Into the Tank

The German economy shrank
Japan’s heading into the tank
Italians declared
The budget prepared
Is gospel, and oil just sank

There are a number of stories this morning competing for market attention as investors and traders continue to try to get a reading on growth prospects going forward. Perhaps the most surprising story is that German GDP, which had been expected to print at 0.0% in Q3, actually fell -0.2%, significantly worse than expected. While every pundit and economist has highlighted that it was a confluence of one-time events that drove the data and that expectations for Q4 are far more robust, the fact remains that Q3 growth in Germany, and the whole of Europe, has been much weaker than anticipated. The euro has not benefitted from the news, falling 0.25%, and broadly continuing its recent downtrend.

Adding to the single currency’s woes is the ongoing Italian budget opera, where the EU huffed and puffed and demanded the Italians change their plans. The Italians, formally, told the EU to pound salt yesterday evening, and now the EU is at a crossroads. Either the emperor has no clothes (EU does nothing and loses its fiscal oversight capability) or is in fact well dressed and willing to flaunt it (initiates procedures to sanction and fine Italy). The problem with the former is obvious, but the problem with the latter is the potential impact on EU Parliamentary elections to be held in the spring. Attacking Italy could easily result in a far more antiestablishment parliament with many of the current leadership finding themselves in the minority. (And the one thing we absolutely know is that incumbency is THE most important aspect of leadership, right?) The point is that there are ample reasons for the euro to remain under pressure going forward.

At the same time, Japanese economic data continues to disappoint, with IP declining -2.5% Y/Y in September and Capacity Utilization falling 1.5%. At the same time, we find out that the BOJ’s balance sheet is now officially larger than the Japanese economy! Think about that, Japan’s debt/GDP ratio has long been over 200%, but now the BOJ has printed money and bought assets equivalent to the entire annual output of the nation. And despite the extraordinary efforts that the BOJ has made, growth remains lackluster and inflation nonexistent meaning the BOJ has failed to achieve either of its key aims. At some point in time, and it appears to be approaching sooner rather than later, central banks around the world will completely lose the ability to adjust market behavior through either words or action. And while it is not clear which central bank will lose that power first, the BOJ has to be the frontrunner, although the ECB is certainly trying to make a run at the title.

Meanwhile, from Merry Olde Englande we have news that a draft Brexit deal has been agreed between PM May and the EU. The problem remains that her cabinet has not yet seen nor signed off on it, and there is the little matter of getting the deal through Parliament, which will be dicey no matter what. On the one hand, it is not wholly surprising that some type of agreement was reached, but as is often the case in a situation as fraught as Brexit, nobody is satisfied, and quite frankly, it is not clear that it will gather sufficient support from either the UK Parliament, or the EU’s other nations. This is made evident by the fact that the pound has actually fallen today, -0.2%, despite the announcement. I maintain that a Brexit deal will clearly help the pound’s value, so the market does not yet believe the story. At the same time, UK inflation data was released at a softer than expected 2.4% in October, thus reducing potential pressure on the BOE to consider raising rates, even if a Brexit deal is agreed. After all, if inflation falls to 2.0%, their concerns will be much allayed.

One other story getting a lot of press has been the sharp decline in the price of oil, which yesterday fell 7.1% in the US, and is now down more than 26% since its high in the beginning of October, just six weeks ago. There is clearly a relationship between commodity prices and the dollar given the fact that most commodities are priced in dollars, and that relationship is consistently an inverse one. The question, that I have yet to seen answered effectively, is the direction of the causality. Does a stronger dollar lead to weaker commodity prices? Or do weaker commodity prices drive the dollar higher? While I am inclined to believe in the first scenario, there are arguments on both sides and no research has yet been able to answer the question effectively. However, it should be no surprise that the dollar continues to rally coincidentally with the decline in oil, and other commodity, prices.

I didn’t even get a chance to discuss the ongoing slowdown in Chinese economic growth, but we can touch on that tomorrow. As for today’s session, this morning we see the latest CPI readings (exp 0.3%, 2.5% Y/Y headline, 0.2% 2.2% core) and then as the FX market gets set to go home, Chairman Powell speaks, although it is hard to believe that his views on anything will have changed that much. In the end, the big picture remains that the dollar should continue to benefit from the Fed’s ongoing monetary policy activities as well as the self-inflicted wounds of both the euro and the yen.

Good luck
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A Too Bitter Pill

Three stories today are of note
First, Italy’s rocking the boat
Next Brexit is still
A too bitter pill
While OPEC, a cut soon may vote

The outcome in all of these cases
Has been that the market embraces
The dollar once more
(It’s starting to soar)
And quite clearly off to the races

On this Veteran’s Day holiday in the US, where bond markets will be closed although equity markets will not, the dollar has shown consistent strength across the board. Interestingly, there have been several noteworthy stories this morning, but each one of them has served to reinforce the idea that the dollar’s oft-forecast demise remains somewhere well into the future.

Starting with Italy, the current government has shown every indication that they are not going to change their budget structure or forecasts despite the EU’s rejection of these assumptions when the budget was first submitted several weeks ago. This sets up the following situation: the EU can hold firm to its fiscal discipline strategy and begin the procedure to sanction Italy and impose a fine for breaking the rules, or the EU can soften its stance and find some compromise that tries to allow both sides to save face, or at least the EU to do so.

The problem with the first strategy is the EU Commission’s fear that it will increase the attraction of antiestablishment parties in the Parliamentary elections due in May. After all, the Italian coalition was elected by blaming all of Italy’s woes on the EU and its policies. The last thing the Commission wants is a more unruly Parliament, especially as the current leadership may find themselves on the sidelines. The problem with the second strategy is that if they don’t uphold their fiscal probity it will be clear, once and for all, that EU fiscal rules are there in name only and have no teeth. This means that going forward, while certain countries will follow them because they think it is proper to do so, many will decide they represent conditions too difficult with which to adhere. Over time, the second option would almost certainly result in the eventual dissolution of the euro, as the problems from having such dramatically different fiscal policies would eventually become too difficult for the ECB to manage.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that the euro is softer again today, down 0.6% and now trading at its lowest level since June 2017. In less than a week it has fallen by more than 2.0% and it looks as though this trend will continue for a while yet. We need to see the Fed soften its stance or something else to change in order to stop this move.

Turning to the UK, the clock to make a deal seems to be ticking ever faster and there is no indication that PM May is going to get one. Over the weekend, there was no progress made regarding the Irish border issue, but we did hear from several important constituents that the PM’s current deal will fail in Parliament. If Labour won’t support it and the DUP won’t support it and the hard-line Brexiteers won’t support it, there is no deal to be had. With this in mind it is no surprise that the pound has suffered greatly this morning, down 1.4% and back well below 1.30. You may recall that around Halloween, the market started to anticipate a Brexit deal and the pound rallied 3.7% in the course of a week. Well, it has since ceded 2.7% of that gain and based on the distinct lack of progress on the talks, it certainly appears that the pound has further to fall. Do not be surprised if the pound trades below its recent lows of 1.2700 and goes on to test the post-Brexit vote lows of 1.1900.

The third story of note is regarding OPEC and oil prices, which have fallen nearly 20% during the past six weeks as US production and inventories continue to climb while the price impact of sanctions on Iran turned out to be much less then expected. This has encouraged speculation that OPEC may cut its production quotas, although the news from various members is mixed. Adding to oil’s woes (and in truth all commodity prices) has been the fact that global growth has been slowing as well, thus reducing underlying demand. In fact, the biggest concern for the market has been the slow down in China, which continues apace and where stories of further policy ease by the PBOC, including interest rate cuts, are starting to be heard. Two things to note are first, the typical inverse correlation between the dollar and commodity prices such that when the dollar rises, commodity prices tend to fall, and second, in line with the dollar’s broad strength, the Chinese yuan has fallen further today, down 0.3%, and pushing back to the levels that inspired calls for a move beyond 7.00 despite concerns over increased capital outflows.

And frankly, those are the stories of note. The dollar is higher vs. pretty much every other currency today, G10 and EMG alike, with no distinction and few other stories that are newsworthy. Looking at the data this week, there are two key releases, CPI and Retail Sales along with a bit of other stuff.

Tuesday NFIB Biz Confidence 108.0
  Monthly Budget -$98.0B
Wednesday CPI 0.3% (2.5% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.2% Y/Y)
Thursday Initial Claims 215K
  Philly Fed 20.2
  Empire State 20.0
  Retail Sales 0.5%
  -ex Autos 0.5%
Friday IP 0.2%
  Capacity Utilization 78.2%

Overall, the data continues to support the Fed’s thesis that tighter monetary policy remains the proper course of action. In addition to the data we will hear from three Fed speakers including Chairman Powell on Wednesday. It seems hard to believe that he will have cause to change his tune, so I expect that as long as the rest of the world exhibits more short-term problems like we are seeing today, the dollar will remain quite strong.

Good luck
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A Major Mistake

There once was a pundit named Fately
Who asked, is Fed policy lately
A major mistake
Or did Yellen break
The mold? If she did t’was sedately

Please sanction my poetic license by listing Janet Yellen as the primary suspect in my inquiry; it was simply that her name fit within the rhyme scheme better than her fellow central bankers, all of whom acted in the same manner. Of course, I am really discussing the group of Bernanke, Draghi, Kuroda and Carney as well as Yellen, the cabal that decided ZIRP (zero interest rate policy), NIRP (negative interest rate policy) and QE (quantitative easing) made sense.

Recently, there has been a decided uptick in warnings from pundits about how current Fed Chair, Jay Powell, is on the verge of a catastrophic policy mistake by raising interest rates consistently. There are complaints about his plainspoken manner lacking the subtleties necessary to ‘guide’ the market to the correct outcome. In this case, the correct outcome does not mean sustainable economic growth and valuation but rather ever higher equity prices. There are complaints that his autonomic methodology (which if you recall was actually instituted by Yellen herself and simply has been followed by Powell), does not take into account other key issues such as wiggles in the data, or more importantly the ongoing rout in non-US equity markets. And of course, there is the constant complaint from the current denizen of the White House that Powell is undermining the economy, and by extension the stock market, by raising rates. You may have noticed a pattern about all the complaints coming back to the fact that Powell’s policy actions are no longer supporting the stock markets around the world. Curious, no?

But I think it is fair to ask if Powell’s policies are the mistake, or if perhaps, those policies he is unwinding, namely QE and ZIRP, were the mistakes. After all, in the scope of history, today’s interest rates remain exceedingly low, somewhere in the bottom decile of all time as can be seen in Chart 1 below.

5000 yr interest rate chart

So maybe the mistake was that the illustrious group of central bankers mentioned above chose to maintain these extraordinary monetary policies for nearly a decade, rather than begin the unwinding process when growth had recovered several years after the recession ended. As the second chart shows, the Fed waited seven years into a recovery before beginning the process of slowly unwinding what had been declared emergency policy measures. Was it really still an emergency in 2015, six years after the end of the recession amid 2.0% GDP growth, which caused the Fed to maintain a policy stance designed to address a severe recession?

Chart 2

real gdp growth

My point is simply that any analysis of the current stance of the Federal Reserve and its current policy trajectory must be seen in the broader context of not only where it is heading, but from whence it came. Ten years of extraordinarily easy monetary policy has served to build up significant imbalances and excesses throughout financial markets. Consider the growth in leveraged loans, especially covenant lite ones, corporate debt or government debt, all of which are now at record levels, as key indicators of the current excesses. The history of economics is replete with examples of excesses leading to shakeouts throughout the world. The boom and bust cycle is the very essence of Schumpeterian capitalism, and as long as we maintain a capitalist economy, those cycles will be with us.

The simple fact is that every central bank is ‘owned’ by its government, and has been for the past thirty years at least. (Paul Volcker is likely the last truly independent Fed Chair we have had, although Chairman Powell is starting to make a name for himself.) And because of that ownership, every central bank has sought to keep rates as low as possible for as long as possible to goose growth above trend. In the past, although that led to excesses, the downturns tended to be fairly short, and the rebounds quite robust. However, the advent of financial engineering has resulted in greater and greater leverage throughout the economy and correspondingly bigger potential problems in the next downturn. The financial crisis was a doozy, but I fear the next one, given the massive growth in debt outstanding, will be much worse.

At that point, I assure you that the first person who will be named as the culprit for ‘causing’ the recession will be Jay Powell. My point here is that, those fingers need to be pointed at Bernanke, Yellen, Draghi, Carney and Kuroda, as it was their actions that led to the current significantly imbalanced economy. The next recession will have us longing for the good old days of 2008 right after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the political upheaval that will accompany it, or perhaps follow immediately afterwards, is likely to make what we are seeing now seem mild. While my crystal ball does not give me a date, it is becoming abundantly clear that the date is approaching far faster than most appreciate.

Be careful out there. Markets and politics are going to become much more volatile over the next several years.

One poet’s view!

Powell’s Fixation

Though spending by business has slowed
(And debt from the government growed)
There’s no indication
That Powell’s fixation
On raising rates soon will erode

The Fed left rates on hold yesterday, as universally expected. The policy statement was largely unchanged although it did tweak the wording regarding business investment, which previously had been quite strong but is now slowing somewhat. That said, there is absolutely no indication that the Fed is going to slow its trajectory of rate increases anytime soon. With the meeting now out of the way, I expect that the Fedspeak we hear going forward will reinforce that view, with only Kashkari and Bullard seeking to slow the pace, and neither of them is yet a voting member. The market response was actually mildly surprising in that equities sold off somewhat after the news (and have fallen sharply in Asia and Europe) despite the fact that this was the expected outcome. Meanwhile the dollar has continued to rebound from its recent lows touched on Wednesday, with the euro having declined 0.2% further this morning and 1.4% from its peak.

As an aside, I am constantly amazed at the idea that the Fed, especially as overseen by Jay Powell, is more than mildly interested in the happenings in the stock market. The Fed mandate is clear, maximum employment and stable prices, notably lacking any discussion of rising equity markets. Alas, ever since the Maestro himself, Alan Greenspan, was Fed Chair, it seems that the default reaction has been to instantly add liquidity to the market if there was any stock market decline. The result is we have seen three massive bubbles blown in markets, two of which have burst (tech stocks and real estate) with the third ongoing as we speak. If you understand nothing else about the current Fed chairman, it is abundantly clear that he is unconcerned with the day-to-day wobbles in financial markets. I am confident that if there is a significant change in the economic situation, and markets respond by declining sharply, the current Fed will address the economic situation, not the markets, and that, in my view, is the way policy should be handled.

But back to today’s discussion. I fully admit that I did not understand the market response to the election results, specifically why the dollar would have declined on the news. After all, a split Congress is not going to suddenly change policies that are already in place, especially since the Republican majority in the Senate expanded. And as the Fed made clear yesterday, they don’t care about the politics and are going to continue to raise rates for quite a while yet. Certainly, we haven’t seen data elsewhere in the world which is indicative of a significant uptick in growth that would draw investment away from the US, and so the dollar story will continue to be the tension between the short-term cyclical factors (faster US growth and tighter monetary policy) vs. the long-term structural factors (rising budget deficits and questionable fiscal sustainability). Cyclical data points to a stronger dollar; structural data to a weaker one, and for now, the cyclical story is still the market driver. I think it is worth keeping that in mind as one observes the market.

Regarding other FX related stories, the Brexit situation is coming to a head in the UK as PM May is trying to get her cabinet to sign off on what appears to be quite a bad deal, where the Irish border situation results in the UK being forced to abide by EU rules without being part of the EU and thus having no input to their formation. This is exactly what the Brexiteers wanted to avoid, and would seemingly be the type of thing that could result in a leadership challenge to May, and perhaps even new elections, scant months before Brexit. While I have assumed a fudge deal would be agreed, I am losing confidence in that outcome, and see an increasing chance that the pound falls sharply. Its recent rally has been based entirely on the idea that a deal would get done. For the pound, it is still a binary outcome.

The Italian budget story continues to play out with not only Brussels upset but actually the backers of the League as well. While I am no expert on Italian politics, it looks increasingly likely that there could be yet another election soon, with the League coming out on top, five star relegated to the backbenches, and more turmoil within the Eurozone. However, in that event, I think it highly improbable that the League is interested in leaving the euro, so it might well end up being a euro positive net.

So the week is ending on a positive note for the dollar, and I expect to see that continue throughout the session. This morning’s PPI data was much firmer than expected with the headline print at 2.9% and the core at 2.6%, indicating that there is no real moderation in the US inflation story. This data is likely tariff related, but that is no comfort given that there is no indication that the tariff situation is going to change soon. And if it does, it will only get worse. So look for the dollar to continue its rebound as the weekend approaches.

Good luck and good weekend
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Brexit Doomsday

In London, Prime Minister May
Has started revealing, some say
Details of the deal
Which optimists feel
Could postpone the Brexit doomsday

With the elections now past, market participants are looking for the next potential catalysts for movement and Brexit regularly leads the list. According to the British government, the deal is 95% complete, although the Irish border issue remains unsolved. The essence of this issue is as follows: ever since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland has been part of the UK, but has had no hard border between itself and the Republic of Ireland. As both Ireland and the UK were members of the EU, there were no issues regarding tariffs or trade, and so the process worked effectively. However, now that the UK is leaving the EU, as well as the customs union, suddenly there are likely to be tariffs on goods that cross that border. The problem stems from the fact that neither side wants a ‘hard’ border between the two nations, meaning no customs checking there. Therein lies the problem. How can Northern Ireland remain in the customs union but not England, Wales and Scotland? It would mean a border of some type between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Of course, that doesn’t go over very well either. Hence the stalemate. The EU is willing to allow Northern Ireland to maintain its current stance with Ireland, but not the rest of the UK. The UK doesn’t want Northern Ireland to have a different status than itself with the EU. Those are exactly opposite positions and there is no obvious middle ground.

The risk becomes that PM May negotiates a deal, which will by definition be imperfect, and that said deal gets defeated in a Parliamentary vote, thus leaving nothing completed. Given the shrinking timeline available to come up with a deal, less than five months at this point, it seems pretty clear that this is the last opportunity to get something done. The market, at least based on the recent performance of the pound, has become increasingly optimistic that a solution will be found. While the pound has edged slightly lower overnight, it is up by more than 3% since Halloween with the entire movement based on the idea that a deal will be done. In addition, this morning there have been several comments by investors that a Brexit deal will result in a powerful rally in the pound, up to 1.50 or beyond. While I disagree with that assessment, it is important that everyone understands the different viewpoints in the market. The idea is that a Brexit deal will end uncertainty, spur investment and allow the BOE to become more aggressive raising interest rates. And while some of that is certainly true, for the pound to reach 1.50, the dollar will need to be much lower against all its counterparties, and I just don’t see that outcome.

The other key story today is the FOMC meeting, where no change in policy is anticipated, although there are some analysts looking for a tweak to the policy statement. At this point, it seems abundantly clear that the Fed is unconcerned with the level of the stock market, and that last month’s decline will have no bearing on their policy decision. There is talk of a tweak to IOER, where the Fed may reduce that rate relative to the current Fed Funds corridor of 2.00% – 2.25%, but I agree with the analysts who say that it makes limited sense for the Fed to do something this month, and they will be better off waiting until December when they raise rates again.

Beyond that, the data overnight showed a modest slowdown in Chinese exports with a reduction in their trade surplus, both globally and with the US. We also saw that German exports decline 0.8%, a surprisingly weak outcome attributed to ongoing issues with the German diesel auto sales. While yesterday morning saw the dollar under significant pressure across the board, the reality is that it reversed many of those losses during the session. This morning the dollar is marginally higher across the board, but the movements have not been significant. For example, the euro is lower by 0.15% and the pound by 0.3%. We have seen similar magnitude moves by the commodity bloc, and the yen has softened by 0.2%. As you can see, it has been a dull market.

In the EMG space, the dollar is generally, though not universally, stronger but here, too, the magnitude of movement has been modest, on the order of 0.2%-0.4% overall.

The only piece of data aside from the FOMC meeting is Initial Claims (exp 214K) this morning, and aside from the fact that this data continues to show a robust labor market, it has not been a market catalyst for a long time. After a big equity rally yesterday, futures are pointing slightly softer to open, and Treasury yields, after rallying sharply at the beginning of the month, remain near their multiyear highs with this morning’s level at 3.23%.

In sum, it is hard to get excited about large upcoming movement in the market today, and so a modest further dollar rally seems about right. Removing some more of the recent excesses would make sense in the context of the still uncertain outcomes from key issues like Brexit and the Italian budget quesoins.

Good luck
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Good Times Will Endure

Elections are out of the way
The outcome caused little dismay
Investors seem sure
Good times will endure
With stocks set to rally today

The dollar, however, is weak
Some pundits claim we’ve seen the peak
Still folks at the Fed
See rate hikes ahead
Which could, on those views, havoc wreak

The midterm elections are now past, with expectations largely fulfilled. The Democrats will run the House, while the Senate’s Republican majority has actually grown by four seats to a 53-47 count. At least that’s what appears to be the case at this time, although there are some runoff elections that need yet to be completed in the next weeks. The traditional view of a political split is that gridlock will ensue and very little in the way of new policy will come out of the next Congress. However, in this case, things may not actually work out that way. Consider the fact that President Trump’s populist leanings may well dovetail with Democratic priorities, especially on spending. It wouldn’t be that surprising if the next budget is even more stimulative than the last, especially as by next summer it is highly likely that the US growth impulse will be slowing down somewhat as the effects of the last stimulus fade away. And through it all, there is no indication that the Fed is going to stop raising interest rates, so I might argue that things haven’t changed all that much.

The risks to this view are if the new Democratic majority in the House chooses to use their power to rehash the battles from 2016 or, more disconcertingly for markets, decide that they want to proceed with an Impeachment process against the President. Two things about this issue are that, first, with the Republicans in control of the Senate, there is essentially zero probability that the President would be removed from office, so it would all be for show. But second, as I mentioned yesterday, the last time we saw this movie, in the autumn of 1998, the dollar fell sharply during the proceedings. This is just something to keep in mind as headlines start to flow going forward.

Enough about the elections. The market response overnight showed equity markets feeling a little better, with Europe higher and US futures pointing in the same direction, although APAC markets were largely flat. Meanwhile, the dollar has come under pressure across the board. The latter seems a little counterintuitive, although I guess it is simply a result of the embrasure of risk by investors. There is no need to flock to dollars, or yen for that matter, if expectations turn positive. And that’s what we seem to have seen.

Focusing on the FX market, the dollar is down pretty sharply across the board. Both the euro and the pound are higher by more than 0.5% despite what I would argue was some mildly negative news. In the Eurozone, while German IP was a touch firmer than expected at +0.2%, Retail Sales data throughout the Eurozone was actually quite weak, with both Italian and Austrian data showing contraction while the French managed to just hold on to an unchanged result, and all three coming well short of expectations.

Meanwhile, the pound continues to trade on hopes that a Brexit breakthrough is coming, despite the fact that yesterday’s widely publicized cabinet meeting produced exactly nothing. PM May has two potential problems here; first is the question of actually coming up with a deal that her cabinet can agree to support that also has EU support, a task that has thus far been out of reach. Second, remember that May has a coalition partner, not a majority in Parliament, and the Labor Party is now coming on record that they will vote against any deal. If that is the case, it is entirely possible that it all falls apart and the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place. While the pound has rallied nicely over the past week, up more than 3.5%, I continue to see the downside risks being significantly greater than the upside. Certainly the rally on a deal announcement would be much smaller in magnitude than the decline in the event of a hard Brexit. Hedgers must keep this in mind as they manage their risks.

As to the rest of the G10, the dollar has fallen even further than the euro and pound, with 0.7% pretty common across virtually the entire bloc. The only two exceptions are JPY, with a more modest 0.3% rally and CAD with a similar gain. My sense is the former is all about risk reduction mitigating some of the dollar weakness, while the latter is related to the fact that oil prices continue to fall, having come down nearly 20% from their highs reached in early October.

In the EMG bloc, there is broad dollar weakness as well with IDR leading the way (+1.5%) and ZAR jumping a solid 1.25%. We discussed the IDR story yesterday as investment flows continue to find their way back to the country given its continued strong growth and low inflation. ZAR, on the other hand, has benefitted from the combination of broad dollar weakness and gold’s recent strength, with the “barbarous relic” having rallied more than 4% in the past month. But it is not just those two currencies showing strength this morning; it is a universal dollar down day, with most freely traded currencies rising more than 0.5%.

And that’s really the day overall. There is no US data to be released today, and the Fed is just starting its two-day meeting, although there is no expectation that there will be any policy change regardless of the fact that it has been pushed back a day in deference to Election day yesterday. There is certainly no reason to believe that the dollar will reverse course in the near term, unless we see a significant uptick in US data that might cause the Fed to step up their pace of activity. However, that is not going to happen today, no matter what, and so I would look for the dollar to continue the overnight move and sell off modestly from this morning’s levels. Although I do not believe that the big picture has changed, any dollar strength is likely to be fleeting in the near future.

Good luck
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No Real Direction

Ahead of the midterm election
The dollar’s had no real direction
Once ballots are tallied
The dollar, which rallied
Before, may be due for rejection

It’s Election Day here in the US, as I’m sure everyone is already aware. The current expectations are for the Democrats to capture the House while the Republicans maintain the Senate, with perhaps a larger majority. Of course, many of you may remember the 2016 Presidential election when expectations proved misguided. My point is, nothing is clear to me at this point, and I will not pontificate on any particular outcome. Rather the question at hand is, what will happen to the dollar once the ballots are counted.

If expectations are borne out, a gridlocked government is likely to put forth significantly less in the way of economic policy initiatives. Given the lack of fiscal policy changes, monetary policy will gain in importance. If there is no additional fiscal stimulus, will the Fed feel compelled to continue tightening as quickly as they have been doing? Will the US economy slow more rapidly than currently projected (remember we are already growing well above most economists’ forecasts for sustainability which hover between 2.0% and 2.5%)? If this is the case, then it would be reasonable to expect the dollar to soften going forward since right now, the dollar’s strength can be largely attributed to a Fed that is tightening faster than most of the market had assumed would be the case.

On the other hand, either of the other two scenarios, the Democrats sweep or the Republicans sweep have much clearer implications for the dollar, at least to my mind. In the event of the former, I would expect the dollar to come under immediate pressure. The probability of impeachment proceedings would rise significantly and with that, the chaos that would occur would almost certainly undermine the dollar. One need only look back twenty years, when a Republican House of Representatives sought to impeach Bill Clinton. From September 1998 through the actual vote in December 1998, the dollar declined roughly 10%. Something like that is entirely realistic.

And if the Republicans were to hold the House and grow their Senate majority, the probability of even more fiscal stimulus would simply force the Fed’s hand further, and may see an even tighter policy response, as their fear of inflation would grow commensurately. A more hawkish Fed, especially in the context of what is a clearly slowing global economic picture, should further support the dollar, with a move toward 1.05 in the euro very viable. Not tomorrow mind you, but over time.

At any rate, for today, there is very little else we can do than wait. So looking at the rest of the world, we see that growth in the Eurozone may not have been quite as bad as feared. The flash PMI numbers reported two weeks ago were worse than the finalized ones reported this morning, but they are still the softest readings in more than two years. Yesterday saw the euro edge slightly higher by the end of the day, but in reality, it has done virtually nothing since November 1st. This is the picture of a market biding its time, with the election clearly the event of note.

Meanwhile, the pound continues to creep higher as there seems to be a growing belief that PM May will be able to convince her cabinet to support her with regard to the Brexit deal she is proposing. Having read about the proposed solution, it appears to me that pro-Brexit cabinet members will have a difficult time supporting anything that allows the EU to have a role in future UK decisions. After all, the idea behind Brexit was to end that process. But politics makes strange bedfellows, as they say, and so I wouldn’t rule out anything. In the end, the pound remains hostage to the Brexit outcome, and nothing has changed in that regard overnight.

As to the rest of the G10, we have seen a mixed picture with AUD and NZD both having a nice day (both higher by ~0.3%) on the back of the RBA’s upgraded forecast for economic growth Down Under. Just like in the US, wages continue to lag what historic models would indicate, but the RBA is further behind the cycle than the US, and so expectations are growing that the next move there will be for higher interest rates. At the same time, CAD and the Skandies have softened a bit this morning, but in reality, overall movement has been modest at best.

In the EMG bloc, the dollar is actually rising pretty uniformly, with ZAR (-0.65%), MXN (-0.25%), KRW (-0.25%) and TRY (-0.9%) leading the way. CNY has edged slightly lower but remains well within recent trading bounds. The exception to the rule is IDR, which has rallied 1.2% after data showed that foreign inflows into both the stock and government bond market had increased significantly in the past several weeks, prompted by an economy growing more than 5.0% with inflation remaining moderate around 3.0%. And remember, the rupiah had fallen as much as 12% from the beginning of the year before the recent little rally, so many investors see a real opportunity.

And that is really all there is. Both equity and bond markets are biding their time as well, as everybody awaits the outcome of the US elections. There is no reason to believe that the market will move much ahead of that outcome this evening, so hedgers might want to take advantage of quiet markets to top up hedges in the event of a surprise tonight.

Good luck
Adf