LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week and the Reuters stories related to them.
First China, then Japan, now Germany. The barb from President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser that Germany is exploiting a “grossly undervalued” euro was the new administration’s latest currency-focused attack on America’s major trading partners. The strong dollar, they complain, is hurting U.S. exports and manufacturing, and others around the world are cashing in. Angela Merkel rejected the charge, but her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble admitted that Germany could cope with a higher exchange rate. Whatever the merits of the charge, it’s another sign that Washington wants a weaker dollar and will play hardball on trade. But Trump’s pro-growth agenda would boost the economy, lift interest rates and the dollar. Something has to give. Until it does, currency markets may be that bit choppier.
* ANALYSIS-Euro may be too weak for Germany but too strong for others
* ANALYSIS-Trump’s dollar paradox promises roller-coaster ride for currencies
* Trump, trade adviser signal displeasure with U.S. ‘strong dollar’ policy
China surprised markets on Friday by jacking up short-term interest rates, possibly a sign of more policy-tightening to come as the economy steadies. Or it could be another attempt to deflate growing debt bubbles and stem the flow of capital out of the country, which the IIF this week pegged at $725 billion for 2016. That follows a $675 billion outflow in 2015. In that light, the latest FX reserves data next week will be closely scrutinised to see how hard Beijing is trying to stem the tide and prevent the yuan from selling off even more. January trade data and credit growth numbers will also offer clues as to just how solid the recovery is.
* China raises short-term interest rates in fresh tightening sign
* China says no to “currency war” after Trump criticism of yuan
* China net 2016 outflows at record $725 bln - IIF
France remains in the spotlight as investors track the latest twists in the most unpredictable presidential race in decades. Growing uncertainty ahead of votes in April and May has pushed the gap between French bond yields and top-rated German yields to its widest in three years. Francois Fillon is fighting to keep his place as conservative candidate amid sliding opinion poll ratings following a scandal over fake pay. The Socialists have picked a hard-left candidate, reducing the chances that one of the two main established political parties will regain power. The upheaval benefits eurosceptic, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, and with her party talking about leaving the euro, bond markets across Europe are feeling the heat. Italian and Portuguese spreads over Germany are also at their widest in three years. Italy faces a Moody’s ratings review on Friday and things could be getting messy again in Greece as euro zone finance ministers meet on Thursday amid growing worries about the IMF’s role in a further Greek bailout.
* Fillon fights to remain in French presidential race
* France’s FN sets out unorthodox economic plans to support a euro exit
* French borrowing costs rise as election uncertainty jolts investors
4/ IT‘S A RESULTS BUSINESS
Higher commodity prices, yields and growth forecasts have all helped corporate earnings, and the mood around European profits is the brightest it has been in 6 years. However, as the price of everything from steel to coal to palm oil has increased, companies that use these as raw materials are feeling the pinch on margins. Input costs and companies’ ability to pass these on to their customers -- their “pricing power” -- are starting to cast a shadow over the ongoing results season. Renault and Carlsberg could see their latest earnings affected, while other European corporate heavyweights reporting next week include Rio Tinto, GlaxoSmithKline, Total, Telecom Italia and banks BNP Paribas, SocGen and Commerzbank.
* Rising costs lurk behind brighter European corporate results
* Return of inflation puts focus on pricing power
Whisper it, but just as Prime Minister Theresa May’s progress towards triggering Article 50 to leave the EU has prompted a lot of FX traders to take money off the table on sterling, the first signs of some real post-Brexit problems for the UK economy are starting to appear. All of this week’s sentiment numbers were lower, London property prices are, at best, in a winter lull, and running through all this are tensions around sterling’s post-referendum slide and its impact on prices, margins, confidence and spending. The BoE jacked up its growth forecast this week, but made clear it is in no hurry to lift rates from a record low 0.25 pct. Speculators’ record short positions on the pound that prevented an even steeper fall in October and November have also eased off, while a number of strategists have effectively called a bottom to the almost 20 percent fall dating back to last June’s vote. So maybe time to load up on those short positions again?
* UK service sector slows as price pressures rocket
* Bank of England in no mood for rate hike
* Sterling sinks for second day after services dip (Compiled by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Gareth Jones)