Realistic

As far as the market’s concerned
The mood out of Brussels has turned
They’re quite optimistic
A deal is “realistic”
By early November, we’ve learned

Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator for Brexit has lately changed his tune. Last month, ostensibly at the direction of his political masters, he was playing hardball, shooting down every UK proposal as inadequate and saying there was no negotiating room on the EU’s positions. Not surprisingly, the pound came under pressure during this period, trading to its lowest level in more than a year and approaching the post-vote lows. But a funny thing happened during the past week, Europe suddenly figured out they didn’t really want a no-deal Brexit. The first inkling came from comments by German officials who indicated that compromises were available. That changed the tone of the negotiations and suddenly, as I mentioned last week, it seemed that a deal was more likely. Those comments last week helped the pound rally more than 1%. Then yesterday morning Barnier explained that a deal is both “realistic” and “possible” within 6-8 weeks. It should be no surprise that the pound rallied yet again on the news, jumping another 1% during the US session and maintaining those gains ever since.

Regular readers will know that I have been quite bearish on the pound for two reasons; first is the fact that I continue to see the dollar strengthening over the medium term as the Fed’s tighter monetary policy leads all developed nations and will continue to do so. But the other reason was that I have been quite skeptical that a Brexit deal would be agreed and that the initial concern over damage to the UK economy would undermine the currency. However, this change in tone by the EU over Brexit is almost certainly going to have a significant positive impact on the pound’s value vs. both the euro and the dollar. And even though any deal is likely to be short on details, I expect that we will see the pound outperform the euro for the next several months at least. So any dollar strength will be less reflected vs. the pound than the euro, while any dollar weakness should see the pound as the top performer. The thing is, the details of the deal still matter a great deal, and at some point in the future, the UK and the EU are going to need to figure out how they are going to deal with the Irish border situation, even if they have kicked that particular can further down the road for now.

While on the topic of the UK, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the employment situation there remains robust. Unemployment data was released this morning showing the Unemployment Rate remained at 4.0%, the lowest level since 1975, while wage growth accelerated to 2.9%. The latter potentially presages further inflation, as measured productivity in the UK remains quite soft at 1.5% per annum. If this continues, higher wages amid low productivity, the BOE may find itself forced to raise rates regardless of the Brexit situation. Yet another positive for the beleaguered pound. Perhaps the bottom is in after all.

However, away from yesterday’s news on the pound, the FX markets have been quite uninteresting in the past twenty-four hours. Arguably, the dollar is a touch stronger, but the movement has been minute. Even the emerging market bloc has been less active with perhaps the most notable feature the fact that INR continues to trade to new historic lows (dollar highs) every day. As to the group of currencies that has led the turmoil, TRY, ARS and ZAR, all of them are slightly firmer this morning as they continue to consolidate their losses over the past month. In addition, we hear from the central banks of both Argentina (today) and Turkey (tomorrow), with more attention focused on the latter than the former. Recall that Argentine interest rates are already the world’s highest at 60% and no move is anticipated. However, Turkey’s meeting is anxiously awaited as the market is looking for a 300bp rate hike to help stem rising inflation and the currency’s weakness. The problem is that Turkish President Erdogan has been quite adamant that he is strongly against higher interest rates and given his apparent control over the central bank, it is by no means assured that they will act according to the market’s expectations. Be prepared for another leg lower in the lira if the Bank of Turkey disappoints.

As to today’s session, the NFIB Small Business Index was released at 108.8, stronger than expected and a new record high for the release. Despite the trade concerns and the political circus in Washington, small businesses have never been more confident in their future. I will admit that this almost seems like whistling past the graveyard, but for now everything is great. Later this morning we see the JOLTs Job report (exp 6.68M), which should simply reconfirm that the employment situation in the US remains robust.

And that’s really it for today. Equity futures are flat although the 10-year Treasury is continuing its recent trend lower (higher yields), albeit at a slow rate. There is certainly no evidence that the Fed is going to change its path, but for today, it seems unlikely that we will see much movement in either direction beyond what has already occurred. Barring, of course, any surprising new comments.

Good luck
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Soared Like a Jet

On Friday the jobs report showed
More money, to more people flowed
Earnings per hour
Has gained firepower
So interest rate hikes won’t be slowed

The market response, though, was bleak
With equity prices quite weak
However the buck
Had much better luck
And soared like a jet, so to speak

As the week begins, we have seen the dollar cede some of the gains it made in Friday’s session. That move was a direct result of the payroll data, where not only did NFP beat expectations at 201K, but the Average Hourly Earnings number printed at 0.4% for the month and 2.9% annualized. That result was the fastest pace of wage growth since 2009 and significantly higher than the market anticipated. It should be no surprise that the market response was higher interest rates and a concurrently stronger dollar. Overall, the dollar was higher by a solid 0.5% and 10-year Treasury yields jumped 5bps on the day.

Wage growth has been the key missing ingredient from the economic data for the past several years as economists continue to try to figure out why record low unemployment has not been able to drive wages higher. The Fed reaction function has always been predicated on the idea that once unemployment declines past NAIRU (Non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), more frequently known as the natural rate of unemployment, that wages will rise based on increased demand for a shrinking supply of workers. Yet the Fed’s models have been unable to explain the situation this cycle, where unemployment has fallen to 50 year lows without the expected wage inflation. And of course, the one thing every politician wants (and Fed members are clearly politicians regardless of what they say) is for the population to make more money. So, if Friday’s data is an indication that wage growth is finally starting to pick up, it will encourage Powell and friends to continue hiking rates.

This was made clear on Friday by Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who had been a reliable dovish voice for a long time, when he explained to the WSJ that the Fed’s current pace of quarterly rate hikes was clearly appropriate and that there need to be at least four more before they start to consider any policy changes. There was no discussion of inverting the yield curve, nor did he speak about the trade situation. It should not be surprising that the Fed Funds futures market responded by bidding up the probability of a December rate hike to 81% with the September hike already a virtual certainty.

But that was then and this is now. This morning has seen a much less exciting session with the dollar edging slightly lower overall, although still showing strength against its emerging market counterparts. Looking at the G10, the picture is mixed, with the euro and pound both firmer by 0.15% or so. The former looks to be a trading response to Friday’s decline, while the latter is benefitting, ever so slightly, from better than expected GDP data with July’s print at 0.3% and the 3-month rate at 0.6%. We’ve also seen AUD rally 0.25%, as firmer commodity prices seem to be underpinning the currency today. However, both CHF and JPY are softer this morning, with the Swiss franc the weakest of the bunch, down 0.65%.

In the EMG space, however, the picture is quite different, with INR making yet another new historic low as the market continues to respond to Friday’s worse than expected current account deficit. The rupee has fallen a further 0.85% on the day. We’ve also seen weakness in CNY (-0.25%), RUB (-0.45%) and MXN (-0.2%). But some of the biggest decliners of recent vintage, TRY and ZAR, have rebounded from their worst levels, although they are still off significantly this year.

Looking ahead to this week, the data is fairly light with just CPI and Retail Sales in the back half of the week, although we also get the Fed’s Beige Book on Wednesday.

Tuesday NFIB Business Optimism 108.2
  JOLT’s Job Openings 6.68M
Wednesday PPI 0.2% (3.2% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.8% Y/Y)
  Beige Book  
Thursday Initial Claims 210K
  CPI 0.3% (2.8% (Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.4% Y/Y)
Friday Retail Sales 0.4%
  -ex autos 0.5%
  IP 0.3%
  Capacity Utilization 78.4%
  Michigan Sentiment 96.9

There are also a number of Fed speakers this week, but I have to say that it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be any new views coming from them. The doves have already made their case, and the hawks continue to be in the ascendancy.

Net, I see no reason to believe that anything in the market has really changed for now. Rate expectations remain for higher US rates, and growth elsewhere continues to be okay but not great. Ultimately, things still point to a higher dollar in my view. Not forever, but for now.

Good luck
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Mostly At Peace

Ahead of the payroll release
The market is mostly at peace
But there is no sign
The recent decline
In values is set to decrease

While I apologize for the double negative, this morning’s price action is a story of consolidation of recent losses across emerging market currencies and their respective equity markets. In fact, the biggest gainers in the FX markets today are some of the currencies that have been suffering the most recently. For example, the South African rand is higher by 1.4% on the day, but still down nearly 3.0% this week. Meanwhile in Brazil, in the wake of the assassination attempt on Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, the real has rebounded 1.75%, essentially recouping the week’s losses, although is still down almost 8.0% this month. The story here is that Bolsonaro, who was leading in the polls and is favored by markets due to his free-market leanings, is expected to receive a sympathy vote along with more press coverage, and has increased his odds of winning the election next month. And of course, everyone’s favorite pair of losers, TRY and ARS, are both firmer this morning as well, by 3.5% and 2.75% respectively, but both remain down substantially in the past month. And there is no sign that policy is going to change sufficiently to have any positive impact in the short term. In other words, while many EMG currencies have performed well overnight, there is little reason to believe that the unfolding crisis in the space has ended.

Turning to the biggest news of the day, the payroll report is due with the following expectations:

Nonfarm Payrolls 191K
Private Payrolls 190K
Manufacturing Payrolls 24K
Unemployment Rate 3.8%
Average Hourly Earnings 0.2% (2.7% Y/Y)
Average Weekly Hours 34.5

If forecasts are on the mark, it will simply represent a continuation of the current US expansion and cement the case for two more rate hikes by the Fed this year. In fact, we would need to see substantially weaker numbers to derail that process on a domestic basis. And given yesterday’s Initial Claims data of 203K, the lowest print since 1969, it seems highly unlikely that this data will be weak.

A second factor reinforcing the view that the Fed will remain on their current rate-raising path was a comment by NY Fed President John Williams. Yesterday, after a speech in Buffalo, he said that he would not be deterred from raising rates simply because it might drive the yield curve into an inversion. This is quite a turn of events for Williams who had historically leaned more dovish when he was at the San Francisco Fed. In addition, it is exactly the opposite from what we have recently heard from two separate Fed presidents, Atlanta’s Bostic and St Louis’ Bullard, both of who were explicit in saying they would not vote for a rate hike if that would cause an inversion. Of course, neither of them is a voter right now while Williams is, so his voice is even more important.

While it is not clear whether Chairman Powell is of a like mind on this subject, there is certainly no evidence that Powell is going to be deterred from his current belief set that further gradual rate hikes are necessary and appropriate. The one thing that is very clear is that the current Fed is focused almost entirely on the US economy, to the exclusion of much of the rest of the world. And this focus reduces the chance that Powell will respond to further emerging market instability unless it reaches a point where the US economy is likely to be impacted. As far as I can tell, the Fed’s focus remains on the impact of the recent increase in fiscal stimulus and how that might impact the inflation situation.

There is one other thing to keep in mind today, and going forward, and that is that yesterday was the last day of comment period on President Trump’s mooted tariff increase on a further $200 Billion of Chinese imports. If he does follow through by implementing these tariffs, look for significant market impact with the dollar resuming its climb and a much bigger negative impact on equity markets as investors try to determine the impact on company results. Also look for commodity prices to decline on the news.

But that is really it for the day. Ahead of the data there is little reason for much of a move. However, even after the data, assuming the forecasts are reasonably accurate, I would expect the dollar’s consolidation to continue. In the end, though, all signs still point to a stronger dollar over time.

Good luck
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Uncomfortably High

Said Carney, exhaling a sigh
The odds are “uncomfortably high”
More pain will we feel
If there is no deal
When England waves Europe bye-bye

Yesterday the BOE, in a unanimous decision, raised its base rate by 25bps. This outcome was widely expected by the markets and resulted in a very short-term boost for the pound. However, after the meeting, Governor Carney described the odds of the UK leaving the EU next March with no transition deal in hand as “uncomfortably high.” That was enough to spook markets and the pound sold off pretty aggressively afterwards, closing the day lower by 0.9%. And this morning, it has continued that trend, falling a further 0.2% and is now trading back below 1.30 again.

By this time, you are all well aware that I believe there will be no deal, and that the market response, as that becomes increasingly clear, will be to drive the pound still lower. In the months after the Brexit vote, January 2017 to be precise, the pound touched a low of 1.1986, but had risen fairly steadily since then until it peaked well above 1.40 in April of this year. However, we have been falling back since that time, as the prospects for a deal seem to have receded. The thing is, there is no evidence that points to any willingness to compromise among the Tory faithful and so it appears increasingly likely that no deal will be agreed by next March. Carney put the odds at 20%, personally I see them as at least 50% and probably higher than that. In the meantime, the combination of ongoing tightening by the Fed and Brexit uncertainty impacting the UK economy points to the pound falling further. Do not be surprised if we test those lows below 1.20 seen eighteen months ago.

This morning also brought news about the continuing slowdown in Eurozone growth as PMI data was released slightly softer than expected. French, German and therefore, not surprisingly, Eurozone Services data was all softer than expected, and in each case has continued the trend in evidence all year long. It is very clear that Eurozone growth peaked in Q4 2017 and despite Signor Draghi’s confidence that steady growth will lead inflation to rise to the ECB target of just below 2.0%, the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction. While the ECB may well stop QE by the end of the year, it appears that there will be no ability to raise rates at all in 2019, and if the current growth trajectory continues, perhaps in 2020 as well. Yesterday saw the euro decline 0.7%, amid a broad-based dollar rally. So far this morning, after an early extension of that move, it has rebounded slightly and now sits +0.1% on the day. But in the end, the euro, too, will remain under pressure from the combination of tighter Fed policy and a decreasing probability of the ECB ever matching that activity. We remain in the 1.1500-1.1800 trading range, which has existed since April, but as we push toward the lower end of that range, be prepared for a breakout.

Finally, the other mover of note overnight was CNY, with the renminbi falling to new lows for the move and testing 6.90. The currency has declined more than 8% since the middle of June as it has become increasingly clear that the PBOC is willing to allow it to adjust along with most other emerging market currencies. While the movement has been steady, it has not been disorderly, and as yet, there is no evidence that capital outflows are ramping up quickly, so it is hard to make the case the PBOC will step in anytime soon. And that is really the key; increases in capital outflows will be the issue that triggers any intervention. But while many pundits point to 7.00 as the level where that is expected to occur, given the still restrictive capital controls that exist there, it may take a much bigger decline to drive the process. With the Chinese economy slowing as well (last night’s Caixin Services PMI fell to 52.8, below expectations and continuing the declining trend this year) a weaker yuan remains one of China’s most important and effective policy tools. There is no reason for this trend to end soon and accordingly, I believe 7.50 is reasonable as a target in the medium term.

Turning to this morning’s payroll report, here are the current expectations:

Nonfarm Payrolls 190K
Private Payrolls 189K
Manufacturing Payrolls 22K
Unemployment Rate 3.9%
Average Hourly Earnings (AHE) 0.3% (2.7% Y/Y)
Average Weekly Hours 34.5
Trade Balance -$46.5B
ISM Non-Manufacturing 58.6

Wednesday’s ADP number was much stronger than expected at 213K, and the whisper number is now 205K for this morning. As long as this data set continues to show a strong labor market, and there is every indication it will do so, the only question regarding the Fed is how quickly they will be raising rates. All of this points to continued dollar strength going forward as the divergence between the US economy and the rest of the world continues. While increasing angst over trade may have a modest impact, we will need to see an actual increase in tariffs, like the mooted 25% on $200 billion in Chinese imports, to really affect the economy and perhaps change the Fed’s thinking. Until then, it is still a green light for dollar buyers.

Good luck and good weekend
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Percent Twenty-Five

The story, once more’s about trade
As Trump, a new threat, has conveyed
Percent twenty-five
This fall may arrive
Lest progress in trade talks is made

President Trump shook things up yesterday by threatening 25% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports unless a trade deal can be reached. This is up from the initial discussion of a 10% tariff on those goods, and would almost certainly have a larger negative impact on GDP growth while pushing inflation higher in both the US and China, and by extension the rest of the world. It appears that the combination of strong US growth and already weakening Chinese growth, has led the President to believe he is in a stronger position to obtain a better deal. Not surprisingly the Chinese weren’t amused, loudly claiming they would not be blackmailed. In the background, it appears that efforts to restart trade talks between the two nations have thus far been unsuccessful, although those efforts continue.

Clearly, this is not good news for the global economy, nor is it good news for financial markets, which have no way to determine just how big an impact trade ructions are going to have on equities, currencies, commodities and interest rates. In other words, things are likely more uncertain now than in more ‘normal’ times. And that means that market volatility across markets is likely to increase. After all, not only is there the potential for greater surprises, but the uncertainty prevailing has reduced liquidity overall as many investors and traders hew to the sidelines until they have a better idea of what to do. And, of course, it is August 1st, a period where summer vacations leave trading desks with reduced staffing levels and so liquidity is generally less robust in any event.

Moving past trade brings us straight to the central bank story, where the relative hawkishness or dovishnes of yesterday’s BOJ announcement continues to be debated. There are those who believe it was a stealth tightening, allowing higher 10-year yields (JGB yields rose 8bps last night to their highest level in more than 18 months) and cutting in half the amount of reserves subject to earning -0.10%. And there are those who believe the increased flexibility and addition of forward guidance are signals that the BOJ is keen to ease further. Yesterday’s price action in USDJPY clearly favored the doves, as the yen fell a solid 0.8% in the session. But there has been no follow-through this morning.

As to the other G10 currencies, the dollar is modestly firmer against most of them this morning in the wake of PMI data from around the world showing that the overall growth picture remains mixed, but more troubling, the trend appears to be continuing toward slower growth.

The emerging market picture is similar, with the dollar performing reasonably well this morning, although, here too, there are few outliers. The most notable is KRW, which has fallen 0.75% overnight despite strong trade data as inflation unexpectedly fell and views of an additional rate hike by the BOK dimmed. However, beyond that, modest dollar strength was the general rule.

At this point in the session, the focus will turn to some US data including; ADP Employment (exp 185K), ISM Manufacturing (59.5) and its Prices Paid indicator (75.8), before the 2:00pm release of the FOMC statement as the Fed concludes its two day meeting. As there is no press conference, and the Fed has not made any changes to policy without a press conference following the meeting in years, I think it is safe to say there is a vanishingly small probability that anything new will come from the meeting. The statement will be heavily parsed, but given that we heard from Chairman Powell just two weeks ago, and the biggest data point, Q2 GDP, was released right on expectations, it seems unlikely that they will make any substantive changes.

It feels far more likely that this meeting will have been focused on technical questions about how future Fed policies will be enacted. Consider that QE has completely warped the old framework, where the Fed would actually adjust reserves in order to drive interest rates. Now, however, given the trillions of dollars of excess reserves, they can no longer use that strategy. The question that has been raised is will they try to go back to the old way, or is the new, much larger balance sheet going to remain with us forever. For hard money advocates, I fear the answer will not be to their liking, as it appears increasingly likely that QE is with us to stay. Of course, since this is a global phenomenon, I expect the impact on the relative value of any one currency is likely to be muted. After all, if everybody has changed the way they manage their economy in the same manner, then relative values are unlikely to change.

Flash, ADP Employment prints at a better than expected 219K, but the initial dollar impact is limited. Friday’s NFP report is of far more interest, but for today, all eyes will wait for the Fed. I expect very limited movement in the dollar ahead of then, and afterwards to be truthful.

Good luck
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Still At Its Peak

Three central bank meetings this week
Seem unlikely, havoc to wreak
When they all adjourn
Attention will turn
To joblessness, still at its peak

In the current central bank calendric cycle, the ECB meeting was the first to be completed, and last Thursday we learned virtually nothing new about Mario Draghi’s plans. The ECB is going to reduce QE further starting in October and is due to end it completely by year end. As to interest rates, ‘through summer’ remains the watchword, with markets forecasting a 10bp rate rise in either September or October of next year.

This week brings us the other three big central bank meetings, starting with the BOJ’s announcement tomorrow evening, then the FOMC on Wednesday and finally the BOE on Thursday. Going in reverse order, the market remains convinced that Governor Carney will raise rates 25bps, with a more than 80% probability priced in by futures traders. While I think it is a mistake, it does seem increasingly likely it will be the outcome. As to the Fed, there are no expectations of any policy adjustments at this meeting, and as there is no press conference following, I expect that the statement, when released Wednesday afternoon, will have little market impact.

This takes us to tomorrow evening’s BOJ meeting, which is the only one where there seems to be any real uncertainty. Last week I discussed the questions at hand which boil down to whether or not Kuroda and company have come to believe that QQE is not only ineffective, but actually beginning to have a detrimental impact on the Japanese economy. After all, they have been at it for the better part of five years and have still had zero success in achieving their 2.0% inflation goal. The three biggest problems are that Japanese banks have seen their business models decimated by increasingly narrow lending spreads; the ETF purchase program has had an increasingly large distortive impact on the Japanese stock markets as the BOJ now owns roughly 4% of all Japanese equities; and finally, the yield curve control plan has essentially broken the JGB market as evidenced by the fact that they continue to see sessions where there are actually no trades in the 10-year JGB. (Consider what would happen if there were no trades in 10-year Treasuries one day!)

With all of this as baggage, there has been increasing discussion that the BOJ may seek to tweak the program to try to make it more effective. However, they have painted themselves into a corner because if they reduce their activity in the JGB market, the market is likely to see it as a reduced commitment to QE and it is likely to result in higher yields there, which can easily lead to two separate but related outcomes. First, USDJPY is likely to fall further, as higher JGB yields lead to more interest for Japanese investors to bring their funds home. Given the disinflationary impact of a stronger currency, this would be a disaster. And second, if there is less support for JGB’s, given the fungibility of money and the open capital markets that exist, we are likely to see yields rise in US, UK, European and other developed markets. While Chairman Powell may welcome this as it will reduce concern over the Fed inverting the yield curve, the rest of the world, which retains far easier monetary policy, is likely to be somewhat less welcoming of that outcome. And this is all based on anonymous reports that the BOJ is going to make some technical adjustments to their program, not change the nature of what they are doing. So if you are looking for some fireworks this week, the BOJ is your best bet.

However, beyond the central banks, the market will turn its attention to Friday’s employment report here in the US. Last Friday saw a robust GDP report, as widely expected, and further proof of the divergence between the US and the rest of the global economy. This Friday could simply add to that impression. Here is the full listing of this week’s data, which is quite robust:

Tuesday BOJ Rate Decision -0.10% (unchanged)
  Personal Income 0.4%
  Personal Spending 0.4%
  PCE 0.1% (2.3% Y/Y)
  Core PCE 0.1% (2.0% Y/Y)
  Case-Shiller Home Prices 6.4%
  Chicago PMI 62.0
Wednesday ADP Employment 185K
  ISM Manufacturing 59.5
  ISM Prices Paid 75.8
  FOMC Rate Decision 2.00% (unchanged)
Thursday BOE Rate Decision 0.75% (+0.25%)
  Initial Claims 221K
  Factory Orders 0.7%
Friday Nonfarm Payrolls 190K
  Private Payrolls 185K
  Manufacturing Payrolls 22K
  Unemployment Rate 3.9%
  Average Hourly Earnings 0.3% (2.7% Y/Y)
  Average Weekly Hours 34.5
  Trade Balance -$46.2B
  ISM Non-Manufacturing 58.7

So, as you can see there is much to be learned this week. With the focus on the central banks and Friday’s payroll data, don’t lose sight of tomorrow’s PCE report, because remember, that is the Fed’s go-to number on inflation. Overall, looking at forecasts, things remain remarkably strong in the US economy this long into an expansion, which is something that has many folks concerned. We also continue to see important corporate earnings releases this week for Q2, which given the high profile misses we had last week, could well impact markets beyond individual equity names.

As to the dollar through all this, it is a touch softer this morning, but remains on the strong side of its recent trading range. While I still like it higher, there is so much potential new information coming this week, it is probably wisest to remain as neutral as possible for now. For hedgers, that means the 50% rule is in effect.

Good luck
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The Winsome Ms. May

The lady who leads the UK
Last night had a terrible day
Dave Davis resigned
And strongly maligned
The PM, the winsome Ms. May

Arguably the biggest news over the weekend was the sudden resignation last night of the UK Brexit Minister, David Davis, who decided he couldn’t countenance the outcome of Friday’s Cabinet meeting. The crux of that agreement was that the UK would continue to abide by EU food and manufacturing regulations after Brexit becomes final in March. Davis, who had campaigned for Brexit and was always seen as more of a hard-liner, thought this was too much of a concession, and heeded PM May’s general call to leave if he couldn’t get on board. While Dominic Raab, another pro-Brexit voice, quickly replaced him, the resignation has simply highlighted the ongoing uncertainties within the UK on the subject.

Markets, however, have remained surprisingly subdued on the news. It appears that traders are far more focused on how the BOE responds to the Brexit story than on the Brexit story’s daily twists and turns. And as of now, there has been no change in the view that the Old Lady is going to raise rates next month come hell or high water. Futures markets continue to price a more than 80% probability of that occurring. So in the end, despite a key political shakeup, the pound has actually rallied 0.45% and is now more than 2.2% clear of the nadir reached at the end of June. Perhaps the mindset is that PM May now has greater control over the cabinet and so is in a stronger position going forward which means that a soft Brexit will be the outcome. At least, that’s the best I can come up with for now.

Otherwise, the weekend has been extremely quiet. With that in mind I think a recap of Friday’s events is in order. The employment report was probably as good as it gets, at least from the Fed’s perspective. NFP increased a better than expected 213K and last month’s number was revised higher to 244K. The Unemployment Rate actually ticked higher to 4.0%, but that was because the Participation Rate rose as well, up to 62.9%, which while better than last month remains well below the longer-term historical trend. But for now, it demonstrates to the Fed that there is still some slack in the labor market, which means there is less concern that wage increases are going to spur much higher inflation. And the AHE data proved that out, rising 2.7% Y/Y, in line with both expectations and recent history. It seems the Fed is going to continue to focus on the shape of the yield curve rather than rising inflation, at least for now. If, however, we start to see some sharply higher inflation data (CPI is released this Thursday), that may begin to change some thinking there.

The other data Friday showed that the Trade deficit shrank to -$43.1B, it’s smallest gap since October 2016. This is somewhat ironic given that Friday was also the day that the US imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. It is too early to determine exactly how the trade situation will play out, although virtually every economist has forecast it will be a disaster for the US, and if it expands potentially for the world. That said, the equity markets have clearly spoken as Chinese stocks have fallen more than 20% in the past months, while US stocks have edged slightly higher. This story, however, has much further to go with there likely being many new twists and turns going forward.

Here in the middle of the summer, it is a light data week, with Thursday’s CPI clearly the highlight.

Today Consumer Credit $12.7B
Tuesday NFIB Small Biz Optimism 105.6
  JOLT’s Job Openings 6.583M
Wednesday PPI 0.2% (3.2% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.6% Y/Y)
Thursday CPI 0.2% (2.9% Y/Y)
  -ex food & energy 0.2% (2.3% Y/Y)
Friday Michigan Sentiment 98.2

We also hear from four Fed speakers and we are at the point between meetings where there has been enough data for some views to have changed. However, my sense is there will be more discussion of the yield curve than of the economy as that has once again become a hot topic amongst a number of the regional Presidents.

Broadly the dollar has been under pressure overnight, continuing last week’s corrective price action. There has been some indication that data elsewhere in the world, especially in the Eurozone, has started to pick up again. If that trend continues, then I expect that the dollar will remain on its back foot. After all, its recent strength had been predicated on the idea that the US was continuing to show economic strength, diverging from the rest of the world’s near-term prospects. A change in that narrative will clearly change the FX story. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that is the outcome. I remain convinced that the dollar is likely to be the leader for quite a while yet.

Good luck
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