Markets likely to stay firm but gains will be modest Share markets should continue to be firm this week, but looking for significant gains may be a bit greedy of investors. How much more can you ask for with Hong Kong's blue-chip index having clawed its way to new highs after a stomach-turning drop only weeks earlier? Oil prices will be worth watching as they may boost the share value for related industries but could cause worries for other sectors. New York crude oil is hovering around US$76 a barrel, just US$3 short of market highs. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets tomorrow, but it is not expected to raise production. High oil prices mean increased operating costs for every company on the planet, but they also mean fatter profits for mainland energy companies such as CNOOC. Global demand is predicted to rise in the fourth quarter while in the mainland some key refineries are running at below capacity due to maintenance. Beijing is releasing a wave of economic data for last month this week, with most of it predicted to confirm and add to the already bullish sentiment. That should help underpin the market. The producer price index is due out today, consumer price data tomorrow and retail sales on Wednesday. Industrial output data is due on Thursday and fixed asset investment numbers hit the market on Friday. Given last week's pre-emptive rise in bank reserve requirements, the central government is also evidently expecting figures to show a roaring economy and rising prices. August consumer price inflation is expected to be higher than the 5.6 per cent reported for July. Rising prices may encourage Beijing's central bankers to raise interest rates. Also, expect figures showing the mainland's lopsided trade relationship with the United States to prompt fresh calls for adjustments to the value of the yuan. US data this week includes last month's retail sales, consumer price data and industrial markers. These figures will be carefully analysed to see how badly the US economy is suffering from its subprime mortgage crash and the reduced spending power this has meant for consumers. Wednesday's biannual International Monetary Fund global financial stability report is another event that could be more interesting than usual in light of the credit woes spreading around the globe. China Mengniu earnings First-half corporate results continue to trickle in, and on Wednesday China Mengniu Dairy will report earnings. This could be an interesting report as mainland milk and milk product demand is soaring, while global milk supplies tighten. Sun Hung Kai Properties will announce results on Thursday and is expected to show good profits, with bullish investors having pushed the developer's shares to new highs ahead of the news. Busy time on IPO front On the initial public offering front, Global Sweeteners Group will today open the retail offering of its planned HK$600 million share sale. Also today, Hidili Industry International Development, a coking coal and coke producer, will open the retail portion of its HK$4 billion offering. Aoyuan Co-operation, a mainland property developer, will take its plans for a HK$3 billion offering on the road this week. Also starting their roadshow is Shandong Qunxing Paper, a decorative paper maker hoping to raise HK$1.6 billion. Laureates gather in Beijing If you're less interested in market moves and keen to hear the views of economic masters, you'd best head to Beijing for the week. A handful of Nobel laureates and world-renowned scientists will be meeting from tomorrow to Friday to discuss energy conservation and emission reductions. Included on the speaker list are Robert Mundell, winner of the 1999 economics prize, and Thomas Schelling, winner of the 2005 economics prize.