Brexit Day delayed as UK gears up for another General Election

Forex

Today was supposed to be Brexit Day. Instead the whole thing is on pause for another three months while the UK holds another General Election.

We’ll soon be entering the government’s quiet period, known as purdah, during which Downing Street won’t be announcing any major new policies that could influence the campaign.

Sterling is also facing a quiet period as well. The diminished threat of a no deal Brexit – for the time being – is providing solid support, but the upside is limited due to the political uncertainty.

Over the past few days cable has bounced between 1.28 and1.30, but there was a Fed meeting driving the dollar and the pound’s contribution to the volatility looked limited.

GBP/USD 4hr chart, MARKETSX: 09.00 GMT, October 31st, 2019

The deal on the table makes all the difference

We’ve been expecting an election for weeks now, and the upcoming poll is very different from a market perspective than it would have been if it had been held a couple of months earlier.

Boris Johnson managed to renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, replacing the backstop with something he claims is more palatable. The DUP don’t like it, however, and they’re not alone.

What’s important here is that if Boris gets to return to No.10 with a solid majority it’ll be his withdrawal agreement bill that he attempts to implement. This is a much better outcome for cable than the no deal Brexit he seemed intent on pursuing when he won the leadership contest.

Labour seems less market friendly no now deal off the table

For a while it looked like markets might have been relieved by the prospect of a Labour government due to its aversion to a no deal Brexit.

Back when Boris was talking about no deal, Labour was pretty tight-lipped about what exactly it wanted. Jeremy Corbyn has since come out in favour of a confirmatory referendum on a Brexit deal.

The political landscape has shifted away from a no deal Brexit. A Conservative majority may not be the downside risk it was once perceived to be. Labour still has the more market-friendly Brexit policy, but the Conservative alternate is not nearly as unpalatable as it once was. All parties in this election (other than the Brexit Party) are now offering to avoid a no deal exit.

This may free up traders to look a bit longer term and take into account Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans for shaking up the system.

What are the risks of a hung Parliament?

The latest YouGov poll shows the Conservatives hold a 15-point lead over Labour at 36%, while Labour, at 21%, are just three points ahead of the Liberal Democrats. But it’s vital to remember that the Conservatives were polling at 44% the day before Theresa May called her disastrous 2017 election. Boris is by no means going to walk this one.

While another huge surge for Labour can’t be written off, perhaps the bigger threat comes from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. It could hoover up the votes of both Tory and Labour Leavers, weakening both parties. The other parties have given them the perfect campaign materials; Boris broke his own promise to ‘get Brexit done’ by October 31st, and Labour and the Lib Dems both want a second referendum.

Rather than looking at one established party dominating the others, this could be an election that sees the Brexit Party squeeze its way into Parliament, leaving no one with a majority. Not only would this promise many more months, if not years, of further chaos, but it would also put a no deal exit firmly back on the table, especially if hardcore Brexiters in the Tory party make alliances with Nigel Farage.

There really is a lot to play for, and the outcome will have huge implications for the UK’s future. But until we get more polling data and the candidates start doing things that are seen to dramatically alter their chances, the pound will be paralyzed by uncertainty.

Bitcoin jumps, stocks steady ahead of G20

Forex
Morning Note

All that glitters is not gold. Bitcoin is sparkling again but beware…breakdown’s coming up ‘round the bend. 

Bitcoin jumped above $11,000, taking it to its highest level since March 2018. Futures are back down to $10,855 around send time. Investors are ignoring what happened the last time we saw parabolic rises like this. Is it different this time? No, but people have short memories. Facebook’s Libra white paper may have stoked renewed interest in cryptos at a time when the buzz had already returned.

Bitcoin is more mature etc, but the fundamentals of this scheme remain unaltered. What I would say is that arguably big money is starting to view this differently and think it could be very costly to ignore if they get left behind. 

It may also be that the sharp liquidity boost we’ve seen from central banks is helping bitcoin. As we noted last week, it was only a matter of time before the $10k level was taken out it and now ultimately a retest of the ATHs near $20k looks very plausible. 

Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop it. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz there is, the more that traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Bears could get burned before the market turns – maybe better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way. 

Equities, G20 

Stocks are maybe looking a little softer with the S&P 500 easing off its all-time highs on Friday and we’ve had a mixed bag from Asia overnight. Japan closed a shade higher at 21,285.  

Futures indicate European shares are trading on the flatline as investors take a breather and look ahead to the G20 later in the week. FTSE 100 finding support at 7400, with resistance at 7460.

Coming up this week the G20 is centre stage for markets. President Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese counterpart XI Jinping at this week’s G20 meeting in Osaka. 

Last week Mr Trump tweeted: “Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.” No one thinks the US and China will do a deal in Osaka, but there is some hope that we will have a positive development that marks a shift in the rhetoric and a re-energising of talks following the breakdown in the recent discussions.  

Iran, oil 

Iranian tensions are not going away, providing some support for oil. Brent was trading around the $65 mark, with WTI at $58. Fundamentals remain bearish but the uncertainty in the Middle East, specifically the risk of a closure of sea lanes, is enough to keep crude above water. 

Since last week we’ve had news of the US launching a cyberattack on Iran and warnings from Iran about what a war would mean. Expect lots of turbulence from this but ultimately it does not look like the White House is spoiling for a fight. The risk is, as ever, in a miscalculation. 

Gold remained firm, holding above $1400 as a weaker dollar combined with dovish central banks kept traders happy to bid up the metal. Geopolitical tensions may be a small factor, but ultimately gold has huge negative correlation with real yields, which have come right down. Friday’s move off the lows later in the session were key and the bull trend remains intact. A rebound in USD could trap bulls.

FX 

The dollar is softer with the euro and sterling holding gains. The euro is holding at a three-month high around 1.1380 – look for a push to 1.14. 

Trading around 1.2760, GBPUSD is facing stiff resistance from previous highs and a big Fib level coming in, so we need to see this level breached on the upside to be more confident that the pound can maintain its gains.  

Coming up this week – Fed speakers and the PCE inflation print will keep the FX market interested.

Fed holds, pound breaks $1.27 ahead of BoE

Forex
Morning Note

Stocks firmed and the dollar fell, whilst gold rallied to a 5-year high as the Fed opened the door to cutting rates.

It’s like 2010 all over: the race to the bottom is on. Only this time the global economy is coming off a period of remarkable synchronised expansion, not a terrible recession and the worst financial crisis in a generation or more. So what gives!? Must Powell acquiesce to the whims of his president? Must Draghi end his tenure not normalising, but actually cutting rates even deeper?

Draghi to be fair has little option. In the absence of structural and fiscal reform – blame Germany – he can but tinker around the edges of the zero lower bound, hoping to weaken the currency to get some competitiveness back. Powell is in a different position, although really it looks like central banks are spitting in the wind in trying to shift inflation expectations. They should try to focus on boosting oil prices instead.

FOMC holds

So yesterday the FOMC nudged towards a cut. Nearly half the 17 members of the FOMC think cuts will be warranted this year. The median dot plot suggests 50bps in cuts through 2020. The dots evinced a shift from a tightening bias to an easing bias. The patient mantra was dropped, whilst the economy is now only expanding at a ‘moderate’, not ‘solid’, rate. The market took this as a sign the Fed’s listening to their demands – a cut in July is now fully priced in.

But there’s yet optionality for Powell and co. The Fed refrained from explicit references to cuts. The median dot plot shows no cuts this year still. The market is ahead of itself again. If we believe the dots, rate cuts will come slower than the market wants them to.

In some ways the Fed thread the needle here – keeping the market and the president happy without actually committing to cuts. The dots suggest the Fed is saying: “Of course we will cut, just not yet-good enough?”. For now it is. But the tail seems to be wagging the dog, forcing the Fed to follow sooner or later.

Certainly revising inflation expectations lower points to concerns that tame price growth cannot simply be attributed to transient factors. Yet at the same time the Fed thinks unemployment will be lower and growth stronger than it thought in March.

The problem we have is that Fed looks like it is flip-flopping; changes its mind based not on economic data but on the caprice of financial markets; appears in thrall to the White House; and is therefore at a very serious risk of losing its credibility.

Markets

Yields hit the deck. US 10yr bond yields slipped beneath 2% again for the first time since 2016. Bunds heading deeper into negative territory.

Gold rallied on the outcome as yields sank, breaking north of $1385. It’s now cleared a tonne of important multi-year resistance, paving the way for a return to $1400 and beyond. This is a big move, but if the Fed doesn’t deliver the cuts the bulls could be caught out.

Stocks liked it – the S&P 500 notched gains of about 0.3%, Limited upside as the Fed was not as dovish as the market wanted and because a lot of this was already priced in. Asian markets rallied across the board.

Futures show European stocks are on the front foot, catching a tailwind from Wall Street and the Fed. The FTSE 100 may underperform though as the pound is finding bid.

Oil has climbed as US inventories feel three times more than expected. Brent was up at $63.50, threatening to break free from its recent range – look for $63.80. WTI at $55.50 also close to breaking out of its trough.

FX

The dollar kicked lower after the Fed decision – but with the ECB looking super easy the gains versus the euro are limited. Likewise the yen with the Bank of Japan also ready to step up stimulus. Likewise the Australian dollar, with RBA governor Lowe talking up a further, imminent, cut. The race to the bottom is on. Is it too soon to talk about currency wars?

The exception here is the Bank of England, which is heading towards raising rates. We get to learn more about the BoE’s position later today. The difference here is the inflation expectations, which are moving up, not down like they are elsewhere. Britain’s also enjoying strong wage growth and a super-tight labour market. All of this is dependent on a smooth Brexit – this is not a given by any means.

Indeed, Brexit is keeping the lid on sterling’s gains – the prospect of Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the EU come October 31st is a risk. There’s now talk of a possible general election if he gets in – risky, we know what happened to May. The prospect of a general election would not do anything to remove uncertainty around UK assets. Zero clarity still.

EURUSD moved through 1.12 and was last at 1.1280, but failing to gain enough momentum to rally above 1.13 and scrub out the Draghi-inspired losses.

GBPUSD has reclaimed 1.27. Quite a chunky move here, blasting through a couple of big figures in under a day. Maybe the prospect of a more hawkish BoE is helping the pound, albeit the market is actually pricing in cuts, not hikes. At least Mark Carney doesn’t have to deal with a political leader on his case…

USDJPY lost the 108 handle to trade at 107.50, now breaking free into new 2019 lows (ex the Jan flash crash).”

Closing on all-time highs, FOMC preview

Morning Note

Equity markets buoyant after Tuesday’s rally ahead of the key Federal Reserve meeting.

You can just about smell the all-time highs. The S&P 500 rallied 28 points to 2,917.75, just a shade under 1% below its April record high. The Dow added 350+ points to 26,465.54. 

And yet the latest BAML data shows fund managers are at their most bearish since the global financial crisis a decade ago. Equity allocations have experienced their second worst drop on record – we’ve seen a huge move into cash. And yet and yet, we’re close to all-time highs again for US equity markets at least. This is what you may call an unloved rally. 

Asian shares were encouraged by Wall Street’s gains. Japan closed 1.72% higher. Futures indicate European shares are treading water ahead of the FOMC decision later today. A touch of caution after an exuberant session yesterday. 

Oil rallied again – demand outlook matters a lot more than supply constraints. The world is awash with oil whatever OPEC does. Brent was close to its $62.50 comfort, the 50% Fib level that continues to anchor prices. WTI has regained $54. On both charts signs of either double-bottom reversal or bearish flag continuation patterns. 

The prospect of president Trump meeting his counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 assembly later this month, combined with signs of renewed stimulus efforts by the ECB, has investors eyeing short-term gains. We need to wait and see what the Federal Reserve does. So hold on tight, let the flight begin. 

FOMC Preview 

Summary 

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Markets expect the Fed to cut 3 times this year, but the Fed needs to be careful about reacting too easily to markets. There is not the need to be as pessimistic about growth and inflation as bond markets suggest, despite some softness in recent labour market data. The Fed will seek to avoid sounding overly hawkish, but one feels there is a need to steer markets away from expecting the Fed to ride to the rescue of financial markets.  

Backdrop 

It’s hard to recall a time we headed into an FOMC meeting with so much at stake and with so much uncertainty about what might be agreed and what the guidance for the rest of the year will look like. This means the potential volatility around the event is likely to be substantially higher than at most recent FOMC meetings. 

Macroeconomic indicators suggest slowing growth whilst there have been no positive developments on trade. Inflation is tame but there is arguably enough to keep the Fed on the side lines for the rest of the year. And quite how much the data has softened since the last meeting to suddenly warrant a cut is beyond me. 

Moreover, last week’s retail sales data has gone against the downbeat, pro-cut grain. The Atlanta Fed GDPNow model predicts 2.1% GDP growth in Q2, up from the previous 1.4%. The model now anticipates second-quarter real personal consumption expenditures growth of 3.2% to 3.9%. 

Talk of demoting Jay Powell further clouds the picture as Trump heaps pressure on the  Fed chair to cut. Know when to walk away, know when to run. 

Market pricing 

Markets do not currently anticipate the Fed will cut rates this week, but they are pricing in a cut in July and a subsequent 1-2 25bps cuts.  

Pricing for a rate cut this week dropped sharply – from nearly 30% to around 21% – after the strong retail sales print on Friday. It’s since crept back up to 26%. For July, though, market pricing indicates an 87% chance of a cut, whilst there is a 95% chance for September. 

The blackout period ahead of the meeting has tied tongues that were in overdrive in the preceding days. 

Powell’s comments in Chicago at the start of June were the trigger for a relief rally in equities. He noted ‘recent developments involving trade negotiations and other matters’, adding that: ‘We do not know how or when these issues will be resolved’. 

This was the key remark: ‘We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion’. 

Critically he did not signal a cut, but only stuck to the Fed’s oft-stated stance. Markets have read much more into this, and could be left disappointed. The problem for Powell now is to gently steer markets back to the right course. 

Coming Up Today (GMT) 

GBP- CPI y/y (08:30) 

CAD- CPI m/m (12:30) 

EUR- ECB President Draghi Speaks (14:00) 

USD- FOMC Economic Projections (18:00) 

USD- FOMC Statement (18:00) 

USD- Federal Fund Rate (18:00) 

USD- FOMC Press Conference (18:30) 

BRL -Interest Rate Decision (21:00) 

NZD- GDP q/q (22:45) 

Equities flat ahead of big week for central banks

Indices
Morning Note

Shares open flat as markets look ahead to the FOMC meeting later in the week, whilst Lufthansa shares tumble on a profits warning.

European equities look pretty flat on the open after a decent run last week for global equity markets. The S&P 500 closed a shade lower on Friday. Asian shares a bit wobbly overnight. Gains may be hard to sustain with the Fed in focus and no clear signs of progress on trade.  Investors may take a bit of risk off the table in the next couple of days.

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has poured cold water on any hopes that we might get a trade deal from the G20 meeting and said the US is ready to increase tariffs on China if necessary. 

FOMC meeting

All eyes are of course on the Fed meeting this week. It’s hard to recall a time we headed into an FOMC meeting with so much at stake and with so much uncertainty about what might be agreed. This means the potential volatility around the event is likely to be substantially higher than at most recent FOMC meetings. Traders may start to show some nervousness ahead of the Fed meeting if they think it won’t be accommodative as hoped. 

We’ve also got the BoE and BoJ expected to stand pat. We could though see some hawks on the MPC vote for a rate hike to signal their intent, as it appears waiting for Brexit clarity could take a while longer than policymakers had anticipated. Three members of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee have in the last week or so said that rates will likely need to rise at a faster clip over the next two years than the market is currently pricing. This week could be when they signal their intent.

EURUSD is looking softer ahead of the Fed meeting with the apparent failure of the double-bottom breakout from the descending wedge. Last trading on 1.12, a breach on the downside of this handle opens up a return to the 1.110 level immediately. Sterling remains softer too ahead of the Bank of England meeting with the dollar broadly firmer. GBPUSD has last holding support at 1.2580 where we long-term rising trend support coming in.  

Oil 

A fair old whipsaw last week as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East temporarily lifted prices. But on the whole the bleak demand outlook is weighing on prices and we have seen Brent retreat to the comfort of $62-$62.50. WTI is a shade below the $53 level.  Yet to see a sustained downside break again but it may be coming, albeit rising geopolitical tensions may offer support.

Speculative long positions have been heavily reduced – CFTC data showing a trimming in net long positions of around 50k contracts from 400k reported in the COT on Jun 7th to 351k reported on Friday. That’s down from a high of around 547k at the end of April. The reduction in net long positions reflects worries about a supply glut as demand weakens and US production ramps. 

Effectively the market has decided that OPEC will choose to extend its production curbs when it meets later this month/early July. To do anything else would be to risk a collapse in prices. Saudi oil minister Al-Falih is optimistic about extending cuts. His confidence is now being discounted by the market however.

Equities

Deutsche Bank – If no one wants to marry you because you’ve got too much baggage, the answer is to get rid of the baggage. Deutsche plans to set up a bad bank (that’ll make two then) to offload some of the least profitable elements of business. This is Sewing’s big play – we await to see whether it’s enough to really convince shareholders that we’ve hit the bottom. Profitability targets still look rather distant.

Airlines – Lufthansa’s profits warning has taken the wind out of the airlines today. The margin on its preferred metric is seen between 5.5% and 6.5%, down from the previous guidance for adjusted EBIT margin of 6.5 to 8%.

At the end of April we noted that Lufthansa’s Q1 loss wasa red flag for the airline sector. Over-capacity in the European short haul market, intense competition and the resulting pressure on fares can be blamed for the decline in profitability, whilst rising fuel costs are an added headache. The sector always does a good job at competing away margins in the good times. No signs that anyone is prepared to reduce capacity therefore we would anticipate the wave of consolidation in European short haul is not over.

Babcock/Serco – Babcock confirms speculation it’s been approached by Serco. Not an immediately obvious move but the two are a pretty good fit and we had anticipated some consolidation in the sector given the problems for outsourcers. Serco has been doing well against a tough backdrop for outsourcers, meeting new higher performance targets, whilst Babcock has been suffering.  Babcock has been downgrading its forecasts for a while and has been on a persistently downward spiral. Last month Babcock reported profits down 47% last year and warned of a tough outlook for the coming one. 

European stocks rebound, euro about to give it up

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Stocks were lower across the board yesterday as the weight of the US-China trade dispute pushed everything down. From pretty much assuming the US and China would strike a deal, the market is repricing for a prolonged fight.

SPX closed lower by 19 points, or 0.69%, at 2,783, resting close on the 100-day moving average. This was a little off its lows of the day and a shade above the all-important 200-day moving average at 2776. The Dow shipped over 200 points and was briefly below 25k. 

The FTSE is also flirting with the 200-day line having closed 83 points lower at 7185. The pattern looks decidedly bearishy and flaggy right now. Support on the 38% retracement of the bottom-to-top rally from the 2018 low thru Apr high sits at 7150, which we saw tested and rejected yesterday. This was also an area of support that produced a bounce through the third week of May. 

We are seeing a small rebound in Europe on the open but there’s still lots of nervousness out there and the downward pressure is rather powerful and looks hard to resist. Any gains look hard won and easy to give up at the moment.

Forex

Dollar is still bid, pressuring everything else, with the dollar index on the 98 handle as it hoovers up haven demand. The euros is on the brink of capitulation on the 1.11 handle, with the pair last at 1.11343, ready to test those key May lows again, which marked a 2-year trough for the single currency. A breakdown through 1.11 on the downside brings 1.08 back into the picture.

GBPUSD doing very little still, trapped around the 1.2640 region. Whilst we are yet to retest Thursday’s low at 1.2610, we are making progressively lower highs and lower closes – the pound is still under a lot of pressure and this doesn’t look like having much chance of lifting until we know who the next PM will be. Brexit uncertainty remains.

That renewed dollar strength seems to be weighing on gold, which was last back at 1277. Rising trend support appears around the 1270 mark but for now the metal looks caught in a range. 

The GDP second print for Q1 is later – with the market already betting big on a rate cut this year it’s hard to see how a downward revision will really shift things. The first reading showed 3.2% and is expected to be revised down to 3.1%.

Watches of Switzerland

Meanwhile the latest IPO is in London – Watches of Switzerland has priced at the top of its range, at 270p. Shares will start trading today on the open. As we’ve seen this year IPOs can be a rough ride for shareholders and management. Hopefully for the management and buyers it won’t turn out to be another turkey like Aston Martin – one feels the omens are better for this one.

Markets react to European elections

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European equity markets are on the front foot again, building on yesterday’s gains, as investors breathe a collective sigh of relief following the European parliamentary elections.

European bourses have firmed as it looked like the political centre ground is holding in the EU despite pressure from right and left, whilst we have some upbeat spin on trade to contend with as we hear about a possible US-Japan trade deal. London and Wall Street will be playing catch up today. Futures in the US point to gains today. 

Euro elections: the centre holds, barely

European elections returned gains for a number of right-wing, Eurosceptic parties as expected, but not enough to really shake the ground from under the centrists. The main blocs have held on to remain just about in control, although for the first time they have lost their combined majority.  

The gains for the right continue to point to a problem for Brussels. But there were also big gains for the Greens. The political landscape is shifting, but it wasn’t a Brexit-like earthquake.

The strength of the League in Italy and National Rally in France is noteworthy and will exert domestic pressure more than at a European level. Expect further confrontation between Rome and Brussels. Indeed, on that note, Italian bond yields spiked, with the 10yr BTP above 2.7% again, amid reports the EU is mulling a $4bn fine for Italy for failure to control debt. For France it simply highlights that Macron’s reformist agenda is under a lot of pressure.

The euro though has been pretty well unmoved although London and New York were shut yesterday and we might see traders coming back in today. EURUSD was steady at 1.1180.

Brexit looms over pound

Ain’t no party like a Brexit Party: In the UK the centre has given way completely, and the pressure on the pound remains firm. The Brexit Party won the day, although the overtly Remain parties did very well with the LibDems and Greens enjoying a strong bump in support. European elections are entirely meaningless of course in terms of the Westminster arithmetic, but the impact on the ruling Tory party is key. 

For markets, we should expect the result to impact the leadership race and already a number of leading candidates have upped the no-deal rhetoric. One can only argue that this will, on the margins at least, push candidates more towards the fringes and see the party go more to the right. Given the Tory membership’s pro-Brexit feelings there is an ever-increasing risk of a no-deal exit at this stage. A lot is priced in but a no-deal would see further downside for the pound.

GBPUSD has found support again around 1.2670 and while there is still a lot of pressure, Thursday’s reversal on the 78% Fib retracement on 1.2610 looks to have placed something of a floor under the pound for the time being.  

Bitcoin 

Cryptos have rallied hard again on strong volumes, taking another leg higher over the weekend. Bitcoin is testing the $9k round number resistance, before a tilt at the 38% retracement around $9640 and then the April 2018 high on $10k. Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz the more traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Standing in front of a steamroller springs to mind, if you are a natural bear. Better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way, so watch for those whenever the rally looks overextended – 14-day RSI approaching 90 has been a pretty good indicator in the past. 

Morning Note: China’s long march, Britain’s interminable May

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Wall St was higher yesterday as markets look on the bright side of the US-China dispute, focusing on the 3-month reprieve for Huawei. But news that the White House may also blacklist Chinese surveillance company Hikvision has weighed on risk appetite again.

It’s not looking too great overall, and we continue to witness Washington push hard in one direction and then beat a tactical retreat to test its opponents. 

The situation we’re in now is a marked deterioration from the start of May. Beijing is now talking about a ‘new long march’, and trade talks have completely broken down. From this point we need to start to consider escalation looks like – tariffs on the $300bn of remaining Chinese exports being discussed would lead to a material impact on the US economy, corporate earnings and inflation. There is a risk that the market is complacent to what may be a very long, drawn out affair, albeit having clearly taken on some of the warnings – SPX closed at 2,864, down 3-4% from the all-time highs. However, this may not yet reflect the downside risks from a full-blown trade conflict. 

Forex

Sterling is on the backfoot again this morning after going through the ringer yesterday. GBPUSD is below 1.27 again, having whipsawed on the prospect of a second referendum.  The government plans to bring the Brexit withdrawal bill again to parliament but it’s clear it lacks the votes to get through. Pressure on the PM is excruciating.

At send time the pair held on 1.2690, having fallen to 1.26844. Support seen around a series of Dec lows at 1.2610, which coincides with the 78% retracement of the top-to-bottom move up from the Jan YTD low to the Mar YTD high. This area could well be a strong line of support. If it goes then we are looking at a potential retreat to 1.24. The pound was also weaker against the euro, with EURGBP continuing its march to 0.88, having notched up its worst losing streak on record versus the single currency. 

Sterling oversold?

But are we set for a pullback? The short sterling trade seems pretty crowded and the 14-day RSI calls for the pound to bounce on both EURGBP and GBPUSD. Sense from the momentum indicators that this decline for sterling against both the euro and dollar is running out of steam – of course that could just mean a temporary pause. We are also quite heavily extended at the respective lower (GBPUSD) and upper (EURGBP) extremes of the Bollinger Bands. Nevertheless, risks still appear skewed to the downside given the complete lack of certainty on the political front. Expect heightened volatility in sterling crosses.  

Mrs May needs to realise her deal is never going to get through Parliament, whatever amount of convoluted bargaining she attempts. Her gamble on offering a confirmatory referendum on her deal has clearly failed at the first hurdle. 

Broad-based dollar strength is also weighing on the pound as the greenback is finding safe haven bid in the current trade climate. The dollar index has just pulled back from the 98 handle but is looking firm. EURUSD has pulled back further to 1.1150 but seems to be building some support around this region. With the massive descending wedge nearing completion – are we set for an upside breakout? We’ve talked before about it being too early to call the top of the dollar rally, but as we look into the second half of the year, that is when many think the dollar will see a retracement. 

Data watch 

Japanese macro data overnight was soft – exports declined for a fifth straight month. We note the big drop in exports to China – down 6.3%, outpacing the overall decline of 2.4%. Core machine orders were down 0.7%, although this was weak, it was better than the 5.5% decline registered a month before. 

On tap later we have the UK CPI figures – 2.2% is the consensus. However, we expect the number to be skewed by the hike in the energy price cap. Core inflation is seen at 1.9%. Whether this is the peak in inflation will depend a lot on Brexit, and whether we see wage growth pick up. The Bank of England will look through any above-target print for a while, at least until Brexit is clearer. 

FOMC minutes on tap too – watch for the markets to find these a little more hawkish than they would like. One gets the sense that the Fed is not quite ready to end its hiking cycle. Again one feels the market is not correctly pricing the chance the Fed will raise rates later in the year – albeit the base case is for it to stand pat until 2020. 

Sell in May and go Huawei: US-China ad nauseum

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

When can we stop talking about the US and China? European stocks called to open higher after a robust session in Asia showed investors are weighing the latest US-China spat over Huawei for what it is. SPX closed down 0.67% yesterday on the broad US-China-Huawei-Google spat, with tech stocks the worst hit. The Nasdaq 100 shipped 126 points to close 1.7% lower. Chip makers were rocked but look set to bounce back today – these rose in after-hours trading and Asian peers were much firmer overnight. 

US-China, Google-Huawei

After blacklisting the Chinese firm, the White House has issued three-month reprieve to allow US companies continue to do business with the group. It’s all rather like the way Trump slaps on tariffs but delays the execution to allow room for negotiation. Whether it’s Huawei or tariffs, I would see all of this in the broader context of giant tug-of-war between the two superpowers being played out in front our eyes. As such, the more this goes on the lower the chance of a meaningful resolution to any of it. Trade disputes ad infinitum, ad nauseum. 

China has vowed to retaliate but stocks in China rose overnight – the more damage the US tries to do the more the market expects stimulus from Beijing.

Brexit continues

We don’t even have a lot on the Brexit front to worry about today. Euro elections are centre stage this week – as noted in yesterday’s FX note, the Brexit Party is set to win in the UK, whilst Eurosceptics and populists of various hue will sweep about a third of the vote across the continent.  Watch therefore for action in EUR and GBP crosses, as well as Italian spreads.  

Economic indicators overnight have been less than stellar. South Korean exports shrunk by nearly 12% in May, having decline more than 8% in April. Singapore’s government has downgraded growth forecasts for 2019. Thailand GDP growth hit a 4-year low. Lots of trade related effects being felt, clearly.

Fed chair Jay Powell spoke yesterday but did not really go into monetary policy. His remarks were focused on financial stability, stressing that ‘business debt does not present the kind of elevated risks to the stability of the financial system that would lead to broad harm … should conditions deteriorate’.  He added though that ‘the level of debt certainly could stress borrowers if the economy weakens’. Move along, nothing to see here. Fed governor Richard Clarida speaks later – will have a lot more on policy and will be closely watched. FOMC minutes are due tomorrow.

Forex – dollar bid

The dollar continues to find bid, with the dollar index touching on 98 again, its strongest since May 3rd. Meanwhile EURUSD has also sunk to its weakest since May 3rd. US 10yr has risen above 2.4% again, having been as low as 2.35% last week. Firmer US yields and the safe haven appeal of the USD in the current trade war situation is keeping the dollar supported.

Yesterday’s emerging three inside up formation on the GBPUSD daily chart fizzled out, with the pound under the cosh still and threatening now to break below 1.27. The 1.2710 region is acting as support for now but the downwards pressure could eventually tell. 

RBA set to cut

The post-election bounce in the Australian dollar proved short-lived as anticipated. AUDUSD was back trading on the 0.68 handle as the RBA gave us a very clear signal it’s ready to cut rates. In fact, this was about as dovish Philip Lowe could be without actually saying ‘I will cut rates in June’.

The June 4th meeting will likely see the central bank move to cut the cash rate to 1.25% from the current 1.5%. The RBA is really tying its policy outlook to the labour market. Unemployment rose to 5.2% in April and the risk is that exposure to China and trade will act as a drag in the coming months. Low inflation currently gives it ample scope to cut rates.

Payrolls day: eyes on wage inflation

Forex

Data this week from the US has offered some mixed signals. Employment via the ADP private payrolls number was strong, coming at 275k, well ahead of expectations. One cannot always see a direct correlation between the ADP print and the NFP number, but nonetheless it suggests another print at least in line with the 3-month average. Census hiring might skew the numbers to the upside – prepare for a 250k+ print this time as a result, which could cause a little volatility.

Meanwhile the Chicago and ISM PMIs were soft, coming in around their weakest in two years and suggesting some drag in some employment sectors.

Within the ISM numbers the Employment Index fell to 52.4%, a decrease of 5.1 percentage points from the March reading of 57.5%. The Chicago PMI also highlighted weaker employment, with the decline in demand and production matched by reduced demand for labour. The Employment Indicator fell to its lowest level since October 2017,  and below the three- and 12-month averages.

Earnings focus

PCE figures meanwhile, shows spending accelerated at the fastest pace in almost ten years, rising to 0.9% in March after a 0.1% gain in February. Personal incomes, rose 0.1% in March. Inflation fell to 1.6% from 2%. All told there is perhaps a sense that wages are not squeezing higher as much as expected.

Unemployment shows tightness

On unemployment, initial jobless claims were steady at a seasonally adjusted 230,000 for the week ended April 27th, after jumping 37k the week before, the biggest rise in two years. The four-month moving average of claims has inched up 6,500 to 212,500.

Last month marked a recovery in the headline number as the March figure climbed to 196k from the wobble in February. Wage growth however was much softer than expected, rising 0.1% MoM versus the 0.3% expected. This left annual average wage growth at 3.2%, short of the 3.4% expected which was printed the prior month.

Post-FOMC, the USD is firmer with a push off the 96 handle back towards the 98 handle. For a drive higher for USD we would like require a beat on wage growth more than anything else as big headline jobs number is easy to disregard month to month. In fact it’s hard to get quite as excited about the main NFP print these days, particularly as the numbers can be quite volatile month to month. Focus on the three-month average and the wage data. Also unemployment, should it fall further and highlight further tightening in the labour market will get the Fed’s attention.

GBPUSD is holding the 1.30 handle but a big number on wages may pressure the pair lower and a retreat to the 200-day line around 1.2960.  

Consensus expectations

190k jobs created

3.8% unemployment

+0.3% wages

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