Backward-looking data dreadful; forward-looking surveys slightly more upbeat although still very subdued
- German GDP fell -2.2% in Q1, confirming earlier estimates and taking the economy into its first technical recession since 2013 (4Q19: -0.1%). Consumption and business fixed investment drove the majority of the contraction, -3.2% and -6.9% respectively over the quarter. This took the annual fixed investment rate to -10.1%, representing a 10-year low. Economists are expecting consumption to levels to remain subdued given the slow easing of lockdown and spike the savings ratio. Exports (-3.2%) fell more than imports (-1.6%).
- The IFO business climate survey gave a better reading than was expected in May, recovering from 74.3 to 79.5 (consensus: 78.5). The biggest gains were seen in trade (-48.4 to -30.5 MoM) and services (-34.2 to -21.0). This was the highest monthly increase on record, but only recovered half of the record decline seen in April. Whilst schools, restaurants and shops reopen and football matches resume, the pace of recovery is still expected to be slow, with the German government forecasting a GDP impact of -6.3% this year (which would represent a record post-war recession). Among its European peers, Germany is expected to recover faster than other economies given the relative speed of reopening and lower reliance on harder-hit industries such as tourism.
- The US Conference Board index for consumer confidence improved in May to 86.6 (April revised: 85.7, consensus: 87.0). Again, the assessment of current conditions was poor in May whilst the expectations index rose +2.6pts (to 96.9). The labour differential increased by 5.3pts as a larger proportion of respondents reported jobs being difficult to secure. New homes sales increased 0.6% in May, better than was expected but barely retracing the -13.7% plunge in March.
Nevertheless, and despite bellicose anti-China rhetoric from the US Administration, risk markets posted robust performance
- Equities rallied strongly through the week, although they ended on a weaker note ahead of the Trump press conference at which China-bashing was to feature at the top of the agenda; the S&P500 topped 3,000 for the first time since 5 March.
- Credit spreads tightened strongly all week, even on Friday despite a broadly softer macro tone. Sterling markets played catch-up to some extend over the week, having lagged EUR and USD markets in recent weeks.
- The dollar was firmly for sale, allowing gold to hold above $1,700/oz despite the risk-on tone, Core government bond yields in Europe were less than 5bp higher whilst US treasuries were essentially flat, with the exception of the long-end (10yr+) which was 5bp higher, mirroring the widening in inflation breakevens.