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Chinese data in focus despite Chinese markets being closed - Desmond Chua
00:00, 03 February 2014
While most of Asia was away for the Lunar New Year celebrations, elsewhere in the world, investors were fed a barrage of economic data, corporate earnings and continued concerns over emerging markets. US stock markets fell, failing to buck the trend of a weekly decline, as earnings from large corporates disappointed. The Dow lost 0.9% and the S&P 500 fell 0.7% to extend to a third consecutive week of declines, while both indices saw their steepest monthly drop since 2012. The opposite was true for treasuries as a rise in global uncertainty meant heightened demand for the safe haven, with yields falling five points to 2.65% while prices - which run inversely with yields - soared by the most since May 2012. Shares at the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, fell 11% after earnings disappointed, while oil behemoth Chevron also saw its share plunge 4% after earnings fell more than 30% in the same quarter last year. Helping to limit losses were tech stocks like Google and Zynga Inc. The search engine giant gained 4% after quarterly revenues beat estimates, while the maker of the addictive Farmville game surged 23% after announcing plans to acquire a UK game developer. In the Forex, the USD rose against most majors after US data surprised to the upside, while risk aversion saw demand in the greenback increase. Consumer spending, which contributed to better Q4 growth, continued to look strong. December spending was at 0.4% after an upwardly revised 0.6%, clocking the best back-to-back gains since 2012. The data aligns with consumer sentiment which rose, albeit slightly, with the final reading of the University of Michigan measure, from 81.1 to 81.2. Manufacturing activity grew in the Chicago region, although coming short of estimates, while personal income came in flat in December. This underscores that consumers were spending more despite having less disposable income. The EUR saw its sixth consecutive daily decline against the USD after several data disappointments. The single currency plummeted, after retail sales from the backbone of the Euro bloc fell. German retail sales fell by 2.5% in December after the previous reading was revised down from 1.5% to 0.9%, while French consumer spending remained weak, declining by 0.1%. Unemployment in Italy remained weak at 12.7%, contributing to an overall Euro unemployment rate of 12%. The region continues to face deflationary pressures with the latest CPI reading edging lower to 0.7%, marking the second consecutive monthly decline after the ECB cut rates in November. Bearing in mind that the ECB meets this Thursday, the softer inflation figures build on pressure for the ECB to move rates close to 0%, although most analysts polled by Bloomberg expect no change. On a technical perspective, a weekly bearish engulfing bar in the EUR/USD underscores some weakness to follow with support at the 1.33 levels. Over the weekend, we saw Chinese manufacturing PMI coming in weaker than expected, marking its lowest reading in six months. We can expect Asian markets to open softer, especially after Chinese services PMI also printed lower this morning. Losses in the commodity currencies accelerated with the disappointing Chinese data, especially in the Kiwi following Governor Wheeler’s claim that current prices are not sustainable in the long run. The RBA meets tomorrow, and despite weaker commodity demand from China and slower employment growth in Australia, it is widely expected that the RBA will put on hold any rate cuts, especially after inflation data came in on the high side last week. In the commodity space, oil prices fell after hitting a four-week high, while the emerging market rout has help put a limit to the rise in Brent. This week, we follow the earnings of social media site Twitter, General Motors and Merck. On the economic front, the focus will be on January’s jobs figures to determine whether December’s figure was a one-off event as Fed officials claim, or the start of something larger.