The Fed, yesterday, made the case
That fiscal support they’d embrace
But even without
They haven’t a doubt
The dollar they still can debase
Their toolbox can help growth keep pace
As of yet, there is no winner declared in the Presidential election, although it seems to be trending toward a Biden victory. The Senate, as well, remains in doubt, although is still assumed, at least by the market, to be held by the Republicans. But as we discussed yesterday, the narrative has been able to shift from a blue wave is good for stocks to gridlock is good for stocks. And essentially, that remains the situation because the Fed continues to support the market.
With this in mind, yesterday’s FOMC meeting was the market focus all afternoon. However, the reality is we didn’t really learn too much that was new. While universal expectations were for policy to remain unchanged, and they were, Chairman Powell discussed two things in the press conference; the need for fiscal stimulus from the government as quickly as possible; and the composition of their QE program. Certainly, given all we have heard from Powell, as well as the other FOMC members over the past months, it is not surprising that he continues to plea for a fiscal response from Congress. As I have written before, they clearly recognize that their toolkit has basically done all it can for the economy, although it can still support stock and bond markets.
It is a bit more interesting that Powell was as forthright regarding the discussion on the nature of the current asset purchase program, meaning both the size of purchases and the tenor of the bonds they are buying. Currently, they remain focused on short-term Treasuries rather than buying all along the curve. Their argument is that their purchases are doing a fine job of maintaining low interest rates throughout the Treasury market. However, it seems that this question was the big one during the meeting, as clearly there are some advocates for extending the tenor of purchases, which would be akin to yield curve control. The fact that this has been such an important topic internally, and the fact that the erstwhile monetary hawks are on board, or seem to be, implies that we could see a change to longer term purchases in December, especially if no new fiscal stimulus bill is enacted and the data starts to turn back lower. This may well be the only way that the Fed can ease policy further, given their (well-founded) reluctance to consider negative interest rates. If this is the case, it would certainly work against the dollar in the near-term, at least until we heard the responses from the other central banks.
But that was yesterday. The Friday session started off in Asia with limited movement. While the Nikkei (+0.9%) managed to continue to rally, both the Hang Seng (+0.1%) and Shanghai (-0.25%) had much less interesting performances. Europe, on the other hand, started off with a serious bout of profit taking, as early on, both the DAX and CAC had fallen about 1.5%. But in the past two hours, they have clawed back around half of those losses to where the DAX (-0.9%) and CAC (-0.6%) are lower but still within spitting distance of their recent highs. US futures have shown similar behavior, having been lower by between 1.5% and 2.0% earlier in the session, and now showing losses of just 0.5% across the board. One cannot be surprised that there was some profit taking as the gains in markets this week have been extraordinary, with the S&P up more than 8% heading into today, the NASDAQ more than 9% and even the DAX and CAC up by similar amounts.
The Treasury rally, too, has stalled this morning with the 10-year yield one basis point higher, although we are seeing continued buying interest throughout European markets, especially in the PIGS, where ongoing ECB support is the most important. Helping the bond market cause has been the continued disappointment in European data, where for example, German IP was released at a worse than expected -7.3%Y/Y this morning. Given the increasingly rapid spread of Covid infections throughout Europe, with more than 300K new infections reported yesterday, and the fact that essentially every nation in the EU is going back on lockdown for the month of November, it can be no surprise that bond yields here are falling. Prospects for growth and inflation remain bleak and all the ECB can do is buy more bonds.
On the commodity front, oil is slipping again today, down around 3% as the twin concerns of weaker growth and potentially more supply from OPEC+ weigh on the market. Gold however, had a monster day yesterday, rallying 2.5%, and is continuing this morning, up another 0.3%. This is one market that I believe has much further to run.
Finally, looking at the dollar, it is definitely under pressure overall, although there are some underperformers as well. For instance, in the G10, SEK (+0.6%), CHF (+0.5%) and NOK (+0.5%) are all nicely higher with NOK being the biggest surprise given the decline in oil prices. The euro, too, is performing well, higher by 0.45% as I type. Arguably, this is a response to the idea that Powell’s discussion of buying longer tenors is a precursor to that activity, thus easier money in the US. However, the Commonwealth currencies are all a bit softer this morning, led by AUD (-0.15%) which also looks a lot like a profit-taking move, given Aussie’s 4.2% gain so far this week.
In the emerging markets, APAC currencies were all the rage overnight, led by IDR (+1.2%) and THB (+0.95%) with both currencies the beneficiaries of an increase in investment inflows to their respective bond markets. But we are also seeing the CE4 perform well this morning, which given the euro’s strength, should be no surprise at all. On the flipside, TRY (-1.2%) continues to be the worst performing currency in the world, as its combination of monetary policy and international gamesmanship is encouraging investors to flee as quickly as possible. The other losers are RUB (-0.5%) and MXN (-0.3%), both of which are clearly feeling the heat from oil’s decline.
This morning, we get the payroll data, which given everything else that is ongoing, just doesn’t seem as important as usual. However, here is what the market is looking for:
|Average Hourly Earnings||0.2% (4.5% Y/Y)|
|Average Weekly Hours||34.7|
You may recall that the ADP number was much weaker than expected, although it was buried under the election news wave. I fear we are going to see a decline in this data as the Initial Claims data continues its excruciatingly slow decline and we continue to hear about more layoffs. The question is, will the market care? And the answer is, I think this is a situation where bad news will be good as it will be assumed the Fed will be that much more aggressive.
As such, it seems like another day with dollar underperformance is in our future.
Good luck, good weekend and stay safe