Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Economic Data Preview

US Q1 GDP Second Estimate and German IFO Survey Feature

We are expecting a small upward revision to US Q1 GDP in the second estimate based on a slightly more positive contribution from net exports. However, the depth of GDP contraction will have remained historically steep, see chart 1. Also this week, we are looking for a second consecutive monthly rise in the key German IFO business survey. This mirrors other European surveys that show the region's recession is easing, but output still contracting, see chart 2. In addition, a plethora of speeches by ECB President Trichet and members including Weber, will be interpreted for comments on incoming data and clues about the likely impact of economic developments on economic policy. In addition, the US Treasury has a heavy auction schedule of $101bn of notes, while the outcome of the UK DMOs £1.25bn sale of 1.25% gilts due 2032 will be closely monitored following financial market concern over S&P's medium-term debt downgrade. UK and US markets are closed on Monday.

UK data will continue to be perused for signs of the economy stabilising - house prices and the CBI distributive trades & GfK consumer confidence surveys are all due. The market consensus forecast is for the Nationwide house price index to have fallen close to 1% on a monthly basis in May, compared with a decline of 0.4% in April. Whereas this is an improvement compared with the 12-month average trend of -1.4% and may well provide limited evidence that house price falls may be steadying, annual prices are still dropping at a hefty pace of -13.7%. While last week's stronger than expected official retail sales data prepares the way for a less pessimistic CBI distributive trades survey outcome - we expect an index level of -12 in May, significantly better than the 12-month average of -31, the figure is likely to be worse than +3 in April. Finally, the GfK consumer confidence index may have worsened to -30 in May from -27 in April, indicating that household spending may fall for the third consecutive quarter in Q2, after 1% quarterly contractions in both Q1 and in Q4 2008.

Q1 annualised GDP second estimate is the key US economic data release of the week - it may show a contraction of -5.5% compared with -6.1% in the preliminary release, due to an upward revision in the contribution of net external trade. Durable goods orders, excluding transport, due Thursday, are notorious for backward revisions and any changes in the monthly series will impact on the Q1 GDP second release outcome. Other data may enhance the view that there are small economic improvements underway in the last few months - consumer confidence, existing & new home sales and the Chicago PMI manufacturing survey may have strengthened. Also important, the weekly US initial jobs claim figure may be lower again this week, but with the jobless rate still rising, continuing claims, the total number of people filing for unemployment benefit, could break the 6.6m high.

We expect German Q1 GDP (final) to confirm a massive contraction of 3.8% in the quarter and 6.9% on an annual basis, as investment plummeted and exports dropped due to contracting markets and the strong euro. However, more recent data has improved and the key IFO index of business confidence index may rise for a second consecutive month in May, after increasing off a 26-year low last month as significant monetary and fiscal stimulus may have started to ease the recession. This is in line with other eurozone business surveys, such as the PMIs, that portray a similar story. Also important, EU-16 industrial orders which have been contracting at a massive annual rate of almost 34.5% may rise on a monthly basis in March due to stronger German data. Despite some early signs of the recession easing, the EU-16 unemployment rate may have risen to 9% in April from 8.9% a month earlier and is likely to be very close to 10% by end -year.

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