Week Ahead: Central banks take centre stage

The week ahead is dominated by central bank statements. We’ve got three lined up, with the first coming from the ECB. Its dovish outlook runs counter to the Reserve Bank of Australia and Bank of Canada who’ve taken on a more hawkish character of late. We’re not expecting major policy shifts – but surprises are never far away in the world of economics. 

The last glimpse inside the European Central Bank’s thinking we got came in the form of its July meeting minutes. In a world where central banks are starting to take more hawkish footings, the ECB is still relatively dovish. 

The ECB announced its first major strategic financial policy in July. Inflation targets were revised away from trying to keep it below 2% by adopting a specific 2% headline inflation target. Since then, inflation in the Euro area has risen to a decade high of 3%, which is likely to encourage hawks on the Governing Council.  

All very well and good, but what about COVID-19? The pandemic is by no means over, but some key ECB board members are confident even the impact of the Delta variant can’t stunt Europe’s return to the black. 

Limited headwinds are expected. The sentiment is positive. 

“I would say we’re broadly not too far away from what we expected in June for the full year,” Philip Lane, the ECB’s chief economist, told Reuters on Wednesday. “It’s a reasonably well-balanced picture.” 

Importantly, the ECB has said it will keep a “persistently accommodative” stance going forward. Interest rates are likely to stay at their current exceptionally low levels. We’re not expecting to see a shift towards a more hawkish position any time soon. 

Moving to Australia, the RBA has been fairly bullish in its most recent communications. A new rate statement will come the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday morning and we’re not expecting the bank to stray too far from its current course. 

That is to say, tapering of the RBA’s bond buying programme will continue with the aim of scaling it back from September onwards. Rates will probably stay low too. We’re not expecting a hike until late 2022 at the earliest. 

Much depends on how robust Australia’s economy fares in light of rising coronavirus cases and localised lockdowns.  

“The board would be prepared to act in response to further bad news on the health front should that lead to a more significant setback for the economic recovery,” the RBA said in its August meeting minutes. “Experience to date had been that, once virus outbreaks were contained, the economy bounced back quickly.” 

Governor Lowe and his colleagues have said a recession is not very likely, although growth prospects have been revised for 2021. This year, the RBA expects annual growth to be around 4%, lower than the 4.75% previously forecast, but will rise to 4.25% by the end of 2022. 

Rounding off the week’s cavalcade of central bank statements is the Bank of Canada. The BOC is one of the more hawkish of the world’s central banks and has moved towards bond-buying tapering quite quickly, even though it is holding its overnight rate at 0.25%. 

The BOC did point out that a fresh wave of infections and lockdowns in Q2 did inhibit growth, but the bank is confident growth will expand rapidly towards the end of the year.  

The central bank said Canada’s economy is now expected to grow 6.0% in 2021, down from the April forecast of 6.5%, while it revised up its 2022 growth estimate to 4.6% from 3.7%. 

Hot inflation is still floating in the air, with readings expected to stay at or above 3% through to 2022. Quite hot – and at the top of the BOC’s 1-3% range. However, the bank is confident this is all transitionary. It is unlikely to force a policy rethink. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Tue 7-Sep  5.30am  AUD  RBA Rate Statement 
  5.30am  AUD  Cash Rate 
  10.00am  EUR  ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  10.00am  EUR  German ZEW Economic Sentiment 
       
Wed 8-Sep  3.00pm  CAD  BOC Rate Statement 
  3.00pm  CAD  Ivey PMI 
  3.00pm  CAD  Overnight Rate 
  Tentative  CAD  BOC Press Conference 
       
Thu 9-Sep  12.45pm  EUR  Monetary Policy Statement 
  12.45pm  EUR  Main Referencing Rate 
  1.30pm  EUR  ECB Press Conference 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
  3.30pm  GAS  US Natural Gas Inventories 
  4.00pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Fri 10-Sep  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 
  1.30pm  USD  PPI m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PPI m/m 
  Tentative  GBP  Monetary Policy Hearings 

The All-New Symmetric ECB

This ECB meeting will be different. For a start, the opening statement is going to be shorter and more understandable. Lagarde told us this much when she launched the results of the ECB Strategy Review on 8th July. But is this just another cosmetic tweak or will there be substantial changes?

There certainly should be. The ECB has now changed their mandate for the first time in twenty-three years. Having failed abysmally to achieve their rather tortuous previous target of “close to, but below, 2%”, they’re now gunning for simple symmetry around 2%. As Lagarde explained at the Strategy Review, ‘Symmetry means that the Governing Council considers negative and positive deviations of inflation from the target to be equally undesirable’.

In practice, this unleashes the ECB doves. Previously they had to accept 2% as some kind of ceiling, which many of them feared was trapping the eurozone in a low growth, low inflation twilight zone. Since 2013, average annual inflation in the euro area has been just 0.9%. Now the doves can argue that expectations need to be reset in order to get inflation up to its target.

Why did the hawks agree to this?

They’ve certainly not been backward in coming forward over the years. But just as the Germanic fear of printing money was overcome by Mario Draghi, they have once again been forced to concede in this battle so that they don’t lose the war. There was a risk that the Strategy Review could have resulted in a Federal Reserve style “flexible average inflation targeting” regime, which would have tied the hands of the hawks by forcing them to push the stimulus pedal to the metal with average inflation so low for so long. Instead, they’ve managed to retain some power to interpret this new target in their preferred direction. Lagarde outright rejected the question of whether they were copying the Fed, replying ‘the answer is no, quite squarely’.

So now we have a target that seems to please both the doves and the hawks: the classic ECB fudge. Lagarde was at pains to point out that the new mandate was achieved with unanimous consent. Despite this bonhomie, Lagarde also warned that this week’s meeting would not “have unanimous consent”.

The most prominent perma-hawk, Germany’s Jens Weidmann, is certainly gunning for the end of one of the ECB’s alphabet soup of quantitative easing programmes. The PEPP was launched in March last year in direct response to the pandemic. After all the “E” of its name refers to “emergency” – and Weidmann now thinks we are past that stage. As he noted on 27th June: ‘advances on the vaccination front mean that the economy in the euro area… is now probably making its way out of the crisis… The incidence of the disease declines only gradually… All the more reason, then, to talk about the conditions under which the emergency situation can be considered over from the perspective of monetary policy‘.

Meanwhile the increasingly vocal dove Fabio Panetta of Italy (and old friend of Mario Draghi) has warned that tightening too soon would be disastrous: ‘If we are seen as determined to achieve 2% without undue delay and have a clear plan to do so by enabling monetary-fiscal interactions, rising inflation expectations will make our task easier. But if we are seen to be lacking determination, expectations will be less responsive and the “bang for our buck” will be considerably lower: we will end up spending more, not less, and we may not exit the liquidity trap.

How, then, can Lagarde hope to reconcile the two?

By ending the PEPP and resurrecting the old APP – that’s the original Asset Purchase Programme launched under Draghi in mid-2014 when he was in full Whatever It Takes flight. But the APP will have to change. The amount of purchases might have to drop (to please the hawks) but continue for a longer period of time (to please the doves) – and to be flexible enough to be increased/decreased at any time (to please everyone).

What does this mean in practice?

Forget interest rates. QE is now the only game in town. It’s not going anywhere. But it is going to be recalibrated. This week’s meeting gives Lagarde the chance to set up this new framework so that markets can get used to it. We are in a new normal now. As Panetta recently concluded ‘we should recognise that what was seen as unconventional in the past is now conventional‘. Step forward the APP.

Week Ahead: ECB to tilt after strategic shift?

Week Ahead

The ECB clarifies its policy position following June’s strategic shift this week. Data is dominated by UK monthly retail sales following a bumper second quarter, and a flurry of PMI reports. Meanwhile, Q2 earnings season heats up on Wall Street.

Let’s start with the major central bank announcement of the week. This time, it’s the turn of the European Central Bank. Markets will be watching the ECB’s next moves with additional scrutiny as it committed to a strategic refresh earlier last month.

We’ve seen inflation rates rise in the UK and US recently. While Eurozone inflation dipped away from a two-year high a couple of weeks ago, inflation and its effects have been brought to the fore of EU monetary policymakers’ thinking.

Following an 18-month strategic review, the EU has shifted its inflation target to 2%. According to observers, that would give the bloc enough wiggle room to a) accept temporary inflation rates above that and b) keep interest rates near or at historic lows.

Could this feed into a change in pandemic monetary policy? It’s possible, but the fact there is space for ECB policymakers to keep rates low suggests there’ll be no major change from the bloc’s current monetary trajectory.

At June’s meeting, the European Central Bank reiterated its commitment to €1.85 trillion in asset purchases under its PEPP mechanism. This was said to remain in place until March 2022.

Turning to data, one of the week’s key releases is UK retail sales for June and the month-to-month comparisons.

We can gauge June’s figures by looking at the recently-released Q2 2021 retail numbers reported by the British Retail Consortium alongside KPMG.

According to BRC, retail sales jumped 10.4% between April-June when weighted against the same period in 2019. This was the fastest quarterly growth reported since records began back in 1995.

The report also comes with an initial British retail health check for June too. KPMG reports that, against 2019’s levels, retail sales in June shot up 13.1%.

For context, BRC and KMPG are weighing retail sales against 2019’s numbers, as 2020’s numbers have been distorted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A combination of lockdown easing, warmer summer temperatures, and Euro 2020 contributed to the rise in retail spending. Additionally, many UK holidaymakers have had no choice but to stay at home, thus keeping money that would be spent overseas in the local economy.

All of this is down to pent up demand being unleashed as lockdown restrictions lift. From Monday, nearly all of the major restrictions on British life are being removed, so the battle for wallets is now on.

What will be interesting to see is any change in habits from retail spending to experiences. This was the trend in the US for the past couple of months, so UK may shoppers may also move towards doing things rather than buying things.

We also have a wealth of PMI reports coming in from the US, UK, and the EU on Friday.

For the UK, both services and manufacturing IHS Markit PMIs showed the UK is still very much on a growth footing.

Starting with manufacturing, June’s reading came in at 63.9, a touch lower than May’s all-time high of 65.6, but still one of the highest rates in the survey’s 30-year history. However, industry insiders warned supply chain snarls and high input costs meeting surging demand could cause a slowdown in factory output going forward.

June’s services PMI reading was in line with UK manufacturing: a slight dip away from May’s high, but still showing strong growth. The actual reading came in at 62.4. However, rising operational expenses and staff shortages could impact growth in the short term, as could rising inflation. We’ll get a clearer picture with July’s reading.

The EU will be hoping to keep the momentum rolling into July too. June’s readings were some of the most positive for years. June’s composite flash index was 59.2 – an increase over the 57.1 registered in May. Services bounced from 55.2 to 58.0, suggesting pent up demand is driving the hospitality and services sector forward.

The US, while thriving, could have reached its peak, according to PMI releases. Its composite score for June was 63.7 – the second-fastest rate of expansion on record.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “June saw another month of impressive output growth across the manufacturing and services sectors of the US economy, rounding off the strongest quarterly expansion since data were first available in 2009.”

“The rate of growth cooled compared to May’s record high, however, adding to signs that the economy’s recovery bounce peaked in the second quarter.”

Inflation will no doubt play a big role in July’s PMI calculations. Core and non-core prices are up in the economies mentioned above, but Friday’s release will give us a better understanding of its impact on US economic activity.

We also transition into the second week of US Q2 earning season. A mixture of tech and FMCG firms are reporting this week, including the likes of Netflix, Twitter, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and Coca-Cola.

Oilfield services and engineering firm Schlumberger may be one to watch. Oil prices have gone from strength to strength this the tail end of last year. Has this fed into increased activity for multinationals like Schlumberger and consequently better financial results?

You can find a run down of the large caps reporting on Wall Street this week below, but you can also see our full US earnings calendar here.

Major economic data

Date Time (GMT+1) Asset Event
Tue 20-Jul 2.30am AUD Monetary Policy Meeting Minutes
 
Wed 21-Jul 2.30am AUD Retail Sales m/m
  3.30pm OIL US Crude Oil Inventories
 
Thu 22-Jul 12.45pm EUR Monetary Policy Statement
  12.45pm EUR Main Refinancing Rate
  1.30pm EUR ECB Press Conference
  3.30pm GAS US Natural Gas Inventories
 
Fri 23-Jul 7.00am GBP Retail Sales m/m
  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
  1.30pm CAD Core Retail Sales m/m
  1.30pm CAD Retail Sales m/m
  2.45pm USD Flash Manufacturing PMI
  2.45pm USD Flash Services PMI

 

Key earnings data

Mon 19-Jul Tue 20-Jul Wed 21-Jul Thu 22-Jul Fri 23-Jul
Philip Morris International Coca-Cola AT&T American Express
IBM
Netflix Johnson & Johnson Newmont Goldcorp Schlumberger
Verizon Communications Intel Corp
Snap Inc
Twitter Inc

Week ahead: Inflation steals show as ECB & BoC speak

Week Ahead

Inflation is everywhere this week. Two major central bank rate decisions, from the European Central Bank and Bank of Canada, are due as inflation starts to bite. Looking at data, the big release is May’s US CPI numbers following April’s surging prices.

Starting with the ECB, higher-than-expected inflation in May means the central bank’s inflation target has been breached.

Eurozone inflation hit 2% for the first time this year in May. The ECB’s policy mandate is to keep inflation close but below that level. Previously, the ECB had predicted that inflation will peak 2% in the last quarter of 2021, then coming down throughout 2022.

Will the fact the 2% target has been reached force a change?

Moody’s doesn’t think so. The ratings agency believes no rate hike will come for several years at least, despite the recent pick up in inflation.

“After economic activity resumes as normal, the inflation rate will likely start to weaken in the second half of 2022 as the effects of one-off price increases begin to disappear from inflation data,” Moody’s said.

While no rate change is forecast, markets will still be watching closely to see if there are any tweaks in ECB policy at Wednesday’s press conference.

The central bank’s more hawkish council members have been hoping for a relaxation of PEPP, the EU stimulus package, by the second half of 2021. Certainly, if inflation continues to mount, then the bank may be forced to make a change. It all depends on economic conditions from here on out.

“The envelope can be recalibrated if required to maintain favourable financing conditions to help counter the negative pandemic shock to the path of inflation,” the ECB said in a statement following May’s meeting.

Contrasting with the cautious ECB, the Bank of Canada is a bit of a Covid economics trailblazer. It’s the first central bank to actively begin paring back its bond buying programme and could be one of the first to raise its central bank rate.

That said, the 0.25% rate probably isn’t moving in June. A rate hike will come in H2 2022 at the earliest. June’s statement, by all accounts, is gearing up to be more of a preview of July’s potential changes.

Inflation is still being carefully monitored. In April, inflation was at the higher end of the Bank of Canada’s 1-3%, so economic conditions may force Canada’s central bank’s hand to move a little quicker on rates if we see similar action when May’s data is reported.

At this time a rate hike is unlikely. Instead, the focus is on QE.

According to Reuters, analysts across six of Canada’s top retail banks believe the BoC is gearing up to further slow bond purchases. Forecasts estimate bond buying to be scaled back to C$2 billion ($1.65 billion) per week from the current level of C$3 billion per week next month. Further reductions could come in August.

Looking at data, the May US Consumer Price Index printing is released on Thursday. As a key inflation metric will be carefully monitored by the markets, following April’s higher-than-expected reading.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were anticipating a 3.6% CPI rise last month. The final reading clocked in 4.2% year-on-year – the fastest rate of growth since 2008.

Much of this was from baseline economic factors, rather than completely spiralling inflation. Prices in April 2020 had fallen through the floor thanks to the first wave of lockdowns. As the US economy strengthened, consumer prices have risen too.

As such, the Fed called April’s numbers “transitory” and is still sticking to the script. The Federal Reserve believe inflation will cool off as the year progresses, falling back to its targeted 2% level.

But if a similar reading comes in May, the Fed may be forced into action.

Major economic data

Date Time (GMT+1) Asset Event
Wed 9-Jun 3.00pm CAD BoC Rate Statement
  3.00pm CAD Overnight Rate
  Tentative CAD BoC Press Conference
  3.30pm Oil US Crude Oil Inventories
 
Thu 10-Jun 12.45pm EUR Main Referencing Rate
  12.45pm EUR Monetary Policy Statement
  1.30pm EUR ECB Press Conference
  1.30pm USD CPI m/m
  1.30pm USD Core CPI m/m

 

Key earnings data

Date Company Event
Mon 7-Jun Marvell Technologies Q1 2022 Earnings
Tue 8-Jun GameStop Q1 2021 Earnings
 
Wed 9-Jun Inditex Q1 2021 Earnings

ECB preview: Keep it simple

The European Central Bank (ECB) convenes today for its latest policy meeting. After last month’s word puke from Lagarde (“Financing conditions are defined by a holistic and multifaceted set of indicators, spanning the entire transmission chain of monetary policy from risk-free interest rates and sovereign yields to corporate bond yields and bank credit conditions.”), we have spent several weeks trying to accurately assess where the ECB is really at in terms of responding to the changing economic outlook with regards the recovery from the pandemic, rising bond yields and higher inflation expectations. There is greater clarity now – it looks like the ECB is happy to let inflation run higher and only let bond yields move up if due to better growth: it’s now all about real yields. At the last meeting the ECB said it would pick up the pace of asset purchases, front-loading the PEPP scheme, but it could still use less than the full envelope of €1.85tn if favourable financial conditions can be maintained without spending it all. The outcome of the March meeting was very much that the PEPP programme is more likely to end by March 2022 than be extended, albeit policy will remain very accommodative well beyond that point. The question about tapering PEPP should wait until June, and ending the programme may need to be discussed in September, but for now the ECB should be looking to keep it simple.

This ought to be a quiet one for the ECB, but the propensity for miscommunication is strong. Since the March 11th meeting, the selloff in sovereign debt and rally in yields cooled, before picking up some steam again. While German 10-year bunds are north of where they were at the time of the March meeting and close to the February highs, real rates remain at historic lows. This is what matters to the ECB more than nominal rates. Moreover, the economic data has not materially changed since the last meeting and there signs the largest economies are adapting to lockdown restrictions better than before and are more resilient. The latest Zew survey about the German economy shows investor sentiment at its highest in over a year. The head of the French central bank recently noted that economic activity is declining less than feared in April. Vaccinations, slow to start, are picking up pace and the EU should be on course to catch up the UK and US before too long.

So we look rather to the risk that a hawkishness creeps in. The ECB will need to be careful about getting itself tied in knots about when and how it will exit PEPP just yet, and whether a PEPP taper coincides with raising traditional asset purchases, and just what the reaction function is given it’s spent several weeks trying to clarify this since the last meeting. Now is not the time for such debates, however markets will look towards hawks becoming louder as inflation starts to pick up. Hawks are going to get more vocal if inflation starts runs higher over the next few months – the mandate is clear on this one. Lagarde will need to not sound overly confident about the recovery (why should she anyway?), or else risk letting markets latch on a timeframe for winding down PEPP.

And we should note that chatter about when is the right time to exit emergency mode is coming just as the ECB is looking at a potential change to the inflation mandate. Not content with a more symmetric target a la the Fed, it also wants to introduce inequality and climate change mandates…This only makes guessing the future path of monetary policy and the ECB’s reaction function even more muddy, which in turn may lead to some form of spike in yields and widening of spreads, which exactly what the ECB is seeking to avoid. Another reason to keep it simple tomorrow.

Tighter financial conditions ahead?

The ECB will also have to wrestle with the expectation of tightening financial conditions in the Euro area later this year. Banks and Eurozone banks expect to tighten access to credit in the second quarter, having already tightened in the first quarter. “This reflects banks’ uncertainty regarding the severity of the economic impact of the third wave of the pandemic and the progress in the vaccination campaign,” the ECB said, adding that loan demand is also faltering as companies postpone investments.

The ECB’s job is to make sure it doesn’t get dragged into a conversation about tapering PEPP and keep the markets happy until June when it will have much more data at its disposal and news on vaccinations will hopefully be much better. For this meeting, keep it simple is the order of the day.

EURUSD: Rejection of the 100-day SMA sets up today’s retest of the 1.20 round number support. Ultimately the ECB may not be the main driver of the pair right now and more exposed to broader risk sentiment and Treasury yields impacting the USD momentum.

Stocks retreat before ECB, US + UK jobless numbers in focus

Morning Note

European stocks pulled back a little after a rally in the previous session as upward pressure on equities continues to hold firm despite rising case numbers as hopes for a vaccine are the new hopes for a US-China trade deal. Moderna has reported encouraging results from initial trials, while there is a lot of hope being pinned on AstraZeneca’s phase one trials, results of which are due to be published July 20th.

Whilst nothing is certain, it seems things are moving in the right direction for a vaccine to emerge by next year.

Shanghai fell 4% and Hong Kong was down almost 2% overnight after a mixed bag of Chinese economic data. US stocks rallied yesterday with the S&P 500 posting its highest close since the June peak, though futures point to the index opening around 20 points lower. The Dow is seen opening about 200 points lower.

UK jobless data reveals first wage drop in six years

The number of employees on payrolls in the UK fell by 650,000 between March and June, but the worst of the employment is still in front of us. Vacancies are at their lowest level since records began in 2001, earnings fell for the first time in six years, and the ONS noted that the standard definition of unemployment does not include half a million employees temporarily away from their jobs specifically for coronavirus-related reasons, who are receiving no pay while their job was on hold.

Unemployment claims were better than feared but we can pin this on furlough schemes which are extending the pretence, delaying the worst and providing a soft landing; but the jobless numbers clearly do not reflect the true extent of what’s coming. Meanwhile the number of hours worked – a key metric for the nation’s productivity – has collapsed.

China GDP rebounds, consumption lags

Chinese GDP grew 3.2% in Q2, up from the –6.8% contraction in Q1, which was better than forecast, albeit we apply the usual caveats about Chinese economic data. Industrial production rebounded 4.8%, but retail sales were down –1.8% vs an expected +0.3% improvement.  Richemont flagged a strong recovery in China despite sales globally falling 47% in its first quarter, with luxury goods stocks weaker. Burberry shares fell another 3%.

US data was solid enough, with industrial production +5.4% in June whilst the Empire State manufacturing index hit 17.2, a beat on the 10 expected and a big jump from the –0.2 in the prior month. It remains to seen however to what extent the rate of change in the recovery turns lower as data starts to reflect the ‘second wave’ of cases and the imposing of some fresh lockdown restrictions in some key states.

In the Fed’s Beige Book, the Dallas Fed noted that while the outlook has improved, the upward trend in new COVID-19 cases has increased uncertainty. “Economic activity increased in almost all Districts, but remained well below where it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the national summary read.

US-China tensions are bubbling away – plans by the White House to impose travel restrictions on millions of Chinese Communist party members is the latest in the saga.

Goldman Sachs earnings crushed expectations with a stunning quarter of trading revenues. Bond trading revenue jump 150% to $4.24bn, while equities trading revenue climbed 46% to $2.94bn. For me all it did was underscore the divergence we are seeing between the real economy and the market, which is benefitting hugely from two-pronged monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Oil still rangebound after OPEC agrees to begin tapering production cuts

Oil couldn’t break free from its narrow range as OPEC+ extended cuts but began tapering with production curbs in August down from 9.7m barrels per day to 7.7m bpd, although the total effective cuts will be around 8.1m-8.3m barrels a day as countries which overproduced in May and June would make additional compensation cuts in August and September. OPEC will need to play this carefully – the longer its barrels are off the market the more it could encourage higher cost US oil to come back on.

Inventory data from the States was bullish with the –7.5m drawdown much higher than the –1.3m expected. Gasoline inventories also fell by more than expected at –3m. WTI (Aug) rallied from the medium-term trend support around $39.20 yesterday to press on the $41 handle but it continues to lack momentum – the CCI divergence on the daily timeframe chart points to the rally running out of legs and buyer exhaustion that could call for a further pullback.

In focus today: ECB, Netflix, US jobless claims and retail sales

Lots coming up today…

ECB meeting: Following the top-up to the PEPP programme in June to €1.35tn, the European Central Bank should be keeping its powder dry with the key EU summit starting tomorrow to hammer out the budget.

I expect Christine Lagarde to stress the importance of the fiscal side and leave policy unchanged but stress that ECB’s accommodative position – this is not the time for a discussion of tapering or the details of how much of the envelope you need to use.

In a recent interview she said the central bank had ‘done so much that we have quite a bit of time to assess [the incoming economic data] carefully’. The EU recovery fund is more important for EUR crosses right now – agreement this week may push EURUSD beyond the key 1.15 level.

Netflix earnings: The ultimate stay-at-home company, Netflix (NFLX) has made hay in the pandemic, with the stock hitting an all-time high and clearing $520. In the March quarter, Netflix added 15.77m new subscribers, which was more than double the original forecast of 7m net adds.

The company has forecast 7.5m new adds in the June quarter and may easily beat this with around 10m subscriber additions.  Sequentially lower net adds should not weigh on the stock given the exceptional performance in the first quarter. ARPU could benefit from a depreciation in the dollar since it last reported.

As Netflix itself noted in its Q1 report, there is a lot of unknown to its forecasts. “Given the uncertainty on home confinement timing, this is mostly guesswork. The actual Q2 numbers could end up well below or well above that, depending on many factors including when people can go back to their social lives in various countries and how much people take a break from television after the lockdown.”

The market expects $6.1bn in sales and EPS of $1.8, with paid subscribers to hit 190m.

US weekly unemployment claims: Last Thursday’s data was better than expected for the week ending Jun 27th, however the total number of people claiming benefits in all programmes, including both regular state and all others, and including Covid-related programmes, rose 1.4m to 32.9m in the week to Jun 20th.

Initial claims today are seen falling again to 1250k from 1314k the previous week, with continuing claims seen down to 17500k from 18062k last week.

US retail sales: Expect to see continued improvement as the economy recovers off the lockdown lows. Retail sales should print another strong reading as consumers binge on their $600-a-week stimulus checks, which are due to finish this month.

ECB preview: Welcome to Japan?

Equities

The European Central Bank (ECB) convenes next week (June 4th) and is expected to increase emergency asset purchases as it continues to show it will ‘do whatever it takes’. With the scope of the Covid damage becoming a little clearer and deflation rearing its ugly head again, the ECB will stick to the old playbook of more QE to fight it. As ever the market will wonder whether this is ‘enough’, and as ever the answer will come back in the negative.

ECB monetary policy outlook: Japanification?

Eurozone inflation sank to its weakest in 4 years in May, data on Friday showed, only making further expansion by the ECB all the more certain. HICP inflation declined to 0.1% for the euro area, but outright deflation was recorded in 12 of the 19 countries using the single currency. Things have changed a lot since Mario Draghi declared victory over deflation in March 2017.

Nevertheless, core HICP inflation remains stable at 0.9%, which will give some comfort to policymakers. The decline in the oil price passed through to petrol pumps, with energy –12% year-on-year.

Recovery in oil prices should boost the headline reading going forward but the core reading may not be able to withstand the pressures of demand destruction and mass unemployment. The reading today only means the ECB will keep its foot to the floor with increased asset purchases.

However, in reality, given the ECB is already at the absolute limits of monetary policy efficacy, it cannot actually do much about this and only hope that consumer confidence comes back and for energy prices rise – and for global money printing efforts by central bank peers to stoke a round of inflation, which some think will be the outcome post Covid-19.

The concern of course is that Europe, like Japan, has driven itself into a vicious cycle of deflationary tendencies and negative interest rates that will be very hard to escape, particularly as it contends with long-term, perhaps permanent, damage to productivity and economic activity due to the pandemic.

Eurozone economic projections

There will be a lot of focus on the staff macroeconomic projections, although the extreme uncertainty around the extent of damage to the Q2 readings and speed of recovery forecast for Q3/4 means a lot of this remains guesswork.

The ECB has detailed three scenarios for GDP in 2020 relating to the damage wrought by the pandemic: mild -5%, medium –8% and severe –12%. Various comments indicate we can now rule out the mild scenario. Christine Lagarde said this week that the “economic contraction likely between medium and severe scenarios”, adding: “It is very hard to forecast how badly the economy has been affected.”

There is no way of really know how badly Q2 went. We have various sources estimating pretty seismic falls; INSEE says French GDP will contract by 20% in the second quarter. Estimates for Germany suggest a roughly 10% decline.

We know that tough lockdown measures that started to be introduced across Europe in March produced a noticeable impact on Q1. Whilst economic activity is emerging from the cold again as June begins, there is little doubt that April and May saw considerable declines in output.

More PEPP announced after the ECB monetary policy meeting?

The ECB seems all but certain to increase the size of its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP). The €750bn limit looks likely to run out by the autumn and the ECB will want to push the envelope by a further €500bn.

Germany’s Constitutional Court ruling has obvious repercussions for the Bundesbank, but that ruling relates to ‘normal’ QE and not PEPP, which would tend to argue in favour of expanding this programme now during the emergency, rather than trying to top up later on.  Moreover, the ECB wants to make sure that the ‘whatever it takes’ message gets through to the markets to avoid dislocations in bond markets.

Finally, whilst our focus is on the ECB in the coming days, the most important thing for the EZ and the euro is not Ms Lagarde and co, but the frugal four and the EU’s rescue fund. The European Commission’s 7-year budget including the €750bn rescue fund were only published this week so a final decision is not expected any time soon.

Budget talks look set to be long and arduous – the numbers of budget contributors highlight that Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands pay their fare share and some: all contribute more than 3% of GDP vs 2.2% by France and 3.9% by Germany. Which is why Germany throwing its weight behind the bailout grants (as opposed to loans) is so crucial. Ultimate the EU will work out a fudge to keep the frugal four on board- the question is whether it can somehow achieve debt mutualisation and make its ‘Hamiltonian’ moment real.

EURUSD chart analysis

The dollar was offered on Friday with DXY sinking to its weakest since mid-March and test the 61.8% retracement of the Covid-inspired rally at the 98 round number support.

This helped push EURUSD higher as the pair cemented the breach of the 200-day simple moving average on the upside. Bulls looking to take out the late March swing high at 1.1150, which could open up a pathway to the 50% long-term retracement at 1.1450.

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