A quick review of the issues and events driving the markets this past week... and what's on tap for the week ahead.

Weekly Market Snapshot
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March 2, 2015

"A month or two of snow isn't going to impact the general trend"

— A US-based small-business supplier of construction materials, on the improvement in business conditions over the past year. (Wall Street Journal, Feb 26, 2015)

The week in review...

UNITED STATES

The Fed: Straight from the source Testifying before Congress, Fed Chair Yellen gave explicit guidance about how to read future FOMC statements, right down to the meaning of the future omission of the word "patient" as a harbinger of possible rate hikes on a "meeting-by-meeting basis". The apparent objective: get the markets to focus on economic data rather than the calendar as signs of future moves. Many interpreted her remarks as signaling rate hikes could begin as early as mid-year.

Wages: behind lagging growth Job growth continues to strengthen, but wage growth for 4Q2014 was a low 2.2%, only now beginning to pick up, as Fed Chair Yellen noted before Congress last week. A possible explanation: at the margin, new hires may be coming from "outside the labor force", rather than from the ranks of those already actively looking for work. That's showing up in the labor participation rate, now at 62.9%, apparently stable despite the demographic wave of retiring boomers. Some previously discouraged and only now coming off the sidelines, these "outsiders" appear to command lower wages than recently unemployed workers hired after a short time off the field.

EUROPE

Greece: Kicking the urn down the road In negotiating four months of forbearance, Greece managed to avoid an immediate debt crisis – but at the expense of prolonging the public disagreements within its own ruling Syriza coalition, and between Greece and its EU partners. Those disagreements, especially between Greece and Germany, have already eroded what little good will was created during the negotiations. Finance Minister Varoufakis has worried publicly about Greece's ability to make payments of €1.5 bn ($1.68 bn) in March and €7.5 bn in maturing bonds held by the ECB in July and August, despite the €7.2 bn it's due to receive in EU/IMF bailout funds.

Germany: Picking up steam The number of people out of work in February fell by 20k, twice as much as expected, leaving the jobless rate at 6.5% – the lowest level in more than 20 years. GDP continued to grow at 1.6% year-on-year and 0.7% in the three months ended December, supported by domestic spending and exports. Private consumption rose 0.8%, capital investment rose 1.2% and exports jumped 1.3%. Declining energy prices are getting credit for some of the pickup, despite their contribution to disconcerting negative inflation throughout Europe.

ASIA

China: Helping hand Fiscal policy changes announced by the State Council, intended to "combat downward pressure on the economy" include significant tax cuts for smaller businesses, decreases in unemployment insurance payments from employers, and acceleration of construction of major water projects in less-developed central and western regions. One indication of the need for fiscal stimulus: official reports that 151k hectares of land had been allocated to new real estate in 2014, down more than 25% from the previous year.

Singapore: Noblesse oblige The new 2015 budget includes tax hikes for the top 5% of earners, with top marginal rates now scheduled to rise from 20% to 22% – still below those of many other developed economies. Earnings between S$160k and S$320k ($118k and $235k) will also see increases. The hikes are earmarked in part to help finance the rollout of universal health coverage, improve benefits for low wage workers and the elderly, and improve transport infrastructure.

Signs of the times:

Japanese Companies Go on Spending Spree Abroad – Japan Today

ECB Faces Struggle in Sourcing Enough Bonds for QE – Wall Street Journal

Spanish Consumers Drive Economic Recovery as Exports Plateau – Bloomberg

Durable Goods Orders in U.S. Rise for First Time in Three Months – Bloomberg

Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, Kathemarini (Greece), China Daily, Xinhua, Straits Times (Singapore), Japan Today, Deutsche Welle

...And the week ahead:

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CALENDAR: March 1–7, 2015

 

U.S.

Other Americas

Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast

Japan, Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim

Sun
Mar 1

 

 

 

China: manufacturing, services PMIs
S. Korea: trade data

Mon
Mar 2

Personal spending, manufacturing outlook

 

Eurozone: inflation, manufacturing PMIs, unemployment
UK: house prices, manufacturing PMIs

China: private sector PMIs
Japan: capital expenditures, corporate profits

Tue
Mar 3

Vehicle sales

 

 

Japan: monetary base, wages

Wed
Mar 4

Fed "Beige Book"; services industry outlook, employment survey

Brazil: rate decision

UK, Eurozone: services PMIs

China: private sector services PMI

Thu
Mar 5

Banking stress test results, jobless claims, job cuts

 

ECB: interest rate decision, press conference
Bank of England: rate decision
Germany: factory orders
Russia: consumer prices

 

Fri
Mar 6

Jobs report, trade balance, consumer credit

Brazil: inflation

Eurozone: GDP
Swiss: inflation

 

Sat
Mar 7

 

 

 

 


Definitions:

The European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for the monetary system of the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union established in 1993 by members of the European Community. The EU now comprises 28 countries after its expansion to include numerous Central and Eastern European nations.

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 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is a policy-making body of the Federal Reserve System (the 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.

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.

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.

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.

The Beige Book is a commonly used name for the Federal Reserve report, "Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District". It is published eight times each year, just before the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on interest rates, and is used to inform the members on changes in the economy since the last meeting.


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Previous Editions

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Poll

Will the current wave of central bank easing jump-start the world's economies?








Poll

Will the current wave of central bank easing jump-start the world's economies?

No - The real issues are structural - real progress on labor reform and regulatory excess will have more impact
(31%)
No - Deflation is already taking hold, making monetary policy changes ineffective
(2%)
Yes - The US model shows that monetary easing can help economies heal in the medium term
(15%)
Yes, but it will take even  longer than it did in the US, and the delay will have a negative political impact
(52%)



Previous month Poll

What would be the best news for markets for the remainder of the year?

Strong US corporate earnings validate US economic expansion
(33%)
Strength in the US dollar convinces the Fed to keep short rates low longer
(9%)
European Central Bank bond buying rekindles growth in European Union countries
(45%)
Growth in China strong enough to leave room for financial system and structural reform
(13%)