Last week saw the European central bank deliver a bigger than expected stimulus plan. Quantitive easing was expanded, interest rates were cut and a new round of cheap long-term loans for eurozone banks were announced. However, at the same time, it was made clear that interest rate were unlikely to rise again in the near future. The programme was larger than expected and is a strong signal that the ECB is not willing to allow the continent to slip into deflation.
Overall, markets have reacted positively, even if the euro isn’t falling in the way expected. March and April have historically been strong months for indices and the London market ended the week in a positive mood. Having dropped 1.8% on Thursday, the FTSE 100 rose 103.09 points or 1.71% on Friday to 6,139.79.
The ECB stimulus package and the news of the cheap loans programme lead to bank stocks doing well. Barclays and Standard Chartered were both in positive territory, adding 3.8% and 4.3% respectively on Friday. Lloyds lost 3.35% in value last week and closed at just over 70p.
George Osborne is making his budget announcement on Wednesday and it appears that there are more cuts on the cards. The Chancellor stated on Sunday that we need to “act now rather than pay later”. Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Osborne stated that the UK is facing the “most uncertain period since the Great Recession” and is now balancing a growing cocktail of risks.
Looming large is the June 23 vote on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union which will have an impact on his thinking. The speech will be an opportunity for him to present himself as the next natural prime minister. He has also staked his reputation on achieving a budget surplus by the end of this parliament.
Osborne has form in pulling some populist giveaways out of the hat and he may well go some way towards fulfilling some manifesto pledges, such as further rises in the personal tax allowance and the basic rate tax threshold. It also seems that he will not raid pensions further, but may choose to raise revenue from an increase in fuel duty instead. He is expected to say that, according to the forecasts from the Budget of Office Responsibility, the country remains on track to reach a surplus in the fiscal year 2019/20.
It is expected that the The Chancellor will announce plans to sell 16 billion pounds ($23 billion) worth of bank assets which were rescued from Bradford & Bingley (B&B) during the financial crisis. Look out for any further hints in relation to the timing of the Lloyds share Sale.
Among other considerations, the Budget may well factor into the Monetary Policy Committee’s deliberations and policy announcement scheduled for the following day.
In the US, all eyes will be on Donald Trump, to see if he will succeed in securing enough delegates for the Republican Party’s nomination. A raft of results (including Florida) come through on Tuesday.
A significant amount of US data is also set for release throughout the week, with those that are likely to have the biggest market impact being the latest retail sales and consumer price figures, on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Eurozone consumer price data referencing the month of February, on Thursday, is expected to show the price level in the single currency area slipped at a 0.2% year-on-year pace.
On the corporate front, Legal & General, Sainsbury’s and M&C Saatchi are some of the names that are scheduled to update this week.