Putin/Biden Talks, Jobless Claims and U.K. Housing – What’s Moving Markets

Clyde H. Foy
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Putin/Biden Talks, Jobless Claims and U.K. Housing - What's Moving Markets

By Peter Nurse  

Investing.com — Putin and Biden are set to discuss Ukraine, while ECB’s members debate inflationary pressures. Stock markets are set to end the year on the rise, like the U.K. housing market, and crude waits for OPEC to discuss output levels. Here’s what you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, 30th December.

1. Putin and Biden to hold talks

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to speak later Thursday amid growing tensions over the situation in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine have concerned the West ever since its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014. The situation has become more acute in recent weeks, with the U.S. accusing Moscow of plotting to invade the Eastern European country, pointing out the massing of tens of thousands of troops near the Ukraine border in the past two months.

Russia officially denies planning to attack Ukraine, and says it has the right to move its troops on its own soil as it likes. 

That said, Moscow has expressed concern about NATO expanding eastwards, and has been seeking guarantees that Ukraine or other neighboring countries will not be allowed to join the Western military alliance or house NATO’s advanced weaponry.

The call will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET (2030 GMT), the White House said. 

2. Stocks to edge higher; Jobless claims in focus

U.S. stocks are set to open marginally higher Thursday, aided by more positive Omicron vaccine news ahead of the release of the latest U.S. labor market data.

By 5:20 AM ET, Dow Jones futures were up 20 points, or 0.1%, S&P 500 futures were 5 points higher, or 0.1%, while Nasdaq 100 futures edged up 40 points, or 0.2%.

The major averages are set to close the year on a positive note, with all three indices in the green for December, boosted by hopes that new coronavirus-related curbs and restrictions may not be needed into 2022 as the Omicron variant is seen as less dangerous than other variants, even if the number of cases keeps rising.

Helping the tone Thursday was the news that a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine was 84% effective at preventing hospitalization in South African healthcare workers who became infected with the Omicron variant, according to a study published earlier Thursday.

Also in the spotlight Thursday will be Micron (NASDAQ:MU) after the memory chip makers warned that strict Covid-19 curbs in the Chinese city of Xian could disrupt its chip manufacturing base in the area.

The main economic release is the weekly initial jobless claims number, at 8:30 AM ET (1330 GMT), which is expected to be largely unchanged from the previous week’s 205,000, a level that is generally consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

3. ECB’s inflation hawks and doves

The Federal Reserve may have finally decided that inflation was running too hot for it to ignore, but the debate over rising prices within the European Central Bank is still ongoing.

The ECB earlier this month raised its inflation projections to above its 2% target for this year and in 2022 while forecasting inflation would then fall below that figure in the following two years.

However, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview Thursday that inflation in the euro zone could very well exceed these current projections for the coming years, saying that the central bank’s outlook could prove to be too rosy.

“I have a different view, I think the chance we remain stuck above 2% is just as big. Not far above 2%, but still,” Knot told Dutch daily Trouw.

This view was countered by ECB Governing Council member Ignazio Visco, who stated on Thursday that the forecasts that inflation in the Eurozone will be below 2% in 2023 and 2024 are exposed to downside not just upside risks.

This internal debate between hawks and doves within the ECB is likely to last some time, and could get heated.

4. U.K. housing market soars

There has been very little to write home about as far as the U.K. economy is concerned, with the exception of the buoyant housing market.

Britain’s economy experienced its biggest annual decline in 300 years in 2020 amid the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and the rebound has been gradual with Brexit remaining a drag on growth.

That said, British house prices rose by a stronger-than-expected 1.0% in December from November, capping the biggest full-year rise in prices since 2006, according to data from mortgage lender Nationwide Thursday.

House prices this month were 10.4% higher than in December 2020, helped by a now-lapsed tax break for buyers and by ongoing demand for bigger properties as more people work from home.

5. Crude enjoys a banner year

Oil prices weakened Thursday, handing back some of the previous session’s gains after U.S. inventories data showed continued demand from the world’s largest consumer despite rising numbers of Covid cases.

By 5:20 AM ET, U.S. crude futures were down 0.9% at $75.91 a barrel and Brent futures fell 0.9% at $78.54 a barrel.

U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week to Dec. 24, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, released Wednesday, roughly in line with what the American Petroleum Institute reported on Tuesday. 

Gasoline and distillate inventories also fell, indicating demand remains strong despite record Covid-19 cases in the United States.

Crude is on course to post gains of between 50% and 60% in 2021 as demand has climbed back to near pre-pandemic levels while top producers have adopted a very cautious stance in returning output to the market.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, is due to meet next week to assess production policy heading into 2022.

 

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