A Major Broadside

The question that needs to be asked
Is, have central bank powers passed?
The ECB tried
A major broadside
But markets ignored Draghi’s blast

There has certainly been no shortage of interesting news in the past twenty-four hours, however from a markets perspective, I think the ECB actions, and the market reactions are the most critical to understand. To recap Signor Draghi’s action, the ECB did the following:

1. cut the deposit rate 10bps to -0.50%;
2. restarted QE in the amount of €20Bio per month for as long as necessary;
3. reduced the rate and extended the tenor of TLTRO III loans; and
4. introduced a two-tier system to allow some excess liquidity to be exempt from the -0.50% deposit rate.

Certainly the market was prepared for the rate cut, which had been widely telegraphed, and the talk of tiering excess liquidity had also been making the rounds. Frankly, TLTRO’s had not been a centerpiece of discussion but I think that is because most market participants don’t see them as a major force in the policy debate, which leaves the start of QE2 as the most controversial thing Draghi introduced. Well, maybe that and the fact that forward guidance is now based on achieving a “robust convergence” toward the inflation target rather than a particular timeframe.

Remember, in the past two weeks we had heard from the Three Hawksketeers (Weidmann, Lautenschlager and Knot) each explicitly saying that more QE was not appropriate. We also heard that from the Latvian central banker, Rimsevics, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, from Franҫois Villeroy de Galhau, the French central bank chief. And yet despite clearly stiff opposition, Draghi got the Council to agree. Perhaps, though, he went too far in describing the “consensus as so broad, there was no need to take a vote.” Now, while I have no doubt that no vote was taken, that statement stretches credulity. This was made clear when Robert Holzmann, the new Austrian central bank president and first time member of the ECB, gave an interview yesterday afternoon explicitly saying that the ECB could well have made a mistake by reintroducing QE.

But let’s take a look at what happened after the ECB statement and during the press conference. The initial move was for the euro to decline sharply, trading down 0.65% in the first 10 minutes after the release. When Draghi took to the stage at 8:30 and reiterated the points in the statement, the euro declined a further 30 pips, touching 1.0927, its lowest level since May 2017. But that was all she wrote for the euro’s decline. As Draghi continued to speak and answer questions, traders began to suspect that the cupboard was bare regarding anything else the ECB can do to address further problems in the Eurozone economies. This was made abundantly clear in his pleas for increased fiscal stimulus, which much to his chagrin, does not appear to be forthcoming.

It was at this point that things started to turn with the euro soaring, at one point as much as 1.5% from the lows, and closed 1.3% higher than those levels. And this morning, the rally continues with the euro up to 1.1100 as I type, a solid 0.3% gain. But the big question that now must be asked is; has the market decided the ECB is out of ammunition? After all, given the relative nature of the FX market and the importance of monetary policy on exchange rates, if the market has concluded the ECB CANNOT do anymore that is effective, then by definition, the Fed is going to promulgate easier policies than the ECB with the outcome being a rising euro. So if the Fed follows through next week and cuts 25bps, and especially if it does not close the door on further cuts, we could easily see the euro rally continue. That will not help the ECB in their task to drive inflation higher, and it will set a difficult tone for Madame Lagarde’s tenure as ECB President going forward.

Turning to the Fed, the market is still fully priced for a 25bp cut next week, but thoughts of anything more have receded. However, a December cut is still priced in as well. The problem for the Fed is that the economic data has not been cooperating with the narrative that inflation is dead. For instance, yesterday’s CPI data showed Y/Y core CPI rose 2.4%, the third consecutive outcome higher than expectations and the highest print since September 2008! Once again, I will point to the anecdotal evidence that I, personally, rarely see the price of anything go down, other than the gyrations in gasoline prices. But food, clothing and services prices have been pretty steady in their ascent. Does this mean that the Fed will stay on hold? While I think it would be the right thing to do, I absolutely do not believe it is what will happen. However, it is quite easy to believe that the accompanying statement is more hawkish than currently expected (hoped for?) and that we could see this as the end of that mid-cycle adjustment. My gut is the equity market would not take that news well. And the dollar? Well, that would halt the euro’s rise pretty quickly as well. But that is next week’s story.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we got more news on the trade front, where President Trump has indicated the possibility of an interim trade deal that could halt, and potentially roll back, tariff increases in exchange for more promises on IP protection and agricultural purchases. That was all the equity market needed to hear to rally yet again, and in fairness, if there is a true thawing in that process, it should be positive for risk assets. So, the dollar declined across the board, except against the yen which fell further as risk appetite increased.

Two currencies that have had notable moves are GBP and CNY. The pound seems to be benefitting from the fact that there was a huge short position built over the past two months and the steady stream of anti-Brexit news seems to have put Boris on his back foot. If he cannot get his way, which is increasingly doubtful, then the market will continue to reprice Brexit risk and the pound has further to rally. At the same time, the renminbi’s rally has continued as well. Yesterday, you may recall, I mentioned the technical position, an island reversal, which is often seen as a top or bottom. When combining the technical with the positive trade story and the idea that the Fed has a chance to be seen as the central bank with the most easing ahead of it, there should be no surprise that USDCNY is falling. This morning’s 0.45% decline takes the two-day total to about 1.0%, a big move in the renminbi.

Turning to this morning’s data, Retail Sales are the highlight (exp 0.2%, 0.1% ex autos) and then Michigan Sentiment (90.8) at 10:00. Equity futures are pointing higher and generally there is a very positive attitude as the week comes to an end. At this point, I think these trends continue and the dollar continues to decline into the weekend. Longer term, though, we will need to consider after the FOMC next week.

Good luck and good weekend
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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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Under Stress

The week that just passed was a mess
With both bulls and bears under stress
As equities fell
Most bonds performed well
And dollars? A roaring success

Pundits have been searching for adjectives to describe the week that is ending today. Tumultuous strikes me as an accurate reflection, but then stormy, tempestuous and volatile all work as well. In the end though, the broad trends have not changed at all. Equities continue to retreat from their mid-summer highs, bonds continue to rally sharply while yield curves around the world flatten and the dollar continues to march higher.

So what is driving all this volatility? It seems the bulk of the blame is laid at the feet of President Trump as his flipping and flopping on trade policy have left investors and traders completely confused. After all, late last week he declared tariffs would be imposed on the rest of Chinese imports not already subject to them, then after market declines he decided that a portion of those tariffs would be delayed from September until December. But then the Chinese struck back saying they would retaliate and now the President has highlighted he will be speaking directly with President Xi quite soon. On the one hand, it is easy to see given the numerous changes in stance, why markets have been so volatile. However, it beggars belief that a complex negotiation like this could possibly be completed on any short timeline, and almost by definition will take many more months, if not years. There is certainly no indication that either side is ready to capitulate on any of the outstanding issues. So the real question is, why are markets responding to every single tweet or comment? To quote William Shakespeare, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Alas, there is every indication that this investor and trader behavior is going to continue for a while yet.

This morning we are back in happy mode, with the idea that the Presidents, Trump and Xi, are going to speak soon deemed a market positive. Equity markets around the world are higher (DAX +1.0%, CAC +1.0%, Nikkei +0.5%); bond markets have been a bit more mixed with Treasuries (+2bps) and Gilts (+4.5bps) selling off a bit but we continue to see Bunds (-1.5bps) rally. In fact we are at new all-time lows for Bund yields with the 10-year now yielding -0.73%!

As to the dollar, it is still in favor, with only the pound showing any real life in the G10 space, having rallied 0.65% this morning with the market continuing to be impressed with yesterday’s Retail Sales data there. In fact, if we look over the past week, the pound is the only G10 currency to outperform the dollar, having rallied more than 1.0%. On the flip side, the Skandies are this week’s biggest losers with both SEK and NOK down by 1.35% closely followed by the euro’s 1.1% decline, of which 0.3% has happened overnight.

The FX market continues to track the newest thoughts regarding relative central bank policy changes and that is clearly driving the euro. For example, yesterday, St Louis Fed President Bullard, likely the most dovish FOMC member (although Kashkari gives him a run), sounded almost reticent to continue cutting rates, and ruled out the idea that an intermeeting cut was necessary. While he supported the July cut, and will likely vote for September, he again ruled out 50bps and didn’t sound like more made sense. At the same time, Finnish central bank president Ollie Rehn, a key ECB member, explained that come September, the ECB would act very aggressively in order to get the most bang for the buck (euro?). The indication was not only will they cut rates, and possibly more than the 10bps expected, but QE would be restarted and expanded, and he did not rule out movement into other products (equities anyone?) as well. In the end, the market sees that the ECB is going to basically do everything else they can right away as they watch the Eurozone economy sink into recession. Meanwhile, most US data continues to point to a much more robust growth situation.

Let’s look at yesterday’s US data where Retail Sales were very strong (0.7%, 1.0% ex autos) and Productivity, Empire Manufacturing and Philly Fed all beat expectations. Of course, confusingly, IP was a weaker than expected -0.2% and Capacity Utilization fell to 77.5%. Adding to the overall confusion is this morning’s Housing data where Starts fell to 1191K although Permits rose to 1336K. In the end, there is more data that is better than worse which helps explain the 2.1% growth trajectory in the US, which compares quite favorably with the 0.8% GDP trajectory on the continent. As long as this remains the case, look for the dollar to continue to outperform.

Oh and one more thing, given the problems in the Eurozone, do you really believe the EU will sit by and watch the UK exit without changing their tune? Me either!

Next week brings the Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium and key speeches, notably by Chairman Powell. As to today, there is no reason to expect the dollar to do anything but continue its gradual appreciation.

Good luck and good weekend
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Weakness They’d Block

The PBOC’s taken stock
Of how their maneuvers did rock
Most markets worldwide
Which helped them decide
More currency weakness they’d block

The Chinese renminbi remains the number one story and concern in all financial markets as investors and traders try to decipher the meaning of yesterday’s move to allow a much weaker currency, but more importantly how those actions will help drive future activities.

As always, there are two sides to every coin, in this case both figuratively and literally. From the perspective of China’s manufacturing and production capabilities it is very clear that a weaker renminbi is a benefit for its exporters. Chinese goods are that much cheaper this morning than they were Friday afternoon. This, of course, is why there is so much concern over any nation weakening their currency purposely in order to gain an advantage in trade. This is the ‘beggar thy neighbor’ policy that is decried in both textbooks and political circles. It is this idea that animates President Trump’s complaints about a too strong dollar hindering US manufacturing exports, and it is true, as far as it goes.

But it is not the whole story by a long shot. There are two potentially significant negative consequences to having a weaker currency, both of which can have significant political as well as economic impacts. The first, and most widely considered is rising inflation. Remember, if a nation’s currency weakens then all its imports are, relatively speaking, more expensive for its citizens. While small fluctuations in price may be absorbed by businesses, ultimately a steadily weakening currency will result in rising prices and increases in measured inflation. This is one of the key things that BOE Governor Carney worries about in the event of a hard Brexit, and the only reason he tries to make the case that interest rates may need to rise after Brexit. (p.s., they won’t!)

However, the other issue is generally less considered but often far more destructive to a nation. This is the problem of repayment of foreign currency debt. Remember, the US capital markets are far and away the largest, deepest and most liquid in the world, and thus companies and countries around the world all raise funding in USD. Even though US rates are high relative to the rest of the G10, that available liquidity is something that is not replicable anywhere else in the world and offers real value for borrowers. And of course, compared to many emerging markets, US rates are lower to begin with, making borrowing in dollars that much more attractive. But when another country’s currency weakens, that puts additional pressure on all the businesses that have borrowed in USD to fund themselves (and the country itself if it has borrowed in USD).

For example, according to the BIS, Chinese companies had outstanding USD debt totaling more than $1 trillion as of the end of 2018, and that number has only grown. As the renminbi weakens, that means it takes that much more local currency to repay those dollars. China has already seen a significant uptick in local bankruptcies this year, with CNY bond defaults totaling nearly $6 billion equivalent and the pace increasing. And that is in the local currency. When it comes to repaying USD debt, a weaker CNY will just exacerbate the situation. The PBOC is well aware of this problem. In fact, this issue is what will prevent the PBOC from allowing the renminbi to simply fall and find a new market clearing price. Instead, they will continue to carefully manage any further devaluation to the best of their ability. The problem they have is that despite their seemingly tight control of the market, they have created an offshore version, the quickly growing CNH market, which is far more costly to manage. In other words, there is a real opportunity for leakage of funds from China and an uncontrolled decline in the currency, or at least a much larger decline than planned. We are only beginning to see the impact of this move by the PBOC and do not be surprise if things get more volatile going forward.

But this morning, the PBOC remains in control. They fixed the onshore CNY at 6.9683, stronger than expected and in the FX market CNY has regained about 0.3% of yesterday’s losses. This stabilization has allowed a respite in yesterday’s panic and the result was that Asian equity markets rebounded in the afternoon sessions, still closing lower but well off session lows. And in Europe, the main markets are all marginally higher as I type. It should be no surprise that US futures are pointing to a modest uptick on the opening as well.

In the bond markets, Treasury prices have fallen slightly, with yields backing up 2bps. The same movement has been seen in Japan, with JGB’s 2bps higher, but actually, in Germany, yields continue to decline, down a further 3bps to yet another new record low of -0.54% as German data continues to exhibit weakness implying the Eurozone is going to fall into a recession sooner rather than later.

Finally, in the rest of the FX market, we are seeing a modest reversal of some of yesterday’s significant moves. For example, USDMXN is softer by 0.2% this morning after the peso fell nearly 2.0% yesterday. We are seeing similar activity in USDBRL, and USDKRW. These examples are just that, indications that an uncontrolled collapse is not in the cards, but that this process has not yet played itself out. In the G10 space, the RBA left rates on hold at 1.00% last night, as universally expected, and Aussie has rallied 0.4% this morning. Interestingly, one of the reasons they felt able to pause was the fact that the AUD had fallen more than 3% in the past month, easing financial conditions slightly and helping in their quest to push inflation back to their target. The other reversal this morning has been USDJPY which is higher by 0.4% after having traded to its lowest level (strongest JPY) yesterday since March 2018. As yen remains a key haven asset, it remains an excellent proxy for risk appetite, which today is recovering.

There were actually a few Fed speakers yesterday with both SF President Daly and Governor Brainerd expressing a wait and see attitude as to the impact of the escalation of trade tensions, although a clear bias in both cases to cut rates. Meanwhile, the futures market is pricing in a 100% chance of a 25bp cut in September and a 40% chance of a 50bp cut. It seems like the Fed has a lot of work to do in order to clarify their message.

With no data of note today, the FX market is likely to continue to consolidate yesterday’s moves, and awaits comments from James Bullard, St Louis Fed President and noted dove. In the end, my sense is that the Fed has lost control of the situation and that we are going to see more rate cuts than they had anticipated going forward. The question is more the timing than the actuality. In the meantime, the dollar is likely to be dichotomous, continuing to rise vs. the EMG bloc, but faring less well vs. much of the G10.

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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Rates Will Be Hewn

Inflation remains far too low
In Europe, and so Mario
Has promised that soon
Their rates will be hewn
And, too, will their balance sheet grow

The ECB did not act yesterday, leaving all policy unchanged, but Signor Draghi was quite clear that a rate cut, at the very least, would be coming in September. He hinted at a restart of QE, although he indicated that not everyone was on board with that idea. And he pleaded with Eurozone governments to implement more fiscal stimulus.

That plea, however, is a perfect example of why the Eurozone is dysfunctional. While the ECB, one of the key Eurozone institutions, is virtually begging governments to spend more money, another one of those institutions, the European Commission, is prepared to sanction, and even fine, Italy because they want to spend more money! You can’t make this stuff up. As another example, consider that Germany is running a 1.7% fiscal surplus this year, yet claims it cannot afford to increase its defense spending.

It is this type of contradiction that exemplifies the problem with the Eurozone, and more specifically with the euro. Every nation is keen to accept the benefits of being a member, but none want to assume the responsibilities that come along with those benefits. In other words, they all want the free option. The euro is a political construct and always has been. Initially, countries were willing to cede their monetary sovereignty in order to receive the benefits of a more stable currency. But twenty years later, it is becoming clear that the requirements for stability are greater than initially expected. In a way, the ECB’s policy response of even more NIRP and QE, which should further serve to undermine the value of the single currency, is the only possible outcome. If you were looking for a reason to be long term bearish on the euro, this is the most powerful argument.

Speaking of the euro’s value, in the wake of the ECB statement yesterday morning, it fell 0.3% to 1.1100, its lowest level since mid-May 2017, however, Draghi’s unwillingness to commit to even more QE at the press conference disappointed traders and the euro recouped those early losses. This morning, it is basically right at the same level as before the statement, with traders now turning their focus to Wednesday’s FOMC meeting.

So, let’s consider that story. At this point it seems pretty clear that the Fed is going to cut rates by 25bps. Talk of 50bps has faded as the last several data points have proven much stronger than expected. Yesterday saw a blowout Durable Goods number (+2.0%, +1.2% ex transport) with both being well above expectations. This follows stronger than expected Retail Sales, CPI and payroll data this month, and even a rebound in some of the manufacturing surveys like Philly and Empire State. While the Housing Market remains on its heels, that doesn’t appear to be enough to entice a 50 bp move. In addition, we get our first look at Q2 GDP this morning (exp 1.8%) and the Fed’s favorite inflation data of PCE next week before the FOMC meeting concludes. Strength in any of this will simply cement that any cut will be limited to 25bps. Of course, there are several voting members, George and Rosengren top the list, who may well dissent on cutting rates, at least based on their last comments before the quiet period. Regardless, it seems a tall order for Chairman Powell to come across as excessively dovish given the data, and I would contend that the euro has further to fall as a result. In fact, I expect the dollar has further to climb across the board.

The other big story, of course, is the leadership change in the UK, where PM Boris had his first discussion with EU leaders regarding Brexit. Ostensibly, Boris demanded to discard the Irish backstop and the EU said absolutely not. At this point the EU is counting on a sufficient majority in the UK Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit, but there are still three months to go. This game is going to continue for a while yet, but at some point, it is going to be a question of whether Ireland blinks as they have the most to lose. Their economy is the most closely tied to the UK, and given they are small in their own right, don’t have any real power outside the EU. My money is on the EU changing their stance come autumn. In the meantime, the pound is going to remain under pressure as the odds of a no-deal Brexit remain high. This morning it is lower by a further 0.2%, and I see no reason for this trend to end anytime soon.

In other news, Turkey slashed rates 425bps yesterday as the new central bank head, Murat Uysal, wasted no time in the chair responding to President Erdogan’s calls for lower rates. The market’s initial response was a 1.5% decline in the lira, but it was extremely short-lived. In fact, as I type, TRY is firmer by nearly 1.0% from its levels prior to the announcement. Despite the cut, interest rates there remain excessively high, and in a world desperately seeking yield, TRY assets are near the top of the list on both a nominal and real basis.

Beyond that, it is hard to get excited about too much heading into the weekend. While equity markets suffered yesterday after some weak earnings data, futures are pointing to a better opening this morning. Treasuries are virtually unchanged as are gold and oil. So all eyes will be on the GDP data, where strength should reflect in a stronger dollar, but probably weaker equities, as the chance for more than a 25bp cut dissipates.

Good luck
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Thus Far They’ve Failed

The ECB meeting today
Is forcing its members to weigh
The costs if they wait
To cut the base rate
Vs. benefits if they delay

Their problem is as things now stand
Recovery should be at hand
But thus far they’ve failed
As growth’s been curtailed
From Sicily to the Rhineland

Today brings the first of three major central bank meetings in the next six days as the ECB is currently meeting and the market awaits the outcome. Next week we will hear from both the BOJ and then the Fed, but for now all eyes are turned toward Frankfurt.

Expectations, as measured by the futures market, have moved to a 48% probability of a 10bp rate cut by the ECB this morning, although most of the punditry believe that Signor Draghi will simply lay the groundwork for a cut in September at the next meeting. The arguments for waiting are as follows: given the expectations of a Fed rate cut, with some still holding out hope for 50bps, the market benefits of cutting today would be quickly offset, and one of the few arrows the ECB still has left in its quiver would be wasted. The key benefit they are seeking is a weaker euro, and the concern is that any weakness will be short-lived, especially in the event of a 50bp cut by Powell. Of course, one need only look at the chart to see that the euro has been trending steadily lower for the past year, falling nearly 5% since last July, although as we await the meeting outcome it remains unchanged on the day. It’s not clear to me why else they would wait. After all, the data continues to point to ongoing Eurozone weakness every day. This morning’s example was the German Ifo Business Climate Index, which fell to 95.7, its lowest point since April 2013. It is becoming abundantly clear that Germany is heading into a recession and given Germany’s status as the largest economy in the Eurozone, representing nearly one-third of the total, that bodes ill for the entire bloc.

I maintain that it makes no sense to wait if they know that they will cut next month. They are far better off cutting now, maybe even by 20bps, and using September to restart QE, which is also a foregone conclusion. The funny thing about appointing Madame Lagarde, the uber dove, as the next ECB president, is that she won’t have anything to do once she sits down given the fact that all the easing tools will have been used already. Well, perhaps that is not strictly correct. Lagarde will be able to expand QE to cover, first, bank bonds and then, eventually equities.

(As an aside, for all you capitalists out there, the practice of central banks buying equities should cause great discomfort. After all, they can print as much money as they need to effectively buy ownership in all the public companies in an economy. And isn’t the definition of Socialism merely when the government owns the means of production? It seems to me that central bank equity purchases are a great leap down that slippery slope!)

At any rate, FX markets have largely been holding their breath awaiting the ECB outcome this morning. The same cannot be said of equity markets, where we continue to see records in the US, and markets in both Asia and Europe continue to rally on the idea that lower rates will continue to support stocks. At the same time, bond markets are also still on the march, with Bunds trading to yet another new low, touching -0.46% yesterday, and currently at -0.41%. Treasuries, too, remain bid, with the 10-year yield ticking slightly lower to 2.03%. And in the commodity space, oil prices are firmer after both a surprisingly large inventory draw and the ongoing issues in the Persian Gulf as the UK and Iran duke it out over captured tankers.

With the Brexit story now waiting for its next headlines, which will likely take at least a few days to arrive, and the US-China trade story awaiting next week’s meetings in Beijing, it is central banks all the way as the key market drivers for now. This morning’s Initial Claims (exp 219K) and Durable Goods (0.7%, 0.2% -ex transport) seem unlikely to be key movers.

So Mario, it’s all up to you today. How dovish Draghi sounds will be the key event for today, and likely the impetus behind movement until next Wednesday when Chairman Powell takes the spotlight. Personally, I think he will be far more dovish than the market is currently pricing and we will see the dollar rally further.

Good luck
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