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Week Ahead: NFP in the spotlight as “everything” rally continues

Vantage Updated Updated Sun, 2024 March 31 12:55

It’s a new quarter and month which means the Friday US employment report will take centre stage. Despite the monthly moderation in last Friday’s US PCE inflation, the upward revisions to prior rates for both the headline and core measures remain a black mark on the Fed’s goal of returning to the 2% inflation target. It is likely to take more evidence of moderation in the months ahead to give the Fed the confidence to pull the trigger on its first rate cut this year. Meantime, there was a mixed picture with strong consumer spending last month bolstering forecasts of first quarter GDP, while the drop in the personal saving rate points to a spending slowdown in the second quarter.

As well as the marquee US jobs report, we get a host of Fed speakers and important soft survey data in the form of the ISM figures. These gauges of activity can often inform expectations for hard data so will be of interest to markets who currently assign around a 64% chance of a first Fed 25bps cut in June. Of course, the NFP data will grab the headlines with payrolls expected to rise solidly, with job gains mainly concentrated in just three sectors. The jobless rate should remain below 4% with wage growth still relatively benign. A broadly set of positive data should confirm the current environment, while a hotter set of figures would dent rate cut bets and further boost USD. That would also further cement recent comments by various FOMC officials, including Chair Powell and Waller, that they are in no rush to cut rates.

Stalling US inflation has not been replicated in Europe, with consistent downward pressure seen in both the headline and core measures in recent months. ECB officials have all been recently singing from the same June rate cut sheet too, so only outsized CPI readings on Wednesday would upset markets. That said, there may be some noise in this release, which means policymakers may look though this ahead of next week’s ECB meeting. President Lagarde recently stated we’ll all know a lot more in June. EUR/USD lost 1.08 support last week so could eye up the 1.07 region below if the disinflation story continues apace.

In Brief: major data releases of the week

01 April 2024, Monday

US ISM Manufacturing: March ISM is forecast to rise to 48.5 from 47.8. But the gauge will have been stuck in contraction (sub-50) for 17 straight months. The PMI data rose to a multi-month high, though input prices rose at the fastest pace in six months.

02 April 2024, Tuesday

– Australia RBA Monetary Policy Minutes: The bank kept rates unchanged at 4.35%, as expected. However, there was a more balanced, dovish tone to the statement and Governor Bullock held back from any hawkish surprises in the press conference.

03 April 2024, Wednesday

Eurozone CPI: Headline CPI is predicted to fall one-tenth to 2.5% and the core print to 3.0%. Focus will be on sticky services inflation, which may be impacted by government measures earlier in the year and Easter.  

US ISM Services: The March print is predicted to rise modestly to 52.7 from 52.6. A reading above 50 indicates growth in the services sector, which accounts for over two-thirds of the economy. Upward pressure on prices will be watched, with higher fuel and stronger wages evident.

05 April 2024, Friday

– US Non-Farm Payrolls: Consensus expects a headline print of 200k, down from the prior 275k. But there was a negative revision of 167k to the prior two months. The jobless rate is forecast to remain at 3.9% and average hourly earnings tick up two-tenths to 0.3%. Household employment has shown persistent weakness.

– Canada Jobs: Expectations are for 20k job gains in March. The unemployment rate is predicted to remain unchanged at 5.8%. The labour market remains robust with wage growth still relatively hot and well above the BoC’s 2% inflation target.