European Outlook: The rebound on global equity markets continued in Asia overnight, as a bounce in consumer confidence underpinned confidence in the U.S. economy and officials sounded more upbeat on tax reforms. Australia’s ASX led the way, while Japan trailed behind with a marginal gain, as the strong Yen undermines exporters and as more than 1.500 companies in the Topix traded without the right to their latest dividend. Oil prices extended their gain above USD 48 per barrel and U.S. and U.K. stock futures are also moving higher as global equity markets are heading for their fifth straight month of gains. The European calendar as German import price inflation at the start of the session, as well as Italian confidence data and U.K. lending data. May’s official Brexit announcement will be topping the headlines, however, as European officials increasingly fret about the risk of a hard Brexit.
U.S. reports revealed encouraging advance trade deficit figures for February with mixed inventory data that lifted our Q1 GDP estimate to 1.6% from 1.5%, following an assumed trimming of Q4 growth to 1.8% from 1.9%. The U.S. “soft” data continue to soar past the “hard” figures however, given a remarkable March surge in consumer confidence to a 16-year high of 125.6 from a 116.1 (was 114.8) prior high in February, alongside a Richmond Fed pop to a 7-year high of 22.0 in March with an ISM-adjusted rise to a 7-year high of 59.2 that included gains in every component but vender lead-time. The advance data showed a narrowing in the February trade gap for goods to $64.8 bln that implies a February drop in the goods and services trade deficit to $45.0 bln from a 5-year high of $48.5 bln in January. For inventories, we saw 0.4% February gains for both wholesalers and retailers.
Fedspeak: First speaker yesterday was Fed’s Chair Yellen, who did not comment on monetary policy or the economy in her prepared comments on “Addressing Workforce Development Challenges in Low-Income Communities.” She did note that while the U.S. job market overall has “improved markedly,” there remain pockets of “persistently high” unemployment rates. Dallas Fed’s Kaplan on the other hand said yesterday that Fed should be taking steps to raise rates patiently and gradually, following comments overnight in which he discussed winding down the balance sheet, no systemic risk, and meeting the dual mandate. He doesn’t want to raise rates so aggressively that you “jolt the economy into a slowdown.” Another speaker was Fed VC Fischer in a CNBC interview, who said the Fed is watching political developments closely. The healthcare debate might change his internal calculus, but it won’t have much net impact on the FOMC. He thinks it’s sensible for the Committee to have a wait-and-see approach on fiscal policy for now. Last Fed’s speaker yesterday was Fed’s George who said that consumers are feeling more confident, in her keynote address on “The U.S. Economy and Monetary Policy” at the conference, Banking and the Economy: A Forum for Women in Banking. She noted she is not sure what fiscal policy will mean for the economy, and is yet not ready to put any numbers into her forecasts.
BoC’s Poloz said yesterday that the focus on downside risks is appropriate given that the economy is running below equilibrium. He said upside risks would be great, but downside risk are problem. It is his job in the current situation of focus on downside risk. If the economy was in equilibrium, the Bank would be equally concerned about both upside and downside risks. But we are not, he said, we are below equilibrium, so the Bank worries more about downside risks in this situation. As for the recent data, he said it is “Odd to forget about all those downside risks just because a few data points came in better than expected. We’ve had better than expected data points in the past three years.”
Main Macro Events Today
- Brexit Day – U.K. is finally ready to trigger Article 50 today, which will start the process to review a total of 20,833 laws and regulations that were in effect in the EU and Britain at the beginning of the year and that will now have to be reviewed or replaced. Environmental, health and consumer protection as well as legal acts on workers’ rights and standards for social welfare systems will also be under review and in theory that means more than 50 legislative texts each day to keep within the 2-year time frame.
- Donald Tusk – The president of European Council is going to give a press statement on the UK notification.
- Fedspeak – Fed’s Evans, the dovish voter, speaks on policy and the economy from Frankfurt. The non-voter Rosengren will address the economic outlook at the Economic Club of Boston. SF Fed’s Williams, a non-voter appears before the Forecasters Club of New York, and will discuss a sustained recovery.
- US Pending Home Sales – February pending home sales are due today and expected at 2.1% from -2.8% last month.
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