The Week That Was
On Friday, the US equity market exhibited a mixed performance. Traders and investors were assessing a combination of recent US corporate earnings and economic indicators. The S&P 500 slightly declined, ending its six-day streak of gains, while the Nasdaq 100 dropped by 0.5%. In contrast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average concluded the day with a gain of 60 points.
In economic news, the annual core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) inflation rate, a key indicator of inflation, decelerated unexpectedly last month, falling below 3%. This was a notable development, considering that both the overall PCE rate and its monthly changes aligned with expert predictions.
On the US corporate scene, American Express witnessed a significant surge of 7.1% in its stock value. This jump followed the company's announcement of an anticipated revenue increase of 9% to 11% in 2024. Additionally, Capital One Financial experienced a 4.6% rise after reporting higher-than-expected revenue for the fourth quarter.
However, not all companies fared well. Intel's shares plummeted by 11.9% due to its issuance of a disappointing future outlook, despite surpassing earnings and revenue expectations. VISA also saw a decline of 1.7% following its presentation of a cautious forecast. Moreover, Spirit Airlines' shares dramatically fell by 13.3% after JetBlue expressed concerns about potentially having to abandon its planned merger with the budget airline.
Looking at the weekly performance, the S&P 500 achieved a modest gain of 0.5%, while the Dow Jones inched up by 0.1%. The Nasdaq 100 also ended the week slightly in the positive territory.
On Friday, the JSE All Share index rebounded from earlier losses to close significantly higher, marking a 1.4% increase to reach 75 084. This level was last observed in early January. A notable contributor to this uptick was Richemont, which soared by 6.2%, mirroring the strong performance of LVMH in Paris after the latter reported encouraging corporate earnings. Other stocks that showed substantial gains included Kumba Iron Ore, which rose by 4.4%, Aspen with a 3.6% increase, and MTN Group, up by 3.2%.
In the broader market context, traders continued to evaluate the likelihood of interest rate reductions by the US Federal Reserve within the year. This speculation follows the US central bank's preferred measure of inflation, which indicated a continued moderation in core prices for December.
Domestically, South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago emphasised on Thursday that any decision to cut interest rates would hinge on the headline consumer inflation rate consistently aligning with the central bank’s target range of 3% to 6%.
Concluding the week on a strong note, the JSE recorded a 3.3% gain.
The Week Ahead
This week in the US is set to be eventful with several key happenings, including the US Federal Reserve's inaugural policy meeting of the year. Additionally, crucial economic data such as the US jobs report, the ISM Manufacturing PMI, and JOLTs job openings will be closely monitored.
Expectations are that the Fed will hold interest rates at their highest in 23 years. Market participants will be keenly awaiting any signals regarding potential rate cuts in 2023. On the data front, the non-farm payrolls for January are projected to show a rise of 162K, a slowdown from December's 216K increase. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 3.7%, and monthly wage growth may decelerate to 0.3% from 0.4%.
The ISM PMI is anticipated to reflect ongoing contraction in manufacturing at the year's start. Other significant data includes ADP employment change, Q4 labour productivity and employment costs, factory orders, and regional industry indexes like the Chicago PMI and Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index.
The ongoing US earnings season will continue to be a major focus, featuring key earnings reports from industry giants such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, Advanced Micro Devices, Automatic Data Processing, Boeing, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Mastercard, Merck & Co, Pfizer, General Motors, Novo Nordisk, and Starbucks Corp.
In Europe, consensus suggests a stagnating economy in Q4 for the Euro Area. Spain's economy may have grown by 0.2%, offset by Germany's 0.2% decline, with GDP in France and Italy expected to be flat. Euro Zone inflation is likely to have eased to 2.8% in January, marking the lowest core rate since March 2022.
In the UK, the Bank of England is predicted to keep interest rates at a 15-year peak of 5.25% during its February session. Market watchers are curious about the BoE's future approach to borrowing costs. Key releases include the Bank of England's monetary indicators, Nationwide housing prices, labour productivity, and final manufacturing PMI data.
For Asia, the focus will be on China's PMIs for January, expected to show that manufacturing activity remains muted despite stimulus measures.
In Japan, markets await the Bank of Japan (BoJ)’s Summary of Opinions for insights into future monetary policy. Additional Japanese data to be released includes consumer confidence, industrial production, retail sales, unemployment rate, and housing starts for January and December. Key Themes for the Week Ahead
US Federal Reserve Outlook
This Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is poised to maintain its current rate, with market participants keenly anticipating signs of whether the Fed believes its anti-inflation measures are sufficient to start reducing rates sooner than expected.
The possibility of the Fed's initial rate reduction has shifted from March to May due to recent robust economic data and Fed officials' hints at less aggressive cuts.
Friday's data suggested a moderation in inflation, but persistent strong consumer spending raises fears of renewed inflationary pressures. Investors will scrutinise Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's comments after the policy meeting for insights on the Fed's interpretation of recent economic developments.
US Employment Report
Following the Fed's decision, the US will release its January employment report this Friday. Expectations point to the addition of new jobs, albeit at a slower pace compared to the previous month's 216 000. The equity market rally, driving record highs, reflects hopes for a US economic "soft landing," balancing stable growth with cooling inflation.
A weaker-than-expected jobs report might indicate the impact of the Fed's 525 basis-point rate hikes since 2022, while a strong report could justify prolonged elevated rates.
US Tech Giants' Earnings
This week will be pivotal for US earnings, with the "Magnificent Seven" tech giants set to report. Alphabet and Microsoft are scheduled for Tuesday, Apple and Amazon on Thursday, and Meta Platforms on Friday. These companies, comprising nearly 25% of the S&P 500's market capitalisation, significantly influence the index's performance.
Disappointing earnings could dampen market optimism.
Bank of England Policy
The Bank of England (BoE) is likely to maintain its current rate on Thursday. While it might retract its longstanding rate hike warning if inflation resurges, it is expected to signal the need for prolonged restrictive rates.
Recent UK data showed slow wage growth but an unexpected inflation increase to 4% in December. The UK economy has shown resilience at the start of 2024, but recent manufacturing sector inflation due to Red Sea supply disruptions is concerning.
The BoE has raised rates 14 times since December 2021, peaking at 5.25% following a 41-year high inflation rate of 11.1% in late 2022.
China's Economic Indicators
China is set to release its official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) on Wednesday, expected to reflect ongoing economic instability.
Although the economy grew by 5.2% in 2023, challenges such as a prolonged housing slump and deflationary risks persist, alongside slowing global growth.
China's central bank recently cut bank reserves by 50 basis points, the largest reduction in two years, signalling support for the fragile economy and faltering stock markets. Analysts believe further stimulus is necessary for a steadier economic trajectory.
South Africa News
Performance of the South African Rand: The South African rand has recently weakened against the dollar. This includes the release of inflation figures and the South African Reserve Bank's (SARB) first interest rate decision of the year. The decline in the rand's value is partly due to a stronger US dollar and investor expectations regarding the US Federal Reserve's interest rate policies.
Tax Risks and Preparation for Budget 2024: As South Africa prepares for its 2024 Budget, concerns are mounting regarding potential tax risks. The National Treasury is in the final stages of preparing the budget, which will have considerable implications for the country's economic and financial health. This period is crucial as it shapes fiscal policies and tax regulations that could impact various sectors of the South African economy. The forthcoming budget will be scrutinised by traders and investors, businesses, and the general public for indications of the government's economic strategy for the year ahead.
In the upcoming economic calendar for this week, several significant events are scheduled to take place.