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  • Writer's picturePeet Serfontein

Thoughts For the Week Ahead

The Week That Was

US equity markets ended the week on a high note this past Friday, with traders and investors eagerly awaiting this week's release of the August inflation report, which could shed light on the future direction of US interest rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 76 points, while both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite nudged up by 0.1% each.

In the energy sector, equities rallied in response to climbing oil prices. Notable gainers included Marathon Petroleum, which surged 2.9%, Valero Energy, up 4.7%, and Phillips 66, which also increased by 2.9%.

Apple shares saw a modest recovery, rising 0.3% after shedding almost $200 billion or 6.2% in market value over the two prior sessions. This comes amid reports that the Chinese government has barred its workers from using iPhones.

In the retail sector, Kroger's stock jumped 3.1% following news that the grocery chain, along with Albertsons, will divest 413 stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers for a sum of $1.9 billion.

For the week overall, the Dow Jones slipped approximately 1%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell by 1.5% and 2.1%, respectively.

The JSE All Share Index rebounded from earlier losses to finish Friday 0.6% higher at 73 653, breaking a three-day losing streak. The financial sector led the gains, rising by 1.8%. Capitec, South Africa's leading retail bank in terms of customer base, saw its shares soar by nearly 10%. The surge came after the bank informed shareholders that its headline earnings per share for the six months ending August 2023 are projected to increase by 8% to 10%, up from a restated R37.36 for the same period last year.

Despite the positive domestic news, traders and investors continued to tread cautiously amid global economic uncertainties and speculation about the actions of key central banks. In other local developments,

Germany's KFW development bank has extended a €200 million loan to South Africa's beleaguered power utility, Eskom Holdings. This financial injection will allow Eskom to enhance its transmission infrastructure in the Northern Cape and Western Cape regions.

For the week, however, the JSE All Share Index still ended 1.5% lower.

The Week Ahead

Attention is squarely focused on key economic indicators from the US, including the much-anticipated Consumer Price Index (CPI) and retail sales data. Forecasts suggest headline consumer prices accelerated for the second straight month, increasing by 3.6% in the previous month. Conversely, the core index is expected to have risen by a more modest 4.3%, the smallest gain since September 2021. Retail sales growth is predicted to be a subdued 0.2% month-over-month, a dip from July's 0.7%. Additional US reports to monitor include industrial production, producer and foreign trade prices, Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index, business inventories, the NY Empire State Manufacturing Index, and the government's monthly budget statement.

In Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) is set to announce its monetary policy on Thursday. With expectations leaning toward no change in borrowing costs, market participants will be keen to dissect any hints about the central bank's future plans, particularly after nine consecutive rate hikes led the deposit facility rate to a 22-year peak of 3.75%.

For the UK, vital metrics like the unemployment rate, wage growth, and GDP for August will be closely examined.

In Asia, China is set to release a host of economic data that may shed light on the effectiveness of recent government stimulus measures aimed at reviving its flagging economy. Metrics such as consumer prices, new yuan loans, and industrial production are anticipated to show minor improvements. The real estate sector, especially after Country Garden's missed bond payments, will also be under scrutiny. Japan’s economic indicators to watch include the Reuters Tankan index for September and machinery orders for July. In India, while inflation is expected to have cooled, a rebound in industrial output and a stable trade balance are likely.

Key Themes for the Week Ahead

US consumer price index (CPI)

Recent US economic indicators suggest a relatively smooth deceleration for the nation's economy, while also bolstering the case for the Federal Reserve to maintain elevated interest rates for an extended period. Consequently, the focus of this week will be on the trajectory of inflation as revealed in the forthcoming US CPI report.

Although the core CPI dipped to a 21-month low of 4.7% in July, it is still more than double the Fed's 2% target. However, the trend in the monthly data suggests that inflation could continue to moderate. If that occurs, it may lead to a weakening of the US dollar, as market participants could potentially recalibrate their expectations for the timing of the Fed's first rate cut.

In the context of a robust employment landscape, a subdued inflation report could positively influence market sentiment toward riskier assets. Conversely, if inflation surpasses expectations or rises, this could bolster US bond yields and the dollar, thereby exerting downward pressure on risk appetite and negatively affecting markets like the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100.

ECB interest rate decision

The upcoming decision on interest rates by the European Central Bank (ECB) is highly uncertain, with compelling arguments both for implementing a final 25bps hike and for maintaining the current rates. A recent Reuters poll leans slightly toward the ECB holding rates steady, likely influenced by a string of disappointing economic data from Germany and diminishing business and consumer confidence across Europe. However, nearly half of the respondents anticipate a 25bps increase.

Earlier last week, comments from three key ECB members suggested that market participants might be underestimating the likelihood of another rate hike. Perhaps the key takeaway here is not just the ECB's decision itself, but the messaging that accompanies it. With the central bank grappling with the dual challenges of sluggish growth and elevated inflation, its choices are finely balanced, effectively eliminating the possibility of either an overtly dovish hold or an excessively hawkish hike.

Should the ECB decide to hold rates, ECB President Christine Lagarde might still keep the door open for future hikes as a measure to contain inflation expectations. On the other hand, a more dramatic market reaction could be triggered if the ECB raises rates but pairs the hike with a dovish tone in the subsequent press conference. Such a move could signal that the ECB's rate-hiking cycle may be nearing its end, thereby putting downward pressure on the euro while boosting European stock indices like the DAX, STOXX, and CAC.

China’s loan growth, inflation, investment data and more

Market participants will be keenly focused on Monday's loan growth figures to gauge any uptick in domestic demand. Should the data disappoint, it would add to a series of underwhelming economic indicators this year, fueling concerns about weakening global growth.

Last month, new loan growth slumped to its lowest point since 2009, while the annual rate for outstanding loans dropped to an 8-month low at 11.1% year-over-year. Given that these trends are already well-known, it may require a substantial positive surprise in China's economic data to meaningfully shift market sentiment and bolster risk appetite.

Additionally, inflation statistics are slated for release on Saturday before markets open. While these figures may not be immediate market catalysts, there is a growing caution, as noted in last week's report, about the potential for mounting inflationary pressures in either the fourth quarter of this year or into 2024, given the lack of negative indicators in China's CPI reports.

Later in the week, a raft of other key economic metrics will be released, including industrial production, retail sales, fixed asset investment, and employment data. These indicators have generally failed to impress in recent months, reinforcing the need for a significant positive shift to alter the prevailing market outlook.

G20 summit

The G20 summit in New Delhi concluded on Sunday, with India passing the presidency of the bloc to Brazil. Both the US and Russia lauded the group's consensus, which, while not explicitly condemning Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict, urged member nations to refrain from using force to acquire territory.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a virtual meeting for G20 leaders in November to evaluate the implementation of policy recommendations and objectives set forth during the summit. "We have an obligation to consider the proposed ideas and determine how to expedite progress," Modi stated.

The Leaders' Declaration adopted on Saturday was noteworthy for its avoidance of direct criticism of Russia over the war in Ukraine. Instead, it underscored the human toll the conflict has taken and exhorted all nations to avoid the use of force for territorial gain.

The group's consensus was unexpected, given the deep divisions that had emerged in the weeks leading up to the summit. Western nations had pressed for the declaration to specifically condemn Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, while Russia had threatened to veto any resolution that failed to align with its own stance on the matter.

International Earnings

This week, the US financial calendar appears relatively subdued, featuring earnings reports primarily from tech giants Oracle and Adobe. However, some noteworthy non-earnings events are also on the docket, which could have a significant market impact. Apple is set to unveil its iPhone 15 on Tuesday, while semiconductor firm Arm is anticipated to make its market debut on Thursday, marking the largest US initial public offering since 2021.

In contrast, the UK's financial calendar is considerably more packed. Scheduled updates are expected from a diverse set of companies, including property developers Vistry and Redrow, retail conglomerate AB Foods, which owns Primark, engineering firm Dowlais, and e-commerce player THG.

South Africa News

  • Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the distinguished Prime Minister of the Zulu nation and the founding and honorary president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), passed away early on Saturday morning. The veteran political leader had recently returned from the hospital, where he was recovering from complications following surgery. His death occurred nearly two weeks after he celebrated his 95th birthday.

  • According to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, although there has been an improvement in generation capacity leading to a reduction in load shedding from last week's Stage 6, Eskom will continue to implement Stage 4 load shedding for this week.

  • To extend the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant beyond March of next year, the government faces the tough choice of either increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT) or shuttering multiple state programs to sufficiently reduce expenditures.

Economic Calendar

In the upcoming economic calendar for this week, several significant events are scheduled to take place.



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