Global Investing

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

Q3 – CLUES AND CUES
- 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.

BOND YIELDS
- 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.

L’AQUILA SUMMIT
- 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.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
-  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 RISKS
- 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.

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:
    
PUTTING THE RALLY TO THE TEST
- The surge in risk markets has tapered off as investors take stock of recent weeks’ rally and the data flow injects a dose of sobriety. The scale and duration of any market pullback will be the test of how much sentiment has really changed. Sluggish April U.S. retail sales were the biggest cause for pause and this week’s flash PMIs will give more Q2 information.

FX FOCUS
- A pause in the recent recovery in relatively risky markets is shifting attention to the changing FX environment. Clear-cut correlations between moves in major FX rates and swings in risk appetite could be in the process of being eroded and some in the financial markets are wondering if and when relative economic performance will replace risk appetite as a driver for exchange rates. Investment flows will be affected if the dollar looks like it might resume a long-term downtrend.

QE EXIT STRATEGY
ECB, BOE, Fed officials are making reassuring noises about QE exit strategies but no clear mechanism or timeframe has yet emerged and all indications are that balance sheet expansion is still the order of the day. Yield moves suggest bond markets are more enthused in the short term by signs they will kept on the QE drip feed than by concern about the potential price problems down the road. Central bankers have yet to address the back up in yields that would be seen if they were they to exit the market at a time when debt issuance is continuing to flood the market – as it will for some time to come.

Zeitgeist check

Some more bits and bobs to capture the current mood among investors:

– Some stock indexes have started to fall below their 2008 lows, meaning the turn-of-the-year rally has petered out. Dead cat bounce?

– Analysts are becoming increasingly downbeat about corporate earnings. Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 are looking at a year-on-year decline in earnings, according to Thomson Reuters proprietary research. That’s the highest number of sectors in negative territory since Q4 2001.

– UBS economists have sharply revised down estimates for 2009 growth in Japan, China, much of the rest of Asia, and the euro zone. They now expect world GDP to grow a paltry 0.4 percent this year.