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Friday March 14, 2014 - 16:27:56 GMT
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ECONOMIC DATA ANALYSIS - TENSIONS IN UKRAINE CONTINUE TO DOMINATE SENTIMENT

ECONOMIC DATA ANALYSIS  FRIDAY 14 MARCH 2014

 

TENSIONS IN UKRAINE CONTINUE TO DOMINATE SENTIMENT

 

• A Crimean referendum on Sunday risks escalating tensions and impacting energy markets

• Fed tapering policy on course, but possible adjustment to forward guidance

• UK Budget to avoid pre-election hype, delivering fiscally neutral, targeted measures

 

Emerging markets weigh on sentiment ... Financial markets are in a renewed risk-off phase, with bond yields and equity markets falling. This resulted, in part, from more evidence of a softening in Chinese activity. But more recently it has followed Ukrainian developments. These look set to maintain the tone for the coming week, particularly with Sunday’s planned referendum. The coming week also sees the latest FOMC meeting, where forward guidance may change; the prospect of a rebound in US surveys; and the UK Budget.

 

Ukrainian crisis reaches key stage... The Ukrainian situation is delicately poised with a Crimean referendum planned for Sunday. There has been precious little sign of the hoped for “de-escalation” to date and EU officials have warned that a referendum could prompt further sanctions from Western governments. In turn these risk Russian retaliation. Markets will follow developments, but any signs of escalation may be most visible in crude oil and other energy prices as well as further risk-off moves in markets.

 

Fed to adjust guidance ... The coming week sees the FOMC’s latest policy meeting. We expect the Fed to continue to taper its asset purchases by a further $10bn, taking QE down to $55bn/ month. A number of Fed speakers have discussed the high threshold for changing this path leaving any other outcome a major surprise. However, more uncertainty surrounds the Fed’s guidance. With unemployment at 6.7%, the Fed’s promise not to tighten policy before unemployment reaches 6.5% is close to expiry. The Committee have publicly discussed possible next steps and we think there is a good chance that Fed Chairwoman Yellen will use this month’s press conference to set out the next stages. The Fed has a number of options, but we suspect that, like the Bank of England, it will adopt more qualitative guidance and avoid another quantitative target. Unlike the Bank, the Fed also publishes FOMC participants forecasts of the policy rate. This will be a useful tool to reinforce any new forward guidance message. Markets will also watch the publication of the first of March’s surveys over the coming week. Extreme weather began to recede in March, and these surveys could signal a rebound in activity.

 

UK Budget to avoid pre-election hype... Chancellor Osborne presents his latest Budget on Wednesday. With a General Election scheduled for next May, this will be the last Budget to meaningfully impact the economy before then. However, we expect the Chancellor to dash any hopes of pre-election stimulus. A recovery-inspired improvement in the headline public finances has done little to narrow a still elevated structural deficit. The Chancellor has promised a Budget of “hard truths”. We expect a fiscally neutral Budget helping to promote business investment and export potential.

 

The end of UK forward guidance? ... Before the Budget, the UK releases labour market figures. We expect employment growth to have slowed, but the unemployment rate is a closer call: we expect the rate to fall to 7.1%, but see it on the cusp of 7.0%, which would bring the first phase of the Bank’s guidance to a close (something we think will happen next month). With Governor Carney and MPC member Weale revealing differences in view this week, we will watch March’s MPC minutes for a fuller description of any divergences in views on the Committee.

 

Final euro area inflation the only highlight... Markets will pay closer attention than usual to final estimates of Euro area inflation on Monday. Otherwise the EU leaders’ summit should pass with little attention outside potential developments in the Ukraine.

 

 

 

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