Five things to know before the market trades this week, Jan 26-Feb 1

The head of the Syriza party Alexis Tsipras speaking to supporters after winning the elections in Athens on Jan 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
The head of the Syriza party Alexis Tsipras speaking to supporters after winning the elections in Athens on Jan 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

1. Showdown ahead between Greece and the ECB?

The radical-left Syriza party headed by Alexis Tsipras has won Sunday's general election, going by exit polls. The anti-austerity party says that one of its top priorities will be to push for the ECB to dramatically ease the repayment terms on Greece's massive debt, which could lead to a showdown between the leftists and the European Central Bank (ECB).

The party's ambitions have already sent shockwaves through financial markets and the rest of the eurozone, and alarmed Greece's international creditors, who fear a Syriza government might default on its massive debt.

Greece owes about 318 billion euros, not just to the ECB but also to the IMF, other European governments, and private investors after it was bailed out during the European financial crisis. It has a principal repayment of 3.5 billion euros in July and another 3 billion euros in August.

If the ECB stops funding the liquidity of the Greek banks, the banks could collapse - an event that could lead to Greece abandoning the euro - Grexit - and printing its own money once more. It could also inspire other eurozone countries struggling under austerity programmes to go the way of Greece.

Finance ministers from the 19 countries that share the euro are due to discuss Greece and its bailout when they meet in Brussels on Monday.

2. How low can the euro go?

The euro fell to as low as US$1.1115 on Friday after ECB president Mario Draghi announced the central bank will flood the eurozone with 1.1 trillion of new money.

The Greek election victory by the Syriza party raise the possibility that anti-euro sentiment may rise enought to push Greece out of the single currency bloc, with potentially devastating effects on the euro.

Data this week will also give more news on the sluggish health of the eurozone and the challenges facing the ECB's QE plan. The highlight will be Friday's January inflation reading for the eurozone which is likely to show deflation intensifying. Analysts polled by Reuters expect a 0.5 per cent drop after prices fell by 0.2 per cent last month.

3. Will the Fed stick to its interest rate guns?

After the surprises from central banks which rocked markets at the start of the year, the question this week is whether the US central bank will stick to its guns and stay on track to raise interest rates midway through the year.

Concern has grown in some quarters that central banks, which played such a big part in guiding economies through the financial crisis, are becoming less predictable, Reuters reported. The shock of the Swiss National Bank abandoning its cornerstone currency cap had yet to fully subside when the European Central Bank said last Thursday that it would flood markets with over a trillion euros, more than expected, to prevent the euro zone from sliding into deflation. Hot on its heels last week, Canada cut its rate out of the blue and Denmark did so twice because of tumbling oil prices and weak growth.

Markets now are waiting with bated breath on the Fed's interest rate-setting meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday for any sign that its resolve to start raising interest rates mid-way through the year could be softening.

Expectations are for the U.S. central bank to stick to its guns despite the turmoil elsewhere, with top Fed officials citing in the past weeks strong U.S. economic momentum and falling unemployment, Reuters reported. But questions have been raised due to weak wage growth and five-year low oil prices that have dragged U.S. consumer prices down to their biggest drop in six years in December and heightened deflation fears in Europe.

Friday will also see the release of US fourth quarter advance GDP figures.

4. Oil

Also in the spotlight will be oil prices. They have more than halved since June but the Brent closed up on Friday at $48.79 a barrel, with the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah adding to uncertainty over the plans of the world's biggest crude exporter.

5. Singapore

In focus will be the forward-looking survey of business expectations for the first quarter, out on Friday. With disinflation and disappointing fourth quarter GDP figures here and economic uncertainty globally, more gloom is likely to come from this survey of companies by the Economic Development Board.

Also due this week are unemployment figures for the fourth quarter out on Friday and industrial production data for December due on Monday.