What to watch this week

Despite a slow start to the week there are plenty of events and data this week for markets to chew on for further direction including in the US the February Empire and Philly Fed manufacturing surveys, January housing starts and existing home sales, as well as CPI and PPI inflation and FOMC meeting minutes. Overall the data will look relatively unimpressive, with softer manufacturing confidence, weaker housing data and benign inflation readings likely.

In the Eurozone, the flash purchasing managers’ indices will capture most attention. A slight softening is expected but this will not alter the picture of gradual recovery in the Eurozone economy. Indeed, last week’s better than expected Eurozone GDP release revealing broad based growth of 0.3% in Q4 highlighted the positive recovery path, in turn maintaining positive sentiment for the EUR.

On the policy front the Bank of Japan decides on policy tomorrow but no change is expected despite a disappointing Q4 GDP release this morning, which revealed that growth came in at a paltry 0.3% QoQ compared to 0.7% expected. Nonetheless, the weaker GDP data highlights that the BoJ and government has a big job to do in the months ahead especially given the risks to growth from the upcoming consumption tax hike. USD/JPY may find some support if the data translates into expectations of more aggressive BoJ action.

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US dollar under pressure

US stocks have clawed back almost all their losses registered in the wake of the mini emerging markets crisis in January. The S&P 500 closed at 1838.63, up 0.48% on Friday. The rally in stocks is impressive considering the run of weaker than forecast US data releases over recent weeks although investors appear to be placing much of the blame on poor weather conditions. The gains in US stocks echoes the generalized improvement in risk appetite, with sentiment towards emerging markets also having stabilized.

The USD continues to be a casualty of the firmer risk tone, with a lack of upward momentum in US yields also not helping the currency (10 year US Treasury yield around 2.7428%). The USD index is now close to its lows for the year around 80.00, with the JPY and commodity currencies the biggest gainers so far this year among major currencies. In terms of emerging market currencies the Indonesian rupiah and Thai baht have been the best performers versus USD.

Despite the firmer tone to risk, gold prices have continued their ascent, closing above their 200 day moving average at the end of last week. As I wrote in Gold breaches its 200 day moving average, I don’t expect the rally in gold prices to be sustained. Some market consolidation is likely today with a lack of key data releases and a US holiday (President’s Day) keeping activity subdued.

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