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Week Ahead: Geopolitics could shake up markets

Vantage Updated Updated Sun, 2024 January 14 09:57

Investors will have to deal with the increasing issue of geopolitics after airstrikes by the US and UK to quell the concerns around Middle East shipping briefly saw oil prices surge late last week. Escalation appears to not be very far away with many predicting more flare-ups in the region. Gold certainly found a bid late Friday in response to strikes, which raised the precious metal’s appeal as a safe haven.

Taiwanese elections on Saturday kicked off a year when for the first time ever, over half the world’s population will go to the ballot boxes to vote in their next leaders. The US election in November will be front and centre with the journey to the White House starting this week. The vote for the Iowa Republican candidate will be cast with former President Trump the clear favourite to win the Republican candidacy. This so-called “caucus” is often seen as a bellwether for the rest of the spring.

On the economic front, markets took the mild upside surprise in the latest all-important US inflation data in its stride. Services inflation is still proving tricky but bond markets especially, looked through the figures with bets on a March Fed rate cut moving higher above 80%. This week’s US data highlight should be the retail sales figures which will shine a spotlight on the mighty US consumer. Any signs of retrenchment could undermine the expectations of a soft landing that has helped boost stocks markets over the last few months.

The world will see how close China got to its official 5% growth target with the release of full-year GDP data. More importantly perhaps as these are backward looking figures is how the government will attempt to do similar this year. Policy tools and rate cuts are expected, as the malaise in the real estate sector remains heavy.

The UK reveals its latest inflation and wage growth figures with the most recent softer CPI data bringing the economy more into line with its other developed market peers. That said, the road back to the 2% target for inflation is expected to be bumpy with sticky services prices seen continuing in the near term. Easing food and goods prices are expected further out, though markets will be wary of an oil price spike that would upset the current disinflation. GBP has got off to a relatively solid start this year but another soft inflation reading would prove unwelcome.

In Brief: major data releases of the week

16 January 2024, Tuesday

UK Jobs: Expectations are for the unemployment rate to remain at 4.2% while earnings growth is likely to ease further, though more slowly than the previous month’s data. The wage growth print will be encouraging for the BoE but still remains too high for talk about rate cuts.

-Canada CPI: Inflation stood unchanged at 3.1% in November, likewise two of the three core measures held steady. Increases in mortgage costs and rent may continue to stall progress in getting price pressures back to the 2% target.

17 January 2024, Wednesday

-China GDP, Retail Sales: Economists predict growth of around 1.3% q/q which would translate into 5.2% y/y in Q4 and 5.2% for the 2023 figure. This represents a beat on the government’s 5% target. Retail sales have been resilient in recent months but may need action from the authorities to sustain this. 

-UK CPI: The headline is expected to fall one-tenth to 3.8% and the core two-tenths to 4.9%. The all-important services reading is likely to fall again near to 6%, well below the MPC’s forecast of 6.9%. Cable has been consolidating under the 200-week SMA at 1.2840. A strong beat could see the major challenge this resistance.

-US Retail Sales: Consensus sees a headline rise of 0.3% and the ex-autos at 0.2%, in December, both matching the prior reading. Buoyant stock markets are boosting consumer confidence.

18 January 2024, Thursday

Australia Jobs: A reversal of the blockbuster 61.5k November print is forecast. The jobless rate is likely to rise to 4% which is slower than trend labour force growth. The RBA is currently seen to be the least dovish major central bank. Subdued risk sentiment has seen the aussie comes off its highs above 0.6850. The wider environment may have more importance for direction in the near term.

19 January 2024, Friday

UK Retail Sales: The headline is expected to contract 0.4% m/m with the annual print at 1.1%. Weak consumer confidence could hold back activity with the BRC suggesting the festive period didn’t make up for a challenging year for retailers.