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BOV Market Watch - Week ending 7th January 2022
07 Jan 2022
Federal Reserve sets wheels in motion for balance sheet reduction. According to minutes of the December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee published on Wednesday, Federal Reserve (Fed) policymakers had initial discussions on the appropriate conditions and timing for cutting the amount of bonds the central bank holds, with members saying that a reduction in the balance sheet will likely start sometime after the central bank begins raising interest rates. The minutes also showed that officials eyed a faster timetable for raising interest rates this year, possibly as early as March, amid greater discomfort with elevated inflation. While policymakers did not specify when the Fed will start reducing the nearly $8.3 trillion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities the Fed currently holds, statements from the meeting indicated that the process could begin in 2022, possibly in the next months.

Eurozone economy stumbled in December as Covid-19 spread. The final reading of the eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index, or PMI, fell to 53.3 during December, down from 55.4 in November, amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. While the final reading was below an earlier 53.4 “flash” estimate, it did hold above the 50-mark separating growth from contraction. “The accelerated expansion in output we saw in November unfortunately turned out to be brief. The spread of the Omicron variant had a particularly profound impact on the services sector, reflecting renewed hesitancy among customers,” said Joe Hayes, senior economist at IHS Markit.

German unemployment fell in November despite Covid resurgence. Germany's joblessness rate fell slightly in December despite the return of health restrictions to tackle the wave of the new Omicron variant, official figures published on Tuesday showed. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.3 percent the previous month, the federal labour agency said. That is equivalent of 23,000 fewer unemployed people. “The recovery seen in recent months continued in December,” agency head Detlef Scheele said in a statement. Germany has relied heavily on subsidised short-term work schemes to support businesses and workers weather the pandemic, with nearly six million Germans placed on reduced hours at the peak of the crisis in April 2020.

UK November mortgage approvals fell slightly in November. UK, mortgage approvals fell in November as activity in the housing market eased following a rush last year, motivated by the tax holiday on stamp duty. Lenders approved 67,000 mortgages in November, a marginal drop on the 67,199 home loans sanctioned in October, according to a report by the Bank of England published on Tuesday. The flat mortgage approval rate, which acts as an indicator of future house purchases, was the lowest since the middle of 2020 when the market was just emerging from the first Covid-19 lockdown.

China services sector closed the year on an upbeat note. China's services sector continued to expand in December, at an even faster pace than previous months, the latest private sector survey from Caixin revealed on Thursday. The services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in at of 53.1, up from 52.1 in November, thus notching further gains above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction. Improved sales and efforts to increase capacity led to a further rise in staffing levels. However, work backlog continued to increase and at the fastest pace in almost two years. On the other hand, cost pressures eased, with the costs of inputs as well as outputs both rising at weaker rates. But uncertainty over the pandemic weighed on business confidence for the year ahead, with sentiment slipping to a 15-month low in December.
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Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap.370. of the Laws of Malta).