Choler on Display

There once was a large group of nations
Whose common goal was trade relations
But then as time passed
More rules they amassed
Which caused, for the Brits, complications

So three years ago, the UK
Decided to go its own way
Then Europe was miffed
Lamenting the rift
And put their choler on display

Along then came Boris the blond
Who’s tried to move Britain beyond
The uncertain ways
Of Brexit delays
But Europe’s now scared to respond

Alas, we are back to Brexit as the key story this morning. In a nutshell; the EU indicated they would offer a three-month extension, to January 31, 2020 but has not confirmed that; Boris called for an election to be held on December 12 in order to consolidate what he perceives to be his current power, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insists that, though he wants to have an election, he will not do so until it is guaranteed there is no hard Brexit. Boris’s argument is that he has a deal that has been approved in principal by Parliament, so there should be no hard Brexit. However, Corbyn seems to realize that an election before Brexit is likely to lead to a significant Tory victory, so he won’t allow it. Meanwhile, the jellyfish in Brussels can’t make up their collective mind as to how long the extension should be and are claiming they ‘don’t want to get involved in UK politics’! Are they kidding? They have been involved in UK politics since the vote in June 2016. I tell you, the next decision they make will be their first. At any rate, we are now in a catch-22 where the EU doesn’t want to decide on the length of an extension until the situation in London is clearer, while Labour will prevent an election until they know the situation in Brussels.

All this has been somewhat negative for the pound, which saw quite a bit of volatility in yesterday’s session, falling a bit more than 1.0% during the NY morning as this saga started to play out, although it rebounded and recouped about half of those losses by the end of the day. This morning, price action has been quite choppy, but the range has been much smaller. As I type, the pound is lower by just 0.1%, but it has traded both sides of its trading range today, 1.2825-1.2860 four times. My advice is if you have to trade cable right now, leaving an order at your preferred level is the best practice.

In the end, while the market has priced in a slightly higher probability of a no-deal Brexit, I continue to firmly believe that the outcome will be the current deal will be passed and the pound will be set to trade substantially higher, with a medium term target of 1.35.

Yesterday was also Signor Draghi’s final meeting as ECB President and he kept to the script. He exhorted Eurozone members, who could afford to do so, to increase fiscal stimulus. He said the current monetary policy stance was appropriate and would remain in place until inflation was stable at the ECB’s target of ‘just below 2.0%’, and he insisted there was plenty more the ECB can do if necessary. But now it is Madame Lagarde’s problem going forward, as she will be installed as ECB president one week from today. And the euro? Well it has been pretty dull for the past week, trading in a tight range as it consolidates its 2.5% gains since the beginning of the month. We continue to get pretty lousy Eurozone data, with today’s survey data showing Consumer Confidence continuing to decline while the IFO Business data remained unchanged at its lowest level in more than ten years. There has been some effort to spin this as positive, but that’s a hard case to make.

On the trade front, there has been no real news, although China appears to be relenting with regard to pork imports as some 60% of their swine herd has been decimated by African swine fever and pork prices on the mainland have exploded higher. And remember, the US is not imposing tariffs on their own pork, it is China that is doing so for political reasons. Thus, if the domestic politics outweighs the trade politics, you can be sure there will be no tariffs on pork! So far, it still seems like President’s Trump and Xi are on track to sign a phase 1 deal next month at the APEC conference in Chile, but that is a long way away.

Elsewhere in the FX market, it is dullsville. I cannot find a single currency that has moved even 0.4% vs. the dollar, with most plus or minus 10bps or less from yesterday’s closing levels. Treasury prices are little changed as are equity markets in Europe and US futures. In other words, there is not a lot ongoing right now.

Looking at the data story, yesterday’s Durable Goods data was a bit disappointing, but not horrifying. This morning we are awaiting Michigan Sentiment (exp 96.0) but that hardly seems likely to move markets. For now, given the lack of Fedspeak, earnings data and its impact on equity markets are likely to be the biggest influencers of spot FX. That is, of course, unless we hear something unexpected from London, Brussels or Washington. However, it is shaping up as a day of consolidation ahead of next week’s FOMC and BOJ meetings, as well as the pending decision by the EU on the length of any Brexit delay. Enjoy the quiet while it lasts!

Good luck and good weekend
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What Exactly Comes Next?

Though Boris did garner a win
Another act’s caused him chagrin
The latest delay
Has kept the UK
Adrift ‘midst an increasing din

The question that has markets vexed
Is just what exactly comes next?
Elections? Could be
And likely a plea
To quantify Brexit’s effects

Brexit noun
brē·gzit

Definition of Brexit
“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Clearly, William Shakespeare was a man ahead of his time! The Brexit saga continues although it seems to have turned from drama to comedy. However, that is far better than the tragedy that could have come about in the event of a no-deal outcome. At this point, it seems the most likely outcome will be another three-month delay, with January 31st mooted as the target now, to allow the UK to finally (?) solve their internal dilemma. Yesterday’s activity saw Boris win the first vote, which means that he had sufficient support, in principal, for the deal he renegotiated with the EU. However, his attempt to force the second and third readings to occur today and tomorrow such that a final vote could be held was thwarted. Thus, while Parliament has approved what he has done, and that occurred despite lacking DUP support, they want more time to ponder the bill, and likely lard it with amendments for each group’s individual constituencies. Thus, the discussion now is the EU will grant a flexible delay, meaning January 31 is the target, but that if the UK can solve their internal arguments sooner, the date would be moved up.

While I continue to believe that this has played into Boris’s strength, and that any election will see him re-elected with a thumping majority, that remains unclear. But what is clear is that the FX market has adjusted its views on the potential outcomes. At this point I would suggest there are three possible results; a no-deal Brexit; passage of the current deal; or a vote and then new referendum which leads to a Remain victory and no Brexit at all. If we assume the following movements are realistic outcomes:

No-deal => 1.10
Current deal => 1.30-1.35
Remain => 1.45

Then the market has reduced the probability of a no-deal to just 15%, which is substantially lower than what had certainly been at least a 50% probability just a few weeks ago, while the probability of the deal being enacted has risen to nearly 80%, and a Remain outcome just 5%. While hardly scientific, this is one possible explanation for the current level, as well as a possible view of where the pound can go given those three end results. Don’t forget the salt!

A quick look at the pound this morning shows that it has fallen ever so slightly from yesterday’s closing level, just 0.1%, and that it remains quite volatile within its current trading range. My view is that an extension and a successful call for an election will lead to further cable strength as it will reduce the probability of a no-deal outcome even further. In fact, we could well see a growing view that a second referendum will be held and most recent polls seem to imply no Brexit at all. In that event, I think the pound can go much higher, at least until the market starts to pay closer attention to the entire EU’s deteriorating economic fundamentals and the reality that investment inflow is going to be lacking, while outflows pick up. Ultimately, I continue to see the dollar performing well, but for the pound, we may need a reset of the base level given everything that has occurred.

Turning to the rest of the G10 space, the dollar is firmer vs. 9 of them with only the yen holding up today. However, the magnitude of that strength has been extremely modest, averaging about 0.1%. In other words, not much is happening. The same is largely true in the EMG bloc, although the biggest gainer has been TRY with traders shaking off the ongoing Kurdish fighting and seemingly responding to an improvement in Consumer Confidence there. On the negative side, ZAR is under the gun today, down 0.8%, after lower than expected CPI readings (4.1%, 4.0% core) indicated that the SARB will be less aggressive tightening monetary policy, or perhaps, more aggressive loosening it.

In fact, today has all the hallmarks of a modest risk-off session as we have seen both Treasury and Bund yields slip about 3bps, gold prices rise 0.35% and equity markets come under pressure after earnings data has shown at least as many disappointments as beats. As I type, US futures are lower by 0.3% while there is weakness in the CAC (-0.6%) and both Italian and Spanish markets, and the DAX is the outperformer at unchanged on the day.

On the data front, yesterday’s Home Sales were mildly disappointing, falling a more than expected 2.2%, and there is nothing of real note this morning. That points to a day where absent a tweet from the White House, or a significant change in the Brexit debate in Parliament, FX will take its cues from the equity market and the ongoing earnings releases. The better the earnings, the more likely that risk will make a comeback and the dollar drift lower. The reverse is also true. But in the end, we are all beholden to other catalysts while we await next week’s FOMC meeting.

Good luck
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Kind of a Treat

For Boris, what looked like defeat
Is actually kind of a treat
For later today
His bill makes its way
Through Parliament, it to complete

The Brexit drama continues today, but it has become clear that Boris is moving toward a win, politically at least. The schedule today is for Parliament to debate and then hold its first vote on the actual legislation that would put Brexit into law. When Speaker of the House Bercow would not allow a second vote on the broad idea of accepting the new terms, it forced the PM to set out the new law’s details for a vote. And that is exactly what he has done. The goal is to get final approval by Thursday evening in the House of Commons, at which point it will go to the House of Lords for final approval. While the Lords have not been supportive of Brexit overall (after all, they have all benefitted greatly from the current situation) if it passes the House of Commons, it is expected to pass there as well. It is unquestionable that if this schedule holds up, the EU will pass the bill as well, and Brexit will be complete.

While there are still many potential pitfalls, the market has become pretty clear that they no longer believe in the idea of a no-deal Brexit. That is why we remain hovering around the 1.30 level instead of the 1.22 level we saw for most of the summer, when it seemed that all Boris wanted was to leave, and he was willing to leave without a deal. But even if there is a delay, it seems to me that Boris has the upper hand in any election that comes. He has done what he promised, negotiated a new treaty with a substantially better outcome than former PM May’s Irish backstop. The new bill puts the power of remaining tied to the EU in the hands of Northern Ireland, not the EU. There may yet be a second referendum, and there will almost certainly be an election before the end of the year, but at this point, Boris outflanked all the opposition. I strongly believe that a negotiated Brexit is coming to a screen near you before the year ends, and that the pound is going to have an opportunity to rally much further. At this point, a move to between 1.35-1.40 seems quite probable, although eventually I expect the dollar to reassert itself globally.

However, this is all speculation about the future, albeit the near future. For today, though, FX markets have continued to digest the news and the pound has been trading either side of yesterday’s closing levels. Currently, it is unchanged on the day, although there is an opportunity for movement this afternoon as the bill wends its way through Parliament’s byzantine process. At approximately 2:00pm, a vote is expected which will determine if the new bill has a chance to get passed. I think a ‘no’ vote will have a temporary negative impact on the pound, but am hard pressed to see Sterling sink below 1.28. If the vote is yes, then look for the pound to start to appreciate further as the market anticipates a conclusion to the process soon.

Away from Brexit, President Trump hinted that the ongoing trade talks are moving in the right direction and the market has assumed that the “initial phase” deal will be signed at the APEC meeting in Chile next month when presidents Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet.

So combined with the positive Brexit vibes, it appears two of the key geopolitical issues that have been hindering the global economy may be coming to a positive resolution. That certainly bodes well for economic growth, but it is unclear if it will be enough to turn the tide. First, neither one is actually complete yet, so this is all anticipation; and second, we have seen a significant slowdown in global manufacturing that will not simply rebound instantly. Even if business confidence improves sharply, it still takes time to formulate and implement new plans for business expansion. This implies that the current monetary policy framework is not going to be reversed any time soon.

Speaking of monetary policy, Thursday Signor Draghi presides over his last meeting as ECB president. After last month’s rate cut and restarting of QE, there are no expectations for further actions at this meeting. The one thing of which you can be sure is that he will complain about the lack of fiscal stimulus being implemented by the nations that can afford it (read Germany). But you can also be sure that the Germans are not about to change their plans.

But let us discuss one of the key problems in the Eurozone for a moment, the inconsistency between fiscal dogma and political will. While it is now de rigeur to claim that nations need to turn on the fiscal pumps, the European Commission has sent letters to Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal telling them not to spend so much money next year. In other words, despite desperate pleas to increase spending, they are going to prevent five nations seeking to do so, from accomplishing their goals. If you ever wondered why there is such fundamental bearishness on the euro and its construction, this situation could not be more informative. It is a key reason I believe the long term prospects for the single currency point lower.

To markets: FX has had another generally dull session overnight with the dollar just slightly firmer against most counterparts, but with movements generally less than 0.20%. In other words, there is little if any information in the price movement, which is likely a response to recent dollar weakness. Equity markets in Asia flourished after the US rally yesterday, but in Europe they can only be described as mixed. Meanwhile, US futures are pointing slightly lower, although not enough to imply very much. Treasury yields are a few bps lower, as are Bund yields, but the reality is that they have been pretty stable for the past two weeks and traders seem to be looking for the next real catalyst (FOMC anyone?).

Yesterday’s Canadian election had little impact on the Loonie, although PM Trudeau is returning with a weakened mandate in a minority government. That said, north of the border the economy has been performing pretty well, certainly well enough such that there seems to be no reason for the BOC to follow the Fed and cut rates next week alongside the Fed.

As to data this morning, Existing Home Sales (exp 5.45M) are unlikely to quicken any pulses, and with the Fed in its quiet period, quite frankly, I see a very quiet session until this afternoon, when the results of the first Brexit votes in parliament have an opportunity to spice things up a bit.

Good luck
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Make Boris Bend

As Parliament seeks to extend
The timeline, and make Boris bend
The market’s decided
The deal he provided
Will ultimately pass in the end

Well, Brexit is still the number one topic in markets, although after a quiet Friday on the trade front, we got more discussion there as well. As to Brexit, Boris lost his fight to get a clean vote on the newly renegotiated deal on Saturday. Instead, Parliament voted to force a request for an extension, which at this moment the EU is considering. Interestingly, in the EU there are a number of countries that seem ready to be done with the process and no longer care if the UK exits. However, as sweet as that would be for the Brexiteers, in the end that would require courage by the country(ies) who voted no. And courage is something in short supply at the top of European (and most) governments. At any rate, given the speed with which this story changes, this morning the word is that Johnson has found the votes necessary to get his deal through Parliament, but it means that he has to get another vote. The roadblock there is in the form of John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who has proven himself to be a virulent Bremainer, and wants nothing more than to see Boris fail.

With that as background, one might have thought the pound would have suffered, but the market has looked through all the permutations and decided that a deal is forthcoming in the near-term, or perhaps more accurately, that the odds of a no-deal Brexit have been significantly reduced. This is evident in the fact that as I type, the pound is essentially unchanged since Friday’s optimistic close at 1.2980, and has traded above 1.30 earlier in the session for the first time since May (the month, not the former PM).

However, I think the euro’s performance has been far more interesting lately. Consider that despite an ongoing run of generally awful data, showing neither growth nor inflationary impulse, the single currency continues to climb slowly. A part of this is likely a result of what has been mild dollar weakness amid increasing risk appetite. But I think that the market has also begun to recognize that a Brexit deal will remove uncertainty on the continent and the euro will benefit accordingly. From the time of the referendum in 2016 I have made it clear that Brexit was not just a British pound story, but a euro one as well. And this slow appreciation (EUR is higher by 2.7% this month, about 0.7% more than the dollar index) is a belated reaction to the fact that a Brexit deal is a benefit there as well. At any rate, much of this story is yet to be written, and a successful outcome will almost certainly result in further GBP outperformance, but the euro is likely to continue this grind higher as well.

On the trade front, comments from Chinese vice-premier Liu He explaining China would work with the US to address each other’s core concerns and that ending the trade war would be good for everyone were seen as quite positive by equity and other risk markets. In fact, the combination of optimism on the two big issues of the day, trade and Brexit has led to a clear, if modest, risk-on session. Equity markets in Asia performed well (Nikkei +0.25%, CSI 300 +0.3%), and we are seeing modest gains throughout Europe as well (DAX +0.7%, CAC +0.15%). It is certainly a positive that the trade dialog continues, but I fear we remain a very long way from a broad deal.

Another weekend event was the World Bank / IMF meetings in Washington with the commentary exactly what you would expect. Namely, everyone derided the trade war and explained it would be better if it ended. Everyone derided Brexit and said it would be better if it didn’t happen. And everyone explained that it’s time for fiscal policy to step up to the plate to help central banks. What has become very clear is that central banks are truly running out of room to help support their respective economies but it is impolitic to say so. This results in exhortations for fiscal policy pushes by those who can afford it. However, Germany remains resolute in their belief that there is no reason to implement a supplementary budget of any kind and that continuing to run a budget surplus is the best thing for the nation. Look for pressure to continue to build, but unless growth really starts to crater there, I don’t expect them to change their views, or policies.

A look around the rest of the FX market shows that the biggest gainer this weekend was KRW, rising 0.8% on optimism that a trade deal between the US and China was closer. Certainly it was not the terrible data from South Korea that helped the won rally, as exports in October have fallen nearly 20%, making eleven consecutive monthly declines in that statistic. Otherwise, the mild risk-on atmosphere has helped most EMG currencies edge higher. On the G10 front, NOK is the big winner, rising 0.55%, although that simply looks like a reaction to its sharp declines over the past two weeks.

On the data front it is extremely quiet this week as follows:

Tuesday Existing Home Sales 5.45M
Thursday Initial Claims 215K
  Durable Goods -0.7%
  -ex Transport -0.3%
  New Home Sales 701K
Friday Michigan Sentiment 96.0

Source: Bloomberg

Arguably, Durable Goods is the most interesting number of the bunch. And after a two-week deluge of Fed speakers, they have gone into their quiet period ahead of next Wednesday’s meeting. The final comments by Kaplan and Clarida were similar to the previous comments we heard, namely that the economy is in a “good place” and that they are essentially going to play it by ear on the next rate decision. As of this morning, the market is still pricing in an 89.5% probability of a rate cut.

Speaking of low rates, Signor Draghi presides over his last ECB meeting this week and while there are no new policies expected, it is universally anticipated that he will renew his call for fiscal stimulus to help the Eurozone economic outlook. Quite frankly, I think it is abundantly clear that the ECB has completely run out of ammunition to fight any further weakness, and that Madame Lagarde, when she takes the seat on November 1, will feel more like Old Mother Hubbard than anything else.

For the day, I see no reason for the risk-on attitude to change, and if anything, I imagine we can see more positive news from the UK which will only help drive things further in that direction. While in the end, I still see the dollar performing well, for now, it is on its back foot and likely to stay there for a little while longer.

Good luck
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Can Boris Succeed?

In Brussels they finally agreed
On how Brexit now will proceed
The DUP still
Insist that they will
Vote No, so can Boris succeed?

Methinks that the answer is yes
As many MP’s acquiesce
Their voters are tired
And Boris admired
For finding the key to success

Well, it’s done! Or at least almost done. The UK and the EU have agreed the legal text for the Brexit deal as well as the political declaration for their relationship going forward. It seems that despite all of Parliament’s efforts to undermine the prime minister’s negotiating tactics, the EU realized that a continuation of this process was detrimental to their own well-being. And so a deal has been reached with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker encouraging the other 27 members to ratify the document.

Of course, the UK Parliament still needs to do the same, and the last word was that Arlene Foster and her DUP were not yet willing to accept the terms. The surface calculation is that Boris needs them since he doesn’t have an outright majority in Parliament. However, I think that he will be able to find votes throughout the rest of Parliament. Remember, about half of Labour’s constituents voted to leave as well, so there will be a lot of pressure for Labour MP’s to break ranks and finish this process on Saturday. After that, a vote of no-confidence could bring down Boris’s government, but he will relish the new election. In fact, it is entirely possible that Labour will not seek that vote as a newly emboldened Johnson could easily regain a solid majority and send Jeremy Corbyn to the backbenches forever. At least now, Johnson is somewhat weakened by his coalition.

So what does this mean for markets going forward? It should be no surprise that risk appetite has quickly increased this morning with equity markets popping higher on the news, Treasury yields rising and the dollar falling. Right after the announcement, the pound jumped more than 1.3%, to 1.2990, but it has since given back some of those gains on a combination of profit taking and questions as to whether Parliament will ratify the deal. Still, as I type, the pound is higher by 0.4% since yesterday’s close.

Perhaps of more interest is the rally in the euro, which is also higher by 0.4% this morning. It also spiked on the news, albeit not quite as far, and has been rallying in lockstep with, although not quite at the same trajectory as, the pound for the past two weeks. Since the beginning of October, when negotiations really intensified, the euro is higher by 2.4% while the pound has rallied nearly 6.0%. This ratio seems reasonable to me, and when (if) Parliament ratifies the deal on Saturday, I expect it to continue for a while longer.

But risk appetite means that other currencies are also performing well with AUD today’s top performer after the Unemployment Rate fell surprisingly to 5.2% last night. While the RBA had expressed concern over its recent trajectory, it is up from 4.9% in February, if things are stabilizing Down Under, there is less call for further monetary ease, and so the Aussie responded accordingly. This helped drag kiwi higher (+0.6%), and we are seeing solid strength across the entire G10 front. EMG markets are responding in a similar manner, with the bulk of the space higher by between 0.3% and 0.6%. This includes a cross section of APAC, EEMEA and LATAM currencies, thus implying this is much more about the dollar than any particular currency story.

So what is happening to the dollar? Certainly yesterday’s Retail Sales data (-0.3%; -0.1% ex autos) did not help the greenback, as it showed the first potential cracks in the consumer portion of the economy. This has been the economic (and stock market) bears’ key concern; that a slowdown in the manufacturing sector, which has been evident, would bleed over to the consumer sector. The bulls, and the Fed, continue to point to the strength in the labor market as their rationale to dismiss the idea, but we all know that the Unemployment Rate is a severely lagging indicator, and that it will not start to suffer until other data have already pointed to a sharper slowdown. This morning’s Housing Starts (exp 1320K) and Building Permits (1350K) data will be closely scrutinized in the wake of the Retail Sales numbers, but remember, this is the sector most directly benefitting from the Fed’s recent largesse.

To go back to the question of what is happening to the dollar, I would suggest that the market had been pretty convinced that US growth would continue to exceed that elsewhere in the world, and that despite the Fed’s ‘mid-cycle adjustment’ that interest rates here would remain higher than elsewhere. But if there is now some concern over the US economy slowing more rapidly than previously thought, and that the Fed will need to be more aggressive, the dollar will very likely suffer in the near term. A key question in this scenario is; will market participants continue to add to their risk profiles if the US is sliding into a recession? At some point, one would expect, adding risk will seem the wrong decision, and a risk-off dollar rally is likely to ensue. But we are not yet at that point.

On top of the Housing data we also see Initial Claims (exp 215K); Philly Fed (7.6); IP (-0.2%); and Capacity Utilization (77.7%). Given the recent slowdown in the ISM data, this other data will be carefully watched as well. If it underperforms, look for the probability of a Fed cut in two weeks, currently 82%, to rise further, and the dollar to suffer as well. In addition to the data, we hear from three more Fed speakers, the dovish Charles Evans, and both Michelle Bowman and John Williams, who are much more middle of the road. This has been a very active week for Fed speakers and yet nothing new has come from any of them. The message continues to be that the revived purchases of Treasuries, at a rate of $60 billion per month, is definitely not QE, but merely a technical adjustment to the balance sheet. And beyond that, they are closely watching the data but feel the economy is in a “good place.” I know that makes me feel better!

For the rest of the session, I see no reason for the dollar to reverse course barring something outside this discussion, notably trade talk, popping up. Mercifully, there has been no trade conversation so equity markets are focused on earnings and FX markets are focused on the probability of the Brexit deal being ratified by Parliament. Success on Saturday should open the way for the pound to rally another 3-5 cents next week, especially if the dollar remains under pressure overall.

Good luck
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A Currency Pact

The market is focused on trade
And hoping that progress is made
There’s news China’s backed
A currency pact
If tariff boosts can be delayed

Activity overnight was considerably more volatile than usual as conflicting stories regarding the US-China trade talks hit the tape. Risk was quickly jettisoned after a story from the South China Morning Post indicated that the talks, starting this morning in Washington, would be cut short. Shortly thereafter, the White House denied that report encouraging traders to buy back their stocks and sell bonds. Then Fox Business reiterated the original report less than a half hour later and the sell-off happened all over again. Finally, two positive reports helped equity markets recoup all of their overnight losses and took the shine off bonds. The first of those was that the currency pact that had been agreed between the US and China back in May (when chances of a big deal seemed realistic) was being dusted off and likely would be part of a mini-deal with the US agreeing to delay the imposition of new tariffs next Tuesday. And finally, President Trump has allowed US firms to sell non-critical technology to Huawei again, which was seen as additional thawing of the trade situation.

Of course, all this means is that we are back where we started, the trade talks are due to begin this morning and the Chinese delegation is scheduled to leave tomorrow evening. Arguably, the story that both sides are willing to agree on a currency pact as part of this round, and the indications that there are low level things that can be agreed, bode well for the rest of the week. But make no mistake, the major issues; IP theft, forced technology transfer and state subsidies are nowhere near being solved, and quite frankly, given they are integral to China’s economic model, seem unlikely ever to be solved. But for equity bulls, at least, hope springs eternal.

The FX impact in the end has been for a much softer dollar pretty much across the board. The idea is that if risk is to be embraced again, the higher yields available in Emerging Markets, as well as developed markets on a swapped basis, are the place to be. While the biggest mover overnight has been SEK, that is actually due to a surprising CPI report, with the annual pace of price increases rising to 1.5%, above the 1.3% expectation and a boon for the Riksbank who has been trying to normalize monetary policy by raising rates back to, and above, zero again. This report has given the market reason to believe that at their next meeting, in two weeks, while they won’t hike, they will continue to give guidance that a hike is coming before the end of the year. As such, SEK has rallied a solid 1.4%, although arguably, the trend is still for a weaker krone.

But the rest of the G10 has performed as well, with AUD, NZD and NOK all higher by 0.6% and the euro, despite disappointing data from both Germany and France, higher by 0.5%. Even the pound is higher this morning, up 0.35%, as the market awaits word on the outcome of a lunch meeting between Boris and Irish PM Leo Varadkar as they try to find a compromise. It seems to make the most sense that Varadkar is representing the EU given Ireland will be the nation most negatively impacted by a hard Brexit. My sense is we should start to hear about the outcome of this lunch around the time that US CPI is released, although I would read a delay as quite positive. The longer it takes; it seems the more likely that they are making headway on a compromise which would be very bullish for the pound. But until we actually see the news, the broad dollar trend is all we have.

In the EMG bloc we have also seen broad based strength paced this morning by HUF’s 0.7% rally. While much of this move is simply on the back of the euro’s rise, Hungary did have a quite successful auction of 5yr-15yr bonds which encouraged additional forint buying. Otherwise, the rest of the CE4 have moved directly in line with the euro and gains throughout Asia were only on the order of 0.2%. Of course, those markets closed before all the trade news had been released, so assuming nothing changes on that front (a difficult assumption) APAC currencies are likely to perform well tonight.

Turning to today’s session, we see our most important data of the week with CPI (exp 1.8%, 2.4% ex food & energy) as well as the usual Initial Claims data (220K). Regarding the former, Tuesday’s PPI report was surprisingly soft, with the headline number printing at -0.3% on the month and dragging the annual number down to just 1.4%. While there have been no forecast shifts amongst economists, there is still some lingering concern (hope?) amongst market participants that we could see a soft number here as well. The issue is a soft number would seem to open the door for the Fed to be far more aggressive in their rate cutting. Remember, Chairman Powell has repeated several times lately that the committee is watching the data closely and will do what they need to do in order to maintain the expansion while achieving their twin goals of stable prices and maximum employment. Obviously, with the Unemployment Rate at 3.5%, there is not much concern there. But falling inflation will ring alarm bells.

One last thing, though, regarding employment. The Initial Claims data is often a very good leading indicator of the overall employment situation, starting to rise well before the nonfarm numbers start to decline. Since the financial crisis, Initial Claims have tumbled from a peak of 665K in March 2009 to the low 200’s that we have seen for the past year. But recently, it appears that the number is beginning to creep higher again, with the 210k-215k readings that we had been seeing regularly now edging toward 220K and beyond. And while I know that seems extremely subtle, I merely caution that Initial Claims is a measure of job cuts, so if they are actually growing, that bodes ill for the economy’s future performance.

As to today, unless and until we hear more from the Trade talks or Boris, don’t look for much movement. But certainly the bias is to add risk for the day meaning the dollar should remain under pressure.

Good luck
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The UK Wants to Shun

This morning as part of his plan
For Brexit, the PM began
A series of talks,
Before Britain walks,
With Angela as middleman

Alas, when the phone call was done
The odds of a deal approached none
The EU made clear
The (Northern) Irish adhere
To rules the UK wants to shun

The pound is suffering this morning, down 0.5%, after news that a phone call between Boris and Angela resulted in Johnson explaining that a Brexit deal is “essentially impossible” at the current time. If you recall, Boris’s plan was for Northern Ireland to adhere to EU rules on manufactured goods and agricultural products while customs activities would take place a number of miles from the actual border. Finally, Northern Ireland would be allowed to vote every four years to determine if they were happy with that situation. The EU view is that Northern Ireland must remain a part of the customs union in perpetuity, something that would essentially split them from the rest of the UK. It is no surprise that both Boris and Northern Ireland rejected that outcome, and so the Johnson government has increased preparations for a hard Brexit.

There are two interesting tidbits ongoing as well, both of which bode ill for a deal. First is that Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is terrified that he and his nation will be blamed if no deal is reached. And when I say terrified, it means that he is afraid that a no-deal Brexit will result in a significant (~5%) hit to Ireland’s economy and that he will be tossed from office because of that. Remember, every politician’s number one priority during any situation is to be reelected, hence his terror. His response has to increase the rhetoric about how Boris is the problem, further poisoning the well. The second interesting thing is that a survey in the EU by Kantar (a European polling company) showed that between 47% and 66% of citizens in six EU nations (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain and Poland) believe the EU should not extend the Brexit deadline, with a solid majority in all nations except the Netherlands. Perhaps Boris will get his wish that Europe won’t offer an extension or agree to one if asked. It appears that this saga is reaching its denouement. And despite all of this, I continue to see a strong possibility that the EU blinks as they figure out Boris is serious. My impression is that Merkel and the EU continue to believe that the UK will come begging, hat in hand, for another extension and that a new vote will lead to the end of this process with the UK revoking Article 50. And so they continue to believe they are dealing from a position of strength. We shall see.

Of course, the reason we care so much about this is not just for the impact on the British pound, but actually the impact on the global economy. Consider that the global economy has been slowing steadily for the past eighteen months under pressure from the ongoing trade war between the US and China and the uncertainty that has engendered. If the estimates of the economic impact of a hard Brexit are even halfway correct, we are looking at a sharp decline in economic activity in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France and the Netherlands, ranging between 0.5% and 5.0%. I assure you that will not help the global growth situation. It will also result in immediate additional policy ease by the world’s central banks, notably the Fed. The impact on equity markets will be significant, bond markets will rally sharply as will haven currencies. In other words, it could easily be the catalyst required to bring on that recession on the horizon.

Beyond Brexit, the other big story overnight was on trade as the US put 28 Chinese firms on an export blacklist under the guise of those companies helping in repression of Muslim minorities in northwest China. Not surprisingly, the Chinese were not amused and ‘instructed’ the US to correct its mistake. They also told the world to “stay tuned” for any retaliation that will be forthcoming. Fortunately, this has not changed the plans for the trade talks to be held on Thursday and Friday in Washington with Vice-premier Liu He, at least not yet. But that remains a huge concern, that He will not make the trip and that the trade impasse will harden. At this point it has become pretty clear that a big trade deal is not in the offing. The Chinese appear to be betting that President Trump will lose the election and so are waiting him out. However, this is the one area where the President truly has bipartisan support so it is not clear to me that a President Warren, Biden or Sanders would be any more inclined to come to an agreement that didn’t meet hurdles regarding IP theft and state subsidies.

The combination of these two events has served to undermine equity markets in Europe with virtually every major index having fallen by more than 1% this morning. While Asian equity markets performed well (Nikkei +1.0%, KOSPI +1.2%, Shanghai +0.25%) that was before the Boris-Angela call. US futures have turned lower in the past hour with all three exchanges now pointing to 0.5% declines on the opening. Meanwhile, Treasury yields continue to fall with the 10-year at 1.52%, down 4bps and Bunds are following with yields there down 1.5bps.
As to the dollar, it is no surprise the yen (+0.4%) and Swiss franc (+0.35%) have rallied, but a bit more surprising that aside from the pound, most other G10 currencies are firmer. That said, the movement has not been that large and if we see a true risk-off session in the US, I would expect the dollar to strengthen. In the EMG space, ZAR is the biggest loser today, falling 0.65%, after Renaissance Capital put out a report that the country’s debt would be downgraded to junk status next month. Given their recent track record, correctly calling 8 of the past 9 ratings moves, it is being given some credence. After that, RUB has fallen 0.5% on the back or weaker oil prices, which are down 1.3% this morning and more than 11% from before the attack on the Saudi oil facility in the middle of September.

As to data today, NFIB was already released at a slightly weaker than expected 101.8. While that remains at the high end of its historic readings, it is clear that this series has rolled over and is heading lower. We also get PPI (exp 1.8%, 2.3% ex food & energy) at 8:30 but most folks ignore that and are looking for CPI on Thursday. Chairman Powell speaks again today at 2:30 this afternoon, so all eyes will be focused on Denver to see how he responds to the most recent gyrations in the big stories.

Overall, it feels like a day of uncertainty and risk reduction. Look for further yen and Swiss franc strength as well as for the dollar to regain its footing against the rest of its counterparts.

Good luck
Adf