FOMC : Pardon the interruption

FOMC: Pardon the interruption

The FOMC interlude was even less of an event than expected but that belies some of the headline risk creeping back into play, as the market has been waiting for a Whitehouse press release on China tariffs which has left investors to speculate if this will confirm the overnight chatter the US is proceeding with USD 16 bln in tariffs.

US equities market have struggled all NY session despite a strong showing by Apple as US-China trade headlines started to sound alarms from the NY cash markets open.

On the other trade front, however, Canada and Mexican officials are “harnessing the power of trade agreements to promote higher wages” undoing some of the aggressive US rhetoric that was suggesting the US administration was on the cusp of freezing Canada out of NAFTA talks.

Oil Markets

Oil had been moving lower all session on the back of reports OPEC and Russian crude oil production rose during July, while a larger than expected DOE inventory build confirmed the API reports from Tuesday. While not quite as large as the API survey suggested it was still very bearish correlative to market expectations. US Crude oil exports have\ fallen right off the table from last week 2.7 million barrels per day to only 1.3 million barrels per day while clocking the slowest reading since April.

Oil traders were caught long and wrong by the surprising increase in OPEC production and more significant than expected  US Crude inventory builds. The downward spiral halted when headlines surfaced the Iran Revolutionary Guard was planning a substantial exercise within 48 hours in the Persian Gulf in a show of force to bespeak its ability to close Strait of Hormuz, a primary oil artery.

Gold Prices

Gold prices have had another down day. Outside of some short covering into the FOMC, the yellow metal has been trading offered from the get-go with selling showing few signs of abating. US 10 year yields are trading above 3 % while the Feds are set to raise interest rates next time around which is lending support to the USD. Given that Gold is more or less trading at the dollar mercy and with USDCNH inching towards 6.84 in late NY trade gold is heading lower.

Currency Markets

JPY:  The Yen has traded stronger today in part due to JGB yields moving higher. But with US stock markets trading with offered bias, a tinge of risk aversion is creeping in the USDJPY space.

Trade war breakthrough?

Trade war breakthrough?

US markets are off to a rousing start in the wake of a report that US and China are said to restart talks to avert the escalating tit for tat trade war but renewed selling in large-cap tech companies has tempered gains. But indeed any tempering of this confrontational issue ahead of the Presidents 200 billion trade threat will be viewed in a favourable light and provided parties remain at the table, where there’s a will there is a way.

Currency Markets

As expected there was no hawkish midsummer nightmare but rather \he BoJ did not change rates nor did they show any signs of shifting from ultra-loose monetary policy and predictably USDJPY has been grinding higher while taking the NKY is tow. The BoJ announced minuscule adjustments: Firstly, no surprise here that both GDP and CPI expectations were revised lower. Secondly, they increased the band around the 0.0% target for 10y JGBs from 10bps to 20bps, permitting more movement in rates. They changed the ETF program, maintaining purchases at JPY6.0tn but adjusting the allocation more to Topix rather than Nikkei. Finally, the BoJ adopted a forward guidance strategy as traders view incredibly subtle shift towards policy normalisation definitively dovish and topside USDJPY is now in play.

Chinese Manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMI’s were slightly below expectations but did not seem to have a notable market impact. If anything, base metals are trading mixed this morning after the data.

On the highly watched USDCNY post, the overnight the fix came out in line with expectations at 6.8165, +34 pips but on the positive trade headlines long USDCNH positions are buckling from 6.84+ to sub 6.80 as long dollar positions are running for the exits.

The AUD dollar was trading bid after residential building approvals came in better than expected overnight, But on the back of this morning move below 6.80 USDCNH has seen an exodus from arguably the market most crowded trade, short Aussie.

The National Post report overnight indicating US diffidence for Canada to join the current US/Mexico trade talks saw USDCAD spike back towards 1.31 but provided traders with an excellent opportunity to re-engage CAD longs as the outlook remains favourable for the Loonie,.And local dealers were rewarded after the positive GDP overwhelmed the negative NAFTA news.

With an apparent easing on Trade tensions, the Malaysian Ringgit should find some support on improving risk sentiment, but as we enter the two days Fed policy meeting, the USD is holding up its end of the bargain. But in addition to the Fed policy meeting, traders have payrolls on their mind which should continue to lend support to the Greenback and will limit MYR gains.

Oil Markets

Oil prices were back peddling out of the gates this morning ahead of today’s contract expirations in September Brent, after reports from Interfax pointed to increased supply, specifically from Russia, whose oil production was up to 11.22mm bpd this month. However, both Brent and WTI have reversed tack and are moving higher on the positive US-China trade headlines which are easing global growth concerns.

Gold Markets

Gold prices bounced off session lows with the Yuan rallying. However, with the Fed expected to stay the course with two interest rates rises in 2018 which should underpin near-term USD sentiment, speculators will continue to fade upticks in the absence of haven and sluggish physical demand.

Confusion reigns

Confusion reigns

In a market starved for significant news, the FOMC minutes provided just enough talking points to keep the dollar bid as US bond yields nudged towards crucial resistance levels.However, the Feds assortment of views on wage growth suggests the FOMC remains pliable during the transition phase from Yellen to Powell. In other words, the Feds stay in wait and see mode regarding inflation.

Of course, the market latched on to the dovish stuff as traders were partial to sell the dollar, but as is so often the case when interpreting the Feds exercise in verbal gymnastics, the market got it wrong. The FOMC minutes were eventually deemed slightly more hawkish after suggesting economic growth will surpass their estimates which caused STIRT traders to nudge rate hike expectations higher through 2018  and providing a bump to dollar sentiment. But given the lack of follow-through, the jury remains out.

The exciting part of the equation today will be the return of China investors which should provide a spark to regional sentiment. But the jury is out on the currency markets and in particular USDJPY which remains the primary vehicle to express currency sentiment.

So there lies the debate,  interest rate hawks preach the FOMC had not seen last week’s sharp inflation report while the doves suggest a need for a string of convincing inflation prints before moving to the four rate hike camp.

Bond Markets

The bond market is confused, but as my first boss on the BondDesk was always quick to remind me, when in doubt Sell.
Oil prices

Tumbling oil prices got a reprieve at the end of the day after American Petroleum Institute data showed a drop of 0.907 million barrels in US crude inventories. Given all the noise about a shale production ramp, Traders were expecting an increase in the warehouse when in reality improved pipeline infrastructure to the Gulf coast and the decreased supply via TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, sent Cushing inventories tumbling.But the firming dollar continues to thwart investor sentiment despite the bullish inventory data.  By no means is the dollar returning to form so this upbeat inventory data could have some legs.

Gold Prices

It was a  meltdown in Gold markets overnight, and I’m not talking about scrap prices. But in reality, this should provide Gold investors with another opportunity to re-engage as the Fed fell well short of confirming a 4th rate hike in 2018. The minutes were more balanced in my view as the recent uptick in volatility will have as much bearing on Fed policy decision as the subtle rise in inflation.

G-10

The Euro

Disappointing price action from the long perspective continues to weigh on sentiment; bullish views continue to be challenged ahead of the Italian elections, as near-term convictions turn neutral to slightly bearish

The Japanese Yen

There remain substantial offers between 107.50-108 levels that are providing a cap on USDJPY, but Traders remains exceptionally cautious in either direction despite increasing signals for a structural demise in USD sentiment.While fiscal stimulus looks good on paper, we’re entering uncharted territory as the Fed pares back bond purchases while the Treasury issues absurd amounts of debt.
Malaysian Ringgit

We should anticipate more liquidity coming back to the market as mainland investor return. While we’re nowhere near a make or break scenario for the Ringgit, short-term sentiment remains tarnished by an unexpectedly faster rise in US bond yields. While this is mildly negative for local opinion, the main issue is investors are growing increasingly concerned about a quicker pace of interest rate normalisation from the Fed which could trigger regional capital outflow.

The FOMC minutes served up little more than a plate of confusion last night, so I expect G-10 along with Asia FX to remain in a state of limbo until Fed Chair Powell takes the podium later this month.

Yield-o-Mania

Yield-o-Mania

Global yields ratcheted higher after a stronger than expected jump on Germany’s PPI which bolsters the hotter than expected comprehensive inflation narrative. But it was the jump in US 2-year note yields that provided the extra boost to the US dollar as shorter-dated tenors provides investors with better goalposts for determining how the market is viewing Fed sentiment

However, the lukewarm demand for two-year notes at auction and with supply concerns expected to weigh heavy on investor bond appetite this week, we could see the dollar back under pressure. Of course, traders are erring on the side of caution ahead of the release of the FOMC Jan 30-31 minutes and given the short dollar bus had reached standing room only portions, the short-term pause in this year’s grand dollar sell-off was not too unexpected.
US stock markets

US equity markets fell overnight on the back of higher US Treasury yields which are providing investors with more income than dividends on the S&P 500 Index. While the prospect of higher interest rates will keep investors on edge, it’s not like we’re returning to double-digit levels or the Fed is moving its terminal rate.So even the uptick in ten-year yields to 3 % or even 3.25 % is unlikely to kill the equity market rally as the benefits from fiscal stimulus should continue to feed through the markets. Investors are banking on much higher returns from equities than bonds again in 2018.

Oil markets

Amid OPEC supply compliance, WTI markets are focusing on dwindling inflow of Crude from Canada to Cushing due to limited accommodation on the Keystone pipeline.The disruption is providing a fillip to WTI prices while the stronger dollar has Brent prices falling and narrowing the WTI-Brent spread. Also, WTI is getting a boost from rising exports attributed to better infrastructure connecting the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast. But of course, we are tapering expectation on WTI rally as the USD continues to find firmer footing.

Gold markets

A tough week for the Gold market so far as the dollar has rebounded and US Bond yields have jumped higher ahead of the FOMC minutes. Traders are hedging for a possible shift in guidance given the uptick in inflation, so this presents a significant market tail risk which could cause traders to reprice rate hike expectations in 2019 aggressively higher. A quicker and steeper slope of interest rate normalisation offers the most prominent near-term threat to gold prices as this outcome will send the USD surging.
G-10

The Euro

The lack of demand for EUR Monday certainly opened the door, and predictably on the first sign of abject news, we dipped to the low 1.23’s after the German ZEW survey plunged. The market is forever a discounting mechanism and given the extremely disappointing price action from the long perspective; it triggered one-way position squaring ahead of the FOMC minutes. And while the bullish EUR narrative continues to resonate, both bearish and bullish views will be inevitably challenged with Italian elections, January NFP and an ECB meeting due over the next few weeks so near-term convictions could turn neutral and tarnish the EUR appeal

The Japanese Yen

The USDJPY should be the best game in town this week especially if traders interpret the FOMC minute’s  colour as bold. However, the risks are balanced entering the FOMC minutes as the recent uptick in volatility could have as much bearing on Fed policy decision as the subtle rise in inflation

But until the market takes out the significant 108.15 level I continue to view the current move as little more than a pre FOMC meeting squeeze driven by yields and positioning and believe there will be substantial resistance between 107.50-108 levels.
The Australian Dollar

Pre-data comments. Given the RBA has been very vocal on wage growth as the missing piece of the economic puzzle, today’s Wage Price Index will attract an unusual amount of focus. Unfortunately, everyone is looking at this trade so the news reading algorithms will likely get there well ahead of everyone on a surprise uptick.

The Malaysian Ringgit

Riskier currencies are trading on poor footing given the firmer dollar and negative global equity sentiment. And of course, we can not overlook higher US yields which are driving opinions this week. This package of coincidences does not make a very conducive environment for regional risk.