Investors watch China’s growth, jobs report this week

Last week Australian shares endured their third week of losses, and the ASX200, which closed on Friday at 4937.6, is now firmly below the 5000 mark.

However, Wall Street’s S&P500 index lifted 0.3 per cent on Friday night and Australian futures trading on the ASX SPI 200 is pointing to a 0.4 per cent lift on the local sharemarket when trading opens on Monday.

One of the reasons for the rise on Wall Street was a 6.3 per cent surge in Brent crude oil to $US41.94 per barrel. And, indeed, oil will continue to be a big theme this week. Oil

The world’s major oil producers, both inside and outside of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, are to meet on April 17 in Doha, Qatar, to discuss stabilising the price of the commodity.

Oil has fallen to under $US30 a barrel from $US100 a barrel in 2014 as OPEC strives to retain market share through oversupply. But plunging oil prices have helped to deepen the commodities rout and the panic that pervaded global investment markets, including Australia’s, at the start of the year.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer, has baulked in recent weeks at a production freeze unless rival Iran freezes as well – which Iran has ruled out.

But the latest media reports appear to indicate that a preliminary deal reached between Russia, Venezuela, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in February to freeze oil output at levels reached in January will go ahead.

Sources close to the Russian government said there would now be “discussion of how long production will be frozen and ways to monitor the agreement,” with a price target of $US45-$US50 per barrel.

“The level of $45-50 (per barrel) is acceptable from the point of view of market balance: if prices go higher shale oil production could start to recover,” the source said.

The rebound in oil prices since January has helped local energy stocks this year, with Woodside up from $23.87 to $24.94, Santos up from $3.53 to $3.83 and Oil Search up from $5.99 to $6.45.

The next OPEC-only meeting is in Vienna on July 2. Chinese trade numbers

“Chinese and US economic data compete for top billing this week,” said Commsec chief economist Craig James. “The highlight is probably Chinese economic growth on Friday.”

China’s economic growth slowed to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, its weakest since the financial crisis that began in 2007 and 2008, and there is concern it may have fallen further in the first quarter of 2016.

In addition Chinese trade numbers are released on Wednesday and Chinese inflation numbers on Monday. Labour force survey

Locally, investors will be keen to get the latest labour force survey when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases the March unemployment report on Thursday.

March’s jobless rate is forecast to tick up to 5.9 per cent from February’s 5.8 per cent, a survey of 13 economists shows. But the number of Australians with a job is expected to have risen by 20,000 in March, following a gain of just 300 jobs in February, and a fall of 7,900 in January.

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