GLOBAL MACRO NEWS
Legislative calendar grows more challenging for Trump
President Donald Trump’s health care reform and tax cut agenda have faced significant legislative headwinds for some time, but those headwinds stiffened considerably after the president removed from office embattled Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. Measures that require a 60-vote majority in the 100-seat United States Senate will be extremely difficult to enact given the charged political environment. Republicans, with 52 senators, hold a slim majority.
Macron outperforms expectations
Centrist Emmanuel Macron was expected to easily beat right-wing populist Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election, but his margin of victory proved to be even larger than expected. Macron received 66% of the vote to Le Pen’s 34%. He must now forge a governing majority in the National Assembly, with two-round parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 June and 18 June.
South Korea’s president aims for warmer North Korea relations
Newly-elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in took office on Wednesday and vowed to resolve the security crisis on the Korean peninsula as soon as possible, including by traveling to Pyongyang, under the right conditions. On the economic front, Moon is expected to push for the reform of South Korea’s conglomerate system, as well as to seek higher corporate taxes.
VIX bounces from 24-year lows
Volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Index (VIX), fell to its lowest level since 1993 this week amid unusually calm equity trading conditions. The VIX, at 10.6 on Friday morning 12 May, is running at roughly half of its twenty-year average, according to Reuters. Analysts are struggling to explain the unusually placid market environment, with one well-known pundit this week pinning the blame on social media. The VIX slipped as low as 9.7 on Monday 8 May.
Greek bailout may secure IMF backing
Concerns over the sustainability of Greek debt have caused in the International Monetary Fund to bypass the past several rounds of funding for the indebted eurozone member. But the IMF looks likely to rejoin the bailout in the weeks ahead, and continues to push European authorities to grant Greece debt relief. An agreement is expected at a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers on 22 May.
US consumer perks up
US retail sales expanded at the fastest rate in three months in April, while prior months’ data were revised higher. Strong labor markets and modestly rising wages are supporting consumption. Consumer prices in the US remain subdued, rising 0.2% in April after falling 0.3% in March. Core CPI rose 0.1% in April, and was up 1.9% versus a year ago.
Bank of England leaves policy untouched, lowers outlook
The Bank of England left interest rates unchanged at their rate-setting meeting on Thursday but the Monetary Policy Committee slightly downgraded its economic growth forecast for 2017 to 1.9% from an earlier 2% outlook. Governor Mark Carney allowed in a press conference that the BOE “has not modeled” for a disorderly Brexit process. Carney also said that if the Brexit process goes smoothly, the Bank may need to hike interest rates faster than the market expects.
As of 11 May, with 457 of the S&P 500 companies having reported, earnings are expected to increase 14.7% in Q1 versus a year ago. Excluding energy, earnings are expected to grow 10.4%. Revenues are expected to grow 7.3%, or 5.3%, excluding energy. The next-twelve-months P/E ratio is 17.8%, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
THE WEEK AHEAD
- China reports retail sales and industrial production data on Monday, 15 May
- US industrial production is released on Tuesday, 16 May
- Japan releases its Q1 gross domestic product figures on Wednesday, 17 May
- The United Kingdom releases its April retail sales report on Thursday, 18 May
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Sources: MFS research; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Online; Bloomberg News;Financial Times; Forbes.com; CNNMoney.com; NBCNews.com.
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