The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

July 6, 2009

Five things to think about this week:

– Global equity markets started the quarter positioned for economic stabilisation after a strong Q2 performance but, even so, EPFR data shows less than a third of the cash that flooded into money market funds in 2008 has exited in the year to date. The Q2 reporting season, which is about to kick off (Alcoa out this week), will show whether there are reasons for investors to draw down their cash holdings further. The U.S. data that came out before the long July 4 weekend held more negative surprises than positive ones, and macroeconomic confirmation of recovery will be needed to tempt more wary investors into equities.

– Benchmark U.S. and euro zone bond yields broke lower after the U.S. non-farm payroll data but the VIX hit some of its lowest levels post-Lehman and a recent compression of intra-euro zone spreads has yet to go markedly into reverse. Which of these trends turns out to be sustainable will become more evident in the next few weeks, particularly as U.S. supply resumes this week with TIPS, 3, 10, and 30 year auctions.

– The slow-burning international reserve currency debate could pop up at the G8/G8+5 big emerging powers summit in Italy this week. China’s public stance is that it is not pushing the issue but Beijing also reckons a debate on this would be normal at such a forum. It is unclear if any final statement will mention it in a way that would rattle FX markets. But sideline comments on the debate will be closely watched and particular focus will be on which countries, if any, would be willing to join China, Brazil and Russia in their commitment to buying the IMF SDR notes — for which crucial groundwork was laid down this week.

–  Questions remain over what use is being made of the 442 billion euros ($619.6 billion) of ECB one-year money that was pumped into the market. A spike up in overnight deposits clearly suggests banks are continuing to park a significant proportion of that cash at the ECB. Any swings in that data will be closely watched for signs that the money could be put to work in other parts of the rate/fixed income market — or maybe even filter through to the economy in the form of lending. The BOE will also be in focus, with clues sought on the outlook for its QE strategy.

– Commodity price volatility looks to be on the cards. A rally in industrial raw materials risks tapering off unless a stronger economic rebound materialises soon, both in big emerging economies and their developed counterparts. For soft commodities, the focus is increasingly turning to the potential impact on harvests from El Nino weather patterns that are developing. Investors will have to decide whether they would be better off exposed to stocks linked to the metals/minings, which will at least earn dividends, or to the commodity itself — or neither. As for any spike up in food prices, the fallout would be even wider at the current economic juncture, and complicate both policy and investment decisions.

(Reuters photo: Santiago Pandolfi)

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