The first week of May was quite the tumultuous one for markets as a flurry of economic data and earnings reports weighed on market sentiment. The week started out on a high note as investors cheered the capture of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan over the past weekend but the markets soon took a turn for the worse on fears over earnings and the impact of inflation on key markets. This then spiraled further downward during midweek trading and nearly got out of control, especially in the commodity markets where some products lost close to 10% or even more in some cases. In fact, oil declined by 15% while silver plummeted by over 27% on the week. However, in Friday trading, equities managed to rebound on news that a reasonable number of jobs were created over the last month, deflating some of the pessimism that investors have seen regarding the jobs market from earlier in the week. Nearly 244,000 jobs were added in the month, numbers that crushed analyst expectations for the period and led many to believe that their worst fears regarding a double dip would not come true. Unfortunately, this optimism didn’t last as rumors began to circulate that Greece was considering abandoning the euro in favor of its old currency, the drachma. This news once again ignited fears over a sovereign debt crisis in Europe and led to a heavy sell off in the euro during the late part of the American session and helped to push U.S. equities off of their lows heading into the weekend.
This week, investors face the tail end of earnings season as a select few companies give their earnings reports. While the number of companies may be small, they could potentially still move the markets as firms ranging from technology giants to media conglomerates all give their quarterly updates. Meanwhile, eyes are likely to focus on both the commodity markets to see how volatile they are in these next few sessions, as well as Europe to see how the region deals with swirling rumors as well as concerns over a number of peripheral members. With this backdrop, we highlight three ETFs that could be in for an active week:
iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (EWJ)
Why EWJ Will Be In Focus: Japanese equities have been under the microscope ever since the country experienced the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11th of this year. In addition to killing several thousand the disaster jump-started a nuclear crisis which has kept the country’s growth prospects subdued for the foreseeable future. While a number of questions remain over the long term impact of this disaster, two gigantic and global Japanese companies that are reporting earnings this week should help shed some light on what the short-term impact has been. Both electronics giant Sony and car manufacturer Toyota are scheduled to report earnings this week, potentially moving the Japanese equity markets in the process. Toyota looks to be in focus due to the company’s status as one of the world’s largest sellers of automobiles and since the company has a global focus but produces a number of key parts in Japan, it will interesting to see if any impact has been felt by the company [Japan ETFs In Focus After Devastating Quake].
Meanwhile, in addition to similar manufacturing concerns for Sony, investors are likely to hone on the public relations disaster at the company’s gaming division where a massive data breach hit the company’s online game networks. Any further clarification on this issue, how it can be prevented in the future, and its impact on earnings going forward (if any) is likely to be considered by market participants. As a result, Japan could be in for yet another rocky week of trading should either of these important companies post weak quarters or poor guidance going forward.
Rydex CurrencyShares Euro Currency Trust (FXE)
Why FXE Will Be In Focus: This week looks to be an extremely important one for the euro given how much the currency dropped against the greenback last week. While part of the slide was due to comments from ECB President Trichet who suggested that further increases in the benchmark rate were unlikely, much of the fall must be attributed to the news that broke late on Friday which stated that Greece was ready to leave the euro. “This is making everyone extremely nervous,” said Dean Popplewell, chief currency strategist at Oanda Corp. “It’s weighing on euro sentiment and could have huge ramifications if they actually do it.” These reports were immediately denied by several European officials but we will have to wait and see if there is any truth to the reports. If this turns out to be true, it could damage the euro and FXE in the short-term and could also make for some interesting discussions for the other highly indebted euro zone members as well. Due to this, this week could be a very volatile one for the common currency, especially considering the euro was down over 3.5% last week against the greenback [see fundamentals of FXE here].
Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF (NORW)
Why NORW Will Be In Focus: The central bank of Norway, the Norges Bank, looks to give its decision on interest rates later this week, potentially moving markets in the small, Scandinavian country. Many are looking for the nation to raise rates from their current level at 2% thanks to some hawkish comments made by the Bank at the meeting in March. However, with oil prices plunging– Norway is one of the top ten oil exporters in the world– and growing concerns over the health of the euro zone, the Bank may decide that it isn’t time just yet to raise rates to a higher level. Furthermore, inflation remains relatively muted in the nation, suggesting that a hike in rates isn’t really necessary at this point in time [Three Country ETFs That Could Benefit From Triple Digit Oil].
Thanks to this uncertainty over the Bank’s decision as well as continued questions over the path of oil prices in the near future, NORW could be in for a rocky week. Close to 40% of the fund is in energy while more than 20% is in financials, the two sectors that look to be the most impacted by changes in crude oil prices and interest rates. This suggests that this volatile fund which was down 9% last week alone could be in for another stretch of significant volatility so investors should remain cautious when buying or selling this fund.
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.