Markets Insights

All eyes on the MAS this week

Workers transporting imported soya beans at a port in Nantong in China's eastern Jiangsu province. China has imposed a 25 per cent import tariff on US soya beans.
Workers transporting imported soya beans at a port in Nantong in China's eastern Jiangsu province. China has imposed a 25 per cent import tariff on US soya beans.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Advanced first-quarter GDP to be released, Singdollar expected to be allowed to rise

While the trade tiff between the United States and China dominated headlines all of last week, domestic factors may steal the limelight in coming days.

All eyes here will be on the release of the advanced first-quarter gross domestic product figure and the semi-annual policy statement by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Friday.

"Growth is expected to come in at 4.4 per cent year on year, accelerating from the previous quarter, just as quarter-on-quarter figures slow," IG market strategist Pan Jingyi said.

UOB economists expect the MAS to start policy normalisation by allowing the Singdollar to go on a mildly appreciating path, expected at 0.5 per cent a year from its neutral stance of zero appreciation.

There are two key events centred on the rest of Asia - Malaysia's upcoming elections and Chinese President Xi Jinping's keynote speech tomorrow at the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference.

Notwithstanding the tit-for-tat trade threats between China and the US, Lombard Odier Investment Managers sees an emerging negotiating pattern in which the US makes strong demands that grab media attention then threatens to abandon talks before softening its demands.

CHANGING DEMANDS

We believe that President Trump's announcements are aimed at showing his base supporters that he is serious about protectionism. However, the ultimate results are much softer that the original demands.

LOMBARD ODIER INVESTMENT MANAGERS, on US negotiating patterns.

"We believe that US President Donald Trump's announcements are aimed at showing his base supporters that he is serious about protectionism. However, the ultimate results are much softer that the original demands," it noted.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 572 points or 2.3 per cent last Friday to 23,932.76 after non-farm job numbers came in below consensus.

There were 103,000 jobs added in the US last month, the slowest pace of hiring in six months.

Economists say this is not to be taken as a sign of a weak economy.

"We expect the Federal Reserve to stay on a path of lifting rates three more times this year. Complacent investors who think the (jobs) report is a reason to shift towards treasuries and away from equities are going to regret their decisions," said First Trust Advisers economist Robert Stein.

AXA Investment Managers Asia remains comfortable with its overweight call on equities, with the first-quarter earnings season the catalyst in the short term. Among key events in the US this week will be the Federal Reserve minutes.

CGS-CIMB said in a strategy note that four sectors here would see some impact from a US-China trade war - technology, commodities, capital goods and banks.

In the tech space, Memtech International, Valuetronics and Sunningdale face moderate risks, as they are involved in the consumer electronics and automotive value chain and have heavy presence in China.

AEM Holdings faces low risk, given its status as a sole supplier to a customer.

Venture Corp is insulated by its minimal presence in China and customer diversification benefits.

Rising trade tensions and potential disruption to trade flows could cast a pall on banks' cash management and loan activities. CGS-CIMB estimates that trade and transaction services accounted for 5 per cent of DBS's total income last year, 2 per cent at OCBC and 3 per cent at UOB.

Wilmar International's oilseeds and grains division made up 46 per cent of its profit before tax.

Assuming its soya bean crush business in China accounts for 60 per cent of this division, and about 35 per cent of the raw material costs for its crushing business comes from the US, CGS-CIMB estimates that a 25 per cent import tariff on US soya beans to China could hit Wilmar's pre-tax profit by about 10 per cent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2018, with the headline 'All eyes on the MAS this week'. Print Edition | Subscribe