Don’t Be Fooled

Said Christine Lagarde, don’t be fooled
That we’re on hold can be overruled
If data gets worse
Or else the reverse
Then our policies can be retooled

Madame Lagarde was in fine fettle yesterday between her press conference in Frankfurt following the ECB’s universally expected decision to leave policy unchanged, and her appearance on a panel at the WEF in Davos. The essence of her message is that the ECB’s policy review is critical to help lead the bank forward for the next decades, but that there is no goal in sight as they start the review, other than to try to determine how best to fulfill their mandate. She was quite clear, as well, that the market should not get complacent regarding policy activity this year. Currently, the market is pricing for no policy movement in 2020. However, Lagarde emphasized that at each meeting the committee would evaluate the current situation, based on the most recent data, and respond accordingly.

With that as a backdrop, it is interesting to look at this morning’s flash PMI data, which showed that while manufacturing across the Eurozone may be starting to improve slightly, overall growth remains desultory at best. Interestingly it was France that was the bigger laggard this month, with its Services and Composite data both falling well below expectations, and printing well below December’s numbers. Germany was more in line with expectations, but the situation overall is not one of unadulterated economic health. The euro, not surprisingly has suffered further after the weak data, falling another 0.2% this morning which takes the year-to-date performance to a 1.6% decline. While that is certainly not the worst performer in the G10 (Australia holds the lead for now) it is indicative that despite everything happening in the US politically, the economy continues to lead the G10 pack.

Perhaps a bit more surprising this morning is the British pound’s weakness. It has fallen 0.3% despite clearly more robust PMI data than had been expected. Manufacturing PMI rose to 49.8, well above expectations and the highest level since last April. Meanwhile, the Composite PMI jumped to 52.4, its highest point since September 2018, and indicative of a pretty substantial post-election rebound in the economy. Even better was that some of the sub-indices pointed to even faster growth ahead, and the econometricians have declared that this points to UK GDP growth of 0.2% in Q1, again, better than previously expected. Remember, the BOE meets next Thursday, and a week ago, the market had been pricing in a 70% probability of a 25bp rate cut. This morning that probability is down to 47% and the debate amongst analysts has warmed up on both sides. My view is the recent data removes the urgency on the BOE’s part, and given how little ammunition they have left, with the base rate sitting at 0.75%, they will refrain from moving. That means there is room for the pound to recoup some of its recent losses, perhaps trading back toward the 1.3250 level where we started the year.

Away from those stories, the coronavirus remains a major story with the Chinese government now restricting travel in cities with a total population of more than 40 million. While the WHO has not seen fit to declare a global health emergency, the latest count shows more than 800 cases reported with 27 deaths. The other noteworthy thing is the growing level of anger being displayed on social media in China, with the government getting blamed for everything that is happening. (I guess this is the downside of taking credit for everything good that happens). At any rate, if the spread is contained at its current levels, it is unlikely to have a major impact on the Chinese economy overall. However, if the virus spreads more aggressively, and there are more shutdowns of cities and travel restrictions, it is very likely to start impacting the data. With Chinese markets closed until next Friday, our only indicator in real-time will be CNH, which this morning is unchanged. Watch it closely as weakness there next week could well be an indicator that the situation on the ground in China is getting worse.

But overall, today’s market activity is focused on adding risk. Japanese equities, the only ones open in Asia overnight, stabilized after yesterday’s sharp declines. And European equities are roaring this morning, with pretty much every market on the Continent higher by more than 1.0%. US futures are pointing higher as well, albeit just 0.25%. In the bond market, Treasuries and bunds are essentially unchanged, although perhaps leaning ever so slightly toward higher rates. And gold is under pressure today, along with both the yen and Swiss franc. As I said, risk is back in favor.

There is neither data nor Fedspeak today, so the FX market will need to take its cues from other sources. If equities continue to rally, look for increased risk appetite leading to higher EMG currencies and arguably a generally softer dollar. What about the impeachment? Well, to date it has had exactly no impact on markets and I see no reason for that to change.

Good luck and good weekend
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Turning the Screws

There once was a great city state
That introduced rules and debate
However its heirs
Lead muddled affairs
Thus Roman woes proliferate

Meanwhile from the UK, the news
Gave Johnson’s opponents the blues
Improvements reported
In confidence thwarted
The Sterling bears, turning the screws

Italian politics has once again risen to the top of the list of concerns in the Eurozone. This morning, 5-Star leader, Luigi Di Maio, is on the cusp of resigning from the government, thus forcing yet another election later this year. The overriding concern from the rest of Europe is that the man leading the polls, Silvio Matteo, is a right-wing populist and will be quick to clash with the rest of the EU on issues ranging from fiscal spending to immigration policy. In other words, he will not be welcome by the current leading lights as his views, and by extension the views of the millions who vote for him, do not align with the rest of the EU leadership. Of course, there has been steady dissent from that leadership for many months, albeit barely reported on this side of the Atlantic. For example, the gilets jaunes continue to protest every week around the country, as they voice their disagreement with French President Macron’s attempts to change the rules on issues ranging from pensions to taxes to labor regulations. And they have been protesting for more than a year now, although the destructive impact has been greatly reduced from the early days. As well, there are ongoing protests in the Catalonia region of Spain with separatists continuing to try to make their case. The point is that things in Europe are not quite as hunky-dory as the leadership would have you believe.

However, for today, it is Italy and the potential for more dissent regarding how Europe should be managed going forward. The result has been the euro reversing its early 0.25% gains completely, actually trading slightly lower on the day right now. While there is no doubt the recent Eurozone data has been better than expected, it remains pretty awful on an absolute basis. But markets respond to movements at the margin, so absent non-market events, like Italian political ructions, it is fair to expect the euro to benefit on this data. In fact, there is an ongoing evolution in the analyst community as a number of them have begun to change their ECB views, with several implying that the ECB’s next move will be policy tightening, and some major Investment Banks now forecasting 10-year German bunds to trade back up to 0.0% or even higher by the end of the year. We shall see. Certainly, if Madame Lagarde hints at tighter policy tomorrow, the euro will benefit. But remember, the ECB is still all-in on QE, purchasing €20 billion per month, so trying to combine the need to continue QE alongside a discussion of tighter policy seems a pretty big ask. At this point, the euro remains under a great deal of pressure overall, but I do expect this pressure to ebb as the year progresses and see the dollar decline eventually.

As to the UK, the hits there just keep on coming. This morning, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which is essentially the British Chamber of Commerce, reported that both orders and price data improved modestly more than expected, but more importantly their Optimism Index jumped to +23 from last month’s -44, which is actually its highest level since April 2014, well before Brexit was even a gleam in then-PM David Cameron’s eye. Not surprisingly, the pound has rallied further on this positive jolt, jumping 0.5% this morning and is the leading performer against the dollar overall today. It should also be no surprise that the futures market has reduced its pricing for a BOE rate cut next week to a 47% probability, down from 62% yesterday and 70% on Friday. Ultimately, I think that Carney and company would rather not cut if at all possible, given how little room they have with the base rate at 0.75% currently. If we see solid PMI flash data on Friday, I would virtually rule out any chance for a cut next week, and expect to see the pound rally accordingly.

Away from those two stories though, market activity has been far less interesting. The rest of the G10, beyond the pound, is generally within 10bps of yesterday’s closing levels. As to the Emerging markets, the big winner has been ZAR, which has rallied 0.65% after CPI rose to 4.0%, although that remains well below the midpoint of the SARB’s target range of 3.0% – 6.0%. Expectations are for continued policy ease and continue investment inflows to help support the currency. But other than the rand, it has been far less interesting in the FX market.

The ongoing fears over the spread of the coronavirus seem to be abating as China has been aggressively working to arrest the situation, canceling flights out of Wuhan and being remarkably transparent with respect to every new case reported. In fact, equity markets around the world have collectively decided that this issue was a false alarm and we have seen stocks rally pretty much everywhere (Italy excepted) with US futures pointing higher as well.

And that really sums up the day. The ongoing impeachment remains outside of the framework of the market as nobody believes that President Trump will be removed from office. The WEF participants continue to demonstrate their collective ability to pontificate about everything, but do nothing. And so, we need to look ahead to today’s data, and probably more importantly to equity market performance for potential catalysts for movement. Alas, the only US data of note is Existing Home Sales (exp 5.43M), something that rarely moves markets. This leaves us reliant on equity market sentiment to drive the FX market, and with risk definitively on this morning, I expect to see EMG currencies benefit while the dollar suffers mildly.

Good luck
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Growth Can Be Spurred

In England this morning we heard
From Vlieghe, the BOE’s third
Incumbent to say
That given his way
He’d cut rates so growth can be spurred

The pound is under pressure this morning after Gertjan Vlieghe became the third MPC member in the past week, after Carney and Tenreyo, to explain that a rate cut may be just the ticket at this point in time. Adding these three to the two members who had previously voted to cut rates, Haskel and Saunders, brings the number of doves to five, a majority on the committee. It can be no surprise that the pound has suffered, nor that interest rate markets have increased the probability of a 25bp rate cut at the January 30 meeting from below 25% last week to 50% now. Adding to the story was the release of worse than expected November IP (-1.2%) and GDP (-0.3%) data, essentially emphasizing the concerns that the UK economy has a long way to go to recover from the Brexit uncertainty.

However, before you turn too negative on the UK economy, remember that this is backward-looking data, as November was more than 6 weeks ago, and in the interim we have had the benefit of the resounding electoral victory by Boris Johnson. This is not to say that the UK economy cannot deteriorate further, just that there has been a palpable change in the tone of commentary in the UK as Brexit uncertainty has receded. Granted, the question of the trade deal with the EU, which is allegedly supposed to be signed by the end of 2020, remains open. But it is very difficult for market participants to look that far ahead and try to anticipate the outcome. And if anything, Boris has the fact that he was able to renegotiate the original Brexit deal in just six weeks’ time working in his favor. While previous assumptions had been that trade deals take years and years to negotiate, it is clear that Boris doesn’t subscribe to that theory. Personally, I wouldn’t bet against him getting it done.

But for now, the pound is the worst performer of the session, and given today’s news, that should be no surprise. However, I maintain my view that current levels represent an excellent opportunity for payables hedgers to add to hedges.

The other mover of note in the G10 space is the yen, which has fallen 0.4% after traders were able to take advantage of a Japanese holiday last night (Coming-of-age Day) and the associated reduced liquidity to push the dollar above a key technical resistance point at 109.72. Stop-loss orders at that level led to a quick jump at 4:00 this morning, and given the broad risk-on attitude in markets (equity markets worldwide continue to rebound from concerns over further Middle East flare ups), it certainly feels like traders are going to push the dollar up to 110, a level not seen since May. However, the other eight currencies in the G10 have been unable to generate any excitement whatsoever and are very close to unchanged this morning.

In the EMG space, Indonesia’s rupiah is once again the leader in the clubhouse, rising a further 0.7% after the central bank reiterated it would allow the currency to appreciate and following an announcement by the UAE that it would make a large investment in the nation’s (Indonesia’s) sovereign wealth fund. The resultant rally, to the rupiah’s strongest level in almost a year, has been impressive, but there is no reason to believe that it cannot continue for another 5% before finding a new home. This is especially true if we continue to hear good things regarding the US-China trade situation. Trade has also underpinned the second-best performer of the day in this space, KRW, which has rallied 0.5%, on the trade story.

While those are the key stories thus far this session, we do have a full week’s worth of data to anticipate, led by CPI, Retail Sales and Housing data.

Tuesday NFIB Small Biz Optimism 104.9
  CPI 0.3% (2.4% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)
Wednesday PPI 0.2% (1.3% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (1.3% Y/Y)
  Empire Manufacturing 3.5
  Fed’s Beige Book  
Thursday Initial Claims 218K
  Philly Fed 3.0
  Retail Sales 0.3%
  -ex autos 0.5%
  Business Inventories -0.1%
Friday Housing Starts 1380K
  Building Permits 1460K
  IP -0.1%
  Capacity Utilization 77.0%
  Michigan Sentiment 99.3
  JOLTS Job Openings 7.264M

Source: Bloomberg

So clearly there is plenty on the docket with an opportunity to move markets, and we also hear from another six Fed speakers. While you and I may be concerned about rising prices, it has become abundantly clear that the Fed is desperate to see them rise further, so the only possible reaction to a CPI miss would be on the weak side, which would likely see an equity rally on the assumption that even more stimulus is coming. Otherwise, I think Retail Sales will be the data point of choice for the market, with weakness here also leading to further equity strength on the assumption that the Fed will add to their current policy.

And it is hard to come up with a good reason for any Fed speaker to waver from the current mantra of no rate cuts, but ongoing support for the repo market and a growing balance sheet. And of course, that underlies my thesis that the dollar will eventually fall. Just not today it seems!

Good luck
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A True Blue Pangloss

Right now there’s a group of old men
(Though Europe has proffered a hen)
Who feel it’s their right
To hog the limelight
When talking pounds, dollars or yen

Here’s a thought for the conspiracy theorists amongst you. Do you think that the cabal of central bankers get annoyed when something other than their actions and words are responsible for moving markets? And so yesterday they determined it was Carney’s turn to make comments that would dominate the financial wires. I mean, war in the Middle East is completely out of the central bankers’ control, which means they have to be reactive in the event that market moves start to become uncomfortable (i.e. stock prices fall). When you are the leader of a G10 central bank, a key part of your role is to make sure that traders and investors jump at your every word (or so it seems) so if the investment community is worrying about something like war, the central bankers are just not very relevant. And they HATE that! While, of course, this is somewhat tongue in cheek, it is remarkable how quickly we hear from a major central banker after market activity that has been focused on non-monetary issues.

Mark Carney, the Old Lady’s boss
Explained, like a true blue Pangloss
That under the rules
They’d plenty of tools
To ease two percent at a toss

At any rate, arguably, as the relief rally continues, the biggest news overnight was a speech by BOE Governor Carney indicating that despite the fact that the base rate is currently set at 0.75%, the BOE has the capability, if necessary, to ease policy by an effective 250bps through rate cuts, more QE and forward guidance. Interestingly, if you read the speech, he doesn’t say that is what they are going to do, although two MPC members have voted for a rate cut already, he is merely responding to the critics who claim the central banks have no ammunition left to fight an eventual downturn in economic activity. Cable traders, however, must have heard the following: we are going to ease policy immediately, at least based on the fact that the pound is today’s worst performing currency, having fallen 0.65% as I type, and taking its decline thus far in 2020 to nearly 2.0%.

At the same time, the central bank cabal should be pleased because equity markets around the world are rallying aggressively, mostly on the idea that a war between the US and Iran is not imminent, and tangentially on the idea that the central banks remain adamant that they have plenty of ammunition left to keep easing monetary policy ad infinitum.

And that’s really the story, isn’t it? Markets remain almost completely beholden to central bank activity and central bank comments. As long as the prevailing view is that any decline in equity markets is an aberration and will be addressed immediately, we are going to see global equity markets rise. You cannot really fight that story. However, when it comes to the FX markets, there is slightly more opportunity for diversion amongst countries as each nation is likely to add differing amounts of stimulus, thus the relative value of one currency vs. another can react to those differences.

After all, looking at the UK, for example, the combination of the imminent Brexit deal and reduction in policy uncertainty as well as Carney’s comments that the BOE has plenty of room to ease has been more than sufficient to support the FTSE 100, which is higher by 0.6% this morning. And of course, part and parcel of that movement is the pound’s weakness. In fact, I believe this year is going to be all about relative policy ease, at least in the G10 space, with the Fed on track to ease more than any other nation via their not QE and repo programs. And that is why, as the year progresses, I continue to expect the dollar to decline. But so far this year, that has not been the narrative.

With this in mind, a look at the overnight price action shows that equity markets around the world have looked great (Nikkei +2.3%, Shanghai +0.9%, DAX +1.3%, CAC +0.45%) and haven assets have suffered (JPY -0.3%, -0.9% since Tuesday; gold -0.6%; and Treasuries +5bps since yesterday morning). A diminished chance of war and talk of easier policy have worked wonders for risk appetites. Can all this continue? As long as central banks keep playing the same tune they have for the past decade, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it to stop.

Meanwhile, the dollar has generally been going gangbusters this year, up against all its G10 counterparts, although having a more mixed performance in the EMG space. In truth, US data so far has generally been beating expectations with yesterday’s ADP print of 202K (with a big revision higher for the previous month) the latest proof of that theory. Obviously, Friday’s payroll report will be carefully watched to see if job growth remains abundant, and perhaps more importantly, to see if wages continue to rise. So for the time being, it seems that the FX market is focused on the economic data, and the US data has generally been the best of the bunch, hence the dollar’s strength.

This morning, the only piece of data is Initial Claims (exp 220K) which during payroll week is generally ignored. This means that the dollar’s ongoing short term strength is likely to continue to manifest itself until we get a bad number, or we hear, more clearly, that the Fed is going to ease. I continue to believe that payables hedgers should be taking advantage of what, I believe, will be short term dollar strength. But there is a long way to go this year.

Good luck
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New Brexit Day

In Britain and in the EU
They finally made a breakthrough
Three months from Thursday
Is New Brexit Day
Will England, at last, bid adieu?

So French President Macron finally agreed what we all knew he would agree, that the UK will get another three-month Brexit extension. The question now is whether or not the UK will be able to figure out how to end this saga. It is abundantly clear that Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is terrified of a general election because he knows he and his party will be decimated, and he is likely to lose his role. However, it is also abundantly clear that Parliament, as currently constructed, is completely unable to finalize this process. Later today we will know if Boris will be able to convince two-thirds of the current Parliament to vote with him and prepare the ground for an election. Already, the Scottish National Party and Lib-Dems are on board, but that will not get the job done, Labour has to agree.

Throughout all these machinations, FX traders find themselves constantly searching for a clue as to the outcome but the big picture remains the same. A hard Brexit is still seen as resulting in a very sharp decline in the pound. Meanwhile, a smooth Brexit transition, where the negotiated deal is put in place, is likely to add a few cents more to the pound’s current value, at least in the short run. Finally, in the event that an election led to a Parliament that not only voted against the deal, but decided to withdraw Article 50, something not getting very much attention at all, then the pound would very likely head back north of 1.40. Of the three, my money is still on a negotiated withdrawal, but stranger things have happened. At any rate, we ought to no more before the end of the day when Parliament will have ostensibly voted on whether or not to hold the new election.

Moving on to the other stories in the market, there really aren’t very many at all! In fact, markets around the world seem to be biding their time for the next big catalyst. If pressed, I would point to Wednesday’s FOMC meeting as the next big thing.

On Wednesday the FOMC
Will issue their latest decree
While Fed Funds will fall
They don’t seem in thrall
To more cuts, lest growth soon falls free

As of this writing, the probability of the Fed cutting rates 25bps on Wednesday, at least according to futures market pricing, is 91%. This is a pretty good indication that the Fed is going to cut for a third time in a row, despite the fact that they keep exclaiming what a “good place” the economy is in. One of the interesting things about this is that both the Brexit situation and the trade situation seem to have improved substantially since the September meeting, which seemingly would have reduced the need for added stimulus. However, since the stock market continues to rely on the idea of ongoing stimulus for its performance, and since the performance of the stock market continues to be the real driver of Fed policy, I see no reason for them to hold back. However, inquiring minds want to know if Wednesday’s cut will be the last, or if they will continue down this slippery slope.

According to Fed funds Futures markets, expectations for another cut beyond this one have diminished significantly, such that there is only a 50% probability of the next cut coming by March 2020. And, after all, given the reduction in global tensions and uncertainty, as well as the recent hints from CPI that inflation may finally be starting to pick up, it seems that none of their conditions for cutting rates would be met. However, if Chairman Jay sounds hawkish in his press conference, and the result is that equity markets retreat, do not be surprised if those probabilities change in favor of another cut in December. So, we have much to look forward to this Wednesday.

Ahead of that, and after the UK parliament vote later today, though, I think we will rely on Wednesday morning’s data for the next opportunity for excitement. Here’s the full slate:

Tuesday Case Shiller Home Prices 2.10%
  Consumer Confidence 128.0
Wednesday ADP Employment 110K
  GDP 3Q 1.6%
  FOMC Decision 1.75% (-0.25%)
Thursday Initial Claims 215K
  Personal Income 0.3%
  Personal Spending 0.3%
  Core PCE 0.1% (1.7% Y/Y)
  Chicago PMI 48.0
Friday Nonfarm Payrolls 85K
  Private Payrolls 80K
  Manufacturing Payrolls -55K (GM Strike)
  Unemployment Rate 3.6%
  Average Hourly Earnings 0.3% (3.0% Y/Y)
  Average Weekly Hours 34.4
  Participation Rate 63.1%
  ISM Manufacturing 49.0
  ISM Prices paid 50.0

Source: Bloomberg

So, the back half of the week can certainly produce some excitement. Remember, the employment data will have been significantly impacted by the General Motors strike, which has since been settled. Expect to see a lot of analysis as to what the numbers would have been like absent the strike. But still, the Fed remains the dominant theme of the week. And then, since the press conference never seems to be enough, we will hear from four Fed speakers on Friday to try to explain what they really meant.

For now, though, quiet is the most likely outcome. Investors are not likely to get aggressive ahead of the Fed, and though short positions remain elevated in both euros and pounds, they have not been increasing of late. Overall, the dollar is little changed on the day, and I see little reason for it to move in either direction. Quiet markets are beneficial for hedgers, so don’t be afraid to take advantage.

Good luck
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Kind of a Treat

For Boris, what looked like defeat
Is actually kind of a treat
For later today
His bill makes its way
Through Parliament, it to complete

The Brexit drama continues today, but it has become clear that Boris is moving toward a win, politically at least. The schedule today is for Parliament to debate and then hold its first vote on the actual legislation that would put Brexit into law. When Speaker of the House Bercow would not allow a second vote on the broad idea of accepting the new terms, it forced the PM to set out the new law’s details for a vote. And that is exactly what he has done. The goal is to get final approval by Thursday evening in the House of Commons, at which point it will go to the House of Lords for final approval. While the Lords have not been supportive of Brexit overall (after all, they have all benefitted greatly from the current situation) if it passes the House of Commons, it is expected to pass there as well. It is unquestionable that if this schedule holds up, the EU will pass the bill as well, and Brexit will be complete.

While there are still many potential pitfalls, the market has become pretty clear that they no longer believe in the idea of a no-deal Brexit. That is why we remain hovering around the 1.30 level instead of the 1.22 level we saw for most of the summer, when it seemed that all Boris wanted was to leave, and he was willing to leave without a deal. But even if there is a delay, it seems to me that Boris has the upper hand in any election that comes. He has done what he promised, negotiated a new treaty with a substantially better outcome than former PM May’s Irish backstop. The new bill puts the power of remaining tied to the EU in the hands of Northern Ireland, not the EU. There may yet be a second referendum, and there will almost certainly be an election before the end of the year, but at this point, Boris outflanked all the opposition. I strongly believe that a negotiated Brexit is coming to a screen near you before the year ends, and that the pound is going to have an opportunity to rally much further. At this point, a move to between 1.35-1.40 seems quite probable, although eventually I expect the dollar to reassert itself globally.

However, this is all speculation about the future, albeit the near future. For today, though, FX markets have continued to digest the news and the pound has been trading either side of yesterday’s closing levels. Currently, it is unchanged on the day, although there is an opportunity for movement this afternoon as the bill wends its way through Parliament’s byzantine process. At approximately 2:00pm, a vote is expected which will determine if the new bill has a chance to get passed. I think a ‘no’ vote will have a temporary negative impact on the pound, but am hard pressed to see Sterling sink below 1.28. If the vote is yes, then look for the pound to start to appreciate further as the market anticipates a conclusion to the process soon.

Away from Brexit, President Trump hinted that the ongoing trade talks are moving in the right direction and the market has assumed that the “initial phase” deal will be signed at the APEC meeting in Chile next month when presidents Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet.

So combined with the positive Brexit vibes, it appears two of the key geopolitical issues that have been hindering the global economy may be coming to a positive resolution. That certainly bodes well for economic growth, but it is unclear if it will be enough to turn the tide. First, neither one is actually complete yet, so this is all anticipation; and second, we have seen a significant slowdown in global manufacturing that will not simply rebound instantly. Even if business confidence improves sharply, it still takes time to formulate and implement new plans for business expansion. This implies that the current monetary policy framework is not going to be reversed any time soon.

Speaking of monetary policy, Thursday Signor Draghi presides over his last meeting as ECB president. After last month’s rate cut and restarting of QE, there are no expectations for further actions at this meeting. The one thing of which you can be sure is that he will complain about the lack of fiscal stimulus being implemented by the nations that can afford it (read Germany). But you can also be sure that the Germans are not about to change their plans.

But let us discuss one of the key problems in the Eurozone for a moment, the inconsistency between fiscal dogma and political will. While it is now de rigeur to claim that nations need to turn on the fiscal pumps, the European Commission has sent letters to Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal telling them not to spend so much money next year. In other words, despite desperate pleas to increase spending, they are going to prevent five nations seeking to do so, from accomplishing their goals. If you ever wondered why there is such fundamental bearishness on the euro and its construction, this situation could not be more informative. It is a key reason I believe the long term prospects for the single currency point lower.

To markets: FX has had another generally dull session overnight with the dollar just slightly firmer against most counterparts, but with movements generally less than 0.20%. In other words, there is little if any information in the price movement, which is likely a response to recent dollar weakness. Equity markets in Asia flourished after the US rally yesterday, but in Europe they can only be described as mixed. Meanwhile, US futures are pointing slightly lower, although not enough to imply very much. Treasury yields are a few bps lower, as are Bund yields, but the reality is that they have been pretty stable for the past two weeks and traders seem to be looking for the next real catalyst (FOMC anyone?).

Yesterday’s Canadian election had little impact on the Loonie, although PM Trudeau is returning with a weakened mandate in a minority government. That said, north of the border the economy has been performing pretty well, certainly well enough such that there seems to be no reason for the BOC to follow the Fed and cut rates next week alongside the Fed.

As to data this morning, Existing Home Sales (exp 5.45M) are unlikely to quicken any pulses, and with the Fed in its quiet period, quite frankly, I see a very quiet session until this afternoon, when the results of the first Brexit votes in parliament have an opportunity to spice things up a bit.

Good luck
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Time’s Crunch

When Boris and Leo had lunch
No panties were balled in a bunch
The signals showed promise
And no doubting Thomas
Appeared, as both sides felt time’s crunch

Meanwhile, though there’s been no bombshell
The trade talks have gone “very well”
Today Trump meets He
And then we will see
If a deal betwixt sides can now gel

And finally from the Mideast
The story ‘bout risk has increased
A tanker attack
Had market blowback
With crude a buck higher at least

There is no shortage of important stories today so let’s jump right in. Starting with Brexit, yesterday’s lunch meeting between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM, turned into something pretty good. While the comments have been very general, even EU president Donald Tusk as said there were “promising signals.” It is crunch time with the deadline now less than three weeks away. Apparently, the rest of the EU is beginning to believe that Boris will walk with no deal, despite the Benn Act requiring him to ask for an extension if there is no deal in place. At the same time, everybody is tired of this process and the EU has many other problems, notably a declining economy, to address. And so, I remain confident that we will soon hear, probably early next week, about a ‘deal in principle’ which will be ratified by Parliament as well as the EU. Though all the details will not have been completed, there will be enough assurances on both sides to get it through. Remember, Boris has Parliament on his side based on the deal he showed them. I’m pretty sure that his conversation with Leo yesterday used that as the starting point.

When that news hit the tape yesterday morning a little past 10:00, the pound started a significant rally, ultimately gaining 2% yesterday and it is higher by a further 1.0% this morning after more promising comments from both sides of the table. Remember, too, that the market remains extremely short pound Sterling and has been so for quite a while. If I am correct, then we could see the pound well above 1.30 as early as next week. Of course, if it does fall apart, then a quick trip back to 1.20 is on the cards. As I have said, my money is on a deal. One other thing to note here is what happened in the FX options market. For most of the past twelve years, the risk reversal (the price the market pays for 25 delta puts vs. 25 delta calls) has traded with puts at a premium. In fact earlier this year, the 1mo version was trading at a 2.5 vol premium for puts. Well, yesterday, the risk reversal flipped positive (bid for calls) and is now bid more than 1.0 vol for GBP calls. This is a huge move in this segment of the market, and also seen as quite an indicator that expectations for further pound strength abound.

Regarding the trade talks, risk assets have taken a very positive view of the comments that have come from both sides, notably President Trump describing things as going “very well” and agreeing to meet with Chinese Vice-premier Liu He this afternoon before he (He) returns to Beijing. The information that has come out points to the following aspects of a deal; a currency pact to insure the Chinese do not weaken the renminbi for competitive advantage; increased Chinese purchases of grains and pork; a US promise not to increase tariffs going forward as the broader negotiations continue; and the lifting of more sanctions on Chinese companies like Huawei and COSCO, the Chinese shipping behemoth. Clearly, all of that is positive and it is no surprise that equity markets globally have responded with solid gains. It is also no surprise that Treasury and Bund yields are much higher this morning than their respective levels ahead of the talks. In fact, Treasuries, which are just 1bp higher this morning, are up by more than 15bps since Tuesday. For Bunds, today’s price action shows no change in yields, but a 12bp move (less negative rates) since then. The idea is a trade deal helps global economic growth pick back up and quashes talk of deflation.

The last big story of the morning comes from the Persian Gulf, where an Iranian oil tanker, carrying about 1 million barrels of oil, was attacked by missiles near the Saudi port of Jeddah. At first the Iranians blamed the Saudis, but they have since retracted that statement. It should be no surprise that oil prices jumped on the news, with WTI futures quickly rallying more than a dollar and maintaining those gains since then. One of the key depressants of oil prices has been the global economic malaise, which does not yet look like it is over. However, if the trade truce is signed and positive vibes continue to come from that area, I expect that oil prices will benefit greatly as well.

As to the FX market per se, the dollar is overall under pressure. Of course, the pound has been the biggest mover in the G10 space, but AUD has gained 0.55% and the rest of the block is higher by roughly 0.3%. The only exceptions here are the yen (-0.3%) and Swiss franc (-0.1%) as haven assets are unloaded.

Turning to the EMG bloc, ZAR is today’s big winner, rallying more than 1.1% on two features; first the general euphoria on trade discussed above and second on the news that former President Jacob Zuma must face corruption charges. The latter is important because it demonstrates that the rule of law may be coming back into favor there, always a benefit for an emerging market. But most of the space is firmer this morning, with many currencies higher by between 0.5% and 0.6% (RUB, KRW, PLN, HUF, MXN, etc.) In fact, the only loser this morning is TRY (-0.4%), which remains under pressure as President Erdogan presses his military campaign against the Kurds in Syria.

On the data front, the only US news is Michigan Sentiment (exp 92.0) but we also get the Canadian employment picture (exp 7500 new jobs and a 5.7% Unemployment Rate). Three more Fed speakers, Kashkari, Rosengren and Kaplan, are on the slate, but so far, the only clarity of message we have received this week is that everybody is watching the data and will respond as they see fit. Hawks are still hawks and doves are still doves.

I see no reason for the dollar to regain ground today assuming the good news from Trade and Brexit continue. So look for a further decline into the holiday weekend.

Good luck and good weekend
Adf

PS. While typing, the pound jumped another 1.0%.