesale prices fell 2.1% Y/y, the fifth straight month of declines – suggesting that the country's massive QE program is having limited success so far. Including the effect of the 3 percentage-point consumption tax hike, wholesale prices rose 0.7%. But QE – as well as relative interest rates – is clearly affecting the country's balance sheet; Japan has surpassed China as the biggest official holder of US Treasuries, with $1.223 tn held, according to just-released US Treasury figures.
The Fed: June rate hike off the table? Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed, called the economic data for 1Q2015 "notably weak" in a Thursday speech, fueling doubt about the prospects for an early rate hike this year. One cause for concern: slowing year-on-year growth of retail sales. Compared to the end of 2014, retail sales for March (excluding gasoline stations), rose 4.4% year-on-year (Y/y), vs. December 2014's 6.7% Y/y rise. Month-on-month, purchases rose 0.9% in March vs February, the first gain in four months, but below expectations. Optimists had hoped lower gasoline prices would translate into stronger consumer spending.
Pump it up OPEC reported Saudi Arabia hiked crude production in March by 650k barrels per day (b/d), about 6.4%, to a total of10.29m b/d. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported OPEC's overall production for the month was up by the most in four years. Some observers call the increase a bid for market share at the expense of higher-cost US producers, in anticipation of Iran's post-sanction re-entry into the global crude market.
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK
QE boosting lending, but at a cost The ECB's bank-lending survey for 1Q2015 concluded that "...the asset-purchase program seems to be effective in supporting lending to the euro-area economy". The survey showed that 28% of the region's banks used additional liquidity to grant loans to companies, 17% used it for mortgages and 18% for consumer credit and other lending to households. But the challenge is to bank profits; a new 18% of euro-area banks said the program will have a negative impact on their profitability over the next six months.
Signs of the times:
Policy banks start major reform effort – China Daily
Vladimir Putin tells Russians worst of economic crisis is over – Financial Times
German investment gap threatens prosperity – Deutsche Welle
Surging Dollar Boosts Europe, Japan as U.S. Slows, IMF Says – Bloomberg
US companies unleash share buyback binge – Financial Times
Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily, Xinhua, Deutsche Welle, Mainichi Japan
...And the week ahead:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CALENDAR: April 19–26, 2015
Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast
Japan, Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim
World Bank/IMF meeting ends
ECB: Annual report to European Parliament
UK: housing prices
China: President Xi Jinping visits Pakistan
Germany: ZEW survey
Hong Kong: inflation
Sales of previously –owned homes, housing prices
Brazil: foreign direct investment
UK: Bank of England meeting minutes
Japan: trade data
Jobless claims, new home sales
UK: retail sales, public finances
France: business confidence
Germany, eurozone: PMIs
China: private-sector PMIs
S. Korea: GDP
Hong Kong: unemployment
Durable goods orders
Brazil: total outstanding loans
Germany: business confidence
Quantitative easing (QE) refers to a monetary policy implemented by a central bank in which it increases the excess reserves of the banking system through the direct purchase of debt securities.
Gross Domestic Product ("GDP") is an economic statistic which measures the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.
The Federal Reserve Board ("Fed") is responsible for the formulation of U.S. policies designed to promote economic growth, full employment, stable prices, and a sustainable pattern of international trade and payments.
Purchasing Managers Indexes (PMI) measure the manufacturing and services sectors in an economy, based on survey data collected from a representative panel of manufacturing and services firms. PMI greater than 50 indicated economic expansion; below 50, contraction.
The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) is a public-private institute associated with the University of Mannheim, Germany.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for the monetary system of the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization of various member countries, established to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements.
The World Bank provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Established in 1944, it is based in Washington, DC.
The opinions and views expressed herein are not intended to be relied upon as a prediction or forecast of actual future events or performance, or a guarantee of future results, or investment advice.
An investor cannot invest directly in an index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect any fees, expenses or sales charges.
International investments are subject to special risks including currency fluctuations, social, economic and political uncertainties, which could increase volatility. These risks are magnified in emerging markets.
Commodities and currencies contain heightened risk that include market, political, regulatory, and natural conditions and may not be suitable for all investors.
This material is for information only and does not constitute an invitation to the public to invest in any funds, securities, strategies or other products. You should be aware that the investment opportunities described should normally be regarded as longer term investments and they may not be suitable for everyone. All investments involve risk, including possible loss of principal. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amounts originally invested, and can be affected by changes in interest rates, in exchange rates, general market conditions, political, social and economic developments and other variable factors. Past performance is no guide to future returns and may not be repeated. Investment involves risks including but not limited to, possible delays in payments and loss of income or capital. Neither Legg Mason nor any of its affiliates guarantees any rate of return or the return of capital invested. Unless otherwise noted the "$" (dollar sign) represents U.S. Dollars.
Please note that an investor cannot invest directly in an index. Forward-looking statements are subject to uncertainties that could cause actual developments and results to differ materially from the expectations expressed. This information has been prepared from sources believed reliable but the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed and is not a complete summary or statement of all available data. Individual securities mentioned are intended as examples of portfolio holdings and are not intended as buy or sell recommendations. Information and opinions expressed by either Legg Mason or its affiliates are current as at the date indicated, are subject to change without notice, and do not take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs of individual investors.
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