Markets Insights

ST Index may face more choppiness

Wall Street's upbeat close last Friday could lead to the Straits Times Index perking up at the week's start, after being in correction mode for the last three straight sessions.
Wall Street's upbeat close last Friday could lead to the Straits Times Index perking up at the week's start, after being in correction mode for the last three straight sessions.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Policy uncertainties in US, global trade war fears may trump positive indicators

The Singapore bourse has put a rocky week behind it for quite possibly more choppiness, with the tug of war between monetary policy and trade fears as the dominant trading theme set to continue this week.

For now, the United States Federal Reserve meeting on Thursday is expected to grab the spotlight, with a rate hike widely expected, and hence the focus will be on the Fed's tightening trajectory or, simply put - will there be three (as widely projected) or four rate hikes for the year?

Alongside that, other central bank powwows are also on the cards for the week in Britain, New Zealand and Indonesia, with expectations for no policy rate changes.

The local bourse's key Straits Times Index was in correction mode for the last three straight sessions - it is still up 3.2 per cent for the year - but could perk up at the week's start owing to Wall Street's upbeat close last Friday, spurred by largely positive data out of the world's largest economy and the absence of big news in relation to US politics to further rattle trading sentiments .

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent while the broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index finished little changed with a lower-than-1-point rise.

Any rebound, however, is likely to eventually give in to caution ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting overnight on Thursday (Singapore time), with expectations priced in for a 25 basis point rate hike.

"There appears to be a significant amount of anticipation packed in for the FOMC meeting, the first meeting where we would likely see an interest rate hike take place," said IG's market strategist Jingyi Pan, adding that the focus will be on the Fed's forward guidance on items ranging from Fed chair Jerome Powell's press conference to the summary of economic projections.

KEEPING EYE ON FED MEETING

There appears to be a significant amount of anticipation packed in for the FOMC meeting, the first meeting where we would likely see an interest rate hike take place.

IG'S MARKET STRATEGIST JINGYI PAN

This will be Mr Powell's first press conference as Fed chairman. "He is likely to strike a balanced tone, stressing continuity and gradualism with respect to the policy outlook. Mr Powell may indicate that the FOMC's confidence in its growth and inflation projections has increased, given the tailwinds from stimulative fiscal policy and stronger foreign demand for US exports," said HSBC Global Research.

Other events to watch include early March Markit Purchasing Managers' Index numbers for both the euro zone and US - which will also be released on Thursday - for the monthly insight into the manufacturing conditions in the regions, as well as China's National People's Congress that will wrap up tomorrow.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, will release February core inflation print and export figures. Inflation data out of Singapore, Hong Kong and Britain is also in the pipeline.

The bogeyman of trade tensions as a result of US President Donald Trump's move to impose metal tariffs with a focus on China lurks, with the steel and aluminium tariffs set to kick into place on Friday.

With that, this could be another week where positive global growth - by and large, indicators show healthy momentum - could well be trumped (pun intended) by policy uncertainties in the US and global trade war fears which could harm global recovery.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'ST Index may face more choppiness'. Print Edition | Subscribe