Markets react to European elections

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European equity markets are on the front foot again, building on yesterday’s gains, as investors breathe a collective sigh of relief following the European parliamentary elections.

European bourses have firmed as it looked like the political centre ground is holding in the EU despite pressure from right and left, whilst we have some upbeat spin on trade to contend with as we hear about a possible US-Japan trade deal. London and Wall Street will be playing catch up today. Futures in the US point to gains today. 

Euro elections: the centre holds, barely

European elections returned gains for a number of right-wing, Eurosceptic parties as expected, but not enough to really shake the ground from under the centrists. The main blocs have held on to remain just about in control, although for the first time they have lost their combined majority.  

The gains for the right continue to point to a problem for Brussels. But there were also big gains for the Greens. The political landscape is shifting, but it wasn’t a Brexit-like earthquake.

The strength of the League in Italy and National Rally in France is noteworthy and will exert domestic pressure more than at a European level. Expect further confrontation between Rome and Brussels. Indeed, on that note, Italian bond yields spiked, with the 10yr BTP above 2.7% again, amid reports the EU is mulling a $4bn fine for Italy for failure to control debt. For France it simply highlights that Macron’s reformist agenda is under a lot of pressure.

The euro though has been pretty well unmoved although London and New York were shut yesterday and we might see traders coming back in today. EURUSD was steady at 1.1180.

Brexit looms over pound

Ain’t no party like a Brexit Party: In the UK the centre has given way completely, and the pressure on the pound remains firm. The Brexit Party won the day, although the overtly Remain parties did very well with the LibDems and Greens enjoying a strong bump in support. European elections are entirely meaningless of course in terms of the Westminster arithmetic, but the impact on the ruling Tory party is key. 

For markets, we should expect the result to impact the leadership race and already a number of leading candidates have upped the no-deal rhetoric. One can only argue that this will, on the margins at least, push candidates more towards the fringes and see the party go more to the right. Given the Tory membership’s pro-Brexit feelings there is an ever-increasing risk of a no-deal exit at this stage. A lot is priced in but a no-deal would see further downside for the pound.

GBPUSD has found support again around 1.2670 and while there is still a lot of pressure, Thursday’s reversal on the 78% Fib retracement on 1.2610 looks to have placed something of a floor under the pound for the time being.  

Bitcoin 

Cryptos have rallied hard again on strong volumes, taking another leg higher over the weekend. Bitcoin is testing the $9k round number resistance, before a tilt at the 38% retracement around $9640 and then the April 2018 high on $10k. Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz the more traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Standing in front of a steamroller springs to mind, if you are a natural bear. Better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way, so watch for those whenever the rally looks overextended – 14-day RSI approaching 90 has been a pretty good indicator in the past. 

Morning Note: China’s long march, Britain’s interminable May

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Wall St was higher yesterday as markets look on the bright side of the US-China dispute, focusing on the 3-month reprieve for Huawei. But news that the White House may also blacklist Chinese surveillance company Hikvision has weighed on risk appetite again.

It’s not looking too great overall, and we continue to witness Washington push hard in one direction and then beat a tactical retreat to test its opponents. 

The situation we’re in now is a marked deterioration from the start of May. Beijing is now talking about a ‘new long march’, and trade talks have completely broken down. From this point we need to start to consider escalation looks like – tariffs on the $300bn of remaining Chinese exports being discussed would lead to a material impact on the US economy, corporate earnings and inflation. There is a risk that the market is complacent to what may be a very long, drawn out affair, albeit having clearly taken on some of the warnings – SPX closed at 2,864, down 3-4% from the all-time highs. However, this may not yet reflect the downside risks from a full-blown trade conflict. 

Forex

Sterling is on the backfoot again this morning after going through the ringer yesterday. GBPUSD is below 1.27 again, having whipsawed on the prospect of a second referendum.  The government plans to bring the Brexit withdrawal bill again to parliament but it’s clear it lacks the votes to get through. Pressure on the PM is excruciating.

At send time the pair held on 1.2690, having fallen to 1.26844. Support seen around a series of Dec lows at 1.2610, which coincides with the 78% retracement of the top-to-bottom move up from the Jan YTD low to the Mar YTD high. This area could well be a strong line of support. If it goes then we are looking at a potential retreat to 1.24. The pound was also weaker against the euro, with EURGBP continuing its march to 0.88, having notched up its worst losing streak on record versus the single currency. 

Sterling oversold?

But are we set for a pullback? The short sterling trade seems pretty crowded and the 14-day RSI calls for the pound to bounce on both EURGBP and GBPUSD. Sense from the momentum indicators that this decline for sterling against both the euro and dollar is running out of steam – of course that could just mean a temporary pause. We are also quite heavily extended at the respective lower (GBPUSD) and upper (EURGBP) extremes of the Bollinger Bands. Nevertheless, risks still appear skewed to the downside given the complete lack of certainty on the political front. Expect heightened volatility in sterling crosses.  

Mrs May needs to realise her deal is never going to get through Parliament, whatever amount of convoluted bargaining she attempts. Her gamble on offering a confirmatory referendum on her deal has clearly failed at the first hurdle. 

Broad-based dollar strength is also weighing on the pound as the greenback is finding safe haven bid in the current trade climate. The dollar index has just pulled back from the 98 handle but is looking firm. EURUSD has pulled back further to 1.1150 but seems to be building some support around this region. With the massive descending wedge nearing completion – are we set for an upside breakout? We’ve talked before about it being too early to call the top of the dollar rally, but as we look into the second half of the year, that is when many think the dollar will see a retracement. 

Data watch 

Japanese macro data overnight was soft – exports declined for a fifth straight month. We note the big drop in exports to China – down 6.3%, outpacing the overall decline of 2.4%. Core machine orders were down 0.7%, although this was weak, it was better than the 5.5% decline registered a month before. 

On tap later we have the UK CPI figures – 2.2% is the consensus. However, we expect the number to be skewed by the hike in the energy price cap. Core inflation is seen at 1.9%. Whether this is the peak in inflation will depend a lot on Brexit, and whether we see wage growth pick up. The Bank of England will look through any above-target print for a while, at least until Brexit is clearer. 

FOMC minutes on tap too – watch for the markets to find these a little more hawkish than they would like. One gets the sense that the Fed is not quite ready to end its hiking cycle. Again one feels the market is not correctly pricing the chance the Fed will raise rates later in the year – albeit the base case is for it to stand pat until 2020. 

Morning Note: Trade war weighs, Bitcoin surges

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European equities drifted lower as trade tensions and fears about global growth continue to weigh on market sentiment.

The FTSE 100 was struggling to hold onto 7,200 on Monday morning. The DAX shed 1% to drop beneath the 12,000 round number support.

President Trump on Friday raised tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25% and is now examining slapping tariffs on all remaining goods imported from China – worth about $300bn. The rhetoric and posturing is not good for risk and events over the last few days diminish the likelihood we will see a meaningful deal done. When we look at the posturing with Iran, it looks like the geopolitical hawks in the White House are in control. And unlike the weak Theresa May, Donald Trump is prepared to do no deal rather than a bad deal.

US futures soften

The S&P 500 somehow managed to close higher on Friday, but futures are now pointing towards a sharply lower open with renewed pressure on the downside. Somehow or other the Vix closed the week lower than it’s starting point but we this rising again now with the fear gauge printing a 19 handle again. This could push up past 20 again.

A paucity of eco data this week will keep the markets looking at Trump and China. Fed speakers this week will likely reiterate the current party line. US retail sales will be important with expectations relatively upbeat that US consumers are putting their money where their mouth is and spending more.

Bitcoin flying

So what’s the ultimate trade war hedge? It may well be cryptos – not really but Bitcoin has spiked again, this time breaching the $7k mark. The massive resistance at $6,400 was taken out having been the big hurdle for the bulls. 

Why? Who knows, but the momentum is building for bulls and you cannot ignore that once Bitcoin builds up a head of steam, the mania can come back, and the momentum traders will pile in. This is a pure momentum play and the chart is looking parabolic again.  

On the upside, next resistance comes at around $7,300, last September’s high, before the $8,000 round number, which is a massive target. 

However, the market does increasingly look overbought, which could precipitate a pullback. 14-day RSI is close to 90 – I.e. extremely overbought. We note that in April when the RSI was last at this level it did presage a pullback, only a very temporary one. Price action has now extended well north of the upper Bollinger band.

FX quiet

FX markets remain remarkably calm. EURUSD has cemented its gains above 1.12 but remains trapped within the downwards triangle. GBPUSD doesn’t want to move very far from the 1.30 level. Little real bid for the yen despite it being the main risk-off proxy

Morning note: Equities pressured on tough talk on China trade, RBA holds

Forex
Morning Note

US equity markets pared losses yesterday, with the S&P 500 declining by around half a percent to 2,932.47, having been close to the 2900 handle again. 

Rhetoric from the US side has shifted markedly in the last two days. Having seen progress and a good direction to productive discussions, relations have soured. 

Tweets from Donald Trump over the weekend saying he would raise tariffs on $200bn in imports from China as early as Friday did the main damage to risk sentiment, sparking a selloff in equities. Following this the Robert Lighthizer and Steve Mnuchin said China had reneged on its commitments and painted a very downbeat picture of the talks. This hit trade sensitive stocks after-market and will keep the downwards pressure on equities. 

Quite where this leaves us is hard to say. There is a sense that the US is working extremely hard to extract last-minute concessions from China ahead of a planned visit by vice-premier Liu He. That visit has been confirmed – he is to visit the US May 9th-10th. Equity futures in Europe rose on the news of the Chinese visit still being a go, but risks remain skewed to the downside today it would seem. 

Just talking tough?

Will that be enough to avert the tariffs being raised on Friday is unclear, but at least it means the two sides are continuing to talk and a deal is still possible. However, we don’t know if this is a last-ditch rescue mission to save talks or something that moves talks on in a more substantive way. The optics suggest the former, but one cannot but sense that Mr Trump is playing us a little. He may well be making a deal seem further away in order to make the achievement seem all the more impressive when it comes.

The market has been juiced by expectations the US and China would do a deal, combined with a much more dovish sounding Fed. Those two key planks are what the ATHs rest upon – remove one and we should expect more downside.

RBA holds rates before Australian elections

Elsewhere, in the FX space, the RBA chose not to cut rates, leaving the benchmark at 1.5% again. It was about 50/50 whether the central bank would cut or stick, and it seems that for now, with enough evidence that the slowdown can be blamed on transitory factors, the RBA is prepared to wait and see before easing. Also, with the election looming, the RBA probably felt it wise to wait. 

We’ve seen global central banks pivot from their tightening stance, but markets have just been a tad quick in calling the new easing cycle – the Fed last week and the RBA today confirm that it’s a done deal.  AUDUSD spiked to regain the 70 handle – it may well now keep in a range between 0.7030 and 0.7060, the narrow band it was in for the last week of April.  

GBPUSD remains supported above 1.31 but remains susceptible to Brexit news flow again. Despite all the jawboning, there is little evidence that Labour and the Tories can do a deal. Whether this gaping chasm between the major parties forces the UK towards a second referendum, General Election or a hard exit is still unknown.  

Finally, a word on Bitcoin – the crypto market remains bullish and Bitcoin futures are moving rapidly towards the $6,000 level. This could attract some technical interest as it would mark the clear move out of the bottom formation, whilst momentum traders may start to pile in on the back of it.

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