The week to March 2nd, proved to be another busy one for the markets as important macroeconomic clues flooded the news. Global equity markets ended lower last week, after the US President, Donald Trump, triggered a global trade war as he announced he would impose new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Investors’ main focus was on Jerome Powell’s debut as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, as he testified last Tuesday in front of the House Financial Services Committee drawing a sharp reaction in the US and global stocks.
The GBP fell 1.2% against the USD while the FTSE 100 index fell 2.4%, amid concerns that a Brexit transition deal might not be finalized this month with the Irish boarder plan between the UK and the EU being one of the toughest issues of the negotiations. UK stocks finished in red last week, amid disappointing corporate results and as UK’s manufacturing sector activity dropped to an eight-month low in February. Additionally, UK’s consumer confidence worsened in February.
The Euro ended higher last week even ahead of two potentially major risk events. The final result of Merkel’s opposition SPD party election on the coalition deal that would secure Angela Merkel a fourth term in office. Italian election expectations over a hung parliament and the rise of eurosceptics also underscored the performance of the common-currency. Additionally, the Euro-zone’s inflation rose at a slower than expected pace in February, reducing expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) would abandon its stimulus plan earlier than planned. On the contrary, the Euro-zone’s manufacturing PMI unexpectedly rose in February, while the region’s economic confidence slipped for the same month.
The US stock market finished in negative territory, after the US Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, adopted a more upbeat stance on the future path of the interest rate hikes expected in 2018 while the USD ended mostly higher against its peers. Among the calendar economic events, US durable goods orders fell more than expected in January. On the contrary, the US economy, GDP, advanced as expected in the Q4, boosting projections of gradual interest rate hikes in 2018. Separately, US consumer confidence climbed to a 17-year high in February and the nation’s ISM manufacturing index surged to its highest level since May 2004 in February.
Gold prices fell last week, as the US Dollar gained ground against its major counterparts.