Top 5 Things to Watch in Markets in the Week Ahead

Top 5 Things to Watch in Markets in the Week Ahead

Investors in the U.S. will be focusing on earnings and the prospects for a hefty new coronavirus relief package this week. Markets will also be watching the latest consumer price inflation numbers on Wednesday amid expectations for an uptick as the economic backdrop improves and the vaccine roll-out gains momentum. In Europe, data on Friday is expected to show that the UK economy continued to expand in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank head widely credited with saving the euro, will continue talks aimed at forming a new Italian government. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. Earnings

Better-than-expected corporate results so far in the fourth quarter have driven up analysts’ expectations, and S&P 500 companies are on track to post earnings growth for the period instead of a decline as initially expected. Upcoming U.S. reports in the week ahead include Cisco Systems, Twitter, General Motors, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, AstraZeneca, and Walt Disney.

Upbeat earnings along with stimulus talks and progress on the vaccine rollout boosted equities last week, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq recording their largest weekly percentage gains since the U.S. elections in early November.

Upbeat fourth-quarter results would bolster expectations for a strong rebound in earnings in 2021 and help to ease investor worries that valuations are overstretched.

  1. Stimulus

U.S. President Joe Biden’s push for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package gained momentum on Friday after the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a budget blueprint allowing Democrats to push the legislation through Congress in coming weeks with or without Republican support.

Republicans have proposed a $600 billion aid package, less than a third the size of the Democratic plan.

Congressional committees are set to start drawing up legislation this week and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has predicted the final legislation could pass Congress before March 15, when special unemployment benefits that were added during the pandemic expire.

Data on Friday showing a smaller-than-expected rebound in the U.S. labor market in January underscored the need for more stimulus to bolster the economy.

  1. Inflation data

Market watchers will be paying close attention to Wednesday’s CPI data amid growing expectations that an uptick in inflation could be larger and longer-lasting than the Federal Reserve is currently anticipating.

U.S. Treasury investors are betting on rising inflation as the U.S. economy returns to more normal levels in the second half of this year, after contracting at its deepest pace since World War Two in 2020.

The prospect of a new coronavirus relief package is adding to inflation expectations.

Meanwhile, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is to speak about the labor market on Wednesday at a webinar hosted by the Economic Club of New York. Thursday’s figures on initial jobless claims will also be in focus.

  1. UK GDP

Figures on Friday are expected to show that the U.K. economy continued to expand in the fourth quarter, albeit at a slower rate than the 16% expansion recorded in the prior three months when the economy was reopening. Economists are forecasting growth of 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, but this was before widespread lockdown measures came back into effect, and data for the start of the year is likely to show another dip inactivity.

The pound rose against the dollar last Thursday after the Bank of England indicated that negative interest rates are off the table for now and focused on the prospect of a post-lockdown rebound, helped by Britain’s fast vaccination program in its quarterly update on the economy.

The central bank lowered its forecast for growth for 2021 as a whole to 5% from its November forecast of 7.25% but raised its forecast for 2022 to 7.25% from 6.25%.

  1. Super Mario

Mario Draghi, the man credited with saving the euro from collapse during the eurozone sovereign debt crisis in 2012, has been tasked with forming Italy’s new government, but he has his work cut out.

Investors hope Draghi can implement reforms to boost growth in a country that has long underperformed its European peers, weighing down the whole eurozone.

Italian financial markets have rallied on the expectation Draghi will succeed. Last week Italy’s 10-year bond yield posted its biggest weekly drop since July, while the gap over the German Bund yield narrowed to its lowest in five years.

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