By Craig James

The wait is over for Australian investors with ‘top shelf’ indicators back on the radar screen. The Reserve Bank is also in focus with a Board meeting on Tuesday.

The week kicks off on Monday, when the Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases data on retail spending and new council approvals to construct new buildings (Building Approvals).

In January, retail trade rose by a healthy 0.4 per cent, underpinned by the non-food sector, especially electrical goods. Anecdotal and survey evidence suggest sales softened in February.

Data on new dwelling approvals is always volatile, influenced by the ‘lumpy’ new apartment sector. Dwelling approvals rose by 1.8 per cent in January after falling by 2.5 per cent in December. But in trend terms, approvals have fallen for the past eight months.

Also out on Monday is data on job advertisements. Ads fell 0.7 per cent in February from five-year highs but business conditions are strong, pointing to a rebound in ads.

Indicators released from the private sector on Monday are the CoreLogic Home Value index and the Performance of Manufacturing from Australian Industry Group.

The Home Value Index of capital city home prices rose by 1.4 per cent in February and was up 11.7 per cent over the year. Prices rose in five of the eight capital cities with Canberra up the most (up 3.2 per cent).

The Performance of Manufacturing index rose by 8.1 points to 59.3 in February – the strongest result since 2002. And it was especially strong when you consider that a reading above 50.0 indicates that the sector is expanding. This was the fifth consecutive month of expansion.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank Board meets to decide on interest settings. The decision is easy – interest rate settings will be left on hold and the neutral monetary policy stance won’t change.

Also on Tuesday, the ABS releases the February international trade figures. The trade surplus narrowed from $3,334 million to $1,302 million in January, due largely to a slump in gold exports. But the rolling 12-month deficit improved from $14.2 billion to $10 billion (smallest deficit in 25 months).

And on Wednesday, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) releases the estimates of new vehicle sales for March – one of the most timely spending measures. In February, sales of sports utility vehicles exceeded those of cars for the first time. But overall vehicle sales are consolidating after solid gains in late 2016.

Quiet times continue in US and China

In the US – as always is the case in the first week of the month – the spotlight shifts to the non-farm payrolls (employment) data, released on Friday. In China, the focus is on the gauges of activity in the manufacturing and services sectors.

The week kicks off on Monday in the US with the release of the ISM manufacturing gauge. As noted above in the discussion on Australia, a reading for the manufacturing business index above 50 suggests expansion. Economists expect the ISM index to have eased from 57.7 to 57.0 in March.

Also on Monday is the release of the alternate Markit manufacturing gauge. Meanwhile, data on new vehicle sales is issued along with a reading of construction spending. Construction is tipped to have lifted 1 per cent in February, while annualised auto sales may have eased modestly in March.

On Tuesday, there are a number of indicators to watch. The February international trade figures are released with factory orders and the ISM New York index. And the usual weekly data on chain store sales is also issued.

On Wednesday in the US, the Federal Reserve releases minutes of the policymaking committee meeting held over March 14 and 15. The Fed policymakers are leaning to fewer rate hikes being delivered in 2017. But the minutes may prove insightful about the views held by members.

In terms of economic data on Wednesday, the ADP National Employment index is issued together with the ISM services index. The ADP index suggested that job numbers soared by 298,000 in March. In February, jobs are tipped to have risen by a more modest 194,000 positions. Meanwhile, the services sector has been expanding at a similar solid pace to that of the manufacturing sector. In March, economists expect that the ISM gauge eased from 57.6 to 57.0. Also on Wednesday is the usual weekly data on housing finance.

On Thursday in the US, the usual weekly data on jobless claims is released alongside the Challenger series of job layoffs.

On Friday in the US, the non-farm payrolls (employment) data is issued. While Fed policymakers may only expect another two rate hikes this year, that could all change if job numbers surge, wages lift and the jobless rate slides. Economists tip an 185,000 lift in jobs in March with the jobless rate steady at 4.7 per cent and wages up a relatively modest 0.2 per cent.

In China, the Caixin group releases the manufacturing purchasing managers’ gauge on Saturday (April 1) and the services gauge on Thursday. The National Bureau of Statistics “official” purchasing manager surveys

There are also speeches from four Federal Reserve presidents to monitor over Monday and Tuesday.