Host Of Central Banks In Focus

Well, last week, tech stocks had their worst week since March, with stability far from returning.  While the jury is still out, most still view the pull back in tech stocks as a healthy correction following a prolonged period of gains, blaming increased options activity over recent months for the magnitude of the decline. The buy on dip mentality is likely to continue to prevail, though tech stocks have not yet show any sign of wanting to make a convincing pull back.   

Signs of nervousness are clear; equity volatility remains elevated, but many investors are still sitting on healthy gains over recent months.  Given the low cost of funding, low returns in government bonds, alongside continued strong demand for stay at home electronics and a vaccine that could still take months to arrive, it is hard to see the tech sector falling too far.   

The fall in the pound sterling has been quite dramatic over recent weeks, both against the US dollar and euro.  Fears over a collapse in trade talks with the European Union have intensified.  The sudden waking up of the market to these risks has been provoked by the prospects that the withdrawal agreement with the EU will be torn up, prompting threats of legal action by the EU.

Time is running out to get a deal on the table before the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year, but UK Prime Minister Johnson has said that the internal market bill is necessary to prevent “a foreign of international body from having the power to break up our country.” The new legislation is already facing a rebellion in parliament. Against this background its hard to see GBP rally, with the currency likely to be particularly volatile over the coming weeks.

Attention this week will turn to several central bank decisions, with monetary policy makers in Poland (Tue), US (Wed), Brazil (Wed), Japan (Thu), Indonesia (Thu), Taiwan (Thu), South Africa, (Thu), UK (Thu) and Russia (Fri) all scheduled to announce their decisions.  After months of policy easing globally, this week will look rather boring, with none of the above likely to ease further.   

The Fed FOMC meeting will likely capture most attention, but there is potential for disappointment if the Fed does not provide further details on its shift to average inflation targeting in its forward guidance, even as the accompanying statement and Chair Powell’s press conference are likely to sound dovish. The US dollar has continued to stabilize, aided by the drop in GBP, but a dovish Fed could limit further upside in the short term. 

Aside from central bank decisions attention will be on US election polls, which take on more importance as the election creeps closer.  US fiscal stimulus talks have hit a wall, with little chance of progress this week, while US pressure on China and Chinese companies is likely to continue to be unrelenting as elections approach.  On the political front the race to take over Japan’s prime minister following the resignation of Shinzo Abe will conclude this week (Wed).   

What To Watch This Week

Market expectations for Fed FOMC interest rate cuts have gyrated back and forth following a recent speech by NY Fed President Williams, one of the key decision makers within the Fed FOMC. He appeared to support a 50bps rate cut at the meeting at the end of the month, but unusually this was clarified later.  If anything, as the clarification may suggest, the bigger probability is that the Fed eases policy by 25bps in an insurance cut.

There will be no Fed speakers in the days ahead but the Fed will assess developments this week in helping to determine the magnitude of easing. Attention will continue to centre on US earnings, with more than a quarter of S&P 500 companies reporting Q2 earnings this week.   On the data front, US Q2 GDP and July durable goods orders will command most attention.  The consensus looks for a slowing in GDP growth to 1.8% q/q in Q1 from 3.1% q/q in Q1 while durable goods orders are expected to increase by 0.7% m/m.

A major central bank in action this week is the European Central Bank on Thursday. While policy easing is unlikely at this meeting, the ECB is likely to set to set the market up for an easing in deposit rates at the September meeting.  ECB President Draghi could do this by strengthening his forward guidance, but as a lot of this is priced in by the market, a dovish sounding Draghi is unlikely to weigh too much on the EUR.

In the UK this week it’s all about politics. Boris Johnson is widely expected to be announced as the new Prime Minister.  GBPUSD has clung onto the 1.25 handle, as worries about a no deal Brexit continue to impact sentiment towards the currency.  Once Johnson is sworn in he and the government could face a no confidence motion, which could gain support should it be seen as an alternative to the UK crashing out of the EU.

National elections in Japan yesterday resulted in a victory according to Japanese press for Shinzo Abe’s coalition, its sixth straight victory, with the governing LDP winning over half the 124 seats. The results were no surprise, and unlikely to have a significant market impact, but notably Abe suffered a setback by not gaining a supermajority. He therefore cannot change the country’s pacifist constitution.

In emerging markets, both Russia and Turkey are likely to cut interest rates this week, with Russia predicted to cut its key rate by 25bp and Turkey to cut by at least 200bps if not more.  Elsewhere geopolitical tensions will remain a major focus for markets, as tensions between the UK and Iran intensify.

The “Great Rotation”

Evidence that the “Great Rotation” is finally beginning to take place has been established. Capital is finding its way into US equities as reflected in recent flow data while flooding out of Treasuries and other fixed income instruments. However, another rotation of sorts is also taking place, with emerging market assets, both bonds and equities, continuing to register outflows much of which appears to be returning to the US.

Given that the Fed has helped to ease the transition process towards tapering, finally managing to establish effective communication with markets, there is little to suggest that this rotation will reverse. Indeed, the US equity risk premium remains high (ie bonds still look expensive relative to equities) despite the recent correction. Nonetheless, US bond yields pulled back last week (10 year yields have fallen by around 15 bps over the last two weeks) a factor that is also helping to take the wind out of the USD’s sails.

Events and data this week are unlikely to alter the dynamics noted above. US data will remain upbeat, with housing market data remaining positive; existing home sales will edge higher while new home sales will drop but largely due to low inventories, while durable goods orders will register solid gains, and Michigan consumer confidence will be revised higher.

Data in Europe will look less impressive but still encouraging as the German IFO and various purchasing managers’ indices record gains, albeit of an uneven nature. More distressing is the ongoing political travails in Spain, Portugal and Italy, factors that will likely continue to undermine Eurozone markets although EUR/USD will likely remain supported due to the recent softening in US yields.

In Japan, the political picture is now clearer, with an unsurprisingly solid election victory for Prime Minister Abe’s LDP, winning a majority in the Upper House with its partner New Komeito. Ultimately this should play for firmer Japanese assets and a weaker JPY although markets will now look for a clear reform strategy to justify such moves.

USD under pressure, except versus JPY

Following another positive week for risk assets where equities in particular benefitted from substantial capital inflows this week is unlikely to look much different. A host of earnings, especially from financials will help dictate the equity market and in turn risk tone over coming days. There will also be plenty of focus on speeches by various Fed and European Central Bank (ECB) officials including Fed Chairman Bernanke today.

The week will start off in more subdued fashion however, with a Japanese holiday and little fresh news to digest over the weekend. Hope and faith in global economic recovery helped by data releases in the US and China in particular, have helped to calm markets while there is little angst as yet about the looming debt ceiling / spending cut negotiations in the US.

Despite the rush into equities, core bond yields appear to have hit a short term ceiling. Meanwhile, the USD is likely to maintain a weaker tone over the short term except versus JPY where the currency pair has broken through key technical barriers on the top side and is verging on a break of 90.00 helped by more comments over the weekend by Japanese Prime Minister Abe pushing for a 2% inflation target to be implemented.

Data releases this week will maintain the growth recovery story in the US while the Eurozone will continue to show a weaker trajectory. In the US there are plenty of releases to chew on including December retail sales, inflation, industrial production, manufacturing surveys, housing starts, Michigan confidence, and the Fed’s Beige Book. Overall, US releases will help paint a picture of steady and gradual recovery.

In contrast the Eurozone data slate is more limited and what there is (German GDP, Eurozone industrial production) will be less impressive supporting the view of Eurozone economic underperformance over coming months. Admittedly this has yet to affect the EUR which continue to benefit from peripheral bond yield compression and receding crisis fears although EUR/USD will likely run into resistance around 1.3385 which if broken will open the door for a test of 1.3486.

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