Trader thoughts - Geopolitics to define trade in the week ahead

Risk aversion continues to plague global markets.

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Source: Bloomberg

Weaker sentiment:

Despite some positive developments on Friday regarding the US-China Trade War and US Federal Reserve policy, confidence appears to be lowly, resulting in a general flight to safety. It was telling that the NASDAQ couldn't close higher along with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 on Friday: the desire to jump into growth stocks keeps diminishing in this market. It raises the risk that market participants have internalised the idea that now is not the time to be chasing capital gains in high-multiple shares. The momentum chasers are being unquestionably washed out of the market, with punters changing strategy from one of "buy the dips" to "sell the rally".

Missing conviction:

It can be at these points in which moves to the downside are exaggerated because of an overall bearish bias. Assessing volumes are a terrific indicator of this, and currently and on balance, the days when Wall Street closes higher has generally coincided with days when volumes are relatively thin. The dynamic implies a lack of conviction from the buyers and sets up opportunities for aggressive sellers to profit from rallies in the market. The ASX 200 demonstrated this well on Friday, where after a rather volatile week that ended with the index closing 0.10 per cent lower, intraday rallies in Aussie shares were flimsy and quite fleeting, revealing a tangible unwillingness by traders to take long positions in this market.

Less information, more volatility?

It will be curious to see how this theme holds in the week ahead. There is such a dearth of fundamental data: the economic calendar is light and US earnings season is effectively done-and-dusted. Traders will have no choice but to focus on the handful of significant geopolitical stories playing out, all in the backdrop of continued speculation about the very core concerns regarding US interest rates. It's a recipe with all the ingredients for a volatile week, if market participants struggle to price in the many vacillating variables moving markets. Watching how the VIX behaves will be the starting point for many-a trader, to get a gauge on to what degree fear and uncertainty exists.

Geopolitics:

It's conceivable that a new development in Brexit and/or the Trade War could shift sentiment very rapidly. There is a sense a breakthrough -- whether positive or negative for markets -- is upon us in both of those issues. Theresa May's Prime Ministership and her Brexit deal will face an existential threat this week, the possible outcome being a successful no-confidence motion in the Prime Minister, and subsequently the death of her Brexit deal. Trade War negotiations have ostensibly improved, however there are many mixed messages coming from both the US and Chinese governments regarding what this month's planned meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at the sidelines of the G20 will yield.

Slight to safety:

An absence of certainty and clarity on both subjects has traders seeking safety. US Treasuries have rallied, with the yield on the 10 Year note falling to support at 3.07 per cent, a break of which could open downside to 2.96 per cent. The Japanese Yen has also been bid-up, closing last week's trade at 112.83, while the EUR bounced back above 1.14 -- and the GBP recovered some of its losses -- causing the US Dollar Index to pull back. Gold prices have spiked consequently, trading at $1222 per ounce. Other commodities have been supported by a lift in optimism regarding the trade war, with Copper and aluminium closing last week high, however oil prices still appear vulnerable to the downside, as concerns of a global over supply persist.

The Aussie pops:

Bringing it back closer to home: the Australian Dollar has been a major beneficiary from the weaker greenback on Friday. The Aussie Dollar has broken resistance at 0.7310, to open upside now toward the 0.7450 mark. The trend of US Dollar strength ought not be considered over yet: the yield advantage of holding US Dollars remain and looks likely to persist as the Fed maintains its rate hiking cycle. The tremendous amount of short positioning in the Australian Dollar (still), however, means that a continued pop higher in the A-Dollar is possible, before the more structural factors relating to interest rates differentials reassert themselves. In the week ahead, any sign of a step forward in trade negotiations could fuel an Aussie Dollar rally, with the inverse naturally true if trade negotiations sour.

ASX today:

Finally, the price on SPI futures is indicating a 17-point jump at the open for the ASX200. As alluded to earlier, a read on volume could be valuable today, especially if the market experiences upside. Of course, being a Monday, it will likely read lower irrespective, so perhaps the question should be to what extent volume deviates from the norm. The short-term trend is lower for the Australian share market and should probably considered so until a significant run back and beyond 5930 is achieved. A reason to buy into the market will be required to achieve this - something today is unlikely to deliver.

Looking at the key sectors that drive the ASX200 and the narratives shaping their activity, briefly: the financials could find themselves supported today by a small army of bargain hunters, but another poor showing from Aussie property on the weekend could drag on the banks; a sluggish day for the NASDAQ on Friday could indicate weakness in the high-multiple healthcare stocks; while the modest lift in commodity prices to end last week, along with the very slightly brighter outlook in the trade war may benefit the miners, if that confidence can be sustained.

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