Week ahead: Iowa caucus, State of the Union, US jobs

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US politics take centre stage next week with the Iowa caucuses and State of the Union headlining a busy week. The US jobs report and corporate earnings along with updates on the coronavirus will also garner investor attention. Here’s what to watch in the coming days.Iowa caucusesThe Iowa caucuses kick off on Monday and will be the first polling event of the Democratic presidential primary calendar. Iowans will meet in schools and elsewhere to register their preferred candidates for president, while satellite caucuses are being held to boost engagement.The caucus system — in which voters realign if their top-choice candidate does not get more than 15 per cent of the vote in a given precinct — benefits candidates with high favourability ratings who can pick up support in later voting rounds. It begins a months-long process that culminates in a vote for a presidential candidate at each party’s national convention.Republican primaries also start on February 3, though some states have cancelled primaries to dissuade challengers to Donald Trump.State of the UnionThe US president is set to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday. The telecast promises to be an awkward one as Mr Trump will deliver his speech with House speaker Nancy Pelosi seated behind him, having impeached the president in the House in December. Mr Trump is widely expected to be acquitted during his Senate trial after Democrats failed on Friday in their effort to issue subpoenas to new witnesses. Mr Trump, who is seeking a re-election this year, could use the annual address to denounce Democrats’ attempt to remove him from office or use it to declare a victory if acquitted by the Senate. He could also claim victory as the Iowa caucus gets under way, officially launching the 2020 presidential election campaign.EarningsWith the busiest week of earnings in the rear view mirror, investors await results from 96 companies listed on the S&P 500. Automakers come into focus with updates from General Motors, which ended a five-week long strike in November and warned of a more than $2bn hit to its fourth-quarter profits, as well as Ford. Google parent Alphabet, which joined the $tn club this year, is among the biggest names to report next week. Investors are now looking for Sundar Pichai, the company’s new chief executive, to rein in spending and boost profits.Ralph Lauren, Twitter, Qualcomm, Estee Lauder and News Corp are among the other slated to provide quarterly updates. US jobsWhile the US labour market remains strong by historical standards, signs of cooling have emerged and investors look to Friday’s data for the latest check on America’s workforce.The US economy is expected to have created 153,000 jobs, following 145,000 roles created in December. Economists also project the unemployment rate is expected to stay unchanged at 3.5 per cent, while average hourly earnings are projected to rise 0.3 per cent month-on-month and 3 per cent from a year ago.US wages fell below 3 per cent in December for the first time since mid-2018 with overall inflation remaining shy of the Federal Reserve’s 2 per cent target. The data are unlikely to move the needle for the Fed, which left interest rates unchanged at its first meeting of the year. Having cut rates three times last year the Fed has signalled it will leave them unchanged for the remainder of 2020. The President has renewed his calls for central bank policymakers to further lower rates.

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