Hardliners Abhorred

According to sources, it seems
That Minister May and her teams
Have neared the accord
Hardliners abhorred
As they’ll need to give up their dreams

While there is much in store for markets this week from the US, between the midterm elections tomorrow and the FOMC meeting on Thursday, today’s biggest headline is really about the UK and Brexit. Allegedly, albeit with no corroboration from either side, the entire UK will remain in the customs union, not just Northern Ireland, in the immediate aftermath of Brexit as the two sides continue to work out the eventual solution. May’s idea is that she will present this to her cabinet with an ultimatum to approve it and send it to Parliament in order to get the process completed before the end of the year. And while the other 27 members of the EU must also ratify the deal, the current belief is that there will be limited problems doing that. However, this all remains speculation at this point, except for the fact that May and her cabinet have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow where more details should become available.

It cannot be surprising that the pound has rallied on the news, jumping 60 pips on the open although since giving back about half that original gain. The broad consensus in the market is that any deal will result in the pound trading sharply higher, although I am skeptical that it can stay much above 1.35 for any meaningful amount of time. Even if the Brexit monkey climbs off the pound’s back, the market will still have to account for the fact that UK growth is slowing more sharply than its peers and that the pressure for the BOE to raise rates will likely ebb accordingly. But for now it remains speculation as to whether a deal is imminent or not. And as long as that uncertainty remains, the pound will be beholden to the latest story or headline on the subject.

Away from the pound though, the dollar is starting to show some life at this stage of the morning. Friday’s employment report, with NFP printing at 250K and AHE at 3.1%, confirmed that growth in the US continues to outperform virtually every other region in the world, and will have done nothing to dissuade the Fed from continuing its rate hiking strategy. While there is no expectation of any activity by the Fed on Thursday, the market probability for a rate hike in December remains above 80%. As long as US data continues to outpace that of the rest of the world, it seems unlikely that the Fed is going to stop.

Regarding the US midterm elections, clearly there is the potential for a market reaction depending on the results and whether the Republican party maintains its hold on the House of Representatives. If not, a split government (it is assumed that they will retain the Senate) will clearly impede the president’s plans for further economic stimulus programs and reintroduce brinksmanship to things like budget discussions. Net, given the current economic situation, I expect that after a kneejerk response, it is unlikely to have a significant impact for a while. However, it does open the possibility of more inflammatory rhetoric, including the threat of impeachment hearings, which may well detract from the dollar’s performance going forward. As we learned following President Trump’s election, markets pay close attention to significant electoral changes. With this in mind, it is important to remember that many pundits have been forecasting the Democrats will retake the House, so if the Republicans hold on, even with a much smaller majority, that may be an outcome not currently priced into the market. My point is that there is still great uncertainty to the outcome, and it is not entirely clear the FX impact that will result.

Away from those stories, the biggest news we saw was the weaker than expected Caixin PMI data from China. The Services print was 50.8 with the Composite number at just 50.5. The latter was at its weakest in more than two years and is an indication that the trade conflict with the US is continuing to take a toll on the Chinese economy. In addition, there were several articles in the press this weekend explaining that despite President Trump’s tweets last week, the meeting between Xi and Trump is really just going to get the trade negotiations restarted. There is no deal imminent. It should be no surprise that the renminbi has weakened during the session, especially after last week’s remarkable rally. So the 0.3% decline this morning needs to be kept in context, and simply represents a move back toward its previous trend.

Broadly speaking, the dollar is performing well against the EMG bloc today with MXN (-0.4%), INR (-0.9%) and KRW (-0.5%) indicative of the type of market activity ongoing.

Looking ahead to the upcoming data, we see that beyond the Fed and election, there is precious little that we will learn.

Today ISM Non-Manufacturing 59.3
Tuesday JOLT’s Jobs Report 7.1M
Thursday Initial Claims 214K
  FOMC Rate Decision 2.25%
Friday PPI 0.3% (2.5% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)
  Michigan Sentiment 98.0
  Wholesale Inventories 0.3%

So between the US elections and PM May’s cabinet meeting with its chance to make real Brexit headway, there is much to look for this week. But the data will not be the story. As to today’s session, APAC equity markets have reversed some of last week’s gains after it became clear that trade situation wasn’t going to improve in the very short term. US equity futures are pointing lower, although Europe is modestly higher. It all strikes me as though traders are biding their time awaiting the big news, which makes sense. Look for a dull session today, but with the chance for some fireworks tomorrow, at least in the pound if something happens in the cabinet meeting.

Good luck
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