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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead

Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead
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Investing.com — More big tech earnings and the U.S. jobs report for July will be the main highlights in the week ahead. Investors will also be focusing on the Bank of England’s latest rate decision and economic data out of the Eurozone and China. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

Nonfarm payrolls

Friday’s U.S jobs report is expected to show that the economy added 184,000 jobs in July, while the unemployment rate remained at a historical low of 3.6% and average hourly earnings cooled.

The resilience of the labor market has been a key factor in shaping the view that the economy is heading towards a so-called soft landing of cooling inflation and strong growth.

Investor confidence received a boost last week when Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank’s staff no longer forecasts a U.S. recession and that inflation had a shot of returning to its 2% target without high levels of job losses.

The Fed raised rates by another 25 basis points to their highest level since 2007 last Wednesday and did not rule out another rate hike, saying it would follow future economic data.

Signs that the economy is growing at too rapid a pace could spark worries that the Fed needs to keep raising rates to contain inflation. Conversely, a steep drop-off in employment might rekindle recession fears.

Earnings

Earnings season rolls on with megacaps Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) due to report earnings after the market close on Thursday.

Some investors are wary that a rally in tech stocks, which has been fueled in part by excitement over developments in artificial intelligence, may falter. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is up nearly 44% year-to-date, while the S&P 500 information technology sector has gained nearly 46%.

Optimistic forecasts from Meta Platforms and results from Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) last week bolstered the case for those who believe megacaps’ lofty valuations are justified.

More than half of the firms listed on the S&P 500 had reported second quarter earnings as of Friday, out of which 78.7% have surpassed analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv data, cited by Reuters.

Bank of England rate decision

The BOE holds its latest rate setting meeting on Thursday and markets are split about whether policymakers will revert back to a 25-basis point rate hike after a 50-bps hike in June.

Inflation hasn’t accelerated since February and there are signs that widespread price pressures are starting to abate.

But inflation, at 7.9% in June, is the highest among major economies and remains well above the BOE’s 2% target, so markets shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a 50-bps hike, particularly if policymakers think they may need to hike again in September.

The BOE has faced criticism of being behind the curve from investors after inflation kept climbing higher than expected, despite 13 back-to-back rate increases since December 2021 which increased the possibility of a recession.

Eurozone data

The Eurozone is to release a preliminary estimate of July inflation and second quarter GDP on Monday that will be closely watched amid debate over whether the European Central Bank may raise interest rates again at its next meeting in September.

The GDP data is expected to show that the bloc’s economy returned to growth in the second quarter, while inflation is expected to moderate only slightly.

Inflation in the euro zone has halved since peaking last October but, at 5.5%, still remains well above the ECB’s 2% target.

The ECB raised its deposit rate to a historic high on Thursday but removed a clear hint at further hikes from its policy statement, meaning another increase at its upcoming September meeting should not be taken for granted.

ECB President Christine Lagarde said what would come next was in the balance, even if the central bank was determined to “break the back” of inflation.

China PMIs

PMI data out of China at the start of the week are likely to point to a contraction in manufacturing activity for a fourth straight month in July, underlining the need for stimulus measures to support the post-pandemic recovery in the world’s second largest economy.

The official manufacturing PMI, which largely focuses on big and state-owned firms, and its survey for the services sector, will be released on Monday. The Caixin manufacturing PMI, which focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises, will be released on Tuesday.

Data on Thursday showed that industrial profits extended a double-digit pace of declines into a sixth straight month.

China’s economy grew at a slow pace in the second quarter as demand weakened at home and abroad, but most analysts say policymakers are unlikely to deliver any aggressive stimulus amid mounting fears over debt risks.

–Reuters contributed to this report

Source: Investing.com

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