Gone To Extremes

In England, the Court of Supremes
Will soon rule on Boris’s dreams
He thought it a breeze
To prorogue MP’s
But they think he’s gone to extremes

Meanwhile oil markets are stressed
With traders, quite rightly, obsessed
‘bout all of the facts
From last week’s attacks
And if a response will be pressed

As New York walks in this morning, markets are still on edge regarding the unprecedented attack on Saudi oil infrastructure over the weekend. Yesterday’s price action saw oil close higher by more than 13%, although this morning WTI has backed off by $1.00/bbl or 1.5%. The short-term issue is how long it will take the Saudis to restore production. Initial estimates seemed a bit optimistic, and the latest seem to be pointing to at least several months before things are back. The long-term issue is more focused on supply disruption risk, something which the market had essentially removed from prices prior to yesterday. It seems that the ongoing problems in Venezuela and Libya, where production gets shuttered regularly, had inured the market to the idea that a short-term disruption would impact prices. After all, oil prices are still well below levels seen a year ago. Now all the talk is how the oil market will need to permanently price in a risk assessment, meaning that prices will default higher. I challenge that view, though, as history shows traders and investors have very short memories, and I would estimate that once the Saudi production is back up and running, it will only be a matter of months before any risk premium is removed. This is especially true if the global growth story continues to deteriorate meaning oil demand will diminish.

The other story of note comes from the UK, where two separate lawsuits against PM Johnson’s act to prorogue (suspend) parliament for five weeks leading up to the Brexit deadline are to be heard by the UK Supreme Court. The government’s argument is that this is not a legal matter, but a political one, and therefore is fine. Of course, Brexit opponents are doing everything they can to prevent Boris from his stated intentions of leaving on October 31 ‘come hell or high water.’ The thing is, unlike the US, where we have a written constitution, there is no such document in the UK. The upshot is twelve unelected officials will be making what may be the most momentous decision in UK history based solely on their personal views of the law, and no doubt, Brexit. And while I am in no way trying to disparage this group, who I am certain are all well-deserved of their roles, the fact that there is neither a guiding document nor precedence results in the opportunity for whichever side loses the argument to scream quite loudly, and I’m sure they will!

A funny thing about this situation is that if the Supremes declare the prorogation illegal, I think the market will see that as a sign that a no-deal Brexit is now off the table completely. And you know what that means for the pound, a significant rally. So for all of you Sterling hedgers out there, the next several days are going to be critical. Hearings are scheduled to take place through Thursday with a decision possible as early as Friday, although more likely next week. So gaming out possible scenarios consider the following choices: 1) Supreme Court (SC) rules against the government and parliament reconvenes => pound rallies sharply, probably back toward 1.30 as markets assume Brexit is dead; 2) SC rules government is within its rights to prorogue parliament for an extended time => pound sells off back to 1.20 as chance of no-deal Brexit grows. Remember, however, that the law in the UK is now that the PM must ask for an extension if there is no deal by the October 18 EU summit. The question, of course, is whether Boris will do so despite the political consequences of not asking, and whether the EU will grant said extension. The latter is not a given either.

With all of that ongoing, the FOMC begins their two-day meeting this morning with the market convinced that they will be cutting rates by 25 bps tomorrow afternoon. Changes to the narrative of late have shown a reduced expectation for a December rate cut, now 53% from more than 90% earlier in the month. Doves will certainly point to the rise in geopolitical risks from the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure this weekend while hawks will continue to point to solid US data. However, that is a discussion for tomorrow morning.

Turning to market activity overnight, risk is definitely under pressure this morning as most haven type bonds (Treasuries, Bunds, Gilts, etc.) have rallied while Italy, Spain and Portugal have all seen yields rise. Equity markets are somewhat softer, although by no means collapsing, and the dollar is generally, though not universally, stronger. In the G10 space, the Skandies are under the most pressure, with both SEK and NOK falling about 0.4%, as the former is suffering after a terrible employment report which saw the Unemployment Rate rise to 7.4%, rather than decline to 6.8%. NOK, meanwhile, seems to be tracking the price of oil. In the EMG space, KRW was the big loser, still suffering over the much weaker than expected Chinese data and concerns over slowing growth in the economy there.

Data early this morning showed the German ZEW falling more than expected to -19.9, simply highlighting the problems in Germany and increasing the likelihood that the nation enters a technical recession this quarter. Yesterday’s Empire Manufacturing data was a touch weaker than expected, but hardly disastrous. This morning we see IP (exp 0.2%) and Capacity Utilization (77.6%), neither of which is likely to move markets. At this point, it is difficult to make the case for significant movement today as market participants will be waiting for tomorrow’s FOMC decision. Look for a dull one, but with a chance of fireworks on the horizon.

Good luck
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Not Making Hay

In China, despite what they say
The ‘conomy’s not making hay
Their exports are lagging
With industry gagging
On stuff manufactured each day

The upshot’s the PBOC
Released billions of renminbi
Reserve rates are shrinking
And everyone’s thinking
They’ll shrink further ere ought twenty

Long before trading started last evening, Chinese trade data set the tone for the markets as exports there shrank by 1.0% in USD terms, a clear indication that the trade war is starting to bite. Imports fell further (5.6%), but overall, the trade surplus was significantly smaller than expected. In the current market environment, it cannot be a surprise that the response was for a rally in Asian equity markets as the weak data presages further policy ease by the Chinese. In fact, there are numerous articles discussing just what options they have. Friday afternoon they cut the reserve ratio by a full percentage point, and analysts all over are expecting at least one more cut before the end of the year. As to direct interest rate cuts, that is far less clear given the still problematic bubble tendencies in the Chinese real estate market. The PBOC is quite concerned over allowing that bubble to blow up further, so any reductions in the benchmark rate are likely to be modest…at least until the renminbi starts to strengthen again.

Speaking of the currency, while it has remained quite stable overall, -0.2% this morning, +0.65% in the past week, it remains one of the easiest tools for the PBOC to utilize. The government there has also sought to stimulate via fiscal policy, with significant tax cuts proposed and some implemented, but thus far, those have not been effective in supporting economic growth. While I am confident that when the next GDP number prints in mid-October it will be above 6.0%, there are an increasing number of independent reports showing that growth there is much slower than that, with some estimates more in line with the US at 3.0%. At any rate, equity markets continue to believe that a trade deal will happen sooner rather than later, and as long as talks continue, look for a more positive risk attitude across markets.

The other big news this morning is from the UK, where British PM Boris Johnson met with his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, to discuss how to overcome the Irish backstop conundrum. It is interesting to see the two attitudes; Boris quite positive, Leo just the opposite, but in the end, nothing was agreed. In this instance, Ireland is at far more risk than the UK as its much smaller economy is far more dependent on free access to the UK than vice versa. But thus far, Varadkar is holding his ground. Another Tory cabinet member, Amber Rudd, quit Saturday night, but Boris is unmoved. There was an interesting article over the weekend describing a possible way for Boris to get his election; he can call for a no-confidence vote in his government, arguably losing, and paving the way for the election before the Brexit deadline. Certainly it seems this would put parliament in an untenable position, support him to prevent the election, but that would imply they support his program, or defeat him and have the election he wants.

Of course, while all this is ongoing, the currency market is looking at the pound and trying to decide the ultimate outcome. For the past two weeks, it is clear that a belief is growing there will be no Brexit at all as the pound continues to rally. This morning it is higher by 0.6% and back to its highest level in over a month. Part of that, no doubt, was the UK GDP data, which surprised one and all by showing a 0.3% gain in July, which virtually insures there will be no technical recession yet. But the pound is a solid 3.5% from its lows seen earlier this month. I continue to believe that the EU will blink and a deal will be cobbled together with the pound rebounding much further.

Elsewhere, the dollar is softer in most cases. The continuation of last week’s risk rally has reduced the desire to hold dollars and we continue to see yields edge higher as well. Beyond the pound’s rally, which is the largest in the G10 space, AUD and NZD have pushed back up by about 0.3% on the China stimulus story, but the rest of G10 is quite dull. In the EMG bloc, ZAR is today’s big winner, +0.8%, as hopes for more global stimulus increase the relative attractiveness of high yielding ZAR denominated bonds. But otherwise, here too, things are uninteresting.

Looking to the data this week, it is an Inflation and Retail Sales week with no Fed speak as they are now in their quiet period ahead of next week’s meeting.

Today Consumer Credit $16.0B
Tuesday NFIB Small Biz Optimism 103.5
  JOLT’s Job Openings 7.311M
Wednesday PPI 0.0% (1.7% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.2% Y/Y)
Thursday Initial claims 215K
  CPI 0.1% (1.8% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)
Friday Retail Sales 0.2%
  -ex autos 0.1%
  Michigan Sentiment 90.5

Aside from this, we hear from both the ECB and BOJ this Thursday with expectations for a rate cut and potentially more QE by Signor Draghi, while there are some thoughts that Kuroda-san will be cutting rates in Japan as well. Ultimately, nothing has changed the broad sweep of central bank policy ease. As long as everybody is easing, the relative impact of monetary policy on the currency market will be diminished. And that means that funds will continue to flow to the best performing economies with the best prospects. Despite everything ongoing, the US remains the choice, and the dollar should remain supported overall.

Good luck
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Run Off The Rails

In England and Scotland and Wales
The saga has run off the rails
So Boris is gambling
A vote will keep scrambling
Dissent and extend his coattails

Meanwhile market focus has turned
To data, where much will be learned
When payrolls are shown
And if they have grown
Watch stocks rise as havens are spurned

The Brexit story remains front page news as the latest twists and turns create further uncertainty over the outcome. Boris is pushing for an election to be held on October 15 so that he can demonstrate he has a sufficient majority to exit with no deal when the EU next meets on October 17-18, thus forcing the EU’s hand. However, parliament continues to do what they can to prevent a no-deal Brexit and have passed a bill directing the PM to seek an extension if there is no deal agreed by the current Halloween deadline. With that in hand, they will agree to a vote on October 29, thus not allowing sufficient time for a new government to do anything ahead of the deadline.

But Boris, being Boris, has intimated that despite the extension bill, he may opt not to seek that extension and simply let the UK leave. That would really sow chaos in the UK as it would call into question many constitutional issues; but based on the current agreement with the EU, that action may not be able to be changed. After all, even if the EU offers the extension, the UK must accept it, which seemingly Boris has indicated he won’t. Needless to say, there is no clarity whatsoever on how things will play out at this time, so market participants remain timid. The recent news has encouraged the view that there will be no hard Brexit and has helped the pound recoup 2.0% this week. However, this morning it is slipping back a bit, -0.3%, as traders and investors are just not sure what to believe anymore. Nothing has changed my view that the EU will seek a deal and cave-in on the Irish backstop issue, especially given the continuous stream of terrible European data.

To that point, German IP was released at a much worse than expected -0.6% this morning, with the Y/Y outcome a -4.2% decline. I know that Weidmann and Lautenschlager are ECB hawks, but it is starting to feel like they are willing to sacrifice their own nation’s health on the altar of economic fundamentalism. The ECB meeting next Thursday will be keenly watched and everything Signor Draghi says at the press conference that follows will be parsed. But we have a couple of things coming before that meeting which will divert attention. And that doesn’t even count this morning’s surprise announcement by the PBOC that they were cutting the RRR by 0.5% starting September 16 in an effort to ease policy further without stoking the real estate bubble there.

So let’s look at today’s festivities, where the US payroll report is released at 8:30 and then Chairman Powell will be our last Fed speaker ahead of the quiet period and September 18 FOMC meeting. Here are the current expectations:

Nonfarm Payrolls 160K
Private Payrolls 150K
Manufacturing Payrolls 5K
Unemployment Rate 3.7%
Average Hourly Earnings 0.3% (3.0% Y/Y)
Average Weekly Hours 34.4

Yesterday’s ADP number was much stronger than expected at 195K, but the employment data from the ISM surveys has been much weaker so there is a wide range of estimates this month. In addition, the government has been hiring census workers, and it is not clear how that will impact the headline numbers and the overall data. I think the market might be a little schizophrenic on this number as a good number could serve to reinforce that the economy is performing well enough and so drive earning expectations, and stocks with them, higher. But a good number could detract from the ongoing Fed ease story which, on the surface, would likely be a stock market negative. In a funny way, I think Powell’s 12:30 comments may be more important as market participants will take it as the clear direction the Fed is leaning. Remember, futures are pricing in certainty that the Fed cuts 25bps at the meeting, with an 11% probability they cut 50bps! And the comments we have heard from recent Fed speakers have shown a gamut of viewpoints exist on the FOMC. Interesting times indeed! At this point, I don’t think the Fed has the gumption to stand up to the market and remain on hold, so 25bps remains the most likely outcome.

As to the rest of the world, next week’s ECB meeting will also be highly scrutinized, but lately there has been substantial pushback on market and analyst expectations of a big easing package. Futures are currently pricing in a 10bp cut with a 46% chance of a 20bp cut. Despite comments from a number of hawks regarding the lack of appetite for more QE, the majority of analysts are calling for a reinstitution of the asset purchase program as soon as October. As to the euro, while it has edged higher this week, just 0.35%, it remains in a long-term downtrend and has fallen 1.6% this month. The ECB will need to be quite surprisingly hawkish to do anything to change the trend, and I just don’t see that happening. Signor Draghi is an avowed dove, as is Madame Lagarde who takes over on November 1. Look for the rate cuts and the start of QE, and look for the euro to continue its decline.

Overall, though, today has seen a mixed picture in the FX market with both gainers and losers in G10 and EMG currencies. Some of those movements have been significant, with ZAR, for example, rallying 0.75% as investment continues to flow into the country, while CHF has fallen 0.6% as haven assets are shed in the current environment. Speaking of shedding havens, how about the 10-year Treasury, which has seen yields rebound 15bps in two days, a truly impressive squeeze on overdone buyers. But for now, things remain generally quiet ahead of the data.

Given it is Friday, and traders will want to be lightening up any positions outstanding, I expect that this week’s dollar weakness may well see a modest reversal before we go home. Of course, a surprise in the data means all bets are off. And if Powell sounds remotely hawkish? Well then watch out for a much sharper dollar rally.

Good luck
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The Fun’s Just Begun

In Hong Kong, the protestors won
In England, the fun’s just begun
But as of today
Bremain’s holding sway
And risk has begun a new run

As New York walks in this morning, there have been significant changes in several of the stories driving recent price action with the upshot being that risk is clearly in favor today. Things started in Hong Kong, where Carrie Lam, the territory’s Chief Executive, formally withdrew the extradition bill that had prompted three months of increasingly violent protests there. The quick back story is that this bill was presented in June as a response to a situation where a man accused of murder in Taiwan could not be returned there for trial due to the lack of formal extradition mechanisms in the existing legal framework. However, the bill they crafted was quite open-ended and would have allowed for extradition to the mainland for minor infractions, a situation seen as fraught with danger for Hong Kong’s shrinking independence. That is what begat the protests, and although they have grown in scope as well as size, it is seen as a significant first step to restoring order. It is hard to believe that Beijing is happy with this outcome as they were strong supporters of the bill, but thus far, they have made no comment.

As it happens, financial markets saw this as a significant change in the tone for the future and there was a massive equity rally in HK, while risk assets generally performed well at the expense of haven assets. So the Hang Seng rose nearly 4.0% with other APAC stock markets also gaining, albeit not to the same extent. European markets are also on the move this morning, with gains ranging from the FTSE 100’s +0.4% to the FTSE MIB (Italy) up 1.65%. And don’t worry, US equity futures are all pointing higher as well, on the order of 0.75%. Meanwhile, Treasuries have sold off modestly, with the 10-year yield higher by 3bps, Bunds have fallen further, with yields there up by 6bps, and the yen has bucked the trend in currencies, falling 0.25% amid a broad dollar decline. Finally, gold is lower by 0.65%, although remains near the top of its recent trading activity.

The other story that has seen significant changes comes from London, where PM Boris Johnson has not only lost a vote regarding his ability to deliver Brexit, but also has lost his slim majority in parliament after a single member defected to the LibDems. Subsequent to that, there was a vote on a bill brought to the floor to prevent the PM from forcing a no-deal Brexit, one which Boris opposed but passed 328-301 with 21 Tories voting against the PM. Johnson summarily fired those rebels from the party and now leads a minority government. His current tactic is to push for a snap election on October 14 or 15 so that a new government will be available to speak to the EU at a formal meeting on October 18. However, he needs two-thirds of all members of parliament to vote for that, meaning he needs the Labour party to agree. If you are confused by this back and forth, don’t feel too badly, I think pretty much everyone is, and there is certainly no clarity as to what will come next.

With that convoluted process in mind, from a markets perspective the result is clear, the probability of a no-deal Brexit has receded for the moment and the pound has been the biggest beneficiary, rallying 0.9% this morning and is now more than two cents above yesterday’s depths. While this move certainly makes sense given the current understanding of the situation, it is by no means the end of the story. If anything, it is the end of chapter one. Later today we should know if there is going to be another election and then it will take a little time before the market understands the odds of those outcomes. Remember, if there is an election and Jeremy Corbyn is seen with a chance to win, it will not be a positive for the pound or the UK economy either. For now, the market is focused on a somewhat lower probability of a hard Brexit and the pound is benefitting accordingly. However, I don’t think the binary nature of the problem has disappeared, simply been masked temporarily. For hedgers, implied volatility has fallen sharply on the back of this news and the ensuing move, but I would argue uncertainty remains quite high. Options still make a lot of sense here.

Past those two stories, there is no further news on the trade front, although that will certainly become the topic du jour again soon. In the meantime, recent data has continued to paint a mixed picture at best for the G10 economies. For example, yesterday’s ISM data printed at 49.1, well below expectations and the worst print since January 2016. While one print below 50.0 does not indicate a recession is upon us, it is certainly a harbinger of slower growth in the future. Then this morning we saw Service PMI’s from Europe with Italy’s much weaker than expected while France, Germany and the Eurozone as a whole printed at expectations. However, expectations still point to slowing growth, especially in combination with the manufacturing surveys which are mostly sub 50.0. In the UK, the PMI was also weak, 50.6, and there is talk that Q3 is going to result in modest negative GDP performance causing a technical recession in the UK joining Germany and Italy in that regard. In the end, while the trade war may be negatively impacting both the US and China, it is also clearly having a big impact throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

As to the rest of the FX market, the risk on behavior has led to broad based dollar weakness, with the euro rebounding 0.35%, Aussie and Kiwi up similar amounts and the Skandies rallying even further, +0.7%. Canada is a bit of an outlier here as oil prices have been under pressure lately, although have bounced 1.0% this morning, but more importantly, the BOC meets with great uncertainty as to whether they will cut rates or not. Markets are pricing in a 92% chance they will do so, but the analyst community is split about 50/50 on the prospects for a cut today. That said, those same analysts are looking for cuts later this year, so this seems more about timing than the ultimate result.

In the EMG bloc ZAR has had another winning day, rising 1.4% as international bond buyers continue to aggressively buy South African paper after the country averted a recession. But broadly, the dollar is lower against virtually all EMG currencies due to risk-on sentiment.

On the data front, this morning brings the Trade Balance (exp -$53.4B) a modest decline from last month’s outcome, and then the Beige Book comes at 2:00 but that’s all. We will hear from a plethora of Fed speakers today, five in all, ranging from uber doves Kashkari and Bullard to moderate Robert Kaplan from Dallas. Yesterday, Bullard in another speech said the Fed should cut 50bps at the upcoming meeting while Boston’s Rosengren said there didn’t seem to be the need to do anything right now. A full cut plus some is still priced in at this point.

In the end, broad risk sentiment is today’s driver. As long as that remains positive, look for the dollar to remain under pressure.

Good luck
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They Just Might

This afternoon traders will learn
About how the Fed did discern
A rate cut was right
And how they just might
Keep cutting despite no downturn

As we look forward to the first truly interesting information of the week, this afternoon’s release of the FOMC Minutes from the July meeting, markets have a better attitude this morning than they did yesterday. As has been the case for the past decade, all eyes remain on central bank activity with the Fed in the lead. If you recall, at the July meeting when the Fed cut the Fed funds rate by 25bps, there were two dissenting votes, Boston’s Rosengren and Kansas City’s George. Monday, Eric Rosengren reiterated that he saw no reason to cut rates given the recent economic data and the outlook for continued solid growth. At the same time, yesterday we heard from San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly, a non-voter, that the cut was the right thing to do despite the growth prospects as continued low inflation and the opportunity to improve the labor market further called for more action. Of course, Chairman Powell will be on the wires Friday morning from Jackson Hole and the market is quite anxious to hear what he has to say, but until then, this afternoon’s Minutes are the best thing available for the market to try to discern the FOMC’s overall attitude.

With that as a backdrop, this morning’s market activity can more readily be described as risk-on as opposed to yesterday’s risk-off flavor. At this point, though, all we have seen is a retracement of yesterday’s losses in equities and gains in the bond market. As to the dollar, it is modestly softer this morning, but that too is simply a retracement of yesterday’s price action.

Clearly it has not been the data which is fueling market movements as there was just not much to see overnight. The little bit released showed continued weakness in Japanese consumer activity (Department Store Sales -2.7%) while UK public finances were modestly less worrisome than forecast. But neither one of those was ever going to move the market. Instead the stories that are of most interest have included Germany’s failed 30-year bund auction, where only €824 million of the €2 billion offered were bought. The interesting thing here was that the coupon was set at 0.00% and the yield that cleared was -0.11%. So the question being asked is; have we reached a limit with respect to what bond investors are willing to buy? While I am surprised at the poor outcome, given my view, as well as the growing consensus, that the ECB is going to restart QE next month and absorb up to €50 billion per month of paper, I believe this will be seen as a temporary phenomenon, and that going forward, we will see far more interest at these levels and even lower yields.

On a different note, Brexit has seen a little more headline activity as yesterday German Chancellor Merkel seemed to start the concessionary talk on behalf of the EU by explaining they need “practical solutions” to solve the Irish impasse. As soon as those words hit the tape the pound rebounded sharply from its lows rallying more than a penny and closed higher on the day by 0.3%. However, this morning, Irish Deputy PM Coveney complained that British PM Johnson was trying to ‘steamroll’ Ireland into accepting new terms and that the result of this was a hard Brexit was far more likely. Funnily enough I don’t remember the Irish complaining when the EU was ‘steamrolling’ former PM May into a completely unacceptable deal for the Brits. At any rate, the latest comments have taken a little steam out of the pound’s rally and it has given back yesterday’s gains. In the end though, I think Germany’s word is going to be far more important than Ireland’s and if Johnson and Merkel have a successful discussion today, the Irish are going to have to accept any deal that is brokered. If anything, yesterday’s commentary and price action have simply reinforced my view that the EU will blink and that the pound is destined to trade much higher before the end of the year.

And in truth, away from those stories it is hard to find anything of interest in the G10 space. In the emerging markets, this morning sees strength virtually across the board as risk appetite everywhere improves. ZAR is leading the way, up 1.1% after a better than expected CPI print of just 4.0%, well below the 4.3% market expectation encouraged inflows to the local bond market where 10-year yields have fallen by 10bps this morning (to a still robust 8.96%). But we have also seen a stronger RUB (+0.95%) on firmer oil prices; and KRW (+0.5%), as traders reduce long dollar positions despite weaker than expected trade data, where exports fell a troubling -13.3% in the first 20 days of the month.

It should be no surprise that European equity markets are firm (DAX and FTSE 100 +1.1%) and that US equity futures are firmer as well, with all three indices seeing gains on the order of 0.6%.

Ahead of the Minutes we will see Existing Home Sales (exp 5.39M) but remember this has been the one area of the economy that has suffered recently. Given the continued decline in yields, and correspondingly in mortgage rates, one would think the housing market would stabilize, but we shall see. And then it is a collective breath-holding until 2:00pm when the Minutes come out. Ahead of that I don’t anticipate much movement at all. After that…

Good luck
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Boris is Fumbling

The British pound Sterling is tumbling
As traders think Boris is fumbling
His chance to succeed
By forcing, at speed
Hard Brexit with some Tories grumbling

It’s official, the only story of note in the FX markets today is Brexit. Despite central bank meetings and key data, the number one discussion is about how far the pound will fall in the event of a hard Brexit and how high the likelihood of a hard Brexit has become. Since Friday morning, the pound is down by 2.5% and there doesn’t appear to be a floor in the near term. It seems that traders have finally decided that BoJo was being serious when he said the UK would leave the EU with or without a deal come October 31. As such, today’s favorite analyst pastime is to guess how low the pound can fall with a hard Brexit. So far, there has been one estimate of parity with the dollar, although most estimates talk about 1.10 or so. The thing is, while Brexit will clearly be economically disruptive, it seems to me that the warnings of economic activity halting are vastly overstated for political reasons. After all, if you voted Remain, and you are in the media (which was largely the case) then painting as ugly a picture as possible suits your cause, whether or not it is based on factual analysis or fantasy.

But let’s discuss something else regarding the potential effects of a hard Brexit; the fears of a weaker currency and higher inflation. Are these really problems? Is not every developed country (and plenty of emerging ones) in the world seeking to weaken their currency through easier monetary policy in order to gain a competitive advantage in trade? Is not every developed country in the world complaining that inflation is too low and that lowered inflation expectations will hinder central bank capabilities? Obviously, the answer to both these questions is a resounding ‘YES’. And yet, the prospects of a weaker pound and higher inflation are seen as devastatingly bad for the UK.

Is that just jealousy? Or is that a demonstration of central bank concern when things happen beyond their control. After all, for the past decade, central banks have basically controlled the global economy. Methinks they have gotten a bit too comfortable with all that power. At any rate, apocalyptic scenarios rarely come to pass, and in fact, my sense is that while the pound can certainly fall further in the short run, we are far more likely to see the EU figure out that they don’t want a hard Brexit after all, and come back to the table. While a final agreement will never be finished in time, there will be real movement and Brexit in name only as the final details are hashed out over the ensuing months. And the pound will rebound sharply. But that move is still a few months away.

Away from Brexit, there has been other news. For example, the BOJ met last night and left policy rates on hold, as universally expected, but lowered their inflation forecast for 2019 to 1.0%, which is a stretch given it’s currently running at 0.5%. And their 2.0% target is increasingly distant as even through 2022 they see inflation only at 1.6%. At the same time, they indicated they will move quickly to ease further if necessary. The problem is they really don’t have much left to do. After all, they already own half the JGB market, and have bought both corporate bonds and equities. Certainly, they could cut rates further, but as we have learned over the past ten years, ZIRP and NIRP have not been all that effective. With all that said, the yen’s response was to rise modestly, 0.15%, but basically, the yen has traded between 107-109 for the past two months and shows no signs of breaking out.

We also saw some Eurozone data with French GDP disappointing in Q2, down to 0.2% vs. 0.3% expected, and Eurozone Confidence indicators were all weaker than expected, noticeably Business Confidence which fell to -0.12 from last month’s +0.17 and well below the +0.08 expected. This was the weakest reading in six years and simply highlights the spreading weakness on the continent. Once again I ask, do you really think the EU is willing to accept a hard Brexit with all the disruption that will entail? As to the euro, it is essentially unchanged on the day. Longer term, however, the euro remains in a very clear downtrend and I see nothing that will stop that in the near term. If anything, if Draghi and friends manage to be uber-uber dovish in September, it could accelerate the weakness.

Away from the big three, we are seeing weakness in the Scandies, down about 0.5%, as well as Aussie and Kiwi, both lower by about 0.25%. Interestingly, the EMG bloc has been much less active with almost no significant movement anywhere. It appears that traders are unwilling to do anything ahead of tomorrow’s FOMC statement and Powell’s press conference.

On the data front this morning we see Personal Income (exp 0.4%), Personal Spending (0.3%), Core PCE (0.2%, 1.7% Y/Y), Case-Shiller Home Prices (2.4%) and Consumer Confidence (125.0). Arguably, the PCE data is most important as that is what the Fed watches. Also, given that recent CPI data came in a tick higher than expected, if the same thing happens here, what will that do to the insurance cut narrative? The point is that the data of late has not warranted talk of a rate cut, at least not the US data. But will that stop Powell and company? The controlling narrative has become the Fed must cut to help the rest of the world. But that narrative will not depreciate the dollar very much. As such, I remain generally bullish the dollar for the foreseeable future.

Good luck
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The Die Has Been Cast

So now that the die has been cast
And Boris is PM at last
The window is closing
To set forth composing
A Brexit deal that can be passed

Meanwhile throughout Europe the tale
Shows Draghi is likely to fail
In rekindling growth
While he and Jay both
Find prices their great big White Whale

By the end of the day, Queen Elizabeth II will install Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. After naming a new cabinet, he will make his first speech and will certainly reiterate that, regardless of the status of negotiations with the EU, the UK will be leaving on October 31. While all of these things had been widely anticipated, their reality sets in motion a potentially turbulent three months. Given the overall weakening growth impulse in the UK economy and the ongoing political intrigue, there is not much to recommend owning the pound right now. Interestingly, however, it is firmer by 0.3% this morning on a combination of a slight uptick in Mortgage Approvals, demonstrating that perhaps the UK housing market is not completely dead, as well as some ‘buy the news’ activity after a prolonged decline in the currency.

Looking ahead, it appears that the only thing that will help rally the pound in any significant manner would be a clear change of heart by the EU regarding reopening negotiations on Brexit. And while, to date, the EU has been adamant that will not occur, one need only look at the continuing slide in the Eurozone economy to recognize that the EU cannot afford a major shock, like a no-deal Brexit, to occur without falling into a continent wide recession.

Which leads to the other key story of the day, the absolutely abysmal Eurozone PMI data that was released earlier this morning. While these are all flash numbers, they paint a very dark picture. For example, German manufacturing PMI fell to 43.1, well below last month’s 45.0 as well as consensus expectations of 45.1. In fact, this was the lowest point since seven years ago during the Eurozone crisis just before Signor Draghi’s famous “whatever it takes” comments. And while the Services number fell only slightly, to 55.4, the Composite result was much worse than expected at 51.4 and pointing toward a real possibility of a technical recession in Germany. French data was similarly downbeat, with Manufacturing falling to 50.0 and the composite weak, with the same being true for the Eurozone data overall.

Given the data, it is no surprise that the euro has edged even lower, down a further 0.1% this morning after a 0.5% decline in yesterday’s session. Interestingly, there are still a large number of pundits who believe that the ECB will stay on the sidelines tomorrow at their meeting, merely laying the groundwork for action in September. However, that continues to be a baffling stance to me, especially when considering that Mario Draghi is still in charge. This is a man who has proven willing, time and again (see: whatever it takes”), to respond quickly to perceived threats to economic stability in the Eurozone. There is no good reason for the ECB to wait in my view. Whether or not the Fed cuts 50 next week (they won’t) is hardly a reason to fiddle while Europe burns. Look for a 10bp cut tomorrow, and perhaps another 10 bps in September along with the announcement for more QE. And don’t be surprised if QE evolves into bank bonds or even equities. Frankly, I think they would be better off writing everyone in the Eurozone a check for €3000 and print €1 trillion that way. At least it would boost consumption to some extent! However, central bankers continue to work with their blinders on and can only see one way to do things, despite the fact that method has proven wholly insufficient.

As to the rest of the market, Aussie PMI data continued to decline, dragging the Aussie dollar down with it. This morning, AUD is lower by 0.35% and back below 0.70 again. With more rate cuts in the offing, I expect it will remain under pressure. Japan, on the other hand saw PMI data stabilize and actually tick higher on the Services front. This is quite a surprise given the ongoing trade ructions between the US and China, themselves and the US and themselves and South Korea. But despite all that, the data proved resilient and, not surprisingly, so did the yen, rallying 0.15% overnight. The thing about the yen is that since the beginning of June it has merely chopped back and forth between 107 and 109. The BOJ’s big concern is that given the relative lack of policy leeway they have as compared to the Fed, that the yen might restart a significant rally, further impairing the BOJ’s efforts at driving inflation in Japan higher. One other thing to remember is that despite the ongoing equity market rally, we have also seen a consistent bid in haven assets. While this dichotomy is highly unusual, it nonetheless implies that there is further room for the yen to appreciate. A move to 105 in the near-term is not out of the question.

But in truth, today’s general theme is lack of movement. The pound is by far the biggest mover, with most other currencies continuing to chop back and forth within 0.1% of yesterday’s closes. It appears that FX traders are awaiting the news from the ECB, the BOJ and the Fed in the next week before deciding what to do. The same is not as true in other markets, where equity bulls continue to rule the roost (corral?) as despite ongoing tepid earnings data, stocks remain bid overall. Bonds, too, are still in demand with Treasury yields hovering just above 2.0%, but more interestingly, Eurozone bonds really rallying. Bunds have fallen to -0.38%, which has helped drag France to -0.11%, but more amazingly, Italy to 1.53% and Greece to 1.97%! That’s right, Greek 10-year yields are lower than US 10-year yields, go figure.

Turning to the data story, yesterday saw the 16th consecutive decline in Existing Home Sales, another -1.7% with New Home Sales (exp 660K) the only data point on today’s docket. The Fed remains in quiet mode which means markets will be all about earnings again today. Some of the bellwether names due to report are AT&T, Boeing and Bank of America. But in the end, FX remains all about monetary policy, and so tomorrow is likely to be far more interesting than the rest of today.

Good luck
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