This weekend the data released
By China showed growth had decreased
Investment has slowed
And that doesn’t bode
Too well for the Beast of the East
It has been a fairly quiet session overnight, as the weekend news cycle seems to have reverted back toward the summer doldrums of the past. While traders and investors remain on edge over the brewing trade conflict between the US and China, and how that may impact the rest of the world, the only actual news was Chinese data out last night.
It can be no surprise that the GDP figure, at 6.7%, was exactly as forecast [Woe betide the statistician in China who releases a GDP number less than President Xi declares], but it was somewhat surprising that both IP (6.0%) and Fixed Asset Investment (6.0%) were both released at levels softer than expected, and more importantly, at the softest levels in 15-20 years. Given that it is too early for the trade situation to have impacted the Chinese data, the most likely situation is that even the Chinese are beginning to recognize that growth on the mainland is set to slow further. In fairness, China has made a big deal about their pivot away from mercantilist policies to a more domestically focused economy, and given that Retail Sales (9.0%) were actually slightly firmer than expected, perhaps they are moving in that direction. However, unlike most developed countries, China’s domestic consumption is only around 50% of the economy (it is between 70% and 80% for OECD nations), and so that modestly better performance is not likely to be enough to maintain the growth trajectory that Xi wants over time.
In the end, though, there was only limited market reaction to the news, with Chinese equity markets slightly softer (Shanghai -0.25%) and the renminbi, though initially falling slightly, has since rebounded and is firmer by 0.3% as I type. Of course, in context, the dollar is softer across the board this morning with most major currencies appreciating by a similar amount.
Aside from the Chinese news, there was precious little of interest to drive trading. Oil prices have been sliding as Saudi Arabia has agreed to pump more oil and the US and other nations are considering tapping their strategic reserves in an effort to lower prices. Earnings season is underway with continued high hopes for US companies and less robust ones for the rest of the world. However, US equity futures are barely higher at this time, <0.1%, indicating a wait-and-see attitude has developed. And rounding things out, Treasury yields have edged higher by about 1bp although they remain well below levels seen back in May.
Pivoting to the data for the week, it is a mixed bag, with arguably the most important events Chairman Powell’s testimony to the Senate on Tuesday and House on Wednesday.
|Fed Beige Book|
However, we cannot ignore Retail Sales this morning, which is seen as a descriptor of the current economic situation. This has been one of the highlights of the economic story in the US, especially in the wake of the tax cuts and stimulus spending bills at the beginning of the year.
As long as growth in the US continues above its estimated long term trend (which is often pegged just below 2.0%), the Fed is going to continue to tighten policy via both rate hikes and a shrinking balance sheet, and the dollar should remain relatively well bid. While there is a case to be made that added fiscal stimulus at this stage in the economic cycle is a mistake (classical economics indicates tighter fiscal policy is warranted), there is no mistaking that the US economy remains the key engine of growth for the world, and that as the Fed tightens policy further, the dollar is set to benefit more.