December US payrolls solid but unspectacular
The United States added 156,000 new jobs in December while the unemployment rate edged up to 4.7%. A 2.9% annual rise in average hourly earnings was the most attention-grabbing aspect of Friday’s report. It was the largest yearly gain in wages since 2009. Rising wages, unless offset by gains in worker productivity, could negatively impact corporate earnings down the road. Wage increases may also keep the US Federal Reserve on guard for additional rate hikes in the months ahead. The US reported a wider trade deficit on Friday, with a fall in exports likely to trim economic growth estimates for the fourth quarter. The deficit expanded to $45.2 billion in November, a nine-month high, from $42.4 billion in October.


China forced to defend yuan amid outflows
It was a wild week for China’s yuan. On Thursday, overnight offshore deposit rates were ratcheted up to 80% in an attempt to squeeze out speculative short positions in the currency. That move set off a frantic short-covering rally, but the rally was largely reversed on Friday. In a further attempt to keep funds from leaving China, the government introduced additional capital controls effective 1 January and encouraged state-owned enterprises to sell foreign currencies. China is believed to be trying to stabilize the currency in advance of US president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on 20 January.


Global growth rebound continues
Solid purchasing managers’ surveys from December were reported early this week, suggesting that the uptick in global growth seen in recent months continued through year-end. The US reported its 91st consecutive month of manufacturing growth, with the Institute for Supply management index rising to 54.7 from 53.2. The United Kingdom’s manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 56.1, the highest in two and a half years, despite the looming specter of Article 50 being invoked later this year. The weaker euro helped boost the eurozone PMI to 54.4. China’s Caixin PMI, which focuses on small and medium-size companies, rose to 51.9, its highest level since January 2013.


US auto sales set record
Global auto manufacturers sold a record-setting 17.55 million new cars and light trucks in the US in 2016, according to research firm Autodata. Sixty percent of the sales were classified as light trucks since SUVs fall into that category. In 2015, 17.48 million units were sold, 56% of them light trucks.


Australian trade returns to surplus
For the first time in nearly three years, Australia recorded a trade surplus in November. Rebounding commodity prices helped lift the trade account into the black, and the data suggest that the economy might avoid a technical recession after shrinking by 0.5% in Q3.


Unhappy holidays for many US retailers

Many US retailers struggled this holiday season as sales continued to migrate to the Internet. Two notable cases were Macy’s and Sears, traditional anchor tenants of US shopping malls, which each announced the closure of more than 100 stores. Additionally, Sears announced the sale of its iconic Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $900 million.



  • The eurozone releases unemployment figures on Monday, 9 January
  • The minutes of the December meeting of the ECB Governing Council are released on Thursday, 12 January
  • China releases December trade figures on Friday, 13 January
  • US retail sales figures for December are reported on Friday, 13 January



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Sources: MFS research; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Online; Bloomberg News; Financial Times;;;


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