20th February 2017
Global equities continued their advance, with US markets climbing to record levels, thanks to generally strong economic data coupled with last week’s teaser from Donald Trump regarding his “phenomenal” tax plans.
The US Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Janet Yellen said more interest-rate increases may be appropriate as the economy closes in on the central bank’s goals for maximum employment and 2% inflation. Despite her more hawkish sounding comments, she gave no indication of the timing of the next interest rate increase in her prepared semi-annual statement on monetary policy to Congress.
In the UK, this week’s economic data justified the Bank of England’s (BoE) low interest rate stance. On Tuesday (14 February) although CPI inflation rose to 1.8% from 1.6% in December 2016, it was slower than expectations of an increase to 1.9% (while inflation is likely to breach the BoE’s 2% target in the coming months, the BoE is likely to look past this as it is imported inflation rather than domestically generated inflation). Then on Wednesday the Office for National Statistics announced that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.8% in December and that pay growth slowed to 2.6% – weaker than economists had forecast. And on Friday retail sales fell 0.3% in January (versus estimates of a 1% increase). I believe that this all adds up to make a UK interest rate increase a distant prospect!
The economic week ahead brings the minutes of the last Fed Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which may signal members’ views on President Donald Trump’s policies and their economic impact. We also have a number of PMI surveys; US housing market data; US jobless claims; eurozone CPI; and the second estimate of UK Q4 GDP. Additionally, Mark Carney, the BoE Governor, testifies before the UK Parliament’s Treasury Committee, while eurozone finance ministers discuss Greece’s stalled bailout.
US markets are closed Monday (20 February) for a public holiday (Presidents’ Day/Washington’s Birthday).
Ian Copelin, Investment Management Expert*
*Ian Copelin is an Investment Director at Wealth at Work Limited which is a member of the Wealth at Work group of companies