Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead

  • Economy News
Top 5 things to watch in markets in the week ahead -- U.S. inflation data will be in sharp focus in the coming week after Friday’s blowout jobs report raised the prospect that the Federal Reserve may delay interest rate cuts for longer. Big banks kick off earnings season, the European Central Bank is to meet and geopolitical risks look set to continue to support oil prices. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. U.S. inflation data

The U.S. is to release consumer price inflation figures for March on Wednesday with economists expecting core inflation, which strips out food and fuel costs, to slow to 3.7% year-over-year from 3.8% the prior month.

Data on producer prices on Thursday is expected to point to a more moderate increase.

The inflation data comes after numbers out on Friday showed the U.S. economy added far more jobs than expected last month while wages rose at a steady rate, indicating that the pace of inflation may be slow to moderate.

The combination of strong employment data and slow progress on inflation in the last couple of months has amplified the calls among top Fed officials - including Chair Jerome Powell - to be "patient" as they approach the decision on when to cut rates.

  1. Fed minutes, speakers

The Fed is to release the minutes of its March meeting on Wednesday where officials continued to expect three cuts for this year albeit with less conviction relative to their forecast from the end of last year.

In the wake of Friday’s jobs data money markets are now pricing in two rate cuts this year, down from three previously.

Market watchers will also get the chance to hear from New York Fed President John Williams on Thursday.

On Friday Fed Governor Michelle Bowman downplayed any urgency to cutting rates and warned that should progress on inflation stall that might even push the central bank to raise rates again.

  1. Earnings

Quarterly reports from major banks will kick off earnings season in earnest on Friday.

Investors are counting on robust corporate profit this year to support rising valuations as the stock market has rallied to record highs.

The S&P 500 is up more than 9% year-to-date, following its strongest first-quarter performance since 2019. But the bar may be rising for stocks to keep advancing at that pace, increasing pressure on companies to deliver strong results.

Investors will also listen for companies’ views on the economy and inflation.

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ), Citigroup Inc (NYSE: C ) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) all report results on Friday. Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL ) and BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) are among other big names set to provide quarterly updates during the week.

  1. Oil prices

Oil prices notched up a second weekly gain last week, supported by geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, concerns over tightening supply and expectations about demand growth.

Crude oil settled at its highest levels since October on Friday. U.S. crude futures rose 32 cents to $86.91 a barrel, while Brent settled up 52 cents at $91.17 a barrel.

Geopolitical tensions look set to continue to underpin oil prices as markets watch for any signs of any direct conflict between Iran, the third-largest OPEC producer, and Israel that could further tighten supplies.

"If Iran directly attacks Israel, that's never happened before," Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group told Reuters. "It's just another geopolitical risk domino about to fall."

  1. ECB meeting

The ECB meets on Thursday and is widely expected to hold rates steady before it embarks on a rate cutting cycle in June.

Markets see an almost 100% chance of a 25 basis-point cut in June so President Christine Lagarde’s comments will be closely watched for a green light.

A flurry of policymakers have explicitly pointed to June as the date of a first move and the latest data showed that Eurozone unexpectedly fell to 2.4% in March cementing expectations for a rate cut.

Apart from the ECB central bankers in Canada and New Zealand meet on Wednesday and in Singapore and South Korea on Friday with no rate changes expected.

(Reuters contributed reporting)

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