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Take Five: Deal or no deal on trade, Brexit - World markets themes for the week ahead

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Take Five: Deal or no deal on trade, Brexit - World markets themes for the week ahead
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Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week.

MARCH ON

The March 1 deadline that ends a 90-day U.S.-China trade truce arrives soon and hopes are high that some kind of trade deal -- reportedly being sketched out by the two sides -- is reached by then.

If not, markets hope the deadline will be postponed. The alternative? A significant trade war escalation, with Washington slapping 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods -- more than double current levels.

But a trade deal may not be a panacea for China, whose economy grew in 2018 at its slowest in 28 years. Purchasing manufacturing surveys (PMIs) are likely to confirm that lacklustre picture. Factory activity shrank more than expected in January, hit by trade spats but also by cooling domestic demand.

And as China -- accounting for a fifth of global manufacturing -- slows and the trade war disrupts supply chains, hiring and investment, the impact will be felt across Asia. There was a taste of that already: advance data from Japan showed manufacturing shrank this month for the first time since 2016. Others might follow.

Graphic: Asia manufacturing activity (https://tmsnrt.rs/2TZtlLX)

FROM SHUTDOWN TO SLOWDOWN

After a forced one-month hiatus, we'll finally get a read on how the United States economy fared last quarter. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is also likely to give his take on the economic outlook and its monetary policy plans when he testifies in the House of Representatives and Senate on Feb 26. and 27.

The Commerce Department will then publish its first look at fourth-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday. Economic growth data was scheduled for Jan. 30 but delayed, along with a slew of other economic reports, by the 35-day partial government shutdown.

December's final third-quarter GDP report showed annual growth contracted to 3.4 percent from 4.2 percent in the April-June period. Signs of substantial slowing have dribbled in since then. The Q4 estimate is expected at 2.4 percent.

In recent days delayed December retail sales data came in way below expectations and durable goods orders also disappointed. So did Markit's February manufacturing flash PMI, which was unaffected by the shutdown.

On Friday, Commerce will release December personal income and consumer spending, which was supposed to land on Jan. 31, as well as personal income for January.

Graphic: Waiting for U.S. Q4 GDP (https://tmsnrt.rs/2Eo2Wlx)

THE PRICE OF MONEY

More stimulus from the European Central Bank -- probably in the form of a cheap bank loan programme -- feels almost like a done deal. That such loans are on policymakers' minds is evident in the minutes from the last ECB meeting, policymaker comments and on bond markets.

An advance peek into February's PMI surveys indicates factories across the bloc shunted into reverse for the first time in six years. The question for the ECB before its March 7 meeting is: will "flash" inflation numbers due Thursday and Friday reinforce the picture of a sluggish economy and below-target inflation.

The ECB targets price growth of around 2 percent. But a long-term market gauge of euro zone inflation is languishing well below that, below 1.43 percent -- a 2-1/2-year low. Last February it was approaching the 2 percent-mark.

The last print showed euro zone inflation slowed to 1.4 percent in January. Core inflation did show signs of picking up, however, as services costs rose, possibly fed by wage growth. The other upcoming data print of interest is consumer confidence -- this did rise last month, helped by the low inflation and higher wage combination.

Graphic: Euro zone market inflation expectations fall (https://tmsnrt.rs/2U334fB)

BREXIT HOUSE IN ORDER?

Britain's parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May are squaring up for another battle as they try to agree a Brexit divorce deal before time runs out -- a "meaningful vote" on the agreement could come as early as Feb 27.

If May cannot bring a deal back soon, she has promised to make a statement to parliament on her progress on Feb. 26, and then to allow lawmakers to debate the issue on Feb. 27.

Any sort of defeat for May -- who many argue really has nothing very new to present to parliament -- will raise risks of a no-deal Brexit, dealing a blow to the pound and hurting vulnerable sectors, such as housing.

Just how much damage has been done to the real estate market already will be evident when housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon report earnings. These companies were top targets for short sellers positioning for share price falls. Those bets have been scaled back but a messy Brexit that causes prospective buyers to delay purchases will be bad news for them and the estate agents trying to flog property.

Agent Rightmove, reporting on Friday, will seek to quell fears over the market, especially after rival Purplebricks shed nearly a quarter of its market value following its results.

Graphic: UK Housebuilders price to book value Feb 22 (https://tmsnrt.rs/2V6vJ3A)

TIME TO VOTE (AGAIN)!

After a week's delay, Nigerians are headed to the polls on Saturday to pick a new president after a shock last-minute one-week delay to the vote. The stakes are high in a race pitching incumbent Muhammadu Buhari against his closest rival Atiku Abubakar, a business man and ex-vice president.

Africa's top oil producer has suffered from violence surrounding its elections in the past, leaving the population in turmoil and rattling its financial markets. Last week's surprise delay to the vote sent Nigeria's stocks slumping and put pressure on its bonds and currency.

Elsewhere in the region, voters in Senegal on Sunday will have their say at the ballot box with President Macky Sall the strong favourite to win.

It's a busy year on the political front across emerging markets more widely. Presidential elections are scheduled in Ukraine on March 31 and South Africa on May 8. Voters in Poland, Argentina, India and Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand also head to the polls this year. In Turkey, local elections are due on March 31.

Graphic: Nigeria Elections (https://tmsnrt.rs/2VaNHC3)

(This story refiles with tweaked headline.)