Weekly Outlook: Nov 29 — Dec 03: COVID Fears Persist, Powell Testifies, EZ CPIs and US NFPs on the Agenda

Last Thursday, a new coronavirus variant was detected, which is said to probably be vaccine resistant, something that sparked panic among market participants. European shares experienced their worst day in 17 months on Friday, while Wall Street tumbled as well in a half-day session. This week, Fed Chief Powell testifies before Congress, and it will be interesting to see whether the detection of the new variant will affect the Fed’s monetary policy plans. On the data front, we get Eurozone’s preliminary inflation data for November, as well as the US and Canadian employment reports for the month.

On Monday, the economic calendar looks very light in terms of data releases. Thus, we see the case for market participants keep their gaze locked on headlines and developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, news over the detection of a new and possibly vaccine resistant COVID variant hit the wires, resulting in a sharp selloff in equities. European indices tumbled on average 4.47% each on Friday, suffering their worst day in 17 months, while Wall Street followed with a 2.34% average fall. Let’s not forget thought that Wall Street closed early on Friday, after it stayed closed the day before due to the Thanksgiving celebrations.

A lot is unknown with regards to the new variant, which was detected in South Africa, but scientists are worried that it may be able to evade immune responses and be more transmissible. Several nations in Europe have already announced fresh restrictions, even before the detection of the new variant called Omicron, due to rapidly increasing infections. Now, with the new mutation, more nations around the globe may start considering new measures, something that could add to concerns over the performance of the global economy. Even oil prices plunged on Friday, falling more than 10%, on worries that the new variant could hurt demand. So, with all that in mind, and still more to discover over the new variant, we believe that market appetite will stay subdued for a while more.

The only release worth mentioning on Monday’s schedule is Germany’s preliminary CPIs for November. Both the CPI and HICP rates are expected to have risen further, to +5.0% yoy and +5.5% yoy, from 4.5% and 4.6% respectively, which means that inflation in Eurozone, may accelerate as well. We get data for the bloc as whole tomorrow.

On Tuesday, as we just mentioned, we have Eurozone’s preliminary CPIs for November. The headline rate is forecast to have risen to +4.4% yoy from +4.1%, while the HICP excluding energy and food rate is expected to have just ticked up to +2.2% yoy from +2.1%. Yes, the acceleration in headline inflation could mean that the latest surge in inflation around the globe may, after all, not be transitory. However, with Europe adopting new restrictions due to the fast-spreading coronavirus, we don’t expect ECB officials to start thinking tightening monetary policy anytime soon. After all, underlying inflation is just slightly above the Bank’s objective of 2%, while President Lagarde has repeatedly highlighted that tightening monetary policy now to rein in inflation could choke off the euro zone’s recovery. Therefore, even if the euro extends Friday’s recovery, we will not call for a bullish reversal. We will class this as a corrective bounce.

Later in the day, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on the CARES Act, the Fed’s pandemic-era stimulus program. They will present the same testimony before the House Financial Committee on Wednesday. After Powell being reappointed as the Head of the Federal Reserve Bank, market participants increased their bets over a potential rate increase in the middle of next year, and perhaps one more by the end of it. Even after the headlines over a new COVID variant, investors maintained their bets. According to the Fed funds futures, the timing of the first 25bps rate increase was pushed slightly back to August from July, while expectations over anther hike by the end of the year remained well anchored. Thus, with all that in mind, it will be interesting to see whether Powell remains confident that a rate increase could still be appropriate after the tapering is over. If so, the dollar is likely to resume its latest uptrend, but a deeper decline could be possible in case Powell appears worried on the new COVID variant and suggests that he and his colleagues should adopt a more cautious stance moving forward. We will get to hear from several other Fed officials as well during the week, including Vice Chair Richard Clarida, and we are eager to find out whether they have changed their minds or not.

As for the rest of Tuesday’s events, during the Asian session, Japan’s employment report and the nation’s preliminary industrial production, both for October, are due to be released. The unemployment rate is forecast to have held steady at 2.8%, while industrial production is expected to have rebounded 1.8% mom, after contracting 5.4% in September. We also get China’s manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs for November. The manufacturing PMI is expected to have increases slightly, but to have stayed in contractionary territory, while no forecast is available for the non-manufacturing index. Below-50 readings will confirm that the world’s second largest economy is in a tough spot, and the new variant could make things even worse.

From Canada, we have GDP data for Q3. Expectations are for the qoq annualized rate to have rebounded to +3.0% from -1.1%, which combined with a decent employment report on Friday, may increase speculation for a rate hike by the BoC soon. Remember that at their latest gathering, Canadian policymakers unexpectedly ended their QE program, maintaining an optimistic stance. Having said all that though, it remains to be seen whether the Omicron variant will be a reason for changing plans. In that respect, we will have a chance of getting an updated view from BoC Governor Tiff Macklem today.

On Wednesday, during the Asian session, Australia releases its GDP data for Q3, with the forecasts pointing to a 2.7% qoq contraction after a 0.7% expansion the previous quarter. Despite market participants anticipating around three rate hikes next year, the RBA has been adamant that the timing suggested by market pricing is not the appropriate one. Therefore, a negative GDP rate would add more credence to the Bank’s view that the earliest year for hiking rates may be 2023, and thereby add more pressure to the Aussie, which, as a risk-linked currency, we expect to also feel the heat of a deteriorating broader market sentiment.

Later in the day, we get the final Markit manufacturing PMIs for November from the Eurozone, the UK, and the US, but as it is usually the case, most indices are expected to confirm their preliminary estimates. The ISM manufacturing index for the month is also coming, and it is expected to have inched up to 61.0 from 60.8. What’s more, as we already noted, Fed Chief Powell and Treasury Secretary Yellen will present their testimony before the House Financial Committee.

On Thursday, after meeting on Wednesday on its own, OPEC will sit down with its non-OPEC allies to discuss on oil production. Despite the failed attempt by the US and other governments to release oil from strategic reserves in a bid to lower gasoline prices, both WTI and Brent collapsed on Friday due to concerns that the new COVID variant will have a serious impact on demand. Therefore, with that in mind, we don’t expect the cartel to proceed with any bold decisions at this gathering. We expect producers to stick to monthly output increases of 400k bpd. That said, it would be interesting to see their updated forecasts. Will they reflect concerns over diminishing demand? If indeed this is the case, another round of oil selling could be possible, despite members refraining from increasing production instantly.

As for Thursday’s data, the only releases worth mentioning are Australia’s retail sales, trade balance, and home loans, all for October. Retail sales are expected to have accelerated notably, but the trade surplus is forecast to have decreases by nearly a billion Aussies. No forecast is available for the home loans.

Finally, on Friday, the highlights may be the US and Canadian employment reports for November.

Getting the ball rolling with the US one, non-farm payrolls are expected to have accelerated to 550k from 531k, with the unemployment rate anticipated to have ticked down to 4.5% from 4.6%. Average hourly earnings are forecast to have grown at the same monthly pace as in October, something that will take the yoy rate up to 5.0% from 4.9%. In our view, under normal circumstances, another decent report could have had added more credence to the view over a potential rate increase by the Fed as soon as tapering is over. However, with the new Omicron COVID variant, we don’t know yet how policymakers will respond. We prefer to listen to Powell’s and other officials’ opinions ahead of the employment report before arriving to clearer conclusions as to how the market will react to this data set.

Same logic applies to the Canadian report, which is also expected to come in better than the previous one. After all, we believe that this week, the Loonie is likely to stay more sensitive to oil price movements, rather than economic data.

As for the rest of the releases, we get the final services and composite Markit PMIs for November from the Eurozone, the UK, and the US, and as with the manufacturing indices, they are mostly expected to confirm their preliminary estimates. The ISM non-manufacturing PMI for November is also coming out and the forecast points to a decline to 65.0 from 66.7.

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