Oil spikes as Iran responds, Trump to speak

Morning Note

Geopolitics will dominate the session on Wednesday as traders grapple with the US-Iran fracas. Geopolitics always means uncertainty – we simply cannot know what will happen next, so look carefully at positions as markets are liable to knee-jerk moves.

Oil and gold spiked and stocks fell as Iran fired 22 surface-to-surface missiles at two US airbases in Iraq, in direct retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. So we know the Iranian response at last – this could actually reduce uncertainty unless we see escalation.

The next move lies with the US. Iran said the attacks were ’concluded’ and said it is not seeking a broader conflict. “We do not seek escalation or war,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister tweeted in English. The implication is that they will not carry out further reprisals and wish to draw a line under the situation. Frankly they’ve barely scratched the US with this attack – it appears like nothing but a way to save face. Threats to hit Dubai and Haifi are frankly ridiculous.

However Donald Trump has said previously he would respond to any reprisals with his own. The president plans to address the media on Wednesday morning eastern time.

Following the attacks he tweeted:

“All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

The president has a chance to de-escalate – but does he want to? My inclination remains that a broader conflict will be averted, largely because Iran does not want to be lured into a regime-changing conflict before it has the bomb, even if that’s what the US is seeking. But increasingly there is the risk of miscalculation as neither side wants to back down.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian passenger jet crashed shortly after take-off in Tehran with all 176 souls lost – not sure what this means or whether related. It was a Boeing. The coincidence is too much to ignore – it was surely caught in the crossfire?

Oil surged as the Iran strikes broke but has pared gains. WTI jumped to $65.60 but has since retreated to a little above $63. The May 2019 peak at $66.60 remains intact for the time being. Brent rallied north of $71 but subsequently fallen back to $69. Should this escalate quickly into a broader conflict there is a risk of supply disruption in the region that could send Brent to $80 a barrel. However, we must as ever stress that the global oil market is simply not exposed to shocks like it once was.

Gold surged to new 7-year highs at $1610 before easing back to $1590. Net longs are already stretched – is there any more this can run? As ever keep an eye on US real yields. Against this backdrop of rising geopolitical tension oil and gold are making new highs and higher lows for the time being. Gaps need to be filled quickly or they don’t get filled.

US stock market indices weaker on Tuesday handing back much of Monday’s rally, and we will see the impact of the Iranian reprisals dent European stocks on Wednesday. US futures have dipped but erased most of the initial drop following the strikes. Dow last trading around 28445 having dipped under 28150.

We need this US-Iran stuff to go away to focus again on the data. US services ISM yesterday was v good but Europe is still not swinging. German factory orders were below expectations coming in -6.5% yoy vs expected -4.7%. But the Ifo momentum points to turnaround coming.

In FX, GBPUSD has held the key support around 1.3140 to trade at 1.3150. Brexit comes back on the agenda but the exit is now a done deal. EURUSD is steady at 1.1150 but the failure to surmount 1.12 raises downside risks near-term.

European equities rally as euro, pound crack lower

Forex
IPO
Morning Note

European markets were on the front foot on Friday morning despite a weak cue from the US and Asia as currency weakness and expectations for yet lower interest rates fuelled risk appetite. Asian shares plumbed a three-week low but European bourses are trading up again. The FTSE 100 continued the good work from Thursday to hit 7400 and make a clear break out of the recent range. With the move north a decent case to make for the 7450 area, the 61.8% retracement of the August retreat.

The S&P 500 declined quarter a percent to 2977.62 against a back drop of political uncertainty in Washington. Markets won’t like these impeachment hearings but ultimately the risk of Mr Trump being ousted by Congress appears very slim indeed.

Another stinker of an IPO – Peloton shares priced at $29 but were down $2 at $27 on the first tick and ended 11.2% lower at $25.76. First day nerves maybe but this stock has fad written all over it. Think GoPro.

On the matter of dodgy prospectuses and dubious IPOs… S&P has downgraded WeWork debt another notch, and slapped a negative outlook on for good measure.

FX – the euro now looks to be on the precipice, on the verge of breaking having made fresh two-year lows on EURUSD. Whilst the 1.09 level may still hold, the banging on the Sep 3/12 lows at 1.09250 has produced a result with overnight tests at 1.09050. We’ve seen a slight bounce early doors in Europe but the door is ajar for bears. The Euro is under pressure as ECB chief economist Lane said there is room for more cuts and said the September measures were ‘not such a big package’. How much more can the ECB feasibly do?

Sterling is tracking lower against the broader moves in favour of USD. There is a chance as we approach crunch time on Brexit that GBPUSD pushes back to the lower end of the recent range, the multi-year lows around 1.19. Bulls have a fairly high bar to clear at 1.25. At time of publication, the pound had cracked below yesterday’s low at 1.23, opening up a return to 1.2280 and then 1.2230. The short-covering rally is over – time for political risk to dominate the price action.

Bank of England rate setter Saunders made pretty dovish comments, saying it’s quite plausible the next move is a cut. In making the case for a cut now it conforms to the belief in many in the market that the Bank is barking up the wrong tree with its slight tightening bias in its forward guidance. The comments from Saunders are clearly an added weight on the pound.

On Brexit – there’s a lot of noise of course and all the chatter is about MPs’ use of language and how could Boris possibly still take the UK out of the EU by October 31st without a deal. The fact is he can and he intends to. There is some serious risk that GBP declines from here into the middle of October on the uncertainty and heightened risk of no deal. This would then be the make or break moment – extension agreed and we easily pop back to 1.25, no deal and it’s down to 1.15 or even 1.10.

Data to watch today – PCE numbers at 13:30 (BST). If the core CPI numbers are anything to go by, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation may point to greater price pressures than the Fed has really allowed for. Core durable goods also on tap, expected -1.1%. Plenty of central bank chatter too –de Guindos and Weidmann from the ECB follow Lane and then Quarles and Harker from the Fed. Should keep us busy this Friday.

Oil is in danger of entirely fading the gap back to $54.85, the pre-attack close, having made a fresh low yesterday at $55.40. There’s still a modicum of geopolitical risk premium in there though, but bearish fundamentals are reasserting themselves over the bullish geopolitics. WTI was at $56.10, ready to retest recent lows at $55.40. Bulls require a rally to $57.0 to mark a gear change. However we are now touching the rising trend support line drawn off the August low at $50, so could be finding some degree of support.

Gold is pretty range-bound now, but we are seeing it test the $1500 level which could call for retreat to near $1482, the bottom of the recent range and key support.

Trade progress boosts equities, dents gold; oil soars as OPEC gathers

Forex
Morning Note

It’s been a week of good progress so far, with positive noises on trade and oil production cuts. Markets are firmly risk-on, which is good news for equities and oil, while gold is feeling the pressure.

Equities have recorded strong gains today on the back of trade progress at the G20 meeting. The US and China have agreed to restart trade talks after President Donald Trump met President Xi Jinping at the gathering of world leaders.

European indices have shot higher, with the FTSE 100 up over 1.1% and above 7,500 points for the first time in around 10 weeks. The DAX has hit a fresh 11-month high thanks to a gain of 102 points to trend above 12,559. Futures suggest a strong US open, with both Dow and S&P 500 futures up 0.8% at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, gold is trending below $1,390 today, recording losses of 1.5%, as investors unwind the recent flight to safety.

Oil races higher on OPEC progress

Iran has now given its backing to a proposed extension of OPEC’s joint oil production cuts. Other key OPEC members, as well as non-OPEC ally Russia, also seem to be in favour. This means the cuts could be finalised during the two-day meeting concluding tomorrow.

Oil has shot higher on the news, with crude breaking above $60 per barrel and Brent testing $66.50. Both represent gains of over 3.2%. Crude oil could face resistance near $60.80, the 76% retracement of the top-to-bottom move seen between late May and mid-June. Brent, meanwhile, is trending around the 50% retracement level, with $68.07 the next key resistance, on the 61% retracement line.

Bitcoin tumbles further from 15-month high

Bitcoin has moved further away from the 15-month high struck last week when markets pushed the world’s biggest cryptocurrency towards $14,000. BTC has recorded 10% losses so far today, leaving it to trade in the region of $11,300.

It looks like the once-key $11,000 resistance level has now turned into support.

Gold & bitcoin firmer, stocks and dollar softer

Morning Note

Stocks and the US dollar were softer whilst gold and Bitcoin continued to drive higher as markets look ahead to the G20 meeting.

Stocks have eased as markets look ahead to the G20 meeting – optimism is fading a little and we would expect investors to perhaps take some risk off the table ahead of the meeting, particularly given the recent bump. Bear in mind also this is a weekend meeting that implies gap risk. 

Equities

The S&P 500 eased 5pts yesterday to finish on 2,945. Asia has been softer overnight. Futures indicate European shares are lower today since there is really little fresh catalyst for bulls before we learn more about the Trump-Xi meeting in Osaka and what this means for global trade, tariffs et al.  

US trade supremo Robert Lighthizer spoke to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Monday, at least paving the way for talks to take place in Japan. The FTSE 100 might struggle to hold the 7400 level today.

The US has hit Iran with more sanctions. No sense of de-escalation, but also no material worsening in the situation. The tensions offer short-term support for oil still with Brent steady around $64 and WTI shade below $54. 

Gold

Gold firmed again overnight as we see the path to more gains being cleared. Gold hit a fresh six-year high amid a perfect blend of supporting factors. Four things are really driving gold – falling yields, a weaker dollar, a soft macroeconomic outlook and geopolitical risks rising in the Middle East. 

Prices hit $1438, breaking resistance on $1433 before paring those gains to trade around $1426 at send time. Looking to break $1446 next. 

Gold has huge negative correlation with real yields, which have come right down. US 10yr around 2%, now back to where they were in 2016 – if it goes lower, we would expect further gold strength. The surge in negative-yielding debt is undoubtedly key to the rally, and can be viewed as similar to the rise in gold prices and negative yield assets in 2016. 

Forex

The dollar remains on the defensive. The dollar index has dropped further to trade around 95.50. 

Sterling can’t catch much bid – GBPUSD remains off its lows around 1.2750 but is failing to make real inroads versus the greenback as Brexit uncertainty weighs heavily. Short positioning has eased but this remains a crowded trade. 

We have the no-deal exit risk of course – Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to take Britain out without a deal come October 31st. But we also have General Election risk – chatter about a no-confidence vote being supported by a dozen or so Tory rebels could lead to the government falling and inevitably an election. Boris Johnson could end up the Lady Jane Grey of Downing Street if that were the case. This introduces risks of a) Brexit delay and ongoing political uncertainty, b) a hung parliament with no clear route out of Brexit, and c) a Corbyn-led Labour government that would be very risky for UK assets and equites. 

The euro is faring better, with EURUSD up to regain the 1.14 handle, trading at 3-month peaks. 

Cryptos

Bitcoin firmed again, cementing the gains above $11k. I would reiterate the comments from yesterday – it’s a hard market to stand in front of when it builds momentum like this. The buzz and the hype has returned. You can talk about Libra, or the halving next year, more and more institutional interest and so on, but ultimately this is a bubble again. Look for $11,600, the highs from Feb last year as offering the big test. 

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).”

Commodities: Gold hits five-year high as Fed strikes dovish tone, crude oil up after attack on US drone

Gold is trading at its highest level in more than five years after the US Federal Open Market Committee yesterday indicated that monetary policy may become more accommodative.

Gold has gained 1.7% after the FOMC held rates in the 2.25-2.5% range but signalled a cut was coming. It’s trading around $1,383 after rising to test resistance at $1,394 – prices haven’t been this high since March 2014.

Bulls may now be targeting the $1,400 handle, but there is plenty of room for a pullback before support comes into play at $1,362.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell stated in the post-meeting press conference that “Many participants now see the case for somewhat more accommodative policy has strengthened.”

Markets had been pricing in a rate cut in July. A weakening US dollar has helped push commodity prices higher in the wake of the meeting. Cable is up 0.6%, EUR/USD up 0.5%, and USD/JPY down 0.4%.

Crude oil rises as US and Iran clash over missile attack on drone

Oil prices have extended gains of up to 3% today after tensions in the Middle East cranked higher. Washington claims that a US military drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile in international airspace. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard asserted this morning that the drone had entered Iranian airspace.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been building of late, after the US accused Iran of carrying out the recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran’s oil exports are the subject of sanctions by the US which came into force last year.

The news pushed Brent up to a ten-day high of $63.85, while crude oil rose to a 20-day high above $55.50.

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) 

Pound slips to 6-month lows: Morning Note

Forex
Morning Note

BoJo sees pound lose mojo , Aussie soft on RBA, equities steady ahead of Fed, Middle East tensions.

Equities steady before Fed 

Equities remain cautious ahead of the start of the Federal Reserve meeting today. The S&P 500 and the Dow were pretty well flat yesterday, whilst the FTSE 100 notched a slight gain.  Asia has been mixed. Futures indicate European equities are trading on the flatline again. Equities are lacking direction and will wait for the Fed to get a steer.

Equities investors are likely to display caution with the Fed in view. They may be disappointed with what the Fed offers – realization of this may manifest in mild selling ahead of the meet.  We’ve got no signs of progress on trade and little sense the G20 will produce anything. And now we have building tensions in the Middle East.

The White House has ordered 1,000 US troops to the region, with fears of escalation rising. Tehran says it will breach uranium stockpile limits in days. The Iran nuclear deal looks dead. Markets may start pricing in risk of escalation. Whilst this is only a very small number of additional manpower, and is clearly designed to act as a warning to Tehran, troop build-ups only tend to lead in one direction.  

Pound lacks mojo

The pound is at its lowest in almost 6 months on heightened fears of a no-deal exit. Boris Johnson is the clear favourite to become the next PM – in fact it rather looks like he’s going to walk it. Currency markets display fear that he has said he is prepared to take Britain out on October 31st without a deal if needs be. More BoJo, less mojo. Whilst a crowded trade there is real slippage here with little to spark life into the pound. 

The calculus is simple – failure to take Britain out of the EU this year risks a General Election and wipe out at the polls at the hands of the Brexit Party, potentially handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10. The EU says it won’t renegotiate (it may have to), MPs won’t accept the existing deal, and Parliament has limited scope to stop this train.  

Sterling is increasingly reflecting the no-deal risk. Cable was last hovering close to its lowest of the year at 1.2530, having dipped as low as 1.2510, its weakest since the start of January. 2018 lows around 1.2470 could be the next target on the downside. BoE this week may signal tightening bias and readiness to hike earlier than previously expected, but the pressure on the pound remains because of Brexit. The BoE should be minded to remain on the sidelines until Brexit is decided. 

Aussie soft 

Australia’s dollar is also soft and susceptible to a major downside breach after minutes from the last RBA meeting showed more cuts are coming. More likely than not we should get at least one more cut this year. 

The minutes said: ‘Given the amount of spare capacity in the labour market and the economy more broadly, members agreed that it was more likely than not that a further easing in monetary policy would be appropriate in the period ahead.’ This was extremely strong signal and suggests more cuts to come and soon. Excluding the Jan flash crash we are now testing multi-year lows, on the cusp of a move back to decade lows not seen since the height of the financial crisis. At 0.6830 the AUD/USD cross was testing major support – this could hold until we get further clarity from RBA governor Lowe on Thursday. 

Oil soft, gold up 

Oil has failed to catch any tailwinds from the Middle East tensions. Brent was below $61 again but remains clear of last week’s lows. WTI was holding $52. All looking very bearish and flaggy right now. Until we get a good dose of economic data this rut seems set to continue. 

Gold keeps cranking higher – the prospect of lower US yields and geopolitical tensions seem to be acting as a tailwind. Last at $1346 the big target for bulls is the 2018 peaks at $1365 and then the 2017 highs at $1375.

Equities 

Ashtead FY numbers are positive, with EBITDA at £2.11bn, a slight beat as revenues rose 19%. The medium term outlook looks confident. Despite fears of slowing growth in the US, management say they expect to continue to experience strong end markets in North America.

On tap (GMT) 

EUR – ECB President Draghi Speaks (08:00) 

EUR – German ZEW Economic Sentiment (09:00) 

EUR – CPI (09:00) 

USD – Building Permits (12:30) 

GBP – BoE Gov Carney Speaks (14:00) 

EUR – ECB President Draghi Speaks (14:00) 

Trump’s London calling, US-China trade war worsens, oil smoked

Forex
Morning Note

Global stocks were down by around 6% in May – can we get a better June? The runes are not looking great. 

Futures indicate European shares are lower today as trade tensions continue to mount and investors exhibit greater fear about the global economy and the risk of recession. Asian markets were generally lower after a big selloff on Wall Street on Friday that saw the S&P 500 decline 37 points, or 1.32%, to finish at 2,752.06, below its 200-day moving average. FTSE 100 held the 7150 level, but this is likely to get taken out today. 

Trade fears are heating up 

The trade war is not cooling down; in fact, it looks like the rhetoric is heating up and further escalation seems likely. China is raising tariffs on $60bn of US goods in retaliation for tariffs, coming up with its own blacklist of foreign companies, has accused the US of resorting to ‘intimidation and coercion’, and begun an investigation into FedEx. And the Chinese defence minister says if the US wants a fight, they will ‘fight to the end’. No end in sight, and the chances of a G20 détente are slim.

Futures 

US stock futures were lower along with oil amid growing fears about this trade setup. Nothing like progress has been seen re Mexico, and now the market is dealing with reports that the US has been eyeing slapping tariffs on some Australian imports, As we noted last week, the escalation last week with the attack on Mexico – especially as it represented a weaponization of trade to pursue non-economic policies – represents a major turning point and could bring others into the fray. Again, the EU could come under fire soon. 

PMI day 

Data overnight has been mixed but still indicates slowdown. China’s Caixin PMI read 50.2, unchanged from a month before but a little ahead of expectations. Japan’s PMI has gone negative, moving to 49.8, signalling contraction. Japanese manufacturing output down for 5 months in a row, while new export orders fell for the 6th straight month. Japanese equities were down sharply overnight. UK PMI at 09:30, with the ISM numbers for the US due at 15:00. 

London calling 

Trump heads to the UK today – unfortunately he’s meeting a lame duck PM so we can’t expect much of importance. There will be lots of talk of a trade deal with the US post-Brexit. Harder Brexiteers in the Tory leadership race are likely to be emboldened. Expect the no-deal talk to increase.  

Sterling is sure to be under plenty of pressure until the leadership race is clearer. GBPUSD remains anchored to 1.26 for now, having made fresh multi-month lows last week. However, Friday’s bullish hammer reversal may provide the basis for a short-term rally. Just a hint that the pound is oversold and could be ready for a wee bounce. 

Oil smoked, gold higher 

Oil has taken a beating as markets worry more about a slowdown in global demand than supply constraints. Brent has declined by 10% or so in just a couple of days and is holding on $61, while WTI is clinging to $53. Speculators are liquidating long positions wholesale, with Friday’s COT report showing net longs down by 40k contracts. Net long positioning has fallen by about a fifth (100k contracts or more) since the late April high at 547.4k. 

Stockpiles are at their highest in two years. Speculative long positions continue to be cut. Supply uncertainty is losing out to demand uncertainty. Simply put, with OPEC and co curbing output, there is ample excess capacity in the market should it be needed. 14-day RSI and 20-day CCI suggest oversold and ready for a bounce, but this is like trying to catch a falling knife. 

Gold meanwhile is picking up safe haven bid as this decline is not just about valuations but about big fears for the global economy. The easing off in the US dollar has also supported gold. Having broken $1300 gold was last around $1310, with next target $1324.

FTSE rebalancing etc

Finally, there’s a fair bit of chatter about the FTSE rebalancing – will Marks & Spencer survive in the 100? Will JD Sports be promoted? I wouldn’t get too worked up about it all, even if it’s good sport. EasyJet likely to go – shares have been hammered but the business is tightly run and it’s always been one of the smallest in the FTSE 100. MKS lucky to survive with only the rights issue saving it.

Kier – warning on profits – going from bad to worse after the rights issue flopped.  

Astra – hails Lynparza pancreatic cancer drug trials success 

William Hill – bid rumours are doing the rounds 

Dignity – says it welcomes Treasury/FCA proposals  

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