Sterling’s RoRo Yo-Yo day

Brexit

The pound endured some wild whipsaws today on a range of Brexit headlines. First sterling slid through the morning as the EU lodged its legal complaint over the internal market bill. GBPUSD hit the LOD at 1.2820 by 10am.

But then GBPUSD rallied aggressively through 1.295 on reports officials were close to entering the tunnel, with the FT’s Whitehall correspondent quoting one as saying: ‘We’ve gone from about 30% chance of a deal to the other way around. I think it’s almost certain we’ll enter the tunnel.’ The implication that officials see a 70% likelihood of a deal got sterling bulls running the stops.

Sterling pushed up to a fresh two-week high, but the 1.30 round number was not tested as the rally ran out of legs at 1.2980. The 1.30 level is the big horizontal and Fibonacci resistance to unlock the move to the mid-1.30s once a Brexit deal is signed.

However, cable was back down almost one big figure again, taking a 1.28 handle after an EU official said there is no sign of a landing zone on fisheries, or level playing field. At send time GBPUSD was sitting on the 1.29 round number around the mid-point for the day.

What we learned from this:

Sterling is on the hook to some wild price swings on headlines, which we knew would be the case. No one wants to try 1.30 unless there are more concrete rumours from ‘sources’. Talks wrap up tomorrow – more market-moving headlines to come.

Twitter is a very good source of information for trading – cable shot higher a couple of minutes after the initial 70/30% tweet. Algos were slow to respond for once – shows they don’t read Twitter very well – yet (H/T @PriapusIQ).

It does seem like there are tentative signs of ‘progress’ despite all the chuntering around the internal market bill, which looks increasingly like a sideshow to the main event of trade talks.

In short, a deal seems more likely than not. I’ve moved from 60/40 to 50/50 after the IMB to back to 60/40 again.

Broad rally for equities as UK goes for lockdown-lite, Tesla fails to spark, precious metals under pressure

Morning Note

European markets rose 1% in early trade on Wednesday, extending mild gains from the previous sessions following the steep selling on Monday. Yesterday, the S&P 500 rose 1%, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.7%, whilst markets across Europe were a little more mixed with London and Frankfurt higher but Paris lower.

Today sees solid bid across sectors and bourses with a slate of manufacturing and services PMIs in focus. The FTSE 100 recovered the 5,900 level, with even IAG and easyJet getting in on the action, rising 6% each. Safe-haven play Fresnillo was off by a similar margin as silver and gold prices come under a good deal of pressure again today.

There is no clear evidence for the airlines to rally except that perhaps there was an overreaction earlier in the week.

PMIs underline the fragility of the recovery

I will issue the usual caveat about extrapolating too much from these diffusion indices, but they do highlight an interesting trend. The manufacturing sector can sustain a recovery as firms can work out how to function in the new environment, but it’s harder for many service sector businesses to operate at all, which drags on the number.

Service sector companies are also much more exposed to the caprice of lockdowns. Both German and French services PMIs came in under 50, indicating contraction (survey respondents think things are worse than the month before), while both countries’ manufacturing PMIs pointed to expansion.

The UK is heading for a second lockdown-lite

This will dent the recovery and hit some sectors especially hard, but perhaps more importantly this is spurring the chancellor into action. With the furlough scheme slated to end in October, there is a risk of a jobs calamity even without further lockdown restrictions, which are a possibility.

Rishi Sunak is reported to be working on new plans to support jobs, which may ease worries among investors that the UK economy could fall off a cliff for a second time just as the Brexit process reaches its finale.

Individual stocks are putting some very big moves daily which only indicates the kind of dislocation in market pricing, uncertainty about the path of the pandemic and the fact that no one really knows where a lot of these securities ought to be trading.

Whether it’s value or growth, tech or travel, the unevenness of both the recovery and government policy means it’s hard to know what a fair value is. Trying to extrapolate a narrative to fit all of this is often a fool’s errand.

Tesla stock tumbles after Battery Day reveals fall flat

A case in point: Tesla shares fell over 5% and extended their decline by a further 7% in after-hours trading, despite Elon Musk outlining the company’s plans to halve the cost of battery manufacturing and market an electric car at $25,000. The new battery tech would deliver 16% more range and x6 more power, but the company said production in volume is three years away.

There is some debate about whether Tesla’s Battery Day announcements amount to incremental or revolutionary changes to battery technology, but two things are clear: Tesla has not suddenly acquired warp speed capability, but clearly the company has a roadmap to cheaper, longer life battery technology that it will make itself and will allow it to lead the EV field for a while longer.

Panasonic and other suppliers were hit with Tesla planning to make its own battery. Nevertheless, given all the anticipation around a potential game-changer in battery technology, investors were a little underwhelmed by the news. Tesla’s Frankfurt-listed shares declined 7% at the open, before paring losses a touch.

Nike climbs as online sales surge, Ant Group takes another IPO step

Nike shares shot higher after-market following an 82% rise in online sales, with the company expecting to benefit from a permanent shift to direct online sales. EPS of $0.95 beat the $0.47 expected, on revenues of $10.6bn vs the $9bn expected. Nike continues to benefit from its strong brand presence that is akin to Apple in the smartphone space, as well as large investments in its web and mobile platforms. Shares in Adidas and Puma rose about 4% on the read-across.

Ant Group took a step closer to its mega-IPO after it submitted documents for registrations of the Shanghai side of the listing. The company plans to list both on Shanghai’s STAR Market and in Hong Kong, with valuation estimates in the region of $250bn-$300bn.

Cable softens, BoE Baily fails to quell negative rate fears

In FX, GBPUSD traded under 1.27 in early European trade after the downside breach of the 200-day EMA presented bears with an obvious momentum play. Yesterday’s move under the 1.2760 level has opened up the path to further losses and today the pair is trading through the 100-day line and testing the 38.,2% retracement at 1.2690.

Whilst Andrew Bailey attempted some push back on negative rates, saying they are not imminent, the takeaway from his comments was that this unorthodox and dangerous tool is very much being actively considered by the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee.

Chart: GBPUSD downside exposed

The USD continues to find bid, which is weighing on gold. DXY extended its push out of the channel, forcing gold to trade under $1,900 and test the 50% retracement around $1875, corresponding with the horizontal support of the descending triangle formed by the August lows. Silver has a bearish bias after breaching the August low.

Chart: Dollar continues breakout

 

Chart: Gold tests 50% retracement

Chart: Silver breaks August lows

Risk offered into the weekend

Commodities
Equities
Forex
Indices

A number of factors have conspired to create a more risk-off tone to the end the trading week than we saw at the start of the European session.

Although European indices are just about holding the line, US futures are indicated lower and we may see the S&P 500 retest the lows under the 50% retracement level at 2790. The Dow is indicated -200pts.

The FTSE 100 has retreated sharply from the morning highs of the day and may well stutter into the close should Wall Street drag sentiment down. The DAX is also well off the highs though still positive, the CAC is already weaker, and the Euro Stoxx 50 is flat. US indices are already set for their worst week since the middle of March. Key test at yesterday’s lows at 2,766 for SPX.

In FX, the Japanese yen was the strongest and kiwi was the weakest. Sterling sank to its weakest since late March. Gold has broken out above the Apr 24th peak and now has the $1747 region its sights. A breakout above $1750 could see the next leg higher to $1800.

US retail sales were even worse than forecast in April, sliding 16.4% vs 12% expected. Core retail sales fell 17.2% vs 8.6% expected. Trying to read too much into individual data points in the current environment is exceptionally tough, but the optics from these figures are hardly reassuring.

US-China relations sour by the hour, with the White House moving to block semi-conductor shipments to Huawei. Reports suggest China is looking at retaliation with measures against US companies like Apple, Qualcomm and Cisco. I think we can assume a ratcheting up of pressure on China by the Trump administration in the coming weeks.

UK-EU relations are also looking very risk-off. GBP is now in full RoRo mode and cable made fresh two-month lows as it breached the April 6th support at 1.2160 to test 1.2150. It looks like real stalemate.

The UK is refusing to countenance the EU’s level playing field demands. Britain also said it would refuse any offer to extend the transition period. Both Frost and Barnier sounded downbeat on the prospects of a deal. Barnier said the positions are extremely divergent, Frost said very little progress has been made.

A lot to do to avoid the dreaded no-deal – downside risks for GBP clearly evident. The pound is already beaten up pretty badly due to the wider macro outlook as a risk-on currency these days, and the Brexit risk has reared its head again to impart more pressure.

Advisory note – Trump as ever is the wildcard and we have Rose Garden update on a vaccine from the president at some point today.

The pound tumbles; Carney trade wars warnings; Lagarde to lead ECB and better than expected NFP

Equities
Forex

With Brexit unknowns continuing to rumble away, it’s been a tough few months for sterling. The weakening pound hit a six-month low against the dollar today, which was buoyed by better than predicted US jobs report.

The figures come hot on the heels of Mark Carney’s speech on Tuesday in which he warned that trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty had the potential to “shipwreck” the global economy.

“Business confidence has fallen across the G7 to its lowest level in five years, with sentiment among manufacturers particularly weak. Households have also become gloomier about the general economic outlook, though they remain relatively upbeat about their own financial situation, likely reflecting robust labour markets. This is a similar pattern to that which emerged in the UK following the referendum,” he said.

He warned that policymakers were underestimating the impact of the ongoing US trade wars with China, Mexico and Europe. In his speech, he said trade tensions had significant downside risks for the UK economy, given it is already struggling under the Brexit quagmire. But he added that the global uncertainty has caused a “sharp slowdown” in global trade, manufacturing, production and capital good orders.

His comments caused gilts to rally and led to speculation of a BoE rate cute later this year, despite his claims that global markets are already pricing in more stimulus than is necessary.

Carney’s warning, alongside the weakening pound and sluggish growth in the first and second quarters, suggest that the BoE forecast for the UK economy next month could be grim reading.

Sterling lost more than 1% over the week against the dollar, and is heading for its ninth consecutive week of losses against the Euro. With little good news on the horizon, the outlook for the currency is bleak.

Lagarde new ECB president

Carney’s name just keeps popping up in the news this week, as he’s one of the contenders tipped to replace Christine Lagarde as the head of the IMF.

Mario Draghi steps down in October and Lagarde has been nominated to replace him. The nomination has surprised many, as Lagarde would be the first ECB president without any experience of setting central bank policy. She would also be the first female president of the ECB.

It’s a tough time to take over the ECB presidency, with pressure to improve growth across the Eurozone and – crucially – keep the area intact. It’s tough not to keep coming back to Brexit, but the UK’s disorganised and divisive split from the EU has done nothing to reduce calls for similar EU-exits from member states.

However, Lagarde is clearly no stranger to a challenging role, taking over as head of the IMF in 2011 when many countries were still struggling to overcome the effects of the financial crisis.

Investors must feel that she is a safe pair of hands, as the impact of the announcement on the markets was instant. The FTSE 100 closed up 0.7% at 7,609 points on the day the news broke, while the New York S&P 500 hit a record high as it moved closer to the 3,000 mark. There was almost palpable relief that a monetary hawk, such as Jens Weidmann from Germany, has not been handed the reins.

Non-Farm Payroll better than expected

Finally, the US got a boost in what is already a celebration week with better than expected Non Farm Payroll figures.

It showed that 224,000 jobs were created in June, many more than the 160,000 that economists had forecast. The figures are a rebound from the disappointing figures in May, and will be a relief to many worried about the economic outlook.

The Greenback strengthened on the (already weakening) pound following the figures, and EUR/USD is falling toward 1.1200 – the lowest in two weeks.

However, despite the impact on the dollar, investors would be wise to be cautious. Wage growth was disappointing compared to expectations and trade wars continue to cause tensions in global markets. Nevertheless, concerns of a recession may be over-egging it.

As Rewan Tremethick explains here, these figures have come just at the right time and show that the gap between market expectations, and what the economy actually needs, could be shrinking – just.

Morning Note: Aussie rallies on election win, equities slow

Equities
Forex
Indices
Morning Note

It was a tentative start to the trading week as markets digest the last few day’s ructions, ongoing news flow around US-China trade and mounting concerns about what is going on between the US and Iran. 

The main European bourses have opened in the red although the FTSE 100 put up something of a fight to just about hold in the green. Can probably thank the weaker pound for this. Italian stocks are being hammered this morning.

US S&P 500 e-mini futures are green now having seen the broad market turn south on Friday. Stocks fell in the last couple of hours of trading last week on reports US-China trade talks were on hold. The market remains at the mercy of commentary and news flashes around these talks and it is wise to try and put some ear muffs on at times. 

Australian banking stocks were the main winners as the win for the Liberal-National coalition removed the risk of certain regulatory moves.  

Forex – Aussie wins

AUDUSD – ScoMo’s miracle victory has lifted the Australian dollar a touch, but bulls shouldn’t get too excited yet. AUDUSD firmed up on the first session of trading since the result of the election became known. Having fallen close to decade lows on the 0.68 handle, the pair has firmed on the 0.6920 level. Resistance seen at 0.69440, the 23% retracement of the down move from the April highs. Whilst the election may deliver some short-term relief for Aussie bulls, it’s the RBA that really matters. The market is betting on a rate cut this summer and seems likely, the question is whether this is the first in a cycle of cuts or is one-and-done.  Nevertheless, having taken a look at decade lows, bulls will be hopeful that we have seen a reversal in the long-term down trend.

Elsewhere in FX, sterling remains under the cost. GBPUSD is struggling below 1.28 and is showing few signs of being able to mount much of a rally. The ongoing political uncertainty and the open war in the Tory party will act as drags on risk sentiment. GBPUSD was last at 1.2730 and with support seen at 1.2710, the Jan 10/11 lows. 

And coming up this week we have a potentially volatile period for GBP given the European Parliament elections take place on Thursday through to Sunday. We should also be on guard for any EUR spasms if there is a surge in populist parties threatening to shake things up in Brussels. We’ve heard all this before, but nevertheless markets remain highly sensitive to news flashes – only last week the euro was moving on a series of comments made by Italy’s ruling populist parties.  

Oil higher

We have some can kicking but it rather looks like OPEC is leaning to an extension and could adjust the volumes. Compliance was at 160% in April, which gives ample scope to raise output or reduce the production curb commitments. Brent remains bid above $73 on this as well as the mounting tensions between the US and Iran

Morning Note: European markets lower, oil gains, pound under pressure

Equities
Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European markets opened lower, with the major equity indices pulling back after Wednesday’s kneejerk move higher amid a very noisy, confusing picture for investors regards trade, growth and interest rates.

The FTSE 100 lost 20 points to retreat to 7275, losing the 7300 handle achieved yesterday. Auto stocks are weaker this morning – perhaps a dose of reality in the cold light of the morning after yesterday’s gains. 

Markets recovered ground yesterday, switching from red to green sharply as reports suggested the US will delay auto tariffs by six months. This, combined with some more jawboning from Mnuchin on trade talks, tended to ease the worries about the US-China trade spat. 

But the US president add pressure elsewhere – issuing an executive order banning US firms from working with Huawei. Lots and lots and lots of noise from all sides – making this a tough market to be in.

SPX bounced off support around the 2817 level, which was a big area of resistance in the not-too-distant past, to close at 2,850. 

Bonds bid

The 10-year Treasury remains below 2.4%, with bonds finding bid as the US retail sales and industrial production numbers missed yesterday. 3m-10yr inversion again flashes the recession amber lights – expect to hear more of this talk even though the US seems a long way from recession right now (3.2% print GDP, consumer spending and retail sales at multi-year highs, unemployment at 50-year lows…I could go on).

Oil rallies

Oil – Brent has rallied above $72. Bullishness seems to be down to mounting geopolitical risks in the Middle East. Specifically, oil is higher because the market is worried that the US and Iran are at risk of a flare-up. Oil rose despite a surprise build in US inventories, which were up 5.4m barrels in the last week according to yesterday’s EIA data. We also saw a build in inventories in Cushing.  

Meanwhile the IEA revised its demand growth outlook lower by 90k barrels a day to 1.3m. Whilst this was bearish, the group also highlighted the significant supply side uncertainty – Iran, Venezuela, Libya etc. As we noted in a recent strategy note on oil, the IEA says the supply picture is ‘confusing’. 

Sterling under pressure

FX – Unemployment data from Australia overnight came in weaker and leads us to assume the RBA will cut over the summer (or winter). Although employment rose, jobs growth seems likely to slacken. The RBA has made it perfectly clear that should inflation or unemployment not improve it will be cutting soon. This may well create further downside on the Aussie, which is of course under pressure from the whole China-trade-growth story.

AUDUSD is seriously threatening the 0.69 level on the downside. There is a lot of pressure there and it could go, which would open up move to 2016 lows at 0.68. We’re at multi-year lows here so there is a lot of support to contend with. Whether AUDUSD gets squeezed lower still though will depend on whether the RBA signals it’s one (maybe two) and done, or if it’s embarking on a longer-term easing cycle. 

GBPUSD remains below the 1.2860 level having breached this important support yesterday. Brexit worries abound – it’s either no deal or no Brexit by the looks of things. Next up we could see it slip to the mid-Feb lows around 1.2780. Below that we start to consider a return to the 2019 lows around 1.24 as a possibility. The rebels are putting their pieces in place to oust May if (when) her Brexit bill fails against for the umpteenth time.  Meanwhile as we noted yesterday’s note, amid a broad downturn in risk appetite the pound is exposed. EURGBP is advancing past the 0.87 marker and was last at 0.874, pushing up to 0.88 and the Feb highs.”

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