In Australia the week kicks off on Tuesday with the release of the minutes of the last Reserve Bank Board meeting. The Board members agreed at the meeting to cut interest rates so investors will be looking for further insights behind the decision.

Also on Tuesday, the weekly consumer sentiment reading is released by Roy Morgan and ANZ. Through the election campaign this sentiment gauge will attract more than the usual attention.

And the key economic data on Tuesday from the Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are the estimates of new vehicle sales for April. The industry data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has already indicated that auto sales hit record highs over the past year.

On Wednesday the ABS releases the March quarter data on wages. Wages grew by 2.3% over the past year. And while the annual growth rate is the lowest on record, it still exceeds that of consumer prices. In the March quarter wages probably grew by 0.6%, keeping annual growth near record lows. The real wage gains will serve to support consumer spending over 2016 in addition to lower debt repayments.

On Wednesday, the Reserve Bank Assistant Governor Guy Debelle delivers a speech in Beijing. 

Arguably the highlight of the weekly finance diary occurs on Thursday when the ABS releases the job market data for April. Figures have been somewhat patchy in recent months, with the job market seemingly pausing for breath after out-sized increases in late 2015.

We expect that jobs grew by 20,000 in April, but with more looking for work, the jobless rate will be little changed near 5.7-5.8%. 

The Federal Government’s economic strategy is focussed on jobs and growth so both the April and May labour market results will be highlights in the election period.

And on Friday, the Commonwealth Bank releases its business sales index – a gauge of economy-wide spending obtained by assessing credit and debit card transactions.

Mixed bag of US economic data

An eclectic mix of economic data is scheduled in the US over the coming week.

On Monday, the week kicks off in the US with release of capital flows data for March together with the New York Federal Reserve manufacturing index and the housing market index from the National Association of Home Builders. The NAHB index may have edged higher from 58 to 59 in May.

On Tuesday in the US the usual week measure on chain store sales is issued. In addition, the consumer price index is released with housing starts and industrial production. An encouraging 2.8% lift in housing starts is tipped while production may have only edged higher by 0.2% in April after falling by 0.6% in March. And inflation probably remained contained. Core consumer prices (excludes food and energy) may have lifted 0.2% in April, keeping the annual rate near 2.2%.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve releases minutes of its last interest rate setting meeting. While analysts will pore over the details, the Federal Reserve is in no rush to lift interest rates. 

Also on Wednesday, the usual US weekly data on home purchase and refinancing is issued. While in China the April data on home prices is expected.

On Thursday in the US, the weekly figures on claims for unemployment insurance are released together with the leading index, national activity index and the influential Philadelphia Federal Reserve survey. The leading index may have posted a moderate 0.3% gain in April

And on Friday data on existing home sales is due for release in the US. Sales may have edged 1.3% higher in April after a solid 5.1% gain in March.

Sharemarket, interest rates, currencies & commodities

While some analysts fret that the world economy is not growing fast enough, commodity prices have generally risen over 2016. Now some will attribute the gains to the weaker US dollar. (A weaker greenback improves the purchasing power of non-US buyers for dollar-denominated commodities). But there needs to be some fundamental demand also to support prices rather than just currency effects.

Oil has lifted by around 20% in US dollar terms as key producers attempt to stabilise prices near US$40-45 a barrel. Iron ore has lifted 26% while zinc has been the out-performer of base metals, up 16%.

But from Australia’s point of view, the 19% lift in the gold price stands out. Prices in Australian dollars are nearing record highs with a gold price of US$1,265 an ounce and Aussie dollar of US73 cents being one of the possible combinations to see the milestone achieved.