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The last week of June saw markets fight back from their losses earlier in the period as all of the major benchmarks rose by 5% on the week. This solid gain came thanks to declining fears over a Greek default and solid manufacturing data in the U.S., leading many to buy equities on the dip and creating gains for all the major indexes for the week. Markets were also encouraged that QE2 ended without a hitch; although bond yields have been steadily rising in anticipation of this event, the pace of the gains has been moderate, suggesting that given the solid economic data, maybe the economy can hold its own without further quantitative easing after all. The combined news helped to erase the negative memories that started June and allowed the second half of the year to start on a bullish note.
Thanks to the start of a new quarter and Independence Day in the U.S., this week is light on data once again, especially on the earnings front. No major companies look to give their updates over the next few days, but there are a select number of key data points that investors should keep their eyes on during the week. Chief among them are the numerous central banks that are scheduled to give their decisions on interest rates over the next few days. Most importantly are the Reserve Bank of Australia, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England, which all set rates for some of the world's largest and most important economies.
Beyond these, some smaller economies look to also give their decisions on rates, including Sweden and Mexico. In terms of data, investors will probably home in on Wednesday's Institute for Supply Management non-manufacturing data, GDP reports from New Zealand, and the unemployment situation in the U.S. on Friday. At the time of writing, the consensus called for a 0.1% drop in the unemployment rate down to 9.0%. If this happens, it could push equities to two solid Friday sessions in a row and make investors forget about both debt in the eurozone and continued concerns over the American inability to raise the debt ceiling, something that could turn into a huge issue by the end of the month if it is not resolved. With this backdrop, investors should look for the following three ETFs to be in for an active week:
Rydex CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust (NYSE: FXA )
Why FXA Will Be in Focus: When commodity prices were booming, Australia was one of the strongest developed-market economies in the world and was among the first to raise rates from the group of industrialized nations. Yet now as commodity prices have moderated or, in some cases, plunged, it remains to be seen how the country's central bank will react to this changing market environment when it meets later this week to discuss rates. All economists in a recent survey expect the Reserve Bank of Australia to keep rates on hold at this week's meeting at the current level of 4.75%.
With that being said, six of 10 believe a 25-basis-point increase is in the cards by the end of the quarter, while all predict that a rate incresase will take place by the end of the year. Inflation remains moderate but at the high end of the spectrum, so any comments regarding this and growth prospects are likely to weigh on the RBA's policy statement, potentially signaling when the bank is looking to raise rates. If it appears as though Australia will see an increase sooner rather than later, FXA could recoup some of its recent losses against the greenback and turn in a solid week to start the third quarter. (See "How Investors CAN Play the BRIC Through a Different Set of Country ETFs.")
iShares MSCI New Zealand Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: ENZL )
Why ENZL Will Be in Focus: Much like its larger counterpart in Australia, New Zealand started off the year on solid footing but stumbled in the past few weeks thanks to risk aversion and lower commodity prices. Although the country doesn't have a central bank meeting this week, it is releasing its most recent figures regarding GDP growth.
Quarter-over-quarter readings for the nation's GDP expect the rate of growth to rise to 0.3% from 0.2% last quarter, although the year-over-year estimates indicate a slump from 0.8% growth to 0.5%. If these figures turn out to be the actual growth numbers for New Zealand, it will probably suggest to many that the country is having a difficult time growing after the devastating earthquakes that struck Christchurch earlier this year, as growth is down from the year-ago period, pre-quake, and only up slightly compared to the first quarter, when the tremor took place. As a result, investors are likely to key in on ENZL as a proxy for the country's recovery, so look for the ETF to be on the move after the announcement of the GDP results later this week. (See "New Zealand ETF: Post-Quake Opportunity?")
iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund (NYSE: EWI )
Why EWI Will Be in Focus: Although the Greek crisis has been averted for the time being, investors are likely to pay close attention to the Italian market in the days and weeks ahead. The country's Aa2 sovereign credit rating has been put under review for a possible downgrade by Moody's, and similar concerns are beginning to crop up among a number of the country's key banks as well. This sentiment is backed up by a report from S&P that said there was roughly a one-in-three chance that the ratings giant would lower the country's A+ rating within the next two years, casting further doubt over the Italian economy.
Thanks to these worries, any further warnings from debt-ratings agencies or other crises springing up in the region over the next few days could have an outsized impact on this ETF. EWI has gained close to 6.2% over the past week, so it appears as though the nation has been able to avoid the brunt of the crisis for now, but as we have seen in Greece, sentiment and expectations can change in an instant, suggesting that investors could see a volatile week ahead for this iShares fund. (See "Highlighting the PIIGS ETFs.")
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Disclosure: Long ENZL.
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