In England and Scotland and Wales
A new PM finally hails
With Boris the man
We know the game plan
Is Brexit, as yet sans details
As of 7:05 this morning, it was finally official that Boris Johnson was elected as the new leader of the UK’s Conservative and Unionist Party (aka the Tories) by a substantial margin. By all rights, as of tomorrow, he will be the new Prime Minister of the UK. Congratulations Boris!
And so, the Brexit story now takes a new turn as Boris was instrumental in campaigning for the vote three years ago, and has been a vocal supporter ever since, unlike his predecessor, Theresa May. He has been abundantly clear that if the EU does not reopen the negotiations, he will take the UK out of the EU without a deal. Yet to date, the EU has been adamant that the only deal available is the one they have already tabled. Since the beginning, I have maintained that while the UK will certainly be negatively impacted by a no-deal Brexit, the EU will also feel significant pain. This is especially true in northern Europe, with Germany, France and the Netherlands amongst the biggest exporters to the UK. Thus, we are now involved in the biggest game of chicken seen in the global economy in a very long time. (While the politicians describe this as brinksmanship, I think chicken is a better label.) At this point, it is anybody’s guess how things will turn out, but what we do know is that if there really is a no-deal Brexit, the pound will fall much further, the euro will decline, and global growth will slow further.
As it happens, we are already seeing the UK economy slip, with the latest evidence being this morning’s CBI report which printed at a much worse than expected -34, its lowest since the immediate wake of the Brexit vote in 2016. And not surprisingly, the pound remains under pressure, down 0.1% as I type, which makes 2.1% during the past month. In addition, we heard from BOE member Saunders, who confirmed that the BOE default assumption of a smooth Brexit may not be the outcome, and that monetary policy will need to adjust to the new realities in that case. While he continues to fear a stagflationary outcome, there remains little case for the BOE to raise rates anytime soon. The evidence is abundantly clear that in a global rates environment that is declining, there is virtually no chance the UK would tighten policy in any way. Despite the fact that the US has far more room to cut rates than the UK, the problems attendant to Brexit, at least initially, are going to continue to weigh on the pound going forward.
Away from the Brexit story, all eyes are turning toward the ECB meeting to be held in two days’ time in Frankfurt. While most analysts around the world are convinced that Signor Draghi is going to use this meeting to set the table for more action in September, the market is moving toward my view that a rate cut is coming Thursday. OIS markets are pricing in a 40% probability of a 10bp cut, and there are a few outlier analysts who are even calling for 20 bps right away. After all, if you consider what NY Fed president Williams said last week about how, when rates are low, acting aggressively right away is a better strategy than a slow decline in rates, that would argue for 20 bps on Thursday. The other question is whether they will introduce some sort of tiering into the program to allow the European banks, which have been getting killed by the negative rate charges, to exempt some portion of their excess reserves from the penalty rates. That is actually a huge deal, and one where there is very little clarity. In the meantime, despite the fact that the market is certain the Fed is going to cut rates by 25 bps next week, I think the euro has room to fall further in the interim. It is lower by 0.25% this morning, and I expect a move toward 1.10, especially as I believe they will cut Thursday.
As to the rest of the G10, the dollar is broadly stronger, but the magnitude of change remains very modest, on the order of 0.10%-0.20%. In the EMG space, the dollar has also seen broad strength, although here, too, the size of the movement remains muted, with the biggest losers falling just 0.3% (PLN, HUF, IDR). It should be no surprise that markets continue to bide their time as we await the official news from the ECB as well as Friday’s US GDP data, which will clearly play into the FOMC decision next week.
And that’s pretty much today’s story. Equity earnings continue to be released, and it seems that most are beating the lowered expectations that are out there. This has been enough to prevent further equity market damage but has not led to significant gains. On the rate front, Treasuries have been stagnant for the past few sessions with 10-year yields standing at 2.03%, well off the highs seen two weeks ago in a technical sell-off, but certainly with plenty of room to decline from here, especially in the event the Fed does cut 50. We get one piece of data, Existing Home Sales (exp 5.33M), but that seems unlikely to change many views regardless of the outcome. So, my view remains that the dollar’s slow drift higher is still the most likely outcome for now.