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Traders view - rallies fade on subdued day’s trade

There wasn’t much bullishness to be found in markets last night, however it wasn’t a risk-off night either.

A (relatively) settled session:

It’s been a soft day for global equities. With almost exactly two-hours to go in the US session at time of writing, another modest rally has apparently been faded by traders. Indications are that Wall Street will close lower. If proven true, this will punctuate a mixed day for Europe, and quite a solid day for the Asian region. The former found little impetus to be bid higher, while the Asian session showed the ebullience of diminishing trade tensions. Scanning the major indices, volumes were up compared to their 100-day average, however were slightly down when compared to their 10-day and 20-day average. It reveals a market that is more settled than what it has otherwise been seen during the global share-market correction – but remains vigilant and prepared to turn at the sight of bad-news.

Global growth:

Given price action in last night’s trade was relatively more subdued, traders and analysts seemed able to take the clearer air to reflect on current market drivers. The theme that’s popped up consistently in the last 24 hours can be crudely articulated as “downside risks to growth”. It was a theme adopted by ECB President Mario Draghi during his press conference following last night’s ECB Meeting; and it was also referenced by PBOC last night in relation to China’s economic fortunes. It bears repeating: October, November and December in markets have been characterizes by bearishness, of course. However, the causes throughout this period have shifted. What was initially a sell-off catalysed by fears regarding higher US interest rates has transformed into one driven by fears about slower global economic growth.

ECB meeting:

Last night’s headline event captures this well. The ECB met and broadly met traders’ expectations: rates were of course kept on hold, and the central bank’s QE program will come to an end. As always, the commentary and press conference were where the interest lay, and ECB President Draghi delivered a cautious but stark message. The balance of risks to the EU economy have shifted to the downside. The ECB lowered its forecasts for growth and inflation, even further below what could be considered objectively strong figures. Overall, President Draghi was judged as quite dovish about the prospects for European monetary policy. Though it was not stated explicitly – central bankers rarely communicate in such a way – the subtext of the speech strongly implied that any true policy normalization from the ECB is some way off.

What to make of Europe:

It’s a fascinating conundrum for the ECB. After a decade of experimental monetary policy, on balance the central bank’s greatest endeavours haven’t seemed to work. President Draghi’s “whatever it takes” attitude has supported markets, but evidence for his success is scant. The counter-argument to this pessimistic take on the Eurozone and ECB always seems to go something like “yes, things aren’t good, but imagine how bad things could have if the ECB hadn’t done what it did!”. It could be a valid point – one better for the historians to take care of somewhere down the line. However, the situation is poised to be this: the global economy will eventually experience a recession, and the ECB will more-likely-than-not be at effectively negative interest rates. The whole affair engenders very little hope or confidence in the future of the European economy.

The news flow:

That reality considered, traders tipped their hat and gave a sympathetic nod to the ECB after its meeting, and more-or-less moved on. There wasn’t much bullishness to be found in markets last night, however it wasn’t a risk-off night either. A lot of commentary overnight has pointed to the trade-war being behind the session’s softness. China has reportedly detained another Canadian citizen on national security grounds, presumably in retaliation to Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. While on the other side of the world, members of the Trump administration declared that China ought to concede more to resolve the trade dispute. Overall, there was little substantial or game-changing revealed to markets – mostly just noise relating to the familiar and ongoing concerns that have been long-rattling markets.

Not risk-off; but not risk-on:

The price action communicated this reasonably well. US Treasury yields have stayed (fairly) still: the US 10 Year note held at 2.90 per cent, and the US 2 Year note dipped 1 point to 2.75 per cent, widening the spread there to 15 points. Wall Street is heading for a flat day, though with an hour to go in trade, the Dow Jones is a skerrick higher. The DAX and FTSE were both down 0.04 per cent. The greenback pushed-higher, mostly due to a weaker EUR, which fell to 1.1364. The Pound is up a skerrick, while the Yen, reflecting the day’s sentiment, fell slightly, just like gold, which is holding support above $US1240. The Australian Dollar is practically trading sideways at 0.7220. Credit spreads narrowed on the perception of diminished risk. And in commodities markets, copper is flat, and oil and iron ore rallied.

ASX200 today:

This is the context for Australian trading today, and with all of that digested, SPI futures are telling us we are set for a 14-point drop at the open for the ASX 200. The ASX took the momentum generated by the improved sentiment about global growth yesterday, with the cyclical mining, consumer discretionary and industrial sectors some of the best performing. The rally lost legs throughout the day, as traders seemingly opted to fade the run once again. Volumes were high, but breadth was uninspiring.

The foundations are set for another lower-high for the ASX 200 index, reinforcing the notion the market is in some bearish down trend. Some contrary evidence suggests the worst is behind us: the RSI is still showing bullish divergence, and downside momentum is moderating. As it currently stands, a new low, as far above 5510 as possible, and/or a rally through resistance at 5705, is broadly the challenge the market needs to overcome to demonstrate evidence of a possible bullish turn in this market.

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