Employment Unstressed

The jobs report Friday impressed
With growth in employment unstressed
As well, Friday’s quotes
From Fed speakers’ throats
Explained how their policy’s best

As is evidenced by the fact that the stock market in the US continues to trade to new all-time highs on a daily basis, the Fed is doing an incredible job…just ask them! Friday we learned that both the economy and monetary policy are “in a good place” according to vice-chairman Richard Clarida. Governor Randall Quarles used the same terms as did NY Fed President John Williams, who added, “…the economy is strong,” as well to the mix. At least they are all singing from the same hymnal. So, following a much better than expected payrolls report Friday morning, with the headline number not only beating expectations handily (128K vs. 85K), but the previous two months’ data were revised higher by a further 95K, the Fed is patting themselves on the back.

Adding to the overall joy in markets is the apparent thaw in the US-China trade talks, where it appears that a small, ‘phase one’ deal is pretty much agreed with both sides simply trying to find a place to sign it now that the APEC conference in Chile has been canceled due to local violent protests. And of course, the other big uncertainty, Brexit, has also, apparently, become less risky as the amended deal agreed by Boris and the EU has put to rest many fears of a hard Brexit. While the UK is currently engaged in a general election campaign cum second Brexit referendum, the smart money says that Boris will win the day, Parliament will sign the deal and the next steps toward Brexit will be taken with no mishaps.

Who knows, maybe all of these views are absolutely correct and global growth is set to rebound substantially driving stocks to ever more new highs and allowing central banks around the world to finally unwind some of their ‘emergency’ measures like ZIRP, NIRP and QE. Or…

It is outside the realm of this morning note to opine on many of these outcomes, but history tells us that everything working out smoothly is an unlikely outcome.

Turning to the market this morning shows us a dollar that is marginally firmer despite a pretty broad risk-on feeling. As mentioned above, equity markets are all strong, with Asia closing higher and almost every European market higher by more than 1.0% as I type. US futures are pointing in the same direction following on Friday’s strong performance. Treasury yields are also higher as there is little need for safety when stock prices are flying, and we are seeing gains in oil and industrial metals as well. All of which begs the question why the dollar is firm. But aside from the South African rand, which has jumped 1.5% this morning after Moody’s retained its investment grade rating on country bonds, although it did cut its outlook to negative, there are more currencies lower vs. the dollar than higher.

One possible explanation is the Fed’s claim that they have ended their mid-cycle adjustment and that US rates are destined to remain higher than those elsewhere in the world going forward. It is also possible that continued weak data elsewhere is simply undermining other currencies. For example, Eurozone final PMI’s were released this morning and continue to show just how weak the manufacturing sector in Europe remains. Given the fact that the ECB is basically out of bullets, and the fact that the Germans and Dutch remain intransigent with respect to the idea of fiscal stimulus, a weak currency is the only feature that is likely to help the ECB achieve its inflation target. However, as we have seen over the past many years, the pass-through of a weak currency to higher inflation is not a straightforward process. While I do think the dollar will continue its slow climb higher, I see no reason for the pace of the move to have any substantive impact on Eurozone CPI.

Meanwhile, the G10 currency under the most pressure today is the pound, which has fallen 0.2%, and while still above 1.29, seems to have lost all its momentum higher as the market tries to assess what will happen at the election six weeks hence. While I continue to believe that Boris will win and that the negotiated deal will be implemented, I have actually taken profits on my personal position given the lack of near-term momentum.

Looking ahead to this week, the data picture is far less exciting than last, although we do have the BOE meeting on Thursday to spice things up, as well as a raft of Fed speakers:

Today Durable Goods -1.1%
  -ex transport -0.3%
  Factory Orders -0.4%
Tuesday Trade Balance -$52.5B
  JOLTS Job Openings 7.088M
  ISM Non-Manufacturing 53.4
Wednesday Nonfarm Productivity 0.9%
  Unit Labor Costs 2.2%
Thursday Initial Claims 215K
  Consumer Credit $15.05B
Friday Michigan Sentiment 95.5

Source: Bloomberg

As all of this data is second tier, it is hard to get too excited over any of it, however, if it demonstrates a pattern, either of weakness or strength, by the end of the week we could see some impact. Meanwhile, there are nine Fed speakers slated this week, but given the consistency of message we heard last week, it seems hard to believe that the message will change at all, whether from the hawks or doves. At this point, I think both sides are happy.

Putting it all together, I would argue that the dollar is more likely to suffer slightly this week rather than strengthen as risk appetite gains. But it is hard to get too excited in either direction for now.

Good luck
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