A Lack of Well-Being

Down Under the RBA eased
And Aussie bulls have gotten squeezed
In Europe they’re seeing
A lack of well-being
Which has politicians displeased

The RBA cut rates by 25bps last night, as fully expected by the interest rate markets, and they indicated that despite the fact that their base rate was now at a record low of 0.75%, they were considering further easing in the future. The Aussie dollar suffered on the news and is the worst performer in the G10 today, down 0.80%. In fact, Aussie is now at its lowest level since the financial crisis and, in truth, the trend certainly looks like it has further to fall. Australia continues to suffer from the combination of China’s slowing growth as well as the fall-out from the US-China trade war. Alas for the Australians, there is precious little they can do to insulate themselves from those things given they have literally built their economy over the past twenty-five years on the back of Chinese growth. Given the US dollar’s overall trend higher, I see nothing that would change this in the near term. Receivables hedgers beware.

Adding to the global gloom was the release of the Eurozone Manufacturing PMI data which continues to point to a manufacturing recession there. Germany’s was actually slightly better than forecast, but at 41.7 remains far and away the worst of the bunch. The overall Eurozone reading was at 45.7, essentially unchanged from last month and showing no signs of improvement whatsoever. In fact, the sub-indices showed that both new orders and prices paid are falling even faster. Given this news it can be no surprise that Eurozone CPI was released at a weaker than forecast 0.9% this morning as well. It is easy to see why Signor Draghi has been keen to add stimulus to the Eurozone economy, but it will take some time for the most recent activities to work their way into the data, which implies that things are going to get worse before they get better. Interestingly, after an early dip on the data, the euro has clawed back those losses and is now essentially unchanged on the day. Of course, the euro remains in a very clear downtrend and is lower by 1.9% since the ECB’s last policy meeting where they cut rates and restarted QE. Looking back a bit further into the summer, since last June, the single currency has fallen more than 4.6%. This trend, too, has legs.

As a harbinger of the narrative, the WTO released updated forecasts for growth in global trade this morning and the reading was not pretty. The new forecast is for global trade to grow just 1.2% in 2019 and 2.7% in 2020. This compares to growth of 3.0% in 2018, and its last forecasts of 2.6% and 3.0% for this year and next. At this point, the market is sharpening its focus on the upcoming trade negotiations due to begin in Washington on October 10th. Everybody is hoping for a positive outcome, but from everything that has been reported so far, it appears the two sides remain far apart on a number of issues, and though a deal will be beneficial for both, it remains a distant prospect I fear.

Turning our attention to Japan, last night the government auctioned a new tranche of 10-year JGB’s with pretty disastrous results. A day after explaining they will be reducing the amount of purchases in the back end in order to steepen the yield curve, they were true to their word. Yields there climbed 5bps with the bid-to-cover ratio a very weak 3.42, the lowest since 2016. This price action had a knock-on effect everywhere in the world as Treasury prices fell (yields +6bps) with a similar story in Germany (+4.5bps) and the UK (+7bps). For our purposes, the impact was in USDJPY, which is higher by 0.25% this morning, extending its bounce of the last month. Once again, the current market does not appear to be risk sensitive per se, this is simply dollar outperformance.

A quick look at the rest of the FX world shows SEK a key underperformer this morning, falling 0.55% as the market continues to focus on the change in tone from the Riksbank. They had been working hard to ‘normalize’ interest rates over the past year, but the data there continues to undermine their case with this morning’s PMI release of 46.3 dramatically lower than forecasts and the weakest reading since 2012. Instead, they are far more likely going to need to cut rates again, hence the krone’s weakness.

In the EMG sphere, ZAR is the biggest loser today, falling 1.0% on the back of two related stories; first Fitch cut the credit rating of Eskom, the troubled government-owned utility, to CCC-, essentially dead. This situation has been weighing on economic growth there for quite a while, and the bigger concern is that it forces a countrywide credit downgrade. South Africa is currently under review by Moody’s, and another cut would put them in junk territory forcing a significant amount of ZAR bond sales by international investors (with some estimates as high as $15 billion worth), and correspondingly, driving the rand even lower. But if you look across the board, while ZAR is the worst performer, the dollar is higher against virtually the entire space.

Turning to the upcoming session, we are looking forward to ISM Manufacturing data (exp 50.0) after a very weak Chicago PMI number yesterday (47.1). We also get to hear from three Fed speakers, Evans, Clarida and Bowman, although the last of these, Governor Bowman, rarely speaks of monetary policy with her focus on community banking. Beyond this, the bigger trend remains a higher dollar and there is nothing to indicate that trend is changing.

Good luck
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