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Regional markets ready for busy week

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Key US data releases, upcoming meeting between Opec and Russia on investors' radar

Singapore and other regional markets head into December with a busy week, as investors shift their focus to key events beyond the G-20 summit.

After a dinner on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, China's President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump agreed to put on hold new tariff increases for 90 days, marking a de-escalation in trade tensions.

Mr Aninda Mitra, senior sovereign analyst at BNY Mellon Investment Management, said: "I would see this as a short-term risk-positive development and safe havens should underperform in coming days - the markets will be elated."

However, he is concerned that at the end of the 90-day truce, the US will go back to "feeling aggrieved at any meaningful and structural promises from the Chinese falling short yet again, and the Chinese feeling short-changed that the US pockets the tactical concessions and does not make much effort to understand their different development model which limits the degree to which they can totally alter their growth model simply to satisfy the US".

With the G-20 meeting out of the picture, markets turn their attention to other concerns in the week ahead.

Chief among them is the Vienna meeting between Opec and its main partner Russia on Dec 6 and 7, which is seen as a significant event for downcast oil markets, plagued by global supply outpacing demand.

Over the weekend, Reuters reported that US crude plunged 22 per cent last month, settling at US$50.93 (S$70) for its weakest month in over 10 years.

Market observers hope energy prices will rebound, if Opec's committee does indeed agree to cut production by 1.3 million barrels per day from last month's levels, as Bloomberg reported.

DBS Group Research analysts Suvro Sarkar and Ho Pei Hwa expect oil prices to stay volatile in the lead up to the Opec meeting.

"The weaker oil price sentiment will inevitably plague the performance of oil and gas stocks, especially the upstream exploration and production (E&P) players.

"The downstream refinery and petrochemical names tend to outperform pure E&P peers in current environment," they wrote.

Yet another minister resigned over the Brexit agreement, just before the British Parliament begins its week-long debate on the Brexit plan proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May and endorsed by European Union leaders, before lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the proposal on Dec 11.

Also on investors' radar are key US data releases - the October trade, November labour market and manufacturing data, among others.

United Overseas Bank's global economics and markets research team wrote that Bloomberg consensus expects US wage growth to pick up, but an above-3 per cent year-on-year wage surprise could again jolt expectations for US inflation and Fed rate hikes.

Also, the US dollar has become hypersensitive to external and domestic economic data releases, without what was thought to be the new norm of quarterly rate hikes to tether itself to, said Oanda Asia-Pacific head of trading Stephen Innes.

In China, Caixin manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), services PMI, November reserves and trade data releases are due. ING economist Iris Pang expects new export orders to keep contracting as long as the trade war continues.

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