US jobs report, ECB meeting, Covid-19 easing

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This week will start and end with two very different sides to the coronavirus story.

Monday will bring some big steps forward as more of the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus are eased.

Looking backwards, US job figures released on Friday will provide a key data point on the economic damage that coronavirus has wrought, with the worst unemployment levels since the Great Depression era expected.

In between, the European Central Bank meets on Thursday, when it is expected to boost stimulus measures.

US primaries will give a glimpse of how democratic elections will function in the post-coronavirus world and a taste of what’s to come if Covid-19 is still a threat when Americans go to the polls in November’s presidential election.

Talks between the EU and the UK rumble on into the fourth round with little signs of progress, showing there are at least some constants amid the disruption the pandemic has brought.

Coronavirus this week

From Monday in the UK, small groups will be able to meet outdoors, professional sport will resume with no spectators and 2m clinically vulnerable people, who have been self-isolating since March, will be able to meet others outside. Many more primary schools are also set to reopen on Monday.

Other restrictions being eased this week include:

  • On Monday Turkey lifts restrictions on intercity travel and allows restaurants, cafés, parks and sports facilities to reopen

  • New South Wales, home to nearly half of Australia’s coronavirus cases, will allow museums, libraries and zoos to reopen from Monday. The state also plans to allow pubs and restaurants to host up to 50 seated customers, up from 10

  • Moscow resumes non-food trade and allows dry cleaners and repair shops to open from Monday

  • Cafés and restaurants in the Netherlands are allowed to reopen. Online reservations will be compulsory and no more than 30 people will be allowed to eat indoors

  • French restaurants and bars prepare to reopen on Tuesday

  • Portugal will reopen its beaches on Saturday. Groups must stay 1.5 metres apart, deckchairs may only be booked for the morning or afternoon, and beach sports of two people or more will not be allowed

Brexit talks

The EU’s Michel Barnier and Britain’s David Frost begin another round of Brexit negotiations this week with little sign of progress towards a permanent new trade deal on the horizon.

Mr Frost told MPs on the parliamentary committee on the future relationship with the EU last Wednesday that both sides remained far apart on issues including fisheries and Brussels’ demands for a “level playing field” on state aid, tax, environmental and labour laws.

This came shortly after Mr Barnier sent a letter to opposition Westminster MPs saying that Brussels remained “open” to extending the transition period by up to two years.

The UK and EU have until July 1 to decide on this extension that would grant Britain continued frictionless trade with the bloc beyond the end of this year.

Further reading

‘Super Tuesday II’

Primary elections will be held in the US states of Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota as well as the District of Columbia on Tuesday following several postponements due to coronavirus.

The bumper day of voting day has been dubbed “Super Tuesday II” and will test how well the states can deal with mail-in ballots as well as the difficulties that voting in person while maintaining social distancing will bring.

Central banks

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday. No changes to the key interest rates are expected but investors will watch for any decision the ECB takes on its €750bn asset-purchasing programme, which many believe will still be needed even if European leaders finalise a €500bn EU recovery fund proposed by Germany and France.

The ECB’s PEPP bond-buying programme is designed to hold down borrowing costs for Europe’s increasingly indebted governments, but it is likely to be exhausted by October at the current rate of purchases. The market widely expects at least a €500bn boost from policymakers.

The central bank will also give its latest economic projections. ECB president Christine Lagarde has already warned the eurozone economy will shrink by 8 per cent to 12 per cent this year as the “sudden stop of activity” caused by coronavirus triggers a recession twice as deep as after the 2008 financial crisis.

Further reading

Tiff Macklem begins his stint as Bank of Canada governor on Wednesday, when the bank is forecast to keep rates on hold at 0.25 per cent. No asset purchase programme activity is expected either.

The Reserve Bank of Australia meets on Tuesday. The country is well down the road to reopening and economic activity appears to have bottomed out in April, meaning rate changes are highly unlikely at this meeting.

Earnings

A quiet week. In the US, luxury jeweller Tiffany reports on Tuesday when first-quarter profit and sales are expected to be hit by lockdown. Investors will also watch for any updates on the LVMH merger.

On Wednesday Campbell Soup is likely to post a decrease in third-quarter sales as the divestiture of some international businesses is set to offset coronavirus-driven sales.

UK earnings are also thin on the ground, with just a few of the smaller companies reporting, including office space developer Workspace (Tuesday), travel food retailer SSP (Wednesday), FTSE 250 water and waste group Pennon (Thursday) and central and eastern European carrier Wizz Air (Wednesday).

Economic data

All eyes will be on the US employment data for May when they land on Friday, with a further 8m job losses expected on top of the 20.5m Americans reported to have lost their jobs in April’s non-farm payrolls data.

The unemployment rate is expected to have surged from 14.7 per cent in April to 19.6 per cent in May.

Initial jobless claims figures due on Thursday are expected to continue their downward trend. Claims fell to 2.1m for the week ending May 23 and a fall to 1.9m is forecast for the week ending May 30.

There are also a host of PMI survey readings from around the globe throughout the week.

Other data include:

Monday

  • Hong Kong: retail sales Hong Kong’s retail sales fell 42 per cent in March from a year earlier, and a similar contraction is forecast for April

  • US: ISM manufacturing The index fell to 41.5 in April, with an increase to 43.5 forecast for May

Wednesday

  • Germany: labour market The country’s jobless ranks have already expanded by a record 373,000 people between March and April to reach 2.64m. That pushed up the unemployment rate to a three-year high of 5.8 per cent in April. For May the rate is set to exceed 6 per cent with about 250,000 more people out of work

  • Eurozone: unemployment rate The high number of people out of work in Germany is set to help push up April’s rate to near the 8 per cent mark

  • Australia: GDP The first quarter is forecast to show a small drop, with economists predicting a much sharper contraction for the second quarter

  • US: ISM non-manufacturing The consensus forecast is that the index will climb to 45.8 for May

  • Turkey: CPI Inflation is set to rise slightly for May, but core inflation pretty much unchanged in annual terms

Friday

  • Germany: industrial orders The 15.6 per cent collapse in March is expected to extend to an even greater fall of 22 per cent for April

  • Canada: employment The May jobs report is likely to make for better reading, with the scale of job losses forecast to be much smaller after two months of consecutive record falls



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