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

May 18, 2015

"It has become acceptable to have a new car again."

— Irish luxury auto dealership owner, on the impact of the country’s improved economy. (Financial Times, May 14 2015)

The week in review...


Growth:  Off the ledge Eurozone growth was positive for the second consecutive quarter, up 0.4% in 1Q2015. More surprising: the outperformers were France and Italy, up 0.6% and 0.3%, respectively. Spain turned in a strong 0.9% figure, the seventh increase in a row. While Germany grew 0.3% for the quarter, below expectations, that followed a 0.7% rate for 4Q2014, softening the blow. Consumers appear to be getting the message; Eurozone new passenger car registrations were 988.2k in March, a 13.2% rise year-over-year (Y/y).

Bonds: Disturbance in the Force Eurozone sovereign debt yields rose strongly, with German 10-year Bunds reaching as high as 0.771%, a dramatic move from the all-time low of 0.054% reached on April 17. Spreads to US Treasuries narrowed sharply as well, to -153.2 bps. Explanations ranged from resurgent European growth and the attendant return of inflation, to a drop in expectations for US growth and the prospect of yet another delay in Fed tightening, to simple mean reversion.

United States

Consumers: Wallets still closed. Retail sales for April rose a disappointing 0.2% vs. March, ex autos and gas. The shortfall was in discretionary items such as furniture and electronics, as well as grocery stores – and especially department stores. Sales also declined 0.4% at auto dealerships, after jumping 2.9% the month before. The puzzle: what it will take to get consumers to spend the supposed windfall from lower energy prices earlier in the year? The big picture: if spending doesn't pick up, will the Fed extend its data-driven delay of a first rate hike into next year?

Jobs: Fewer spots, more cheer? March job openings fell from a 14-year high to 4.99 mn from a revised 5.14 mn in Feb. Even with the decline, the openings level was the second highest since 2001. But employee optimism may be on the upswing; the closely-watched “quits rate” rose, as did firing and hiring. The rises are typical of a healthy market for employees, suggesting that slack in the jobs market may be receding. Small businesses appear to agree; the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reported an increase among its members planning to raise wages vs. the previous month – and of members who had actually done so.


Rate cut The People's Bank of China (PBOC), the country's central bank, announced its third interest-rate cut in six months, cutting the one-year lending rate 0.25% to 5.1%, and the one-year deposit rate by the same amount to 2.25%. The motivation, according to the PBOC: the “…economy faces relatively large downward pressure”, and the relatively high real interest rate environment meant “there was room to use the interest-rate tool”.

Signs of the times:

China crude imports to pick up as storage, buyers emerge – Reuters

Greece Seeks Bailout Progress With ECB Bank Funding Under Review – Bloomberg

Moscow Rents Dive 40% as Foreign Executives Leave Turmoil – Bloomberg

Shale-Oil Producers Ready to Raise Production – Wall Street Journal

1As of May 14, 2015, 6:17 PM
Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily, Xinhua, Deutsche Welle

...The week ahead:




Other Americas

Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast

Japan, Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim

May 17





May 18




China: Premier Li Keqiang begins tour of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile

May 19

Housing starts, building permits


Eurozone: consumer prices
UK: consumer, retail and wholesale prices
Germany: business sentiment


May 20

Fed minutes of April 28-29 FOMC meeting


UK: central bank minutes of May 7-8 meeting

Japan: GDP

May 21

Jobless claims, leading indicators, sales of previously-owned homes, manufacturing PMI


Eurozone: composite PMI, consumer confidence
ECB: official account of April 15 monetary policy committee meeting


May 22

Consumer prices


Germany: GDP, business confidence
France: business confidence

Japan: central bank monetary policy

May 23






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

Sovereign debt refers to bonds issued by a national government in a foreign currency, in order to finance the issuing country's growth. Sovereign debt is generally a riskier investment when it comes from a developing country, and a safer investment when it comes from a developed country.

A basis point is one one-hundredth (1/100, or 0.01) of one percent.

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.

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.

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When will the Fed raise the Fed Funds target rate?


When will the Fed raise the Fed Funds target rate?

Not until 2016

Previous month 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
No - Deflation is already taking hold, making monetary policy changes ineffective
Yes - The US model shows that monetary easing can help economies heal in the medium term
Yes, but it will take even  longer than it did in the US, and the delay will have a negative political impact