Week Ahead: All eyes on Jackson Hole

The Jackson Hole Symposium is the big one this week. 

This annual gathering of top US and international finance policymakers, movers, and shakers has long been used to break major policy shifts. Markets are anticipating Fed Chair Jerome Powell will be using this year’s meeting to announce QE and stimulus policy changes. 

Powell could use the Symposium to announce a pullback from its current bond-buying programme. The Fed hinted as much in its July meetings, and there’s been plenty of rumblings that tapering is on the way, but as yet traders and investors are yet to receive an official green light.  

At present, the Fed is currently buying $120bn in fixed-income assets every month. $80bn comes from Treasury securities and the remaining $40bn is sourced from mortgage-backed securities. All of this was part of a package of ideas to help support the COVID-ravaged US economy. 

Bond traders and currency markets in particular are watching Thursday’s get together with interest. Clarity on the economy’s course, and navigational ideas to make it through a Delta-dominated landscape, will do much to allay their fears. It’s up to Powell now. 

Since the start of the year, the economy has been accelerating rapidly – even if last quarter’s GDP growth failed to meet expectations. But rapid rises can bring other challenges. In this case, they’re inflation shaped. CPI and PPI keep growing at record rates too, and while Powell has been content to let the economy run hot, he’d best put on some oven gloves, lest his fingers get burned. 

Speaking of inflation, further data on its impact is on its way with Friday’s release of Personal Consumption Expenditure index numbers, the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation. 

PCE growth clocked in at 0.4% in July, below the expected 0.6%, but an increase of 3.5% on an annualized basis. Seeing as it has been rapidly rising across the past couple of months, no doubt Powell and co. will be keeping a very close eye on Friday’s print. 

Further economic health indicators are on their way in the shape of a Monday morning PMI blitz. We’ll get releases judging American business output then, as well as IHS Markit insights into British and European activity too.  

US flash PMI readings for manufacturing and service productivity are released on Monday. There will be a lot to unpack when these are published, particularly as July’s numbers reported solid-but-slowing growth in American business activity. 

Both services and manufacturing sectors continue to feel the twin fangs of inflation and COVID-19. Factory output caused the manufacturing index to drop from June’s 63.7 reading to 59.7 in July (a four-month low), while the services sector also pulled back from 64.6 to 59.8.  

Higher input costs, staff shortages, and rising raw material costs are limiting growth. Let’s be clear: a reading over 50 indicates growth, but it does appear there’s a slowdown occurring in American productivity. 

Much the same can be said of the UK, according to its own PMI figures. August’s index readings are published on Monday morning, but we’ve seen supply chain bottlenecks and low worker numbers hold back output.  

July’s IHS Markit UK services PMI score was 59.6, a quite significant drop from June’s 62.4. Manufacturing showed a similar drop to 59.2 from 62.2.  

“More businesses are experiencing growth constraints from supply shortages of labour and materials, while on the demand side we’ve already seen the peak phase of pent-up consumer spending,” said IHS Markit’s economics director, Tim Moore. 

Conversely, EU productivity showed a July surge. IHS Markit’s final composite Purchasing Managers’ Index reached 60.2 in July – the highest level since June 2006 – indicating a strong showing from both services and manufacturing. 

However, to sustain this, the EU will have to be careful to avoid the logistical and labour market snags that have hit the UK and US. It’s unlikely to do so, so we could be looking at a lower reading in August. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)   Asset  Event 
Mon 23-Aug  8.15am  EUR  French Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  8.15am  EUR  French Flash Services PMI 
  8.30am  EUR  German Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  8.30am  EUR  German Flash Services PMI 
  9.00am  EUR  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  9.00am  EUR  Flash Services PMI 
  9.30am  GBP  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  9.30am  GBP  Flash Services PMI 
  2.45pm  USD  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  2.45pm  USD  Flash Services PMI 
       
Wed 24-Aug  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Thu 25-Aug  ALL DAY  USD  Jackson Hole Symposium 
  1.30pm  USD  Preliminary GDP q/q 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
       
Fri 26-Aug  ALL DAY  USD  Jackson Hole Symposium 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PCE Price Index m/m