Tag Archives: US

Broken Records

The past year has been remarkable with political precedents set in the US, UK and France, still record-low central bank policy rates in most developed economies and financial markets and macro data at all-time or multi-year highs (and lows).

The US presidency is fraught with problems but markets are turning a blind eye…for now. The UK is still on course to be the first ever member state to leave the European Union come 29th March 2019, at least on paper. French elections have repainted the political landscape and present many opportunities but old (fiscal) hurdles still need to be cleared.

Central bank policy rates remain at record lows in the majority of developed economies, including the Eurozone, UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and I expect this to remain the case for the remainder of the year. Loose global monetary policy is likely to continue providing a floor to risky assets, including equities and emerging market currencies.

A number of central banks have hiked 25bp in recent months, including the Fed, BoC and CNB, in line with my year-old view that rate hikes would gradually replace rate cuts. But in aggregate the turnaround in developed central bank monetary policy is proceeding at a glacial pace and I see few reasons why this should change.

The Bank of England has not hiked its policy rate for 526 weeks – a domestic record – and I continue to believe that this stretch will extend into 2018.

In contrast to the Dollar and Sterling, the Euro – by far the most stable major currency in the past seven years – has appreciated over 7% since early April.

While the ECB may want to slow the current rapid pace of Euro appreciation, it is unlikely to stop, let alone reverse, the Euro’s upward path at this stage. For starters, Eurozone growth and labour markets continue to strengthen. The German IFO business climate index hit three consecutive record highs in June-August.

Perhaps the most obvious record which financial markets have broken is the continued climb in US equities to new highs and volatility’s fall to near-record lows.

Emerging market rates continue to edge lower in the face of receding inflationary risks and I see room for further rate cuts, particularly in Brazil given the pace of Real appreciation.

Non-Japan Asian (NJA) currencies continue to broadly tread water, in line with my core view that NJA central banks have little incentive to materially alter their currencies’ paths.

Year-to-date emerging market equities have rallied 24%, twice as fast as the Dow Jones (12%) which has rallied twice as fast as EM currencies versus the Dollar (6%). Read more

Politics suspected of interfering with economics and markets

In the US, political intrigue, seemingly lifted straight out of a John Le Carré novel, has reached a crescendo and there are now multiple investigations running concurrently.

If we assume these investigations will run over weeks/months, the question is whether and to what extent this political backdrop is likely to impact financial markets, US government policy-making, the US and global economy and Federal Reserve monetary policy.

US equities have corrected lower, volatility has spiked and markets are seemingly ignoring positive data surprises

It has all been rather orderly so far but it is difficult to see how at this juncture, with major policy initiatives likely kicked down the road, US equities can launch another meaningful rally. If anything big data misses are likely to further pressure stocks. 

The Dollar’s performance has been mixed in the past month, posting its biggest loss against the euro in line with the fundamentally bullish euro view I expressed in December and April.

Capital inflows into the eurozone allied to a 2% of GDP current account surplus, a pick-up in economic activity and receding political risks following the French presidential elections are likely to extend the euro’s current rally near-term.

However, the ECB’s stance on its quantitative easing program will be key in shaping the euro’s medium-term path.

US economic indicators paint a blurry picture while solid global GDP growth is seemingly struggling to make further gains.

The Fed and US rates market have the unenviable task of making sense of these macro trends and a quickly changing political landscape.

The apolitical Fed will of course stay above the political fray, even if markets do not with pricing for the probability of a 25bp hike at the 14th June policy meeting continuing to oscillate between 60% and 75%.

My core scenario is that the Fed will hike rates only once more in 2017 although I acknowledge that this is not a high conviction call. The market seems still on the fence, pricing in a further 32bp of hikes in the remainder of the year.
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US, UK and global GDP growth update – Put the champagne on ice

US GDP data weakest of a disappointing lot

Data released today show that Q1 2017 real GDP growth:

  • In the US slowed to 0.7 quarter-on-quarter (qoq) annualised, from 2.1% qoq in Q4 2016 – the weakest growth rate in three years (see Figure 1);
  • In the UK halved to 0.3% qoq – the weakest growth rate in a year;
  • In France slowed to 0.3% qoq from 0.5% qoq in Q4 2016; and
  • In Spain rose to 0.8% qoq from 0.7% qoq in Q4 2016.

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What will Asian central banks do?

Global risk appetite nudges higher as “West Wing” versus “Yes Minister” plays out

Cinemagoers have in recent years been treated to the daft yet watchable Alien vs Predator and Superman vs Batman movie franchises but nothing compares to the Frankenstein-esque beasts of US and UK politics which have been thrust on voters both sides of the pond – a tragi-comic blend of “the West Wing” versus “Yes Minister” with more twists and sub-plots than a John le Carré novel. Read more

Be careful what you wish for

The rise in bond yields in developed economies in the past 6 weeks remains one of the over-riding themes as we head into the last seven days of the US presidential campaigns.

Markets are now fretting about the implications for global growth and asset valuations and ultimately whether elevated global risk appetite will correct more forcefully.

Higher international commodity prices, a pick-up in global GDP growth in Q3 and early Q4 and easing deflation fears suggest that interest rate policies in developed economies may have reached an important inflexion point – in line with the view I expressed six weeks ago.

Developed central banks may refrain from loosening monetary policy further near-term, with the exception of the RBNZ and possibly ECB. At the very least, policy-makers will tweak a discourse which has largely focused on doing “whatever it takes”.

Recent US data have paved the paved the way for a 14th December Fed hike, conditional on Democrat candidate Hilary Clinton wining the 8th November US presidential elections.

But with the exception of the Fed and possibly a handful of EM central banks, rate hikes are a story for the latter part of 2017 (perhaps) while further rate cuts remain on the cards in Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and India.

Higher global yields and still uncertain US election outcome are taming global equities and volatility has spiked but EM currencies have still managed to eek out modest gains.

Assuming Hilary Clinton wins next week, I would expect the initial reaction to be a rally in global equities, EM currencies and Dollar and an underperformance of safe-haven assets.

But I would also expect market pricing for a December Fed hike to rise a little further, which could in turn eventually curtail any rally in global equities and EM currencies.

In this scenario, the Dollar would likely end the year stronger, as per my January forecast of a third consecutive year of albeit more modest Dollar gains.

Whether global risk appetite avoids its early 2016 fate will depend on the interconnected factors of underlying macro data and the Fed’s credibility. In any case, market volatility could spike in the run-up to March 2017.

The self-reinforcing sell-off in Sterling and UK bonds has only very recently abated, with markets seemingly taken some comfort from a number of factors including the only modest slowdown in UK GDP growth to 0.5% qoq in Q3.

But optimism over UK GDP data is not warranted as growth has become more unbalanced and slowed in August-September despite a significant easing in UK monetary policy. Read more