Markets underpricing China risk( OANDA Trading Podcast BFM Kuala Lumpur 89.9)

Stephen Innes, Head of Trading in Asia-Pacific, OANDA, Singapore
Stephen reckons markets are “seriously underpricing economic risk in China”.

Economists suspect the direct impact from the two sets of US tariffs aimed at Beijing could drag China’s GDP down by 0.3 percentage points in the longer run.

Stephen also shares some insights on how China can contain the adverse impact from its ongoing trade war with the US.

We also discuss the market expectation on China’s 2Q GDP that is scheduled to be out today.

BFM Radio Kuala Lumpur 89.9

What sparked the dollar rally ? ( OANDA Trading Podcast on Money FM 89.3)

Stephen Innes Head of Trading Asia tells Michael Switow why the yen is weak, and stocks are rallying.

Money FM Singapore 89.3

 

 

The sky hasn’t fallen just yet

Trade War Escalates, but the sky hasn’t fallen just yet as optimism crept back into the market on reports of fresh bilateral trade negotiations between China and the US coupled with a slightly firmer RMB scrim. “Where there is a will, there is a way”. But when it comes to backroom negotiations, one can only imagine that talk is not going to come cheap.

The broader market continues to remain in wait and see mode for further details on how China might retaliate on trade, while equity markets continue to press higher under the guise that “no escalating news is good news”. Indeed equity markets continued to retrace the sharp mid-week sell-off. But again, the US technology sector comes shining through as US internet and technology stalwarts are leading markets to a solid finish in Thursday’s New York session.

While investors could be breathing a sigh of relief, they’re probably just happy their investment portfolios are breathing and alive and kicking after the latest trade war episode. But even the most pessimistic investors must take note of just how enduringly bullish these markets are, after having everything thrown at them including the kitchen sink (Trade, Italy Germany, Long Bond Rates). It’s incredible what global bourses have withstood all this harmful noise and continue to march higher. But indeed, the solid foundation of a bull market is that it ignores the bad news and keep on grinding higher. And one can only imagine what levels the S&P would be trading if trade war fizzled out.

Equities shrug off trade tariff tensions

Speaking of bull markets, USDJPY continues to grind higher and perhaps a bit of the above is starting to factor in (i.e. ignore the bad news and keeps moving higher). The break above 111.75 was one of the most unambiguous signals in some time, and a move into the 113’s could trigger an unwind in longer-term structural risk-off (long JPY) positions which could see this current rally extend much higher.

There was little movement on Powell interview on Marketplace but here are the full transcripts.

Chairperson Powell’s Marketplace interview

And the NATO summit ended on a more cheerful note, with President Trump reaffirming his commitment to the alliance while focusing more closely on the financial obligations of the other countries. So, the market is happy to hear the NATO band marching on.

Oil market

The oil markets are trying to make some inroads after Wednesday’s spill, but are having trouble holding both tops and momentum. I think this is a one-part trade war and one-part supply coming back online. But Wednesday was one of those steep selloffs on record volumes that will give even the bravest of bull’s cause /pause for thought about holding long positions, especially into the weekend. On the supply front, the latest news from Libya is short-term bearish with the El Feel or Elephant field restarting for the first time since February, and there is some discussion suggesting the supply rebound could increase and more than offset the impacts from the Eastern port closures.

Gold market

The precious space continues to hold critical support at $1,240, but the Gold complex is still hovering in the mixed territory zone. The global equity market is bouncing higher overnight, and there are very few defensive allocations into Gold. However, with Fed Chair Powell not ringing any alarm bells for more aggressive fed tightening, gold picked up a bit of goodwill. But ultimately, the USD looks to be on solid footing while preparing to take the driver seat once again, especially on USDJPY, which should hold the gold bulls at bay.

Currency Markets

The USD is looking to get back in in the driving seat once again.

JPY: USDJPY is signalling the most significant break out in years, and the long USDJPY is a position severely under-owned which suggests the pair will explode higher on any positive news. One can only imagine where spot will trade if an intense wave of risk on kicks in or trade war fizzles out.

CNH: The Yuan remains at the centre of all the action, but with further signs of policy easing on the cards given the economic slowdown has been much deeper rooted than feared, markets will continue to buy dips until a definitively positive shift in trade war sentiment.

USDAsia
Strong demand on the platform for long USDAsia is consistent with the general market views.

Trade war escalation is a definite plus for the dollar and coupled with robust US economic data; it does support this view.

MYR: Despite some optimism creeping back in on reports of bilateral trade negotiations between China and the US, while most of $Asia pulled back from yesterday morning highs, the Ringgit continued to lag the moves.

The Ringgit continues to suffer from political risk and fiscal uncertainty. If the USD does start to reassert itself and coupled with short-term bearish signals on oil prices,  the USDMYR will likely slice through the 4.05 level like a hot knife through butter in this environment.

INR The Ruppe hit and all-time interday  low and has now plummeted over 7.6 % versus the USD will wiping out a significant portion of carry-trades in its wake. But the Rupee will continue to trade at the mercy of oil prices

KRW.After testing 1130.00, the dissenting policy vote injected some life into the Won and coupled with the firmer RMB backdrop saw the USDKRW fall below the 1124 level. The won will be the go-to trade on the escalation of trade war tensions, but in the meantime, the RMB complex will continue to dictate the pace of play

A tenuous and unstable state of affairs

A tenuous and unstable state of affairs

The prospects of another round of US tariffs directed at China have resurrected fears that the trade skirmish between Washington and Beijing could escalate with some investors now fearing a full-blown global trade war could be a reality. But the most damning signal is that dialogue between the two superpowers is pretty much non-existent, and with a diplomatic solution appearing more unlikely as the days go by, markets will remain on the defensive.

But with about seven weeks before the new tariffs kick in, if there is a will there could be a way. However, with no senior-level discussion scheduled on the near-term horizon, markets will likely remain in a very tenuous and unstable state of affairs until officials get back at the negotiating tables.

As for woeful Wednesday, Trade war headlines continued to exact a full court press on stocks, oil and EM FX. But the day also provided an unexpected turn of events on USDJPY which bucked conventional risk off wisdom and surged higher as US Treasury yields moved north, but with USDCNH adjusting convincingly higher, the USDJPY now appears trending in sympathy with the broader $/ASIA basket. Indeed, Japanese investors are not in the repatriating haven mood but may be increasingly looking toward the US markets as their essential investment vehicle which could support USDJPY even in a risk-off environment.

Oil markets
An extremely active session in commodities overnight with Crude prices spilling lower across the board as USD200bn of additional tariffs on Chinese goods took its toll.  While Oil prices are following the risk-off move but adding more fuel to the fire was Presidents Trump’s comments on Germany’s energy policy which he is suggesting is being ” held captive by Russia”. Also weighing on prices was the lifting of the force majeure at Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, Hariga and Zueitina suggesting that Libyan exports from its eastern ports will quickly resume to previous levels and this report has exerted pressure on bullish sentiment overnight. But the .6% rally in the USD is also weighing on commodity sectors

West Texas Intermediate crude oil moved lower in sympathy with a weaker Brent market on  even after the DOE reported a much larger-than-expected draw , but with imports falling by 1.6 million barrels per day but the decline in imports could be writing off due to July 4th holiday hangover and the deluge in the Texas coast due to heavy rains. But still not a particularly bullish signal.

Metals Markets
The metals complex is getting hammered with copper plummeting to one-year lows. Of course, trade tensions are harmful to the base metal complex, but the fear that an escalating trade war will severely dent global growth assumptions is inflating the sell-off. Predictably the Aussie dollar is taking it on the chin given it precarious position in the base metal supply chain into China.

Gold Markets

In the Gold sector, there has been nary a haven bid to be found as the surging USD has driven gold lower and within an eyeshot of the critical 1240 level. But with a broader equity sell-off failing to materialise in US markets, there has been a real scarcity of defensive allocations into Gold overnight.

Currency Markets
What’s hot what’s not? Well, I’m glad I reminded myself that trade wars are good for the USD while holding an unwavering conviction that USDCNH has no place to run but higher on any escalation.

CNH: Yes, this 200 billion is a significant escalation in the trade war between China and the US, and yes, the RMB complex should remain to be the epicentre of currency trade where the visible big-picture developments should see a bullish skew for the USD. And while it’s entirely possible the Feds may enter the equation at some point denting the $’s appeal, we’re nowhere near meltdown level just yet, suggesting there is more juice to be squeezed on the long USD RMB complex.

JPY: it will be tough for traders to change gears from depending on the risk aversion signals to the reality of shifting Japanese inventor behaviour which may be looking outbound for yield. It might be time to start viewing USDJPY strategy through a different lens.

MYR: The BNM held a very even tone at yesterday’s MPC favouring policy continuity. A very sharp move by a Central Bank veteran knowing full well that keeping policy measures at hand for possible darker days ahead makes perfect sense especially with no real reason to signal a dovish shift at this stage.

But more aggressive trade war fears are coming home to haunt as the fear that an escalating trade war will severely dent global growth assumptions and trigger a commodity market rout. Oil markets are not immune to this calculus, and the sudden drop in oil prices overnight is weighing on the MYR sentiment.

But equally concerning, is the lunge higher in USDCNH which should continue to exert pressure across regional currencies.

I’m always looking for a silver lining in the Ringgit cloud, but everything is looking ever so tarnished today suggesting we could press higher as regional sentiment wanes.

All is quiet on the western trade war front

All is quiet on the western trade war front

For a change,  all is quiet on the western trade war front as the drop in aggressive US tariff posturing and the nonfarm payroll after effects have propelled US equity market to the third consecutive day of substantial gains. While traders sit tight awaiting the next US trade salvo, but for the time being robust US economic data is offsetting concerns about rising trade tensions. In addition to the strong payrolls report, Federal Reserve Board data showed that consumer borrowing picked up in May with total consumer credit increasing $24.6 billion to a seasonally adjusted $3.9 trillion, up 7.6%. Indeed, this incredibly strong pace of credit growth points to a resilient US consumer while continuing to highlight an extremely robust US economy despite growing trade concerns.

But markets remain deceptively tricky and could be even more so as we enter the US dog days of summer.

In Asia markets, all eyes were on Xiaomi Corp IPO but the coming out party was less than a hit and didn’t exactly attract the feeding frenzy expected from high tech investors. Indeed, global high-tech investors continue to feel more comfortable investing in global stalwarts like apple as opposed to debutantes like Xiaomi who have more of an Asia centric presence. Of course, escalating trade war concerns weighed on sentiment but being the first of many prominent Chinese tech names coming to market seeking IPO in coming months, investors may have thought Xiaomi valuation a tad “toppish” in current market conditions. And are perhaps looking for more significant fire sales as more of China’s glittering tech giants swamp the IPO markets in the months ahead.

Oil Markets
Indeed, there’s a bullish undertone in the markets with the Iranian supply question expected to support and eventually push prices higher. The Brent market climbed amid ongoing concerns regarding Libyan supplies while treader weighed the bullish medium-term impact of Iran sanctions.

While WTI was under some early pressure after Syncrude Canada announced it would be restarting production from its Fort McMurray oil sands upgrader earlier than expected, but prices remained firm and started to rally after API showed another major draw of 4.50 million barrels.

Looking to Libya, the head of their state energy producer warned that output would keep falling day by day if significant ports remained closed because of clashes last month that lead to a standoff. Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corp, stated that “Today, production is 527,000 barrels a day, tomorrow it will be lower, and after tomorrow it will be even lower, and every day it will keep falling.” But keep in mind, current levels are less than half what the country was producing in February pre-political deadlock levels.

Even under the supposition that production from Saudi Arabia and Russia is sufficient to offset declining output from Venezuela, Libya and Iran, keeping the market in an approximate physical equilibrium, the stream of supply disruptions will continue to upset those dynamics.

Gold markets

The weaker dollar had gold bulls charging but the run of stop losses above $ 1261 cleared a path for Gold to touch $ 1265 overnight after political turmoil reared its ugly head in the UK when Boris Johnson resigned. But technically, gold has a long road to travel before breaching the more relevant technical levels around $1300 suggesting it remains ever so prone to the stronger USD. But the robust US economic data, fading of trade war rhetoric and extremely buoyant US equity markets turned golds tide overnight as “risk on ” saw gold prices fall from interday peaks and retreat before eventually finding support at around $1258 levels.

Currency Markets

In the currency market, Political unravelling in the UK has provided the best trading opportunities.

GBP: Another roller coaster ride on GBP overnight as Brexit markets got very uneasy after Boris Johnson resignation and the thought he could force a party coup which all but unwound the positively from Friday Brexit Chequers meeting. Long Sterling is arguably the G-10 most crowded trade so any Brexit hic up will likely trigger an outsized move as weaker near-term stops get triggered. But overall the long Sterling trade remains bruised but not broken.

AUD: The lack of trade drama is underpinning the AUDUSD. But the Aussie was arguably the most subscribed USD dollar long play in G-10, so players were mercilessly squeezed as ongoing China/US trade skirmishes are showing nascent signs of easing.

JPY: US yields and equities were soundlessly trended higher which have propelled USDPY to within striking distance of the 111 level. With investors running very neutral USD dollar exposure vs the JPY, short-term traders are boarding the risk- on wagon and buying USDJPY. If US equities continue to stabilise let alone move higher and US 10-year yields continue dribble north, we could eventually test the key 111.40 support line that has proved to be an impenetrable force for months.

MYR: The relief rally on the toned-down trade rhetoric continues to take hold of ASEAN markets. Risk on sentiment in US equity markets should play out positively for local bourses. Asian currencies are trading stronger aided by a sharp move lower in $RMB, robust equity performance and improved risk sentiment which is in complete contrast to last week’s markets tumult.

However, Malaysia registered another 1.65 billion in June outflow all but wiping all the reported 8 billion in fixed income flow from March 2017-2018 which tells the real tale of the election’s impact.

The next crucial focus will be the MPC on the July 11th This will be the first policy meeting chaired by the new BNM governor and with no real drive for BNM to adjust interest rate policy at this stage, however, given all the political uncertainty their remains a chance the BNM could offer up a dovish pause.

In the meantime, the MYR is benefiting from positive regional risk sentiment and rising oil prices all the while the Chinese RMB continues to unwinds last weeks trade induced tantrum.

CNH: For me its a case of know when to hold them and know when to fold them. While I think the RMB will eventually come under renewed pressure as China risk continues to wobble,  markets have read far too much into the China economic slowdown which will likely be modest at best. Still this week tier one China economic data will continue to supply food for thought.

Kuroda says BOJ sticking to game plan

BOJ to adjust policy to achieve price target

In a speech today, BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda vowed to continue to expand the monetary base to maintain the economy’s momentum in order to achieve the BOJ’s price target. He reiterated that the central bank would make necessary policy adjustments to reach that goal.

On the economy, he commented that it is expanding moderately and is expected to do so in the near term. Note: latest GDP data showed the economy contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the last quarter of 2017. So I guess we just look through that Q1 data. USD/JPY basically ignored his comments, sticking to a tight range this morning and sliding a mere 0.03% to 110.435.

Sentiment stays mildly positive in Asia

Asian equity markets took comfort in the higher close on Wall St on Friday and posted modest gains. Robust US non-farm payrolls in June remained that catalyst, while the higher unemployment rate could be explained away by the jump in the participation rate to 62.9% from 62.7%. There was enough ammunition for USD bears in the average earnings numbers, which rose 0.2% m/m rather than the 0.3% expected. This lack of apparent wage pressures saw US yields edge lower, with the US dollar following suit. The Japan225 CFD rose 0.95%, and China50 jumped 2.18%.

For the USD, it’s all about this week’s CPI

GBP’s rise dented by Brexit headlines

News that the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis had resigned caused a pause on GBP/USD’s rally through 1.33 this morning. Davis cited numerous disagreements over the past year with PM May in his resignation letter, and was of the opinion that the general direction of May’s policy will leave the UK in a weak negotiating position, at best. Later in the session Steve Baker, a minister in the Brexit department followed his boss’s actions. GBP/USD is currently up 0.19% on the day at 1.33084 after touching 1.33231 briefly earlier.

GBP/USD Daily Chart

Source: Oanda fxTrade

Trade war battle has commenced, investors ignore casualties

The first salvo of the US-China trade wars came and went, with both parties announcing like-for-like tariffs. Wall St pushed any implications to the back burner, instead preferring to focus on the jobs data. The next confrontation will likely to be the review on a further $16 billion worth of Chinese goods with no doubt China responding accordingly.

Could the next RBA move be a cut?

In a somewhat contrarian view, a research note from NAB has suggested that higher bank funding costs and tighter credit conditions could mean that the RBA’s next move is a rate cut. They acknowledged that the barrier for a rate cut is quite high, but suggested investors should at least consider some probability that a cut could happen.

In a similar view, a note from Citibank also commented that there is a rising risk that the RBA could remove its guidance for the next rate move to be a hike, citing the global trade situation. Again, it acknowledged that the bar for such a shift is high, and would require the RBA to adjust its growth and inflation forecasts first. Markets are currently pricing in a 25bps rate hike by mid-2019.

Second-tier data

Today’s economic calendar is less than inspiring, with German trade data for May the expected highlight. We also hear central bank speakers in the form of BOE’s Broadbent and the Fed’s Kashkari.

You can see today’s full data calendar at https://www.marketpulse.com/economic-events/

For the USD , it’s all about this week’s CPI.

For the USD, it’s all about this week’s CPI.

Markets dismissed the opening salvo of the  US -Sino trade war as dated news.

However, after another Goldilocks NFP,  US stock markets traded positively in the green while the US dollar bears begrudgingly came out of hibernation after US  bond market yields knee-jerked lower.

The NFP report showed the US economy continues to add jobs at a robust pace (+213k). There was a 0.2pp rise in the participation rate to 62.9%, with the expansion in the labour force helping lift the unemployment rate to 4.0%. AHE were softer than expected at 0.2% m/m (consensus: 0.3% m/m). An undershoot in hourly earnings with the participation rate moving higher suggests there is still more room in the labour market to go before wage pressure passes through to the data. But none the less,  it does keep the Fed on track and shouldn’t alter too much from that perspective. But the  tepid US wage growth  inflationary data does lend tentative support to the fresh recovery in EM and G10 high-beta currencies versus  the USD

However, for the USD to get back on track and reverse this negative momentum, it’s all about this week’s US CPI print. With the big dollar apparently in retreat, the Greenback will need a shot in the arm with inflationary “pick me up juice” to reverse this nascent sell-off

Trade war
The market will be incredibly focused on Fed chatter this week as downside risks from tariffs were discussed by Fed officials as indicated on the Jun  13 FOMC meeting minutes released last week. Currently, the duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods, remain primarily at the Walmart level as far as escalation runs and will have limited economic impact, However, should the Administration follow through with the threat of a $200 billion + duties on  Chinese goods,  indeed this would have some negative implication for both the US and global growth prospects.

Remember that while Powell recognised the dangers of escalating trade war in his Sintra comments last month, but he was insistent the Fed would need to assess incoming data. Early warning signs usually come from sentiment surveys and if we recall it was China and EU sentiment indexes that had led investors into the tank in those key markets. So, traders will key on this week’s University of Michigan consumer sentiment index to see if there are any signs that consumer sentiment is starting to fray from trade war fears.

Oil Market

Of course, Oil traders are wholly perplexed by President Trumps demands to cut off 2.4 million barrels of Iranian oil while admonishing OPEC to keep prices stable if not have them go down! But it’s the White House’s zero-tolerance policy to Iran which is supporting oil markets given the fragile state of global supplies as spare oil capacity hovers near zero. In this scenario, of  supply reality versus wishful thinking, there is only one direction for the oil price to move, and that is higher over time

Oil benchmarks went in opposite directions Friday afternoon, with WTI running higher and Brent trading lower as fears of the escalating U.S.-Chinese trade war and increased production by Saudi Arabia, and Russia bumped against supply disruptions from Venezuela and Libya as well as the sanctions on Iran.

There has been some interesting discussion over a note issued by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. suggesting the lack of reinvestment in oil production could lead to a price spike.“Investors who had egged on management teams to reign in capex and returned cash will lament the underinvestment in the industry,”, And that falling behind the production curve in favour of paying out shareholder dividends runs the risk of prices spiralling much higher in the future.

Baker Hughes reported an increase of 5 in the number of active oil rigs in the United States matching the June high water mark.

Gold Market

For the better part of June and early July, US dollar strength and the dollar-bullish outlook continued to weigh on gold as stronger than expected US data and a hawkish Fed weighted gold prices down like an anchor.
Buyers of physical in Asia have been few and far between despite the pullback, as local currencies have been taking it on the chin due to the stronger USD. But the Goldilocks NFP print which could deliver a softer US dollar profile this week, suggests opportunistic investors may return which should support gold prices. After all, in this highly political and geopolitically charged environment, gold remains a very suitable component in any diversified portfolio.

China Market

While China response to the US administration trade policy is keeping the headline tickers working overtime, growth remains mainland’s biggest priority hence the markets will be extremely focused on this week’s China tier one economic data dump which will provide some exacting signpost for evaluating Chinas economy. While US-Sino Trade will continue to dominate the headline ticker tape, this week’s critical set of growth data will be a massive test for local markets. Frankly, by all metrics, growth in China remains more than adequate, but a subpar reading and Main Street might eventually take notice and realise all is not well in China.

PBoC
Many confusing signals to deal with but none more so than why the PBoC waited so long on the currency front before verbal intervention which has left just enough uncertainty in the air over what their actual motivation was. With some arguing that policy choices are going to be robust and will have the effect of intentionally causing the currency to weaken.  However, authorities have made clear their intent on domestic monetary settings, and this would suggest that growth and not trade war will be the determining factor in policy decisions

Indeed, there is Big Trouble in Big China as authorities continue to grapple with pulling back stimulus created by a state-run banking machine which operated with wanton disregard for risk management. Add in the prospects of an economic slowdown, escalating trade wars all wrapped in a shrinking population, and it does suggest Main Street is missing the bigger picture. China risk continues to be underpriced from my chair indicating at a minimum; the Yuan will resume trending lower as  the mainland administrators  continue to deleverage  China, keeping in mind in a wobbly China scenario, CNH should move more than CNY (which is fixed)

Asia market 
There have been massive portfolio outflows from Asia that have resulted in markets tumbling to fire sale levels (SHCOMP -20% on the year). The big dollar – which triggered a lot of the recent round of EM troubles – seems to be consolidating but, there is a lot to be still much to be worried about as the US is not easing its aggressive trade posturing. But this extended period of capital outflows in ASEAN markets does suggest this was more than event-driven risk but more of a structural shift. Whether this shift was all about the strength of the US dollar and risk around China, or more likely a combination for both,  this week tier one China data will go along way to confirm this view.

Malaysia market 

The first round of US tariffs has come into effect with little fanfare. But this contained reaction has given a boost to local risk assets led by the SHCOMP trading 2.5 % higher w. USD ASIA along with the broader G-10 complex in general, traded lower into the weekend as the Goldilocks NFP has given a boost to the nascent EM Asia rally and the USDMYR was no exceptions piggybacking regional risk.

But MYR bonds are trading very neutral into weekend due to the NFP influence,  but activity should pick up today ahead of the MPC on on on the 11th which could read neutral to dovish and given support to local bonds. However a  more dovish MPC USDMYR trading defensively next week again, but the currency pairs will be hard pressed to take out the 4.05 level given the significant ( USD) dollar could be on the retreat after Friday tepid US wage growth-inflation .. And with OIL prices poised to move higher, the Ringgit should get some support from the commodity sector.

On the MPC front,  economic growth will slow to 5.5 per cent this year from 5.9 per cent, while inflation will cool to 2.5 per cent from 3.9 per cent, which will give new Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus cause to pause. But for fear of triggering more outflows and denting the local capital market appeal due to to the resulting weaker Ringgit, the BNM will likely refrain from being overtly dovish. With very little priced into rate hike expectations, the market has done most the BNM repricing with Bloomberg data showing the market implied policy rate for one year’s time has declined to 3.28 per cent from 3.41 per cent in May, so why rock the boat.

Currency Market

NZD: The metals complex has recovered from the worst of the sell-off for now and has seen something of a relief rally in AUD & NZD.But given the antipodean position in the global supply chain, they will be the first pairs to buckle on a further escalation of trade war rhetoric.

EUR: The Euro has seen a decent relief rally from the low 1.15 handle, and after last week when some ECB members advocated a sooner rather than later rate hike and a Goldilocks NFP print we could see some more EUR short covering. But it does feel like we are entering the summer doldrums on currency markets as desks are more apt to cover what orders need to be hedged and little else.

JPY: This remains a painfully dull range trades, and levels are clear with the downside at 109.90 and topside resistance in the 111.20

Fed Rhetoric to Dictate Dollar Direction

Friday February 23: Five things the markets are talking about

Ahead of the U.S open, Euro equities are struggling for direction after a positive Asian session as the market debates the outlook for central banks ‘normalizing’ their policies.

Euro bonds have gained along with Treasuries, while the dollar steadies after yesterday’s drop.

With no U.S data on the docket today, the market will shift its attention towards a plethora of Fed speakers doing the rounds.

First up will be New York Fed Chief, William Dudley, who kicks off proceedings at 10:00 am EDT as he addresses the “Monetary Policy Forum” in Chicago.

Note: Dudley is making his final rounds of appearances before his retirement.

Appearing at the same conference shall be Boston Fed President Rosengren, who is one of the Fed’s more “dovish” members, but who is not a “voter” this year.

Ms. Mester, the President of the Cleveland Fed, will be speaking at the same conference this afternoon at 1:00 PM EDT. She is a “voter” this year and a “hawk.”

Finally, Mr. Williams, the President of the San Francisco Fed, a “voter” on the FOMC this year and generally considered a “moderate,” will be speaking to a group on the west coast on the economy and monetary policy at 03:40 pm EDT.

1. Stocks gain in thin trading

In Japan, stocks rallied in light trade as receding fears of more aggressive U.S interest rate hikes boosted sentiment. The benchmark Nikkei ended +0.7% higher. For the week, it was up +0.8%.The broader Topix gained +0.8%.

Down-under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed +0.8% higher to cap its best week since Oct. In S. Korea, the Kospi had its best day since Oct. 10 rising +1.5%.

In Hong Kong, stocks rose overnight, capping a holiday-shortened trading week, as main indexes managed to recover much of the damage done during the recent rout. The Hang Seng index rose +1.0%, while the China Enterprises Index gained +1.7%.

In China, shares extended their rebound overnight, on sign’s that the Chinese government is once again supporting the stock market. The blue-chip CSI300 index ended up +0.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained +0.6% in a holiday-shortened week. Both indexes have rebounded over +7% from a low print on Feb. 9.

Note: One of China’s largest insurance companies, Anbang Insurance Group, was seized as it violated laws and regulations that could seriously endanger the solvency of the company.

In Europe, regional indices trade mixed this morning with strength in the Italian MIB offset by weakness in the Spanish Ibex and FTSE.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.3%).

Indices: Stoxx600 flat at 380.4, FTSE -0.2% at 7238, DAX +0.1% at 12470, CAC-40 flat at 5310, IBEX-35 -0.2% at 9858, FTSE MIB +0.4% at 22541, SMI -0.6% at 8917, S&P 500 Futures +0.3%

2. Crude oil prices rally, gold little changed

Crude oil prices remain better bid and range bound following the release of this week’s EIA inventory report, which showed a somewhat surprising decline in crude oil inventories on the order of -2.3m barrels compared to the average increase of +3.4m barrels in the previous five-years.

U.S oil production last week was steady at +10.27m bpd, a record level, while crude exports jumped to more than +2m bpd, close to a record +2.1m hit in October.

Crude bulls are beginning to ask if the “bull” rally could fade away as the U.S. oil production undermines the OPEC production cut commitments.

Note: The decline in crude inventories was particularly acute in Cushing. U.S oil refineries averaged approximately +15.8m bpd during the week ending February 16 or about -330k fewer bpd than last week previous.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices are little changed, but the ‘yellow metal’ remains on track for its sharpest weekly drop in nearly three-months. Spot gold is down -0.1% at +$1,329.16 an ounce.

Note: Prices gained +0.6% Thursday, their biggest one-day percentage rise since Feb. 14. The precious metal remains on track for its biggest weekly fall since the week ended Dec. 8, 2017.

3. Sovereign yields fall

Capital markets remains somewhat sceptical that the recent streak of data on wage growth, consumer prices and producer prices points to a rapid acceleration in inflation on either side of the Atlantic.

Data this morning from the Eurozone showed that consumer price growth slowed slightly last month (see below), but the core-measure edged a tad higher for the first time in months.

The ten-year U.S yield has eased, but remains atop of their 2014 high print, while those on German bunds dropped to the lowest since early January.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries decreased -2 bps to +2.90%. In Germany, the 10-year Bund yield has fallen -2 bps to +0.70%, the lowest in four weeks. In the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has declined -2 bps to +1.546%. In Japan, 10-year JGB’s yield has dipped less than -1 bps to +0.05%, the lowest in more than seven-weeks.

4. Dollar on the back foot

The U.S dollar is modestly weaker as the market is apparently ready to accept as a given that the Fed shall move at least three times this year to tighten monetary policy and to raise the overnight fed funds rate. The only question is whether the Fed shall move for a fourth time and by how much?

For the ‘single’ unit, it’s not only next weekend’s Italian general election (Mar 4) that poses a risk to the EUR (€1.2313), but also Sunday week is the same date that Germany’s SPD party members will vote on the proposed CDU/SPD coalition. The market is currently pricing in a +40-50% chance of a rejection, a result that could see Chancellor Angela Merkel step down.

Elsewhere, the pound (£1.3950) has edged a tad higher after U.K’s PM Theresa May won the backing of her divided Brexit “war cabinet” to ask for an ambitious trade deal with the E.U.

The SEK (€10.0388) is a tad softer outright as the market felt that the Riksbank Feb minutes this morning were on the softer side with concerns lingering over inflation and the exchange rate given the recent negative surprise with Jan CPI data.

5. Eurozone Jan CPI unrevised, but still a distance from target

Eurostat said consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the ‘single unit’ fell -0.9% m/m in January for a +1.3% y/y increase.

Ex-food and energy, or core-inflation, fell -1.3% m/m and rallied +1.2% y/y, accelerating from +1.1% in the previous three months.

An even broader measure of core inflation, which in addition excludes alcohol and tobacco prices, also increased to +1.0% y/y in January from +0.9% in the previous three-months.

Forex heatmap

Higher Yields Pushing Dollar Up

Tuesday February 20: Five-things the markets are talking about

Overnight, global stock indexes have declined along with U.S futures, while the ‘big’ dollar has rallied a tad as U.S Treasury yields back up towards their four-year highs.

No central bank meetings are scheduled for this week although minutes from the latest FOMC (Wed) and the ECB meetings (Thurs.) will be published.

Note: Given the forthcoming March FOMC meeting (March 20 -21) when markets expect another +25 bps increase, dealers will be looking for signs that the majority of the committee is aligned for the increase. They also will be looking to see how the FOMC’s views on inflation have evolved.

In the U.K, there will be two major releases – the labor market report (Wed) and the second estimate of Q4 GDP (Thurs.) Elsewhere, Canada will post December retail sales (Thurs.) and consumer prices for January (Fri).

With little to no economic U.S data on tap, the markets focus now turns to the U.S Treasury department, which opens its auction floodgates beginning with today’s record supply of +$151B of three- and six- month bills (Total new debt supply is +$258B this week).

The U.S debt sales should provide a better market understanding of how steep yields can back up in the short-term.

Note: Fed policy makers speaking this week include NY Fed President Dudley and Atlanta Fed President Bostic and Cleveland Fed President Mester is among speakers at the U.S Monetary Policy Forum in NY.

1. Global stocks see ‘red’

Asian equities took their cue from Monday’s European bourse direction as U.S stocks and Treasuries took a break for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

In Japan, the Nikkei fell -1%, surrendering some of its early-week rise thanks to weakness in its electronics and banking sectors. Selling came despite a slip in the yen outright (¥107.10). The Topix fell -0.7%.

Down-under, the Aussie’s S&P/ASX 200 ended flat. In S. Korea, the Kospi fell -1.1%, dragged lower by index heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which dropped another -2% after falling -1.3% on Monday.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index pared an early slide, down -0.2%, on its first full day of trading in nearly a week. The main benchmark in Singapore fell -0.2%; while Indian’s Sensex was last up +0.4%.

Note: With Chinese and Taiwanese markets still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, investors should be cautioned against reading too much into recent price action due to thin volumes.

In Europe, indices trade mostly higher across the board following the weakness seen yesterday, with the FTSE under performing being weighed on by HSBC and BHP Billiton following results.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘red’ (-0.8%).

Indices: Stoxx600 flat at 378.3, FTSE -0.5% at 7213, DAX -0.1% at 12373, CAC-40 flat at 5257, IBEX-35 +0.2% at 9829, FTSE MIB +0.1% at 22582 , SMI flat at 8907, S&P 500 Futures -0.8%

2. Oil markets mixed, Brent and WTI move in opposite directions

U.S crude prices are still carrying momentum from Friday’s gains due to yesterday’s President Day’s holiday while international Brent prices have eased.

U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures are at +$62.31 a barrel, up +63c, or +1% from Friday’s close. Ongoing supply reductions from Canada to the U.S due to pipeline reductions are supporting WTI prices.

Brent crude has eased on the back of a dip in Asian stocks and a stronger dollar. Brent crude futures are at +$65.54 per barrel, down -13c, or -0.2% from yesterday’s close.

Note: Oil markets remain well supported due to supply restraint by the OPEC. Yesterday, OPEC Secretary-General Barkindo said the organization registered a +133% compliance with agreed output reduction targets in January.

However, soaring U.S production is threatening to erode OPEC’s efforts. Last week, the amount of U.S oilrigs drilling for new production rose for a fourth consecutive week to +798.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices have slid for a third consecutive session as the ‘mighty’ buck rebounds from its three-year lows, while the market waits Wednesday’s Fed minutes for clues on the outlook for U.S interest rates. Spot gold is down -0.2% at +$1,343.22 an ounce.

3. Sovereign yields trade atop record highs

This is a huge week for bond investors, as the U.S Treasury prepares to sell +$258B worth of new debt, starting with today’s record sale of +$151B of three- and six- month bills. These debt sales should provide a better understanding of how steep U.S yields could back up in the short-term.

After building up a record “short” position in U.S 2-year futures and historically large short positions across other maturities, higher volatility this month has seen a sharp reduction in these record shorts over the past week.

The biggest reversal was in two-year product – net short positions were slashed by +76,772 contracts to -133,986.

The U.S 10-year is now at +2.92% ahead of the first trading day this week after yesterday’s holiday.

In Japan, BoJ Governor Kuroda did not discuss monetary policy during an appearance in parliament. Speculation has been swirling about the possibility the BoJ might scale back its stimulus since they reduced their purchases of JGB’s last month.

Down-under, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reiterated in its minutes of this month’s policy meeting that inflation is expected to “only gradually” accelerate as the economy strengthens and wage pressures increase.

4. Dollar gains against most G7 pairs

Ahead of the U.S open, the U.S dollar has seen some steady gains outright versus G7 currency pairs, aside from sterling. The gains are reflective of U.S yields pushing a tad higher.

Sterling has jumped from its overnight low of £1.3934, to again trade north of the psychological £1.4000 handle on news that the European Parliament is putting a document together outlining its desire for an “association agreement” with post-Brexit Britain. This is a break from the position of the chief E.U negotiator Barnier and could allow Britain to retain “privileged” access to the single market.

5. German ZEW Survey moves off from record highs

Germany’s ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment recorded a decrease of 2.6 points this month and currently stands at 17.8 points.

The indicator remains slightly below the long-term average of 23.7 points. The assessment of the current economic situation in Germany decreased by 2.9 points, with the corresponding indicator currently standing at 92.3 points.

Comments from ZEW President Wambach: “The latest survey results continue to show a positive outlook for the German economy. The assessment of the current economic situation is still on a very high level and the economy is expected to improve in the coming six months. Economic growth in Germany is substantially driven by the very good development of both the global economy and private consumption. Inflation expectations for Germany and the Eurozone have also started to increase.”

Forex heatmap

At the Edge of a Cliff

At the Edge of a Cliff

Was it the mixed data, skewed positioning or merely a lack of confidence that has the USD dollar precariously perched at the edge of the cliff.

Everyone one to a tee went all in on a dollar buying frenzy after the CPI number, but the lack of follow-through was very telling, and the quick rebound stopped out all those newly minted positions and then some. The markets sold AUD, NZD heavily at the lows and then got summarily spanked when traders started to factor in the conflicting data prints.

While the Strong CPI reading does present a hawkish risk for the Feds dot plots in March, the miss in the US retail sales data has the street scrambling to revise GDP estimates lower.The divergent data stream has escalated the market debate of critical importance, specifically is it inflation or growth that will dictate the Fed pace of interest rate normalisation?

But the bottom line for the US  dollar in my view, amidst rising inflation the prospect of increasing deficits, both trade and budget, should weigh like an anvil around  the dollar bulls neck

Equity markets

In seemingly absurd fashion, US equity investors ignored the inflationary signals and focused on weaker-than-expected US retail sales report.  There is an increasing possibility that the Powell may blink and the Feds will be more hesitant to guide monetary policy given the waning growth narrative.
Gold Markets 

Higher US inflation combined with the USD exhibiting zero correlation to higher interest rates amidst burdening duel deficits should play out favourably for Gold markets. The weaker dollar narrative is playing out most favourably across, the broader commodity space and gold demand could surge and push above this year’s highs.  Also,  the sustainability of the frothy equity market given the weak retail sales print suggest increasing gold equity hedges is a practical move.

Oil Markets 

A weaker dollar and verbal intervention from Saudi Energy minister who suggested significant oil producers would prefer tighter markets than end supply cuts too early has seen oil prices do an about-face. The Suadi signal is reasonably convincing suggesting  OPEC and their partners are committed to maintaining an absolute floor on oil prices

As indicated earlier in the week, the battle lines are forming around this key WTI 60.00 bpd as the Shale oil gusher will continue to weigh heavily on OPEC effort to blow out the worldwide glut.

However physical demand remains weak globally so traders will continue to monitor the USD /Oil price correlation and at first sign of flutter, it could signal a downdraft.
Currency Markets

Japanese Yen

With the Interest rate to FX correlation is in “Neverland”, It could be open season on USDJPY after convincingly crossing the 107 USDJPY Rubicon. If the market focuses aggressively shift to the US’s duelling deficit amid higher inflation, the dollar days are numbered in the 107’s if we factor in an expected Exporter flow panic which could be exacerbated by push Japanese investors to raise their hedge ratios on US investments fearing a further fall in the greenback.

While we should expect the usual verbal lashing from Japan’s currency officials, I suspect we are still ways off from overt intervention

The Austrailian Dollar

It’s always good to go into critical economic data with a plan B even if it’s from outer space.  Expect the unexpected and today we see  Aussie is benefiting from resurgent Commodities and US dollar weakness as the greenback is showing no correlation to higher US rates.

Malaysian Ringgit

A weaker US dollar, rebounding commodity prices have the MYR sitting well supported by yesterday’s robust GDP print adding good measure

Dollar weakness is seeping in the USDJPY and USDCNH which will provide a positive backdrop for regional currency markets, and we should expect the MYR to be one of the keys go to currencies as positions remain under positioned post-January monetary policy meeting.  Higher US interest rates are showing little obstacle for regional currency appreciation so the MYR should benefit

Not to weave a cautionary tales but liquidy is a bit thin given in regional markets given the proximity of China Lunar New Year so best to be nimble in these conditions