Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead

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Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead

Investing.com -- Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report for November will be in focus this week as investors try to assess whether the U.S. economy is remaining resilient in the face of higher interest rates. Oil prices look set to remain volatile and central bank meetings in Australia and Canada could underline the view that rates have peaked.

1. Nonfarm payrolls

Markets will be eagerly awaiting Friday’s November jobs report to see whether economic growth is continuing to level off.

Too strong a number would undercut bets that the Fed will begin loosening its restrictive monetary policy earlier than expected, presenting an obstacle to the fourth quarter rally in stocks and bonds.

A weak number, on the other hand, could spark fears that the economy is cooling following 525 basis points of rate increases, potentially dampening risk appetite.

Economists expect the U.S. economy to have added 180,000 jobs in November, after 150,000 jobs were created in October.

Separately, data on Tuesday is expected to show the number of job openings moderating in November while Thursday’s initial jobless claims report will be watched for any signs of an uptick in the number of people out of work.

2. Santa rally?

U.S. stocks rallied and the S&P 500 closed at its highest level of the year on Friday, starting December on an upbeat note as investors grew more confident the Federal Reserve is done with rate hikes following comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Powell vowed to move "carefully" on interest rates, describing the risks of going too far with tightening as "more balanced" with risks of not controlling inflation.

Some investors currently see a strong chance of the Fed delivering a rate cut as early as March 2024 but the market has misread the Fed and economic conditions several times in recent years and may be doing so again.

There will be no updates from Fed officials during the week as the central bank enters the traditional blackout period ahead of its Dec 12 - 13 meeting.

3. Oil volatility

Oil prices slumped more than 2% on Friday on investor skepticism about the depth of OPEC+ supply cuts and concern about sluggish global manufacturing activity.

For the week, Brent posted a decline of about 2.1%, while U.S. crude lost more than 1.9%.

OPEC+ producers agreed on Thursday to remove around 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the global market in the first quarter of next year, with the total including a rollover of Saudi Arabia and Russia's 1.3 million bpd of current voluntary cuts.

OPEC+, which pumps more than 40% of the world's oil, is reducing output after prices fell from about $98 a barrel in late September on concerns about the impact of sluggish economic growth on fuel demand.

The cuts are voluntary, so there was no collective revision of OPEC+ production targets. The voluntary nature of the cuts led to some skepticism about whether producers would fully implement them, and from what basis the cuts would be measured.

4. Central bank decisions

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to keep interest rates on hold at its latest policy meeting on Tuesday following a rate hike last month and after data last week showing that inflation slowed in October.

But investors are wary of a hawkish hold, with prices still elevated and new Governor Michele Bullock increasingly seen as more of a hawk than her predecessor.

Elsewhere, the Bank of Canada is expected to keep rates unchanged for a third straight meeting when it meets on Wednesday. Recent data has shown that the country’s economy contracted in the third quarter, indicating the central bank’s aggressive rate hikes are working to curb growth.

Investors may also get some fresh insights on when the Bank of Japan might begin its own, much-delayed tightening campaign from Tokyo CPI data on Monday.

Whether business and the economy could even weather a return of higher interest rates will also be clearer from the Tankan corporate sentiment surveys and GDP data on Thursday.

5. Eurozone data

In the Eurozone, a speech by President Christine Lagarde on Monday will be closely watched for any fresh insights on monetary policy ahead of the bank's upcoming meeting on Dec. 14.

The ECB's pre-decision blackout period starts on Thursday.

The bloc is to release October industrial production figures for France and Spain on Tuesday, followed a day later by Germany and Italy.

Meanwhile German factory order data on Wednesday will give an indication of whether the manufacturing sector in the bloc's largest economy is still in a downturn.

--Reuters contributed to this report

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