Bulls And Bears

Investors to focus on trade war, HK protests

In data-light week, attention will be on Fed chief's speech for clues on interest rate policy

Regional investors are focusing on trade matters and the Hong Kong protests, now that the second-quarter earnings season is largely over.

Global markets faced weeks of sell-offs after United States President Donald Trump indicated a move to impose tariffs on more Chinese imports.

Emerging market currencies have also taken a hit due to growing uncertainty over trade ties between the US and China, as well as worsening macroeconomic conditions.

Investors have responded by shifting funds into safe-haven assets such as gold, the yen and more defensive stocks.

Although Mr Trump has delayed tariffs on some of the imports - those most likely to affect US consumers - China has threatened retaliation.

The market's attention will also be on US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell's speech on Friday at the annual Jackson Hole Symposium.

"In the past, the symposium has occasionally been used as a platform to signal major Fed policy changes, and markets will eagerly look forward to Powell's insights on how aggressive the Fed intends to be in its upcoming September (meeting)," said United Overseas Bank economist Alvin Liew.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) continued to slip last Friday, closing 11.06 points, or 0.4 per cent, lower at 3,115.03 and 1.7 per cent down for the week.

The STI lost 5.6 per cent in the first half of this month, and is around 9 per cent lower than a peak in April.

The data docket here remains mostly empty for the week, with just last month's consumer price index numbers due on Friday.

ING Group economists think the figures are likely to show a further dip in headline inflation to 0.5 per cent from 0.6 per cent in June.

The drop is likely a result of "the lower housing component, due to the quarterly rebate of service and conservancy charges for public housing, (which) more than offset a 6.4 per cent hike in electricity tariffs for the current quarter".

ING also expects core inflation - which strips out accommodation and private road transport costs - to slow to 1 per cent from June's 1.2 per cent, raising odds of easing by the central bank here.

A light data week awaits the rest of the region as well. Highlights include Thailand's second-quarter gross domestic product figures today, South Korea's trade data for the first 20 days of August on Wednesday, and Taiwan's industrial production figures on Friday.

In the region, only Indonesia has a monetary policy decision this week.

A Bloomberg poll of economists suggests that Bank Indonesia will keep rates unchanged on Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Investors to focus on trade war, HK protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe