Traders look to slew of economic data as distraction from eurozone uncertainty

Expectations for the Toronto stock market are fairly tame this week as traders continue to labour under the growing possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone and uncertainty surrounding the knock-on effects such a move would have on other eurozone countries and the global economy.

TORONTO — Expectations for the Toronto stock market are fairly tame this week as traders continue to labour under the growing possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone and uncertainty surrounding the knock-on effects such a move would have on other eurozone countries and the global economy.

But at least investors will have the distraction of a variety of top-drawer economic data that will likely reinforce the view that aside from the eurozone debt crisis, things don’t look so bad in much of the rest of the world.

“We’re right in the thick of things and I think we need to not get emotionally caught up in where we are,” said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Banking.

“If you get outside of the peripheral European countries, the debt loads, the deficit levels I would argue are quite manageable and as you look at China, yes, you may have a slowing, but the slowing was still, I would characterize, not as a hard landing (and) the broad U.S. indicators are reflective of a moderate growth economy, not a weak outlook.”

This week, traders will take in the latest growth figures for both Canada and the U.S. and the week ends with the release of the May U.S. non-farm payrolls report.

Expectations continue to be muted for the U.S. economy.

“We have 140,000 pencilled in, said CIBC World Markets senior economist Peter Buchanan. “So we’re a bit below consensus but not really enough to have a dramatic effect on the market.”

That is a fairly anaemic showing after job gains in the neighbourhood of 200,000 last winter and the slowdown will be reflected in the latest reading on U.S. economic growth.

The first revision of U.S. first quarter gross domestic product performance is released on Thursday. The original reading came in at 2.2 per cent growth but Buchanan thinks it quite possible the revised look could show expansion at a slower pace.

“That could stir some sort of deja vu concerns, the fact that things are sort of evolving the way they did a year ago when people were very optimistic to start the year, then we had a big downward revision to GDP there,” he said.

Traders will also get the first look at Canadian economic performance for the first quarter. Statistics Canada is expected to announce Friday that GDP grew 0.3 per cent in March, reversing a 0.2 per cent dip the previous month, translating into a weak showing of 1.7 per cent annualized growth for the period.

The other major bit of data for the week is the U.S. Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for May.

Buchanan expects the sector to show continued expansion but at a slower rate with the index registering 53.8, down from April’s surprise increase to 54.8.

Meanwhile, caution will be the watchword on markets as the future of the eurozone creates huge amounts of uncertainty.

“There is a frustration and an impatience that is sort of palpable in the markets where we in North America are becoming fatigued by European concerns that continue to linger without a clear sense of resolution or direction,” said BMO’s Taylor.

“And that is wearing on markets.”

The TSX gained 296 points or 2.6 per cent last week after three weeks of losses as traders moved in to buy up stocks that have been beaten down in value this month. But even so, the Toronto market has shed about six per cent so far in May, reflecting a growing possibility that Greece will leave the euro. Political parties opposed to the terms of the country’s financial rescue made huge gains in an otherwise inconclusive election and the worry is that they will further improve their showing in the next election June 17.

Taylor said it’s vital that between now and election day that it is spelled in unmistakable terms that the election is a referendum on whether the country continues in the eurozone monetary union.

“It should be stated very, very clearly to the Greeks that this is the reality,” he said.

“It’s surprising it hasn’t been laid out as crisply as that to Greek voters.”

Taylor thinks that markets will be stuck in a rut between now and the election in the absence of anything concrete.

“I honestly don’t think between now and June 17 we are going to get anything definitive,” he said.

“I think they will lay it out for Greek voters a little more clearly and on the 17th we get folks backing away from the ledge and we buy ourselves more time. From there we go forward with maybe a mildly positive bias but I think we’re still stuck in a longer term trading range.”

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