Brexit vote, US growth, and Italian budget deficit in focus

  • Wednesday - UK government faces a pivotal vote on where Brexit goes next.
  • Thursday - US GDP for Q4 2018 will be published and could prove disappointing if regional Fed forecasts are correct.  
  • Friday - The Italian budget deficit for 2018 will be published and could raise fresh questions over the future of the common currency.

Monday

UK Finance Mortgage Approvals for January are to be released. These are expected to show a rebound after steady declines during Q4 to a figure of around 40,000, in line with 2018 highs. Confidence like this in the face of Brexit uncertainty would provide the market—and especially the Bank of England—with some reassurance over the property sector.

US Wholesale Inventories for December will also be published today. These are expected to come in unchanged from November at 0.3%, but a low figure can be seen as stressing uncertainty in the underlying economy, with factories running down surplus stock.

Tuesday

German Gfk Consumer Confidence for March is expected to decline, reflecting the pessimistic mood that is mounting across the Eurozone as the trading bloc faces up to potential trade disputes and a slowing global economy.

US Building Permits for December are also expected to dip to 1.23million, a level that hasn’t been seen since the early part of 2017. This is a valuable forward-looking economic indicator, so illustrates the wariness being felt over the outlook for the US.

Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell starts a two-day testimony to politicians on Tuesday. Clues over where monetary policy goes next, particularly with regard to the end of quantitative tightening, will be closely watched.

Wednesday

Eurozone Business Confidence for February is expected to decline again to 0.61, continuing the downward trend that has been in play for the last year and making for the lowest print since late 2016. This should be no surprise given last week’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) prints from the currency bloc, so a shortfall is unlikely to add much pressure to the common currency.

Theresa May’s government faces what could be its biggest Brexit test yet, assuming it hasn’t managed to get the EU to agree to fresh concessions and have Parliament approve them. Today’s vote will see MPs push to take control of the Brexit agenda themselves, moving to delay the departure rather than accept a no-deal outcome. This is fraught with political risk and could trigger a general election which would be negative for the Pound, but conversely removing the prospect of no-deal ought to lend Sterling some support.

Thursday

February’s Gfk Consumer Confidence reading for the UK is forecasting a marked decline to -17, marking a fresh five and a half year low. Brexit is the key detractor here, overshadowing an otherwise upbeat employment and wage backdrop.

US Q4 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to show further declines, although opinions vary as to the extent of potential deterioration.  Market consensus has a reading of around 2.5% although the closely followed Atlanta Fed’s estimate of 1.4% would make for the worst quarterly reading in three years.  It is worth noting, that while Initial GDP readings are often rather inaccurate, they also tend to elicit a sizeable market reaction.

Friday

The Italian government’s budget deficit for 2018 will be published, and this is expected to show an increase out to 2.6% of GDP, reversing the improvements seen in 2016 and 2017. This will raise fresh concerns over the ability of the new administration to drive the deficit down to 2.04% this year, which is necessary if it is to avoid EU sanctions. Assuming such a significant miss is recorded then the Euro may find itself under pressure as a result.

US Personal Income and Personal Spending data for December are expected to confirm the air of caution that’s prevailing among consumers right now. Income is forecast to rise faster than outgoings, reversing the situation seen in November and adding weight to the argument that domestic consumers are wary of what lies ahead.