American equity markets finished the final full week of May on a relatively strong note, as most major benchmarks moved off their lows from earlier in the week to finish Friday in the green. A similar trend happened in the commodity space, as concerns over the European debt situation helped to reignite demand for safe-haven metals such as gold, allowing the yellow metal the chance to finish the week above the $1,530-per-ounce mark, almost $25 above the product's low for the week.
Oil prices also trended higher but for completely different reasons, as Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) significantly upped its views on Brent crude oil for the rest of the calendar year. The influential investment bank boosted its 2011 price target for the fuel to $130 per barrel, helping to push prices of its cousin West Texas Intermediate up in the process. In fact, WTI crude finished the week above the psychologically important $100 level even though unemployment claims remain high and other lingering concerns over global demand persist.
This week, investors have just a few earnings reports to look forward to, suggesting that a number of data reports will play an outsized role in the week's investment picture. Highlighting the key releases this week are more GDP reports from some of the world's key economies, including Australia and Canada, while investors will gain insight into the smaller Swiss market's growth as well. Investors will also probably focus in on the eurozone's Consumer Price Index report, which is due out on Tuesday, potentially helping to signal whether the loose monetary policies of the European Central Bank has caused inflation in some of the larger and better-off economies in the region, such as Germany.
Meanwhile, closer to home, a bevy of data looks to affect the American market despite the Memorial Day market closure. The United States will face reports on consumer confidence, the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index, motor-vehicle sales, factory orders, and, to top it off, the unemployment situation for May. As a result, several sectors of the American economy could be in for quite a ride, potentially setting up a volatile, if holiday-shortened, week. With this backdrop, we have highlighted three ETFs that could be in for an active week.
IQ Canada Small Cap ETF (NYSE: CNDA )
Why CNDA Will Be in Focus: After last week's solid performance out of Canada's financial sector, many investors are likely to focus in on key data reports due out of the nation this week to give Canadian securities direction heading into June. The country gave its GDP report today, and its central bank meets on Tuesday, potentially giving the market clues as to how the Canadian economy has been faring in light of the volatile commodity prices and the lackluster American economic recovery.
Most analysts expect the Bank of Canada to keep rates steady, and most are looking for the bank to raise rates at some point in the third quarter. In fact, of 43 economists polled by Reuters, just one believes that the BoC will adjust rates at this week's event. However, a robust GDP report could throw a wrench into that plan, potentially forcing the central bank to raise rates sooner rather than later. They probably still won't raise rates on Tuesday even if GDP comes in high, but it could increase expectations for the bank to lift rates in the next meeting, potentially affecting Canadian equities such as those found in CNDA. (See "Seven ETFs to Invest Like Peter Schiff.")
Rydex CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust (NYSE: FXF )
Why FXF Will Be in Focus: Although many of the nations around Switzerland have been crumbling under the heavy weight of their debts, Switzerland has been going strong thanks to its traditional role as a safe-haven economy. As a result, the Swiss franc is now trading near all-time highs against both the euro and the dollar, potentially making the Swiss economy uncompetitive against its other rivals in the region. However, this has not been the case so far, as exports rose 11.6% in April from the year-ago period, suggesting that there is still strong demand for Swiss products despite the currency disadvantage.
This should put this week's Swiss GDP report into focus as a robust reading, coupled with the economy's continued strength despite a high currency, could convince central bankers in the nation that the time may now be right to raise rates for the franc. If that looks to be the case, look for FXF to surge even higher against its rivals, adding to its already robust gains for the year. If, however, it appears as if GDP growth is low and that the currency is affecting the broad performance of the Swiss economy, the Swiss central bank may have no choice but to intervene in the markets, potentially sending FXF off of its highs. (See "Swiss Franc ETF: The Overlooked Safe Haven.")
ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (NYSE: PPLT )
Why PPLT Will Be in Focus: This could be a very important week for this extremely expensive precious metal, as a number of key data releases could help to break PPLT out of its recent downtrend. The popular ETF has seen its price decline by almost 1.5% over the past month, mostly thanks to a steep drop at the beginning of May, which sent demand for all types of commodities plunging. PPLT then remained stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the month, only attempting to break out of this holding pattern in the final few days of trading in the period. This modest uptrend over the past few sessions could continue if investors see solid results out of Wednesday's motor-vehicle-sales report.
Of all of platinum's uses, its role as an auto catalyst is most significant; this makes up close to 50% of platinum demand, so any reports of excess or minimal car sales is likely to greatly influence the demand and price of platinum. However, thanks to Japan's ongoing recovery from the March earthquake and Tsunami, auto production is still expected to be sharply down, possibly curtailing sales from one of the most vital car-producing regions of the world. If this pans out in the data, it could be a short-term negative for PPLT, but if auto sales pick up despite this setback, look for PPLT to gain on the week, especially if other less important financial data points -- such as factory orders or ISM Manufacturing -- look solid as well. (See "Precious Metal ETFs: Physical vs. Equity Exposure.")
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.
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