Markets Insights

Packed data calendar but trade issues still key focus

A worker producing cloth that will be exported to the United States, at a textile factory in Binzhou, China's eastern Shandong province. Tariffs on about US$110 billion (S$153 billion) worth of Chinese imports into the US were raised from 10 per cent
A worker producing cloth that will be exported to the United States, at a textile factory in Binzhou, China's eastern Shandong province. Tariffs on about US$110 billion (S$153 billion) worth of Chinese imports into the US were raised from 10 per cent to 15 per cent yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US rate cut hopes to aid equities amid likely calmer Sept: Analysts

There is the usual packed calendar of data as the new month gets under way but investors will probably focus on trade developments, which have been the main driving factor behind sentiment in recent months.

This focus will be especially acute given tariffs on about US$110 billion (S$153 billion) worth of Chinese imports into the US were raised from 10 per cent to 15 per cent yesterday.

FXTM market analyst Han Tan said: "The heightened barriers to trade come amid United States-China trade tensions which have already dragged global growth and market sentiment lower. Any further escalation in the US-China trade conflict will dampen demand for riskier assets, while boosting safe haven assets such as gold and US Treasuries."

Wall Street had a mixed session last Friday ahead of the tariff hike as traders preferred to exercise caution, cashing in on their positions after early-week gains. That left the Dow with modest gains while the S&P 500 was flat and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dipped slightly.

August has kept its local reputation as the period to forget for equities, with the Straits Times Index (STI) not posting a gain in this particular month in over a decade. This year was no different, with the benchmark index down 5.8 per cent.

At least the STI ended last month on a better note, finishing up 0.8 per cent or 24.69 points at 3,106.52 last Friday, thanks to Beijing saying it did not plan to react hastily to Washington's latest tariff increase.

But that last-gasp surge still left the index down 3.83 points or 0.1 per cent for the week.

DBS Group Research believes September might be a calmer month for equity markets.

It points to September as being a seasonally benign month compared with August, the intensity of protests in Hong Kong possibly lessening as the university term begins and equity markets bolstered by hopes of another rate cut in the US.

Key data releases here include last month's purchasing managers' index (PMI) figures. The SIPMM reading is out tomorrow and the Markit reading will be published on Wednesday.

"The Singapore dollar's exposure to external drivers will remain in focus, even as investors await the city-state's August PMI figures over the coming days," FXTM's Mr Tan said. He added that risks for Asian currencies are also tilted to the downside, "given the resilience of the US dollar, along with growing concerns over the state of the global economy".

The Asia-Pacific economic docket is filled with trade, manufacturing and inflation data as is usual for the start of a new month.

Over the weekend, China released manufacturing PMI figures for last month. While contraction for a fourth straight month was expected, the reading of 49.5 was below street expectations.

The continued contractions indicate lasting fundamental weakness, Citi Research wrote. Non-manufacturing PMI clocked in at 53.8.

Caixin data, which focuses more on China's small and medium-sized firms, will be out for manufacturing today and services on Wednesday.

UOB economist Alvin Liew expects the manufacturing reading to have eased to 49.8 from 49.9 in July, while the reading for services is likely to see an expansion to 54 from 53.7 for the same period.

Last month's inflation data will also be out for a number of key economies in Asia, including Thailand and Indonesia today, South Korea tomorrow and Taiwan on Thursday.

South Korea will release second-quarter gross domestic product figures tomorrow while Australia reports on Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2019, with the headline 'Packed data calendar but trade issues still key focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe