Morning Note: European markets lower, oil gains, pound under pressure

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Morning Note

European markets opened lower, with the major equity indices pulling back after Wednesday’s kneejerk move higher amid a very noisy, confusing picture for investors regards trade, growth and interest rates.

The FTSE 100 lost 20 points to retreat to 7275, losing the 7300 handle achieved yesterday. Auto stocks are weaker this morning – perhaps a dose of reality in the cold light of the morning after yesterday’s gains. 

Markets recovered ground yesterday, switching from red to green sharply as reports suggested the US will delay auto tariffs by six months. This, combined with some more jawboning from Mnuchin on trade talks, tended to ease the worries about the US-China trade spat. 

But the US president add pressure elsewhere – issuing an executive order banning US firms from working with Huawei. Lots and lots and lots of noise from all sides – making this a tough market to be in.

SPX bounced off support around the 2817 level, which was a big area of resistance in the not-too-distant past, to close at 2,850. 

Bonds bid

The 10-year Treasury remains below 2.4%, with bonds finding bid as the US retail sales and industrial production numbers missed yesterday. 3m-10yr inversion again flashes the recession amber lights – expect to hear more of this talk even though the US seems a long way from recession right now (3.2% print GDP, consumer spending and retail sales at multi-year highs, unemployment at 50-year lows…I could go on).

Oil rallies

Oil – Brent has rallied above $72. Bullishness seems to be down to mounting geopolitical risks in the Middle East. Specifically, oil is higher because the market is worried that the US and Iran are at risk of a flare-up. Oil rose despite a surprise build in US inventories, which were up 5.4m barrels in the last week according to yesterday’s EIA data. We also saw a build in inventories in Cushing.  

Meanwhile the IEA revised its demand growth outlook lower by 90k barrels a day to 1.3m. Whilst this was bearish, the group also highlighted the significant supply side uncertainty – Iran, Venezuela, Libya etc. As we noted in a recent strategy note on oil, the IEA says the supply picture is ‘confusing’. 

Sterling under pressure

FX – Unemployment data from Australia overnight came in weaker and leads us to assume the RBA will cut over the summer (or winter). Although employment rose, jobs growth seems likely to slacken. The RBA has made it perfectly clear that should inflation or unemployment not improve it will be cutting soon. This may well create further downside on the Aussie, which is of course under pressure from the whole China-trade-growth story.

AUDUSD is seriously threatening the 0.69 level on the downside. There is a lot of pressure there and it could go, which would open up move to 2016 lows at 0.68. We’re at multi-year lows here so there is a lot of support to contend with. Whether AUDUSD gets squeezed lower still though will depend on whether the RBA signals it’s one (maybe two) and done, or if it’s embarking on a longer-term easing cycle. 

GBPUSD remains below the 1.2860 level having breached this important support yesterday. Brexit worries abound – it’s either no deal or no Brexit by the looks of things. Next up we could see it slip to the mid-Feb lows around 1.2780. Below that we start to consider a return to the 2019 lows around 1.24 as a possibility. The rebels are putting their pieces in place to oust May if (when) her Brexit bill fails against for the umpteenth time.  Meanwhile as we noted yesterday’s note, amid a broad downturn in risk appetite the pound is exposed. EURGBP is advancing past the 0.87 marker and was last at 0.874, pushing up to 0.88 and the Feb highs.”