Bond markets focussed on commentary from the Fed meeting, which pointed towards higher inflation, rather than recent data releases, which showed a slowing of the recovery.
Sectorally, energy stocks moved sharply lower, with the oil price down nearly 10% on the back of higher inventories and concerns about demand. In terms of US economic releases; retail sales, industrial production, and housing starts all disappointed. However, much of this has been attributed to the severe winter weather seen in February with the Federal Reserve attributing the bulk of the 2.2% decline in industrial production to the storms.
At the Fed rate meeting, there was no change as expected although there were sizable upwards revisions to GDP and inflation forecasts for 2021. GDP is now expected to rise 6.5% for the full year versus 4.2% previously, whilst inflation is now expected to be 2.4% versus 1.8%. However, the Fed are currently not expected to increase interest rates over the two years.
With the latest round of stimulus checks due to hit bank accounts this week shifting inflation expectations have been largely behind the move higher in bond yields, and thus lower prices.
The Bank of England also met last week and left its bank rate unchanged at 0.10% and made no alternations to its bond purchasing programme. Within the eurozone, stocks were up slightly whilst core bond yields were relatively flat as a number of countries begin to see rising case numbers.
Amid delays in the vaccine rollout programme, the EU is now moving to restrict vaccine exports to non-EU countries, most notably the UK. The AstraZenica vaccine has also been cleared as ‘safe’ following the temporary suspension last weekend.
Global stocks fell last week and were down0.8% in euro terms. However, year-to-date global markets are up 7.1% in euro terms and 4.2% in local terms. The US market, the largest in the world, was down 1.5%, with eurozone stocks returning 0.3%.
Fixed Income & FX
The US 10-year yield finished at 1.68% last week, up from 1.62% a week earlier. The German equivalent was broadly flat on the week and finished at -0.33%. The Irish 10-year bond yield finished at0.02%, to remain in positive territory. The Euro/US Dollar exchange rate finished at 1.19, whilst Euro/GBP finished at 0.86.
Oil finished the week at $60 per barrel. Gold finished the week at $1,732per troy ounce. Copper finished the week at $9,073 per tonne.
The week ahead
Tuesday 23rd March
UK employment data and US home sales readings are released.
Wednesday 24th March
US, EMU, and UK PMIs go to print.
Friday 26th March
UK retail sales for February are published.