All eyes will be on escalating trade rhetoric in the week ahead as investors try to work out whether a series of tit-for-tat responses between the U.S. and China will end in negotiations or an all-out trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
The coming week also marks the start of the first-quarter earnings season on Wall Street, which analysts have been hoping would take market focus away from trade and put it on strong corporate profits.
Meanwhile, on the central bank front, market players will focus on minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting, which may provide further hints on the pace of future rate hikes this year.
There is also important U.S. inflation data in the coming week.
Elsewhere, market participants will also be looking ahead to monthly trade figures out of China, though it is still too early to see any impact from the trade tensions seen in recent weeks.
Ahead of the coming week, Investing.com has compiled a list of the five biggest events on the economic calendar that are most likely to affect the markets.
1. 'Trade War' Developments In Focus
Escalating trade rhetoric will keep investors on their toes as they watch further developments amid a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China.
Relations between the world's two largest economies took a turn for the worse last week after President Donald Trump threatened more tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods on Thursday.
In response, China's Commerce Ministry said Friday the country will not hesitate to fight back with a "major response."
China has already hit back at the Trump administration's plan to slap tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, retaliating with a list of similar duties on key U.S. imports, fueling worries that world's two largest economies are spiraling towards a trade war that could shake the global economy.
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Market participants will focus on a much-anticipated speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, which traders are watching for any reference to the trade dispute with the U.S.
Meanwhile, on the NAFTA front, talks have entered a new, intensive phase of discussions and will continue in the coming days.
There is speculation that progress will be announced on renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, when President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet at the Summit of the Americas in Peru at the end of the week.
2. U.S. Q1 Earnings Season Kicks Off
Wall Street's first-quarter earnings season kicks off this week, with major U.S. banks JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) all reporting Friday. BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) reports on Thursday.
Q1 Earnings growth is tipped to be 18.4% according to Thomson Reuters data, the highest in seven years, as results are likely to have been boosted by President Donald Trump's tax cuts.
A strong earnings season would help cushion markets from ongoing trade tensions.
Stocks plunged on Friday as volatile trading persisted, with the Dow losing 2.3%, the S&P 500 declining 2.2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 2.3%.
3. Fed FOMC Meeting Minutes
The Federal Reserve will release minutes of its most recent policy meeting on Wednesday at 2:00PM ET (1800GMT).
The U.S. central bank raised interest rates as widely expected following its meeting on March 21 and stuck to its projection for two more rate hikes this year. Some investors had expected the Fed to project three more rate hikes this year at that meeting.
Fed Chief Jerome Powell said on Friday the Fed will likely need to keep raising interest rates this year to keep inflation under control. He added that it was too soon to know if the trade issue would take a toll on the U.S. economy.
Those comments signaled that borrowing costs will continue to climb this year despite the recent market volatility caused by the trade dispute.
Traders are currently pricing in around an 85% chance of a second rate hike in June, according to Investing.com’s Fed Rate Monitor Tool. Odds of a third rate hike by December was seen at about 70%.
4. U.S. Inflation Data
The Commerce Department will publish March inflation figures at 8:30AM ET (1230GMT) Wednesday.
Market analysts expect consumer prices to post a flat reading, weakening from February's 0.2% increase, while core inflation is forecast to inch up 0.2%, the same as its rise a month earlier.
On a yearly base, core CPI is projected to climb 2.1%, a tad faster than the 1.8%-gain recorded in the preceding month. Core prices are viewed by the Federal Reserve as a better gauge of longer-term inflationary pressure because they exclude the volatile food and energy categories.
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Rising inflation would be a catalyst to push the Fed toward raising interest rates at a faster pace than currently expected.
Besides the inflation data, this week's calendar also features reports on producer prices, weekly jobless claims as well as a preliminary reading on Michigan consumer sentiment.
Data released Friday showed that U.S. job growth slowed to its lowest in six months in March, but a pickup in wage gains pointed to a tightening labor market, which should allow the Fed to further raise interest rates this year.
5. China Trade Figures
China is to release March trade figures on Friday morning. The report is expected to show that the country’s trade surplus narrowed slightly to $27.2 billion last month from a surplus of around $33.7 billion in February.
Exports are forecast to have climbed 11.9% from a year earlier, following a gain of 44.5% in the preceding month, while imports are expected to rise 12.4%, after increasing 6.3% in February.
Prior to Friday's trade data, the Asian nation will publish reports on March consumer and producer price inflation on Wednesday. The data is expected to show that consumer prices rose 2.6% last month, while producer prices are forecast to increase by 3.4%.
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