Australian shares are set for a lift at the open of the shortened trading week this morning, with offshore equities providing a strong lead. Taper talk is set to dominate the week ahead, while local jobs figures, and project news over the weekend in relation to Fortescue Metals could prove high-profile talking points for the local stock market.


Economic calendar and news

Local jobs data is on the cards later this week, with the unemployment rate tipped to remain steady at 5.5% despite an expected uptick in employment figures. Economists expect the participation rate to have inched higher, with the data largely pre-dating any impact from the Victorian lockdown that is estimated to have cost upwards of $2 billion.

Also drawing scrutiny this week will be the minutes from the most-recent RBA Board meeting, as well as an address by RBA Governor Philip Lowe, who will speak at the Australian Farm Institute Conference about the theme of the economic recovery to expansion.

Elsewhere, following the fallout of the G7 meeting across the weekend, overseas attention will undoubtedly shift to the Federal Reserve’s June meeting. No changes are expected at the upcoming meeting, however, the Federal Reserve may be forced to adjust its forecasts for inflation and the interest rate outlook, not to mention signal plans to taper its quantitative easing program later this year, something that could unsettle markets.

There will also be a strong focus on US retail sales for May, in addition to producer price index data, which will highlight the level of inflation affecting producers of goods. Other data-points include industrial production, manufacturing production, capacity utilisation alongside export and import pricing.



Stocks on watch

Making a splash over the long weekend was Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG), with the iron ore major announcing plans to broaden its operations into green energy and green hydrogen. The company has secured the first right to develop the world’s largest hydro power project, the Grand Inga. 

Located primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and carrying an estimated US$80 billion price-tag, a number of financiers and investors have been reported as willing to provide funding. Although still subject to final agreement, the deal would provide FMG’s subsidiary, Fortescue Future Industries, exclusive rights to develop a project that has long been the subject of speculation and touted as a potential source of green hydrogen for much of Europe.

A weak couple days of trading in gold prices could leave some names in this sector on the back foot to start the new week. Gold prices entered the long weekend at around US$1,900/oz, however, have since retreated to approximately US$1,865/oz. Producers like Northern Star Resources (ASX: NST) and Evolution Mining (ASX: EVN) are among those leveraged to volatile gold prices, however, with potential taper talk to follow later in the week, they could draw higher-than-usual trading volumes.

Sticking with the commodities theme, crude oil prices have rallied modestly since a sharp pullback ensued after the publication of the highest US inflation reading since 2008. Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL) leads the local energy sector, but a number of names in this segment have found favour over the last fortnight.

Meanwhile, Telstra (ASX: TLS) and Premier Investments (ASX: PMV) are among the many ASX shares that hit a 52-week high last week. The telecoms sector has picked up strength over recent weeks, with Vocus (ASX: VOC) also hitting highs, and TPG (ASX: TPG) staging a mini rebound. On the other hand, Premier is forecasting its full-year profits to nearly double this year, with its most-recent trading update showing significant sales growth since the end of January.

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) is another name trading at record levels, and it is also scheduled to hand down earnings this week in what is the ‘off season’ for reporting.


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