Markets Look Past China, Australia Economic Data Warped by Virus

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Markets are seemingly inured to occasionally eye-popping gyrations in everything from economic growth to jobs to retail sales data, in the wake of months of social distancing and periodic lockdowns.

The Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 — China’s equity benchmark — drifted briefly lower before rebounding back to a gain of 0.8% by the afternoon, while the yuan was little-changed Friday, after data showed a less-than-expected 4.8% growth in industrial output in July, and an unexpected 1.1% contraction in retail sales.

On Thursday, the Australian dollar rose 0.1% against the greenback while the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.7% despite a strong July jobs report. The data showed employment increasing by 114,700 versus expectations of 30,000, and that the unemployment rate was lower than expected at 7.5%.

Strategists are also digging under the hood of recent reports such U.S. jobless claims and inflation data, warning that headline numbers may not give the whole picture. For instance, John Mauldin, president at investment advisory firm Mauldin Solutions LLC, has previously said that Covid-19 wrought “havoc” on employment data.

The data fog makes it even harder to gauge the outlook for markets, after a rally in asset classes such as stocks, gold, bonds — even Bitcoin — from March’s pandemic-induced lows.

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