A little bit of everything: It certainly wasn’t the highest-impact day market participants have experienced so far this year, but there was a spoonful of everything, thematically speaking that is, driving the macro-economic outlook for markets in 2019. To keep it high level, there was a series of significant growth-related data released out of all three of the world’s major economic geographies – China, Europe and China – plus a healthy smattering of geopolitics and corporate news to keep traders interested. Only, if you look at the price action, one might say that it didn’t amount to terribly much. Global equities are taking the middle road, posting a mixed day, as Wall Street creeps towards its close at time of writing; though some shifting in currency, rates, bonds and commodities markets has occurred.
Markets immune to trade-war headlines: Fresh trade war headlines are at the top of the list of headline risks, however in contrast to what’s been seen in the past, the reactions have been muted. Arguably, and barring any news that hints at a true resolution in the trade war, stories that the US and China are getting along just fine are becoming (relatively) ineffectual. Yesterday saw the news that the Trump administration is considering pushing the White House imposed March 1 deadline for trade negotiations back another 60 days. The developments saw the standard risk assets shift – Australian Dollar-up, Asian stocks-up, US futures-up, commodities-up – but compared to the massive relief rallies seen in the past, the price action indicated a market that’s wanting more than just piecemeal developments in trade-negotiations.
US Retail Sales a shocker: Hence markets moved past that news, as the tradeable appeal of trade-war headlines fades. The meaningful event market participants had marked into their calendar for last night proved of greater import in the end: US Retail Sales numbers for December were released and showed an abysmal set of numbers. In fact, they were so bad that the experts and the punditry have effectively written them off as a passing anomaly – one that can’t quite be explained properly. The figures themselves revealed US Retail Sales contract by a huge -1.8% in December, well below the “flat” figure estimated by economists. Though consensus is saying the data was too-bad-to-be-true, traders have adjusted their positions: bets of a Fed rate hike have been unwound back to effectively a 0% chance in 2019.
US Dollar falls; Treasuries suggest slowdown: Naturally, the US Dollar has dipped, registering daily falls against most major currencies. US Treasuries have rallied too, which has probably very marginally benefitted stocks, with the yield on the 10 Year Treasury note falling 4 basis points to 2.65 per cent. As the Chinese and European economies slow, the US economy is acting as the fulcrum of global growth at present. Data points like US Retail Sales begs the question of how long this dynamic may last. A little while yet seems to be the popular answer. A look at what the US yield curve is doing is illustrative in this regard: the yield on 3- and 5-year Treasuries are below that of the 2-year, portending recession-risk in the medium term.
No recession, but outlook still dim for Europe: The Euro was bolstered by its own set of economic data overnight. GDP figures were released for the Euro-bloc and the German economy, and while bad, they weren't as bad as forecast. The Eurozone's GDP came-in on forecast at 0.2 per cent, and while the German figures missed estimates and showed a stagnant economy last quarter, traders took comfort from the notion that at least the data hadn’t set Germany up for a possibly technical recession. Despite this, and the fact the Euro is edging back towards 1.13 again, there is a growing sense of inevitability about a European recession at some point this year or next. These things can’t be predicted of course, and perhaps a turnaround will occur, however the balance of probabilities looks to support the notion a recession is looming.
Pound falls as Brexit reality hits: Continued Brexit uncertainty won't help Europe's economy, and markets were delivered a fresh dose of that too overnight. UK Prime Minister Theresa May lost another key vote in the House of Commons, placing in peril any chance of a Brexit deal, or at least a bill delaying Brexit, being passed. The Pound has returned to its (disputably) proper place, plunging back again into the 1.27 handle last night, and Gilts have climbed on the basis that a hard-Brexit will do no favours for the Bank of England and its bid to "normalise" it's interest rate settings. As always, the Brexit developments are being considered a problem unique to the European region, with little ramifications for broader markets. If Brexit accelerates Europe's into recession though, then this view ought to change.
ASX showing signs of a pullback: SPI Futures are indicating a 2-point dip for the ASX200 at time of writing. The ASX200 is exhibiting signs of exhaustion now, as the market fails to push the index near enough or beyond the 6100 level. The conditions remain in place for future upside beyond that mark, but for now, market participants seem happy to either take profits, fade rallies, or just sit things out. The banks have unwound their gains following the post-Banking Royal Commission rally, and though it is showing signs of fundamental strength, a steadying in the iron ore price has mining stocks climbing, but at a careful tick. Hypothetically: if a pull back does occur, 6000 will be a level of psychological significance, before true support around 5940 is exposed.