Economic week ahead: SA's data mania

The South African Reserve Bank will release February's international reserves, money supply and more. (Gallo)

The South African Reserve Bank will release February's international reserves, money supply and more. (Gallo)

The European Central Bank will announce its latest policy decisions this week, as will central banks in Angola, Ghana and Uganda. South Africa will release updated trade and financial statistics, the US will release updated employment figures and China will update on manufacturing. Here is your guide. 

Monday will be a busy day for data in South Africa.
The South African Reserve Bank will release February's international reserves, money supply and private sector credit data along with gross external debt figures for the fourth quarter of last year. The South African Revenue Service will report February's preliminary trade figures and Statistics South Africa will release quarterly financial statistics covering the final three months of 2013. 

Other notable releases scheduled for later in the week include March's vehicle sales figures from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa on Tuesday, FNB's first quarter business confidence index readings on Wednesday and the HSBC/Markit whole economy purchasing managers' index (PMI) on Thursday. 

Elsewhere on the continent, officials at Angola's central bank will announce their latest rates decision on Monday. Policy announcements will follow from the central banks of Ghana and Uganda on Tuesday and from Botswana sometime this week or early next. 

On the data docket, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria will release gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the fourth quarter of last year on Monday. Nigeria – currently Africa's number two economy – is widely expected to overtake South Africa for the number one slot once officials complete a long anticipated GDP re-basing exercise this year, the first since 1990.

Also on Monday, Kenya and Uganda will announce their March consumer inflation figures and Kenya and Morocco will report February's money supply figures, data which are also expected from Uganda sometime later in the week. 

United States 
America's data week will begin with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas's regional manufacturing gauge and the Chicago manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) on Monday. Consensus is that the Chicago PMI slipped slightly, but remained firmly in expansion territory.  

On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management's broader manufacturing gauge is likely to show that US industry expanded at a faster pace in March than in April. Consensus is that the gauge rose to 54 from 53.2 previously. Any reading above the 50-mark signals continued expansion. 

On Wednesday, attention will turn to last month's factory orders data, a measure of how busy factories will be over the coming months. Analysts expect orders to have risen 1.2% from January, an improvement on the prior month's 0.7% decline. 

Friday's monthly employment report is the big item on America's data calendar this week. Consensus is that the world's largest economy probably added 206 000 positions in March, up from 175 000 last month. The country's unemployment rate may have dropped to 6.6%. If expectations are met, this would match the lowest unemployment rate observed since October 2008. 

Monday will see the release of the eurozone's first estimate of March inflation. Inflation unexpectedly slowed to 0.7% in February, stoking concerns that the region may be slipping toward deflation. Consensus is that inflation slowed further, to 0.6% in March. 

On Tuesday, attention will shift to the eurozone's February unemployment figures. European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi has cited Europe's historically high jobless rate as a principal contributor to low inflation. Economists expect the unemployment rate to have remained unchanged at 12% last month.

Also on Tuesday, Foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) countries will begin a two-day meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation in Ukraine, among other topics. German, French and Polish foreign ministers will also meet in Weimar, Germany to discuss Ukraine and hold a press conference following their discussion.  

Eurozone finance ministers will gather in Athens on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of direct bank recapitalisation by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and assess the progress of Cyprus, Greece and Portugal in meeting the terms of their bailout programmes. They will take up the issue of providing financial assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday.

On Thursday, policymakers at the ECB will meet to consider interest rates. Consensus is that they will leave the ECB's benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low 0.25%. Markets will be paying particularly close attention to Mario Draghi's post-meeting press conference.

Finally, on Friday, Germany – Europe's largest economy and industrial powerhouse – will release last month's factory orders. 

On Tuesday, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) will release the country's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index for March. Flash results from a similar private sector gauge – the HSBC/Markit China PMI – released last week showed that China's manufacturing sector contracted for a third straight month in March. The disappointing data boosted expectations that China's government will implement additional stimulus measures to bolster growth in the world's second largest economy. 

Also on Tuesday, Japan's sales tax rate will rise from 5.% to 8.%. The controversial tax hike is the first in Asia's number two economy in 17-years. Supporters say the move is necessary to help tackle Japan's massive debt. Critics fear that the rates rise could cause consumers to pull back on spending, jeopardising the country's fragile economic recovery. 

The last time Japan raised its consumption tax – from 3% to 5% in 1997 – Japan's economy fell into recession not long afterwards. Most economists believe that the country's economy is likely to take a short-term hit this time, but not suffer as severely as in 1997 when the country was also dealing with the effects of the Asian financial crisis. 

If the tax does prove to be a bigger drag than expected, markets widely anticipate further offsetting stimulus measures from the country's central bank. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also pledged to pursue additional stimulus, should the need arise. 

Finally on Tuesday, the central banks of India and Australia will announce their latest rates decisions. No changes are expected from either institution. 

Matt Quigley

Matt Quigley

Matt Quigley writes the weekly economic preview for the Mail & Guardian. His blog on the South African economy can be found at Read more from Matt Quigley

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