Psephologists took a great hit
Their forecasts turned out to be sh*t
The blue wave has crashed
And hopes are now dashed
For Congress, more cash to commit
An astrologer, and economist and a psephologist walk into a bar
“What’s it going to be?” asks the barkeep.
“We have no idea,” they reply
While the final results of the Presidential race are not yet in, nor seem likely to be known before Friday at the earliest, what has become clear is that the Republican party is very likely to retain control of the Senate, no matter what, and that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has shrunk. In other words, the idea of the blue wave, where the Democrats would not merely win the presidency, but retake the Senate and expand their control of the House has been crushed. And with that outcome, the reflation trade that had gained so many adherents of late, is being quickly unwound.
Thus, the election results have spawned both a bull flattening of the yield curve, with 10-year yields currently lower by 11.5 basis points, while 30-year yields are 13 basis points lower and a dollar rebound, especially against most emerging market currencies. It had seemed odd yesterday to see such significant market movement ahead of the results of what many expected to be a close, and possibly contested, election. But clearly, there was a significant amount of enthusiasm for that mythical blue wave.
Until the Presidential results are declared, it will be extremely difficult to focus on US economic issues, as in fairness, given the diametrically opposed platforms of the two candidates, we can only surmise a future path once we know who wins. As such, I expect the two stories that will dominate for the rest of the week will be the election results and the ongoing covid inspired lockdowns throughout Europe.
As this is not a political discussion, let us turn to the other major storyline. As of today, it appears that Germany, France, Italy and the UK are all imposing significant restrictions on most, if not all, of their citizens for the entire month of November. Given the rapid spread of the virus in this wave, Europe reported another 239K new cases yesterday, it is understandable that governments feel the need to act. However, the balance between trying to maintain economic activity and trying
to avoid spending so much money on healthcare save citizens’ lives is a difficult one to maintain. After all, the EU has very strict guidelines as to what type of budget deficits its members can run, and at this point, every member is over the limit. It is this reason that Madame Lagarde has been so clear that the ECB can, and will, do more to support the economy. If they don’t, things will get ugly very quickly. It is also this reason that leads me to believe the euro has limited upside for the foreseeable future. Whatever is happening in the US, the situation in Europe is not one that inspires confidence.
Thus, let’s look at how markets are responding to the incomplete election results and the increase in Covid infections. Equities in Asia had a mixed session, with the Nikkei (+1.7%) performing well while the Hang Seng (-0.2%) suffered on the back of the Ant Financial story. (This story revolves around the expected IPO of the Chinese company, which was forecast to be the largest of the year, but which the Chinese government squashed.) Shanghai equities were little changed on the session, up just 0.2%. Europe, however, has seen early gains evaporate and at this point could best be characterized as mixed. The DAX (-0.1%) is the laggard, while the CAC and FTSE 100 (+0.2% each) are marginally higher. However, Spain’s IBEX (-1.1%) is feeling the pain of the lockdowns, as is Italy’s MIB (-0.25%). US futures are quite interesting at this point, with DOW futures actually lower by 0.1%, while NASDAQ futures are 2.0% higher. And NASDAQ futures were as much as 4.5% higher earlier in the session. It seems that the status quo in US politics is deemed a positive for the Tech mega caps, while the cyclical companies are expected to have a much tougher time. As well, if President Trump wins, there will be no expectation of significant tax hikes, something that would have been a virtual certainty with a President Biden.
As discussed above, Treasuries are rallying fiercely. But we are seeing rallies throughout Europe as well, with Gilt yields leading the way, having fallen by 4.3 bps, but most of the continent looking at 2bp declines. This appears to be either position unwinding or a renewed enthusiasm that the ECB is going to step up in a massive way next month. Recall, yesterday, bonds fell everywhere, so a rebound is not that surprising, especially for those who were selling based on the moves in the US. However, I suspect that given the newest lockdown announcements, investors have become increasingly convinced that the ECB is going to get perilously close to the idea of direct funding of government deficits, something that is verboten within the rules, but something that is desperately needed by the likes of Italy, Spain and Greece.
As to the dollar, yesterday’s sharp decline was puzzling for the same reason the bond market sell-off was puzzling, and so, this morning’s rebound makes perfect sense. While earlier in the session, the dollar had seen much sharper gains, at this hour (6:52am), those gains are fairly modest. AUD (-0.4%) is the worst G10 performer, followed closely by GBP (-0.35%) and NZD (-0.35%). Meanwhile, both haven currencies, CHF and JPY have climbed back to unchanged on the day from earlier session losses. With the election news still roiling markets, it is nonsensical to try to attribute these moves to anything other than position moves.
EMG currencies are also under pressure virtually across the board, and like the G10, the early declines, which in some cases were quite substantial have abated. For instance, MXN (-4.1% last night, -1.0% now) showed the most volatility, but CNY (-1.0% last night, unchanged now) also saw substantial movement. Again, to attribute this, or any currency movement, to anything other than position adjustment in the wake of the US election results would be a mistake.
As to the data today, the Services PMI data was released throughout Europe and was pretty much as expected. ISM Services (exp 57.5) is out at 10:00 and expected to continue to show surprising growth. Before that, we see the Trade Balance (exp -$63.9B), but trade policy is just not of interest these days.
Rather, the market will remain enthralled with the election results, which as I type remain decidedly unclear. Either candidate could win the key remaining states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, although all three are trending Trump right now.
In the end, the election result will matter because it will inform policy ideas. If we remain status quo ante, the dollar likely has further to rise. If Mr Biden emerges victorious, the dollar could certainly cede its recent gains, but no collapse is in sight.
Good luck and stay safe