The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

July 27, 2009

Five things to think about this week:

– A good run in equities has so far been helped rather than hindered by U.S. company results. Some are questioning how long the upward momentum can be sustained given cost-cutting rather than improved revenue streams flattered profit margins. The European earnings season, which cranks up a gear this week, and the release of U.S. Q2 GDP data could be potential triggers for a pullback, but the sensitivity to bad news may depend on how much money is chasing the latest push higher. 

– European earnings flooding out in the coming weeks may paint a less rosy picture of the banking sector than seen on the other side of the Atlantic. While investment and trading activities should be supportive, bad loan provisions will be particularly closely scrutinised, as will the central and eastern Europe exposure of the likes of Erste. The supply/demand outlook for key commodities plans will also be in the limelight given the battery of oil and chemical firms reporting in Europe and the U.S. 

– There are signs of some breakdown in the lockstep moves that financial markets had become accustomed to seeing in FX/stocks or stocks/bonds. Calyon research shows correlation between the bank’s proprietary risk aversion barometer and exchange rates has been less robust in the past month. While this correlation nevertheless remains stronger than that between FX and interest rate differentials, the markets’ thoughts are turning to new linkages that might prove better trading guides. 

– The interest in carry trades has grown as investors have become more willing to venture out of the most liquid markets in the quest for returns but the subsequent appreciation in currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollar is provoking a push back from the central banks concerned. This suggests that others could be, or have been, tempted by tactics deployed by the Swiss National Bank, whose latest reserves data shows how actively it has sought to keep the Swiss franc in check. Australian reserve data suggest the Reserve Bank of Australia is already taking a leaf out of the SNB’s books, which will keep the market on toes in the coming weeks, while the Reserve Bank of New Zealand meeting this week will offer another chance for central bank rhetoric to counter the prevailing market trend. 

– FX reserves, U.S. and Chinese foreign exchange policy, who should do what to correct global imbalances, and trade issues will be on traders’ minds as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue kicks off early in the week. Chinese officials will be keen to avoid sending any signals that would jeopardise the value of the U.S. holdings in their $2 trillion-plus reserves but markets are alert for clues on how Beijing plans to play its medium-term drive for a multi-polar reserve universe.

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