Look to Fed’s Powell for help

Wednesday September 26: Five things the markets are talking about

Global stocks are trading mixed ahead of today’s FOMC rate decision, with Asian shares closing out higher, while Euro bourses are a tad down as Italy’s budget talks continue to be a source of concern.

The Italian government has until tomorrow to outline its fiscal and economic projections ahead of a budget law discussion due to take place in October. Currently, the markets remains concerned that the government will try to pass a budget that is out of step with E.U rules.

This afternoon, the Fed is expected to raise interest rates by +25 bps to a corridor of +2% to +2.25% as it continues to roll back easy-money policies.

Market attention will focus on the forward guidance, including the new ‘dot plot’ diagram, to gain insight into the plans for 2019 and beyond.

Currently, the U.S dollar trades steady while U.S Treasury yields trade atop of their the seven-year highs reached in May.

Note: Today’s Fed decision (02:00 pm EDT) will be followed by a press conference with Chair Jerome Powell (02:30 pm EDT).

1. Stocks trade mixed ahead of Fed

In Japan, gains overnight lifted the Nikkei to an 8-months high as the index was able to overcome the impact from a number of companies’ stock prices being adjusted lower amid looming dividend payments. The index rallied +0.4%. Again helping was the U.S dollar briefly hitting a two-month high and breaching ¥113.

Down-under, the S&P/ASX 200 was able to squeeze out a slight gain and ended up +0.1% at the close. Energy stocks rose a further +0.9% as oil prices rallied, while materials gained +0.8%. But financials fell -0.6% as the initial report on an alleged industry misconduct looms and health care dropped a fresh -0.7%.

Note: South Korea’s markets were closed for a holiday.

In China, stocks rallied overnight on hopes that global index provider MSCI would consider quadrupling the weighting of Chinese big-caps in its global benchmarks. At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was up +1%, while the blue-chip CSI300 index was up +1.1%.

In Hong Kong, shares followed the region higher on receding trade war fears and high oil prices. The Hang Seng index rose +1.2%, while the China Enterprises Index gained +1.5%.

In Europe, regional bourses remain somewhat muted ahead of the Fed’s rate announcement.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.2%)

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.1% at 3,423, FTSE flat at 7,506, DAX -0.1% at 12,362, CAC-40 +0.2% at 5,489, IBEX-35 flat at 9,492, FTSE MIB -0.1% at 21,644, SMI flat at 9,020, S&P 500 Futures +0.2%

2. Brent trades near four-year high, but U.S crude retreats

While global trade tensions remain a source of investor concern, rising oil prices are taking on a greater importance.

Despite President Trump calling for increased crude output from OPEC, crude prices have been lifted by the pending U.S sanctions on Iran in November.

Producers fear pumping more oil to compensate for lower output from Iran and Venezuela could mark a return of oversupply.

Brent crude is up +10c, or +0.1%, at +$81.87 a barrel, after gaining nearly +1% yesterday. Brent rose on Tuesday to its highest since November 2014 at +$82.55 per barrel.

U.S crude futures (WTI) are down -4c at +$72.24 a barrel. They climbed +0.3% yesterday to close at their highest level since July 11.

U.S data yesterday showed that domestic crude stockpiles unexpectedly climbed last week. API data showed that inventories rose by +2.9M barrels in the week to Sept. 21 to +400M, compared with market expectations for a decrease of -1.3M barrels.

Expect dealers to take their cue from today’s official figures on stockpiles and refinery runs from the U.S Department of Energy’s Information Administration (EIA 10:30 am EDT).

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices are steady ahead of the Fed’s rate decision. Spot gold is little changed at +$1,200.43 per ounce. It’s been a narrow +$4 range overnight, and even tested key resistance at +$1,200. U.S. gold futures are flat at $1,204.70 an ounce.

3. Italian yields fall on budget talks

Italian bond yields continue to trade under pressure in the run-up to the presentation of Italy’s budget draft, scheduled for tomorrow. A budget deficit below +2% gap (to GDP) is expected to give further support to Italian BTP’s.

This morning, Italian government bond yields have dropped across the curve. Short-dated Italian yields have fallen -10 bps to +0.77%, while Italy’s five- and 10-year BTP yields have dropped -5-7 bps.

Elsewhere, German Bund yields remain just below highs reached yesterday. Germany’s 10-year Bund has opened at around +0.54%, down around -1 bps.

Stateside, the yield on 10-year Treasuries has fallen -1 bps to +3.09%, the largest drop in two-weeks, while in the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has also fallen -1 bps to +1.62%.

4. Dollar needs guidance

The ‘big’ dollar is little changed ahead of today’s Fed’s rate decision and has meant little doing for currencies in general (€1.1765, £1.3160 and ¥112.90).

While the Fed’s monetary policy tightening is likely to end next year, investors are trying to figure out if most of the dollar’s strength is behind us.

Later today, the Fed could remove the word “accommodative” from its statement, but consensus thinks this is most unlikely. Even if it does, the U.S dollar may still find it difficult to find support due to its trade and protectionist policies.

Down-under, the Kiwi (NZ$0.6655) bounced higher on an uptick in business confidence.

5. New Zealand business sentiment rallies

Data overnight showed that New Zealand business sentiment lifted this month from a decade low even as firms remained pessimistic overall.

An ANZ Bank survey showed a net +38.3% of respondents expected the Kiwi economy to deteriorate over the year ahead – a previous poll showed +50.3%, which was its lowest reading since 2008.

Last month, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) said gloomy business confidence was a major risk that could result in firms holding off on investment, dragging on growth and increasing the chances of another cut in official interest rates.

Later today (05:00 pm EDT), the RBNZ is widely expected to hold rates at a record low of +1.75% and signal that it plans to hold them there for an extended period of time.

If in doubt, look to the Fed for direction

Tuesday September 25: Five things the markets are talking about

It’s a return to the drawing board for many investors who are now back online beginning their holiday shortened Asian trading week.

Euro equities are trading mixed following a “get back to basics” Asian session as investors ponder the outlook for global trade and U.S politics.

The U.S dollar continues to hang tough, while stateside, Treasury yields consolidate atop of +3.1% while crude oil trades at a four-year high.

In Europe, Italian bonds rally as the country edges closer to delivering a budget.

Topping investors’ agenda this week is today’s two-day FOMC meeting, along with the Fed’s updated forecasts and the chair’s quarterly press conference (Sep 25-26).

Note: The market is looking for a third +25 bps rate hike and is pricing in another one for December. Investors await Fed chair Powell’s views on trade and tariffs tomorrow.

1. Stocks mixed results

In Japan, the Nikkei rallied for a seventh consecutive session overnight, helped by gains in chip-related stocks that offset weakness in construction equipment manufacturers. The ‘big’ dollar trading through ¥112 also helped to support overall sentiment. The index gained +0.3% to hit its highest print in more than eight-months.

Note: Both Hong Kong and South Korea indexes were closed for holidays on Tuesday.

Down-under, Aussie stocks traded flat overnight as an escalation in Sino-U.S trade tensions hit risk sentiment, while energy stocks rallied on a firmer oil prices. The benchmark dipped -0.1% on Monday.

In China, stock fell on Tuesday in their first trading session after fresh U.S tariffs on +$200B worth of Chinese imports began yesterday. At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was down -0.58%, while the blue-chip CSI300 index was down -1%.

In Europe, in early trade, regional bourses are being supported by stronger commodity prices and optimism over the Italian budget.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.1%).

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.3% at 3,419, FTSE +0.3% at 7,482, DAX +0.2% at 12,373, CAC-40 +0.2% at 5,486, IBEX-35 +0.4% at 9,550, FTSE MIB +0.5% at 21,450, SMI +0.3% at 8,972, S&P 500 Futures +0.1%

2. Oil hits new four-year highs as OPEC resists output rise, gold steady

Crude oil prices remain better bid after Brent hit a fresh four-year high amid looming U.S sanctions against Iran and an apparent reluctance by OPEC and Russia to raise output to offset the expected hit to supply.

With OPEC and Russia having ignored Trump’s twitter pleas to increase production, coupled with U.S sanctions to hit Iran exports in November, should again provide support for oil ‘bulls’ to seek higher price prints.

Brent crude futures are up +30c, or +0.4% from Monday’s close at +$81.69 a barrel, a level not seen since November 2014. U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures are at +$72.28 a barrel, up +20c or +0.3% from yesterday’s close.

The U.S from Nov. 4 will target Iran’s oil exports with sanctions, and Trump continues to put pressure on governments and companies around the world to fall in line and cut purchases from Tehran.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices trade steady as the market remains somewhat cautious ahead of today’s two-day U.S Fed meeting, which could offer direction on future interest rate hikes. Spot gold is little changed at +$1,199.06 an ounce. U.S gold futures are also steady at +$1,203.70 an ounce.

Note: Gold has fallen -12% since hitting a peak in April against a backdrop of trade disputes and rising U.S interest rates.

3. Italian yields’ fall on budget hopes, Bund yields rally

Italian borrowing costs rally, narrowing the gap with its German counterparts, on signs that Italy’s coalition is likely to reach a compromise over next years budget. The ruling coalition is willing to keep the budget deficit below +2% of GDP.

In contrast, Germany’s Bund yields continue to back-up, trading atop of their four-month highs, a day after ECB chief Mario Draghi pointed to a “vigorous” pick-up in underlying inflation.

In early trade, Italy’s 10-year BTP yield has fallen -9 bps to +2.86%, narrowing the spread over the benchmark German Bund yield to around +232 bps, from around +245 bps late yesterday.

In Germany, the 10-year bund yields has rallied to a four-month high at +0.54%, a day after posting their biggest one-day jump since June.

Elsewhere, the yield on 10-year Treasuries has advanced +1 bps to +3.09%, its highest yield in almost 19-weeks. In the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has climbed +1 bps to +1.624%, , the highest in more than seven months.

4. Bitcoin’s pullback quickens

In early trade, BTC has slid to new intraday lows, falling nearly -4% to +$6,400 in the overnight session, moving the cryptocurrency back toward this month’s lows. The BTC ‘bears’ continue to eye the +$6,000 region.

TRY has rallied +6% in the past 24-hrs to $6.1374 on reports that Turkish authorities are sending signals that an American pastor facing terrorism charges could be released next month.

EUR/USD (€1.1762) softened slightly after comments from ECB’s Praet noting that comments from Draghi yesterday were nothing new. The pair fell -30 pips to a low of €1.7133 following the comments.

Note: The ‘single unit’ found support yesterday after ECB President Draghi said there has been a relatively vigorous pick-up in inflation.

5. Swedish PM Lofven ousted in no-confidence vote

Earlier this morning, Swedish PM Stefan Lofven lost a no-confidence vote in parliament and will step down after four-years in power, but with neither major political bloc holding a majority it remained unclear who will form the next government.

Note: Voters delivered a hung parliament in the Sept. 9 election with Lofven’s center-left bloc garnering 144 seats, one more than the center-right opposition Alliance.

SEK is down -0.18% at €10.3374.

Brexit sterling shorts back to July 2016 levels

“Bear” pound speculators hold nearly the same amount of net short positions in sterling as they did in July 2016.

This would suggest that the markets worries about how the Brexit divorce on March 29, 2019 will look, and the uncertainty surrounding it, has got back to levels it was at just after the referendum vote.

According to CFTC latest data, sterling shorts have increased by +18K to +79K in the week to Sept. 18 – this is the highest level of “short” positions in four-months.

Pound bid

The pound trades higher this morning, both against the dollar and the euro, reversing some of the losses it made on Friday after E.U leaders rejected U.K PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal proposal and May reiterating in a speech that a no-deal scenario was better than a bad deal.

GBP/USD (£1.3152) remains handcuffed to Brexit rhetoric and PM May woes and has reclaimed the psychological £1.31 handle after comments this morning from U.K Brexit Minister Raab indicated that he is confident he will make progress on Brexit.

There are also whispers that PM May has started contingency planning for possible snap election in November – however, Raab reiterated that “no election is planned.”

Fed and trade threats to drive markets

Monday September 24: Five things the markets are talking about

Global equities are under pressure as China called off planned trade talks with U.S, potentially triggering an escalation in the tariff war between the world’s largest economies.

Note: U.S’ tariffs on +$200B in China goods took effect at midnight, while China’s counter tariffs on +$60B of U.S goods also came into effect this morning.

Presidents Trumps’ veiled threat to OPEC to increase global crude supply was met with a tepid response over the weekend. The Saudi oil minister said that the market was adequately supplied.

The ‘big’ dollar continues to find support on pullbacks, while Treasuries trade under pressure along with Euro sovereign bonds.

Topping investors’ agenda this week is the FOMC meeting along with the Fed’s updated forecasts and the chair’s quarterly press conference (Sep 25-26). The market is looking for a third +25 bps rate hike and is pricing in another one for December. Investors await Fed chair Powell’s views on trade and tariffs.

Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will also meet Wednesday (Sept 26) and no rate hike is expected. The U.K posts its final estimate of Q2 GDP, while the Eurozone releases the September flash harmonized index of consumer prices (Sept 28). Also on Friday, Canada will release its monthly GDP data for July.

1. Stocks see red

Asian volumes were light and liquidity a concern as markets in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for holidays. Both Hong Kong and South Korea will be closed on Tuesday.

Note: Despite Japanese markets closed, Japans Economy Minister Motegi and USTR Lighthizer are expected to hold trade talks today in New York. Japan is said to considering a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.

Down-under, Aussie stocks edged lower overnight, as lower commodities prices hit materials stocks while financials slipped on new revelations of wrongdoing in the sector revealed in a quasi-judicial inquiry. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell -0.1% at the close of trade. The benchmark rose +0.4% on Friday.

In Hong Kong, stocks plummeted after the U.S imposed fresh tariffs on an additional +$200B of Chinese imports and as Beijing cancelled planned talks between the two sides. The Hang Seng Index fell -1.62%.

In Europe, regional bourses opened in the ‘red’ and continue to trade lower. Market risk sentiment continues to be impacted over trade concerns as U.S tariffs came into effect at midnight and China cancels trade talks – consumer discretionary sector among worst performers.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘red’ (-0.2%).

Indices: Stoxx50 -0.3% at 3,419, FTSE -0.1% at 7,480, DAX -0.3% at 12,389, CAC-40 -0.2% at 5,481, IBEX-35 -0.5% at 9,543, FTSE MIB -0.5% at 21,427, SMI % at , S&P 500 Futures -0.2%

2. OPEC, Russia reject Trump’s call for immediate boost to oil output

Yesterday in Algiers, both OPEC and Russia ruled out any immediate, additional increase in crude output, effectively rejecting Trump’s calls for action to “cool” the market.

The recent price rally has mainly stemmed from a decline in oil exports from OPEC member Iran due to fresh U.S sanctions.

Also, according to OPEC’s projections, a strong rise in non-OPEC production could exceed global demand growth, which could eventually put pressure on prices.

Oil prices remain better bid this Monday morning as U.S. markets tighten ahead of Washington’s plan to impose new sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures are at +$79.74 per barrel, up by +94c, or +1.2%. U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures have rallied +74c, or +1.1%, to +$71.52 a barrel.

The market remains concerned about U.S inventory levels. U.S commercial crude oil inventories (EIA) are at their lowest level in three-years, and while output remains around the record of +11M bpd, recent subdued U.S drilling activity points towards a slowdown.

Gold prices have edged a tad lower this morning as the U.S dollar holds firm on news that China has cancelled trade talks with the U.S, while the market waits for this week’s FOMC meeting for guidance on future rate hikes. Spot gold is down -0.1% at +$1,198.36, after declining as much as -1.3% on Friday. U.S gold futures are little changed at +$1,201.60 an ounce.

3. HK interbank rates jump to 10-year highs after HKD surge

Some of the short-term rates banks in Hong Kong charge each other leapt to their highest levels in roughly a decade, in the first trading session after a sudden surge in the tightly controlled HKD.

Note: Speculators have been covering some significant ‘short’ HKD positions and the lack of liquidity has not helped the move.

The overnight HK interbank offered rate jumped +2% to +3.85%, it’s highest since 2007. One-month Hibor rose less sharply, but still reached nearly +2.17%. On Friday, HKD unexpectedly surged +0.42%, its biggest gain since 2003.

Note: The currency, which is pegged in a range of $7.75 to $7.85 to the U.S. dollar, was little changed at $7.8113.

Elsewhere, Italian government bond yields are backing up again this morning, again reflecting some unease among investors given this week’s deadline for the government to present its budget targets.

Note: ECB’s Mario Draghi speaks at the European Parliament later today, while on Wednesday; the Fed is expected to raise interest rates again.

Two-year Italian bond yields are up +4.5 bps on the day at +0.81%, while the ten-year yields are +3.5 bps higher at +2.87%. The gap over benchmark German Bunds yields have widened from Friday’s close at around +241 bps.

The yield on U.S 10-year Treasuries has increased +1 bps to +3.07%. In Germany, the 10-year Bund yield has rallied less than +1 bps to +0.47%, while in the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has climbed +1 bps to +1.563%.

4. Dollar hold firms, but G7 does find some support

GBP/USD (£1.3123) remains handcuffed to Brexit rhetoric and PM May woes. Sterling has begun Monday’s session on the front foot, reclaiming the psychological £1.31 handle after comments from U.K Brexit Minister Raab indicated that he is confident he will make progress on Brexit. There are also whispers that PM May has started contingency planning for possible snap election in November – however, Raab reiterated that “no election is planned.”

The EUR (€1.1770) is again wading towards the key €1.18 handle. Consensus does not expect this week’s data or monetary policy decisions to mount a serious challenge to the ‘single unit’s recent rally. The FOMC meeting is due on Wednesday, but a +25 bps increase to +2.25% is already priced into EUR/USD. The government in Italy is expected to roll out new fiscal projections, but the 2019 budget deficit will probably be set at close to +2% of GDP, which is similar to where the deficit stands now. While eurozone inflation data later this week should provide the euro with “minor support.”

The INR continues to weaken; with the USD/INR rallying to an intraday high of $72.73. There have been rumours that Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has intervened to cap dollar gains. Trade concerns continue to weigh as China cancels trade talks with the U.S.

5. German business sentiment slipped in September

Ifo data this morning showed that German business sentiment slipped this month following a sharp rise in August, as companies slightly lowered their business outlooks.

The Ifo business climate index decreased to 103.7 from an upwardly revised 103.9 in August, but still beat forecasts. The street had been looking for a decline to 103.2.

“Despite growing uncertainty, the German economy remains robust,” said Ifo president Clemens Fuest.

In manufacturing, managers were less content with the current situation in September compared with the month before. Business expectations, however, hit their highest level since February.

“Manufacturers plan to ramp up production in the months ahead,” according to the Ifo Institute.

Forex heatmap

Canada retail sales climb, inflation falls, CAD rallies

Canadian retail sales climbed in July following a decline in June, led by demand for food and higher gas prices.

Stats Canada said retail sales rose +0.3% in July to a seasonally adjusted C$50.9B.

Note: In June, retail sales fell by a revised -0.1%.

Ex-autos, July sales rose by a robust +0.9%, despite a decline of -2.2% at new car dealerships weighing on the overall results. However, on a price-adjusted basis, sales fell -0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales in July rose +3.7%.

Canada inflation slows in August

On the inflation front, it decelerated in Canada last month, but remained close to its seven-year high print from July. This headline print very much keeps the Bank of Canada (BoC) in play for another +25 bps hike in October.

Stats Canada said that CPI rose +2.8% y/y in August, following a +3.0% increase in July.

Digging deeper, core-inflation prices rose in a range from +2.0% to +2.2%, based on the three preferred gauges used by the BoC.

CAD initial reaction saw the loonie catch a bid, to deal at C$1.28864 a new weekly high.

Central Banks up the ante to normalize interest rates

Friday September 21: Five things the markets are talking about

Aside from trade, tariff and retaliation, central banks are upping the ante to “normalize” interest rates.

This week, Norway’s Norges Bank has joined the BoE, and the central banks of the Czech Republic and Romania in withdrawing some of its stimulus, while Sweden’s Riksbank has indicated that it may raise its key rate before the end of the year. The ECB plans to end QE this December, while next week the Fed is expected to hike +25 bps (Sep 26) – the market will be looking for any comments on the impact of escalating trade tensions.

Earlier this week the BoJ kept its stimulus policy unchanged, however, the move overnight to cut the purchases of super long-bonds would suggest that the period of easy-money era is ending. In Hong Kong, the HKD has surged the most in 15-years in part due to the prospect for higher interest rates there.

There are a number of EM hotspots that the market is also focusing on, in particular – Turkey & South Africa. The lack of details on how Turkey can achieve a soft landing for an economy that topped the G20 growth charts in 2017/18 continues to contribute to a volatile TRY, but a plan is forthcoming.

While in South Africa this morning, President Ramaphosa announced details of a stimulus package to take immediate effect to battle the country’s technical recession.

With trade war concerns receding in the background, the U.S dollar is on track to close out the week trading atop of its seven-month lows against G10 currency pairs as stronger equity markets and rising bond yields encourage investors to purchase riskier assets.

Note: Expect today’s session to be volatile as its quadruple witching – futures and options on indexes and individual stocks expire.

On tap: Canadian CPI and retail sales at 08:30 am EDT

1. Stocks rally to records

With Wall Street indexes hitting a record high again yesterday has encouraged Asian and Euro bourses to take flight.

In Japan, equities rallied to an eight-month high, with noted gains in insurance, energy, and shipping stocks. The Nikkei did fade late, but still gained +0.8%. Financials were helped by the BoJ’s offer to buy less super-long bonds. The broader Topix gained +0.9% to hit a four-month high.

Down-under, the Aussie stock market again underperformed in the region overnight. The S&P/ASX 200 finished up +0.4%. The index ticked up +0.5% for the week, a second consecutive modest gain. Providing intraday pressure were utilities, which lost -0.5% last night, but consumer staples rallied that much while materials jumped a further +1.5% and IT climbed +2.2%. In S. Korea, the Kospi closed +0.68% higher on Friday as investors risk appetite recovered. For the week, the benchmark index climbed +0.9%.

In China, stocks surged overnight before a long holiday weekend, with investor sentiment boosted by hopes that a government effort to boost domestic demand could help offset effects of an escalating trade war. At the close, the blue-chip CSI300 index rallied +3.0%, its biggest one-day gain in four-months. The Shanghai Composite Index gained +2.5%, closing out its best week in six months.

In Hong Kong, stocks ended higher for a fourth consecutive session overnight, helped by consumer and technology shares, as sentiment improved after the Sino-U.S trade war unfolded in ways less damaging than feared. The Hang Seng index ended +1.73% higher, while the China Enterprises Index closed +2.17% firmer.

In Europe, regional bourses continue to rise despite sluggish PMI results. In the U.K, the FTSE is supported by positive Brexit comments, while in Italy; bourses are supported by budget talks.

Note: Expect stock markets to be influenced by today’s quadruple witching hour.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.1%).

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.7% at 3,428, FTSE +0.8% at 7,429, DAX +0.7% at 12,418, CAC-40 +0.8% at 5,494, IBEX-35 +0.6% at 9,639, FTSE MIB +0.9% at 21,588, SMI

2. Oil higher on supply worries, but Trump’s call for lower prices drags

Oil prices are a tad higher this morning after falling in yesterday’s session as U.S President Donald Trump urged OPEC to lower crude prices at its meeting in Algeria this weekend (Sep 23).

Note: OPEC and its allies are scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss how to allocate supply increases to offset a shortage of Iran supplies due to U.S sanctions.

Brent crude for November delivery is up +26c, or +0.33%, at +$78.96 a barrel, while
U.S West Texas Intermediate crude for October delivery is up +7c, or +0.10% at +$70.39 a barrel.

Trump took to twitter and called on OPEC to lower prices, saying, “they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices”.

Trump’s veiled threats are unlikely to force OPEC and its allies to agree to an official increase in crude output on Sunday.

The fact that Sino-U.S trade tensions have somewhat dissipated is helping precious metal prices. Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices remain better bid on the back of a weaker U.S dollar and are heading for its first weekly gain in a month. Spot gold is up +0.3% at +$1,210.68, after touching its highest since Sept. 13 at +$1,211.02. It has rallied +1.3% so far this week. U.S gold futures are up +0.3% at +$1,215 per ounce.

3. Italian bond yields fall as investors await budget clarity

Italian bond yields are under some pressure this morning as the market awaits clarity on the 2019 budget and after the 5-Star Movement denied a report that Deputy PM Di Maio had threatened to pull his party out of the government.

An ISTAT report shows that the budget deficit as a proportion of national output was slightly higher last year than previously estimated, but that debt was lower also helped to push down yields.

Italian BTP yields are down -5 bps along the curve, having jumped by up to +12 bps yesterday. Elsewhere, Germany’s 10-year Bund yield has eased to +0.47% as some Euro investors returned to safe-haven assets.

Note: Bunds backed up to a four-month high of +0.506% Wednesday, but have struggled to maintain this level, rallying back down after renewed Brexit concerns and the infighting in the Italian government.

In Japan, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) has cut its purchase of super long JGB’s. This has send Japanese yields to 2018 highs. The 40-year yield has jumped +5 bps to +1.04% while 10’s gained +1.5 bp to +0.13%.

Stateside, the yield on 10-year Treasuries has jumped + 2 bps to +3.08%, the highest in more than four-months.

4. Hong Kong dollar spikes

Expectations of a rise in bank lending rates and tightness in cash supplies caused a sharp spike in HKD overnight, pulling it off the weak end of its narrow trading band it had been stuck in for the six-months.

The HKD rallied to $7.8244, hitting its highest levels since late February. Since March, it had stayed near $7.85, the lower end of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s (HKMA) managed trading band.

USD/INR rose to an intraday high of $72.47 before fading after a sharp spike lower in Indian Indices on liquidity concerns of Indian Housing name Dewan Housing.

ZAR (+0.46% to $14.2629) found support after S. African President Ramaphosa announced a number of policy reform plans this morning, including re-prioritising +$3.5B of public spending to boost economic growth and create jobs.

GBP/USD (£1.3185) falls from yesterday’s highs as the E.U warns the U.K of a possible “no-deal” Brexit. Initial support is around £1.3171.

5. Euro zone business growth eased

Data this morning showed that Euro zone business growth eased this month although optimism picked up a tad from last month’s two-year low.

Nevertheless, growth remained robust and firms were able to increase prices, which should keep the ECB happy.

Digging deeper, there remains a divergence between services and manufacturing – the dominant service industry beat forecasts for no change in the pace of growth from last month. IHS Markit’s Euro Zone Services Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 54.7 from 54.4.

Manufacturers however failed to live up to expectations. The factory PMI slumped to a two-year low of 53.3 from 54.6 – the market was looking for 54.4.

Divergence raises the question, how long can you maintain a strong service sector growth without an upbeat manufacturing sector?

Forex heatmap

U.S safe-haven appeal diminishes

Thursday September 20: Five things the markets are talking about

It’s not been easy, two and two do not add up when trading these Twitter directional asset classes. Fundamentals have been temporary ignored as the ‘lemming’ trades takes a grip.

Fading market fears over a Sino-U.S trade row has the U.S dollar trading within striking distance of its two-month lows. Even emerging-market currency pairs have found some traction after China said it would not retaliate with competitive currency devaluations.

Global equities are beginning to struggle as U.S yields approach their highest level this year.

In Europe, U.K Consumer spending remains buoyant despite Brexit uncertainties. Norway raises interest rates for the first time in seven-years and the Swiss kept rates on hold.

1. Stocks mixed results

In Japan, the Nikkei ended little changed overnight as an extended rally in financial sector was largely offset by profit taking after this weeks rally. The Nikkei inched up +0.01%, just about staying in positive territory for the fifth consecutive session. The broader Topix added +0.11%.

Down-under, Aussie shares slipped overnight, led lower by banks and consumer staples as investors shifted funds to emerging markets as they became less worried about a U.S-China trade war. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell -0.3% at the close of trade. The benchmark gained +0.5% yesterday. In S. Korea, the Kospi index rallied +0.65%, supported again mostly by Samsung.

Stocks in China fell overnight, as investor sentiment remained fragile following the latest hit of tariffs in the Sino-U.S. trade war. At the close, the Shanghai Composite index and the blue-chip CSI300 index were both down -0.1%.

In Hong Kong, there were mixed results as some investors held on to hopes that China and the U.S would eventually reach an agreement to avert an all-out trade war. The Hang Seng Index rose +0.26%, while the Shanghai Composite Index slipped -0.06%.

In Europe, regional bourses have opened broadly higher. Market will focus on the ‘informal’ E.U leaders summit comments.

U.S stocks are set to open little changed (+0.0%).

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.3% at 3,379, FTSE +0.1% at 7,334, DAX +0.2% at 12,248, CAC-40 +0.4% at 5,415, IBEX-35 +0.4% at 9,526, FTSE MIB +0.5% at 21,396, SMI +0.4% at 8,974, S&P 500 Futures flat

2. Oil steady, supported by U.S. stocks and supply concerns

Oil prices trade steady, nevertheless, the market remains a tad better ‘bullish’ after this week’s U.S crude inventory reports and on signs that OPEC may not raise production enough to compensate for the loss of Iranian exports hit by U.S. sanctions.

Brent crude oil is unchanged at +$79.40 a barrel, while U.S light crude oil is +40c higher at +$71.52 after rising nearly +2% in yesterday’s session.

Note: Brent has been trading below $80 for the past week after conflicting reports of the market views of Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in OPEC. They wanted oil to stay between +$70 and +$80 a barrel for now, seeking a balance between maximizing revenue and keeping a lid on prices until U.S midterms. However, giving the market a bid undertone are reports yesterday indicating that the Saudi’s were happy with prices above +$80 a barrel.

EIA data Wednesday showed that U.S crude oil stockpiles fell for a fifth consecutive week to a three-year low in the week to Sept. 14, while gas stocks also showed a larger than expected draw on unseasonably strong demand. Crude inventories fell by -2.1m barrels, compared with expectations for a decrease of -2.7m.

Note: OPEC and other producers, including Russia, meet on Sunday in Algeria to discuss how to allocate supply increases to offset the loss of Iranian barrels.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices have inched higher as the ‘big’ dollar softened amid easing Sino-U.S trade tensions. Nevertheless, expect investors to remain cautious ahead of next week’s Fed meeting. Spot gold is up +0.1% at +$1,204.69, after rising +0.5%yesterday.

3. Norway hikes rates for the first time in seven years, SNB on hold

Earlier this morning, Norway’s central bank hiked its key interest rate for the first time in more than seven-years. Norges Bank increased the rate to +0.75% from +0.5%.

The central bank said another rate increase is likely in the first three months of next year, with a gradual series of moves taking it to +2% by the end of 2021.

“If the key policy rate is kept at the current level for too long, price and wage inflation may accelerate and financial imbalances build up further,” said Governor Olsen. “That would increase the risk of a sharp economic downturn further out.”

Note: Sweden has also indicated that it may raise its key rate before the end of the year, while the ECB plans to end QE in December.

Elsewhere, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) kept its deposit rate at -0.75%, as expected. The accompanying statement painted two different pictures – the negative rate and willingness to intervene in FX markets “remain essential in order to keep the attractiveness of CHF low and thus ease pressure on the currency.” That said, policy makers also painted a brighter economic future and raised its 2018 GDP forecast to between +2.5% and +3%.

4. Dollar downfall

The CHF ($0.9659) is a tad weaker after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) left rates on hold. The fact that the franc remains “highly valued and has appreciated noticeably” has investors wary of the bank’s next moves.

EUR/NOK (€9.6068) initially fell following the Norges rate hike, but has since reversed and is trading down -1% outright after the bank cut its policy rate forecasts.

GBP/USD (£1.3226) has rallied sharply, again testing yesterday’s intraday highs, on Brexit talk and on stronger than expected U.K retail sales (see below).

USD/ZAR is down by -1.5% at $14.4793 – some investors are anticipating a surprised rate hike this morning. Nevertheless, the consensus expects rates to remain unchanged, given that prices remain within the bank’s inflation target range and that the economy has slid into a recession.

5. U.K retail sales slowed in August

Data this morning showed that U.K. retail sales slowed in August but continued to point to buoyant consumer spending in Q3, which suggests that the economy has kept expanding despite uncertainty over Brexit.

According to the ONS, U.K retail sales rose +0.3% on month in August, after a revised +0.9% rise in July.

Digging deeper, consumer spending continues to power the U.K economy as sales increased across most store categories with the exception of food and clothing outlets.

But is it sustainable, given high inflation, low wage growth and rising interest rates? Uncertainty over the U.K’s future continues to deter investment.

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Hungary central bank leaves rates unchanged

As expected, the Hungarian Central Bank (MNB) left their base rate unchanged at +0.9% this morning.

It’s the 28th consecutive pause for the base rate in the current easing cycle.

Also, policy makers left the overnight deposit rate at -0.15%, as expected.

Yesterday, Hungary’s 10-year government bond yields rallied to its highest level since early July amid expectations that the central bank could tweak a swap tool that encourages banks to buy long-term bonds. 10’s backed up to +3.64%.

Inflation ran at +3.4% in August, above the mid-point of the bank’s +2-4% target range. Don’t expect the MNB to get worried unless the forint weakens significantly, lifting import prices.

The forint is trading up +0.28% at €324.00.

Governor Matolcsy is to hold his post-rate decision statement at 09:00 EDT

Where to hide? That’s the next million-dollar question

Tuesday September 18: Five things the markets are talking about

It was coming, the market new it was coming, just when, and how much, were the unknown variables.

President Trump has imposed an additional +10% tariffs on about +$200B worth of imports from China, rising to +25% by the turn of the New Year. Trump has threatened additional duties on about +$267B more if China contemplates hitting back on the latest U.S action, beginning next Monday.

Of course China is going to retaliate, but how, is part of the guessing game – “to protect its legitimate rights and interests and order in international free trade, China is left with no choice but to retaliate simultaneously.”

There are a few tech exceptions – which benefit Apple/Fitbit for now – and the tiered deployment is to help U.S companies find alternative supply chains. However, if the U.S needs to go to phase three, it would consume all remaining U.S imports from China and Apple products and its competitors would not be spared.

The problem for China is that they do not import enough U.S goods to go head-to-head with the U.S leverage strategy. They will want to cause U.S pain and will probably focus even more on the tech sector. Nevertheless, watch the Yuan’s value, it may be one of China’s strongest weapons. It has weakened by about -6.0% in the past three-months, offsetting any -10% tariff rate by a substantial margin.

From an asset price viewpoint, it’s been a rather ‘subdued’ reaction to Trump’s announcement. Buying U.S dollars in response to trade conflicts does not seem to be as appealing anymore. The delay in imposing +25% tariffs may explain the lack of movement, in addition to the fact that the tariffs have been widely anticipated.

1. Stocks mixed results

In Japan, the Nikkei rallied overnight to its highest close in seven-months, led by insurers thanks to rising U.S Treasury yields. However, no surprises, capping gains were electronic suppliers, which underperformed as the market weighs the new U.S China, tariff impact. The index closed out +1.4% higher, while the broader Topix rallied +1.8%.

Down-under, materials and energy stocks pushed Aussie equities lower as the escalating Sino-U.S trade war pressured commodity and oil prices. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell -0.4% at the close. The index rallied +0.3% yesterday. In S. Korea, the Kospi stock index closed +0.26% higher along with some of its regional bourses as Chinese markets largely shrugged off trade tariff threats.

In China, stocks staged a late rebound as the blue-chip index CSI300 rallied +1.9% as some investors bet that authorities will increase their investment in infrastructure to offset the impact of the latest tariff penalties from Trump. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index closed out +0.6% higher.

In Europe, regional bourses have shrugged off early weakness following the ‘telegraphed’ U.S tariff announcement after the yesterday’s U.S close. Autos lead the gains, while the materials sector and consumer discretionary are under early pressure.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.2%).

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.5% at 3,363, FTSE +0.1% at 7,318, DAX +0.6% at 12,164, CAC-40 +0.6% at 5,383; IBEX-35 +0.4% at 9,446, FTSE MIB +0.2% at 21,148, SMI -0.3% at 8,908, S&P 500 Futures +0.2%

2. Oil prices fall as U.S-China trade war questions demand, gold lower

Oil markets have eased a tad as the Sino-U.S trade war questions the outlook for crude demand from the world’s two largest economies.

Brent crude futures have dropped -29c, or -0.37% to +$77.76 per barrel, while U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is down -15c, or -0.22%, at +$68.76 per barrel.

U.S crude ‘bears’ believe that these tariffs are likely to limit economic activity in both China and the U.S – a hit to growth is a hit to consumption.

Note: Refineries stateside consumed about +17.7m bpd of crude oil last week, while China’s refiners used about +11.8m last month.

Crude ‘bulls’ are currently clinging to the potential supply cuts caused by U.S sanctions on Iran (third-largest producer in OPEC) as reason enough to support short-term oil prices.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices are under pressure as the ‘big’ dollar steadies amid concerns of an escalation in Sino-U.S trade tensions. Spot gold is -0.3% lower at +$1,197.51 an ounce, after rising +0.6% in Monday’s session. U.S gold futures are down -0.3% at +$1,202.20 an ounce.

However, if the ‘big’ dollar loses its ‘tariff haven’ appeal, expect the ‘yellow’ metal to find support on pullbacks.

3. Sovereign yields rally

U.S Treasury yields have backed up along the curve on growing expectations that the Fed could raise interest rates a few more times this year after recent data showed wages spiking last month, elevating concerns about inflation.

Note: U.S data last week showed that wages in August posted their largest annual increase in more than nine-years, rising +0.4% m/m and +2.9% y/y.

Yesterday, U.S 10’s touched +3.022%, the highest level in four-months, along with U.S 30-year yields at +3.159%. As to be expected, the short end rallied to a 10-year high, backing up to +2.799%.

Elsewhere, German Bund yields continue drifting upward to the +0.50% level amid better sentiment around Italy. The 10-year Bund yield is trading at +0.46%, up +0.05%. In the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has rallied +1 bps to +1.536%.

4. Dollar muted reaction

EUR/USD (€1.1680) shows a muted reaction to the U.S announcement that it will charge +10% on another +$200B of Chinese imports starting from next Monday. Typically trade tensions have been positive for the ‘big’ dollar; maybe attitudes will change once China shows its hand.

GBP/USD (£1.3126) pulls back from recent six-week highs as the market awaits Thursday’s E.U summit.

TRY ($6.3670) continues to weaken, down another -0.7% as investors remain confident in fading last weeks bigger than expected Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) rate hike.

An interest rate increase by the Norges Bank on Thursday is widely expected and already broadly priced into EUR/NOK (€9.5406). However, NOK bulls believe the central bank will likely signal more rate increases, which should provide further support for this commodity currency.

5. Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) stays true to its ‘hawkish’ stance

In its minutes released overnight there were no surprises. The RBA maintained its interest-rate guidance in the minutes from its meeting a fortnight ago, reiterating that increases will eventually come amid anticipated economic strength.

RBA also noted that a number of G10 central banks, including the Fed, were expected to continuing rate hikes. This had been reflected in the markets, “most notably a broad-based appreciation of the US dollar” that “raised risks” for some, especially for “fragile emerging” markets. However, “the modest depreciation of the AUD was helpful for domestic economic growth.”

The copy and recent rhetoric suggests that Aussie policy makers remains highly confident its current stance – interest rates at record lows will ultimately bring lower unemployment, higher wage growth and an uptick in inflation over time.

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No tariffs, now tariffs, what gives?

Monday September 17: Five things the markets are talking about

The possibility of a new round on tariffs on Chinese goods is not helping equity markets this Monday morning. The ‘big’ dollar is holding onto Friday’s gains as investors try and acclimatize themselves to the ever-fluid trade situation that President Trump seems to be creating himself.

Deflection or negotiation, whatever the reason, markets continue to wait for the counter punch before throwing all in. China is not expected to be a willing dance partner in proposed trade talks later this month if the Trump administration goes ahead with the additional tariffs expected later today.

Note: Tariff level likely to be around +10%, and below the +25% previously announced.

Last week, the outlook for global trade looked improved, however, true to form, inconsistency seems consistent with this Trump administration.

This week, on the central bank front, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) dominates proceedings (Sept 18). However, recent domestic data remains mixed – Q2 GDP was revised upward while monthly core-machine orders rebounded from June’s decline and PPI edged downward – and certainlgly disappointing news to Governor Kuroda’s inflation fight.

On tap: AUD monetary policy minutes (Sept 17), BoJ rate announcement (Sept 18), U.K CPI and NZD GDP (Sept 19), SNB monetary policy decision & U.K retail sales, CAD retail sales (Sept 21)

1. Stocks see mostly red

The Nikkei 225 was closed for a bank holiday.

Down-under, Aussie stocks were the best performer in the region, as other Asia-Pacific indexes struggled with Sino-U.S trade worries. The ASX 200 rose +0.3% as energy and financial stocks logged solid gains and telecom rallied +1.5%. The negatives were elder care providers due to a planned government probe into the sector. In S. Korea, the Kospi closed down -0.66% on global trade worries.

Stocks in Hong Kong finished lower while China’s main Shanghai Composite index fell to its lowest close in four-years overnight on fears that Washington is expected to unveil new tariffs on imported Chinese goods this week.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index ended -1.3% lower, while the China Enterprises index closed down -1.1%. In China, the Shanghai Composite index dropped -1.1%, while the blue-chip CSI300 index also declined -1.1%.

In Europe, regional bourses reverse earlier losses to trade mostly unchanged after weakness in Asia.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘red’ (-0.1%)

Indices: Stoxx50 +0.1% at 3,348, FTSE -0.2% at 7,291, DAX -0.2% at 12,100, CAC-40 flat at 5,351; IBEX-35 +0.6% at 9,417, FTSE MIB +0.7% at 21,019, SMI -0.3% at 8,936, S&P 500 Futures -0.1%

2. Oil higher as U.S Iran sanctions raise supply concerns, gold higher

Oil prices remain better bid as the market focuses on the potential impact of U.S sanctions on Iran despite promises by Washington that the Saudis, Russia and the U.S could together raise output fast enough to offset falling supplies.

Brent crude oil is up +45c a barrel at +$78.54, while U.S light crude (WTI) is up +43c at +$69.44.

Note: Washington aims to cut Iran oil exports to force Tehran to re-negotiate a nuclear deal. Iran exports have declined by -580k bpd in the past 90-days.

On Friday, U.S Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that he did not expect any price spikes and that the world’s top three oil producers could raise global output in the next 18-months.

Also capping oil prices, U.S drillers added two oilrigs in the week to Sep. 1, bringing the total count up to 749 according to Baker Hughes energy services.

Note: A Joint Technical Committee of OPEC and non-OPEC producers are due to meet today to coordinate production.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices have inched a tad higher as speculators look for short-term gains, amid increasing Sino-U.S trade tensions and prospects of further Fed interest rate hikes. Spot gold is up +0.2% at +$1,195.83 an ounce, after falling -0.6% on Friday when it marked its third straight weekly decline. U.S gold futures are down -0.1% at +$1,199.80.

3. Sweden’s Riksbank ready to hike despite low inflation

This morning minutes from Sweden’s Riksbank suggests that the board has become more tolerant of downside surprises to inflation and that it is now ready to hike rates before core-inflation has returned all the way to target.

Board members indicated that inflation expectations are “firmly anchored at the target, indicating that this is sufficient to start a very gradual tightening of the currently very expansionary monetary policy.” The bond market is pricing in a +25 bps hike in early Q1, 2019. The SEK is rallying, with EUR/SEK down -0.4% at €10.4774.

Elsewhere, the yield on U.S 10’s has fallen -1 bps to +2.99%. In Germany, the 10-year Bund yield is unchanged at +0.45%, while in the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has rallied less than -1 bps to +1.53%. The spread of Italy’s 10-year BTP’s over Bunds has narrowed -8 bps.

4. Sterling rallies on Irish border hopes

GBP (£1.3095) trades atop of the psychological £1.31 handle on optimism of progress on the Irish border question ahead of this week’s E.U summit.

E.U chief negotiator Michel Barnier is supposedly working on a plan to minimise physical checks at the Irish border by tracking goods using barcodes on shipping containers.

Note: The first of three Brexit summits will be held on Thursday, and E.U leaders hope a deal can be struck within the next two months.

EUR/USD (€1.1636) little changed. The ‘big’ dollar is expected to remain contained this week due to the absence of Tier 1 U.S data releases, while EUR gains may be capped on ongoing Italian concerns.

Emerging market currency’s trade under pressure once again on tariffs threats, with the USD/TRY over +1.6% ($6.2554) higher, while the USD/INR is +0.8% higher as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) plans over the weekend to curb INR’s fall fail to lift the rupee.

5. Annual inflation down to +2.0% in the euro area

Data this morning from Eurostat showed that the euro area (19 members) annual inflation rate was +2.0% in August, down from +2.1% in July. A year earlier, the rate was +1.5%.

For the European Union (28 members) annual inflation was +2.1% in August, down from +2.2% in July. A year earlier, the rate was +1.7%.

Digging deeper, the lowest annual rates were registered in Denmark (+0.8%), Ireland and Greece (both +0.9%). The highest annual rates were recorded in Romania (+4.7%), Bulgaria (+3.7%), Estonia (+3.5%) and Hungary (+3.4%).

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