Important Week Ahead for the Global Financial Markets

During the course of our investment process we read a lot of commentary from research analysts, economists, periodicals and market participants. Almost all too often these folks describe upcoming events as “the most important thing to happen this year!” While we rarely agree with these assessments and prefer to focus on long-term trends, there is no denying that the week ahead is a big one and could shape the outlook for the financial markets well into 2016. The fun starts on Thursday when the European Central Bank meets to set monetary policy for the Eurozone. Persistently low levels of inflation, coupled with subpar economic growth, have generated calls for further monetary stimulus, namely in the form of deposit rates that are deeper into negative territory and an extension of their asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing. The very next day, the U.S. employment report for November is set to be released and is one of the last pieces of major economic data the Fed will have before their meeting in mid-December where they are widely expected to raise the Federal funds rate. Should the ECB expand QE and the Fed raise rates, divergence in global central bank policies will emerge, which is likely to be the biggest story for bond investors in 2016. Also on Friday, OPEC meets to set production quotas. While many OPEC member countries are calling for production cuts to balance supply and demand, the outlook is for the group to keep pumping which is the main reason why oil prices are widely expected to stay low for the foreseeable future, impacting inflation and economic growth. If the consensus expectations listed above play out, the financial markets should remain calm. If however, an unexpected move occurs, we could see increased volatility which wouldn’t be anything new, but it is certainly something to watch for.