Trader's View - China data inspires optimism

The Middle Kingdom was at the centre of financial market focus yesterday. Informally dubbed the “monthly economic data-dump”.

Market data Source: Bloomberg

China’s data inspires relief

The Middle Kingdom was at the centre of financial market focus yesterday. Informally dubbed the “monthly economic data-dump”, market participants were granted the opportunity to test the thesis that the global economy’s Q1 malaise is turning around. And though it was only one set of numbers, the answer received from the Chinese data to this quandary was to the affirmative. China’s GDP figures beat economist’s estimates, printing at 6.4% against the 6.3% forecast; and the litany of other data-points, most notably retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment, all either exceeded forecasts, or showed signs of improvement.

The global economy’s resurrection?

The Chinese data has added further credence to the notion that China’s economy, and therefore that of the rest of the globe, isn’t about to fall off the cliff. Judging by the improvement in the numbers, policymakers intervention and receptiveness to market and economic trouble, not just in China but globally, is apparently feeding through into economic activity. Although global equities, and especially Chinese equities, resisted reacting to the good news – the lower likelihood of greater monetary stimulus can explain that one – growth exposed assets conveyed the market’s greater optimism and risk appetite, boding well for risk-assets into the longer term.

Traders bet on economic turnaround

As always, we need not look any further than our Australian Dollar to judge the merits of this case. Granted, it’s cooled its intraday rally somewhat now, but the local currency spiked upon the release of the Chinese data yesterday, breaking through (briefly) its 200-day moving average, and experimenting for a while with a life above the 0.7200 handle. The enthusiasm for the Australian Dollar was tempered overnight, as traders factored in more fundamental concerns pertaining to the Australian economy into market pricing. Nevertheless, the brief spike in the market’s favoured growth proxy proved that traders aren’t averse to placing bets on a global economic turnaround.

Sentiment overriding A-Dollar’s fundamentals

Sticking to the Australian Dollar, and a reflection on the currency’s fundamentals portrays the opposing forces driving its price action, at present. In fact, market-action yesterday reflected the “growth-proxy” versus “weak-fundamentals” dilemma well – with the latter proving an inhibitor of the enthusiasm demonstrated by the former. Prior to the Chinese data release, the Aussie-Dollar looked ready to shed its recent gains, after New Zealand CPI figures notably missed economist’s estimates. The response from traders to that release was to price-in more aggressively rate cuts from the RBNZ and, due to belief the New Zealand and Australian economies share major commonalities, the RBA, too.

Iron ore retraces its gains

Another driver of A-Dollar upside went missing yesterday, too: iron ore prices have rapidly retraced their recent gains, falling over 7% from its recent highs. The tumble in the price came counter to the intuitive logic that perceived improvements in the global economy ought to lead to a lift in commodity prices. Proving once more that iron ore’s rally has been a function of supply shocks rather than economic fundamentals, the market sold contracts for the mineral after news hit the wires Vale would be reopening one of its major Brazilian mines, potentially marking the beginning of the end of underproduction in that market.

Fall in iron ore prices drag on the ASX

Naturally, iron ore’s fall legged materials sector stocks yesterday. It was one factor, combined with the rallying Australian Dollar and slight lift in discount rates, that lead to an overall fall in the ASX 200. The theme seems likely to continue today, too. According to the SPI Futures contract, the index ought to drop about 21 points at this morning’s open. Today may prove one of those days where the markets direction is determined by the resilience of the banks: financial stocks added 17 points to the ASX 200 yesterday, masking a weak day for Australian stocks, which traded on less than 40% breadth.

A busy day leading into the long weekend

Trade across the rest of the globe in the next 24 hours may well be dictated by pre-positioning for the Easter weekend holiday. Wall Street trade was characterized by relatively higher activity overnight, but the results were underwhelming, with theS&P 500 dropping 0.23%, and (fittingly) closing bang-on 2900. Despite the assumed reluctance from traders to make big bets leading into a long weekend, economic data will be dense: Australian employment figures are released this morning, before focus turns to a swathe of high impact European PMI numbers, and US Retail Sales data tonight.


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