Plan B

As PM May turns to ‘Plan B’
The choices are not one, but three
Will Brexit be hard?
Or will she discard
The vote so Bremainers feel glee

The third choice is seek a delay
From Europe so that the UK
Can head to the polls
To sort out their goals
And maybe this time choose to stay

Once again Brexit remains the topic du jour as the ongoing political maelstrom in the UK is both riveting and agonizing at the same time. The latest news is that PM May survived the no-confidence vote. Her next step was to reach out to all opposition parties to try to determine what they wanted to see in Brexit as a prelude to going back to the EU with more demands requests. But the market has dismissed that idea as a non-starter (which I think is correct) and instead is clearly expecting that the decision will be for the UK to seek an extension of several months so that the UK can organize a second referendum on the question. At that point, the result would be binary, either stay in the EU or accept a hard Brexit. At least, that seems to be the current thinking amongst market participants and pundits. The pound has continued its slow recovery from the December lows as investors and traders start to assume that there will be no Brexit after all, and that the only reason the pound trades at its current levels is because of the prospect of leaving the EU. I cannot handicap how a second referendum would turn out, but it does appear that any result would be extremely close in either direction. Like many of you, I am ready for this saga to end, but I fear we will be hearing about it for another six months. In the meantime, the pound will remain hostage to the latest thoughts on the outcome, with Brexit still resulting in a significant decline, while confidence in Bremain will result in sterling strength.

As an indication of just how remarkable the Brexit story has become, Fed activity has faded from the front pages. We continue to hear from Fed speakers and the consistent message is that the Fed is now in ‘wait-and-see’ mode, with no rate hikes likely in the near future unless economic data indicates that prices are rising sharply. It appears that the Fed is losing faith in its Phillips Curve models, and although there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what should replace them, concerns over runaway inflation based on continued low Unemployment rates are diminishing.

Economic data from around the world continues to moderate, if not outright slow, and while recession remains in the future, it is arguably closer. The upshot is that no central banks are going to consider tightening policy further for quite a while, and the odds favor more policy ease from the big banks instead. As I have consistently written, the FX market remains entirely focused on the Fed without considering the fact that the ECB is in no position to think about raising interest rates later this year and is, in fact, more likely to have to reintroduce QE as the Eurozone economy slows. If the market is beginning to price in rate cuts by the Fed, which it is, then rate cuts by the ECB (or at least QE2) is a given. It is very difficult to see a path where the Fed eases and the ECB doesn’t follow suit, if not lead. This is not a positive outlook for the single currency.

Speaking of easing policy, the PBOC has been at it consistently as growth in China ebbs with no indication they will be reducing these efforts soon. While policy rates remain unchanged, the PBOC has continued to inject excess liquidity into the market there (so far this week they have injected CNY 1.169 Billion) in an effort to bring down short term financing costs for banks. The objective is to help the banks maintain their loan books, especially for those loans that are underperforming. As long as the renminbi remains relatively firm (and although weakening 0.3% overnight remains more than 3.0% from the 7.00 level that is seen as critical in preventing capital outflows), they will be able to continue this easing policy. However, at the point in time that the renminbi begins to weaken (and it will at some point), the PBOC will find its toolkit somewhat more restricted. Remember, despite the fact that so much has occurred in markets and policy circles recently, we are less than three weeks into 2019. There is plenty of time for trader and investor views to change if forecasted activities don’t materialize.

Once again, beyond those three stories, FX remains generally dull. Overall, the dollar is little changed this morning, rising against some currencies (CNY, NZD, RUB, MXN) and falling against others (JPY, EUR, GBP, BRL). The data releases were uninspiring with Eurozone inflation the most noteworthy release but coming in exactly as expected at 1.6% headline and 1.0% core. Those are not inflation rates that quicken the pulse. Yesterday’s Beige Book indicated an increase in uncertainty by a number of businesses but described ongoing decent economic activity. This morning we see Initial Claims (exp 220K) and Philly Fed (10.0), with the latter more likely to be interesting than the former. But for now, FX market attention continues to focus on Brexit first and then the Fed. And today that is not a recipe for excitement! I see little reason, at this point, for the dollar to do much of anything today.

Good luck
Adf

 

If Things Go Astray

The jobs report Friday was great
Which served to confuse the debate
Is growth on the rise?
Or will it downsize?
And how will the Fed acclimate?

The first indication from Jay
Is data continues to say
While growth seems robust
We’ll surely adjust
Our actions, if things go astray

In what can only be described as remarkable, despite the strongest jobs report in nearly a year, handily beating the most optimistic expectations for both job growth and wages, Fed Chairman Jay Powell told the market that the Fed could easily slow the pace of policy tightening if needed. While this may seem incongruous based on the data, it was really a response to several weeks of market gyrations that have been explicitly blamed on the Fed’s ongoing policy normalization procedure. A key concern over this sequence of events is that the data of ‘data dependence’ is actually market indices rather than economic ones. For every analyst and economist who had been looking for Powell to break the cycle of kowtowing to the stock market, Friday was a dark day. For the stock market, however, it was anything but, with the S&P 500 rising 3.4% and the NASDAQ an even more impressive 4.25%. The Fed ‘put’ seems alive and well after a three month hiatus.

So what can we expect going forward? The futures market has removed all pricing for the Fed to raise rates further in 2019, and in fact, has priced in a 50% probability of a 25bp rate cut before the year is over! Think about that. Two weeks ago, the market was priced for two 25bp rate hikes! This is a very large, and rapid, change of opinion. The upshot is that the dollar has come under significant pressure as both traders and investors abandon the view of continued cyclical dominance and start to focus on the US’ structural issues (growing twin deficits). In that scenario, the dollar has much further to fall, with a 10% decline this year well within reason. Equity markets around the world, however, have seen a short-term revival as not only did Powell blink, but also the Chinese continue to aggressively add to their monetary policy ease. And one final positive note was heard from the US-China trade talks in Beijing, where Chinese Vice-Premier, Liu He, President Xi’s top economic official, made a surprise visit to the talks. This was seen as a demonstration of just how much the Chinese want to get a deal done, and are likely willing to offer up more concessions than previously expected to do so. The ongoing weak data from China is clearly starting to have a real impact there.

It is situations like this that make forecasting such a fraught exercise. Based on the information we had available on December 31, none of these market movements seemed possible, let alone likely. But that’s the thing about predictions; they are especially hard when they focus on the future.

As to markets today, while Asian equity markets followed Friday’s US price action higher, the same has not been true in Europe, where the Stoxx 600 is lower by 0.4%. Weighing on the activity in Europe has been weaker than expected German Factory Order data (-1.0%) as well as the re-emergence of the gilets jaunes protests in France, where some 50,000 protestors, at least, made their presence felt over the weekend.

Turning to the dollar, it is down broadly, with every G10 currency stronger vs. the greenback and most EMG currencies as well. If the market is correct in its revised expectations regarding the Fed, then the dollar will remain under pressure in the short run. Of course, if the Fed stops tightening policy, and we continue to see Eurozone malaise, you can be certain that the ECB is going to be backing away from any rate rises this year. I have maintained that the ECB would not actually raise interest rates until 2020 at the earliest, and I see no reason to change that view. With oil prices hovering well below year ago levels, headline inflation has no reason to rise. At the same time, despite Signor Draghi’s false hope regarding eventual wage inflation, core CPI in the Eurozone seems pegged at 1.0%. As long as this remains the case, it will be extremely difficult for Draghi, or his successor, to consider raising rates there. As that becomes clearer to the market, the euro will likely begin to suffer. However, until then, I can see the euro grinding back toward 1.18 or so.

One last thing to remember is that despite the Christmas hiatus, the Brexit situation remains front and center in the UK, with Parliament scheduled to vote on the current deal early next week. At this time, there is no indication that PM May is going to find the votes to carry the day, although as the clock ticks down, it is entirely possible that some nays turn into yeas in order to prevent the economic catastrophe that is being predicted by so many. The pound remains beholden to this situation, but I believe the likely outcomes are quite asymmetric with a 2-3% rally all we will see if the deal passes, while an 8% decline is quite viable in the event the UK exits the EU with no deal.

As to data this week, it will not be nearly as exciting as last week, but we see both the FOMC Minutes on Wednesday and CPI on Friday. In addition, we hear from seven Fed speakers across nine speeches, including Chairman Powell again, as well as vice-Chairman Clarida.

Today ISM non-Manufacturing 59.0
Tomorrow NFIB Small Business Optimism 105.0
  JOLT’s Job Openings 7.063M
Wednesday FOMC Minutes  
Thursday Initial Claims 225K
Friday CPI -0.1% (1.9% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.2% Y/Y)

All in all, it seems that the current market narrative is focused solely on the Fed changing its tune while the rest of the central banking community is ignored. As long as this is the case, look for a rebound in equity markets and the dollar to remain under pressure. But you can be certain that if the Fed needs to hold rates going forward because of weakening economic data, the rest of the world will be in even more dire straits, and central banks elsewhere will be back to easing policy as well. In the end, while there may be short-term weakness, I continue to like the dollar’s chances throughout the year as the US continues to lead the global economy.

Good luck
Adf

A Year So Dreary

(With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

‘Eighteen was a year so dreary, traders studied hara-kiri
As they pondered every theory, algorithm and z-score.
Interest rates were slowly rising, growth no longer synchronizing,
Brexit’s failures mesmerizing, plus we got a real trade war
Italy, meanwhile explained that budget limits were a bore
Europe looked aghast and swore.

Thus instead of markets booming, (which most pundits were assuming)
What we got was all consuming angst too great to just ignore
Equities reduced to rubble, high-yield bonds saw their spreads double
As the Fed inspired bubble sprung a leak through the back door
Balance sheet adjustment proved to be more harsh than heretofore
Stock investors cussed and swore.

But the New Year’s now commencing, with the markets’, trouble, sensing
Thus predictions I’m dispensing might not be what you wished for
Life’s not likely to get better, ‘specially for the leveraged debtor
Who ought write an open letter to Chair Powell and implore
Him to stop his raising rates so assets grow just like before
Would that he would raise no more.

Pundits far and wide all wonder if Chair Powell’s made a blunder
Or if he will knuckle under to entreaties from offshore
Sadly for mainstream investors, lest our growth decays and festers
Powell will ignore protestors though they’ll raise a great uproar
Thus far he has made it clear that neutral’s what he’s shooting for
Jay, I fear, sees two hikes more.

At the same time Signor Draghi, who’s EU is weak and groggy
Using words in no way foggy, told us QE’s dead, he swore!
Plus he strongly recommended that when summer, this year, ended
Raising rates would be just splendid for those nations at the core
Even though the PIGS keep struggling, this he’s willing to ignore
Higher rates might be in store.

Lately, though, are growing rumors, that six billion world consumers
Are no longer in good humors, thus are buying less, not more
This result should be concerning for those bankers who are yearning
Rates to tighten, overturning years when rates were on the floor
Could it be what we will see is QE4 as an encore?
Maybe low rates are called for.

What about the budget shortfall, in the States that’s sure to snowball
If our growth rate has a pratfall like it’s done ten times before?
While this would be problematic, growth elsewhere would crash to static
Thus it would be quite pragmatic to assume the buck will soar
Don’t believe those euro bulls that think rate hikes there are in store
Christmas next we’re One-Oh-Four.

Now to Britain where the story of its Brexit’s been so gory
Leaving Labour and the Tories in an all out civic war
Though the deal that’s on the table, has its flaws, it would help cable
But when PM May’s unable to find votes here’s what’s in store
Look for cable to go tumbling well below its lows of yore
Next December, One-One-Four.

Time to focus on the East, where China’s growth just might have ceased
Or slowed quite sharply at the least, from damage due to Trump’s trade war
Xi, however’s not fainthearted, and more ease he has imparted
Trying to get growth restarted, which is really quite a chore
But with leverage so extended, how much more can they pay for?
Not as much as days of yore.

With growth there now clearly slowing, public cash is freely flowing,
Banks are told, be easygoing, toward the Chinese firms onshore
But the outcome’s not conclusive, and the only thing conducive
To success for Xi is use of weakness in the yuan offshore
I expect a steady drift much lower to Seven point Four
Only this and nothing more.

Now it’s time for analyzing, ten-year yields, so tantalizing
With inflation hawks advising that those yields will jump once more
But inflation doves are banking that commodities keep tanking
Helping bonds and Bunds when ranking outcomes, if you’re keeping score
Here the doves have better guidance and the price of bonds will soar
At what yields will they sell for?

Slowing growth and growing fear will help them both throughout the year
And so it’s not too cavalier to look for lower yields in store
Treasuries will keep on rising, and for now what I’m surmising
Is a yield of Two point Five is likely come Aught Twenty’s door
Bunds will see their yields retreat to Zero, that’s right, to the floor
Lower ten-year yields, look for.

In a world where growth is slowing, earnings data won’t be glowing
Red ink will, for sure, be flowing which investors can’t ignore
P/E ratios will suffer, and most firms will lack a buffer
Which means things will just get tougher for investors than before
What of central banks? Won’t they be able, prices, to restore?
Not this time, not like before.

In the States what I foresee is that the large cap S&P
Can fall to Seventeen Fifty by year end next, if not before
Europe’s like to see the same, the Stoxx 600 getting maimed
Two Fifty is where I proclaim that index will next year explore
Large percentage falls in both are what investors all abhor
But its what I see in store.

Oil’s price of late’s been tumbling, which for drillers has been humbling
OPEC meanwhile keeps on fumbling, each chance to, its strength, restore
But with global growth now slowing, storage tanks are overflowing
Meanwhile tankers, oceangoing, keep on pumping ship to shore
And more drilling in the States means lower prices are in store
Forty bucks I now call for.

One more thing I ought consider, Bitcoin, which had folks on Twitter
Posting many Tweets quite bitter as it tumbled ever more
Does this coin have true potential? Will it become influential?
In debates quite consequential ‘bout where assets you may store?
While the blockchain is important, Hodlers better learn the score
Bitcoin… folks won’t pay much for

So instead come winter next, Bitcoin Hodlers will be vexed
As it suffers from effects of slowing growth they can’t ignore
While it might be worth Two Grand, the end result is that demand
For Bitcoin will not soon expand, instead its like to shrink some more
Don’t be fooled in thinking you’ll soon use it at the grocery store
Bitcoin… folks won’t pay much for

Fin’lly here’s an admonition, if these views do reach fruition
Every single politician will blame someone else for sure
I’m not hoping for this outcome, I just fear the depths we might plumb
Will result in falling income and recession we’ll explore
So if risk you’re managing, more hedging now is what’s called for
Fear and risk are what will soar!

For you folks who’ve reached the end, please know I seek not to offend
But rather try to comprehend the state of markets and some more
If you read my thoughts last year, I tried to make it very clear
That economic trouble’s near, and so that caution is called for
Mostly though I hope the time invested has not made you sore
For you, my readers, I adore!

Have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year
Adf

 

There Is No Plan B

Said Europe, “there is no Plan B”
This deal is the best that you’ll see
Opponents keep saying
The deal is dismaying
Because it cedes full sovereignty

It turns out last week was quite a difficult one in markets, with equity prices around the world under significant pressure as concerns continue to grow regarding growth prospects everywhere. In fact, for the first time we heard Fed Chair Jay Powell moderate his description of the US economy’s growth trajectory. It seems that the clear slowing in the housing sector combined with less positive IP and Durable Goods data has been enough to alert the Fed to the possibility that all may not be right with the world. While there is no indication that the Fed will delay its December rate hike, questions about 2019’s rate path have certainly been debated more aggressively with the consensus now believing that we can see a pause before just two more rate hikes next year. With the Powell Fed indicating that they are truly data dependent (as opposed to the Yellen Fed which liked the term, but not the reality), if we continue to see slowing US growth, then it is quite reasonable to expect a shallower trajectory of rate hikes in the US.

But that was last week’s news and as the new week begins, the biggest story is that the EU has agreed the terms of the Brexit negotiations that were just completed two weeks ago. The entire process now moves on to the next stage, where all 28 parliaments need to approve the deal. Given the terms of the deal, which has the opportunity to lock the UK into the EU’s customs union with no say in its evolution, it would be surprising if any of the other 27 members reject the deal. However, it remains unclear that the deal will be accepted by the UK parliament, where PM May does not hold a majority and rules because of a deal with the Northern Irish DUP. Of course the irony here is that Northern Ireland is the area of greatest contention in the deal, given the competing desires of, on the one hand, no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and on the other hand, the desire to be able to separate the two entities for tariff and immigration purposes.

At this stage, it seems there is at best a fifty-fifty chance that the deal makes it through the UK parliament, as the opposition Labour Party has lambasted the deal (albeit for different reasons) in the same manner as the hard-line Brexiteers. But political outcomes rarely follow sound logic, and so at this point, all we can do is wait until the vote, which is expected to be on December 12. What we do know is that the FX market is not sold on the deal’s prospects as despite the announcement by the EU, the pound has managed to rally just 0.25% today and remains, at 1.2850, much closer to the bottom of its recent trading range than the top. I continue to believe that a no vote will be tantamount to a hard Brexit and that the pound will suffer further from here in that event. However, if parliament accepts the deal, I would expect the pound to rally to around1.35 initially, although its future beyond that move is likely to be lower anyway.

Last week’s risk-off behavior led to broad-based dollar strength, with the greenback rallying on the order of 1.0% against both its G10 and major EMG counterparts. While that movement pales in comparison to the rout in equity markets seen last week, it was a consistent one nonetheless. This morning, though, the dollar is under a modicum of pressure as the fear evident last week has abated.

For example, despite softer than expected German IFO data (102.0 vs. exp 102.3), the euro has rallied 0.25% alongside the pound. A big part of this story seems to be that the Italians have made several comments about a willingness to work with a slightly smaller budget deficit in 2019 than the 2.4% first estimated. While the euro has clearly benefitted from this sentiment, the real winner has been Italian debt (where 10-year BTP’s are 17bps lower) and Italian stocks, where the MIB is higher by 2.7%. In fact, that equity sentiment has spread throughout the continent as virtually every European market is higher by 1% or more. We also saw strength in APAC equity markets (Nikkei +0.75%, Hang Seng +1.75%) although Shanghai didn’t join in the fun, slipping a modest 0.15%. The point is that market sentiment this morning is clearly far better than what was seen last week.

Looking ahead to the data this week, the latest PCE data is due as well as the FOMC Minutes, and we have a number of Fed speakers, including Chairman Powell on Wednesday.

Tuesday Case-Shiller Home Prices 5.3%
  Consumer Confidence 135.5
Wednesday Q3 GDP 3.5%
  New Home Sales 578K
Thursday Initial Claims 219K
  Personal Income 0.4%
  Personal Spending 0.4%
  PCE 0.2% (2.1% Y/Y)
  Core PCE 0.2% (1.9% Y/Y)
Friday Chicago PMI 58.3

In addition to Powell, we hear from NY Fed President Williams as well as Vice-Chairman Richard Clarida, both of whom will be closely watched. Given the recent change in tone to both the US data (slightly softer) and the comments from Fed speakers (slightly less hawkish), I think the key this week will be the Minutes and the speeches. Investors will be extremely focused on how the evolution in the Fed’s thinking is progressing. But it is not just the Fed. Remember, the ECB has promised to end QE come December despite the fact that recent data has shown slowing growth in the Eurozone.

The greatest fear central bankers currently have is that their economy rolls into a recession while interest rates are already at “emergency” levels and monetary policy remains extremely loose. After all, if rates are negative, what can they do to stimulate growth? This has been one of the forces driving central bankers to hew to a more hawkish line lately as they are all keen to get ahead of the curve. The problem they face collectively is that the data is already beginning to show the first indications of slowing down more broadly despite the continuation of ultra easy monetary policy. In the event that the global economy slows more rapidly than currently forecast, there is likely to be a significant increase in market volatility across equities, bonds and currencies. In this case, I am not using the term volatility as a euphemism for declines, rather I mean look for much more intraday movement and much more uncertainty in expectations. It is this scenario that fosters the need for hedgers to maintain their hedge programs at all times. Having been in the markets for quite a long time, I assure you things can get much worse before they get better.

But for today, there is no reason to believe that will be the case, rather the dollar seems likely to drift slightly lower as traders position for the important stuff later this week.

Good luck
Adf

Hardliners Abhorred

According to sources, it seems
That Minister May and her teams
Have neared the accord
Hardliners abhorred
As they’ll need to give up their dreams

While there is much in store for markets this week from the US, between the midterm elections tomorrow and the FOMC meeting on Thursday, today’s biggest headline is really about the UK and Brexit. Allegedly, albeit with no corroboration from either side, the entire UK will remain in the customs union, not just Northern Ireland, in the immediate aftermath of Brexit as the two sides continue to work out the eventual solution. May’s idea is that she will present this to her cabinet with an ultimatum to approve it and send it to Parliament in order to get the process completed before the end of the year. And while the other 27 members of the EU must also ratify the deal, the current belief is that there will be limited problems doing that. However, this all remains speculation at this point, except for the fact that May and her cabinet have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow where more details should become available.

It cannot be surprising that the pound has rallied on the news, jumping 60 pips on the open although since giving back about half that original gain. The broad consensus in the market is that any deal will result in the pound trading sharply higher, although I am skeptical that it can stay much above 1.35 for any meaningful amount of time. Even if the Brexit monkey climbs off the pound’s back, the market will still have to account for the fact that UK growth is slowing more sharply than its peers and that the pressure for the BOE to raise rates will likely ebb accordingly. But for now it remains speculation as to whether a deal is imminent or not. And as long as that uncertainty remains, the pound will be beholden to the latest story or headline on the subject.

Away from the pound though, the dollar is starting to show some life at this stage of the morning. Friday’s employment report, with NFP printing at 250K and AHE at 3.1%, confirmed that growth in the US continues to outperform virtually every other region in the world, and will have done nothing to dissuade the Fed from continuing its rate hiking strategy. While there is no expectation of any activity by the Fed on Thursday, the market probability for a rate hike in December remains above 80%. As long as US data continues to outpace that of the rest of the world, it seems unlikely that the Fed is going to stop.

Regarding the US midterm elections, clearly there is the potential for a market reaction depending on the results and whether the Republican party maintains its hold on the House of Representatives. If not, a split government (it is assumed that they will retain the Senate) will clearly impede the president’s plans for further economic stimulus programs and reintroduce brinksmanship to things like budget discussions. Net, given the current economic situation, I expect that after a kneejerk response, it is unlikely to have a significant impact for a while. However, it does open the possibility of more inflammatory rhetoric, including the threat of impeachment hearings, which may well detract from the dollar’s performance going forward. As we learned following President Trump’s election, markets pay close attention to significant electoral changes. With this in mind, it is important to remember that many pundits have been forecasting the Democrats will retake the House, so if the Republicans hold on, even with a much smaller majority, that may be an outcome not currently priced into the market. My point is that there is still great uncertainty to the outcome, and it is not entirely clear the FX impact that will result.

Away from those stories, the biggest news we saw was the weaker than expected Caixin PMI data from China. The Services print was 50.8 with the Composite number at just 50.5. The latter was at its weakest in more than two years and is an indication that the trade conflict with the US is continuing to take a toll on the Chinese economy. In addition, there were several articles in the press this weekend explaining that despite President Trump’s tweets last week, the meeting between Xi and Trump is really just going to get the trade negotiations restarted. There is no deal imminent. It should be no surprise that the renminbi has weakened during the session, especially after last week’s remarkable rally. So the 0.3% decline this morning needs to be kept in context, and simply represents a move back toward its previous trend.

Broadly speaking, the dollar is performing well against the EMG bloc today with MXN (-0.4%), INR (-0.9%) and KRW (-0.5%) indicative of the type of market activity ongoing.

Looking ahead to the upcoming data, we see that beyond the Fed and election, there is precious little that we will learn.

Today ISM Non-Manufacturing 59.3
Tuesday JOLT’s Jobs Report 7.1M
Thursday Initial Claims 214K
  FOMC Rate Decision 2.25%
Friday PPI 0.3% (2.5% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)
  Michigan Sentiment 98.0
  Wholesale Inventories 0.3%

So between the US elections and PM May’s cabinet meeting with its chance to make real Brexit headway, there is much to look for this week. But the data will not be the story. As to today’s session, APAC equity markets have reversed some of last week’s gains after it became clear that trade situation wasn’t going to improve in the very short term. US equity futures are pointing lower, although Europe is modestly higher. It all strikes me as though traders are biding their time awaiting the big news, which makes sense. Look for a dull session today, but with the chance for some fireworks tomorrow, at least in the pound if something happens in the cabinet meeting.

Good luck
Adf

Real Strides

In Twenty-sixteen when we learned
That Britain, the EU, had spurned
The pound took a fall
While casting a pall
On how future growth might be earned

For nearly two years chaos reigned
While Brexiteers strongly maintained
A deal will be made
With no one betrayed
And there is still much to be gained

Well last night it seems that both sides
Have finally made some real strides
It’s no real surprise
To see the pound rise
As delegates closed the divides

The big story this morning is that there seemed to be real movement in the Brexit negotiations with an agreement “95% complete” according to the UK government. The key was an agreement regarding financial services, obviously an enormous issue for the UK, whereby UK financial firms would still be given access to the EU based on the “equivalence” of regulations. While this is not quite as robust as the current situation, being within the bloc, it is seen as sufficient to allow continued cross border access in both directions. Of course, the Irish border situation remains outstanding, but there is talk that progress has been made there and that the benefit of a finance deal will be sufficient to offset hard-line concerns over Ireland.

The market response was immediate with the pound jumping more than 1.0% when the headlines hit. If a Brexit deal is reached, the pound likely has further to rise as there is no question it has suffered based on the increasing likelihood of a no-deal situation. That said, a full-throated rally seems unlikely. There are still many other issues that are going to weigh on the pound, notably the dollar’s underlying strength as well as UK economic malaise. In fact, data early this morning showed that the UK manufacturing PMI fell much more than expected to a reading of just 51.1, its lowest reading since the month after the Brexit vote. Obviously, this data did not include the positive news from today, but it is indicative of how the UK economy continues to slow along with the rest of the world. If a deal is signed, I expect the pound could rally another few percent, but anything more than 1.35 would seem to be a stretch based on the economic fundamentals.

But the Brexit story set the tone for the FX market as the dollar is softer across the board, in many other cases having fallen by more than 1% as well. For example, the euro has rallied by 0.6% amid general enthusiasm generated by yesterday’s global stock rebound. We have also seen both Aussie (+1.1%) and Kiwi (+1.4%) jump sharply, as commodity prices stabilize and risk appetite improves.

This theme was also made evident by movements in government bonds around the world, where, for example, Treasury yields are 10bps higher over the last two sessions. In addition, EMG currencies, which had a terrible month in October, have shown some life this morning. Today we see the Mexican peso has rallied 0.8%, while South Africa’s rand is up 1.5%. Even the Chinese yuan, which has been closely scrutinized due to its approaching the critical 7.00 level, has rallied today by 0.4%, its largest gain in more than three weeks. In fact, most EMG currencies are higher, with many gaining more than 0.5%. In other words, it has been a broad-based USD decline. After a strong multi-week run in the dollar, it can be no surprise that a correction has occurred.

Turning to the data situation, yesterday’s ADP number was quite strong, 227K, and the Employment Cost Index (ECI) showed that wages are rising at a 3.1% clip Y/Y, the fastest in several years. While yesterday’s Chicago PMI disappointed slightly at 58.4, that remains a very firm reading historically. Looking forward to today’s session, we hear from the BOE, where policy is forecast to be unchanged, and we will get updated economic forecasts. If a Brexit deal is signed, look for the UK to raise rates several more times next year as there should be a positive growth impact. Then from the US we see Initial Claims (exp 213K), Nonfarm Productivity (2.2%), Unit Labor Costs (1.0%) and ISM Manufacturing (59.0). While these will be seen as important, tomorrow’s payroll data is still going to be the focus, especially the Average Hourly Earnings (AHE) number. With the ECI pointing higher, if AHE shows the same thing, watch for more talk of the Fed becoming even more aggressive.

Ultimately, the US data picture continues to point to strength in the US economy, especially relative to what we are seeing throughout the rest of the world. The EU is slowing, the UK is slowing, China is slowing and so are most other places. As long as this remains the situation, it is hard to expect the dollar to retreat in any meaningful way. While no market moves in a straight line, the dollar’s trend remains higher.

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