US stocks are slightly off session highs after rising to a one-month high and technically entering bull-market territory. Risk-on was running strong as hopes continue to grow that virus spread is slowing. It is still too early to be overly optimistic that COVID-19 infections are nearing their peak, but the numbers show some promise in Europe and New York. It is still too early to assess the rest of the US, but optimism should be limited as US social distancing efforts may not have matched Italy or Spain.
US equities pared gains initially after New York posted the largest jump in daily deaths. The number of deaths however is a lagging indicator when compared to the number of hospitalizations, which may be reaching a plateau. New York’s rate of new COVID-19 cases have dropped for a third consecutive day providing optimism the pandemic may be peaking. The next two weeks will be critical in seeing how the virus spreads across the US.
The UK death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 6,000 as the country recorded its deadliest day. Hopes were growing that the spread of the virus was slowing, but today’s data showed a rise of 10.7% in new cases, higher than yesterday’s 8.4% increase. The daily COVID-19 update comes as PM Boris Johnson battles the coronavirus in intensive care. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab noted that Johnson is still being monitored in critical care and has not required a ventilator. Raab is deputizing for PM Johnson and will work with cabinet on the latest strategies in fighting COVID-19.
Oil prices are rising on both growing expectations that the world’s largest energy producers are poised to reach an agreement on cutting production and that crude demand could start to see some relief as hopes are high that coronavirus is peaking in Europe and in New York.
The posturing ahead of Thursday’s global oil producers meeting will be something special. In the US alone, individual energy companies will fight for what they are willing to do, and expectations should not be that a 20% production cut will be agreed upon. Exxon has cut its spending by $10 billion but are keen to still have production to rise. Smaller producers are likely on board, but if a consensus is not reached in the US, hopes for an a globally planned production cut could falter this week.
Oil production cuts will eventually happen as storage capacity runs out of room. OPEC + could get more bang for their buck if they can act in a coordinated manner with the US, Norway and Canada.
Gold’s rally hit a brick wall as optimism continues to grow that the virus peak is nearing. Overnight gold was on fire after breaking above the psychological $1,700 level, the double-pronged rally stemmed from a falling dollar and fresh stimulus prospects around the world (Japan approves ¥10-trillion economic package, Eurogroup debates further economic support).
Investors should not be surprised with gold’s volatility and while the rally appears to have some buying exhaustion, the bullish outlook is firmly intact. Gold should see massive support from the $1,650 level and eventually eye the $1,800 level.
Hungary Hikes and Launches QE
Hungary unveiled a new strategy to deliver economic stimulus while slowing down the freefall of their currency. Hungary’s central bank kept the base rate unchanged but raised two of its other interest rates and started bond buying. The central bank’s actions follow yesterday’s announcement of a stimulus plan that is worth 18-20% of GDP.
Taken together, Hungary’s central bank and government are throwing the kitchen sink at the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The trade of the day was jumping on the forint against both the dollar and euro. Hungary’s actions have provided some hope that the forint’s slide could be over.
Bitcoin continues claw back the early March collapse alongside a broader risky asset rally. The reality is that when risk aversion reasserts itself, Bitcoin will likely be one of the first financial instruments that get sold. If risk appetite remains in place Bitcoin might target the $8350 level, which is critical resistance that stems from the opening gap down price on March 8th. The coronavirus is showing some signs of easing of easing in key epicenters, but if that does not remain the trend, the entire cryptospace could see selling pressure quickly return.