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.