Trader's View - Stocks edge higher ahead of China data; RBA flirts with rate cuts

ASX to keep trading on its own themes

SPI Futures are presently indicating an 18-point jump at the open for the ASX 200. Once again, Australian equities look as though they’ll march to the beat of their own drum today. It comes on the back of a reasonably solid day for the ASX yesterday – though admittedly it was another day of relatively low activity. A general driver for the session’s activity was hard to pinpoint, perhaps fortunately, with the market trading much more on the basis of the myriad micro-concerns impacting individuals shares and sectors. It may be a dynamic that set not to last, as market participants prepare for a significant “macro” day today.

A dovish tilt from the RBA?

Not that such themes were entirely absent in the local market yesterday, just that they proved insufficient to markedly change the narrative for the ASX. The RBA’s meeting minutes were released yesterday, and more-or-less confirmed the suspicions of market participants: the central bank is entertaining the idea of possible interest rate cuts in the future. Always the first to take the conservative route, the RBA was clear to state it merely discussed under what circumstances a rate cut would be necessary and were explicit in their view that such a set of circumstances aren’t present within the Australian economy right now.

RBA keeping their powder dry

As is reasonably well known, the RBA’s central thesis is that although global growth conditions are softening, and that there remains major domestic economic headwinds, while the labour market keeps tightening, their exists no immediate need to cut interest rates. Furthermore, the RBA outright acknowledged, in perhaps what is a small hint at government policymakers, lowering interest rates wouldn’t deliver the same impact to economic conditions as they had in the past. Nevertheless, traders concluded from the simple recognition of the possible need for further monetary stimulus in Australia’s economy as a sign that the RBA is losing confidence in the local growth engine.

AGBs out of step with global bond markets

The result was a brief fall in the AUD following the release of the RBA’s minutes, as traders repositioned their bets on the future of Australian monetary policy. Having unwound recently positions that the RBA would need to cut rates by August this year in response to a moderating of global growth fears, yesterday’s minutes forced the market to increase the implied number of interest rate cuts before the end of 2019 to about 29 basis points. The knock-on effect saw AGB yields fall, out of step more broadly with bond markets, which experienced a general climb in bond yields yesterday.

Growth concerns diminish; but risk appetite neutral

As might be inferred from the moves in bond markets, trade overnight was characterized by a further diminishing of fears about the outlook for global growth. US 10 Year Treasury yields were up by 3.6 basis-points to 2.59%, and 10 Year German Bunds maintained its (albeit slim) positive yield. It was by no means a total risk-on day, however: stocks were up globally, with the world-indices map a sea of green indeed; but looking at the S&P500 in particular, it was only 0.05% higher for the Wall Street session, as investors digest US earnings season bit-by-bit.

China to dominate today’s proceedings

A very significant read on the state of the global economy comes today: the so-called “monthly Chinese economic data-dump” is delivered– and this time around, it includes the Middle Kingdom’s GDP numbers, too. The turnaround in fortunes for global risk assets lately has largely come in shifting perception about China’s economic wellbeing. There is greater hope that China’s economic slowdown, which had rattled market participants in the first quarter, has bottomed-out. Core to further upside for risk assets, improvements in China’s embattled economy is a necessary precondition for optimism towards the macroeconomy and for global stocks to maintain their trend higher.

Chinese equity markets’ catch-22

So, equity markets in developed economies need to see strength in China’s economy to sustain themselves. However, and perhaps somewhat ironically, the case isn’t as clear cut for China’s financial markets. Chinese equities have outperformed global peers year to date, as markets position for looser financial and fiscal conditions to support growth in the Chinese economy. Less a reflection of strong fundamentals, its been this loosening of fiscal and monetary policy that has driven capital flows into riskier assets. Being this way, strong economic data out of China may reduce the requirement for such accommodative policy-settings and inhibit short-term upside in Chinese stock indices.

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