Sentiment Remains Fragile
Today’s Financial Markets Highlights
• The US dollar still sits at the fulcrum today between the funding currencies and the high-beta currencies, except in reverse of the pre-weekend drama. The funding currencies are lower and the high-beta are posting modest gains.
• Great uncertainty over the new Covid variant remains, and this may not be lifted for a couple of weeks. This may make for choppy trading as market convictions have been shaken.
• Japan’s economic recovery is intact as retail sales rose for a second consecutive month in October.
• Spanish and German inflation figures are in line with expectations ahead of tomorrow’s preliminary aggregate November estimate. The year-over-year rate is expected to rise to 4.5% from 4.1%
• US auto sales and the employment report are highlights this week, but several Fed officials speak ahead of Wednesday’s Beige Book.
The fire that burnt through the capital markets before the weekend, triggered by the new Covid mutation, burned itself out in the Asian Pacific equity trading earlier today. A semblance of stability, albeit fragile and tentative, has emerged. Europe’s Stoxx 600 is up about 1%, led by real estate, information technology, and energy. US index futures are trading higher, with the NASDAQ leading. Benchmark 10-year yields are firmer. The US 10-year Treasury yield has risen about six basis points to 1.53%. European yields are mostly 1-2 basis points higher, while the UK Gilt yield is up four basis points. The dollar remains, as we say, at the fulcrum of the major currencies, but in an opposite way, with the funding currencies that rallied strongly before the weekend seeing their gains pared today, while the dollar bloc and Scandis trade firmer. Among the emerging market currencies, the liquid and freely accessible currencies, such as the South African rand, Russian rouble, and Mexican peso are leading the recovery. The Turkish lira and central European currencies, perhaps dragged down by the softer euro, underperform. The JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is slightly firmer after falling around 0.4% before the weekend. Gold held support near $1780 but has been unable to resurface above $1800. January WTI jumped by about 5% after the 13% drop at the end of last week. Iron ore surged 6.5%, recouping in full the 5.6% decline in the last session to approach its recent highs. Winter weather is beginning to be experienced in Europe, and natural gas (Netherlands) is up 7.75% after falling 4.8% ahead of the weekend. Copper is recouping a little less than half of last Friday’s nearly 4% fall.
Faced with much unknown about the new mutation, several Asia Pacific countries are opting to close their borders to foreign travelers. Initially, countries limited the travel ban to a handful or so of countries from Southern Africa. It does appear that the omicron variant has been around before being sequenced in South Africa, and it is has been found in several countries. However, the origin is still not clear. While some reports from South Africa suggest mild symptoms, there is good reason for the World Health Organization’s caution. If a new vaccine is needed for the variant, reports suggest it could take around 100 days.
Recall that Japan has lifted its formal emergency in late September, and the economy is rebounding as anticipated. Today’s data showed retail sales rose for a second month in October. The 1.1% increase lifted the year-over-year rate to 0.9%. Purchases of clothing and food surged by 9.2%. Auto sales, still hampered by supply chain disruptions, was the only category that fell. After a frustratingly slow start, Japan’s inoculation efforts have been successful, and the vaccination rate is above 75%.
Before news of the new variant broke, the dollar was around JPY115.50. It fell to nearly JPY113.00 before the weekend. It recovered in early dealing to almost JPY113.90 before the weakness of the regional equities contributed to its push lower. Bloomberg pricing data showed it recorded a JPY112.99 low near midday in Tokyo. It bounced to almost JPY113.65 in late dealings and has been consolidating in the European morning. The option for $350 mln at JPY113.40 that expires today has likely been neutralized. The market appears to be waiting for a new development to push it out of the JPY113-JPY114 range. The Australian dollar held the pre-weekend low slightly below $0.7115 and is making session highs late in the European morning near last Friday’s high (~$0.7155). Nearby resistance is seen in the $0.7180-$0.7200 area. Recall that last week’s 1.55% decline was the fourth consecutive weekly loss and the largest in three months. The greenback gave up its pre-weekend gain against the Chinese yuan and a bit more today. It did not even trade above CNY6.39 today, settling above it at the end of last week. As we have noted, it remains within the range set on November 16 of roughly CNY6.3670-CNY6.3965. The PBOC set the dollar’s reference rate at CNY6.3872 and continued to set it above expectations (CNY6.3858, via Bloomberg). Two issues seem to be receiving attention today. First are the prospects of easing by the PBOC in the face of continuing weakening of the economy. The November PMI will be released starting first thing tomorrow. Second, China’s property developers have an estimated $1.3 bln in debt servicing next month, following $2 bln this month.
Outside of the virus, two issues dominate investors’ attention in Europe today. First are the November inflation reports from Spain and Germany ahead of the preliminary aggregate figures tomorrow. The other is the increasingly bellicose rhetoric between the UK and France over the channel crossings and fishing.
Spain’s harmonized November CPI rose by 0.3% to lift the year-over-year rate to 5.6%. It is the fastest pace since 1992. It follows October’s 1.6% increase and 5.4% 12-month rate. Food and energy were the main drivers. The increase was in line with forecasts. In September, the central bank’s chief economist had anticipated that November could be the peak in inflation and anticipated it falling back below the 2% target in 2022.
German states are reporting their November CPI figures, and the country’s measure will be reported late today. The states’ measures are consistent with forecasts calling for the nation’s harmonized measure to fall around 0.2%. However, the year-over-year pace is projected to accelerate to 5.5% from 4.6% due to the base effect. The EMU aggregate preliminary CPI is forecast (Bloomberg median) to be flat on the month for a 4.5% year-over-year pace (up from 4.1% in October). The core rate is projected to climb to 2.3% from 2.0%.
The euro poked slightly above $1.1330 at the end of last week and settled just above $1.1315. It traded near $1.1260 in late Asia/early Europe and caught a bid that brought it back to about $1.1290. There is a 1.7 bln euro option at $1.13 that expires today. The intraday momentum indicators are getting stretched, warning of the downside risk in early North American activity. Sterling recorded a new low for the year ahead of the weekend, near $1.3280. It is trading in about a quarter-cent range today, around $1.3335, and staying within last Friday’s range. The pre-weekend high was closer to $1.3365. After an eight-day rally, the December short-sterling interest rate futures contract is trading slightly heavier today. The market expectations have shifted from a good chance of a hike next month to a bit more than a third of a chance.
The US auto sales and jobs highlight this week, but Fed officials are out in force too. Today Powell, Williams, and Hasson speak at an innovation conference, and Bowman discusses the central bank and indigenous economies. Tomorrow, Powell and Yellen testify before a Senate committee on the CARES Act. Their prepared remarks are expected to be released later today that may also work for the testimony on Wednesday on the same topic before a House committee. Tuesday, Clarida discusses the Fed’s independence, while Williams will speak on food security. The Beige Book, in preparation for next month’s FOMC meeting, is due Wednesday too. No fewer than five Fed officials speak in the second half of the week. Our initial bias continues to be for faster tapering at the December FOMC meeting. It still seems to be the prudent course to maximize the Fed’s ability to respond to a broad range of probable economic outcomes.
The US pending home sales and the Dallas Fed manufacturing survey, due today, are not typically market movers. And today is unlikely to be an exception. Canada reports its Q3 current account surplus (expected to be around C$5.7 bln, up from C$3.6 bln in Q2. It also reports raw material and industrial prices for October. The week’s highlight is tomorrow’s September and Q3 GDP, followed by Friday’s employment report. Mexico reports October unemployment figures (median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey calls for a 4.07% rate, down from 4.18% in September). Concerns about President AMLO’s appointment to the central bank lingers even though the peso may benefit from the correction to the 1.6% pre-weekend drop.
The US dollar spiked to almost CAD1.28 before the weekend. It fell to nearly CAD1.2720 today. The pullback was seen in Asia, and it has been consolidating since then. Still, the greenback looks vulnerable to a further retracement of the pre-weekend gains. Initial potential extends toward CAD.2680-CAD1.2700. The broader risk appetites may be the key today for both the Canadian dollar and Mexican peso. The greenback jumped to MXN22.1550 amid the pre-weekend turmoil. This now marks the high for the year. It pulled back initially to MXN21.6850 in Asia, but the selling pressure eased, and it traded in an MXN21.7630-MXN21.9000 range in Europe. We suspect the combination of the trajectory of US monetary policy plus the concerns about the central bank of Mexico boosts the chances that the peso underperforms generally. Moreover, rising price pressures and a weak economy put officials in a difficult position, especially given AMLO’s reluctance to deploy fiscal measures to support the economy.
Bannockburn Global Forex