Stocks flat before FOMC minutes, zero covid strategy stays RBNZ hand

Morning Note

European stocks opened higher on Wednesday after a more positive handover from Asia. Wall Street snapped a 5-day win streak to end the day lower by around 0.7%, with the Nasdaq off 0.9%. The FTSE 100 is higher again today after a solid shift on Tuesday left it outperforming peers – helped by BHP’s rally. Gold is facing resistance at the 50-day line around the $1,800 level as the bounce continues, WTI trades up around $67 ahead of the weekly EIA inventory figures after the API reported a draw of a little more than 1m barrels.

UK inflation fell to 2% last month, down from 2.5% in June, leaving the Bank of England some breathing space, though it’s rather messy – this could just be a minor speed bump on the path to 4% as base effects/summer discounting in clothing weighs. Rising wage growth and a labour market shortage may conspire to drive up more persistent inflation trends. Core month-on-month inflation was flat vs +0.3% expected. Sterling was barely moved and trades a little above yesterday’s 3-week low around 1.3745, but still below the 200-day SMA.

One case = national lockdown = impact on monetary policy. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand postponed its first interest rate hike, after the country moved into lockdown following a number of cases of covid-19 were detected, the first such in six months. A policy of zero-covid seems unsustainable in the long run, but the regime is set on this hard-line path. The RBNZ is set to hike still, but if there are ongoing intermittent lockdowns it could be delaying again, though governor Orr said the country is going to face rolling periods of covid disruption and can handle it. NZDUSD spiked to 0.6880 but has pared losses to regain the 0.69 handle.

NZDUSD: lower end of the range – knock enough times? Bearish MACD crossover on the daily here.

Chart showing NZD/USD currency pairing movements on 18th August 2021.

Jay Powell, Fed chair, said the US central bank is in the process of putting away its tools designed for actual emergencies – hints of a taper. He also stressed that for all the doom-mongers out there, it’s not certain that the Delta strain will dent the recovery.

Or will it? A batch of US data offered a soft-ish picture for the economy and could be enough for doves to argue the Fed does not need to rush. Delta seems to be taking some of the shine of consumers in the US as retail sales missed. MoM -1.1% vs 0.2% estimate, retail sales control group -1.0% vs +1.1% last month. Retail sales ex-auto and gas -0.7% vs 1.4% prior. Industrial Production was bit better at +0.9%, vs the expected +0.5%. Manufacturing production +1.4%, vs +0.7% expected and capacity utilization 76.1%, vs expected 75.7%. Minutes from the FOMC’s last meeting are due out tonight, offering more clues about when policymakers expect to exit emergency mode by tapering the $120bn-a-month QE programme. It ought to indicate Clarida’s hawkish shift reflects the committee’s position.

Yesterday we mentioned Michael Burry’s short on ARKK. Cathie Wood went on the offensive, tweeting: “To his credit, Michael Burry made a great call based on fundamentals and recognized the calamity brewing in the housing/mortgage market. I do not believe that he understands the fundamentals that are creating explosive growth and investment opportunities in the innovation space.” ARKK fell again.