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February 2, 2015
"There will be no duel."
The week in review...
The Fed: Still patient No change in headline policies in the FOMC's most recent statement–but nods toward the impact of declining oil prices on overall inflation, and toward slowly improving employment. Many observers interpret its language as signaling a rate hike in either July or September, but uncertainty about China's slowdown and Europe's troubles are still keeping forecasters guessing.
Employment: Improving, state by state Payrolls in December rose in 41 states, with the unemployment rate falling in 42, as 2014 saw the best full-year US labor market since 1999. North Dakota had the lowest unemployment, at 2.8%, while Mississippi and Washington, D.C. had the highest, at 7.2% and 7.3% respectively.
GDP: Still growing The first estimate for 4Q2014: up an annualized 2.6%, just below forecasts. But personal consumption rose 4.3%, beating estimates. Are falling energy prices helping consumers at the expense of other sectors?
Earnings growth: Devil in the details As of Jan 29, 2015 two hundred nine S&P 500 companies have reported earnings. Overall earnings growth so far has come in at 5.53% quarter over quarter (Q/q), with the energy sector reporting the worst figures – an earnings decline of -17.04% Q/q, reflecting the impact of rapidly-falling oil prices. Several companies with significant operations outside the US have indicated that the strength of the US dollar eroded earnings for the quarter; the trade-weighted dollar rose 4.99% in 4Q14 against the world's other major currencies.
Greece: New job jitters The newly-formed post-election governing coalition was formed within a day of the election, putting an anti-austerity alliance of left and right in power. While new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his intention "...for Greece and its people to regain their lost dignity," some newly-minted officials made less cautious statements; Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragassakis asked observers to ignore early-days pledges to increase the minimum wage and halt privatizations, noting Greece is in fact "interested in attracting investors."
Switzerland vs. Hungary: Orbanomics Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is benefitting politically from one of his unorthodox 2011 economic moves. New to borrowing, a significant number of Hungarian owners signed mortgages denominated in Swiss francs over the past few years, on the promise of increased economic stability. When the Swiss National Bank removed its cap on the value of its currency, Hungarian mortgagees could have experienced brutal 20% increases in their monthly obligations as measured in their own currency, the Hungarian forint – but were saved by the policy of putting the foreign-owned banks that wrote the mortgages on the hook for the depreciation. Degrading foreign banks' earnings in favor of local homeowners was a clear political win for the populist Prime Minister. Many Polish property owners also borrowed in Swiss francs, but their government has rejected a rescue plan similar to Hungary's.
Milestone: Renminbi joins the bigs According to Swift, the international currency clearing system, 2.2% of the world's payments were conducted in Chinese renminbi in December, putting it above both the Canadian and Australian dollars for the first time. That places the currency just behind the Japanese yen (2.7%), as well as the British pound and the top-ranked US dollar – which together account for 75% of all transactions. A spokesman for Swift said the latest data confirmed the renminbi's "transition from an 'emerging' to a 'business as usual' payment currency". During 2014, payments in the currency more than doubled from the previous year, and have risen over 360% since the end of 2012.
Signs of the times:
China sees 55% rise in M&A - Business – Chinadaily.com
Shanghai Scraps Growth Target With 'New Normal' Focus on Quality – Bloomberg
German Inflation Rate Is Negative for First Time Since 2009 – Bloomberg
Iraq Oil Surge to Fan OPEC Rivalry That Triggered Slump – Bloomberg
Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, Nikkei Asian Review, China Daily, Deutsche Welle
...And the week ahead:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CALENDAR: Feb 1–7, 2015
Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast
Japan, Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim
Super Bowl (football)
China: manufacturing PMI
S. Korea: trade data
Manufacturing growth, personal spending
Greece: New finance minister visits UK, France finance ministers
UK: manufacturing PMI
Hong Kong: retail sales
Brazil: industrial production
Japan: monetary base
Service industry PMI, employment
Eurozone: services PMIs
Japan: wage data
Unemployment claims, trade balance, job cuts
UK: interest rate decision
Russia: consumer prices
Germany: factory orders
Monthly jobs, consumer credit
Switzerland: foreign currency reserves
Estonia, Ukraine: consumer prices
Germany: industrial production
Spain: industrial output
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 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is a policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System (Fed) responsible for the formulation of a policy designed to promote economic growth, full employment, stable prices, and a sustainable pattern of international trade and payments.
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.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is a general term used to refer to the consolidation of companies. A merger is a combination of two companies to form a new company, while an acquisition is the purchase of one company by another in which no new company is formed.
The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 stocks that is generally representative of the performance of larger companies in the U.S. Indexes are unmanaged, and not available for direct investment. Index returns do not include fees or sales charges.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent intergovernmental organization of 12 oil-exporting developing nations that coordinates and unifies the petroleum policies of its member countries.
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.
Fixed income securities involve interest rate, credit, inflation, and reinvestment risks; and possible loss of principal. As interest rates rise, the value of fixed income securities falls.
Dividends and yields represent past performance and there is no guarantee they will continue to be paid.
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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