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Day 1 of 5:
Monday looks like it may be one of those days where Wall Street hesitantly pulls itself up out of the dirt in the final hours of trade. There is just under two-hours to go in the US session, and at a high level, things appear not-too-bad. Let's return to America a little later. Whichever way we happen to end the first 24 hours of trade for the week, heightened risk, growth fears and bearishness is still driving sentiment. There has been no shift in market behaviour to indicate a market turnaround is upon us yet. If anything, the headlines regarding the macro-landscape added to the negativity. The data traders received was mixed; rather it was the numerous developments in the politico-economic sphere that inflamed trader's trepidation.
The Brexit tragicomedy:
The big story overnight must be Brexit. This week ought to be about the state of Europe, and at its outset, it has been. If the potential consequences weren't so dire, the situation would appear comical – akin to some absurd, but all-too real life Waiting for Godot re-boot. First-up, the European Court of Justice released a ruling that the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit and revoke its action of Article 50. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has dutifully shut down that notion. But things did get sticky when Prime Minister May announced she would delay a vote in Parliament of her Brexit bill, on the understanding she lacked anywhere near the required votes to get it passed lawmakers.
It's relatively raw news at time of writing, but Prime Minister May's decision looks as though it will drag Brexit-uncertainty into 2019. The Cable has been pummelled consequently: it has pin-dropped 1-and-a-half per cent through a few resistance levels, to familiarise itself now with the 1.25 handle. The region's share indices were unaided by the news, though of course following the Asian lead, the session was always going to be a struggle. The FTSE registered a 0.8 per cent loss, despite the plunging Pound, the DAX shed 1.5 per cent, and the Eurostoxx 50 lost 1.3 per cent. The troubles seemed also to poison the shared currency, which has pulled back into the 1.13 handle.
The European bear market:
The year has been a write-off for European markets. Now that the macro-narrative is dominated by fears of slower global growth, it seems any hope things can turnaround for the continent is waning. Last night's data out of the region was mixed: UK GDP printed at the 0.1 per cent forecast, but manufacturing production was shown to contract by -0.9 per cent. Data out of continental Europe is still a couple of days away; there will be little in the way of fundamentals news and information that can shift the tide for Europe, however. We are so far in a bear-market in the region, any turnaround appears unlikely. If anything, with US growth and stock market performance converging with the rest of the world, the falls could easily accelerate.
Asia and the ASX yesterday:
The same goes for Asian markets - and more specifically, the hitherto resilient ASX 200. Major Asian indices, from China, to Hong Kong, and Japan, all gave up considerable ground in the Asian session. But it was a filthy day for Australian equities yesterday, which was at the bottom of the table in terms Asian equity market performance. Previously solid support levels were brushed aside in early trade for the ASX, as traders collectively decided the share market isn't the place to be right now. Breadth was very narrow at 10 per cent, every sector was in the red, and volume was quite high, particularly for a Monday. The financials were the main culprits, hurt most by fears of domestic economic turmoil: it contributed 57 points to the markets losses.
Everything points to a bearish impulse for the overall index. SPI Futures are indicating a bounce of 30 points today, but it pales in comparison to the 128 points given up yesterday. The bottom of a decade long trend channel is exposed in the bigger picture, now: about 5380 (or so) is the level to watch. If this is the unfolding of a true bear market – a 20 per cent correction from previous highs – the stop after breaking this trend would be around 5090. Getting carried away isn't helpful here, and it's too premature to make doomsday calls on the market. However, true bear markets do often correlate with major economic slowdowns: investors could be trying to tell us something here, so if a market bull, being alert (but not yet afraid) should remain the default setting at least for the time being.
Returning to US markets, with less than an hour to go in trade, action could be (generously) described as mixed. It’s still risk-off, however the severity of risk aversion has diminished. US Treasury Yields have climbed modestly across the curve, benefitting the US Dollar, which flexed its might again overnight. The US Dollar Index is around 0.7 per cent higher and back above the 97-mark. Credit spreads have narrowed as the session has worn-on. The S&P500 looks like it could close flat, the Dow Jones has rallied late, and the Nasdaq has added around 1 per cent. Much of this comes courtesy of a bid higher in the major, mega cap FANG stocks. A word of warning (it almost goes without saying): breadth is 40% and uninspiring, with the rally attributable to gains in a select few big-tech names. Little of what occurred on Wall Street should be considered a firm sign of an imminent turnaround.