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The Week Ahead: 5 Things to Watch on the Economic Calendar

EconomyJun 04, 2017 05:45AM ET
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© Reuters. 5 Things to Watch on the Economic Calendar In The Week Ahead - Europe is likely to set the tone for global financial markets this week, with the European Central Bank policy meeting and British general election on investors' minds.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., market players will pay close attention to former FBI director James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a hearing that could add to difficulties facing President Donald Trump.

Elsewhere, China is to release monthly trade and inflation data amid recent signs of cooling in the world's second largest economy.

A monetary policy announcement from the Reserve Bank of Australia will also be in focus.

Ahead of the coming week, has compiled a list of the five biggest events on the economic calendar that are most likely to affect the markets.

1. European Central Bank Policy Meeting

The European Central Bank's latest interest rate decision is due at 1145GMT (7:45AM ET) on Thursday. Most of the focus will be on President Mario Draghi's press conference 45 minutes after the announcement.

With economic growth clearly shifting into higher gear and political risks declining, investors will look for clues on when and how the ECB could scale back its massive asset purchase program.

The ECB could drop a long-standing reference to downside risks, calling them 'largely balanced'. It could also discuss dropping its so-called easing bias, a pledge to keep rates at their current or lower levels for an extended period and to increase the volume of asset buys if the outlook worsens.

Removing the reference to further rate cuts could risk strengthening the euro, which rose to a seven-month peak against the dollar last week.

2. British General Election

Britons will head to the polls on Thursday, with voters set to elect 650 members to the Lower House of Parliament from which a government will be formed, despite some public calls for a postponement in the wake of a weekend terror attack in London, which killed seven and left 48 injured.

Opinion polls in recent days suggest the contest may be closer than the expected comfortable victory for the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, with the Labour Party, under left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, closing the gap.

However, British opinion polls have had a relatively poor track record recently, raising expectations that the election outcome could again spring a surprise.

A big parliamentary majority for May would ease uncertainty for companies and investors and pave the way for the Bank of England to raise interest rates sooner than markets expect.

A failure to win the election with a large majority would weaken May just as formal Brexit talks are due to begin, while the loss of her majority in parliament would pitch British politics into turmoil.

3. Comey Testimony

Former FBI director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election at 10:00AM ET (1400GMT) Thursday.

In his first public appearance since Trump fired him on May 9, Comey is expected to be asked about conversations in which the president is reported to have pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose ties to Russia are under scrutiny.

Comey was leading the FBI's probe into the allegations, and his firing sparked a political uproar last month.

The Justice Department and multiple U.S. congressional committees are investigating Russia's actions in the 2016 presidential election and questions about possible collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates.

The deepening turmoil surrounding the Trump administration have added to doubts that the president would be able to follow through on his campaign promises for tax cuts, deregulation and fiscal stimulus.

4. China Trade Figures

China is to release trade figures for May at around 0300GMT on Thursday. The report is expected to show that the country’s trade surplus widened to $47.8 billion last month from a surplus of $38.0 billion in April.

Exports are forecast to have climbed 7.0% in May from a year earlier, following a jump of 8.0% a month ago, while imports are expected to rise 9.0%, after increasing 11.9% in April.

Additionally, on Friday, the Asian nation will publish data on May consumer and producer price inflation. The reports are expected to show that consumer prices rose 1.5% last month, while producer prices are forecast to increase by 5.7%.

China's foreign exchange reserves for May due on Wednesday will also be in focus.

Authorities in Beijing have been turning the screws on financial stability risks and looking closely at credit in recent weeks, so May's figures will be of particular interest.

5. Reserve Bank of Australia Policy Meeting

The RBA's latest interest rate decision is due on Tuesday at 0430GMT.

Most economists expect the central bank to keep rates unchanged at the current record-low of 1.5% for the tenth straight meeting and maintain its neutral policy stance, as it balances the risk of rising household debt against subdued inflation and wages growth.

Besides the RBA, first-quarter growth data is due on Wednesday, followed by trade figures on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date on all of this week's economic events by visiting:

The Week Ahead: 5 Things to Watch on the Economic Calendar

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