Wait And See

It’s difficult to be too conclusive in my blog post today given that markets are in waiting mode for a number of events to pass. First and foremost is the US May jobs report. The consensus forecast is for a gain of 536k in nonfarm payrolls and a slight drop in the unemployment rate to 9.8%. Payrolls estimates range from a high of 750k to a low of 220k, the wide margin likely reflecting the uncertainty of the amount of census hiring.

On the face of it a 500k+ gain in payrolls looks strong, but the bulk of this, probably about three-quarters, will made up of census hiring which by its nature is transitory. Therefore, only about 100k in payrolls will be due to private sector jobs growth, which is still not bad. Most of the clues leading up to the jobs data are consistent with the consensus, including the 55k increase in the May ADP.

The second event is the change in Prime Minister in Japan. Naoto Kan, the previous Finance Minister is set to take over the helm. His job is going to tough, with all eyes on how and when the government begins to get to grips with Japan’s burgeoning debt burden which is approaching 200% of GDP. Most of this, around 96% is held by domestic investors, so Japan is less exposed to foreign investor sentiment.

Nonetheless, even domestic investors including many large life insurance companies are increasing their overseas investments at the expense of Japanese debt. Kan is also a supporter of weaker JPY so at the least the rhetoric from Japanese officials to weaken the JPY will step up, especially given the very painful move in EUR/JPY over recent months.

Finally, the G20 meeting beginning today in South Korea will garner attention. Topics will include bank regulation and capital requirements, the European debt crisis, and policy tools such as the recent suggestion by South Korea to make permanent the currency swap agreements between central banks. Aside from a commitment to keep policy supportive, and likely talking up the efforts to combat the crisis in Europe, it is difficult to see anything particularly market moving emerge from the meeting.

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