In the euro area, the round of March confidence surveys should confirm a stabilisation of the cycle at depressed levels, based on the AE average, as opposed to a stronger recovery of the German economy. The composite PMI is estimated to rise back to around January levels (48.4), after declining in February……..……
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The ZEW index could stay stable after recovering strongly over the three previous months. The IFO index is estimated to rise to 107.8, from 107.4 previously. The French INSEE index and the Bank of Belgium’s indices are also expected to recover, although confidence remains historically low in these countries. Italian Industrial output should prove stagnant in January, after recovering in December, and show a 6.1% contraction in the year.
Households’ confidence in the euro area is expected stable, and still below the long-term average.
This week in the United States the main events will be the FOMC meeting and the Congressional debate on the Budget. Most of the releases will be referred to the real estate sector: March homebuilders’ confidence index, February housing starts, permits, and sales of existing homes, should all resume a solid pace of growth after a temporary hiatus in the upward trend. The March Philadelphia Fed index should be back in positive territory and close the gap opened with the other sector surveys. The FOMC meeting is expected to send reassuring signals to the markets on the continuation of the asset purchase programme, while preparing the scene for changes in the future. In Congress, the debate over the 2014 Budget will enter a more active phase, but there is no sign of a possible compromise being reached, for the time being.
Monday 18 March
– In March, the builders’ confidence index should resume the positive trend observed since September 2011 and temporarily interrupted in January and February 2013. The index is expected to rise to 48 after falling to 46 in February. All sector indicators are positive and consistent with on-going expansion in residential construction activity in 2013 as well.
– Senate to discuss the 2014 Budget proposals
Tuesday 19 March
– Germany. The ZEW index is expected to remain stable in March at 48.2, after rising sharply over the previous three months, given the higher volatility observed on the financial markets in the first half of March. The index would stay above its long-term average (23.4).
– Italy. Industrial output is expected to prove stable in January, after rebounding by 0.4% m/m the previous month. Confidence among manufacturing companies seesawed between November and January, and suggests only a slight improvement compared to the three previous months. Output adjusted by workdays should contract by 6.1% y/y, from -6.6% y/y at the end of 2012. If confirmed, the January reading would leave the trend of production on course for a 0.1% decline, although the manufacturing PMI points to smaller output in February. Therefore, the quarter may close showing a 0.4% q/q decline, an improvement compared to the -2.1% q/q change at the end of 2012.
– Housing starts are estimated to have risen sharply in February, to 925k from 890k in January.
The Employment Report outlined a large increase in construction payrolls (+35k) and work hours, pointing to a sustained change in housing starts. Licences should be up to 930k from 904k (revised from 925k) in January. Housing starts and licences marked a hiatus in their solid uptrend in January. Housing starts in the volatile multi-family segment should show an especially solid rise, after correcting in January.
Wednesday 20 March
– Euro area. After recovering for two months in a row, households’ confidence could take a breather in March, at -23.6. Sentiment remains uncertain and the outlook for the labour market worsened in the past two months. The index remains on historically depressed levels, and suggests that demand for consumer goods will stay weak in the first part of this year, after the poor exit from 2012.
– The FOMC meeting should leave monetary policy unchanged, while introducing changes on the communication front. The statement should be broadly in line with the January release, albeit with a brighter assessment of the economic picture, in particular with regard to demand in the private sector and employment. No changes are expected to be made to the asset purchase programme, that should stay in place until a “substantial improvement in the labour market outlook” is observed. During the press conference, Bernanke should provide information on the management of the asset purchase programme, offering two types of indications. First of all, Bernanke should specify which set of variables the Fed is looking at to assess if there is a “substantial improvement in the labour market outlook”. Secondly, the Chairman may signal that the Fed’s balance sheet will stay in line with the levels that will be reached upon conclusion of QE3 for a longer period than expected, possibly allowing for purchases to be stepped down without halting stimulus growth. Bernanke may also outline the main points of an analysis of the costs and benefits of the purchase programme that the staff will have ready in time for the March meeting. In any case, Bernanke’s statements will be reassuring and consistent with a continuation of the programme at its current pace. The FOMC will seek to reassure the markets that purchases will continue at a rate of 85 billion dollars a month, while preparing them for an slower pace of purchases, which we expect in the second half of the year.
Thursday 21 March
– Euro area. The preliminary estimate of the March composite PMI should outline a slight recovery, to 48.4 from 47.9 the previous month. The index would therefore rise back to just below its January level. The manufacturing PMI is expected to recover further, to 48.4 from 47.9 last month. The services PMI is forecast at 48.2 from 47.9 the previous month, still below the December reading. PMI indices remain compatible with a stabilisation of the cycle on depressed
levels, although indications of pick-up of global demand, and of an acceleration of the economic recovery in Germany, raise hopes of a gradual return to positive growth rates for industrial activity in the euro area.
– The March Philadelphia Fed index is forecast to rise to 6.5 from -12.5 in February. The February survey was surprisingly negative in contrast to the other sector surveys, which were broadly positive and improving. Therefore, we expect the gap which has been separating the index from the ISM for several months now to narrow in March. The relation between the two series would place the Philly Fed estimate at 9.8 in March. The breakdown of the February
survey was mixed, with some variables showing an improvement (deliveries, employment), as opposed to a still markedly negative trend for new orders. However, the 6-month activity index has kept improving, rising to 32.1 from its recent low of 21.7 in October 2012. In particular, the February survey had sent a very solid signal on investment spending, up to 15.7 from 6 in January- Therefore, in our view this survey should also toe the line with the others in
signalling a rapid expansion of the sector.
– Sales of existing homes are estimated to have risen to 5.1 million ann. in February, from 4.92 million, in light of markedly positive pending home sales in January. Sales are expected to hit a high since November 2009, when incentives to encourage home purchases were introduced.
The indications provided by pending home sales are consistent with an acceleration in the pace of growth of existing home sales also in the months beyond February.
Friday 22 March
– Germany. In March, the IFO index is expected to rise less than in previous months, to 107.8 from 107.4 in February. The current situation index may improve to 110.8 from 110.2. The index is now almost one standard deviation above the long-term average. The expectations component for the next three/six months is seen stable at 104.6, after gaining 11.2 points over the previous four months. The IFO index suggests that la Germany has intercepted the recovery in global demand which began at the end of 2012, and that industrial output should resume growing already as of February.
– Belgium. The bank of Belgium’s economic sentiment index should rise further in March, to -10.0 from -11 the previous month. The index would therefore stay below the long-term average of -7.7, although the worst should now be over.
– France. The INSEE index of manufacturing company confidence is expected to rise slightly, to 91 from 90 in February, still well below its long-term average. In February, foreign demand improved significantly, a trend we expect to be confirmed this month, in light of the indications of a recovery in global demand. French manufacturing is still lagging the German sector, not only because of its more limited openness to the dynamic emerging markets, but also due to a significant loss of competitiveness in the past five years.
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