Volatility lower; risks remain:
If anything, with so much global economic and political uncertainty at present, the absence of news can make already murky circumstances appear murkier. Traders are still jumpy and rather trigger happy, though implied volatility has been downgraded over the last week, primarily due to the passing some highly significant risk events. Last week's US mid-term elections delivered the outcome markets were expecting -- which in and of itself is perhaps the best outcome of all. While the FOMC stuck to their guns and kept market participants on notice: more than a major stock market correction is required to shift this Fed from its rate hiking path.
A familiar story:
The ability to price in – at the very least into US equity markets – the result of what was last week's two most significant events has undoubtedly been welcomed by punters. Each event cast a different light on the state of markets, with neither inspiring a great deal of bullishness. It was a sense of cautious relief, it must be said, that nothing too extreme came out of them. Ultimately, the Fed's meeting – which is far and away the more fundamentally important force in markets – provided little to the Bulls to be excited about: it reinforced the internal contradiction (pun intended) present in financial markets currently: strong economic fundamentals are finally feeding into wages and price pressures, meaning the Fed must hike rates, quite possibly at the expense of the upward momentum in stock markets.
North American session:
Wall Street dipped based on this on Friday. The increasingly familiar dynamic played out again: the prospect of higher interest rates gets priced into rates markets, and subsequently into US Treasury yields, weighing down equity markets, which spark a risk-off flight into US Treasuries, bidding-up that assets' price. The yield on benchmark 10 Year US Treasuries fell over 5 points on the day, as the growth laden NASDAQ fell 1.65 per cent, leading the S&P 500 and Dow Jones down 0.92 per cent and 0.77 per cent respectively. The US Dollar climbed on the risk off play – as did (modestly) the Japanese Yen and Swiss Franc – driving gold prices down to $US1209 per ounce and pushing riskier assets like the Australian Dollar back-down to the 0.7226 mark.
US data this week:
The week ahead presents the possibility that this variety of market activity will manifest, even if only in brief patches, once again this week. As alluded to, economic data and event risk is much lighter, however some key releases of relevance to Fed policy leap from the calendar. Most significantly, US CPI data will be published on Thursday early morning (AEDT), prefacing a speech to be delivered by US Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell hours later, along with US Retail Sales figures the day after that. Inflation risk has entered the equation in a real way for market participants for the first time in years. While the US data releases this week could print and pass-by with very little reaction, considering the nervousness in financial markets at present, an awareness and preparation for possible spikes in volatility may be prudent.
The end to Wall Street's week followed on from declines in European indices, which fell predominately for the same reasons as their US counterparts. The start of the week will be no less un-friendly than end of the last for European markets, after news, post the trading week's close, that UK Prime Minister Theresa May's latest Brexit proposal has been slapped down once again by the European Union – prompting (allegedly) that four more members of Prime Minister May's cabinet will soon resign. The developments open further downside in the EUR and GBP, which had already plunged further into the 1.13 and 1.29 handle even before this information was known.
Arguably the most significant and news worthy price action occurred in oil markets towards the end of trade last week, as fears around slower global growth coupled with growing concerns of a supply glut pushed the price of WTI to $60.00 and the price of Oil - Brent crude to $70.00. The tenth successive day of falls in the price of oil mark the longest daily losing streak for the black stuff in history, leading OPEC+ to call fall production cuts within oil producing countries. The situation could prove a political hot topic in the months to come: Western leaders (particularly US President Donald Trump) have maintained their vocal desire for lower prices, while the members of OPEC continue to struggle to organise a coherent view of what oil output ought to be given the current global economic and geopolitical back drop.
SPI futures are at time of writing indicating theASX 200 will recede further from the key 5930 support/resistance level and dip 37 points at today's open. This comes following a thin day's trade for the Australian market on Friday, which saw the ASX200 close 0.5 per cent lower on volumes once again below the 100-day average. Trade across the Asian region didn't deliver much for the Bulls: a weaker Yen failed to translate into gains for the Nikkei, dropping over 1 per cent instead; and Chinese indices dropped by nearly one-and-a-half per cent, and the Yuan slid through 6.95 on occasions, due to reduced optimism about a trade deal eventuating between the US and China.
The ASX200 heavyweights appear set to face familiar headwinds today: auction clearance rates were again poor over the weekend, adding to fears about the potential effect the property market slowdown will have on the big banks; sluggish activity in Chinese equities and industrial commodities markets in general have amplified fears regarding global growth and its impact on the materials sector; and a lull in risk appetite has stifled the enthusiasm for growth stocks, diminishing the attractiveness of the local health care darlings. These separate narratives aren't new to market participants, and as always could quickly flip based on the vagaries of the market; but nevertheless, it appears they are for now enough to put the ASX200 on the back foot to start the week.