In Germany, data revealed
That growth there’s apparently healed
But data elsewhere
Implied some despair
As problems, porcine, are concealed
Risk is back in vogue this morning as the market appears to be responding positively to a much better than expected PMI reading from Germany (Services PMI 50.6, up from 49.1 Flash reading, Composite 54.7, up from 53.7 Flash) and a modestly better outcome for the Eurozone (48.0 vs. 47.6 for Services, 50.4 vs. 50.1 for Composite) as a whole. At least that’s the surface story I keep reading. The problem with this version is that markets in Asia were also highly risk-centric and that was well before the PMI data hit the tape. Which begs the question, what is really driving the risk narrative today?
When President Trump was infected
The thing that most people expected
Was two weeks before
He’d walk out the door
Explaining he wasn’t affected
A different, and timelier, explanation for today’s positive risk sentiment stems from the ongoing story of President Trump’s covid infection and his ability to recuperate quickly. While the standing assumption had been that there is a two-week timeline from infection to recovery, the President has consistently indicated that he feels fine, as have his doctors, and the story is that he will be released today from his weekend stay at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital. In other words, any concerns that attended the announcement of his illness from Friday, when we did see equity markets suffer, is in the process of being unwound this morning. The rationale here seems to be twofold. First, the President is set to be back at the White House and in control, something which matters greatly from a national security perspective. But second, the fact that he, as a 74-year-old man, was able to recover so quickly from the infection speaks to the reduced impact covid is likely to have on the population as a whole. And arguably, that may even have a bigger impact. While we continue to hear of new lockdown’s being announced in certain places, NYC, Spain and France to name just three, if the potency of the infection is waning such that it is a short-term event with limited side effects, that could well lead to an increase in confidence amongst the population. And, of course, confidence is the one thing that the economy is searching for desperately.
The problem is that since virtually everything has become political theater lately, it is difficult to discern the facts in this situation. As such, it seems hard to believe that overall confidence has been lifted that significantly, at least as of this morning. However, if President Trump remains active and vigorous this week, it will certainly put a dent into the thesis that covid is incredibly debilitating. We will need to watch how things evolve.
Interestingly, there is one issue that seems to be getting short shrift this morning, the growing concern that there will be no Brexit deal reached in the next ten days. Recall that Boris and Ursula had a virtual lunch date on Saturday, and both claimed that a deal was close, but there were a couple of issues left to address. The two key differences remain the issue of acceptable state aid by the UK government and, the big one, the type of access that European (read French) fishing vessels will have to UK waters. It seems that French President Macron is adamant that the UK give the French a (large) annual quota and be done with it, while Boris is of the mind that they should agree to meet annually and discuss the issue based on the available fish stocks and conditions. It also seems that the rest of Europe is getting a bit annoyed at Macron as for them, the issue is not that significant. This fact is what speaks to an eventual climb-down by Macron, but, as yet, he has not been willing to budge on the matter. Based on the price of the pound and its recent performance (+0.2% today, +1.0% in the past week), the market clearly believes a deal will be reached. However, that also foretells a more significant decline in the event both sides fail to reach said agreement.
So, now let’s take a look at the bullishness in markets today. Asia saw strength across the board with the Nikkei(+1.25%) and Hang Seng (+1.3%) nicely higher and Australia (+2.6%) really showing strength. (China remains closed virtually all week for a series of national holidays). European indices are all green as well, albeit not quite as enthusiastic as Asia. Thus, we have seen solid gains from the three major indices, DAX, CAC and FTSE 100, all higher by 0.7%. And finally, US futures are pointing to a stronger opening, with current pricing showing gains of between 0.7% and 1.0%.
It should be no surprise that bond marks are under some pressure with 10-year Treasury yields up to 0.71% this morning, higher by 1 basis point on the session and 6 bps in the past week. In fact, yields are back at their highest level in a month. European bonds are also broadly softer (higher yields) but the movement remains muted as well, about 1bp where they have risen. And it should also not be surprising that Italy, Portugal and Greece have seen yields decline, as those three certainly qualify as risk assets these days.
Oil prices are firmer, again taking their cue from the confidence that is infusing markets overall, while precious metals prices are flat. And finally, the dollar is definitely softer, except against the yen, which continues to be one of the best risk indicators around. So, in the G10 space, NOK (+0.7%) is the leader, following oil as well as benefitting from the general dollar weakness. Next on the list is CHF (+0.5%) where data showed ongoing growth in sight deposits, an indication that capital flows continue to enter the country, despite today’s risk attitude. But broadly speaking, the whole space is firmer.
As to EMG currencies, ZAR (+0.7%) is the leader today, with firmer commodity prices and still the highest real interest rates around keeping the rand attractive in a risk-on environment. But it is almost the entire bloc with the CE4 (CZK +0.55%, PLN +0.45%, HUF +0.45%) showing their high EUR beta characteristics and MXN (+0.45%) also performing well, again benefitting from both firmer oil prices as well as a weaker dollar. The one exception here is RUB (-0.5%), which appears to be suffering from the effects of the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and how much it is going to cost Russia to maintain its support for Armenia.
On the data front, it is a relatively quiet week with only a handful of numbers to be released:
|JOLTs Job Openings||6.5M|
However, what we lack in data we make up for with Fedspeak, as eight different speakers, including Chairman Powell tomorrow, speak at 13 different events. What we have heard lately is there is a growing difference of opinion by some FOMC members regarding the robustness of the US economic rebound. However, despite those differences, the universal request is for further fiscal stimulus. Given the dearth of data this week, I expect that Chairman Powell’s speech tomorrow morning is likely to be the most important thing we hear, barring a Brexit breakthrough or something else from the White House.
Good luck and stay safe