What to watch this week

The 85k drop in US non-farm payrolls in December was obviously disappointing given hopes/expectations/rumours of a positive reading over the month.  There was a small silver lining however, as November payrolls were revised to show a positive reading of +4k, the first monthly gain in jobs since December 2007.  Overall, the US labour market is still gradually improving as the trend in jobless claims and other indicators show. 

The fact that the market took the drop in US payrolls in its stride highlights the fact that recovery is becoming more entrenched despite the occasional set back.  More significantly weaker US jobs disappointment has been countered by strong Chinese trade data, which showed both strong imports and exports growth in December.  Whilst the data, especially the strength in exports, will support calls for a stronger CNY, it also highlights China’s growing influence on world trade and the important role that the country is providing for global economic recovery.

Market resilience in the wake of the drop in US payrolls and positive reaction to Chinese trade data will maintain a “risk on” tone to markets this week.  In particular, the USD is set to start the week on the back foot and despite data last week showing that Eurozone unemployment reached an 11-year high of 10% and growing evidence that the Eurozone economy is falling behind the pace of recovery seen elsewhere, EUR/USD held above technical support (200 day moving average) around 1.4257, and is setting its sights on the 16 December 2009 high of 1.4591 helped by renewed Asian sovereign interest.  

The main event in the Eurozone is the ECB meeting on Thursday no surprises are expected, with the Bank set to keep policy unchanged whilst maintaining current liquidity settings.  The bigger concern for European markets is ongoing fiscal woes in the region, with press reports warning of a ratings downgrade for Portugal and still plenty of attention on Greece and its attempts at deficit reduction.  Fiscal concerns are not going to go away quickly and will clearly act as a restraint on market sentiment for European assets. 

In a holiday shortened week in the US as markets close early on Friday ahead of the 3-day MLK holiday, there are a number of data this week that will shed further light on the shape of US recovery. The main event is the December advance retail sales report on Thursday, which is expected to record a reasonable gain, helped by firm autos sales. 

Preceding this, tomorrow there is expected to be a renewed widening in the US trade deficit in November whilst on Wednesday the Fed’s Beige Book as well as various Fed speakers this week including Bullard, Lockhart, Fisher, Plosser, Evans and Lacker, will give important clues ahead of the January 27 Fed FOMC meeting.  Bullard sounded dovish in his comments in Shanghai, as he highlighted that US interest rates will remain low for some time. 

At the end of the week there will be a heavy slate of releases including December CPI, industrial production, capacity utilization, January Empire manufacturing and Michigan confidence. The outlook for these data is generally positive, with gains expected in both manufacturing and consumer confidence, whilst hard data in the form of industrial production is likely to record a healthy increase and CPI is set to reveal another benign reading.

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