Herr Juncker and Trump had their meeting
And what they both claimed bears repeating
No tariffs for now
As both sides allow
The current regime with no cheating
Whew! That pretty much sums up the market reaction to yesterday afternoon’s hastily arranged press conference with President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Both were all smiles as they announced that there would be no tariffs imposed at this time while the US and EU begin more serious trade negotiations with an eye toward reducing trade friction in manufactured goods. In addition, Europe would be seeking to purchase more US soybeans and LNG in a good faith effort to reduce the current trade imbalance. And finally, they would be addressing the current US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe. It can be no surprise that the market reacted quite positively to this news, with equities in the US finishing higher and European markets all performing well this morning. It should also not be that surprising that the euro jumped immediately upon the news, rising 0.25%, although this morning it has given back those gains after both French and German Consumer Confidence data extended their trend declines amid disappointing outcomes.
While it is still anybody’s guess how this will ultimately play out, the news is certainly an encouraging sign that there can be movement in a positive direction on the trade front. The same appears to be true regarding NAFTA negotiations with both Canada and Mexico reconfirming that a trilateral deal is the goal, and apparently making headway toward achieving those aims.
However, the same optimism is nowhere to be found regarding trade relations between China and the US, with no indication that the situation has shown any positive movement. In the meantime, China continues to respond to signs of weakening growth on the mainland, this time by further reducing capital requirements for banks’ lending to SME’s. While the PBOC has not specifically cut rates, generally seen as a broad monetary policy step, these targeted capital requirement and reserve ratio cuts can be very powerful tools for the targeted recipients, allowing them to expand their loan books and driving profits in the banking sector. But no matter how the easing of monetary policy is implemented, it is still easing of monetary policy and will have an impact on both Chinese equity markets and the renminbi’s exchange rate. While the currency weakened, as would be expected, falling 0.5% overnight, the Shanghai composite fell as well, which is somewhat surprising. Although, in fairness, the Shanghai exchange has rallied nearly 8% over the past two weeks, so this could simply be a case of “selling the news.” In the end, especially if the trade situation between the US and China remains fraught, I expect that USDCNY has further to run, and 7.00 remains on the radar.
The other big story this morning is the anticipation of the ECB meeting results, not so much in terms of policy changes, as none are expected, but in terms of the follow-on press conference where Signor Draghi will be asked about the timing of interest rate increases and the meaning of the term “through the summer” which was inserted into the last statement. Analysts have been debating if that means rates could be raised in August or September of next year, or if it implies a longer wait before a rate move. The futures market doesn’t have a full 10bp rate hike priced in until January 2020, significantly past the summer. The other question of note is how the ECB will handle reinvestment of their current portfolio, and whether they will seek to smooth the reinvestment program or simply wait until debt matures before purchasing more. The reason this matters is that their portfolio has a very uneven distribution of maturities, which could lead to more volatility in European Government bond markets if they choose the latter path.
In the end, given that Eurozone data continues to disappoint on a regular basis, it seems that whatever path they choose for rate hikes and reinvestment, it will seek to maintain as much support as possible for now. Other than the Germans, there does not appear to be a strong constituency to aggressively tighten monetary policy, and there are nations, like Italy and Greece, which would much prefer to see policy remain ultra accommodative for the foreseeable future. While the euro has been range trading for the past two months between 1.15 and 1.18, I continue to look for a break lower eventually.
Away from those stories, things have been less interesting. Most of the G10 is trading in a fairly narrow range, with Aussie the laggard, -0.4%, on the back of weaker metals prices. EMG currencies have similarly been fairly quiet with limited movement overall.
Yesterday’s US data showed that the housing market is starting to suffer a bit more consistently as New Home Sales fell to 631K, well below expectations and the lowest level since last October. Adding this to the miss in Existing Home Sales on Monday shows that the combination of still rising house prices and rising mortgage rates is starting to have a more substantial impact on the sector. This morning we see Durable Goods data (exp 3.0%, 0.5% -ex Transport) and the weekly Initial Claims data (215K), which continues to show the strength of the job market. However, regarding US data, all eyes remain on tomorrow’s first look at Q2 GDP, where the range of expectations is broad, from 3.8% to 5.2%, and traders will be trying to parse how the data will impact the Fed’s activities.
In the meantime, US equity futures are mixed this morning with the NASDAQ pointing lower after some weaker than expected earnings guidance from a FANG member, while Dow futures are pointing higher on the back of relief over the trade situation. As to the dollar, I expect that it will see modest weakness overall as positions continue to be adjusted ahead of tomorrow’s key GDP release.