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Monday April 30, 2007 - 10:39:52 GMT
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Forex Market News - Economics Weekly: A busy week for economic data may keep financial markets edgy

Economics Weekly

A busy week for economic data may keep financial markets edgy

• Evidence last week that US economic growth slowed to the slowest pace for four years in Q1 2007 pushed the dollar to a record low (since 1999) against the euro (1.3680) but £/$ closed below 2 on Friday. However, US treasuries were relatively unmoved, as a higher than expected gdp deflator highlighted that prospects of an early interest rate cut remained slim.

• The main focus this week will inevitably fall on the US labour market report on Friday, but there are a host of other key US data published. Inflation watchers will be keenly awaiting the March 'core' PCE deflator on Monday and the Q1 unit labour costs report on Thursday. The manufacturing and services ISM indices should both show the pace of activity picked up in the past month. On Friday, we expect to see another solid labour market report, with 120,000 new jobs added in April and the unemployment rate steady at 4.4%. This should keep consumer spending underpinned in the months ahead and the Fed cautious about cutting rates. Chairman Bernanke speaks on Tuesday.

• In the UK, financial markets remain confident of at least another 50bp of interest rate rises this year, despite continuing insistence from MPC members that inflation will fall sharply in the months ahead. Data this week is unlikely to change their stance. We expect both the manufacturing and services PMIs to show activity remained brisk in April. The CBI Distributive trades' headline index may have eased slightly in April after rising to the highest since December 2004 in March. Mortgage lending figures on Wednesday should underline our positive outlook for the housing market in the next 6- 9 months, with net lending forecast to stay above £10bn for the second consecutive month in March.

• Economic data from the euro zone this week should support the outlook for higher interest rates in the months ahead and underpin the euro. Attention will focus on strong EU-13 money supply data on Monday and firm regional PMI indices of services and manufacturing activity later in the week.

• Interest rates are forecast to stay on hold at 6.25% in Australia on Wednesday, but there is a risk Sweden's Riksbank could hike to 3.5% on Friday.

Although the preliminary estimate of US gdp growth in Q1 2007 disappointed market expectations last week, some clear positives can still be taken from the mix of the underlying components for the outlook ahead. Economic growth slowed to 1.3% annualised, from 2.5% in Q4 2006. Within the detail, growth was dragged lower by weaker investment and a negative contribution from net external trade, but crucially consumer spending remained robust, rising by 3.8% compared to 4.2% in Q4 2006. The continuing strength of personal consumption, which accounts for over two thirds of gdp, suggests that if it can be sustained then it should eventually underpin rising investment and limit the fallout from the current malaise in the housing market. Data this week should continue to paint a positive picture of consumption in the quarters ahead. We expect the US labour market report on Friday to show another 120,000 non-farm workers were added to employment in April, following on from a rise of 180,000 last month. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 4.4%, matching a five year low. Further, we expect hourly average earnings growth to remain at or above 4% for the sixth consecutive month. The chart below shows that falling unemployment and rising earnings are not consistent with a cut in US interest rates, and a strong labour market report on Friday could further dampen existing market speculation.

Prospects of lower US interest rates may also be hit this week by evidence that the 'core' PCE deflator remained above the 2% upper limit of the Fed's implicit target range in March. The ISM indices of manufacturing and services activity will also be closely watched, with a modest pick up expected in both.

Economic data in the UK this week are unlikely to change the prevailing view that interest rates will rise to 5.50% in May. And a strong set of figures could firm expectations of a further hike later in the year. The manufacturing and services PMIs will be watched closely for any signs of rising price pressures as well as faster activity. The current strength of the housing market could boost consumer spending later in the year, and we expect its buoyancy to be reflected in net mortgage lending remaining above £10bn for a second month in March according to the BoE on Wednesday.

Recent data from the euro zone have continued to signal firm growth and clear prospects of higher interest rates. We expect another set of positive reports this week, starting with robust EU-13 money supply growth on Monday.
Lloyds TSB Bank,
Financial Markets
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