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In Europe and in markets, attention is shifting to the French presidential election, while in the US markets await first-quarter growth figures and possibly a long-awaited tax reform plan from the Trump administration.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
France heads to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the presidential election. The latest polls, conducted before Thursday’s attack in Paris, show the first round is too close to call. The polls indicated that any combination of the top four candidates — François Fillon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Mélenchon — could make it into the second round head-to-head run-off on May 7.
The attack that led to the death of a policeman on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on Thursday has fuelled security concerns. And US President Donald Trump tweeted that the attack would have a big effect on the election, later telling the Associated Press it would probably help Ms Le Pen because she is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France”.
Polling stations are expected to close by 8pm CET with exit polls following soon after. By 11pm CET on Sunday the result should be known with a high degree of certainty. Folks at ABN Amro said a Macron-Fillon showdown in the second round would be the most market-friendly outcome.
Investors have a fair bit to digest in the US next week. Economists anticipate that growth cooled in the first quarter as consumer spending softened. Data are expected to show that GDP increased an annualised 1.1 per cent in the first three months of the year, from the previous quarter’s 2.1 per cent rise.
“Fundamentally, the main driver of the slowdown will be a sharp drop in consumer spending–we are forecasting only 0.5 per cent growth,” said economists at Bank of America. “Consumer spending was subdued in part due to warmer weather, which reduced demand for utilities and winter-related goods and services, and delayed tax refunds. We also anticipate diminished inventory expansion, which will be a notable drag, and a cut to government spending.”
On the political front investors will be watching for the tax plan that Mr Trump said he will deliver on “Wednesday or shortly thereafter”. Investors have awaited his promised tax reform since he won the election in November. Following the Trump administration’s failure to replace and repeal Obamacare, however, investors have grown skeptical on his ability to deliver on his campaign promises.
Separately, markets will watch to see if lawmakers can pass a bill by midnight on Friday to prevent a government shutdown. “If the past is any guide, negotiations will drag on to the last minute,” said strategists at TD Securities. “A bill that satisfies both House Republicans and Senate Democrats will be difficult. We think an 11th-hour bipartisan agreement will be reached, but a shutdown lasting a few days remains a risk.”
Earnings season picks up steam, with nearly 194 companies listed on the S&P 500 posting results next week. The roster includes Hasbro, McDonald’s, Baker Hughes, Chipotle, Lockheed Martin, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter.
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