Feeling Distress

The dollar is feeling distress
As Treasury prices compress
The data released
Shows growth has increased
Thus risk is now ‘cool’ to possess

Risk is back in fashion this morning as better than expected Chinese Services PMI data (54.4 vs. exp 52.3) and better than expected German Services PMI data (55.4 vs exp 54.9) have combined with renewed optimism on the US-Chinese trade talks to revive risk taking by investors. If you recall, it was just last month that the PMI data was pointing to a global slowdown, which was one of the keys to market activity. It was part and parcel of the yield curve inversion as well as the dollar’s modest strength as investors fled most other countries for the least bad option, the US markets. But it seems that not only have markets responded positively to the complete u-turn by global central bankers, so have purchasing managers. In the end, everybody loves easy money, and the fact that virtually every nation has reversed early signs of policy tightening has played well on Main Street as well as on Wall Street.

So maybe recession is much further away than had recently been feared. Of course, we continue to see our share of weak data with this week already producing subpar Retail Sales (-0.2%, -0.4% ex autos) and weak Durable Goods Orders (-1.6%, +0.1% ex transport). This makes an interesting contrast to the stronger than expected ISM data (55.3) and Construction Spending (+1.0%). But investors clearly see the glass half-full as equities respond positively, and maybe more impressively, Treasury yields have backed up 14 bps in the past week. This means the yield curve is no longer inverted and we are already hearing a lot of dismissals about how that was an aberration and not a precursor of a recession. You know, ‘This time is different!’

The one thing that remains clear is there is a concerted effort by central bankers everywhere to focus on the good, ignore the bad and try to keep the global economy going. I guess that’s their collective job, so kudos are due as they have recently proven quite nimble in their responses. Of course, the fact that they seem to be inflating new debt bubbles with the potential for very serious consequences when they pop cannot be ignored forever.

Prime Minister May’s at a loss
And so now the aisle she’ll cross
It’s Labour she’ll ask
To help with the task
Of proving her deal’s not just dross

The other market surprise was the news that after a seven-hour cabinet meeting, PM May has given up on the Tories to help her pass the Brexit deal and has now reached out to Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to see if they can come up with something that can garner a majority of votes in Parliament. Yesterday, Parliament tried to come up with their own plan for a second time, and this time handily rejected 11 suggestions. The problem for May is that Labour, itself, is split on what it wants to do, with a large portion looking for another referendum, while it has its own significant portion of Leavers. Quite frankly, the view from 3000 miles away is that this initiative is not going to result in any better solution than the already rejected ones. And while everyone abhors the idea of a hard Brexit, apparently nobody abhors it enough to concede their own viewpoint. However, the market continues to wear its rose-colored glasses and the pound has rebounded 0.5% today and more than 1.1% since yesterday morning. The pound continues to be completely driven by the Brexit saga, as it rallied despite a very poor Services PMI outturn of 48.9.

Away from those stories, market optimism has been fanned by the hints that the US-China trade talks are continuing to make progress. Chinese vide-premier, and lead negotiator, Liu He, is in Washington today and tomorrow to resume the conversation. Meanwhile, central banks continue to back away from any further policy tightening, even in marginal countries where it had been expected. Poland is the latest to sound more dovish than previous comments, and markets are also now pricing in further rate cuts in both India and South Africa. The point is that the market addiction to easy money is growing, and there does not appear to be a single central banker anywhere who can look through the short-term and recognize, and respond to, long term concerns.

But in the meantime, stocks continue to rally. Today, after the Chinese data, we saw the Nikkei jump 1.0%, and Shanghai rally 1.25%. Then after the Eurozone data, the DAX rocketed 1.85% and even the CAC, despite the weak French data, rallied 1.0%. I guess the fact that there are still weak areas in Europe implies that Signor Draghi will never be tempted to raise rates. And not to be outdone, US futures are pointing to a 0.5% rise at the open.

This morning’s data brings ADP Employment (exp 170K) and then ISM Non-Manufacturing (exp 58.0). If things hold true to form, look for a better ISM number, although the ADP will be quite interesting. Remember, last month’s NFP number was shockingly weak so there are still questions about that. Friday, we will learn more, especially with the revisions.

And the dollar? Well, as is often the case on days where risk is accumulated, the dollar is under broad pressure, down 0.3% vs. the euro, NOK and SEK. It is also under pressure vs. EMG currencies with INR (+0.7%) and PHP (+0.6%) leading the way in Asia, while the CE4 are all higher by roughly 0.3%. There is no reason to think this pressure will abate today, unless we see something quite surprising, like the US-China trade talks falling apart. In other words, look for modest further dollar weakness as the session progresses.

Good luck