Five things to know before the market trades this week, March 9-15

1. Watch for Apple Watch is over

Apple, which rose 0.2 per cent on Friday after S&P Dow Jones Indices announced the stock would be added to the blue-chip index this month, will unveil the long-awaited Apple Watch in San Francisco on Monday at 10am.

At US$10,000, the 18-carat gold, sapphire and crystal Apple Watch Edition being launched will be the firm's most expensive product since the US$10,000 Lisa computer in 1983, developed by Steve Jobs, which was poorly received.

It is the first new innovation to come from Apple since Jobs died in 2011, and will be unveiled by chief executive Tim Cook.

Analysts have branded the move a clear attempt to segway into Asia's booming luxury goods market - and suggest it could be the start of an entirely new market.

2. ECB to open long-awaited QE floodgates

Also on Monday, the European Central Bank is due to launch its one-trillion-euro stimulus plan, an effort to jump-start the struggling euro zone economy by buying around 60 billion euros of public and private bonds each month - a policy it will apply until at least September 2016.

The move comes against a rosier backdrop for the euro zone, after the ECB raised growth forecasts last Thursday.

Industrial production figures for eurozone, due on Thursday, are expected to support this encouraging picture, rising slightly after a year-on-year fall in December, and echoing a strong start to the year for German output.

3. More data likely to support timing of US rate hike

While the ECB unleases its mega stimulus, over the Pacific the US central bank is poised to do the opposite. The Federal Reserve could raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 sooner rather than later, after last Friday's stronger-than-expected jobs report boosted expectations of a hike as soon as June.

A rebound in retail sales after two straight months of declines could show consumers are benefiting from sharply lower oil prices, but analysts say spending in February was likely curbed by unusually harsh weather in parts of the United States. That data is out Thursday.

While a stronger US economy is better for the US stock market in the long run, investors have worried that if the Fed raises rates too soon, it could dampen growth in an economy that has been slow to recover.

Besides US retail sales, Friday brings the preliminary March reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. Sentiment unexpectedly fell in February from an 11-year high, adding to recent worries about spending.

4. China's "new normal"

China should provide further hints of the challenges it faces after the world's No. 2 economy depicted its "new normal" last week - a growth target of 7 per cent for this year, the lowest for a quarter of a century.

Chinese retail sales growth is expected by some analysts to have slowed slightly in February, with industrial production and investment growth data due out next Wednesday seen weaker too.

As Chinese leaders try to mould a more balanced long-term growth model, keeping the breakneck economic expansion of recent decades in check, all eyes will also be on the reforms they are expected to outline further in the coming days.

5. Greece ups the ante

Greece's funding options will take centre-stage at a Monday meeting of euro zone finance ministers, who will discuss the economic reforms Athens hopes will help it unlock some financial aid from international lenders.

The Greek government sent an updated list of reforms to Brussels last Friday and said it wanted to start talks with lenders immediately on concluding its bailout and a possible follow-up deal. It also repaid part of an International Monetary Fund loan that falls due this month.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis upped the stakes sharply ahead of Monday's crucial meeting in Brussels. He said in an interview on Sunday that Athens could call a referendum on the euro or early elections should its eurozone partners reject its plan to restructure debt and make public investments to boost growth.

The last time Greece threatened a referendum on its bailout in November 2011, it sent global markets into panic, infuriated its European partners and led to the fall of then prime minister George Papandreou.

Sources: Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg

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