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The tone of overnight trade:
The post US mid-term election rally stalled overnight, as investors turn their attention to this morning’s US Federal Reserve meeting. The Fed have kept interest rates on hold – that much was already baked into the price. Market activity to close the week will primarily be dictated now by how market participants interpret the language in the Fed’s accompanying policy statement. It’s been considered rather neutral thus far, and for equity markets, that’s not necessarily a positive result. Almost inexplicably, the US Dollar has rallied upon the release, despite very little new information being revealed in the statement. The argument for that may be that given October’s stock market volatility, a more dovish Fed was expected – true to form, this Powel-led Fed is not for turning, apparently sticking to the central bank’s existing outlook.
Global price action:
The conservative-bent to last night’s trade meant that equity markets traded more-or-less flat to lower. Asia provided a strong enough lead to the Europeans, however our region was last to the party in this week’s relief rally, so that meant little to European traders. Europe’s equities were reasonably mixed – generally down on the day. Stable and less risky assets therefore caught a bid, driving global bond prices higher. Bloomberg’s Commodity Index edged quite modestly higher, though both gold and copper traded rather directionless for most of the overnight session. The big mover in the commodity space was oil once again, with the black stuff continuing its tumble. WTI Crude has ticked into the $60.00 per barrel mark and Brent Crude has fallen to the $70.00 per barrel level, as traders adopt the position that there will remain a short-term surplus of oil in global markets.
Wall Street session:
At time of writing, Wall Street is entering its final moments of trade and the Fed’s monetary policy statement hasn’t inspired terribly much bullishness. Volumes are up on Wall Street, which is in stark contrast to European indices, that saw markedly below average volumes during their trading session. Activity in US Treasury markets is strong, with traders apparently judging that the Fed’s position is still one of firm, gradual rate hikes. The yield on interest rate sensitive US 2 Year Treasury note has ticked higher to a new post-GFC of 2.965 per cent, but the yield on US 10 Year Treasury Bond has remained hobbled by the outcome of the mid-week US mid-term election outcome, trading at 3.235 per cent. The spread between those two assets has thus narrowed once more to approximately 26 points.
Across broader currency markets, the stronger greenback has exerted its influence: The Dollar Index began a rally overnight, and post-Fed has posted daily gains of 0.5 per cent. The USD/JPY is knocking on the 114.00 handle’s door, while the other popular risk off pair, the USD/CHF, fell to 0.9945. The USD/CAD has rallied, by way of a combination of a stronger greenback, lower oil prices and developing news of another breakdown in trade relations between the US and Canada. The EUR/USD has fallen deeper into 1.13 and the GBP/USD has dipped back to float within the 1.30 (perhaps in part due to the release of UK GDP data tonight). Regarding the latter two pairs, they came under pressure overnight after the European Union warned that the Italian budget deficit is running the risk exceeding the bloc’s limit of 3 per cent. That sent bond spreads wider and placed additional weight on European equities, although the weaker Pound apparently provided a minor leg up for the FTSE100, which finished the session in the green.
The Aussie battler:
The Australian Dollar hasn’t escaped King Dollar’s might this morning, falling to 0.7270 (or thereabouts). The very illustrative spread between US 2 Year Treasuries and the Australian Commonwealth Government Bond equivalent has expanded to 90 basis points. A spread that wide has in recent times precipitated a tumble in the AUD/USD, however it must be remarked that the Aussie battler isn’t trading quite so much on fundamental themes in the market. Improved global growth optimism and heightened risk appetite this week has supported commodity-bloc currencies, but the best explanation for the local units’ rally is an unwinding of short positions in the market. Although this is only a short-term phenomenon, and the fundamentals will likely reassert themselves, the AUD/USD’s break of its trend channel supports the notion that upside to 0.7310, even possibly 0.7450, exists.
RBA Monetary Policy Statement:
The Reserve Bank of Australia’s quarterly Monetary Policy Statement could be one determinant of this move. The document, released at 11.30AM this morning, will be perused by traders for hints regarding the outlook for the Australian economy, and forward guidance from the RBA about its rate hike outlook. It must be assumed that little-less than the rosy picture painted by the RBA about the economy should be expected. This is especially true given the statement accompanying Tuesday’s monetary policy meeting upgraded the central bank’s employment, growth and inflation forecasts. As always, the fine print, hidden meanings and other semantics will dominate the analysis of the document, with interest given to the RBA’s view on the strength of Australian households. Arguably, it’s the combination of high household debt, falling house prices and its impact on future consumption and inflation that is keeping interest hikes on ice, so any indication about these matters could prove significant.
SPI futures are indicating today that the sputtering end to Wall Street trade will manifest in a 13-point drop for the ASX 200. Yesterday’s trading session was a fruitful one for Australian investors: the local index climbed over half-a-per-cent for the day, led by an 18-point contribution to the index by the financial sector. In positive signs for risk appetite, growth sectors – in the form of health care stocks and IT stocks – topped the sectoral map. The ASX200 closed trade at 5928, just shy of a very key resistance level at about 5930. The failure to break above this mark is telling, but not surprising – and will likely prove a formidable barrier in the future: doing so would be a clear indicator of an (on balance) bullish control of the market, after the bears took the reins during October’s correction.