On Friday, the world nearly ended
On Monday, investors felt splendid
Today the G7
Brings manna from heaven
But will rate cuts work as intended?
Of course, everyone is aware of yesterday’s remarkable equity market rally as investors quickly grasped the idea that the world’s central banks are not going to go down without a fight. While there were separate statements yesterday, this morning the G7 FinMins and Central bankers are having a conference call, led by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, to discuss next steps in support of the global
It is pretty clear that they are going to announce coordinated actions, with the real question simply what each bank is going to offer up. The argument in the US is will the cut be 25bps or 50bps? In the UK it is clearly 25bps. The ECB and BOJ have their own problems, although I wouldn’t be shocked to see 10bps from them as well as a pledge to increase asset purchases. And, of course, Canada remains largely irrelevant, but will almost certainly cut 25bps alongside the Fed.
But equity markets rebounded massively yesterday, so is there another move in store on this new news? That seems less probable. And remember, Covid-19 has not been cured and continues to spread pretty rapidly. The issue remains the government response, as we continue to see large events canceled (the Geneva Auto Show was the latest) which result in lost, not deferred, economic activity. The one thing that is very clear is that Q1 economic data is going to be putrid everywhere in the world, regardless of what the G7 decides. But perhaps they can save Q2 and the rest of the year.
The interesting thing is that bond markets don’t seem to be singing from the same hymnal as the stock markets. We continue to see a massive rally in bonds, with 2-year yields down to 0.87% while the 10-year is at 1.15%. That is hardly a description of a rip-roaring economy. Rather, that sounds like fears over an imminent recession. The only thing that is certain is that there are as many different views as there are traders and investors, and that has been instrumental in the significant increase in volatility we have observed.
As to the dollar, it has been under significant pressure since yesterday morning, with the euro climbing to its highest level since mid-January. I maintain the dollar’s weakness can be ascribed to the fact that the Fed is the only major central bank with room to really cut rates, and the market is in the process of pricing in 4 cuts for 2020, with more beyond. So further USD weakness ought not be too surprising, but I expect it is nearer its bottom than not, as in the end, the US remains the best place to invest in the current global economy. My point is that receivables hedgers need to be active and take advantage of the dollar’s recent decline. I don’t foresee it lasting for a long period of time.
The first actions were seen in Asia, as both Australia and Malaysia cut their base rates by 25bps while explaining that their close relationships with China require action. And that is certainly true as the extent of how far the Chinese economy will shrink in Q1 is still a huge unknown. Interestingly, AUD managed to rally 0.35% after the rate cut as investors seemed to approve of the action. The thing is, now rates Down Under are at 0.50%, so there is precious little room left to maneuver there. MYR, on the other hand, slipped slightly, -0.1%, although stocks there managed to rally 0.8% on the news.
Meanwhile, the market continues to punish certain nations that have their own domestic problems which are merely being exacerbated by Covid-19. A good example is South Africa, where the rand tumbled 1.45% this morning after Q4 GDP was released at a much worse than expected -0.5% Y/Y, which takes the nation to the edge of recession. And remember, this was before there was any concern over the virus, so things are likely to get worse before they get better. This doesn’t bode well for the rand in the near and medium term.
But overall, today has been, and will continue to be driven by expectations for, and then the response to the G7 meeting. While it is certain that whatever statement is made will be designed to offer support, given yesterday’s huge rebound in markets, there is ample chance for the G7 to disappoint. Arguably, the risks for the G7 are asymmetric as even an enormous support package of rate cuts and added fiscal spending seem mostly priced into the market. On the other hand, any disappointment could easily see the next leg down in both equity markets and bond yields as investors realize that sometimes, the only way to deal with a virus is to let it run its course.