US retail sales and consumer confidence in focus. On the data front this week the key focus will be on the US consumer, with February retail sales due Wednesday and preliminary March University of Michigan Confidence report due Friday. Markets will closely watch whether the increased payroll tax introduced at the beginning of January and higher gasoline prices caused consumers to pull back. According to consensus, the data are expected to point to continued economic recovery: retail sales are seen up 0.5%m/m (following a 0.1%m/m increase in January) and consumer confidence index is expected to have risen to 77.8 in March (from 77.6 in the previous month).
EU summit to relax fiscal targets. On the policy side, the focus will be on EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, where discussions will likely involve relaxation of fiscal targets. According to press reports, the EU Commission is willing to give some countries, including France and Spain, more time to reach the 3% deficit threshold if necessary structural reforms were introduced. Leaders are also expected to discuss a bailout for Cyprus. Another highlight this week will be European Parliament session on Wednesday, where EP is expected to vote on the new EU budget.
New Italian parliament convenes for first time. Italian parliament will convene for the first time this Friday. Forming a stable and pro-reform government in Italy still remains low and markets will closely watch for any signs of possible future collaborations or lack of it among key political parties. It seems likely that the first attempt will be to form a centre-left minority government, with Bersani’s Democratic Party taking the post of the Prime Minister. Still, there are currently no sufficient members to form such a government. Italian bond yields already moved higher today after Fitch downgraded the country's credit rating on Friday. Market reaction to the downgrade was rather muted, however, as the rating outlook remains negative, should political events negatively impact economic and fiscal policy, the risk is that further downgrades will follow.
Polish inflation to hit lower bound of inflation target in February. The key event of the week on the domestic market will be the Thursday publication of February inflation figure and the revised January print, in line with the new weights in the inflation basket. We look for a decline in inflation to 1.5%y/y in February, the lower bound of inflation target, from preliminary 1.7%y/y in January, in line with consensus. Currently we expect interest rates will be kept steady at the record-low level of 3.25% until end-year, although if inflation was to surprise to the downside, the risk to our forecast would increase