Risk on, dollar lower

  • Risk sentiment buoyed by Fed, stimulus hopes
  • Dollar sinks to fresh lows
  • Priti Patel says UK and EU in ‘tunnel’ negotiations

Solid start: market sentiment appears buoyed by hopes US lawmakers can strike a stimulus deal and Brexit talks are close to a breakthrough, albeit they are still hanging by a thread and the deadline is only two weeks away. European equities traded higher on Thursday, while US futures rallied and looked to open at record highs after the Fed signalled it will stand by the economy and keep the cash taps on.

The Fed will continue to buy $120bn of bonds until “substantial further progress has been made toward the Committee’s maximum employment and price stability goals”. This could be taken as a fairly hawkish statement, signalling the Fed’s readiness to slow the pace of asset purchases as soon as perhaps the middle of next year, by which time policymakers think people will be comfortable heading out. Moreover, the Fed did not expand asset purchases as some had called for, nor did it shift the focus of asset purchases to longer dated debt. However, Fed chair Jay Powell insisted that the Fed would do more if needed and suggested any inflation next year would be transitory. On the whole, this remains a very dovish bias, but policymakers upgraded their near-term economic forecasts. Markets were not unduly responsive to the statement, with the 10-year Treasury holding within the 0.925%-0.95% zone.

US lawmakers are moving close to agreeing a $900bn Covid relief bill that could include $600 stimulus cheques and extended unemployment benefits. Both sides are sounding a lot more optimistic, but there is still some haggling over the finer details to be done before it is signed off.

Home secretary Priti Patel said the UK and EU were in tunnel negotiations. It’s not quite the breakthrough moment we’ve been waiting for since they’ve been some form of last-ditch closed-door talks for weeks. The pound traded higher.

Sterling advanced to make new highs vs the dollar amid swirling reports of progress and deadlock on the Brexit front, however the move seems to be more linked to dollar weakness than a new bout of pound strength. The dollar index broke down to its lowest since Apr 2018 under 90. This helped GBPUSD move clear of its recent highs at 1.3540 to 1.35850 this morning.

The Bank of England meets later and should signal it’s prepared to do more should financial conditions deteriorate in the New Year. The MPC voted through an additional £150bn in QE in November is not in a rush to pull any more strings just yet, particularly given the Brexit uncertainty. Any talk of negative rates will be jumped on by the market, but this should be a fairly quiet affair.

Crude oil prices rose after a big draw on US inventories lifted sentiment and reduced fears of a build-up of stocks ahead of the Christmas period. The draw of 3.15m barrels compared with a huge 15m build in the previous week. Gasoline inventories rose by 1m barrels, but this was less than expected. WTI (Jan) kicked on after the release and moved above $48 where it has held gains.