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Risk rolls over in early US trade
Risk appetite has well and truly rolled over. US stocks moved lower in the first hour of trade and continued to leg it south, while oil prices swan dived amid a very messy picture for global markets on Thursday afternoon. Walgreens Boots Alliance shares dragged on the Dow as the stock fell 9% after reporting weaker-than-forecast earnings amid some serious weakness in the UK. The dollar found bid as risk appetite turned south, hurting FX majors like GBPUSD and EURUSD.
Supreme Court rules on Trump tax records
Risk sentiment was a bit shaky anyway but it seemed to take a hit as Donald Trump suffered a defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court – not his favourite institution of late. The Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump’s finances and tax returns are fair game and should be seen by the Grand Jury, but it threw out rulings that allowed 3 Democrat-led Congressional committees to obtain Trump’s financial records.
This ruling relates to alleged hush money to women who have claimed to have had sexual relations with the president – a story Mr Trump said was irrelevant. That may be so, but his tax returns may interest voters. Whilst US legal proceedings are far from my area of expertise, I understand that if only the Grand Jury sees the documents it is very unlikely that they would become public records, which could have had serious repercussions for the election. Meanwhile Treasury Sec Steve Mnuchin was also on the wires, saying the Federal government would not bail out states that had been ‘mis-managed’.
Stocks, commodities lower despite solid US jobs figures
The move lower came despite some decent jobs numbers. Weekly initial jobless claims fell to 1.314m, better than the 1.375m expected and representing a decline of 99k from a week ago. Continuing claims fell to 18.06m, a drop of almost 700k and much better than the 18.9m expected. The previous week’s number was also revised down over half a million.
So, the picture in the US labour market is maybe not quite as bad as feared, but still horrendous. There is clearly a long way to go before getting back to pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, as the number of covid-19 cases rises across most US states, the numbers may well start to improve a slower rate.
At send time indices were at session lows, making new lows for the week – we could see further declines as risk appetite appears to have rolled over today. As of send time the Dow was down over 1.8% to 25,559 at the session low, whilst S&P 500 was down 1.5% at a low of 3,120, making it down for the week.
The dip on Wall Street added to pressure on European equities with the FTSE 100 down over 1.7% to a low at 6,046, taking it negative for the week. Having been bid up on Monday towards the higher end of the recent ranges for little reason we are seeing indices pull back closer to the middle of the June ranges – no conviction trade yet.
Dollar firms against pound, euro in risk-off trade
Meanwhile, sterling eased back as risk appetite soured and Michel Barnier said talks this week confirm that significant divergences remain between the EU and the UK. Sterling pulled back from its highs at the top of the new bullish channel on the news as well as the general risk-off tone but remains in a solid uptrend with GBPUSD ably supported above 1.26. Elsewhere in FX the risk rollover boosted the USD so EURUSD pulled back under 1.13.
WTI (Aug) fell sharply from around $40.50 a low under $39.30 in a very swift and long-awaited reversal – albeit probably a day late given yesterday’s inventory build. Expectations of a slower reopening in a number of US states is a worry for near-term sentiment and I have been calling for a reversal based on the technical set-up, which could see a return to the neckline at $35.
Blonde Money US Nonfarm Payrolls Preview
Blonde Money Founder and CEO Helen Thomas explains the political impact of today’s US nonfarm payrolls report – how will President Trump use a positive or negative print to his advantage with the 2020 US Presidential Election edging closer?
Catch more insight from Helen every week with Blonde Markets on XRay.
US Presidential Election: Not Red, Not Blue, but Green to win?
With a recent poll showing that 14% of registered voters see climate change as the most important challenge facing the country, victory in November may well hinge on the success or failure of the respective parties to own this issue. For context, such a figure implies that around 30 million voters could cast their ballots this Autumn with the environment at the forefront of their thinking – that’s two to three times as many as in 2016.
Of those who care about climate change, one-third describe themselves as ‘very progressive’, suggesting that it is the Democrats who have the most to gain from grasping the initiative on the environment.
Voters focus on green policies, but does Biden?
Despite this potential vote-grabber for Biden, the issue features only 25th on a list of policy proposals on the Biden 2020 website. His plan has three main avenues of execution:
- Reinstating Obama-era regulation through executive order
- Investing $1.7 trillion in green energy and jobs through an act of Congress
- Leading international treatymaking efforts on the world stage.
That’s a long way from the $16 trillion investment into the “Green New Deal” that Bernie Sanders was promising. Herein lies the dilemma which will ultimately decide Democratic fortunes this year – how can they appeal to the middle whilst also ensuring that their base turns up to vote? It looks like climate change isn’t a hill for them to die on.
Rebranding climate issues for rust belt voters
The electoral system also explains why the climate features so far down Biden’s list. The rust belt is a crucial cluster of states for both parties when it comes to grabbing electoral college votes, and many of these rely heavily on so-called ‘dirty industries’ for employment and prosperity. Pennsylvania is the main example of this, where Trump secured victory by less than 45,000 votes in 2016. As the third largest coal-exporting state in America, voters in this area may not react well to Biden’s green vision, allowing Trump to take home 20 crucial electoral college votes.
There is however an opportunity to re-brand green credentials as a wider vote winner. The climate issue is ripe for conversion into an anti-China policy, thanks to their role as global polluters in chief. With approval of China down to -40% in the wake of coronavirus, and Trump likely to leverage this sentiment in his own favour, the environment offers the Democrats a line of attack which can be employed without turning off their core base of support.
How will America’s Climate Policy shift after the US Presidential Election?
There are three main scenarios that could play out in the US Presidential Election.
Scenario One: Trump Wins a Second Term
With or without a Republican Congress, Pres Trump would likely continue to use executive orders to cut back the environmental regulations that were instituted by the Obama administration. So far, Trump’s repeals have included the moratorium on federal coal leasing and the extent to which federal agencies must take account of the environmental impact of their actions.
- This would benefit fossil fuel companies
Scenario Two: Biden beats Trump, and the Democrats gain Congress
In this instance, the Democrats would have carte blanche to deliver on all of Biden’s campaign pledges, including the $1.7 trillion of government spending. In the wake of coronavirus, huge government investment will be expected, providing the perfect cover for such a policy. However, with a majority only guaranteed for two years, and other objectives clearly taking priority, it is unclear whether a Pres Biden would deliver the entirety of his environmental agenda, even in the greenest of scenarios.
- This would benefit companies that can boost their green credentials
- It would harm “dirty energy” businesses
Scenario Three: Biden beats Trump, but the Democrats fail to capture the Congress
Here, Biden would have to rely on the power of executive orders and the office of the Presidency to implement parts of his climate proposal. As easily as Trump repealed them, Biden could reinstate Obama’s regulations. Also, he could use America’s status on the world stage to influence treatymaking and catalyse future climate accords. However, the $1.7 trillion investment in green energy and jobs is not possible without congressional approval, leaving the former VP with a half-delivered promise.
- This would be like half a heart transplant: the economic damage of regulation would be incurred, but without investment elsewhere to compensate
Despite any green rhetoric, the truth is that the environment simply isn’t a priority for the Biden campaign, and this is unlikely to change once in office. A New Deal might be in the offing to respond to the huge economic downturn, but it’s unlikely to be a very Green one.
How will the US-China relationship define the Presidential election?
Trump knows that antagonising China is a dangerous game. But in the run up to the election, it’s also a political necessity.
Before the coronacrisis, there was already a perfect storm of economic and security disputes brewing between the US and China. Covid-19 compounded all the existing issues as well as adding a whole new dimension to the rift. Tension is escalating on all fronts.
Phase one of the trade deal is dead. The promises made by China – purchasing at least $200 billion in US exports over two years – looked unrealistic from the get-go. But the virus means meeting phase one’s targets will be downright impossible. Throw in that China is already buying more from competitors (its imports from Brazil are up 35% on May 2019) even in an economic downturn, and any revival of the Trade Deal before the Election look dead and buried.
The tech war has entered a period of unprecedented turbulence. Trump continues to affirm that Huawei threatens national security, upping the ante in May when a new rule was issued barring Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology.
The Trump administration is reportedly exploring several measures that could punish China for its handling of the virus, including suing the Chinese government for reparations and cancelling US debt obligations to the country. Meanwhile, China has ordered its state-owned enterprises to stop purchases of US farm products after the US threatened to withdraw its special status treatment for Hong Kong – itself a response to China’s new security law for the territory.
The President was aiming to run his campaign based around strong economic performance, and failing that, a successful response to the pandemic. As both these options become increasingly difficult to achieve, China must serve as the scapegoat on which Trump can pin his administration’s failings.
Usefully for Trump, the American people aren’t too fond of the Chinese right now either. A Pew Research Center poll from April suggests that Americans have increasingly negative views of the country with two-thirds now holding an unfavourable opinion towards China.
This sentiment is widespread across a range of groups in America, which is unusual in an ever more polarised electorate.
A Republican ad campaign has been launched proclaiming, “One nation deserves the blame: China”, while the America First Action SuperPAC says it’s spending around $10 million on ads in swing states condemning Biden over China.
It’s rare for two thirds of Americans to reach such a strong consensus so inevitably both the incumbent and his challenger are attempting to burnish their anti-China stripes.
Each also believes they can use China to score personal points against the other candidate.
- Trump is quick to criticise “Beijing Biden” and his son’s alleged profiteering from Chinese business.
- A recent Biden campaign ad reads, “Trump rolled over for the Chinese. He took their word for it.”, and goes on to cite some of Trump’s early remarks praising China’s pandemic response.
This fight isn’t without its risks however.
- In May, Biden’s aforementioned ad sparked outcry from representatives of Asian American Organizations who accused the Democratic candidate of feeding the rise of anti-Asian racism in the US.
- For Trump, a new economic cold war would imperil any incipient return to growth not to mention leave it isolated when big global discussions take place. Hence the recent decision by the US Commerce Department to allow American companies to collaborate with Huawei on 5G technology standards.
As we know though, Trump is no stranger to risky political moves. With winning the election his top priority and alternatives running out, the President will hold onto the anti-China card for dear life to avoid being trumped by Biden.
The battle of ‘who’s tougher on China’ shows no signs of relenting. Both candidates will be forced to push harder and harder to have the last word on an issue which has galvanised such a strong reaction among the American public.
Stocks nudge up, GBP breaks higher
Stock markets continued to strengthen as economies re-open but have yet to retest last Thursday’s highs. The unrest in the US is not likely to have a material impact on equity markets in the near term, largely because of the large-cap weighting, but we should caution that it has the potential to delay the economic recovery in the US.
People who would have been going back to work, spending in restaurants and bars, reopening their stores, will not in this febrile environment. President Trump is doubling down on using force to combat the unrest.
There was news on Remdesivir from Gilead – shares fell as the company reported indications that the drug has some positive impact, but it’s a long way from a slam dunk Covid-beater. Shares fell more than 3%.
So far, the situation with Hong Kong and simmering US-China tensions are being shrugged off. News that China was reducing soy imports from the US temporarily dented risk appetite yesterday. Today China’s foreign ministry said there was no information on any soy bean halt. Could be a load of rumours, but we should be very attuned to further developments on this front.
On the whole investors continue to see the glass half full even though the real extent of the economic damage is yet to be really felt. Furlough schemes and government bailouts may insulate people and companies from the shock, but these only delay the pain.
The FTSE 100 had a look at 6200 again this morning having moved added 90pts to 6,166 on Monday. Thursday’s peak at 6,234 remains the bull’s target for the cash market. The DAX moved to 11,900 with bulls eyeing the 200-day moving average at 12,100.
US stocks climbed by around a third of one per cent despite the civil unrest dragging on and drawing some attention. The S&P 500 finished at 3,055, above its 200-day moving average and making a high at 3,062 in the process, just short of last week’s peak at 3,068. The Dow is trading around the 25,500 level with the 200-day SMA in sight at 26,360.
It’s a very light day for data but overnight the RBA left rates on hold at 0.25% and signalled a more optimistic view of growth. ‘It is possible that the depth of the downturn will be less than earlier expected,’ Governor Philip Lowe said. AUDUSD is stronger, moving back to 0.68 and its best level since January.
News this week will be crucial – US services ISM on Wednesday and the nonfarm payrolls on Friday – for getting more of a handle on how much damage has been done and how quickly businesses are recovering.
Crude oil continues to hold the break on hopes that OPEC+ will agree to further extending the deepest production cuts. OPEC is set to meet June 4th now, with market participants expecting the cartel and Russia to rollover the May-Jun level of cuts for another 1-3 months.
Having brought the meeting forward it looks like OPEC+ will extend the most aggressive cuts of 9.7m bpd through to the end of the summer, though an extension for the rest of 2020 looks off the table. As noted yesterday, with compliance at just 75% last month, all else being equal, OPEC will need more time to rebalance the market as it wishes.
In FX, sterling has made a nice move higher, with GBPUSD breaking north above $1.25, after there was talk of a Brexit compromise ahead of the next round of talks this week. According to reports, the UK is making the first move to compromise – let’s see if the EU can be flexible enough to get a deal done. GBPUSD pushed through the 23.6% retracement around 1.251, potentially opening up a move back to the Apr double top above 1.26.
Removing a no-deal risk at this time would be a significant boost to the pound right now and may well take cable back above 1.30.
Stocks off a little at month end, US-China tensions rise
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?
Man, they said “We’d better accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative”
Stocks are ending May on a slightly downbeat note, but investors have definitely been accentuating the positive this week and for the whole of May.
Thank goodness, Covid-19 is getting bumped off the headlines; trouble is it’s not for good news. At last though we are seeing some caution displayed in the markets over China’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong and the ensuing ramp up in US-China tensions.
US stock markets close in the red, Trump to give press conference on China
US stocks were positive for most of Thursday before sharply reversing in the last hour and closing in the red, after the White House announced that Donald Trump would hold a press conference on China on Friday. ‘We are not happy with China. We are not happy with what’s happened’, he said. The UK, which signed a joint statement condemning China for its actions with Australia, Canada and the US, is opening the door to citizenship for 300,000 Hong Kong residents.
Given how stretched valuations have become, worries about US-China tensions don’t seem fairly priced in. As previously noted, investors need to be prepared for things to get worse from here, particularly given the back drop of a looming election for a second term, the worst recession in memory and 100,000 deaths from Covid – blamed on China – and the trade war, which is still rumbling on.
The pressure on Donald Trump at home is high. The press conference today will likely see Trump increase the war of words with China but he could go further an announce further sanctions on individuals associated with law, or revoke Hong Kong’s special status with the US on trade.
The S&P 500 was up most of the session but closed 6 points lower at the death, whilst the Dow fell 0.6% to 25,400, crumbling 300 points in the last 45 minutes of trading on the news of the White House presser.
Overnight, shares in Hong Kong fell again. European equities followed suit on Friday, declining by around 1% after a decent run in the previous session. The FTSE 100 faded off the 6200 handle reclaimed on Thursday. Hong Kong and China focused HSBC was down another 2.5%. But the FTSE was still headed for a roughly 200-point gain this week. European equities are still firmly higher this week as investors rotated somewhat away from the Covid/tech/quality play and back into cyclicals as economies reopen without undue rises in cases.
The Nasdaq, which has notably outperformed on a year to date basis, has markedly underperformed benchmarks this week. Remember it’s the last day of the month of May – it’s been a solid week and month for equities so investors may seek to take a little risk off the table going into the weekend and into June. The Hong Kong/US/China situation is all the excuse needed.
Data continues to show the dire economic impact of Covid-19
The economic data still stinks. 1 in 4 Americans have lost their jobs since Covid hit. US initial jobless claims rose another 2m to top 40m. But it’s slowing, with the weekly count down again for the 8th straight week. Moreover, continuing claims fell 3.9m to 21.1m, which indicates the labour force is returning – hiring is beating firing again, but it will be a long slow process to recover the 40.8m jobs lost, far longer than it took to lose them. A portion will be lost forever.
The US economy slowed more than previously thought, with the second GDP print for Q1 at -5%, vs 4.8% on the initial print. The Atlanta Fed GDPNow model forecasts Q2 GDP down 40.8%.
French GDP in the first quarter was down just 5.3% vs the 5.8% initially printed. Retail sales and industrial production in Japan both declined by more than 9%. Retail sales in Germany dropped 5.3% in April, not as bad as the -12% forecast – spendthrifts! Meanwhile those frugal French consumers spent even less than forecast, with spending down more than 20% vs a 15% declined expected. France is though reopening its culturally vital bars, restaurants and cafes from next week, so that should get consumers parting with a few more sous.
Dollar offered despite risk-off trade in equities
Despite the risk-off to trade in equities the dollar was offered into the month end. The euro extended its rally after breaking the 200-day moving average yesterday, with EURUSD pushing up to 2-month highs at 1.11. The March peak at 1.1150 is the next target. Sterling was also firmer against the buck, with GBPUSD recovering the 1.23 handle, trying to hold the 50-day line as support.
Shares in Twitter declined by more than 4% as Donald Trump signed an executive order that paves the way for legislation to tighten rules for social media platforms around third party content liability. It’s probably all a lot of hot air and distraction as he pursues a personal vendetta following the fact check warning on a couple of his tweets. Nevertheless, we have consistently warned that social media companies will need to face up to more and more scrutiny and tighter regulation around content distribution and the use of personal data.
Oil first fell but since recovered after EIA figures showed a build in crude oil inventories. Crude stocks rose 7.9m barrels, though inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, declined by 3.4m. WTI (Aug) was hovering around $33 at send time, just about slap in the middle of its consolidation range.
Twitter stock sinks as Trump prepares executive order targeting social media
Twitter stock dived earlier today on the deepening feud between the platform and president Trump, which could see social media slapped with new regulations.
Twitter was down over -4% in pre-market trading, but has since pared losses to -2%. Facebook had also fallen nearly, trading down -2% before the opening bell, but has now edged into positive territory.
The losses come after the White House announced that Trump would sign an executive order today targeting social media companies, with the aim of addressing what he alleges is bias in their strategies for content moderation.
Why is Trump targeting Twitter?
A few days ago Trump posted a tweet which contained several claims about postal ballots. Many states are expanding their postal balloting because of concerns that in-person voting could lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections.
Twitter used its fact-check feature on the President’s tweet. A small blue exclamation point is displayed under the tweet, alongside a link that reads: ‘Get the facts about mail-in ballots’. The link redirects to a page calling the claim ‘unsubstantiated’ and countered assertions in a section entitled ‘What you need to know’.
Unsurprisingly, Trump isn’t happy about it. The president has accused Twitter of interfering with free speech and censoring conservative voices, and even of interfering with the 2020 presidential election.
What can Trump’s executive order do?
According to CNBC, the order would direct the Federal Communications Commission to review certain regulations under the Communications Decency Act. The law in question, known as Section 230, is often criticised by both sides of the political spectrum.
It states that online platforms are not liable for the content that their users post, and also that they can moderate “objectionable” material without being viewed as either a publisher or a speaker under the law. Some conservatives had claimed this allows the platforms to remove views that they disagree with.
The law was originally introduced to protect growing tech companies. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook would never have made it off the ground if they could be held liable for user’s posts: they’d have been sued into oblivion a long time ago. But having to vet every post would be impossible: currently almost 9,000 tweets are posted every second.
As we noted this morning, Trump can put more of a regulatory squeeze on companies and raise their costs. He could push for changes to the current laws so that it is easier for regulators to take action against tech companies who are deemed to be violating the free speech of their users.
More pain to come for Twitter stock as US election approaches?
While Twitter and Facebook have recouped the worst of the day’s losses, it could be the start of an uncomfortable period for the platforms. With the US election just a few months away, a lot of content on both sides will likely be reviewed, challenged, and removed by social media companies. When Republicans are the ones being censored, Trump’s ire will grow.
Trump could see going after social media companies as another way to rally his fanbase, but it’s worth remembering that the president has reaped the benefits of the platform. He has 80 million followers – any action of his that materially damages the platform also damages his own reach.
Trump’s actions represent a new downside risk for social media stocks. You can trade the top companies in the sector as a single CFD with our unique Social Media Blend.
Risk offered into the weekend
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.
Stocks stage fightback, Trump raises China stakes
US stocks staged a mighty comeback and closed at the highs as beaten-up financials managed to recover ground. The S&P 500 traded under the 50% retracement level at 2790, dipping as low as 2766 as US jobless claims rose by another 3m, before rallying to close up 1% at 2852. Financials, which have failed to really take part in the rally since March, led the way as Wells Fargo rose 6.8% and Bank of America and JPMorgan both rallied 4%. Energy stocks also firmed as oil prices rallied.
European indices were softer on Thursday but managed to recover a little ground in early trade on Friday. The FTSE 100 rose over 1% to clear 5,800, with the DAX up a similar amount and trying gamely to recover 10,500. Asian shares have largely drifted into the weekend with no clear direction.
The rally for Wall Street snapped a 3-day losing streak but the indices are still on for the worst weekly performance since mid-March. We’re still in this tug-of-war phase as the real-world impacts of Covid-19 run up against the stimulus and central bank support. Markets are still trying to figure it all out. SPX needs to rally to 2915 today to finish the week flat, while the FTSE 100 requires 5,935.
The deterioration in US-China relations is another worry for investors, with Donald Trump saying he doesn’t even want to speak to President Xi and threated to ‘cut off’ China ties. He’s not angry, he just ‘very disappointed’. As I’ve pointed out in a past note, in an election year with the economy suffering from the worst recession in memory, Trump is likely to go very hard against China, particularly as this has bi-partisan support and polls indicate anti-China feeling running high. This will be partly a political game, partly what the US ought to be doing anyway, but either way it will likely provide yet another downside risk for investors.
Neckline support of the head and shoulders pattern is feeling pressure but yesterday’s rally is positive for bulls. Expect further push-and-pull around this region.
Overnight data showed Chinese factory output rise while consumer demand slowed. Retail sales declined 7.5% vs 7% expected in April. US retail sales today are forecast at -12%, or -8.6% for the core reading.
Oil put on a good show with front month WTI rising above $28. The August WTI crude oil contract trades a little higher than $29, meaning the contango spread has narrowed by two-thirds in the last week. Price action suggests traders are far less worried about the underlying demand and storage constraints that have dogged prices for the last couple of months.
In FX, as flagged sterling tested the Apr 6th low, which has held for the time being and GBPUSD has recovered the 1.22 handle. Risks look to the downside, but short-term momentum looks like we could see a nudge up.
Gold has driven off the support and was last up a $1736. Whilst Covid-19 is initially a deflationary shock (negative for gold), the extent to which governments have fired up the printing presses and the fact that monetization of this debt seems the only way out, a significant period of inflation could be around the corner. Gold is still the best hedge against inflation. The Apr 23rd high at $1738 is first test before a retest of the previous top at $1747 and then $1750 to call for a breakout to $1800.
Oil spikes as Iran responds, Trump to speak
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.