Bitesize Global Overview… Sept 18th 2012

Equity markets extend gains – Equity markets rose strongly last week, as the Federal Reserve’s decision to launch a third round of quantitative easing to bolster the US economy along with upbeat news out of the eurozone gave fresh impetus to risk assets. Equities extended earlier gains as the week progressed, and commodities including gold made healthy gains.

US Federal Open Market Committee Meeting – In its post-meeting policy statement, the Fed announced its highly-anticipated quantitative easing, purchasing additional agency mortgage backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month in another effort to stimulate the economy. The Fed also extended its guidance on how long interest rates would stay “exceptionally” low, from late 2014 to mid-2015.

US economic data – The US Federal Reserve has lowered its 2012 growth forecast, expecting it to be no stronger than 2% this year. Elsewhere, the University of Michigan consumer confidence index rose to its highest level since May.

Currencies – On currency markets, the euro currency was boosted by recent positive developments surrounding the eurozone debt crisis and the US Federal Reserve’s decision to launch a fresh round of quantitative easing. Over the course of the week, the euro rose above 1.30 to reach its highest level against the dollar in more than four months. The €/$ rate ended the week at €1.31, a strengthening of 2.6%.

Oil & Commodities – Commodities rallied to multi-month highs last week after receiving a boost from the US Federal Reserve’s decision to launch further stimulus. The West Texas oil price ended the week at $99 a barrel, 2.7% higher. Elsewhere, gold prices jumped to a six-month peak of $1,773 a troy ounce, a gain of over 2%. Elsewhere, silver, platinum and palladium also gained.

Bitesize Global Overview….. Sept 3rd 2012

Equity markets retreat – Equity markets worldwide finished the week lower, but well off their lows of the week, as disappointing economic data releases overshadowed Ben Bernanke’s comments following the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium.

Federal Reserve – At Jackson Hole, Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, defended the effectiveness of the actions it has taken over the past few years to try to improve economic growth. Further to this, with unemployment a ‘grave concern’ to the Fed, Ben Bernanke signalled it was prepared to introduce further stimulus, probably in the form of further quantitative easing, if unemployment remains high. Many analysts are expecting the Fed to announce what further action it plans on taking at its next meeting.

Eurozone economic confidence – A gauge of eurozone consumer confidence dropped to its lowest in more than three years in August, while employment expectations among manufacturers also declined.

Currencies – On currency markets, the dollar weakened against most major currencies over the week, partly as a result of the Fed’s comments regarding jobs and growth, increasing the view that further quantitative easing will be introduced, sooner rather than later. The €/$ rate ended the week close to €1.26.

Oil – Oil finished the week relatively unchanged. It had, however, been sharply lower but pared its losses late in the week as producers worked to restore output and resume operations after Hurricane Isaac passed. Also the Fed signalled it was willing to act to support economic growth. The West Texas oil price ended the week at slightly above $96 a barrel. Elsewhere, gold ended the week at $1,682.