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Asia week ahead - China's PMIs, US Q4 GDP, tariffs deadline?

Global equity markets had largely been adrift this week awaiting the outcome of the US-China trade talks in Washington. Looking into the week ahead, more Fed and the China’s February PMIs would likely provide us with direction.

Market recap – Centring US-China trade

Once again, we are near the end of US-China trade talks in the week as we pen this week ahead, awaiting updates. One would recall Asia markets catching up to the gains in the US from trade optimism on Monday and it would not be a surprise if we should find the conclusions, expected after Asia’s market close, again playing the key role in shaping next Monday’s commencement. Notably, this week saw President Donald Trump injecting more rosy sentiment surrounding the talks and referring to the March 1 deadline as not a ‘magical date’, thereby enlivening hopes of an extension. The expectation perhaps had all been priced in, but any mention of further details towards a deal would be a crowd pleaser, especially after hearing news of the two sides outlining commitment in principles. One to watch. Note that with the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi next week, there would be ample opportunities for the President to speak during Asia hours trade.

Fed Powell testimony

The other key item this week, January’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes release had played out largely in line with expectations, delivering a broadly dovish stance but details are few and far between. The takeaway of Fed members being conflicted on rate hikes had been accompanied by the lack of insight as to where the committee sees rates going into the year-end, an answer perhaps awaiting March’s FOMC projections. Meanwhile on the Fed’s balance sheet run-off, the expected halt before the end of the year is still missing details on the plan.

All said, Fed chair Jerome Powell’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively will likely keep us peeled for any further insights. As per the minutes release, the expected reminder of Fed dovishness forms the downside bias for the greenback and support for markets. Limited reaction may however be seen whereupon realization.

US Q4 GDP and other data checks

Amid growth concerns, US Q4 GDP will also finally be released in the coming week. Slated to slowdown to 2.4% quarter-on-quarter according to the market consensus from 3.5% in Q3, the number is likely to reflect the weakness in quarter across segments such as domestic consumption. As seen previously, the plunge in retail sales into December had been one to invite revisions across the board. Look to the reaction with downside risks for the greenback here as well.

It will be a busy week for data watchers with a slew of releases such as February’s ISM manufacturing figure and conference board consumer confidence among others. Euro area GDPs and CPI readings will also be released into the end of the week. Look to the trickle-down effect to Asia markets here.

Watching China’s February PMIs

For Asia markets, the attention will no doubt centre around China’s high-frequency PMI figures. Official PMIs will be released on Thursday for February and the Caixin manufacturing reading thereafter on Friday. January’s manufacturing PMIs had diverged between the official and private number, though both remained within contraction territory. This is an expected likelihood with February’s reading as well. That said, with Chinese New Year falling flat in the month, the market could be taking in the reading with a pinch of salt.

Other items expected across the week ranges Japan’s industrial production to consumer confidence numbers. For the local Singapore market, January’s industrial production and CPI will also be seen on Monday.

Do note that unless we find an extension confirmed prior to the March 1 deadline for tariffs implementation, regional markets will likely be trading cautiously into the end of the week.

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