European stocks mixed, oil rally runs out of gas

Morning Note

Germany’s top court laid down a challenge to the European Union: who is the final arbiter in European law? Apparently, they don’t think it is the ECJ. German judges think the ECB needs to show buying bonds under QE was proportionate – by what yardstick? They have 3 months to comply or the Bundesbank won’t be allowed to play.

The ECB is clearly not amused. In a very brief update, the central bank said it ‘takes note’ of the judgement by the German Federal Constitutional Court but remains ‘fully committed’ to its price stability mandate.

Finally, it added simple: “The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in December 2018 that the ECB is acting within its price stability mandate.” Quite clearly the German court cannot overrule the ECJ – that’s the whole point, it’s why we wanted out. Italy’s PM Conte agrees, noting that ECB independence is at the heart of European treaties.

The euro has held onto losses to test the 1.0820 level this morning, as German factory orders declined 15.6%, more than the 10% expected. As I noted yesterday, anything that casts doubt on the ability of the ECB to provide the backstop to the bond market is a concern and is euro-negative.

It also seems this decision will likely kill of any hope of collective debt issuance to tackle the current crisis. And a challenge to the PEPP bond buying by the ECB from the same German actors looks likely. There is yet a tail risk that the Bundesbank is forced not to take part in ECB bond buying in three months’ time – this would cause chaos.

The S&P 500 rose yesterday but closed where it opened at 2868, some 30 points off the highs of the day. The lack of any real conviction has led to a mixed start to trading for European markets, where Monday’s rebound looks to be under threat.

Oil rallied strongly but pulled back from the highs as traders realised once again that storage is still a problem. Whilst clearly there are signs of supply and demand rebalancing because lockdown measures are being lifted, but it’s going to be a slow process and it’s hard to see it righting itself before the Jun WTI contract is up.

Crude oil inventories rose 8.4m barrels, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) late on Tuesday. The more closely watched EIA inventory data is released at 15:30 London time and is forecast showing a similar kind of build around 8m barrels. Front month WTI bounced off resistance at $26 to pull back to under $24.50 in early European trade.

Today’s ADP payrolls print will be an amuse-bouche for the weekly jobless claims starter on Thursday followed by Friday’s nonfarm payrolls main course.