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What will happen to the US dollar if Trump wins re-election?
After years of threatening a devaluation, in the face of China’s own currency manipulation, President Trump recently indicated that he is now in favour of a strong dollar. Given the President’s inconsistency on the issue, and the current turbulent economic environment, what exactly would a second term entail for the most important currency in the world?
How a second Trump term could impact USD
The crucial distinction here is one of means versus ends. In the mind of President Trump, the currency is just a tool to deliver a buoyant stock market and booming economy, whatever he might tweet.
The Trump administration will do whatever it takes to catalyse the recovery, whether appreciation or depreciation is the required remedy. In our view, the latter will prove to fit the bill, and so the US dollar’s value will fall if the Trump train continues to roll through November.
Whilst the dollar has been relatively stable in its value over the course of Trump’s first three years in office, the gargantuan nature of the economic task at hand means that this trend simply cannot continue.
When he began his first term, the economy looked to be in a relatively healthy state. Discounting the remote possibility of a miraculous economic recovery, his second term will debut in very different circumstances.
Massive relief spending set to continue
Looking at the demand side, one could be forgiven for assuming that a dollar appreciation was imminent. The US economy comfortably outperformed the G7 and G20 averages in the first quarter of 2020, shrinking by just 1.3% compared to 2% and 3.4% respectively.
This is likely the result of mammoth congressional stimulus packages, which have allowed the US to lead the world nominally in terms of relief spending and come second in terms of percentage of GDP.
A second Trump term would almost certainly see further waves of relief, likely in the form of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan. This particular avenue of execution benefits from relatively healthy levels of bipartisan support, meaning that such spending can be expected no matter who controls the Congress come 2021.
US stocks likely to continue outperforming, pressuring USD
And in terms of the stock markets, the US has also consistently outperformed global averages throughout the President’s first term, including in the post-Covid era.
This is exemplified by the fact that the S&P 500 index has risen by over 50% since 2016, whilst the FTSE has fallen by around 9% in this same period. Given all of the above, the US is likely to continue attracting investors the world over, delivering inflationary demand-side pressures that would support USD.
However, the aforementioned upward pressure caused by a healthy economy will be insignificant when compared with the deflationary pressure instigated on the supply-side.
Federal Reserve stimulus measures will help Trump get weaker dollar
Since February, the Federal Reserve has increased its balance sheet by almost $3 trillion, moving from $4.2 trillion to $7 trillion. This rapid increase is expected to continue, with Trump calling the policy ‘something that’s really great for our country’.
In addition, the possibility of extreme measures in the form of yield curve control is rising, with several current Fed governors commenting that the policy should be on the table if necessary.
All of this is indicative of our central point: the authorities are prepared to do whatever it takes to prop up the stock market and the real economy and will stop at nothing to achieve this end.
Expanded balance sheet, flat interest rates, yield curve control to cause dollar depreciation
Trump has repeatedly held up rising stock prices as a beacon of success in his first term and will continue to do so if he wins a second. With quasi-control over the Fed, afforded to him by his position at the bully pulpit, the President will get what he desires, no matter the cost.
In this particular instance, the cost will be an expanding Fed balance sheet, rock-bottom interest rates and, if it comes to it, yield curve control measures. The sheer enormity of the response on the supply-side will be more than enough to drown out any inflationary pressures on the demand-side – depreciation inbound.
Overall, Pres Trump doesn’t really care about the value of the dollar outside of its utility as an economic tool or a stick with which to hit China. The real motivation behind the President’s actions in a second term will mirror those of the first: growth in the stock market and the real economy, in that order of importance.
In his pursuit of these goals, no policy instrument is off limits, whether it be a trusty expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, or an as yet untested tool like yield curve control.
Whilst the Fed is technically a quasi-independent body, such independence is illusory, particularly in the context of Trump’s propensity for the use of public pressure. Whilst some demand-side inflationary effects will be initiated by a better-than-average recovery, such effects will be lost in the vastness of the supply-side avalanche that is to come.
If he achieves a second term, Pres Trump will leave office in 2024 having achieved two things that he initially desired: a stock market on the rise and a depreciated dollar.
Stocks firm, earnings unmask weakness, OPEC+ decision eyed
European markets moved up again this morning after stocks rallied on Wall Street and futures indicate further gains for US equity markets despite big bank earnings underlining the problems on Main Street. Sentiment recovered somewhat after Moderna’s vaccine candidate showed ‘promising’ results from phase 1 trials. It is too early to call a significant breakthrough, but it’s certainly encouraging.
Cyclical components led the way for the Dow with top performers the likes of Caterpillar and Boeing, as well as energy names Exxon and Chevron up over 3% as the index rose over 500pts, or 2.1%, its best day in over two weeks. Apple shares regained some ground to $388 ahead of an EU court ruling today on whether the company should repay €13bn in unpaid taxes.
Asian markets were mixed, with China and Hong Kong lower as US-China tensions rose, but shares in Japan and Australia were higher. European shares advanced around 0.75% in early trade, with the FTSE reclaiming 6,200 and the DAX near 12,800.
However, Tuesday’s reversal off the June peak may still be important – lots of things need to go right to extend the rally and you must believe this reporting season will not be full of good news, albeit EPS estimates – such as they are – may be relatively easy to beat.
My sense is what while the stock market does not reflect the real economy, this does not mean we are about to see a major drawdown again like we saw in March. The vast amount of liquidity that has been injected into the financial system by central banks and the fiscal splurge will keep stocks supported – the cash needs to find a home somewhere and bonds offer nothing. It will likely take a significant escalation in cases – a major second wave in the winter perhaps – to see us look again at the lows.
For the time being major indices are still chopping around the Jun-Jul ranges, albeit the S&P 500 and DAX are near their tops. Failure to breakout for a second time will raise the risk of a bigger near-term pullback, at least back to the 50% retracement of June’s top-to-bottom move in the second week of that month.
Trading revenues, loan loss provisions surge at US banks
US bank earning highlighted the divergence between the stock market and the real economy. JPMorgan and Citigroup posted strong trading revenues from their investment bank divisions but had to significantly increase loan loss provisions at their consumer banks. Wells Fargo – which does have the investment banking arm to lean on – increased credit loss provisions in the quarter to $9.5bn from $4bn in Q1, vs expectations of about $5bn.
This begs the question of when the credit losses from bad corporate and personal debt starts to catch up with the broader market. Moreover, investors need to ask whether the exceptional trading revenues are all that sustainable. Shares in Citigroup and Wells Fargo fell around 4%, whilst JPMorgan edged out a small gain. Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon and US Bancorp report today along with Dow component UnitedHealth.
UK retail earnings
In the UK, retail earnings continue to look exceptionally bleak. Burberry reported a drop in sales of 45% in the first quarter, with demand down 20% in June. Asia is doing OK, but the loss of tourist euros in Europe left EMEIA revenues down 75% as rich tourists stayed clear of stores because of lockdown. Sales in the Americas were down 70% but there is a slight pickup being seen. Encouragingly, mainland China grew mid-teens in Q1 but grew ahead of the January pre COVID level of 30% in June, Burberry said. Shares opened down 5%.
Dixons Carphone reported a sharp fall in adjusted profit to £166m from £339m a year before, with a statutory loss of £140m reflecting the cost of closing Carphone stores. Electricals is solid and online sales are performing well, with the +22% rise in this sector including +166% in April. Whilst Dixons appears to have done well in mitigating the Covid damage by a good online presence, the Mobile division, which was already impaired, continues to drag.
Looking ahead, Dixons says total positive cashflow from Mobile will be lower than the previous guidance of about £200m, in the range of £125m-£175m. Shares fell 6% in early trade.
White House ends Hong Kong special status, US to impose sanctions
US-China tensions are not getting any better – Donald Trump signed a law that will allow the US to impose sanctions on Chinese officials in retaliation for the Hong Kong security law. The White House has also ended the territory’s special trade status – it is now in the eyes of the US and much of the west, no different to rest of China. This is a sad reflection of where things have gone in the 20+ years since the handover. Britain’s decision to strip Huawei from its telecoms networks reflects a simple realpolitik choice and underscores the years of globalisation are over as east and west cleave in two.
The Bank of Japan left policy on hold but lowered its growth outlook. The forecast range by BoJ board members ranged from -4.5% to -5.7%, worse than the April range of -3% and –5%. It signals the pace of recovery in Japan and elsewhere is slower than anticipated.
Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard talked up more stimulus and suggested stricter forward guidance would be effective – even indicating that the central bank could look at yield curve control – setting targets for short- and medium-term yields in order to underpin their forward guidance.
EUR, GBP push higher ahead of US data; BOC decision on tap
In FX, we are seeing the dollar offered. EURUSD has pushed up to 1.1430, moving clear of the early Jun peak, suggesting a possible extension of this rally through to the March high at 1.15. GBPUSD pushed off yesterday’s lows at 1.2480 to reclaim the 1.26 handle, calling for a move back to the 1.2670 resistance struck on the 9-13 July.
Data today is focused on the US industrial production report, seen +4.3% month on month, and the Empire State manufacturing index, forecast at +10 vs -0.2 last month. The Bank of Canada is expected to leave interest rates on hold at 0.25% today, so we’ll be looking to get an update on how the central bank views the path of economic recovery. Fed’s Beige Book later this evening will offer an anecdotal view of the US economy which may tell us much more than any backward-looking data can.
Oil remains uncertain ahead of OPEC+ decision
Oil continues to chop sideways ahead of the OPEC+ decision on extending cuts. WTI (Aug) keeps bouncing in and off the area around $40 and price action seems to reflect the uncertainty on OPEC and its allies will decide. The cartel is expected to taper the level of cuts by about 2 million barrels per day from August, down from the current record 9.7 million bpd. Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo had said on Monday that the gradual easing of lockdown measures across the globe, in tandem with the supply cuts, was bringing the oil market closer to balance.
However, an unwinding of the cuts just as some economies put the brakes on activity again threatens to send oil prices lower. OPEC yesterday said it expects a bullish recovery in demand in the second half, revising its 2020 oil demand drop to 8.9m bpd, vs the 9m forecast in June. The cartel cited better data in developed nations offsetting worse-than-expected performance in emerging markets. EIA inventories are seen showing a draw of 1.3m barrels after last week produced an unexpected gain of 5.7m barrels.
Stocks pull back as California shuts up shop again, pound retreats
A rolling back of the reopening process in California and rising US-China tensions left Wall St and Asian markets weaker, with stocks in Europe following their lead as surprisingly good Chinese trade data was not enough to calm markets.
European equity indices fell back in early trade on Tuesday after stocks on Wall Street suffered a stunning reversal late in yesterday’s session. At one point the S&P 500 touched its highest since level since the end of February at 3,235 before sellers sold hard into that level and we saw a very sharp pullback to 3,155 at stumps.
After threatening to break free from the Jun-Jul trading range, the fact the S&P was unable to make good on its promise could signal fresh concerns about the pandemic but also investor caution as we head into earnings season – the fact is the market should not be up for the year. Although it’s hard to get a real feel for valuations because so many companies scrapped earnings guidance, the S&P 500 is trading on a forward PE multiple that is way too optimistic, you would feel. Earnings season gets underway properly today with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo.
The Nasdaq also slipped 2% as tech stocks rolled over, with profit-taking a possible explanation after a) a very strong run for the market has left prices very high and, b) signs of a pullback for the broader market indicated now might be a good time to take stock. Tesla rode a $200 range in a wild day of trading that saw the stock open at $1,659, rally to $1,795 and close down 3% at $1,497.
Stocks retreat as California rolls back reopening, US-China tensions rise
California’s economy is larger than that of the UK or France, so when Governor Gavin Newsom rolled back the reopening of the state on Monday, investors took notice. The closure of bars, barbers and cinemas among other business venues followed moves in economically important states like Texas, Florida and elsewhere, indicating the rate of change in the recovery is not going to improve.
Whilst the market had developed a degree of immunity to case numbers rising, it is susceptible to signs that the economic recovery will be a lot slower than the rally for stocks in the last three months suggests.
Overnight Chinese trade data surprised to the upside with exports up 0.5% in June and imports rising 2.7%, beating expectations for a decline and signalling that domestic demand is holding up well. Singapore’s economy plunged into a recession with a 41.2% drop in GDP, while Japan’s industrial production figures were revised lower.
Tensions between the US and China took another sour turn as the White House rejected China’s claims to islands in the South China Sea, which aligns the US with a UN ruling in 2016. It had previously declined to take sides – the move indicates Washington’s displeasure and willingness to go up against China on multiple fronts now.
UK economy undershoots forecasts with tepid recovery
The UK is already seeing what a non-V recovery looks like. GDP growth rebounded 1.8% in May, which was well short of the 5.5% expected. In the three months to May, the economy contracted by 19.1%. Some of the numbers are truly horrendous and it’s hard to see how the economy can deliver the +20% rebound required to get back to 2019 with confidence sapped like it is and unemployment set to rise sharply.
UK retail sales rose 10.9% in June on a like for like basis excluding temporarily closed stores, whilst overall sales rose a more modest 3.4% and non-food sales in stores were down a whopping 46.8% for the quarter. Suffice to say that headlines of rebounds mask many ills.
Sterling extended a selloff after the GDP numbers disappointed. The reversal in risk appetite late yesterday saw GBPUSD break down through the channel support and this move has continued to build momentum overnight and into the European morning session. The rejection of the 1.2667 region seems to have made the near-term top for the rally. The 38.2% retrace line at 1.250 may offer support before the old 50% retracement level at 1.2464.
WTI (Aug) was a little softer under $40 as market participants eye the OPEC+ JMMC meeting on Wednesday. This will decide whether to roll back some of the 9.6m barrels or so in production cuts by the cartel and allies. The risk is that if OPEC acts too earnestly to raise production again the market could swiftly tip back into oversupply should the economic recovery globally fail to build the momentum required.
Another factor to consider is whether giving the green light to up production is taken by some members as an excuse to open the taps again and result in more production than agreed – compliance remains the ever-present risk for any OPEC deal.
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.
Stocks tread water, US jobs numbers on tap
Caution is the order of the day. European stocks are mixed after falling for the second session in a row on Wednesday. Asian share ticked up overnight, with China continuing to charge. Wall Street rose on Wednesday but overall the major indices are still well within their June trading ranges.
Nine-year high for gold, Fed cautious on economic outlook
Gold broke out to its highest level in nine years, breaking free from the $1,800 psychological resistance to clear $1818 at one point. The path is open to further gains, albeit we have just seen real interest rates come back in a touch. Nevertheless, the outlook for gold remains constructive – lower real yields, worries about inflation emerging down the line, and broader economic uncertainty all combine for a perfect environment for gold bugs.
Fed officials are increasingly sounding cautious. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said whilst businesses might have had decent order books and pipelines of work to keep them going, new orders are not coming on stream fast enough. Fiscal payments are coming to an end and it is not clear what will replace them. The US may well need to extend and pretend.
Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren said: ‘I do expect unfortunately that the economy is going to remain weaker than many had hoped through the summer and fall.’ US cases continue to soar, with the country again reporting its biggest one-day jump in cases, choking the reopening and recovery process at birth.
US jobless claims on tap
The US weekly unemployment claims data will be closely watched following the big nonfarm payrolls report last week. Initial claims are seen at 1.375m, with key continuing claims down to 1.875m. Whilst these numbers have been coming down, they haven’t been contracting at a rate fast enough to warrant great optimism.
Data from Japan at first looked encouraging but masked some nasty surprises. Core machinery orders, a volatile leading indicator of activity, rose 1.7% in May after a 12% drop in April, and ahead of the 5% decline expected. However, the 17.7% rise in orders for non-manufacturers was offset by a 15.5% decline in manufacturers’ orders and 18.5% drop in overseas orders.
Dollar weakens, WTI oil eases back after breaching $41
In FX, the dollar is being offered. GBPUSD cleared resistance and moved above 1.26. Resistance 1.2690, the Jun 16th swing high, is the next target for bulls. EURUSD has cleared 1.13 but pulled back sharply after running into resistance at 1.1370. Eurogroup members to vote on a new president today ahead of the key summit next week at which the EU needs to hammer out agreement on the €750bn rescue fund.
Crude oil pushed higher before pulling back. WTI (Aug) moved above $41 but pared gains and traded around $40.70 at send time. The EIA said US crude inventories rose by 5.7m barrels vs expectations for a draw of around 3m barrels. But the data was not as bearish as it appeared at first glance – stockpiles were up largely on higher imports, whilst gasoline inventories fell by almost 5m barrels, a good sign Americans are back on the road. Refining activity rose to a 14-week high.
Investors eye UK mini budget, gold heads to $1800 as stocks slip again
Stock markets remain in choppy trading ranges. The optimism that fuelled the rally at the start of week has fizzled out, leaving indices back towards the middle of the June range and back close to where they finished up at the end of last week. Investors continue to look at soaring case numbers on the one hand and on the other the pace of recovery and massive stimulus which has already been administered.
Asian markets slipped, albeit China stood out as it continued to rally on some good stoking by the state-run press. The ASX fell 1.5% as investors reacted to the lockdown in Victoria. European stocks followed suit and were softer on the open on Wednesday. The FTSE 100 pulled back further below 6200 where it has found some degree of support at 6153 on the 38.2% retrace of the pullback in the second week of June that has formed that range of the last month and a half.
Gold climbs towards $1800, US yields hit fresh lows
Treasury yields slipped on a broad risk-off mood. US 10s went to 0.655% which left 10yr TIPS – our favourite gold indicator – at fresh seven-year lows at –0.78%. This gave further succour to the gold bulls and lifted prices to fresh seven-year peaks above $1797 and it looks like $1800 can be taken out. The gold bull thesis rests not only on the requirement for safe assets given the economic uncertainty, but also longer term on fears of a surge in inflation caused by the massive increase in the money supply caused by central banks. In large part due to the corresponding fiscal actions, unlike the QE that occurred after the financial crisis, this time the excess cash is not going to get lost in the banking sector.
While yields dipped and gold is at multi-year highs, the prospect of more stimulus may keep markets relatively buoyant for the time being. The worry is that as the support packages roll off, particularly the kind of financial aid for employees from the likes of the UK’s furlough scheme, the pace of recovery slows drastically. The economic data could really start to crunch as temporary layoffs become permanent and the pressure for governments to continue to ‘do whatever it takes’ will increase.
UK coronavirus ‘mini budget’ on tap
Today, Britain’s chancellor Rishi Sunak will respond with a ‘mini budget’, to be delivered at 12:30 BST after PMQs. This will aim to shift the support on offer from the emergency to the more lasting with measures such as cash for training young people to prevent the risk of mass youth unemployment, a stamp duty holiday to goose the housing market, a maybe a VAT cut to help the hospitality sector. Housebuilders ought to be among the main beneficiaries of the budget, but shares in Barratt and Taylor Wimpey slipped this morning after rallying this week ahead of the statement. Meanwhile Marston’s and Mitchells & Butlers shares plunged around 5% this morning ahead of the statement which may not have as much for the hospitality industry as some had hoped.
Sterling held gains above 1.2540 ahead of the statement, having gained sharply yesterday arguably on some hopes that the budget will get the economy moving a bit quicker. GBPUSD remains well within the recent range and shows little signs right now of mounting a serious ascent to 1.30, however having created a bottom at 1.2250 the recent move higher can continue and the bullish bias persists – the Jun high at 1.28 is the key.
A huge part of the problem facing investors in this market is figuring out what the data is telling us. As noted many times in recent weeks, the economic data is noisy and difficult to interpret because the speed and magnitude of the collapse was like nothing we have ever seen. For example, France’s statistics body, Insee, says the French economy will rebound 19% in Q3, but still be down 9% in 2020. This points to the difficulty in reading too much into the easy part of the recovery process as lockdowns end. The longer-term recovery to activity levels comparable with 2019 will take a lot longer.
Key Eurogroup vote on new president tomorrow
Eurogroup members to vote on a new president tomorrow. The vote comes at an important moment for the Eurozone as it tries to agree on financial aid package as part of budget talks. The summit of July 17th and 18th is the date for your diaries. Christine Lagarde said the ECB may hit the pause button on its easing programme, telling the FT that the ECB has ‘done so much that we have quite a bit of time to assess [the incoming economic data] carefully’. This should put to rest any thoughts the central bank would announce fresh easing measures at its meeting next week. Ms Lagarde wants to stress that it’s time for the EZ member states to step up and sort out the fiscal support rather than leaning ever more on the ECB and lower rates.
Meanwhile, the White House is said to be looking at ways to undermine the Hong Kong dollar peg to the US dollar as a potential way to hit China. If such a tactic were to be deployed, it could raise risks for Hong Kong banks to access dollars and we could feasibly see ripple effects across the FX space – albeit I don’t see the US embarking on any kind of outright manipulation to weaken or strengthen the dollar. It’s probably not a tactic that will be considered seriously or pursued by the administration, but it’s one to watch.
Oil steady after API data shows oil storage build, gasoline draw
Crude oil (WTI for August) was steady still around the $40 handle. API data showed a build in US crude stocks of 2m barrels, whilst gasoline stockpiles fell by 1.8m barrels. Crude at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub rose 2.2m barrels. Meanwhile the U.S. Energy Information Administration presented a more bullish fundamental case and raised its WTI price forecast for 2020 to $37.55 a barrel, up almost 7% from the June forecast. 2021 prices are forecast to average $45.70 in 2021, a gain of 4% from before. The EIA said changes in supply and demand have shifted global oil markets from an estimated 21 million barrels per day of oversupply in April to inventory draws in June. EIA crude oil inventories later today are forecast to see a draw of 3.2m barrels, but the consensus estimate has been wide of the mark for several weeks now.
Equities feel the hangover
Equity markets look a tad bleary-eyed and hungover this morning after a bit of binge. Call it exuberance, but the strong rally in China stoked by the state-run press left markets with only way to travel on Monday and now the price has to be paid. Meanwhile we continue to monitor the rising cases in the US and an emerging spat between the UK and China over Hong Kong and Huawei which simply evinces the fact that Covid is reshaping the world.
European stocks handed back some of Monday’s gains on the open on Tuesday after the strong start to the trading week pushed the FTSE 100 back above 6200. Energy and financials led the fall but all Stoxx 600 sectors dropped in the first hour of trade. Tokyo and Hong Kong fell, but shares in China continued to rally on very high volumes.
Nasdaq hits fresh record high, but is a correction incoming for Wall Street?
Wall Street also rallied after the bump up in China, with the Nasdaq hitting a fresh all-time high, but yesterday had a feel of a frothy move based on nothing but fumes. The put/call ratio for the S&P 500, which reflects market positioning and sentiment, has fallen to levels that have in the past indicated a correction is in the offing. Speculators have also lately aggressively cut their net long positioning on S&P 500 futures.
The upcoming earnings season will be crucial, and investors may see earnings estimates reduced given that many companies simply scrapped guidance, which could call for a rethink of valuations. Indices continue to track the ranges of June, so until we break out in either direction the pattern is one of a choppy but sideways market as investors try to figure out the balance on offer between reopening & stimulus vs cases & permanent economic damage from falling confidence and increased saving.
Recovery is happening, but is it fast enough: German industrial production rose 7.8% in May, but the figure was short of the 11% that was expected. Meanwhile, BMW Q2 sales in China rose from the same period a year ago, which might be down to the pent-up demand from the shutdown in the country in Q1, but nevertheless indicates a decent pace of recovery in the world’s second largest economy.
The UK’s Halifax mortgage survey showed prices fell for a fourth month in a row in June, but activity levels are rebounding, with enquiries up 100% from May. It’s too early to tell if this rebound can be sustained – a truism across the economic data prints we see right now.
Fed’s Bostic cautious over US recovery
Meanwhile we got another dose of salt from Raphael Bostic, the Atlanta Fed president, who warned of signs the US recovery is levelling off. Indeed, the headline nonfarm payrolls number last Thursday masks a lot of ills. Not least of which, permanent job losses are on the rise: while the number of unemployed classed as being on temporary layoff decreased by 4.8m in June to 10.6m, following a decline of 2.7m in May, the number of permanent job losers continued to rise, increasing by 588,000 to 2.9m in June.
Additionally, the data for the June report was collected largely before the spike in cases in several of the big economically important states like Texas and California. Dr Fauci said the US is still ‘knee-deep’ in the first wave.
RBA holds rates, notes increased uncertainty on rising Covid-19 cases
The Reserve Bank of Australia left interest rates on hold at the record low 0.25%, but noted households and businesses are worried about the state of the economy after the jump in cases in Victoria raised doubts about the country’s handling of the outbreak, which had been assumed to be as good as New Zealand.
“The downturn has been less severe than earlier expected,” RBA governor Philip Lowe said in a statement, but added that “uncertainty about the health situation and the future strength of the economy is making many households and businesses cautious, and this is affecting consumption and investment plans”. Scott Morrison’s government will deliver a statement on July 23rd outlining further support on the fiscal side.
Gold still bullish, EUR and GBP drift lower
Elsewhere, gold’s bullish bias remains intact as it consolidates around $1780 and may be preparing for a fresh run towards $1800 – first up it needs to clear the seven-year highs at $1789. WTI (Aug) is steady at $40 for now and in FX we see the majors still trading within recent ranges as the dollar recovers a little from Monday’s risk-on sell-off.
EURUSD failed to break the June swing high at 1.1345 yesterday and has pulled back towards the middle of the bullish pennant. GBPUSD has also drifted lower after several failed attempts in the last session to clear the 1.2520 resistance, finding some immediate support on the 200-period SMA on the 4-hr chart. Sterling has that RoRo feel.
Banks lead European stocks higher
Asian shares soared overnight on Monday, lending a positive start to the European session as equities rode a broad risk rally. The very strong US nonfarm payrolls number continues to mask a lot of ills and investors are happy to hang their hopes on more stimulus.
Hong Kong rose 4%, Tokyo 2%, while shares on mainland China were up around 5% on, among other things, some bullish commentary in state press. Shanghai shares jumped 5.7%, the best one-day gain in five years.
It looks like local investors are chasing the market and the spill-over has lifted the boats across Asia. China’s rally sparked a broad risk-on move. Escalation of US-China tensions don’t seem to be a major worry.
Bank stocks surge as Europe opens higher
European shares took the baton and opened roughly 2% higher in early trade on Monday led by a surge in bank stocks. HSBC rallied 6% apparently on the China trade read across, but elsewhere we saw broad gains as investors looked to new leadership at Lloyds and Commerzbank, whilst hopes of a fiscal lift in Europe may be a factor. Broadly it looks like the Chinese rally has lifted cyclicals like banks and autos.
Eco data was better but not as good as hoped – German factory orders jumped 10.4% in May, although the rebound was less impressive than the 15% expected. Orders remain almost a third below where they were a year before. Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Sunday the country’s economy was bouncing back quicker than expected.
Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, has written to UK banks warning of the operational challenges of negative rates (new computer systems, lower net interest margin). This could be taken either way; either it’s an explicit message to get ready, or it’s way of saying to them not to worry because we know it’s a massive pain. The letter said negative rates remain «one of the potential tools under active review» should the Bank think more stimulus is required.
The rally left the DAX close to the top of the June range, trading above 12,800. The FTSE is close to the 61.8% retrace of the pullback in the second week of June. US futures point towards strong gains when Wall Street reopens after the three-day weekend, with the S&P 500 moving clear of the 78.6% retracement. June peaks are starting to come into view and will be a key test for whether this rally has further to run or whether it’s time for a pullback.
Bets of further stimulus boost stocks
Whilst markets face a wall of worry, investors are confident of getting a leg up from further stimulus. Britain’s chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a mini-Budget this week focused on jobs. A meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on Thursday will set the tone for the key July 17th-18th summit. Whilst the various countries disagree over the composition of grants and bailouts, on conditionality and over how the funds are divided up, Germany’s Angela Merkel is bound to make sure that a deal is done: the squabbling needs to stop.
Meanwhile the US Congress is set to work on a second stimulus bill this month. At the same time, Covid-19 cases continue to soar – markets are getting used to the numbers – but the pace of recovery in the US will flatten if rising cases means states re-impose lockdown restrictions. As noted last week, the headline number in the jobs report masked some ills, so we will again be very much focused on the weekly initial and continuing claims numbers this week.
Dollar softens, oil edges higher, Buffett bets on natural gas rebound
Elsewhere, the broad risk rally sent the dollar lower, with DXY at 96.80. Sterling pushed a little with GBPUSD back about 1.25, looking to break last week’s peak a little short of 1.2530. EURUSD was a whisker short of 1.13, entering the resistance formed by the July 2nd peak. Clearing this opens up the path to the Jun 23rd swing high at 1.1350. Market positioning remains quite aggressively short, with net speculative positions on the euro the most bearish in three years.
Crude oil was a little higher, with WTI (Aug) just about nudging the $41. Gold is steady at $1776, with the latest CFTC figures showing speculative net longs at the highest in two years. Finally, Warren Buffett is making a $10bn bet on natural gas prices rebounding – the veteran investor thinks the market, which hit a 25-year low last month, has bottomed, making assets cheap and is on course for a rebound.
US Election, Recession, Brexit: What’s in store for markets in 2020 H2?
The first half of 2020 has been a wild ride. We’ve seen unprecedented moves in markets, historic stimulus efforts by both central banks and governments, and record-breaking data that grabbed headlines across the globe.
H1 has already brought plenty of drama, but what should we expect from the next two quarters? Join us for a recap of some of the biggest events in market history and a look at the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.
Coronavirus pandemic prompts worst quarter in decades for stocks
At the start of 2020 the main themes of the year looked to be the US Presidential Election, the trade war with China, and Brexit.
It seems like years ago that markets began to get jittery on fears that the handful of novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, could become something ‘as bad as SARS’. It quickly became apparent that we were dealing with something much worse, and the market was quick to realise the full, brutal, reality of a global pandemic.
The panic reached its zenith towards the end of March. As the sell-off ran out of momentum global stock markets were left -21.3% lower. The S&P 500 had its worst quarter since 2008; the Dow dropped the most since 1987 and set a new record for the biggest single-day gain (2,117 points) and single-day loss (2,997 points). European stocks had their worst quarter since 2002, with a -23% drop in Q1.
Oil turns negative for first time in history after Saudi Arabia sparks price war
Things became even more chaotic in the oil markets when, after OPEC and its allies failed to agree a pandemic response, Saudi Arabia opened the floodgates and slashed prices of its crude oil exports. Oil prices endured the biggest single-day collapse since the Gulf War – over -24%.
It was further strain for a market now seriously considering the risk that shuttered economies across the globe would hit demand so hard that global storage would hit capacity. The May contract for West Texas Intermediate went negative – a first for oil futures – changing hands for almost -$40 ahead of expiry.
Meanwhile US 10-year treasury yields hit record lows of 0.318%, and gold climbed to its highest levels in seven years, pushing even higher in Q2.
Economies locked down, central banks crank up stimulus
Nations across the globe ordered their citizens to remain at home, taking the unprecedented step to voluntarily put huge swathes of their economies on ice for weeks. Even when lockdown measures were eased, the new normal of social distancing, face masks, and plastic screens left many businesses operating at a fraction of their normal capacity.
The world’s central banks were quick to step in during the height of market volatility and continued to do so as the forecasts for the economic impact of the pandemic grew even more grim. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand all dropped rates to close to zero. Along with the European Central Bank, they unleashed enormous quantitative easing programmes, as well as other lending measures to help support businesses.
Unprecedented stimulus as unemployment spikes
Governments stepped in to pay the wages of furloughed employees as unemployment spiked – the US nonfarm payrolls report for April showed a jaw-dropping 20.5 million Americans had become unemployed in a single month. In the space of just six weeks America had erased all the job gains made since the financial crisis. The bill for US stimulus measures is currently $2 trillion, and is set to go higher when further measures are approved.
While most of the data may be improving, we’re still yet to see just how bad the GDP figures for Q2 are going to be. These, which will be released in the coming weeks, will show just how big a pit we have to dig ourselves out of.
H2: Recovery, US election, trade wars, Brexit
Markets may have recovered much of the coronavirus sell-off – US and European stocks posted their best quarter in decades in Q2 – but the world is still walking a fine line between reopening its economies and fending off the pandemic. Second wave fears abound. In the US in particular, economic data is largely pointing to a sharp rebound in activity, but at the same time Covid-19 case numbers are consistently smashing daily records.
These key competing bullish and bearish factors threaten to keep markets walking a tightrope in the quarters to come. Because of this, progress in the race to find a vaccine is closely watched. Risk is still highly sensitive to news of positive drug trials. The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner life can return to normal, even if the world economy still has a long way to go before it returns to pre-crisis levels.
US Presidential Election: Trump lags in polls, Biden threatens to reverse tax cuts
The biggest talking point on the market in the coming months, aside from coronavirus, will undoubtedly be the US Presidential Election. The stakes are incredibly high, especially for the US stock market, and Democrat nominee Joe Biden intends to reverse the bulk of the sweeping tax cuts implemented by president Donald Trump.
Trump is currently lagging in the polls, with voters unimpressed by his response to the pandemic and also to the protests against police brutality that swept the nation. The president has long taken credit for the performance of the stock market and the economy, so for the latter to be facing a deep recession robs him of one of his key topics on the campaign trail.
Joe Biden may currently have a significant lead, but there is a long time to go until the polls, and anything could happen yet.
China trade war in focus, Hong Kong law adds fresh complications
The trade war with China would be a focus for the market anyway, but will come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the election. Thanks to Covid-19, anti-China sentiment is running high in the United States. This means Biden will also have to talk tough on China, which could mean that the damaging trade war is set to continue regardless of who wins the White House this time around.
Tensions have already risen on the back of China’s passing of a new Hong Kong security law, and coronavirus makes it virtually impossible that the terms of the Phase One trade agreement hashed out by Washington and Beijing will be carried out. Trump may be forced to stick with the deal, because abandoning it would leave him unable to flaunt his ability to make China toe the line during the presidential race. This would be positive for risk – markets were already rattled by fears that the president’s response to the Hong Kong law would include abandoning the deal.
How, when, and if: Unwinding stimulus
Even if we get a vaccine before the end of the year and global economies do rebound sharply, the vast levels of government and central bank stimulus will need to be addressed. Governments are running wartime levels of debt.
We’re looking at an even longer slog back to normalised monetary policy – something that banks like the Bank of England and the European Central Bank were struggling to reach even before Covid. There will be huge quantitative easing programmes to unwind and interest rates to lift away from zero, or potentially even out of negative territory.
Markets have been able to recover thanks to a steady cocktail of government and central bank stimulus. The years since the financial crisis have proven that it is incredibly difficult to wean markets and the economy off stimulus. There could be some tough decisions ahead, especially as governments begin to consider how they plan to repair their finances in the years to come.
Brexit deadline approaches, impasse remains
There is also Brexit to consider. While the coronavirus forced officials to move their negotiations online, little else seems to have happened so far. Both sides are refusing to budge and both sides are claiming that the other is being unreasonable. The UK does not want an extension to the transition period, and the two sides are running out of time to agree a trade deal.
We’ve seen before that both Downing Street and Brussels like to wait until the last possible moment to soften their stance. However, the risks here are higher because before there was always the prospect of another extension.
The last time negotiations were extended the battle in Westminster shocked the UK to its constitutional core. The Conservative landslide victory of 2019 gave Boris Johnson a much stronger hand this time around – the UK will leave in December, regardless of the situation.
Stay on top of the biggest events in H2
Whatever happens in the coming months, we’ll be here to bring you the latest news and analysis of the top developments and market events via the blog and XRay.
US Election 2020: What happens to the US dollar with a Democrat clean sweep?
There are various permutations of results from this year’s US elections, but polling data increasingly indicates a strong chance of a Democrat clean sweep of the House, Senate and White House.
Obviously, the question for forex traders is what this may mean for the USD.
Traditionally the US dollar performs well in election years. The dollar index (DXY) has only fallen in two of the last 12 elections, with the drop in 2012 only marginal.
According to Morgan Stanley, the key is not who wins but whether you get gridlock in Washington or not. The bank sees USD strength from a Democrat ‘blue wave’, that is a clean sweep of the House, Senate and White House. But they also see USD strength from a Republican full house, as unlikely as that seems now based on the polls. The US dollar would be more likely to soften if Donald Trump wins but the House and/or Senate are controlled by the Democrats.
Pandemic changes everything
Historical patterns may not prove much use, however, due in large part to the massive amount of fiscal and monetary easing that has been carried out not just by the US but also its G10 counterparts. This has created an unusual backdrop to the election and means the waters FX traders are swimming in are murkier than usual.
According to researchers at Sweden’s SEB, the dollar rose in the 100 trading days after nine of the past 10 elections from 1980 to 2016. Democrat wins produced a 4% rally on average, whilst a Republican victory saw a gain of 2%.
So, can we expect the dollar to rally after the election no matter what the outcome? It’s clearly a lot more complicated, not least because of the unique macro-economic backdrop created by the pandemic.
Indeed, foreign exchange analysis from investment banks UBS and Crédit Agricole suggests precisely the opposite. One argument is that Trump’s policies of fiscal stimulus and protectionism have supported the dollar, so a Democrat clean sweep could pull these legs from under the USD.
However, there are not many signs of the Democrats taking a more lenient approach to China, in fact both sides seem to be vying to be seen as tougher than the other on China. Therefore, trade disputes and battles of intellectual property rights will, in all likelihood, persist.
On the fiscal side, it’s hard to see much difference – both camps back massive stimulus to support the economy post-pandemic, whilst the Federal Reserve is very clearly prepared to keep rates at zero for as long as necessary. The usual rules of the game in terms of how the dollar responds to fiscal and monetary policy inputs have to a certain extent been thrown out by the pandemic.
Donald Trump has been a little wayward in his messaging around the dollar’s strength – it’s normal for presidents to underscore the idea that a strong dollar equals a strong USA. The ‘strong dollar policy’ has been in place for at least 20 years and initially Trump was seen moving away from this stance.
Whilst he has been more resolutely in the strong dollar camp lately, there is always the risk that post-pandemic the president again calls for a weaker dollar to make the country more competitive.
Relative economic performance and relative expectations of interest rate differentials will be what matters. Will the euro rebound with a fiscal stimulus package? Will the pound stabilise after Brexit?
The euro matters most when we look at this other side of the dollar equation as EUR has an outsized weighting in DXY – more than 50%. So, when we look at USD, or DXY, strength we are also to a large extent looking at EUR too.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has like the Fed responded to the pandemic with a massive increase in its QE programme. Efforts on the fiscal side have been slower, but in spite of concerns among some member states about the nature of stimulus funding, there seemed to be a broad agreement on the need for support.
Crucially right now the more ‘dovish’ policymakers are the more it supports the currency – the worry is that not enough support risks growth, but also creates pressure in bond markets, leading to a widening of spreads between bunds and peripheral yields. The ECB seems to be in ‘whatever it takes’ mode, though we note German resistance to participating in asset purchase programmes. The risk really lies on the fiscal side.
Failure to agree to the fiscal measures being discussed as part of the EU budget talks would be negative for the currency. Whilst an agreement is the base case, it may not deliver fully on its promise and may be a watered-down version to the €750bn rescue fund put forward by the European Commission.