Trader thoughts - Overnight trade hints at things to come

If this week in financial markets is a buffet of information, then yesterday’s session tasted like the entrée.

A loaded menu:

The themes that were predicted to define this week’s trade all showed-up in one form or another, hinting at bigger things to come. US President Trump added heat to the trade war, then spiced up the Brexit debate; a speech from US Federal Reserve Vice President Richard Clarida had traders questioning how many Fed hike’s markets have baked-in; another day of plunging oil prices stirred up fears regarding corporate credit; and overcooked tech-stocks fluctuated, with the key ingredient there the wobbles in Apple Inc.’s share price. The mixture of stories blended through the market is just a sample of what could be in store for the rest of the week, with traders now at the edge of their seat and hungry for more answers.

Trump and the Trade War:

Okay – enough of the cheesy food metaphors (sorry, last one). What we were delivered in the last 24 hours is very important and establishes the firm possibility of spikes in volatility over the next seven days. US President Trump, for one, hogged the airwaves – and he doesn’t seem like a happy camper. After the close of Monday’s North American session, President Trump fired the first broadside at his Chinese counterparts ahead of this week’s meeting at the G20, stating that he expected that his administration would go ahead with increased tariffs on Chinese goods come January 1 this year. Not only that, but he suggested that iPhones and other high-volume consumer goods could be included in the next round of tariffs, proclaiming consumers would be comfortable paying an extra 10 per cent on such items.

Nervous trade:

Apple Inc. naturally struggled in overnight trade because of the comments, leading to a choppy session for the NASDAQ and Wall Street as a whole. It must be said that in late trade, US stocks are turning higher, and trading in a much tighter range than what we’ve endured over the past 2 months. Nevertheless, President Trump’s rhetoric is making traders edgy, as they try to take in their stride his inevitable provocations leading into this weekend’s trade negotiations. It has ignited concerns about global growth, resulting in an overall fall in commodity prices last night. Safety has been sought in US Dollar denominated assets consequently, keeping the yield on the benchmark 10 Year Treasury note to 3.05 per cent; and pushing the US Dollar higher, with the US Dollar Index challenging resistance at 97.50 – a dynamic in which has cut gold prices down to $US1213 per ounce.

Protectionism:

A big part of why the greenback and US assets performed so well is President Trump really fired-up the MAGA rhetoric yesterday. It must have been news that General Motors was planning to close 5 North American factories that really got him going and excited his protectionist impulses. Not only did he take to Twitter to voice his frustrations at GM and its CEO for its decision – threatening to introduce new auto-tariffs in response – he also went out of his way to lash-out at Theresa May and her Brexit deal, asserting that it may compromise futures trade deals between the US and UK. The onslaught of commentary from the President drove the Pound back within the 1.27 handle and the EUR below the 1.13 mark; and dragged European equity indices lower across the board.

Fed-Watch:

Away from the antics of US President Trump now, and the less-headline grabbing (yet arguably more significant) story for the day was a highly anticipated speech from US Federal Reserve Vice President Richard Clarida. If you recall, it was another speech delivered by Mr. Clarida a few weeks ago that kicked-off the “the Fed is becoming dovish” narrative, prompting traders to unwind their bets on future Fed hikes. Last night’s speech was far less impactful than that one, with US rates markets barely budging. But the tone – it’s all about the tone – of the speech has been judged as more “neutral” than the last, emphasizing the “data dependence” explanation for the Fed’s outlook on rates and the US economy, setting the groundwork for a speech Fed Chair Jerome Powell in the next 24 hours, and the Fed’ monetary policy minutes on Friday.

Oil, credit and equities:

The final major theme dictating overnight trade is oil prices, and its implications for equities and credit markets. Leading into the end of the US session, in line with activity in US stocks, oil has pared its losses to presently be sitting more-or-less flat for the day. A bearish bias remains for the black stuff, as traders seek to anticipate what the G20 meeting plus a meeting between OPEC a week later will mean for global production. The prospect of lower oil prices, while good for consumers, has traders nervous: credit markets have built in wider spreads in corporate bonds on the risk that energy giants will prove less credit worthy if their income is diminished by a lower price of oil. The knock-on effect is weighing on sentiment in US (and global) equities, with fears that high funding costs will put pressure on highly leveraged US corporates and those company’s share prices.

Asia and the ASX:

With all of this as the back drop for today’s Asian session, futures markets are indicating a mixed start for the region’s shares, following a similarly mixed day of trade yesterday. SPI futures currently have the ASX 200 opening flat this morning, off the back of solid Tuesday session, that saw the Australian shares add 1 per cent on higher than average volume. The heavy lifting was performed by the bank stocks, which compensated for the day prior’s weakness in the materials sector, to add 27 points to the index. The gains ran deep however, with every sector in the green, and breadth at 74 per cent. The index’s close at 5728 positions the market just below resistance at 5745: a push beyond that level today, if the S&P 500 is any sort of lead, may need to come defensives and non-cyclicals, which lead the gains in US indices last night.

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