Five things to know before the Singapore market trades this week: April 13-19

1. More easing, slower growth for Singapore?

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) could ease monetary policy further as its scheduled biannual policy review on Tuesday, given the low inflation and weak growth outlook.

MAS unexpectedly moved to slow the rise of the Singapore dollar in January as plunging oil prices eased inflation.

The most likely scenario, according to analysts, is a one-off downward re-centring of the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) midpoint by a few per cent. This is meant to weaken the Singapore dollar a bit so as to help exporters, whose goods become relatively cheaper in foreign markets.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is also due to release advance estimates of first-quarter economic growth at the same time on Tuesday. Some economists are expecting MTI to cut its full-year growth forecast to between 1 per cent and 3 per cent from 2 per cent to 4 per cent because of weak outlook for exports and manufacturing.

2. China's Q1 GDP to show slowdown is the new normal

For weeks now, Chinese officials have been managing expectations, touting slower economic development as the "new normal" for an economy that used to zoom by on double-digit growth rates. On Wednesday, the world's second-largest economy will announce its economic growth figures for the first quarter, alongside readings of factory activity, retail sales and investment.

Economists expect growth slowed to 7 per cent in January-March, compared to 7.5 per cent in 2014.

Although far stronger than Europe or the United States, this will increase the chance that China's growth this year will be the weakest in a quarter of a century.

"We expect to see two more interest rate cuts this year and larger fiscal spending for the economy, but this will not change the fundamental path of slower growth," Xiaojia Zhi, China economist at BofA Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

3. Annual gabfest is on

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their annual spring meetings in Washington, starting on Friday, before which the IMF will release its world economic growth projections. Finance ministers and central bankers from 188 countries will gather.

Growth will top the agenda with many economists predicting the global economy will expand 3.4 per cent this year, in line with last year's modest showing. But in the US, a strong dollar is hurting exports. Cheap oil and other commodities are lifting consumption in advanced economies but hobbling the emerging markets that produce them. There's also concern about whether developing countries are prepared for another potential bout of volatility once the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

This year's gathering also comes amid a diplomatic spat over China's plans for a rival financial institution. Thirty Asian countries - as well as Britian, Germany, France and Italy - have now joined the new US$100 billion Chinese-led lender, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite US opposition, underlining the shifting balance of power in the global economy.

Expect Christine Lagarde, IMF's managing director, and World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, to throw their weight behine the China-led bank.

4. Earnings season begins in earnest this week

Its earnings season in Singapore again and some heavyweights releasing their quarterly results include M1, Singapore Press Hodings, Keppel Land and Keppel Corp.

The reporting season also gets underway in the United States. A slew of big banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, is due to report first-quarter earnings this week that are expected to shine in an otherwise gloomy quarter. Profits of companies on the S&P 500 are projected to have declined by 2.9 per cent in the first three months from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

5. Markets want to hear what ECB chief says

The European Central Bank (ECB) will hold its monthly governing council meeting on Wednesday, with key interest rates expected to be kept unchanged.

The markets' focus instead will be on what ECB chief Mario Draghi says the same day about the bank's big bond-buying programme and Greece's continued financial woes. After having managed to pay off its €450 million IMF loan last week, Greece will have to raise more money in order to cope with Treasury bill repayments on Tuesday and Friday, totaling €2.4 billion. International creditors - including the ECB - are still waiting for the revised list of reforms needed for a €7.2 billion bailout tranche to be disbursed.

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