European markets cautiously higher, oil weak despite OPEC deal

Morning Note

After rallying into the Easter weekend, European markets were bit lacklustre on Tuesday but still trading marginally higher thanks to some decent numbers out of China and the continued hope that governments are getting a grip of the crisis. US shares closed softer on Monday, with the S&P 500 down 1%, but this was after the best weekly rally for Wall Street since 1974.

Asian shares rallied overnight after better-than-expected Chinese trade data. Exports fell 6.6% in March, against –14% expected. Imports slipped 0.9% vs –9.5% forecast. With the usual caveats around Chinese government data, these numbers are much better than feared and underpinned broad strength in Asian trade. The Nikkei 225 closed 3% higher, finishing at a one-month high, while shares across China were also up around the 1% mark for the day. US futures are trading higher.

Lockdowns are being extended: The bitterer the pill, the stronger the medicine. At least that is what many governments are hoping for as they extend lockdowns and seek a path out of the mess. France will only gradually begin reopening the country from May 11th, while India’s lockdown is being extended through to May 3rd. The UK seems set to extend the lockdown by another 3 weeks to May 7th. The hope is that the more pain now, the quicker you can reopen the economy. We’ll need it – France’s finance minister Le Maire says GDP will decline 8% in 2020.

Meanwhile in the US, Donald Trump is as belligerent as ever, saying he is working on plans to reopen the economy, despite being the global epicentre of the outbreak and deaths exceeding 22,000. Several state governors are taking steps on their own to do this. The risk lies, as everyone knows, in reopening too soon and needing to close down again. But if the US economy does get moving sooner than elsewhere, we could see stocks outperform too.

Earnings season kicks off today in the US with the big banks. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo get the show on the road. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley report on Wednesday. Investors seem to be expecting heightened volatility around this quarter’s earnings releases, reflecting the deep uncertainty about how bad the numbers will be. Heightened volatility will undoubtedly support trading top line, but we will need to see what effect government support has had on things like impairment charges. And as ever, the real focus will be on the earnings outlook for Q2.

Despite the historic OPEC++ deal to cut output by 9.7m bpd over the next two months and commit to ongoing curbs for two years, WTI has slipped lower since reopening on Monday and is forming a support zone around $22.30/40. Brent is struggling to hold $32.

There is still a lot uncertainty over whether the reduction in output will be enough. Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman said it will be more than the 9.7m headline cut, indicating as much as 19.5m bpd will come out of the market initially. But the commitment still lacks what some think could be a demand crash worth 30m bpd. Whilst there is bound to be a rebalancing in oil markets due to supply coming off, either by design or by default, most think OPEC and allies haven’t done enough to prop up prices in the near term, albeit they do seem to have shown a willingness to prevent a complete collapse as inventory builds threatened to overwhelm the market.

Output in North America is already collapsing. The EIA sees output down 366k bpd in April to 8.71m bpd and a further drop in May to 8.53m bpd. It wasn’t’ long ago US output was around 13m bpd. In Canada the number of active rigs has declined to just 35 from as many as 240 in February. Bank of America says the deal by OPEC will stem the decline in the US – just 1.8m bpd being lost vs a 3.5m without the deal. It predicts demand for 2020 will be down 9.2m bpd, vs a prior estimate of 4.4m. Texas oil regulators could decide today to mandate 20% production cuts.

The biggest uncertainty for oil is how quickly does demand recover in the medium term? Indeed, this is the central question for risk assets in general.

In FX, the pound pushed up to its strongest in a month versus the US dollar. GBPUSD broke clear of the month range yesterday and continues to find near term support above 1.2530. Looking to hold the rally above the 61.8 retracement at 1.25150.The mid-March swing highs around 1.2650 offer near-term resistance to the bulls, as well as the 200-day moving average at 1.2657 . Daily MACD still positive. The UK and EU are trying to keep the Brexit show on the road and are due to set out how they plan to progress trade talks on Wednesday.

Chart: FTSE 100, 1hr, MACD signalling weakness, look for support around Thursday’s lows at 5,677.

Markets.com

UK 100 Cash, 1-Hour Chart, Marketsx – 08.50 UTC+1, April 14th, 2020