Global Investing

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

August 3, 2009

Five things to think about this week:

GOOD RUN 
-  Stocks have managed to extend their rally but potential hurdles, such as this week’s U.S. non-farm payrolls, could prove increasingly hard to leap given valuations — European stocks are trading at their highest multiples of earnings since May 2008 while the multiple for the S&P is the highest since mid-September 2008. If investors are to boost equity holdings — which Reuters polls show already back to pre-Lehman levels — it may require more concrete evidence of economic expansion, rather than just economic stabilisation, and signs that profit margins will be supported by revenue growth, rather than cost cutting. 

BOE – HANGING IN THE BALANCE
- The Bank of England will have to decide this week whether to end its asset-buying programme or extend it. Concern about potential longer-term inflation implications will have to be weighed against the signs of economic weakness still manifest in recent Q2 GDP data. With economists split on the outcome, markets look set for volatility, not least as the MPC’s decision is likely to be viewed as a indication of when other central banks could start to halt/unwind their credit easing strategy. 

SQUARING CIRCLES
- The dexterity with which China can manage surging lending and potential price pressures without unsettling markets with any rapid reversal of stimulative policy is increasingly in focus and will have financial market and macroeconomic repercussions well beyond its borders and Asia, as last week showed. Australia, which felt the spillover effect of the China jitters, has its own policy dilemma as the RBA is trying to push back against its currency’s appreciation while giving markets another reason to buy A$ by its more upbeat view on the domestic economic outlook. The RBA policy meeting this week will give the central bank a chance to show how it squares this circle. 

INVENTORIES AND EXPORTS 
- Detailed PMI data and UK, Italy industrial output reports will be scanned for signs of whether the inventory decline that accompanied a rise in Japanese industrial output is being seen elsewhere, with the inventory-shipments, inventory-orders ratios remaining firmly in focus as key signals for the outlook for production. The extent to which Asian economic activity is helping trade flows will also be flagged by German and French June trade data (all the more interesting given May exports rose in both countries, despite their differing export specialisations.

LOAN PROVISIONS 
- European banks reporting this week will be closely watched for the extent to which they follow in Deutsche Bank’s footsteps by making higher loan loss provisions. The ECB’s latest lending survey shows euro zone banks’ expect to continue to tighten credit conditions in the coming months, albeit at a slower pace; heftier loan provisions will make this all but guaranteed.

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