Most Concerning

While cities worldwide keep on burning
The news for which markets are yearning
Revolves around trade
Is phase one delayed?
If so, that would be most concerning

This morning it seems that everything is right with the world, at least based on market behavior. After all, equity markets are rallying, Treasury yields are rising and haven currencies are falling, the perfect description of a risk-on day. And what has everyone so optimistic this morning? Why, for the umpteenth time, the White House has indicated that the US and China are close to signing that elusive phase one trade deal. By all accounts, this deal is basically a swap of Chinese promises to purchase more agricultural products from the US, allegedly upwards of $50 billion worth, while the US will roll back the tariffs most recently put in place and will not impose new ones come December 15th. And don’t get me wrong, that would be great if it helped relieve some uncertainty in both markets and business planning. But I would conservatively estimate that this is the tenth time that optimism on a trade deal has led to increased risk appetite in the past three months, and we still don’t have a deal in place. My point is we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends…no deal and the opportunity to see it yet again in another few weeks’ time. I challenge anyone to show me evidence that this time is different!

And yet, it continues to be effective insofar as these constant announcements have helped maintain optimism in the market. The biggest risk is that the next story describes a complete breakdown in the trade talks and the chance of a deal, even a phase one deal, being completed disappears. Risk assets would not take that lightly. But another risk is that the deal is signed, and it is as modest as it appears to be. While that would be good news initially, it would remove one of the key market supports, the prospect of that deal. I fear we would see a classic sell the news outcome in that event as well. Something to keep in mind.

Meanwhile, the world is literally burning; at least a great number of large cities are besieged by mass protests with fire a constant result. Perhaps the best known situation is in Hong Kong, where things have gone from bad to worse, the protesters’ demands are being studiously ignored and the threat of China intervening directly grows by the day. Hong Kong’s economy has been severely impacted, falling into a recession in Q3, and the official forecast for GDP growth next year is now -1.3% by the Hong Kong government.

But Hong Kong is hardly alone. Santiago, Chile has been the sight of major demonstrations, with estimates of more than one million people turning out recently. That is more than 5% of the population! In the past week, in the wake of the news that the government wanted to scrap the current constitution and write a new one, the currency collapsed 12% and the local equity market fell 6%, taking its losses since mid-October to 15%. But this morning things are looking up there as Congress has come to an agreement on how to go about this process, with the evidence leaning toward a constitutional convention that will include many voices. When the FX market opened this morning, the CLP rebounded 2.5%. Of all the protests ongoing around the world, this may be the first where a solution is being created.

These two are just the most well-known situations, but the gilets jaunes continue to protest in France more than a full year after they started. And a quick survey shows ongoing protests, a number of which are quite large and disruptive, in Peru, Indonesia, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Haiti and Israel. The point is there are a lot of very unhappy people in the world, and much of their collective angst seems to be driven by a sense of inherent unfairness in the way those (and most) countries’ are run. This is a background issue generally, but as can be seen on a daily basis in the US and the UK, these issues can have much broader impacts on economies as a whole. After all, one could argue that both the Brexit vote and the election of President Trump were protest votes as well. And certainly, the US-China trade war is a consequence of those outcomes. My point is that while most of these things may not have a daily impact, they are important to recognize as part of the fabric of the market background.

Turning to today’s markets, though, as I mentioned, rose-colored glasses are the order of the day. Equity markets are generally higher gains in Asia (Nikkei +0.7%, Australia +0.85% and South Korea +1.05%) although Shanghai actually fell 0.65% after the PBOC did not cut rates as many had hoped/expected in the wake of yesterday’s very weak data outturn. European indices are also generally doing well this morning (DAX +0.2%, CAC +0.4%) although the FTSE 100 in the UK is having a rough go, down 0.4%, because of a sharp decline in British Telecom which has fallen 2% after Jeremy Corbyn promised to nationalize the company and give everyone in the UK free broadband access. It is remarkable what politicians will say in an effort to get elected!

Bond markets have fared less well as risk has been acquired since havens are no longer needed. So Treasury yields have bounced 3bps with Bunds following suit. And in the FX market, haven currencies are also under pressure. Overall, the dollar is softer, as is the yen, which has fallen 0.3% and the Swiss franc, which has fallen 0.25%. On the positive side in G10 is NOK, which has rallied 0.65% after a stronger than expected Trade Balance helped burnish optimism that GDP growth would maintain its recent solid performance and the Norgesbank would not need to join most other central banks and ease policy. In the emerging markets, aside from CLP mentioned above, we have seen broad-based, but modest strength across most of the rest of the space, with no real stories to note.

Yesterday we heard from a whole bunch of Fed speakers and to a wo(man) they explained that the economy was in good shape (the star performer according to Powell) and that there was no need to adjust policy at this time. Data yesterday showed that Initial Claims jumped more than expected, to 225K, which is not concerning if it is a one-time situation, but needs to be carefully monitored as a precursor to a deterioration in the labor market.

This morning we see Empire Manufacturing (exp 6.0), Retail Sales (0.2%, ex autos 0.4%), IP (-0.4%) and Capacity Utilization (77.0%). All eyes will be on the Retail Sales data as last month’s surprising decline has some on edge that the US economy is starting to show some cracks. But assuming an in-line outcome, I expect the dollar to soften modestly through the rest of the day as risk is accumulated further.

Good luck and good weekend
Adf

Decidedly Slowed

In China they’ve reached a crossroad
As growth has decidedly slowed
The knock-on effects
Are not too complex
Watch markets, emerging, erode

Once again, the overnight data has disappointed with signs of further slowing in the global economy rampant. The headline was in China, where their big three data points; Fixed Asset Investment (5.2%), Industrial Production (4.7%) and Retail Sales (7.2%) all missed expectations badly. In fact, all of these are at or near historic low levels. But it was not just the Chinese who exposed economic malaise. Japanese GDP printed at just 0.2% in Q3, well below the expected 0.9% outcome. And how about Unemployment in Australia, which ticked higher to 5.3%, adding to concern over the economy Down Under and driving an increase in bets that the RBA will cut rates again next month. In fact, throughout Asia, all the data was worse than expected and that has had a negative impact on equity markets as well as most commodity markets.

Of course, adding to the economic concern are the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, which seemed to take a giant step forward (backward?) with more injuries, more disruption and the resulting closure of schools and work districts. Rumors of a curfew, or even intervention by China’s armed forces are just adding to the worries. It should be no surprise that we have seen a risk off attitude in these markets as equity prices fell (Nikkei -0.75%, Hang Seng -0.95%) while bonds rallied (Treasuries -5bps, JGB’s -3bps, Australian Treasuries -10bps), and currencies performed as expected with AUD -0.75% and JPY +0.3%. Classic risk-off.

Turning to Europe, Germany managed to avoid a technical recession, surprising one and all by releasing Q3 GDP at +0.1% although they did revise Q2 lower to -0.2%. While that is arguably good news, 0.4% annual growth in Germany is not nearly enough to support the Eurozone economy overall. And the bigger concern is that the ongoing manufacturing slump, which shows, at best, slight signs of stabilizing, but no signs of rebounding, will start to ooze into the rest of the data picture, weakening domestic activity throughout Germany and by extension throughout the entire continent.

The UK did nothing to help the situation with Retail Sales falling 0.3%, well below the expected 0.2% rise. It seems that the ongoing Brexit saga and upcoming election continue to weigh on the UK economy at this point. While none of this has helped the pound much, it is lower by 0.1% as I type, it has not had much impact overall. At this point, the election outcome remains the dominant story there. Along those lines, Nigel Farage has disappointed Boris by saying his Brexit party candidates will stand in all constituencies that are currently held by Labour. The problem for Boris is that this could well split the Tory vote and allow Labour to retain those seats even if a majority of voters are looking for Brexit to be completed. We are still four weeks away from the election, and the polls still give Boris a solid lead, 40% to 29% over Labour, but a great deal can happen between now and then. In other words, while I still expect a Tory victory and Parliament to pass the renegotiated Brexit deal, it is not a slam dunk.

Finally, it would not be appropriate to ignore Chairman Powell, who yesterday testified to a joint committee of Congress about the economy and the current Fed stance. It cannot be a surprise that he repeated the recent Fed mantra of; the economy is in a good place, monetary policy is appropriate, and if things change the Fed will do everything in its power to support the ongoing expansion. He paid lip service to the worries over the trade talks and Brexit and global unrest, but basically, he spent a lot of time patting himself on the back. At this point, the market has completely removed any expectations for a rate cut in December, and, in fact, based on the Fed funds futures market, there isn’t even a 50% probability of a cut priced in before next June.

The interesting thing about the fact that the Fed is clearly on hold for the time being is the coincident fact that the equity markets in the US continue to trade at or near record highs. Given the fact that earnings data has been flattish at best, there seems to be a disconnect between pricing in equity markets and in interest rate markets. While I am not forecasting an equity correction imminently, at some point those two markets need to resolve their differences. Beware.

Yesterday’s CPI data was interesting as core was softer than expected at 2.3% on the back of reduced rent rises, while headline responded to higher oil prices last month and was higher than expected at 1.8%. As to this morning, PPI (exp 0.3%, 0.2% core) and Initial Claims (215K) is all we get, neither of which should move the needle. Meanwhile, Chairman Powell testifies to the House Budget Committee and seven more Fed speakers will be at a microphone as well. But given all we have heard, it beggar’s belief any of them will change from the current tune of everything is good and policy is in the right place.

As to the dollar, it is marginally higher overall this morning, and has been trading that way for the past several sessions but shows no signs of breaking out. Instead, I expect that we will continue to push toward the top end of its recent trading range, and stall lacking impetus for the next leg in its movement. For that, we will need either a breakthrough or breakdown in the trade situation, or a sudden change in the data story. As long as things continue to show decent US economic activity, the dollar seems likely to continue its slow grind higher.

Good luck
Adf

 

Dying To See

Said Trump, it’s not me it’s the Fed
Preventing us moving ahead
While China and Xi
Are dying to see
A deal where all tariffs are dead

It should be no surprise that President Trump was at the center of the action yesterday, that is the place he most covets. In a speech at the Economic Club of New York, he discussed pretty much what we all expected; the economy is doing great (low unemployment, low inflation and solid growth); the Fed is holding the economy back from doing even better (give us negative rates like Europe and Japan, we deserve it) and the Chinese are dying to do a deal but the US is not going to cave in and remove tariffs without ironclad assurances that the Chinese will stop their bad behavior. After all, this has been the essence of his economically focused comments for the past year. Why would they change now? But a funny thing happened yesterday, the market did not embrace all this is good news, and we started to see a little bit of risk aversion seeping into equity prices and filter down to the bond and currency markets.

For example, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed yesterday just 0.3% from the all-time high set last Thursday, there has been no follow-through in markets elsewhere in the world, and, in fact, US futures are pointing lower. Now arguably, this is not entirely a result of Trump’s comments, after all there are plenty of problems elsewhere in the world. But global markets have proven to be quite vulnerable to the perception of bad news on the US-China trade negotiations front, and the fact that there is no deal clearly set to be signed is weighing on investors’ collective minds. So last night, we saw Asian markets suffer (Nikkei -0.85%, Hang Seng -1.8%, KOSPI -0.85%, Shanghai -0.35%) and this morning European markets are also under pressure (DAX -0.75%, CAC -0.45%, FTSE -0.55%, Spain’s IBEX -1.65%, Italy’s MIB -1.3%). In other words, things look pretty bad worldwide, at least from a risk perspective.

Now some of this is idiosyncratic, like Hong Kong, where the protests are becoming more violent and more entrenched and have demonstrably had a negative impact on the local economy. Of even more concern is the growing possibility that China decides to intervene directly to quell the situation, something that would likely have significant negative consequences for global markets. Too, Germany is sliding into recession (we will get confirmation with tomorrow’s Q3 GDP release) and so the engine of Europe is slowing growth throughout the EU, and the Eurozone in particular. And we cannot forget Spain, where the fourth election in four years did nothing to bring people together, and where the Socialist Party is desperately trying to cobble together a coalition to get back in power, but cannot find enough partners, even though they have begun to climb down from initial comments about certain other parties, namely Podemos, and consider them. The point is, President Trump is not the only reason that investors have become a bit skeptical about the future.

In global bond markets, we are also seeing risk aversion manifest itself, notably this morning with 10-year Treasury yields falling more than 6bps, and other havens like Bunds (-4bps) and Gilts (-5bps) following suit. There has been a great deal of ink spilled over the recent bond market price action with two factions completely at odds. There continue to be a large number of pundits and investors who see the long-term trend of interest rates still heading lower and see the recent pullback in bond prices as a great opportunity to add to their long bond positions. Similarly, there is a growing contingent who believe that we have seen the lows in yields, that inflation is beginning to percolate higher and that 10-year yields above 3.00% are going to be the reality over the course of the next year. This tension is evident when one looks at the price action where since early September, we have seen a 40bp yield rally followed by a 35bp decline in the span of five weeks. Since then, we have recouped all the losses, and then some, although we continue to see weeks where there are 15bp movements, something that is historically quite unusual. Remember, bonds have historically been a dull trading vehicle, with very limited price activity and interest generated solely for their interest-bearing qualities. These days, they are more volatile than stocks! And today, there is significant demand, indicating risk aversion is high.

Finally, the dollar continues to benefit against most of its counterparts in both the G10 and EMG blocs, at least since I last wrote on Friday. In fact, there are four G10 currencies that have performed well since then, each with a very valid reason. First, given risk aversion, it should be no surprise that both the yen and Swiss franc have strengthened in this period. Looking further, the pound got a major fillip yesterday when Nigel Farage said that his Brexit party would not contest any of the 317 seats the Tories held going into the election, thus seeming to give a boost to Boris Johnson’s electoral plans, and therefore a boost toward the end of the Brexit saga with a deal in hand. Finally, last night the RBNZ surprised almost the entire market by leaving rates on hold at 1.0%, rather than cutting 25bps as had been widely expected. The reaction was immediate with kiwi jumping 1.0% and yields in New Zealand rallying between 10 and 15 bps across the curve.

Turning to the Emerging markets, the big mover has been, of course, the Chilean peso, the erstwhile star of LATAM which has fallen more than 5.0% since Friday in the wake of the government’s decision to change the constitution in an effort to address the ongoing social unrest. But this has dragged the rest of the currencies in the region down as well, with Colombia (-2%) and Mexico (-1.7%) also feeling the effects of this action. The removal of Peruvian president, Evo Morales, has further undermined the concept of democracy in the region, and investors are turning tail pretty quickly. Meanwhile, APAC currencies have also broadly suffered, with India’s rupee the worst performer in the bunch, down 1.1% since Friday, as concerns about slowing growth there are combining with higher than expected inflation to form a terrible mix. But most of the region is under pressure due to the ongoing growth and trade concerns, with KRW (-0.9%) and PHP (-0.7%) also feeling strains on the trade story. The story is no different in EEMEA, with the bulk of the bloc lower by between 0.5% and 0.85% during the timeframe in question.

Turning to this morning, we see our first important data of the week, CPI (exp 0.3%, 0.2% core) for the month and (1.7%, 2.4% core) on an annual basis. But perhaps more importantly Chairman Powell speaks to Congress today, and everybody is trying to figure out what it is he is going to say. Most pundits believe he is going to try to maintain the message from the FOMC meeting, and one that has been reinforced constantly by his minions on the committee, namely that the economy is in a good place, that rates are appropriately set and that they will respond if they deem it necessary. And really, what else can he say?

However, overall, risk remains on the back foot today, and unless Powell is suddenly very dovish, I expect that to remain the case. As such, look for the dollar to continue to edge higher in the short term, as well as the yen, the Swiss franc and Treasuries.

Good luck
Adf

 

Decidedly On

While risk is decidedly on
Investors have kept being drawn
To dollars, so they
Can still overpay
For stocks, and sometimes, a junk bond

With the trade story still titillating markets, or at least distracting them, a funny thing has happened to the broad picture; the dollar has continued to rally despite the market’s embrasure of risk. Touching on the trade story, we continue to get dueling headlines from both sides as to how things are progressing, but the key is that both sides say things are progressing. The latest is confirmation that any phase one deal will, in fact, include a rollback of some portion of the existing tariffs, and there has been absolutely no discussion regarding the mooted tariffs to be imposed on December 15th. In addition, this morning, EU President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that he was certain there would be no US tariffs on European automobiles going forward, at least no additional ones.

This has been more than sufficient to encourage the equity bulls to continue to drive indices to new highs, at least in the US, but to generally rally around the world. At the same time, this week has seen a massive selloff in haven assets, specifically in US Treasuries and German bunds. For instance, last Friday, the 10-year closed at a yield of 1.712%. This morning it is trading at 1.924%. We have seen a similar, albeit not quite as large, move in the bund market, where the yield has risen from -0.386% to -0.247%. Still a 14bp move, given the low absolute level of yields, is nothing to dismiss.

Other favorite havens are the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc, both having fallen -1.1% this week. Gold? It too is lower by 3.45%, with Silver (-7.3%) and Platinum (-5.8%) faring even worse. And yet, despite this strong risk-on market sentiment, the dollar continues to perform well against all comers. In fact it is firmer against every G10 currency (SEK and NZD have been the worst performers, each down 1.4% this week), and it is firmer vs. most of its EMG brethren, with the South African rand (+1.6%) the major outlier based on the news earlier this week that it would not lose its last investment grade rating and so bond investors would not be forced to liquidate their positions.

But it begs the question, why is the dollar remaining so strong? Typically when risk is acquired, investors are seeking the highest yielding assets they can find, which includes EMG government bonds, junk bonds and equities. Usually, the carry trade makes a big comeback, where those who view FX as an asset class simply sell dollars and earn the points. But this time around, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, one might point to the fact that US yields are the highest G10 yields, and higher than many EMG yields (e.g. South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and the Czech Republic) and so on a risk adjusted basis, it appears that investors are far more willing to buy Treasuries and clip that coupon. At any rate, the dollar remains well bid across the board, and barring a sudden negative trade headline, I see no reason for this trend to change in the near term. This is especially true if US data continues to surprise to the high side, like we saw last week with the payroll numbers.

The upshot is hedgers need to beware of the current situation. While the dollar hasn’t had any days where it exploded higher, it continues to grind higher literally every day. Hedgers, at least receivables hedgers, need to be actively managing their risks.

One other thing supporting the dollar has been the change in market tone regarding the Fed’s future activities. It wasn’t that long ago, September, when the futures market was pricing in one more 25bp rate cut for December and one in March of next year. But now, looking out a full year shows there is not even one more rate full cut priced into the market. So the Fed’s dovishness has been effectively dissipated as made evident yesterday by Atlanta Fed President Rafael Bostic’s comments that if he were a voter, he would have dissented from cutting rates last week.

Looking ahead to this morning’s session, the only data we see is Michigan Sentiment (exp 95.5) at 10:00, although at 8:30 Canada releases their employment report. Yesterday’s Initial Claims data was mildly better than expected, just 211K, which indicates that the US jobs situation is not deteriorating in any real way. Perhaps a bit more surprising was the sharp decline in Consumer Credit yesterday, falling to just $9.5 billion, its lowest increase in more than a year, and a data point you can be sure will be highlighted by those pining for a recession. We also hear from three more Fed speakers, Daly, Williams and Governor Lael Brainerd, although both Daly and Brainerd are speaking at a climate change conference, which seems a less likely venue to discuss monetary policy.

Overall, the dollar remains bid and while it may stall as it runs into some profit-taking this afternoon, there is no reason to believe it is going to reverse course anytime soon.

Good luck and good weekend
Adf

Removal of Tariffs

According to some in Beijing
Removal of tariffs’ the thing
That ought to diminish
And fin’lly help finish
The problems the trade war did bring

Another day, another story about progress in the trade talks. Given the complete lack of movement actually seen, a cynic might conclude that both sides have realized just talking about progress is probably as effective as making progress, maybe more so. After all, making progress requires both sides to make actual decisions. Talking about progress just hints that those decisions are being made. And let’s face it; the one thing at which politicians have proven especially inept is making decisions. At any rate, the news early this morning was that part of the elusive phase one deal would be simultaneous rollbacks of the current tariff schedules. If true, that is a great leap forward from simply delaying the imposition of new tariffs. But the key is, if true. At this point, it has become difficult to recognize the difference between actual progress and trial balloons. The one thing going for this story is it was put out by the Chinese, not President Trump. Of course, that could simply be a negotiating tactic trying to force Trump’s hand.

It should be no surprise that the market reacted quite positively to the story, with equity markets in Asia turning around from early losses to close higher on the day. While the Nikkei just clawed back to +0.1%, the Hang Seng finished higher by 0.6% and Australia’s ASX 200 gained 1.0% on the day. Europe has followed the trend with the DAX leading the way, +0.75%, and the rest of the Continent showing gains of between 0.2% (CAC) and 0.6% (IBEX). And of course, US futures turned higher on the news, now showing gains of approximately 0.5% across all three.

So risk is in vogue once again. Treasuries and Bunds have both sold off sharply, with yields in the 10-year space higher by roughly 6bps in both markets. And the dollar, as would be expected, is under further pressure this morning.

A trade truce cannot come soon enough for Germany, which once again released worse than expected data. This morning’s miss was IP, which fell 0.6% in September, and is down 4.3% Y/Y. So while yesterday’s Factory Orders seemed positive, they also seem like the outlier, not the trend. However, given the dollar’s overall performance this morning, it should be no surprise that the euro has edged higher, rising 0.1% as I type. But a step back for some perspective shows that the euro has actually done essentially nothing for the past month, trading within a range barely exceeding 1.0%. It will take more than just the occasional positive or negative economic print to change this story.

And perhaps there is a story brewing that will do just that. Several weeks ago there was a Bloomberg article about inflation in the Eurozone, specifically in Spain, that highlighted the dichotomy between the low rate of measured inflation, which in Spain is running at 1.0%, and the fact that the cost of home ownership and rent is rising at a double digit pace. It turns out that the European CPI measurements have rent as just 6.5% of the index and don’t even include the costs of home ownership. In contrast, those represent more than 30% of the US CPI measurement! And housing costs throughout Europe are rising at a much faster rate, something on the order of 3.0%+ over the past five years. In other words, a CPI basket constructed to include what Europeans actually spend their money on, rather than on some theoretical construct, would almost certainly have resulted in higher CPI readings and potentially would have prevented the poisonous negative interest rate conundrum.

With this in mind, and considering Madame Lagarde’s review of ECB policy, there is a chance, albeit a small one, that the ECB will consider changing the metric, and with a change in the metric, the need for further QE and NIRP will diminish greatly. That would be hugely euro positive! This is something to watch for going forward.

The other big news that just hit the tape was from the Bank of England, where while rates were left unchanged, two members of the MPC voted to cut rates by 25bps in a complete surprise. Apparently, there is growing concern inside the Old Lady that the recent weakening data portends further problems regardless of the election outcome. Of course, regarding the election, the fact that both the Tories and Labour are promising huge new spending plans, the need for low rates is clear. After all, it is much easier to borrow if interest rates are 0.5% than 5.0%! The pound, which had been trading modestly higher before the news quickly fell 0.4% and is now back toward the lower end of its recent trading range. Sometimes I think central banks do things simply to prove that they matter to the markets, but in this case, given the ongoing economic malaise in the UK, it does seem likely that a rate cut is in the offing.

As to the rest of the market, some of the biggest gainers this morning are directly related to the US-China trade story, with the offshore renminbi trading higher by 0.6% and back to its strongest level in three months’ time. In addition we have seen NOK rally 0.85%, which seems to be on the back of stronger oil and the fact that easing trade tensions are likely to further support the price of crude. Combining this with the fact that the krone has been mysteriously weak given its fundamentals, relatively strong economic growth and positive interest rates, it looks like a lot of short positions are getting squeezed out.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Brazilian real, which yesterday tumbled 2.0% after a widely anticipated auction of off-shore oil drilling rights turned into a flop, raising just $17 billion, far less than the $26 billion expected. In fact, two of the three parcels had no bids, and no oil majors were involved. While they will certainly put them up for auction again, the market’s disappointment was clear. It should also be no surprise that the real is rebounding a bit on the open, currently higher by 0.5%.

On the data front this morning the only thing of note is Initial Claims (exp 215K) and there are two more Fed speakers on the agenda, Kaplan and Bostic. However, the plethora of speakers we have heard this week have all remained on message, things are good and policy is appropriate, but if needed we will do more.

And that’s really it. I expect we will continue to hear more about the trade talks and perhaps get a bit more clarity on the proposed tariff rollbacks. But it will take a lot to turn the risk story around, and as such, I expect the dollar will continue to be under pressure as the session progresses.

Good luck
Adf

 

Not Been Sated

As markets, a trade deal, awaited
Risk appetite has not been sated
The headlines insist
That barring a twist
Phase one will soon be activated

Hooray!! Phase One of the trade deal is almost complete and apparently President’s Trump and Xi are planning a meeting to sign this historic document. At least that’s today’s story to pump up global equity markets. Actually, I assume that will be tomorrow’s as well, just as it has been the story for the past two weeks. But whether or not this comes to pass, the current view is quite positive and risk assets are back in demand. Equity markets are generally higher worldwide, with Asia showing significant strength (Nikkei +1.75%, Shanghai +0.55%, KOSPI +0.6%), although Europe is having a more muted session (DAX 0.0%, CAC +0.15%, FTSE +0.25%). Meanwhile, US futures are currently pointing to a 0.25% rise at the open.

Other evidence of increased risk appetite has been the decline in both Treasury and Bund prices, with the former seeing yields rise a further 4bps this morning and the latter 2bps. A quick look at the recent price history of the 10-year shows that one week ago they were trading at 1.84% and in the interim they fell to 1.69% before rebounding to this morning’s 1.82% level. A slightly longer term view shows a picture of a market that looks like it bottomed in early September, when the 10-year traded to 1.457% amidst escalating fears of everything, and is now slowly trying to head a bit higher. If the Fed has truly stopped cutting rates, and if they maintain their current ‘not-QE’ version of QE, purchasing $60 billion/month of T-bills, I expect we are looking at a much steeper yield curve and the chance for the dollar to resume its rally. (Historically, the dollar performs better in a steepening yield curve environment.)

However, that dollar movement is much more of a long-term trend than a day to day prescription, and in fact, this morning’s risk-on movement has seen the dollar soften further, except against the other two haven currencies, the Swiss franc (-0.35%) and the Japanese yen (-0.25%). The most notable mover has arguably been the Chinese reniminbi, which has rallied 0.5% and is back below 7.00 for the first time since early August. You may recall that time as a severe escalation of the trade conflict and fears were rampant that the PBOC was going to allow the renminbi to weaken substantially to offset tariffs. Of course, that never happened, and ostensibly, part of the trade deal is a Chinese promise to prevent significant currency weakness. (You know, manipulation of a currency is fine when it works in your favor, just not when it works against you.) At any rate, CNY has been strengthening steadily for the past month and has recouped 2.3% in that time. Quite frankly, despite the fact that the slowdown in the Chinese economy would argue for a weaker currency, I expect that we will continue to see modest strength in the renminbi; at least until the trade deal is signed.

In the G10 space, today’s big winner is the Aussie dollar, which is higher by 0.45% this morning and has rallied 3.65% since its recent trough in the beginning of October. Given the country’s close ties to China, it should be no surprise that positive news regarding China helps the AUD. In addition, last night the RBA met and left rates on hold, which while widely expected was a bit of a relief given they cut rates in the past three meetings. While they maintained their easing bias, the market is gaining optimism that the global trade situation will improve shortly and that Aussie will benefit. While the move in Aussie did help drag kiwi higher (+0.25%), the rest of the space is entirely uninteresting.

In the EMG bloc, South Africa’s rand is the leader, gaining 0.65% as the market continues to absorb the fact that Moody’s left them with an investment grade rating. While things are still precarious there, perhaps a relaxation of trade tensions globally will allow the country to stabilize their finances and the currency to stabilize as well. On the flip side, Chile’s peso has opened under pressure, falling 0.65% after Retail Sales there were released at a much worse than expected -0.9% (expected +1.8%). Clearly the ongoing protests are having an impact and as in most places around the world, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.

On the calendar this morning we see the Trade balance (exp -$52.4B) as well as the JOLTS Jobs report (7.063M) and finally, at 10:00 ISM Non-Manufacturing (51.0). You may recall the ISM data on Friday was soft at 48.3, and this morning we saw UK Services PMI print at a better than expected 50.0. The best explanation I can give is that we are at an inflection point in the global economy, where what has clearly been a slowing trend may finally be responding to the massive stimulus efforts by the world’s central banks. (FYI, the PBOC reduced its 1-year lending rate by 5bps last night, the first cut since 2016). But inflection points are probably more accurately referred to as inflection curves, since things are not going to turn around quickly. I anticipate we are going to see mixed data for some time into the future. This will allow both bulls and bears to use data to make their respective cases.

In the end, unless today’s data is horrendous, I expect that the risk-on scenario will continue to drive markets and the dollar will likely soften a bit further before it is all over.

Good luck
Adf

 

Employment Unstressed

The jobs report Friday impressed
With growth in employment unstressed
As well, Friday’s quotes
From Fed speakers’ throats
Explained how their policy’s best

As is evidenced by the fact that the stock market in the US continues to trade to new all-time highs on a daily basis, the Fed is doing an incredible job…just ask them! Friday we learned that both the economy and monetary policy are “in a good place” according to vice-chairman Richard Clarida. Governor Randall Quarles used the same terms as did NY Fed President John Williams, who added, “…the economy is strong,” as well to the mix. At least they are all singing from the same hymnal. So, following a much better than expected payrolls report Friday morning, with the headline number not only beating expectations handily (128K vs. 85K), but the previous two months’ data were revised higher by a further 95K, the Fed is patting themselves on the back.

Adding to the overall joy in markets is the apparent thaw in the US-China trade talks, where it appears that a small, ‘phase one’ deal is pretty much agreed with both sides simply trying to find a place to sign it now that the APEC conference in Chile has been canceled due to local violent protests. And of course, the other big uncertainty, Brexit, has also, apparently, become less risky as the amended deal agreed by Boris and the EU has put to rest many fears of a hard Brexit. While the UK is currently engaged in a general election campaign cum second Brexit referendum, the smart money says that Boris will win the day, Parliament will sign the deal and the next steps toward Brexit will be taken with no mishaps.

Who knows, maybe all of these views are absolutely correct and global growth is set to rebound substantially driving stocks to ever more new highs and allowing central banks around the world to finally unwind some of their ‘emergency’ measures like ZIRP, NIRP and QE. Or…

It is outside the realm of this morning note to opine on many of these outcomes, but history tells us that everything working out smoothly is an unlikely outcome.

Turning to the market this morning shows us a dollar that is marginally firmer despite a pretty broad risk-on feeling. As mentioned above, equity markets are all strong, with Asia closing higher and almost every European market higher by more than 1.0% as I type. US futures are pointing in the same direction following on Friday’s strong performance. Treasury yields are also higher as there is little need for safety when stock prices are flying, and we are seeing gains in oil and industrial metals as well. All of which begs the question why the dollar is firm. But aside from the South African rand, which has jumped 1.5% this morning after Moody’s retained its investment grade rating on country bonds, although it did cut its outlook to negative, there are more currencies lower vs. the dollar than higher.

One possible explanation is the Fed’s claim that they have ended their mid-cycle adjustment and that US rates are destined to remain higher than those elsewhere in the world going forward. It is also possible that continued weak data elsewhere is simply undermining other currencies. For example, Eurozone final PMI’s were released this morning and continue to show just how weak the manufacturing sector in Europe remains. Given the fact that the ECB is basically out of bullets, and the fact that the Germans and Dutch remain intransigent with respect to the idea of fiscal stimulus, a weak currency is the only feature that is likely to help the ECB achieve its inflation target. However, as we have seen over the past many years, the pass-through of a weak currency to higher inflation is not a straightforward process. While I do think the dollar will continue its slow climb higher, I see no reason for the pace of the move to have any substantive impact on Eurozone CPI.

Meanwhile, the G10 currency under the most pressure today is the pound, which has fallen 0.2%, and while still above 1.29, seems to have lost all its momentum higher as the market tries to assess what will happen at the election six weeks hence. While I continue to believe that Boris will win and that the negotiated deal will be implemented, I have actually taken profits on my personal position given the lack of near-term momentum.

Looking ahead to this week, the data picture is far less exciting than last, although we do have the BOE meeting on Thursday to spice things up, as well as a raft of Fed speakers:

Today Durable Goods -1.1%
  -ex transport -0.3%
  Factory Orders -0.4%
Tuesday Trade Balance -$52.5B
  JOLTS Job Openings 7.088M
  ISM Non-Manufacturing 53.4
Wednesday Nonfarm Productivity 0.9%
  Unit Labor Costs 2.2%
Thursday Initial Claims 215K
  Consumer Credit $15.05B
Friday Michigan Sentiment 95.5

Source: Bloomberg

As all of this data is second tier, it is hard to get too excited over any of it, however, if it demonstrates a pattern, either of weakness or strength, by the end of the week we could see some impact. Meanwhile, there are nine Fed speakers slated this week, but given the consistency of message we heard last week, it seems hard to believe that the message will change at all, whether from the hawks or doves. At this point, I think both sides are happy.

Putting it all together, I would argue that the dollar is more likely to suffer slightly this week rather than strengthen as risk appetite gains. But it is hard to get too excited in either direction for now.

Good luck
Adf