Financial Market Outlook for February 2016 – Part I


The first month of 2016 has shaped up to be nothing short of a bloodbath in the financial markets, as US equities recorded their worst weekly opens since records began while commodities took a heavy beating. Oil was one of the worst hit, with WTI crude oil and Brent crude oil falling below $30/barrel and triggering massive declines in oil-related currencies such as the Canadian dollar.

The slowdown in China also emerged as a major market driver early on, after weaker than expected manufacturing PMI readings from non-government sources revealed that the worst isn’t over. Asian stock markets plummeted one day after another upon hearing the news, prompting the Chinese government to impose controls only to suspend them later on and cause more panic.

So what can we expect for next month? More stock market losses? A deeper oil rut? Here are some market events and factors to look at.

More Chinese PMI Readings

Another batch of PMI reports are up for release from China, both from government and non-government agencies, at the very start of the month. Dismal readings could once again dampen confidence in the financial markets, possibly spurring another wave lower for global equities and sealing the return to a bear market.

If so, market participants could turn their attention to the People’s Bank of China, as speculations of further stimulus have been in play. Any actual move from the Chinese central bank to lower the reserve ratio requirement or to cut lending rates might actually be accompanied by a positive reaction, although it might do very little to restore optimism, especially since the IMF recently downgraded growth forecasts for the global economy this year and next year.

Fed Rate Hike Talks

While the Fed’s December rate hike might still be deemed as too early for some, dollar bulls can’t help but discuss yet another interest rate increase for March as US economic data continues to improve. The December NFP results turned out better than expected, reaffirming the FOMC’s view that labor market conditions are strengthening, and the January jobs report due in the first week of February could support this outlook.

However, Fed officials have also clarified that they’re turning their attention to inflation trends these days, suggesting that commodity price action and CPI readings could be more crucial to determining their next policy action. With that, further oil price declines could lower the odds of seeing another Fed rate hike before the end of the quarter and might dull the dollar’s shine.

Quarterly Data from New Zealand

New Zealand typically releases its economic reports on a quarterly basis, with the Q4 employment, retail sales, and PPI reports due in February. These could provide more clues as to whether or not the economy can stay resilient enough to weather further declines in dairy prices and other commodities, which might allow the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to keep monetary policy unchanged in their next rate statement.