August 27, 2018 / 2:49 PM / 24 days ago

Take Five: World markets themes for the week ahead

LONDON (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.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

1/FULL SPEED AHEAD

This week brings the latest snapshot of U.S. economic growth, with the Commerce Department reporting its second estimate of second-quarter real GDP. The advance estimate showed the U.S. economy grew at a 4.1 percent annualized rate in the April through June period, the fastest since the third quarter of 2014, as consumers spent broadly and farmers rushed out shipments of soybeans to China to beat tariffs imposed in response to President Donald Trump’s trade policies.

But in current dollar terms – as opposed to inflation-adjusted - the economy is growing actually at 7.4 percent, the fastest since the second quarter of 2014. The gap between the two measures – 3.3 percentage points – is the widest since 2007. With the Trump administration tax cuts lifting consumer and business spending, some economists reckon nominal GDP could top 5 percent for all of 2018.

U.S. economy expected to slow, damaged by trade war

GRAPHIC: U.S. gross domestic product - reut.rs/2P1btx0

2/PRICES TO SURPRISE?

Friday sees the release of the “flash” euro zone inflation reading for August - a number that could grab more attention than usual given recent signs that economic growth in the bloc is once again picking up steam. Monday’s stronger-than-expected German Ifo business sentiment index is the latest example.

Reuters polls forecast August inflation to have risen 2.1 percent, unchanged from a month earlier. German, Italian and French inflation data released ahead of the bloc-wide number should also be in focus.

So while market pricing suggests that an ECB rate hike is not likely until late-2019, this expectation may be quickly reassessed if the inflation print is strong. And if bond yields rise, the gap between U.S. and European bond yields could narrow further if investors conclude the divergence in Fed and ECB monetary policy outlooks is perhaps not so stark after all.

Such a reassessment may even drive Germany’s yield curve — the gap between two- and 10-year yields — to flatten a bit. Currently it remains at 96 basis points, some five times wider than the U.S. 2-10 curve which has fallen under 20 bps.

German business morale brightens much more than expected in August

ECB minutes point to worries about trade war, protectionism

French business activity grows in August, beating forecasts -PMI

GRAPHIC: Wider no more: US/German bond yield gap tightens - reut.rs/2PHVNjt

3/KING DOLLAR

The year may have begun with the dollar in retreat and investors convinced of further declines but now there seems to be very little to stop its ascent. The Turkish lira crisis and the U.S.-China trade war have made the dollar a principal haven for investors seeking shelter. U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be reveling in the strong dollar and its ability to bring pressure on his foes. Currencies such as the Turkish lira and South African rand have been sent reeling; central banks from Hong Kong to India have intervened to support their currencies. If dollar strength prevails, it will make investors more fearful of contagion and prompt them to dump their remaining holdings of emerging market currencies.

But will the dollar stumble before the year is out? U.S. political uncertainty, reinforced by the legal woes of two of Trump’s ex-advisors last week, saw the greenback post its biggest weekly fall since February. Fed Chair Jerome Powell disappointed some dollar bulls who had hoped for a more hawkish message. Investors are now wondering if midterm elections in November will affect U.S. policy and stop the dollar in its tracks. Speculators, however, appear to be paying no heed to all this — they are sitting on their biggest long-dollar position since Jan 2017.

- Speculators’ boost bullish bets on USD to highest since January 2017 -CFTC, Reuters data

GRAPHIC: Speculative positioning in the U.S. dollar - reut.rs/2OZvBzI

4/COME SEPTEMBER!

Wall Street has powered to new record highs but for European equities it has been a bruising few months — in just five months since March investors have pulled all $51 billion of the inflows into Europe since 2016, running scared from slowing growth and political risks. And with Italian budget deliberations looming, things could even get tougher.

But wait a minute. Valuations on Europe's leading index of euro zone stocks .STOXX50E are now lower than what it has averaged since the 2012 debt crisis. Some are questioning whether such a sharp discount is warranted.

True, U.S. interest rates are rising. But euro zone economic data has been encouraging of late, particularly from Germany whose economy picked up more pace than expected in the second quarter.

Consumer and business confidence figures from the European Commission on Thursday will provide a read as to how the rest of the region is faring. The overwhelming sentiment for now is to wait and see but come September, some bargain hunters could well start venturing back.

-At bargain prices, European banks attract value-hungry investors

-Ifo expects German economy to grow by up to 1.9 pct this year

GRAPHIC: STOXX50E valuation - reut.rs/2MCFw1H

5/POLITICIANS BE DAMNED

Prime ministers come and go, but Australia endures. Last week saw Treasurer Scott Morrison win the battle to lead the Liberal Party and become the nation’s 6th prime minister in less than 10 years. Markets favored Morrison so the Aussie dollar enjoyed a bounce. Yet, he was the least popular among voters polled before the vote, and may find it tough to win the Federal election, which must be held by mid-2019. Nor is it clear that his party’s right-wing faction will declare a ceasefire on energy policy, immigration and so much else. But politics doesn’t seem to much bother investors in Australia. Both parties remain committed to budget surpluses and the independence of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Australia can still borrow money for 10 years or more at a lower cost than the United States and enjoys a triple-A credit rating. Economic data has been upbeat and growth likely outpaced that of the United States in the second quarter. It looks like Australia can weather the worst that politicians can do.       

 

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison to become new prime minister-

NEWSMAKER-Conservative netball dad who pursued tough immigration policies is Australia’s new PM-

Australian shares gain after leadership vote ends political uncertainty, NZ higher –

GRAPHIC: Australia's leadership changes - reut.rs/2OZ11Xa

(This version of the story has been refiled to fix date in first theme)

Reporting by Dan Burns in New York, Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore, Tom Finn, Helen Reid and Dhara Ranasinghe in London; compiled by Sujata Rao; Editing by Toby Chopra

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