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March 10, 2014
"Don't intervene in Venezuelan home affairs."
The week in review...
Venezuela: Crude awakening At 297.7 bn barrels, Venezuela’s proven crude oil reserves are the world’s largest (as of the end of 2012). But that hasn’t brought the country much respite from civil unrest in the year since the death of Hugo Chávez, the country’s polarizing longtime president. Successor and disciple Nicolás Maduro has faced violent protests as the one-year anniversary passed, with at least 18 dead. Venezuela’s 10-year bonds are trading at more than a 1200 basis point spread to US Treasuries as of Thu Mar 6 2014, with yields as high as 17.5%, vs 8.7% a year ago.
US: Job one At her formal swearing in last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen promised to "never forget the lives" behind the economy’s statistics, focusing her comments on the long-term impact of unemployment. Feb’s ADP private employment report seemed to disappoint with a rise of 139k jobs, but distortions due to three months of bad weather took some of the edge off the data. Jobless claims for the week ended Mar 1 fell 26k to 323k, the least since the end of Nov. And total payrolls came in much stronger than expected, rising 175k in Feb, according to the Labor Dep’t. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7%, but for the right reason: more people joined the labor force, possibly due to improving prospects for work. Household net worth for 4Q2013 rose a nominal 3.8% from the previous quarter to a record $80.7 tn, buoyed by more jobs, higher stock prices and improved home values. Household debt rose at a 0.4% annualized rate in 4Q, even though mortgage debt dropped at a 1% pace and consumer credit, which includes auto and student loans, rose at a 5.4% pace.
Banking on growth The European Central Bank (ECB) decided to keep its key rate unchanged – a decision watched closely to calibrate the Bank’s level of concern about deflation. President Mario Draghi made it clear the ECB believes economic improvement is strong enough – for now – to keep things as they are. One potential source of worry, according to Draghi: strength in the euro, which has risen over 8.4% since its low in Jul 2013 to 1.3861 per US dollar as of Thu Mar 6.
UK: On the upswing Lenders granted 76,947 loans for house purchases in Jan vs a revised 72,798 in Dec, the most loans since Nov 2007. The housing market improvement was more widespread than in the past; house prices grew in 51% of postal codes, the biggest share in nearly ten years.
China: Widening the goalposts During a press briefing, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei stressed that employment was as important a goal as the economy’s growth rate, and that a rate of as low as 7.2% should be considered to have met the year’s target of "about" 7.5%. Separately, a solar power company announced its inability to make a scheduled payment on one of its bonds, making it the first company ever to default on a bond debt in China.
Signs of the times:
China Becomes World's Largest Goods Trader – Xinhua
Australian Growth Beats Estimates as Rebalancing Begins – Bloomberg
India Current-Account Gap Narrows to Four-Year Low on Gold Tax – Bloomberg
Longest Puerto Rico Rally Since May Shows Pain Ebbs: Muni Credit – Bloomberg
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, Xinhuanet, Caixin, MercoPress
...The week ahead:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CALENDAR: March 9 – March 15
Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast
Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim
GDP, current account, bank lending
Canada: housing starts
Brazil: auto sales
Eurozone: investor confidence
France: industrial production
Italy: industrial production
Spain: consumer prices, industrial production
Norway: consumer prices, producer prices
Switzerland: retail sales
UK: retail sales
Economy watchers index
Philippines: industrial production
Australia: business confidence, business survey
New Zealand: electronic card retail sales
Small business optimism, job openings & labor turnover survey (JOLTs), wholesale trade & inventories, weekly retail sales
Brazil: industrial production
Germany: trade balance
Russia: trade balance
UK: industrial production, manufacturing production
Corporate goods prices, large manufacturing conditions
South Korea: unemployment rate, money supply
Australia: home loans
Mortgage applications, Federal budget
Brazil: consumer prices
Eurozone: industrial production
UK: trade balance, house prices
Household confidence, core machinery orders
India: consumer prices, industrial production, manufacturing output
Australia: unemployment rate, employment change, participation rate
New Zealand: food prices, interest rate decision
Initial jobless claims, retail sales, import & export prices, business sales & inventories, Fed balance sheet, money supply
Canada: capacity utilization rate, new house prices
Mexico: industrial production
Brazil: retail sales
Peru: interest rate decision
Uruguay: industrial production
Venezuela: industrial production
France: consumer prices
Spain: retail sales
Industrial production, capacity utilization rate
China: fixed asset investment, industrial production, retail sales
Singapore: unemployment rate
Consumer sentiment, inflation expectations, producer prices, final demand
Brazil: economic activity
Peru: unemployment rate
Argentina: consumer prices
Germany: consumer prices
Switzerland: producer prices
India: wholesale prices
Singapore: retail sales
The European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for the monetary system of the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.
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 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) is conducted by the US Department of Labor, producing data on job openings, hires, and separations.
Unless otherwise specified, all uses of the symbol "$" refer to US dollars.
The opinions and views expressed herein, as well as references to individual companies or securities, 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 recommendations to buy, hold or sell, or investment advice.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
All investments involve risk, including possible loss of principal.
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Currencies and commodities contain heightened risk that include market, political, regulatory, and natural conditions and may not be suitable for all investors.
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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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