Week In Review: March 21-March 24, 2016
- This week our hearts go out to the families of those who were injured or lost their lives in the terror attacks in Belgium, the latest European country to be hit by the growing terrorist threat that is known as the Islamic State.
- The number of Americans filing for state unemployment benefits jumped by 6,000 claims last week, but an identical downward revision to the previous week’s numbers made the result a shell game. The seasonally adjusted level of claims remained at the previous level of 265,000.
- The U.S. Federal Reserve remains the primary driver of market moves as analysts begin to parse every word any of its members have to say. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard sparked a move higher in the dollar this week when he told Bloomberg News “We didn’t do it [raise rates], so now we can look at April and see what the data look like when we get to April.” His words came on the heels of Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker who also said that the Fed should consider hiking rates next month. The Fed acknowledged last week that the weakening global economy will have a clear effect on their ability to continue interest rate increases and it now appears that individual members disagree with chair Janet Yellen’s statements about that.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continues to flagrantly defy the new sanctions put in place by the United Nations and the United States over their nuclear ambitions and missile programs. On Monday, the belligerent North once again fired multiple short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast. This latest provocation follows last Friday’s launching of two ballistic missiles and Monday’s projectiles flew 200km from their launching point before falling into the sea. North Korea’s neighbours in the region are growing increasingly concerned over the North’s growing aggression.
- Japan’s manufacturing activity contracted in March as exports declined more than expected. The drop marks the first such contraction in nearly a year and has analysts concerned that the plunge is evidence that the global economy is showing signs of further weakness. The data came from an initial “flash” reading of the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) and if the final report confirms the contraction, Japan’s economy may be headed back into recession if the trend continues.
- On Tuesday, Brussels, Belgium was rocked by two terror attacks on its travel infrastructure. Explosions rocked the Brussels Airport and a metro station, triggering lock downs and security sweeps throughout the city. The Islamic State immediately claimed responsibility for the strikes and the jihadist group promised “dark days” for those countries which continue to battle the group, threatening that “what is coming is worse and more bitter.” The latest terrorist attacks to strike Europe have reignited tensions over the continued migrant refugee crisis. The attacks have served to inflame anger and suspicion at the growing number of refugees who have flooded into Europe as they flee civil war and terror groups in their home countries. Fears are growing that Islamic extremist groups are using the massive movement of people into Europe as a screen to spread terrorist cells throughout the region. Greece, which continues to struggle under its own economic troubles, is at the forefront of the crisis as many refugees arrive on its shores first before trying to move further into Europe. The growing mistrust across Europe has led to many refugees being stranded in Greece as other European Union members close their borders and refuse entry to additional refugees.
- The Bank of Japan (BoJ), apparently held a lively discussion on their January decision to move to negative interest rates at their most recent monetary policy meeting. Thursday’s release of the meeting minutes from the central bank’s meeting over March 14-15 showed several members debating the pros and cons of rolling back the policy. One board member said “It’s preferable to roll back the negative rate policy, but abandoning it immediately after introducing it would cause market confusion and risk eroding trust in the BoJ. With the effects still not clear, we should maintain the policy.”
- U.S. oil prices dropped back below $40 a barrel on Thursday, falling nearly 3% as the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude stockpiles surged by 9.4 million barrels last week. A Reuters poll of analysts had forecast a climb of just 3.1 million barrels and the sharp surge to the upside overshadowed rumoured plans by global oil producers to “freeze” production.
- The euro started the week attempting to move higher against the U.S. dollar in a series of peaks and valleys, but by Tuesday had begun steadily dropping. In this shortened week, the euro appears set to close lower against the U.S. dollar. The Japanese yen also moved in a series of peaks and valleys this week, but the overall movement was to the downside against the U.S. dollar. The yen too appears set to close the shortened week lower against the U.S. dollar.
– Trading Department, Precious Metals International, Ltd.