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Week Ahead: Powell and Lagarde Are Back in the Spotlight

Week Ahead: Powell and Lagarde Are Back in the Spotlight, FP Markets

Where We Were Last Week

One of the highlight events last week was the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) which held the Official Cash Rate (OCR) on hold at 5.50% for a fifth consecutive meeting. The central bank also trimmed its OCR projections, unearthing a dovish shift which sent the NZD strongly lower.

Major US equity benchmarks breathed a sigh of relief at the tail end of the week following January’s PCE Price Index data coming in line with market estimates (particularly in view of the CPI and PPI beats we had earlier in February). The PCE data (a preferred measure for the Fed) supported the disinflationary process; for the year-over-year data, both headline and core eased to 2.4% and 2.8% (from the prior 2.6% and 2.9%), respectively.

The ISM manufacturing headline number for February on Friday was interesting, coming in softer than expected at 47.8 versus expectations of 49.5 (touching the lower range estimate), with new orders and the employment index also softening (the former dipped into contractionary territory). However, the prices paid index remained elevated, with only minor softening versus prior data and expectations.

Where We Are This Week

The Bank of Canada (BoC) are centre stage on Wednesday at 2:45 pm GMT and are anticipated to stand firm at 5.0% this week (marking a fifth consecutive session on hold at a 22-year high). Year-over-year headline inflation cooled to 2.9% in January (down from the 3.4% jump in December), marking its lowest rate since June of 2023. This coupled with economic activity increasing by 1.0% on an annualised basis for Q4 2023, suggests policymakers are unlikely to move on rates at this week’s meeting. Investors are betting the first 25bp rate cut will not be seen until July’s policy meeting (34bps of easing priced in), which is largely in line with market forecasts for the Fed and the European Central Bank (ECB).

The ECB will also claim the central bank’s spotlight this week on Thursday at 1:15 pm GMT and is widely expected to remain on hold for all key benchmark rates for a fourth consecutive meeting. Following regional inflation numbers from France, Spain and Germany, the latest inflation data out of the euro area on Friday revealed that headline inflation slowed to 2.6% in the twelve months to February from 2.8% in January, according to the flash estimate from Eurostat. Year-over-year core inflation also cooled from 3.3% in January to 3.1% in February. Though we continue to see a disinflationary process play out (albeit February’s softer inflation was largely fuelled by base effects), this and accompanying data since the last meeting in late January are unlikely sufficient to prompt a cut at this week’s meeting or April’s meeting. As of writing, the OIS curve forecasts 74bps of easing for the year (you may recall that we have seen a significant hawkish repricing recently from around 150bps of easing priced in for the year) with the first 25bp cut expected in June (well -24bps). What will also be widely watched this week are the new Staff Projections (released four times per year) on growth and inflation—both of which are expected to be revised lower in 2024, and, of course, ECB President Christine Lagarde’s comments at the presser 30 minutes after the rate announcement. Should downside revisions come to fruition, Europe’s single currency could come under pressure.

Friday’s calendar entertains the US Employment Situation Report at 1:30 pm GMT. According to Bloomberg’s current poll, the median estimate suggests 190,000 new jobs will be added to the US economy in February (the current high/low estimate is between 225,000 and 130,000). An upside surprise here, one that tests/exceeds the estimate high, will likely underpin the US dollar (USD), while a downside surprise could weigh. Unemployment is expected to remain at 3.7% in February with a narrow estimate range between 3.8% and 3.7%. For wages, average hourly earnings, expectations are for wages to have slowed from 0.6% to 0.2% between January and February, with year-over-year data expected to slow to 4.3% from 4.5% (estimate range between 4.5% and 4.1%).

What will also be on the radar for many market participants this week is the US ISM Services print on Tuesday at 3:00 pm GMT, with Wednesday welcoming Aussie quarterly GDP data at 12:30 am GMT, US ADP Non-Farm Employment numbers at 1:15 pm GMT and US JOLTs data at 3:00 pm GMT. Additionally, on the watchlist for many this week will be the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifying before Congress on 7 March and, of course, the UK Spring Budget on 6 March.

G10 FX (5-Day Change):

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