Her Prospects Go Thudd

This morning the pound is a dudd
Responding to news Amber Rudd
Has stepped down today
Now poor PM May
Is watching her prospects go thudd

As the new week begins, the FX market’s biggest mover has been the British pound, which has fallen a further 0.6% after news that Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has resigned. Ms Rudd had been a staunch supporter of PM May as well as firmly in the Bremain camp and so has acted as a counterweight to other ministers like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who are hardliners regarding Brexit and have been seeking a complete repudiation of the EU. Adding to the mix, Rudd’s replacement, Sajid Javid, is a euroskeptic himself, perhaps tipping the balance a bit further for that side of the discussion. In the end, what we have learned over the past week from the UK is that growth continues to ebb, prospects for a rate hike this week have disappeared, and for a hike this year at all have receded greatly, and the possibility of a harder Brexit has increased. It can be no surprise that the pound continues to decline in this environment. In fact, since it peaked two weeks’ ago at 1.4370, amid the hype that the BOE would be getting aggressive in its tightening stature, it has fallen nearly 5% and there is no reason to believe this decline has ended. While some of the movement is certainly due to the dollar’s more recent strong performance, the pound is falling of its own accord as markets grow increasingly skeptical about the near term growth prospects for the UK.

But the dollar is not just firmer against the pound; it continues to perform well across the board. Arguably the key reason is because the market has been forced to re-evaluate its previous forecasts regarding the Fed. Why is that you ask? Well, Friday’s GDP data was stronger than expected at 2.3% indicating that the growth impulse in the US is more sustained than that anywhere else in the world. But perhaps more importantly, the inflation impulse in the US is also much stronger. The GDP based price index, confusingly also called PCE, printed at 2.7% and the Employment Cost Index printed at a firmer than expected 0.8%, with the wages subcomponent rising 0.9%. The latter two are exactly the type of data that has the Fed on edge regarding rising prices. This morning, their key inflation data point, Core PCE, will be released and is expected to be 1.9%, awfully close to their 2.0% target. And as I wrote last week, it is quite conceivable that it prints at 2.0%. The real question is just how far above that level will it need to go before the Fed starts to get nervous. Recent comments by several Fed governors, Dudley, Bostic and Kashkari, indicate that when Core PCE reaches 2.3%, there will be little concern, but at 2.5% it is a bit trickier. With oil prices continuing to climb despite growth in US production, and with some tariffs due to be enacted, it is hard to make a case for a reduction in inflation anytime soon. As I have been writing all year, the Fed is going to continue to tighten policy more aggressively than the narrative has been willing to accept, while the rest of the world will be less aggressive.

And looking around the rest of the world, we see that data from China (PMI at 51.4) continues to ease lower. Given recent activities by the PBOC, cutting the RRR by 100bps last week, it is clear that there is concern about slowing growth there. Last night also brought us much weaker than expected German Retail Sales (-0.6% vs. +0.8% expected) as well as an ebbing Italian CPI (0.5%). Once again, after last week’s disappointing French and Spanish GDP data, it has to be getting harder for the ECB hawks to make their case. At this point, it would be shocking if the ECB did anything before July and I will say that there is at least a 33% chance that come September, they do not reduce QE at all if the current growth trajectory remains in place.

In the meantime, Emerging markets are feeling the stress of higher USD interest rates on two fronts. First, many, if not most, emerging market companies are forced to borrow in USD because their domestic markets cannot support the practice effectively, and so higher US rates are a direct negative on those companies’ earnings and prospects. Second, the higher US rates have been boosting the dollar and so repaying the dollar debt outstanding is more expensive locally. And what we are seeing is EMG currencies generally depreciating vs. the dollar and so these trends are set to continue. There has been one exception to this rule, KRW, which appreciated a further 0.5% overnight on the news that North Korea has offered to close its nuclear weapons facility and is seeking a nuclear free Korean Peninsula. That is a remarkable turn of events and one that ought to continue to benefit the Korean economy and corresponding sentiment toward the won.

Looking ahead we have a great deal of important information due this week as follows:

Today Personal Income 0.4%
  Personal Spending 0.4%
  PCE 0.1% (2.0% Y/Y)
  Core PCE 0.2% (1.9% Y/Y)
  Chicago PMI 57.8
Tuesday ISM Manufacturing 58.8
  ISM Prices Paid 78.6
  Construction Spending 0.5%
Wednesday ADP Employment 193K
  FOMC Rate Decision 1.75% (unchanged)
Thursday Initial Claims 220K
  Trade Balance -$50.0B
  Nonfarm Productivity 0.9%
  Unit Labor Costs 3.0%
  ISM Non-Manufacturing 58.5
  Factory Orders 1.3%
Friday Nonfarm Payrolls 190K
  Private Payrolls 190K
  Manufacturing Payrolls 19K
  Unemployment Rate 4.0%
  Participation Rate 62.9%
  Average Hourly Earnings 0.2% (2.7% Y/Y)
  Average Weekly Hours 34.5

So as you can see, this week is huge on the data front. Almost everyone has dismissed the FOMC meeting as being a non-event but I am not willing to do so. Rather, given the recent trajectory of inflation readings, notably Friday’s data, I think there is a decent chance that the statement comes out quite a bit more hawkish than we have been seeing lately. In fact, it would not surprise if they cemented the idea that there will be three more rate hikes in 2018. But really, every day has something that matters, so my take is markets are going to be highly focused on each release as they try to divine the future. If the recent pattern of positive US data continues, I believe we will continue to see the dollar perform well. The combination of still massive short USD positions in the FX markets as well as rising US interest rates will serve to force further short covering and a strong performance. Of course, if the data disappoints and indicates that the US economy is starting to suffer in the manner of the rest of the world that would necessitate a change of view. But for now, my money is still on strength in the US economy, on higher inflation and a higher dollar.

Good luck
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A Pipe Dream

The narrative’s starting to seem
Increasingly like a pipe dream
Now central banks fear
That during this year
Slow growth is the new global theme

There is a lot to cover this morning as we await the US GDP print, so let’s get right to it. The most recent data released around the world has seriously called into question last year’s synchronous global growth meme. As this becomes clearer to central banks around the world, and as the inflation data continues to disappoint, all those hawks at the ECB and the BOE are starting to sound increasingly feeble. Meanwhile, the US remains an island unto itself when considering growth, and perhaps more importantly, inflation.

Yesterday the ECB left policy on hold, as universally expected but during the press conference Signor Draghi said something I find very interesting. He told us that the committee didn’t even discuss monetary policy during their two-day meeting, rather that all the time was spent poring over the recent data and trying to determine if the obviously slowing growth in Q1 was an aberration or the beginning of a trend. And they arrived at no conclusion. With this in mind, the hawkish bona fides of the ECB took another step back. And this morning they were rewarded with weaker than expected French GDP data, as Q1 grew only 0.3% in the quarter and the inflation readings remained unchanged at 1.6%, rather than rising as expected. Eurozone data is released next week, but thus far, the larger countries, other than Germany, seem to be faltering slightly. Remember, we continue to see this from non-Eurozone countries like Sweden as well. The point is that the hawkish read on the ECB, ending QE cold turkey after September, is becoming less and less likely. As to the euro, it responded exactly as you would expect, falling 0.7% yesterday and a further 0.2% this morning, breaking below the bottom of the previous trading range and bringing 1.20 clearly into view.

Meanwhile, UK GDP data also disappointed greatly, rising only 0.1% in Q1, and the market has now virtually removed any probability for the BOE to raise rates next week. Remember, last Wednesday, before Governor Carney mentioned that there was more than one meeting at which they could act this year, the futures market had priced an 86% probability that the BOE would raise rates by 25bps next week. This morning that probability has fallen to around 20%, with the market now pricing only one hike in for the entire year, and that not until November. Here, too, the pound responded as you might expect, falling sharply this morning, -1.1%, which is more than 4% lower than its recent peak and back to the lowest level since March 1st. And Brexit wasn’t even part of the discussion, although that issue is not about to disappear. Once again I will say that there seems very little likelihood that the BOE can raise rates into the greatest economic uncertainty that the UK has experienced since the financial crisis.

Inflation remains
So difficult to create
If you’re Japanese

Which brings us to the Japanese, where the BOJ’s two-day meeting concluded last night and they left policy unchanged…almost. In fact, while they didn’t adjust their target on the 10-year JGB yield, which remains 0.0%, they scrapped the timeline for achieving their 2.0% inflation target. Ever since Kuroda-san was first named BOJ chief five years ago, he has been trying to talk up inflation in Japan by saying that the BOJ would drive inflation to their target within a two-year time frame. Now, they have had to revise that time frame six times already, and if you recall, earlier this year he even talked about how they would end stimulus when they reached their 2.0% target in two years’ time. Well, in a complete reversal, while they continue to target that inflation rate, they will no longer explicitly demonstrate their ineffectiveness by missing their target date. It will just remain a long-term goal, sort of like those last 5-10 pounds we all want to lose someday. While one economist had an interesting take, that this will allow them to start tightening policy even though they are not near their target, that doesn’t pass the smell test for me. Instead, it feels more like they have finally realized that jawboning inflation higher is not the same as jawboning the yen lower. In the end, the yen fell a bit further, extending its recent decline and now sits at its lowest level since early February.

On the other side of the dollar story, the most notable mover has been KRW, which appreciated a further 0.5% on the back of the apparent official cessation of hostilities between North and South Korea. This has enormous geopolitical ramifications, especially if it is followed up with an accord between the US and North Korea. After all, will the US continue to need a significant military presence in South Korea if peace comes and the denuclearization of the peninsula is achievable in a verifiable manner? And what would that mean for China? It seems there are a lot of potential questions to come from this yet, however, it certainly seems like it is a positive result. It seems to me that KRW has the opportunity to appreciate further on the back of the news if it continues in this direction, regardless of the overall dollar situation.

With a full twenty-four hours of activity behind us, it is time to look ahead to this morning’s US data. The big number this morning is Q1 GDP (exp 2.0%), with the component Price Index (2.4%) and Real Consumer Spending (1.1%) released simultaneously. We also see the Employment Cost Index (0.7% Q/Q) which given the Fed’s focus on wage growth may take on heightened importance, especially if it prints higher than expected. One of the things that we have seen consistently from the survey data, as well as the Fed’s own Beige Book, is that companies continue to have difficulty filling jobs and have begun to increase wages in order to attract new workers. Those anecdotes can be confirmed by this data, and if they are, look for an even more hawkish tilt to the Fed next week. In fact, while I think it is a low probability, it is not inconceivable that the Fed alters policy in some manner next week, despite the lack of a scheduled press conference. After all, they can always schedule one late, and I’m confident nobody would miss it. I’m not saying this is likely, just that Chairman Powell is clearly cut from a different mold than the three previous Fed Chairs, and so could well shake things up.

At any rate, the story that has unfolded over the past several weeks is the one that I have been discussing for the past several months. US growth and, especially, inflation have been pushing higher while those indicators elsewhere in the world are ebbing. The result is more hawkishness here and less abroad, and as I have consistently reminded you, the likely outcome is for the dollar to continue to benefit. I see no reason to change that view barring a decidedly worse than expected data print this morning.

Good luck and good weekend
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Cold Water

The question for traders today
Is what will the ECB say
The pace of growth’s slowing
Which just might be throwing
Cold water on Draghi’s leeway

The lack of inflation remains
The feature that Draghi disdains
Perhaps he’ll enlighten
Us on when he’ll tighten
And if so let’s hope he explains

Is this the meeting where Signor Draghi explains the ECB’s next steps? As recently as a month ago, the consensus view was yes. However, four consecutive months of data showing that growth in the Eurozone was slowing has forced a rethink on the subject. Now, expectations are for the ECB to describe the gradual normalization of monetary policy at the June meeting, when they update their macroeconomic forecasts and there are a number of analysts who think it may not be until July. In other words, despite the brave face put on by Draghi and his lieutenants lately when asked about slowing growth, the market is looking at the data and concluding that patience is the watchword. And I agree with them. There is no reason for the ECB to rush to judgment given the recent data mix. After all, they have already promised to keep things steady through at least September. If they wait until July before deciding what to do, the market still has plenty of time to adjust its views.

In fairness, the last thing Draghi wants is to upset the current market mix. He must be especially happy at the euro’s behavior, having fallen a further 2% since they last met in early March. Given the evolution of the market’s expectations, it seems the risk of a hawkish surprise is far greater than that of a dovish surprise, with the result being a euro rebound. Remember, trade is a much bigger issue for the Eurozone, representing 44% of the total economy, than it is for the US, where it is just 12%. So a strong euro has a bigger negative impact on Europe than a strong dollar has on the US. In the end, I expect virtually no change in the statement and for Draghi to come across as dovish at the press conference later.

In the meantime, the market has done very little while awaiting the news. The dollar, which has been on a roll for the last week has ebbed slightly, a move that seems more like modest position adjustments ahead of the ECB meeting than anything else. Perhaps the biggest news was that Sweden’s Riskbank adjusted their forward guidance by saying they don’t see tightening until “towards the end of the year,” rather than in the “second half of this year” as had been their previous view. While these may sound similar on the surface, the meaning to the markets was clear and the SEK immediately fell a further 0.4% vs. the euro, although given the euro’s modest rebound vs. the dollar this morning, it is only weaker by 0.2% vs. the dollar. The point is that the ongoing combination of slowing growth and missing inflation is creating an environment in which it is very difficult for central banks to maintain their policy normalization drive. The risk they fear is that the slowdown is more persistent after they start tightening and they are forced to reverse course quickly. We have seen this in the past and it is a huge blow to their credibility when it occurs.

There is one central bank, however, which does not have that problem, the Fed. While the growth story in the US may have stabilized for now (we’ll know more after tomorrow’s GDP report), rather than continuing to accelerate, there is no ambiguity that inflation is accelerating in the US. In fact, on Friday, a little watched statistic, the Employment Cost Index, is getting a lot more press than normal. This is a quarterly measure of wages and had grown at a 2.6% annual pace when last reported in January. Any uptick there would be quickly noted by the market and would likely be seen as a harbinger of even tighter Fed policy. After all, wage growth is what they are waiting for, so if it starts to show up, they will react. And next week we have a very important data week, with Core PCE, the FOMC meeting and payrolls, so there is plenty to look forward to.

But today is really all about the ECB. We do get US data this morning, starting with the weekly Initial Claims data (exp 230K), but then Durable Goods (1.7%, ex-transport 0.5%) and the Goods Trade Balance (-$74.8B), which, by definition, excludes services. Certainly Durable Goods will be closely watched, but given it is released concurrent with the beginning of the ECB press conference, it would need to be a remarkable print in either direction for traders to react. So all told, today is likely to be dominated by the ECB.

A couple of things to keep in mind are that the 10-year yield remains above 3.0%, albeit barely so, but will continue to draw investment, especially given the dollar’s recent rebound. Fears of an ever-weakening dollar seem to have abated for now. Also, earnings season continues and the equity market has been displaying significant volatility and some counterintuitive moves after releases, so that volatility could well spill over at some point. But in the end, today is Mario’s day.

Good luck
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A Truly Momentous Event

The ten-year has breached three percent
A truly momentous event
The dollar is gaining
While stocks take a caning
For bulls now there’s much discontent

Does a 3.00% yield in the 10-year Treasury really matter that much? While a cursory look at the market reaction yesterday would indicate it does, it is not clear to me this is the case.

Ten-year Treasury yields traded through 3.00% for the first time since January 2014 in yesterday’s session, and coincidentally the US equity market fell pretty sharply. However, upon closer inspection the proximate cause of the equity decline seems to have been a comment from a bellwether US manufacturing company on their earnings call, where the CFO indicated that Q1 earnings were likely to be the “high-water mark for the year.” Despite very strong results, that stock fell sharply. Markets that are priced for perfection, similar to the US equity market overall, cannot accept that type of information without repricing, and so that is what we saw. The key concern seems to be that despite the widely touted global growth environment, this company feels the future is less bright than had been expected. Part of the reason is that input prices continue to rise rapidly and are cutting into margins. And part of the reason seems to be a concern that perhaps the global growth story is not as robust as had been expected earlier in the year. In the end, the combination of events was too much for the US stock market and we saw some pretty sharp declines that have carried over around the world.

Interestingly, the dollar, which had been benefitting for the past week as US yields rose, also fell slightly in the session. This is a bit of a head scratcher, as it appeared that the historic cyclical relationship between the dollar and US rates was reasserting itself. And while the decline was modest, just 0.3%, it was strange nonetheless. However, this morning things are back on track with the dollar recouping yesterday’s entire decline and, quite frankly, looking like it has further to run.

So what are we to make of these new milestones in the market? Regarding the Treasury story, 3.00% represents a big psychological point, but probably not a key economic one. Traders and investors tend to over emphasize round numbers (recall when the Dow was approaching 25,000, or USDJPY at 100.00) but it is not clear that a round number is actually significant in the workings of the economy. When it comes to financing operations, it is the rare company where a 10bp change is the difference between making it and failing. And quite frankly if that is the case, the company is going to fail anyway. But the psychology does matter as it helps inform confidence in the market and the economy overall. So I wouldn’t dismiss this as unimportant, but it’s probably not the most important thing happening. Rather, that would be the ongoing economic story and how the data that we continue to see plays out.

In that vein, the relative data releases between the US and the rest of the world are far more interesting. And those continue to point to the US outperforming for the time being. Even though recent US data has been mixed (e.g. Retail Sales soft, housing strong) that has been a far better result than the consistently soft data coming from the Eurozone, the UK, Japan and most of the rest of the developed world. This is especially true regarding inflation, where the trajectory in the US is unambiguously pointing higher while we continue to see misses to the downside elsewhere. And it is this point that is likely to inform policy actions going forward.

There is one other spin to note of late, and that is the commentary I read has highlighted relatively hawkish comments made by ECB, BOE and BOJ members, even though they were made last month before the latest set of data added to the impression of slowing growth momentum. At the same time, I keep reading that the Fedspeak we have been hearing is actually NOT that hawkish, despite a near universal discussion of the need to keep ahead of the inflation situation and not allow the economy to run too hot. If I didn’t know better, I might think that the journalists who are writing the articles were trying to drive the narrative themselves rather than report the news. But then that could never happen, could it?

At any rate, my read continues to be that the Fed will remain on course to tighten policy further this year, with at least three more rate hikes coming, and that we will continue to see a more dovish policy response elsewhere as the growth story falters.

As to the overnight session, the dollar, as mentioned above, has recouped all of yesterday’s losses and currently sits higher by 0.35% vs. the euro, 0.25% vs. the pound and 0.35% vs. the yen. In fact, the entire G10 is down by similar amounts. We are also seeing that price action throughout the EMG bloc, where the notably movers are MXN (-1.4%), RUB (-0.75%) and ZAR (-1.3%). In Mexico, not only have oil prices ebbed, but there is increasing concern that AMLO is going to win the presidential election in July and that with him, policies are going to become far less business friendly. He is, after all, a far left wing populist firebrand, and while he may have moderated his tone on renationalizing assets, he is still focused on unwinding labor and energy investment policies that have been very beneficial to the country. One other currency of note has continued its recent decline, the Chinese renminbi, which is down 0.5% overnight and 1.5% from its nadir at the end of March. The word out of Beijing has altered to include additional policy support while ceasing to discuss excess leverage. This was always going to be an issue there, as the idea of reducing leverage without tightening policy and slowing economic growth held some key contradictions. Apparently, despite President Xi being the supreme ruler in China, the laws of economics are too great for even his powers to repeal.

And that’s really it for the day. Equity futures are currently pointing lower, Treasuries remain under pressure with the 10-year yield now at 3.03%, and commodities are under the gun as well. All of that points to continued strength in the dollar and I see no reason why that shouldn’t continue. As I have mentioned before, I expect the euro to test the bottom of its trading range, which at 1.2155 is a scant 20 pips from the current level. Typically it won’t break on the first test, but by the end of the month, don’t be surprised to see 1.2000 on a screen near you.

Good luck
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A QE Encore

The data from Europe once more
Showed slowing one cannot ignore
I’m starting to think
That Draghi will blink
And promote a QE encore

It is always interesting to watch the evolution of a narrative. For the longest time it was absolutely obvious to one and all that the dollar was going to decline sharply this year just like it did last year. The structural case was clear, but more importantly, it was also widely assumed that every other G10 central bank was going to begin to normalize its own monetary policy and narrow the gap with the Fed. Another key point was that the market had already priced in the Fed tightening while the best was yet to come from the ECB, BOJ, BOE et al. Well, let’s be clear here. There is only one central bank that is actually normalizing monetary policy at this point, the Federal Reserve. To date there has been no ambiguity from the Powell Fed, rates are going to rise consistently this year unless something shocking occurs. Even the futures market is starting to buy the story with a 48% probability of four rate hikes now priced in for this year.

Meanwhile, the data last night simply highlighted the reasons why the Fed is the only bank normalizing policy, because the spurt of growth seen elsewhere around the world in 2017 has clearly been ebbing ever since New Year’s Day. The latest examples showed the German IFO survey falling to 102.1, its lowest level since March 2017 and extending a pattern that has clearly rolled over and is now trending lower. Adding to the mix were declines in both French and Italian Business Confidence, with both of them heading back to one-year lows. In fact, the pattern in all three nations is identical, December marked the top and the deceleration is picking up speed. Given this apparent slowing in Eurozone growth, it remains a mystery to me why so many market pundits expect the ECB to end QE in September. While I understand that there are hawks on the Governing Council, they are not even close to the majority, and we have heard nothing from Signor Draghi except cautionary words about patience and prudence in their actions going forward. The ECB meets on Thursday and there are limited expectations of any action. However, the prevailing wisdom is that come the June meeting, they will announce their plans for policy after September. Given the current trajectory of growth in the Eurozone, it appears to me that QE will continue beyond September, perhaps at a reduced rate, but that it will not end. And raising rates? That is still eighteen months away at the earliest and a case for 2020 cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the story in Japan is quite similar, with economic growth there showing signs of faltering compared to 2017 as survey data continue to disappoint on a regular basis. Adding to the mix is the fact that the Goods and Services Tax (VAT) is going to be raised by two percentage points, to 10%, come next April 1st. This has been part of the Japanese fiscal plan for the past five years, but it has been postponed twice already because in each of the first two stages, the economy slowed sharply in the immediate aftermath of the tax hike. Of course, PM Abe, who is currently dogged by some domestic scandals, is desperate to prevent an economic downswing, as that would further undermine his political strength. And so, the idea that the BOJ is going to begin to normalize monetary policy is actually laughable at this stage. They are not going to do anything of the sort. Rather a much more interesting story has been the increased interest of Japanese insurers to buy US Treasuries on an unhedged basis with the 10-year yield now nearing 3.00%. It is flows of this nature that are going to help underpin the dollar (and the Treasury market) for the time being.

Concomitant with the slowing growth is the lack of inflationary pressure elsewhere around the world, with Australia the latest data point. Inflation there remained at 1.9%, failing to rise as expected and still well below the midpoint of the RBA’s target of 2.0%-3.0%. The implication is that the RBA will remain on the sidelines of policy for a considerable while yet. Slowing growth and low inflation are not the backdrop for tighter monetary policy. Folks, the dollar is not about to collapse. And while it remains in the relatively narrow trading range of the past three months, I am becoming more confident that we will break that range with a stronger dollar rather than a weaker one!

With that rant out of the way, let’s take a look at the markets this morning. Actually, the dollar is essentially unchanged today, holding onto its gains of the past week. In fact, in the G10 only Kiwi has moved more than a few pips, and its 0.3% decline is hardly significant. At the same time, something that we are continuing to see is weakness in the EMG currency bloc. And while it is not universal this morning, with the rebound in oil prices this morning underpinning both the RUB and MXN somewhat, those nations that are running current account deficits (Indonesia, India, Philippines, Brazil, etc.) have seen their currencies continue to fall amid rising USD rates. Many nations borrow in dollars and the combination of increased debt and higher rates usually reflects itself in a weaker currency. As an example, BRL has fallen 10% during the past three months. It is very hard to make the case that any of this class of currency will rebound unless US rates begin to decline, and given the Powell Fed, that doesn’t seem very likely. So hedgers, as expensive as it may be to manage these asset risks, I believe that hedging will be the least expensive way to keep things in check.

There is one last thing to note in the EMG bloc, and that is China. Despite an almost mythical acceptance that President Xi can create any outcome he wants, economic reality often intrudes on those dreams. While there is no question that Xi is keen to reduce overall leverage in the economy and deflate the housing bubbles that exist around the country, apparently he is not willing to do so if it results in slowing growth. So we have been getting simultaneous policy adjustments that both tighten and ease conditions, with things like the surprise RRR cut from last week a clear easing, but a crackdown on WMP’s and local government debt a clear tightening. At the end of the day it appears (to me at least) that with the rest of the world seeing a slowdown in the growth trajectory, China will see the same thing. After all, they remain a highly mercantilist economy reliant on international trade, so if growth is slowing elsewhere, it will have an immediate impact. The point is that easier monetary policy seems like one of the few tools they have available to help manage things, and part of that will be a slowly depreciating renminbi, at least to my mind. Food for thought.

As for today, we follow up yesterday’s solid Existing Home Sales report of 5.6M with a look at New Home Sales (exp 630K) along with Consumer Confidence (126.1), however neither of these is typically a market-moving event. Instead, I expect that the trends that we have seen for the past week are likely to remain in motion, although at a moderated pace. The bottom of the trading range in the euro has been 1.2155; so don’t be surprised if we make a run at it, although I believe we will need new information in order to break through. Friday’s GDP maybe? Or next week’s FOMC or payroll report all come to mind as potential catalysts. But nothing today.

Good luck
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All That Surprising

As Treasury yields keep on rising
It shouldn’t be all that surprising
The dollar is stronger
And will be for longer
Than most traders are yet realizing

We begin a new week in the markets with the dollar flexing its muscles. The proximate cause seems to be the 10-year yield, which has traded up to 2.99%, a new high for the move, and which certainly seems like it is going to breech the psychologically important 3.00% level pretty soon. The Treasury move is based on a combination of two factors, namely continuing strength in commodity prices and an increased supply of new paper. And quite frankly, it is hard to see a reason for either of those to change in the short run. (As an aside, you may recall last week’s anxious discussions regarding an inverted yield curve in the US and its potential to be a harbinger for a recession. Funnily enough, that conversation has gone quiet!)

Oil continues to lead the commodity sector as recent data indicates the glut overhanging the market for the past several years has finally been absorbed. With WTI approaching $70/bbl (and Brent well above that already), I’m sure you have all noticed the rise in prices at the pump. And oil prices tend to be one of the most important factors in inflation expectations, so higher oil today, higher inflation expected in the future. As to the supply of Treasuries, just this week the Treasury is going to auction $181 billion in new debt, of which $96 billion is comprised of 2, 5 and 7-year notes. And remember, too, the Fed has reduced its presence at auctions as it allows its balance sheet to shrink via lessened reinvestment of maturing proceeds. All this leads to the thought that Treasury yields have further to rise.

The one thing that can stop it would be a significant risk-off type of event, but even on this front things seem to be abating. After all, the weekend was replete with articles about Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s likely trip to China to discuss trade issues, and we continue to hear about the upcoming summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a clear de-escalation of the nuclear war rhetoric. With the US economy still showing decent growth, at this point all signs point to the dollar regaining some of the ground lost earlier this year. At least for now, the question of cyclical dollar factors vs. structural dollar factors seems to be pointing in favor of the cyclical driving things.

But it’s not just the US side of the equation that is helping the dollar. Data released elsewhere continues to point to a slowing growth trajectory in both Europe and Japan (PMI data continues to ebb from Q4’s results) and no sign of inflation making a comeback in either place. In fact, despite the fact that measured inflation in the US seems to be modest, the reality is that it is far more robust here than elsewhere around the world. All told, the dollar is looking pretty good for now.

To be specific, we have seen the euro slip a further 0.4% this morning, which makes 1.4% since last Tuesday’s peak. The pound, too, has been suffering, down another 0.3% this morning (and 2.8% from last Tuesday.) And things wouldn’t be complete without discussing the yen, down 0.5% this morning which actually represents almost half the 1.1% decline since the dollar’s nadir. In all these cases, PMI data has disappointed and US yields seem more attractive.

We have seen some larger moves in the EMG space, which is to be expected, with ZAR falling more than 1.1% and MXN down 0.9%. In neither case is there a specific story driving things, rather both of these have been among the best performers in the bloc over the past several weeks and simply have more room to decline. In the end, today is a dollar story day, not a currency specific one.

Looking ahead, we have our first look at Q1 GDP in the US on Friday, but prior to that the data doesn’t excite.

Today Existing Home Sales 5.513M
Tuesday New Home Sales 630K
Thursday Initial Claims 230K
  Durable Goods 1.7%
  -ex transport 0.5%
  Goods Trade Balance -$74.5B
Friday Q1 GDP 2.0%
  Chicago PMI 57.9
  Michigan Sentiment 98.0

So all eyes will really be on Friday’s GDP data, with the question just how much things have slowed since Q4. As I have written before, it appears that the global growth story peaked in Q4 of last year, and we are just starting to get the harder data that is going to bear that out. While the Fed is in their quiet period ahead of next week’s meeting, the last we heard from them was Cleveland president Mester’s call for continued higher rates in order to prevent an overheating economy and financial imbalances. She is clearly not in the camp of letting things run ‘hot’ for very long. However, as she is one of the avowed hawks on the FOMC, this is no real surprise. In addition, the BOJ meets on Friday, but it is hard to believe that there will be anything new to discuss from that. For the time being, central banks remain on hold, with the only truly uncertain outcome being next week’s BOE meeting.

At this point, I see no reason for the dollar to give up its gains, as the cyclical features appear ascendant. That said, we have already seen a pretty good move, so I imagine that any further strength today will be quite minimal.

Good luck
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There’s Not Just One Meeting

Of late the pound’s taken a beating
Not only is data retreating
But Carney explained
No May hike’s ordained
Remember, there’s not just one meeting

The pound is lower by more than 2% (0.2% overnight) since Wednesday’s high with yesterday’s decline directly attributed to Governor Carney’s most recent comments. While the market had been convinced that the BOE would be raising rates at their May meeting, having priced in a more than 80% probability despite the recently softening data, that all changed when Carney was interviewed yesterday at the IMF meetings by the BBC. He said that the BOE would make decisions “conscious that there are other meetings” at which they could act this year. The market response was immediate, with that rate hike probability falling below 50% in short order. The clear implication was that he no longer feels compelled to act in May. Rather, given the combination of the recently softer data as well as the ongoing Brexit uncertainties (questions about the Irish border issue have resurfaced and are not close to being solved), the BOE is going to be very deliberate in its actions. If you recall, inflation data released earlier this week fell much more sharply than expected and possibly signaled that the impact of the much weaker pound in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote may now have passed. At the same time, while the employment situation (a lagging indicator) remains robust, the production and consumption data have continued to disappoint. You know that I have always been skeptical of a May rate hike, which I based on the ongoing Brexit issues, and now it appears that Governor Carney is having second thoughts as well. It seems to me that unless there is a broad based dollar retreat, the pound will have difficulty rallying in the near term.

But the pound is not the only currency under pressure this morning, in fact the dollar is having quite a good day, rallying 0.35% vs. the euro and 0.45% vs. the Australian dollar. Even the yen is lower by 0.25%. It seems that the past week has highlighted some of the impending differences between the US and the rest of the G10, at least with regard to monetary policy. All week the US data has been pretty much on expectations, albeit with a few softer readings. But the commentary from the Fed speakers has done nothing to change the view that they will be raising rates at least twice more this year with a good chance at three more hikes. At the same time, the data we have seen from elsewhere in the G10 has been consistently disappointing, notably the inflation data from the Eurozone, but also IP data, Retail Sales data and survey data. In fact, Bloomberg had an article this morning directly discussing changing perceptions about the ECB’s activities going forward, where they highlighted that a number of economists have delayed their anticipated timing of policy actions. While this is no surprise to me, it is indicative that the market may be beginning to shift the narrative slightly. While the ECB hawks are still keen to end QE and start raising rates as soon as possible, they remain in a minority. Instead, it appears that the ECB will continue to move extremely slowly, even in their commentary, which is likely to delay the first rate hikes further. My personal view is they won’t raise rates before Q4 2019, although most economists are looking for Q2.

What about the inverting yield curve? Well, given the ongoing rise in commodity prices, which are exploding higher across both energy and metals, the back end of the Treasury curve is seeing much greater selling pressure. In fact, this morning the 10-year yield is up to 2.92% and the 2’s-10’s spread has widened out to 49bps. As I wrote yesterday, if inflation continues to perk up, which given the rise in commodity prices seems like an even better bet, there will be limited concerns about an inverting yield curve. Rather, the Fed is likely to sound even more hawkish as they realize that they are falling behind the curve. The upshot is that as US rates consistently outpace those in the rest of the world, I continue to see scope for the dollar to outperform. I understand that there are structural impediments, but in the short run, I would still look to relative monetary policy actions and expectations.

However, one thing to remember is that despite the dollar’s solid performance today, we remain right in the middle of the trading range seen since late January. In order to break from this malaise we will need to see something completely new to the market. Quite frankly, my concern is that the most likely candidate for this type of news would be a re-escalation of the trade war rhetoric, and more damaging, actual imposition of those tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese goods. That would clearly undermine the dollar in the short run, and probably in the long run as well. But that is a story for another day, or at least potentially so. Today there is no such issue.

There is no US data today although we hear from two Fed speakers, Evans and Williams, both of whom appear to be relative centrists on the FOMC. We also have the IMF meetings in Washington, although I don’t believe any statement will be released until after the close. The last piece of data to be released of any import is Canadian inflation, where the market is looking for a 2.4% headline and 1.5% core reading. If you recall earlier this week, the BOC cited the lessening inflation pressures along with moderating growth and production data as reasons to slow their pace of tightening. Today we will learn if their concerns were valid. But otherwise I have to look toward the energy markets, where WTI is testing $70/BBL, for market cues. If commodity prices continue to rally as they have been, inflationary concerns are going to rise quickly which means that we are likely to see Treasuries continue to sell off, equities continue to sell off and the dollar to remain well bid on the idea that the Fed will become even more aggressive. And I see nothing to stop that price action for now.

Good luck and good weekend
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