Too Many Rate Hikes Could Harm Economy

Central bankers need to be careful not to increase interest rates too quickly this year because that could slow the economy too much, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told CNBC on Thursday.Wall Street expects the Fed to raise rates at next month’s meeting, in the first of what’s seen as at least three total hikes in 2018. The Fed increased the cost of borrowing money three times last year to the current range of 1.25 to 1.50 percent.Hiking rates by a total of 1 percent this year, which would signal four increases of the typical 0.25 percent, would be “priced for perfection,” Bullard said.

Source: Fed’s Bullard: Too many hikes this year could slow economy too much – CNBC

Futures Flat After Hawkish Fed Minutes

Dollar maintains its firmer tone

BoE Hearing and Fed Minutes in Focus

US Futures Continue to Pare Last Week’s Gains

US equity markets are expected to open in the red again on Wednesday, tracking losses in Europe as stocks continue to pare last week’s strong rebound.

It’s been a relatively quiet start to the morning and the week, with the bank holiday in the US and Canada contributing to this. The European session has been dominated by economic data releases so far and that’s likely to continue, with flash manufacturing and services data due from the US shortly after the open. It’s the FOMC minutes that will be released later in the day though that will likely be the standout event from a US perspective, particularly as the statement caused quite a stir at the end of January.

US Yield Curve Now (Orange) and on 29 January 2018 (Purple)

Source – Thomson Reuters Eikon

The sell-off in the markets may have come a couple of days later but part of the initial trigger was a more hawkish sounding Fed, with the jobs report then being the straw that broke the camel’s back two days later. While the minutes may not generate quite the same response, traders will likely monitor what they say very closely for signs that policy makers are now leaning more towards three to four rate hikes this year, rather than two or three.

EUR/USD – Euro Ticks Lower as German Manufacturing PMI Softens

GBP Slips as Unemployment Ticks Higher

Sterling is coming under a bit of pressure this morning after UK jobs data for the three months to December showed wages still growing at a moderate pace and unemployment ticking up to 4.4%. While a higher reading on wage growth may have triggered a more bullish response from the pound, the data turned out to be quite insignificant as it’s unlikely to change the views at the Bank of England.

UK Unemployment Rate

Wages have been slowly ticking higher recently and they could continue to do so as workers demand more due to the higher cost of living and a tight labour market. The move higher in the unemployment rate won’t be a concern at this moment with it potentially being a one-off move and still very low. As long as inflation remains at upper range of what is deemed acceptable, the central bank seems intent on raising rates at least once more this year, despite the temporary factors driving it and economic uncertainty that lies ahead.

Yield-o-Mania

BoE Inflation Report Hearing Eyed as Markets Price in Rate Hikes

Members of the Monetary Policy Committee including Governor Mark Carney will appear before the Treasury Select Committee later on today, during which they will be questioned on their latest inflation report forecasts and expectations for interest rates going forward. While it’s always interesting to get the views of policy makers and the pound will likely be volatile throughout, I wonder how much of what they have to say will now already be priced in, with at least one rate hike now expected this year.

GBPUSD Daily Chart

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With that in mind and with Brexit transition negotiations likely to dominate the next month, we could see the pound lose some of the momentum that’s been gathering over the last six months or so. It’s recent failed to make new highs on two occasions against the dollar and it’s also slipping against the yen in a possible sign that traders are beginning to lock in profits ahead of what could be a difficult month.

Economic Calendar

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EUR/USD – Is the Rally Running Out of Steam?

Are We Looking at an Overcrowded Market?

It’s difficult to find anyone at the moment that isn’t bullish on this pair in the long term and under the current circumstances, they may have a point. However, these markets don’t move in a straight line (even bitcoin as the last couple of months has shown us) and corrections along the way are both normal and healthy.

So when I ask if the rally is running out of steam, I’m not necessarily calling a top in the pair and in this case, I’m certainly not. What I’m suggesting is that the recent run higher – and once again it’s been a good one – may be looking a little overstretched and a pull-back could be on the cards.

The pair first started to look a little overbought earlier this month when it failed to make a new high and even appeared to have formed a small double top, but as we saw, the dollar bashing wasn’t quite over yet and despite breaking the neckline, we didn’t see much of a pull-back before it was once again tearing higher.

EURUSD Daily Chart

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Once again though, we find ourselves testing the 1.25 region and we appear to be finding a lot of resistance. The two notable differences on this occasion though is that we did make a new high and we did not have the momentum indicators – MACD and stochastic – confirming the moves. This has left us with a negative divergence between price and momentum that is red flag for the bulls.

USD/JPY – Yen Edges Lower in Thin Holiday Trade

It’s worth noting at this point that a divergence in itself is not a sell signal, nor does it indicate that a pair won’t make a new high. It quite easily could, although if it does so with less momentum again, this would be a second red flag and further suggest that a correction may be coming. If a new high is made on rising momentum it would, however, suggest that bulls have found further reason to be bullish and negate the previous red flag warning.

With the pair now showing a divergence though and Friday’s daily candle looking rather bearish, having rallied above Thursday’s high and closed well below its low, I wonder whether the downside is at least going to be tested.

The first interesting level for me is 1.2320, this was a resistance level in mid-January that became support shortly after and then the neckline of the double top that never fully completed it’s corrective projection. While we broke above here quite easily on the way back up, it could prove more tricky this time if indeed the market is still bullish. A break below may be an early correction confirmation signal.

Gold Trading Sideways in Thin Holiday Trade

The more interesting level is 1.22 though, with it being roughly the area where the last two dips found support. A failure to do so on this occasion would be a bearish signal and could create an imperfect double top with the neckline here and the peaks being 25 January and 16 February highs. It would also signal an arguably overdue correction in the dollar with the last having been a little brief considering the move that preceeded it.

Given the size of the double top – roughly 1.25 to 1.22 – this could give us a possible price projection of 300 pips, creating possible support around 1.19. This would bring us back to a prior area of support and resistance and represent a 61.8% retracement from the November lows to the recent highs at which point traders longer term bullish appetite could be tested.

US Indices on Course For Full House

Futures Point to Full Week of Gains After Sharp Correction

US equity markets could end the week with a full house of gains as long as indices manage to hold onto the small gains being seen in futures ahead of the open.

This would also bring an end to two shocking weeks for equity markets that saw more than 10% quickly wiped off indices, the first time we’ve seen such a move since the start of 2016. While the prospect of higher yields and interest rates, combined with a surge in volatility, have been blamed for the decline, the rebound we’re now seeing reaffirms the belief that fundamentals are still strong which should prevent the situation deteriorating further.

There are a few economic releases that traders will likely be aware of as the week draws to a close. The UoM consumer sentiment reading is always an interesting release, given the importance of the consumer to the US economy. Building permits and housing starts will also be released ahead of the open on Friday. The bulk of companies may have already reporting numbers for the fourth quarter but there are still some more to come today, with 13 due to release earnings including Coca Cola and Kraft Heinz.

US Bond Auction TIPS the dollar

Sterling Resilient After Poor Retail Sales Figures

UK retail sales data for January was once again disappointing, providing further evidence that the post-Brexit squeeze on consumers is heaving an economic impact. While this could be partially reversed as sterling continues to rebound off its lows and wage growth picks up to offset higher living costs – assuming it does – we’re seeing few signs that the squeeze is easing and that’s being reflected in the spending figures.

The pound has actually been quite resilient to the data in the aftermath of the release. While it has since declined against the dollar, this has primarily been driven by the bounce in the greenback. The consumer squeeze and economic implications of it are already known and priced in, traders are far more concerned with wages and inflation and the impact this will have on interest rates, which makes the jobs report next Wednesday far more important.

GBPUSD Daily Chart

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Bitcoin Struggling to Overcome Psychological Barrier

Bitcoin is once again threatening the psychological $10,000 barrier but as was the case on Thursday, it’s struggling to maintain its push above and once again finds itself falling slightly short. While a break above $10,000 should be no more significant than any other, it would appear to represent an end to the plunge in bitcoin that saw it fall around 70% from its mid-December highs and for this reason, it’s proving a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Bitcoin (CME) Daily Chart

Source – Thomson Reuters Eikon

Those expecting a similar response to breaking above $10,000 that we saw last time – a near 100% increase in less than three weeks – may also be disappointed. We’re not seeing the kind of euphoria that accompanied the break at the end of November when the speculative fomo trade was contributing greatly to its meteoric rise. The crash of the last couple of months has made this less of a one-way move and those that got burned may not be so keen to jump back in.

DAX Gains Ground as Dollar Under Pressure

All of this is assuming that bitcoin will break above $10,000 which is far from certain when you consider the gradual – by its own standard – bounce from its lows. This could quite easily be another corrective move and the lows may be tested once again. The absence of a constant negative news flow is helping but whether this can be sustained is debatable.

Economic Calendar

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Fundamentals Remain Positive Despite Sell-Off

Despite the recent fluctuations and concern about major corrections in global equity markets, Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, says fundamentals, like corporate earnings, remain positive.

CAC Climbs on Strong German, Eurozone GDP Reports

Futures Higher But Market Remains Vulnerable

Will it be a Valentines Day Massacre for the Dollar?

Futures Higher But Market Remains Vulnerable

Inflation and Retail Sales Data Eyed Markets Gradually Stabilize

US futures are pointing to a stronger open on Wednesday, building on the small gains posted at the start of the week and offering some hope that stability is slowly returning to the markets.

Given the volatility that we’ve seen over the last week or so, which was initially attributed to higher interest rate expectations following the January jobs report, traders will be closely monitoring the US inflation and retail sales releases today. Both numbers will be released shortly before the open on Wall Street and could be the trigger for further volatility, especially if the CPI exceeds expectations.

While the CPI number isn’t the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure – which could impact how traders respond to it – it is released a couple of weeks earlier than the core PCE price index and so is seen as being indicative of inflationary trends. This means markets can be sensitive to the release, particularly during times of increases sensitivity, like we’re seeing at the moment.

DAX Gains Ground on German, Eurozone Growth

Markets Still Appear Vulnerable to Downside Shocks

Volatility has remained since the initial spike last Monday although the VIX has more than halves since then, so things are calming down a little. That said, investors still appear jittery and equity markets remain some way off their highs. Yields are back at last Monday’s levels and have pushed above them in recent days so this blip hasn’t had any lasting impact on medium-term interest rate expectations, although that could change if we see further episodes.

The dollar has been one of the beneficiaries of the recent volatility, with the increased US interest rate expectations lifting the greenback off its lows after months of significant downside pressure. The dollar index rose briefly above 90 late last week before some profit taking set in and while it remains vulnerable to further selling, I wonder whether we’re going to see more of a bounce in the near-term, particularly if we get some decent numbers today.

US Dollar Index (Reuters) Daily Chart

Source – Thomson Reuters Eikon

Will it be a Valentines Day Massacre for the Dollar?

Bitcoin Making Steady Gains But More Pain May Lie Ahead

Bitcoin has been making steady improvements over the last week, having fallen below $6,000 briefly, roughly 70% from its high reached in December. While cryptocurrency enthusiasts will be encouraged by the period of stability in price and gradual gains during that time, I think it still looks vulnerable to near-term pain before a bottom can be claimed.

I think $9,000 to $10,000 will pose some real challenges for bitcoin but if it can overcome these levels, it will be a very encouraging sign for those bullish on the cryptocurrency. Negative news flow has been a major test for bitcoin so far this year and if that keeps coming, I struggle to see how it can gain any real upside momentum.

Bitcoin (CME) Daily Chart

Economic Calendar

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

US Futures Higher After Second Plunge This Week

Indices Remain Vulnerable After Entering Correction

US futures are trading slightly in the green ahead of the open on Friday, a day after stock markets once again tumbled leaving indices in correction territory.

As we saw on Thursday, this isn’t necessarily indicative of calm returning to the markets. The Dow recorded declines of more than 1,000 points for the second time this week, having never done so before, despite futures prior to the open being relatively unchanged on the previous days close.

Equities Lose $5 Trillion as Bulls Slay Bulls

Clearly there remains a lot of volatility and nervousness in the markets and I don’t expect this to ease up heading into the weekend. Stock markets will likely remain vulnerable to further shocks heading into today’s close and possible even next week. That said, with a 10% correction having now completed, I wonder whether investors will now start looking to buy the dips as the fundamental backdrop remains strong.

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US Congress Passes Funding Bill Ending Brief Government Shutdown

On a more positive note, the House and the Senate approved a new funding bill in the early hours of Friday morning that will see the government through to 23 March and increase spending limits for two years, ending a showdown that came into effect overnight.

Markets haven’t been too concerned about the prospect of a shutdown since the start of the year despite two having now taken place so I don’t expect to see any boost now that a deal has been reached. This is merely just another self-inflicted risk that’s been temporarily averted.

CAC Loses Ground as Global Sell-Off Continues

Sterling Dips After Worrying Manufacturing Data

It’s a slightly quieter day in terms of notable economic events. The Canadian jobs data will be of interest given that the central bank has been relatively aggressively raising interest rates over the last six months. The UK GDP estimate from NIESR will also be of interest, given that the pound has continued to rise even as the economy experiences a notable slowdown.

The manufacturing and industrial production figures from the UK this morning showed another dip in December, with the latter in particular experiencing no year on year growth. Given that these are among the areas that have benefited since the referendum, it may be a minor concern. The pound dipped after the releases having failed to hold above 1.40 against the dollar in recent days.

GBPUSD Daily Chart

Economic Calendar

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Second US Government Shutdown Underway

U.S. government funding lapsed Friday as Congress’ efforts to pass a spending bill fizzled out in the Senate for the second time in less than a month.Despite bipartisan support for a massive budget agreement, Congress failed to approve a funding plan before the midnight Thursday deadline. It is just the latest example of gridlock on Capitol Hill during the current GOP-controlled Congress.In this case, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocked repeated moves to vote on the measure over concerns about massive spending increases contained in the budget deal. Paul called the spending reckless and pushed for a vote on an amendment to reinstate budget caps, which Senate leadership did not allow.

Source: Government shutdown starts as Congress fails to pass spending bill – CNBC

Hawks coming home to roost

GBP/USD – Pound Gains Ground as BoE Hints at Rate Increase

Senate Passes New Spending Bill

Congress moved one step closer early Friday to setting a major spending increase, following hours of drama on the Senate floor that led to the second partial government shutdown in less than a month.The Senate passed a short-term funding bill and cleared the way for a boost to military and domestic spending. Senators voted 71-28 to approve the deal, but the chamber failed to do so before the clock turned to Friday and government funding lapsed.Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., mounted hours of solo resistance to the budget deal over what he called reckless spending. He repeatedly objected to efforts by senators to quickly move to a vote on the agreement.

Source: Government shutdown news: Senate passes government funding bill – CNBC

Hawks coming home to roost

GBP/USD – Pound Gains Ground as BoE Hints at Rate Increase