Week in Review: Second Impeachment

U.S. equities ended the second week of the year lower, as President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The single article of impeachment accuses the president of inciting the riot that broke out at the US Capitol on January 6th.

The House introduces and passes the articles of impeachment, but the U.S. Senate is where the person being impeached faces a trial. A two thirds majority of the 100-member body is required for conviction. The timing of the trial is unclear but will only be some time after the inauguration of president-elect Biden on this coming Wednesday January 20th.

President-elect Biden unveiled a government aid package worth $1.9 trillion on Thursday, the package includes $400 billion in measures directly tied to fighting the pandemic, plus direct payments to many Americans of $1,400, as well as a doubling of the federal minimum wage, extension of unemployment benefits, and aid for states, cities and rapid transit systems.

Earnings season kicked off Friday as JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all reported their earnings. Despite upside earnings surprises, shares in all three fell as trading began, with Wells Fargo leading the declines on a revenue miss. Next week earnings season heats-up with the first FAANG report (from Netflix), along with earnings from other big banks like Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS).

U.S. consumers cut back on spending in December as retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, declined a seasonally adjusted 0.7% from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Shares in Europe fell as governments continued to toughen and extend lockdowns, the pan-European STOXX Europe 50 Index ended the week 1.25% lower, while the UK’s FTSE 100 Index slid 2.00%, the UK economy is edging towards a double-dip recession after official figures confirmed a renewed slump in November fuelled by the second national coronavirus lockdown. The impact of renewed restrictions took UK GDP in November down to 8.5% below its pre-pandemic level.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, as its new leader – sending a signal of continuity months before an election in which voters will decide who becomes the new German chancellor.

In the Netherlands, the coalition government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, resigned en masse over a child-care subsidies scandal in which more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority.

Chinese stocks ended the week in negative territory after the U.S. added another nine Chinese companies to its investment blacklist on Thursday. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index shed 0.6%. This was in contrast to positive economic trade data which showed that China’s trade surplus rose to its highest level ever in December, topping USD 78 billion. For all of 2020, exports grew 3.6% year over year to a record USD 2.6 trillion, while imports declined 1.1%.

The global death toll from the coronavirus officially crossed 2 million on Friday, the numbing figure was crossed just more than a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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Market Moves of the Week

The South African Reserve Bank is expected to keep its repo rate at a record low 3.50% at its upcoming January 21 meeting, 17 of 20 economists said. The Reserve Bank cut the repo rate a cumulative 300 basis points in 2020.

Inflation is expected to average 3.8% this year, lower than the midpoint of the Reserve Bank's comfort range of 3-6% while South Africa's economy is expected to grow 3.5% this year, after a forecasted 7.4% contraction in 2020.

In corporate news South African Breweries, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has cancelled a further 2.5 billion rand ($165 million) of investment earmarked for 2021 following a third local ban on alcohol sales in the country, it said on Friday.

The FTSE/JSE all-share index ended the week flat, with both the resource (-2.12%) and financial (-3.18%) sectors ending lower. The rand weakened against the U.S. dollar on Friday, in line with other emerging market currencies, ending the week at R15,23/$.

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Chart of the Week

U.S. retail sales declined at the close of the holiday-shopping season. Total retail receipts decreased 0.7% in December from the prior month after a downwardly revised 1.4% drop in November, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. Spending declined at online retailers, a category which includes companies such as Amazon.com Inc., bars and restaurants, and at electronics, groceries and department stores, as consumers cut back on both in-person and online shopping. Consumers spent more on home improvement, at health and personal-care stores, and on clothing and gasoline.

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