In China, a new rule applies
Which helped stocks close on session highs
The news was released
The size of their equity buys
Meanwhile, Brussels has been the sight
Of quite a large policy fight
Four nations refuse
Their cash to misuse
But in the end, they’ll see the light
Once upon a time, government announcements were focused on things like international relations, broad economic policies and the occasional self-kudos to try to burnish their reputation with the electorate, or at least with the population. But that ideal has essentially disappeared from today’s world. Instead, as a result of the ongoing financialization of economies worldwide, there are only two types of government announcements these days; those designed to explain why the current government is the best possible choice, and those designed to prop up the nation’s stock market. Policy comments are too hard for most people to understand, or at least to understand their potential ramifications, so they are no longer seen as useful. But, do you know what is seen as useful? Explaining that institutions should buy more stocks because a higher stock market is good for everyone!
Once again, China leads the way in this vein, with Friday night’s announcement that henceforth, Insurers should can allocate as much as 45% of their assets to equities, up from the previous cap of 30%. Some quick math shows that this new regulation has just released an additional $325 billion of new buying power into the Chinese stock market, or roughly 4% of the total market capitalization in the country. It cannot be a surprise that the Shanghai Exchange rallied 3.1% last night, which was, of course, exactly the idea behind the announcement. In fact, lately, the Chinese have been really working to manipulate the stock market there, apparently seeking a steady move higher, probably something like 1% a day, but have been having trouble reining in the exuberance of the large speculative community there. So, all of their little nudges higher result in 3%-5% gains, which they feel could be getting out of hand, and so they need to squash them occasionally. But for now, they are back on the rally bandwagon, so look for some steady support this week.
Interestingly, however, this was clearly not seen as a global risk-on signal as equity activity elsewhere has been far more muted. The rest of Asia was basically flat (Nikkei +0.1%, Hang Seng -0.1%) and Europe has seen a mixed session as well, with small gains by the DAX (+0.3%) and losses by the CAC (-0.3%). In other words, investors realize this is simply Chinese activity. PS, US futures are basically unchanged on the day as well.
At the same time, there is a critical story building out of Europe, the outcome of the EU Summit. This began with high hopes on Friday as most people expected the Frugal Four to quickly cave into the pressure to give more money away to the PIGS. However, after three full days of talks, there is still no agreement. Remember, their concern is that the EU plan to give away €500 billion in grants to countries most in need (read Italy, Spain and Greece), is simply delaying the inevitable as they will almost certainly waste these funds, just like they have each wasted funds for decades. And the frugal four nations were not interested in throwing their money away. But in the end, it was always clear that with support from Germany and France, a deal would get done in some form. The latest is that “only” €390 billion will be given as grants, so a 22% reduction, but still a lot of free cash.
While no one has yet signed on the dotted line, you can be sure that by the end of the day, they will have announced a successful conclusion to the process. The funny thing is that regardless of the outcome of the Summit, it seems to me that the entire package, listed at €750 billion, is actually pretty small. After all, the CARES act here had a price tag of $3.2 trillion, four times as large, and the EU economy is going to suffer just as much as the US. But that is not the way the market is looking at things. Rather, they have collectively decided that this package is a huge euro positive and have been pushing the single currency higher steadily for pretty much the entire month of July (+2.5%), with it now sitting just pips below the spike high seen in March, and back to levels last seen, really, in January 2019. How much further can it rise? Personally, I am skeptical that it has that much more room to run, but I know the technicians are really getting excited about a big breakout here.
As to the rest of the FX market, activity has been fairly muted with the dollar slightly softer against most G10 and EMG counterparts. On the G10 side, NOK and SEK lead the way higher, both up by 0.45%, as in a broad move, these higher beta currencies tend to have the best performance. JPY is a touch softer on the day, and a number of currencies, CAD, NZD, CHF, are all within just basis points of Friday’s close.
We are seeing similar price action in the emerging markets, with one notable loser, IDR (-0.5%) as traders there continue to price in further policy ease by the central bank after last week’s 25bp rate cut. On the plus side, the CE4 are leading the way higher, with gains between 0.3% and 0.6%, simply tracking the euro with a bit more beta. But really, there is not too much of note to discuss here.
On the data front, it is an extremely quiet week upcoming as follows:
|Wednesday||Existing Home Sales||4.80M|
|New Home Sales||700K|
In addition, there are no Fed speakers on the docket as it seems everybody has gone on holiday. So, once again, Initial Claims seems to be the key data point this week, helping us to determine if things are actually getting better, or we have seen a temporary peak in activity. With the ongoing spread of what appears to be a second wave of Covid, there is every chance that we start to see the rebound in data seen for the past two months start to fade. If that is the case, it strikes me that we will see a bit more risk-off activity and the dollar benefit. But that is a future situation. Today, the dollar remains under modest pressure as traders respond to the perceived benefits of striking a deal at the EU.
Good luck and stay safe