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Weekly Market Wrap

By David Morrison  |  11/05/2018 15:04

This article looks at the events over the past week including the resumption of the rally in equities and the dollar with oil at multi-year highs


Equities rallied last week in a move which suggests that investor sentiment has once again turned bullish. A plethora of conflicting reasons were churned out to explain the shift including falling bond yields, rising bond yields, a rally in the oil price and a stronger dollar. But perhaps the move in the stock market simply came down to an acceleration in upside momentum as leveraged short-sellers were forced to cover after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced that it had added significantly to its Apple holdings in the first quarter of this year.

Positive sentiment also got a boost after US CPI (the most popular measure of inflation) came in a touch weaker than expected. However, the subsequent sell-off in the US dollar was probably little more than profit-taking while the ramp in equities was a simple continuation of the upside momentum and short-covering which began earlier in the month.
But it’s also worth considering investor attitude to the recent Fed statement as it plays into the central bank’s attitude to inflation. The Fed’s FOMC made it clear that they were quite relaxed about the prospect of inflation (as measured by Core PCE) overshooting their 2.0% inflation target. If so, then the implication is that the Fed will continue to tighten monetary policy at a steady rate rather than upping the pace of rate hikes to choke off a rise in prices. The second takeaway is that a bit of inflation can be good for equity prices, at least while companies are able to pass on input costs to consumers. That seems to be the case now. However, the ongoing rally in crude oil means higher energy costs for everyone. While energy (and food) prices aren’t included in core inflation measures, they have a serious impact overall. If oil continues to rise, then we could find inflation turning from a tailwind (as the energy sector gets a boost) to a headwind due to higher fixed costs for corporates and consumers. For now, investors seem happy enough to pile back into equities and it looks as if there could now be an effort to push the US majors back to all-time highs.

But it’s important to exercise caution as the rally could prove to be a ‘bull trap’. US Treasury bond yields continue to trade at elevated levels and were pushing higher on Friday afternoon. The 10-year yield was back above 2.97% while the 2-year was heading towards a multi-year high of 2.54%. This means higher borrowing costs together with a flattening yield curve, which, should it continue and ultimately invert, is typically a signal that a recession may follow.

There was a softer tone for the US dollar to finish the week. Traders came in to book profits after the Dollar Index hit its highest level this year and US CPI inflation came in a touch below expectations. The greenback has been on an absolute tear since mid-April after breaking out of a relatively tight trading range against the euro. The move came as investors became increasingly concerned about a pick-up in US inflation. But buying momentum also picked up due to a large build-up of dollar shorts, many of whom were forced to cover losing positions on the rally.

Many analysts now believe that the weak dollar trend which began in early 2017 is over. They cite the downturn in Euro zone economic data together with a Federal Reserve which seems relaxed about inflation overshooting its 2% target while steadily tightening monetary policy.

However, some are warning that this may just prove to be another brief corrective move before the dollar resumes its decline. After all, there are moves to undermine the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, while Trump’s tax cuts and spending is boosting the US budget deficit and national debt. This could be a problem as interest rates rise. That’s not to say the dollar can’t rally further. But ultimately, they see resistance for the Dollar Index around 94.00 or 95.00 with corresponding EURUSD support around 1.1800 and 1.1600.
Sterling continued to come under selling pressure for most of last week. Much of cable’s initial pull-back was a function of dollar strength. However, weaker than expected data for GDP growth and inflation led to the Bank of England changing its mind on an expected rate cut at last week’s meeting. The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 7-2 in favour of keeping rates unchanged. The MPC also revised down its future growth and inflation expectations, suggesting it could be in no hurry to raise rates this year. At the beginning of this month the GBPUSD plunged below trendline support around 1.3700. But it has managed to stabilise around 1.3500 and a rebound can’t be ruled out. However, a break below 1.3500 could open the possibility of a retest of support around 1.3200.
Crude oil

Crude rallied last week taking both WTI and Brent to their highest levels in three and a half years. This latest move followed the US’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran. This came despite efforts from the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China (all signatories to the original deal) to persuade President Trump to continue with the agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. The US move (which was backed by Israel and Saudi Arabia) has brought about a build-up in tensions across the Middle East and may strengthen the hand of Iranian hardliners.

Crude prices also got a boost following the release of US inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Energy Information Administration (EIA). Both agencies recorded bigger than expected drawdowns in crude oil while gasoline demand grew at its fastest rate since early 2016. This news more than offset data showing that US production hit a fresh record high.

Precious metals

In last week’s market wrap I noted that if the dollar rally were to continue then we should expect gold to fall back and test support below $1,300. This is because gold typically struggles to make gains when the greenback is rising as dollar-denominated commodities are more expensive to buy for non-dollar holders. It is also generally believed that rising US interest rates not only support the dollar but negatively affect gold.  This is because precious metals generally don’t pay interest, whereas investors can get a risk-free return on bonds, or even dollar cash deposits. However, this is only part of the story. What matters for precious metals is “real” interest rates – that is, once inflation is subtracted. If inflation is higher than the current available interest rate then it makes sense to own precious metals rather than holding cash. As we have US Core PCE running at 1.9% annualised, and the fed funds rate below 1.75% we can see that as things stand this isn’t putting downside pressure on gold. This accounts for its current resilience, even given dollar strength and the slightly lower than expected CPI reading.

Nevertheless, gold remains rangebound. There’s support between $1,295 and $1,305 with resistance around $1,330 followed by $1,360. Silver is currently trading near resistance at $16.80 with support coming in around $16.20 on a closing basis.

Key events next week

Monday -             JPY PPI

Tuesday -             AUD Monetary Policy Meeting minutes; CNY Fixed Asset Investment, Industrial Production, Retail Sales; GBP Claimant Count, Unemployment, Average Earnings, Inflation Report Hearings; EUR German Preliminary GDP, Euro zone Flash GDP, German and Euro zone ZEW Economic Sentiment, Industrial Production; USD Retail Sales, Empire State Manufacturing

Wednesday -     JPY Preliminary GDP; AUD Wage Price Index; EUR Final CPI, ECOFIN Meetings; USD Building Permits, Housing Starts, Capacity Utilisation, Industrial Production, Crude Oil Inventories

Thursday -           AUD Unemployment Rate; USD Philly Fed Manufacturing Index, Unemployment Claims, CB Leading Index

Friday -                 CAD CPI, Retail Sales

This week’s first quarter earnings releases include AstraZeneca, Burberry, Cisco, Home Depot, JC Penney, Macy’s, Merck, Nordstrom, Vodafone and Wal-Mart.
Any information, analysis, opinion, commentary or research-based material on this page is for information purposes only and is not, in any circumstances, intended to be an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk and GKFX accepts no responsibility for any adverse trading decisions. You should seek independent advice if you do not understand the associated risks.


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