5 things to know before the Singapore market opens this week: March 14-20

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.PHOTO: REUTERS

1. Fed to remain on hold

Central bank decisions will be in the spotlight this week - the most important of which is the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday (2am on Thursday, Singapore time). The Bank of Japan speaks on Tuesday and on Thursday we get the latest from the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank and Norway's Norges Bank.

The Fed is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate - the federal funds rate - unchanged at 0.25-0.50 per cent because of persistent low inflation and instability in global financial markets. The market puts odds of a Fed hike at just 4 per cent.

Also, while the Fed had earlier flagged four 25-basis-point rate hikes this year, markets now see just one increase in the second half. Investors will look to Fed chair Janet Yellen for updated guidance in a news conference following the rate decision on Wednesday.

The Fed will also release its latest forecasts on the US economy on Wednesday. Separate reports this week will probably show that retail sales cooled in February (Tuesday), housing starts rebounded (Tuesday) and consumer prices held below the Fed's goal (Wednesday).

2. BOJ to stand pat too?

The Bank of Japan is also expected to stay put at the official rate of minus 0.1 per cent on Tuesday - as officials continue to deal with the aftershocks of its switch negative interest rates.

There is market talk that the BOJ will expand monetary stimulus in the coming months to reflate a stagnant economy after January's negative rate move failed to arrest the unwelcome rise in the yen.

But many central bank policymakers are reluctant to ease again soon unless external shocks jolt global financial markets enough to derail Japan's fragile economic recovery, Reuters reported, quoting sources.

3. Caution prevails for Bank of England

Thursday's Bank of England meeting is also unlikely to yield any new move with caution prevailing due to the uncertainty ahead of a defining vote on whether Britain will stay in the European Union, due on June 23.

But British finance minister George Osborne warned on Sunday of further spending cuts to come in the government budget to be announced on Wednesday.

4. Singapore export slump to ease?

Figures for Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) for February will be released on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters are expecting NODX to fall 1 per cent year-on-year, easing from the 9.9 per cent yoy plunge in January, which was the third straight month of contraction.

The final Q4 jobless figures, January retail sales and new private home sales for February are due on Tuesday.

5. Super Tuesday 2

Financial markets are also bracing themselves for Tuesday when the US Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls vie in primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.

Super Tuesday 2 is make-or-break for some of the candidates with the number of delegates awarded to date in the US presidential race to cross the half-way mark.