ECB surprise, Nord Stream gas reopens
Volatility was the winner overnight, with a multitude of data points and events leaving market price action messier than a teenager’s bedroom. The European Central Bank surprised markets by lifting policy rates by 0.50%, ending over a decade of negative interest rates. The euro has already been rallying, but its gains were tempered by the collapse of the Italian government, and post the ECB meeting, German/Italian bond spreads started widening noticeably. The ECB’s Lagarde said policy decisions would be made on a meeting-by-meeting basis going forward, tossing their forward guidance out.
Perhaps more importantly, Russian gas started flowing back down the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline yesterday, albeit at flows resembling the 40% of capacity before it closed for maintenance. Still, when it comes to Europe and energy, any news is good news as fears had risen that Russia would leave it turned off. EUR/USD had already started rallying on this news, which was likely the major reason that oil prices fell overnight in another 5.0% intra-day range session. European equities were far more mixed, with some stark winners and losers. For that, we can thank the Italian political situation, widening North/South bond spreads, and the ECB’s 0.50% rate hike.
In the US, a multi-month high for US Initial Jobless Claims and a soft Philly Fed Business Conditions Index spooked bond markets and saw US yields move quite a bit lower overnight. The US curve now looks bowl-shaped after US 10-years fell by over 15 basis points. That saw the US dollar weaken as well, as US recession fears also ramped up. I must say, Initial Jobless Claims rising by 7,000 to 251,000 does seem like clasping at straws.
Wall Street liked what they saw, rallying powerfully once again overnight. Lower bond yields and some solid earnings results keep sentiment perky during the main session. That has changed a bit after hours after weak Snap. Inc results saw their stock price plummet by 25%. That dragged down the other social media-esque giants. As Meta found out earlier in the year, markets will severely punish richly valued tech stocks at the first sign of trouble, and there is now some risk to the broader equity markets from the FAANGS yet to report.
This morning, we have seen Australian and Japanese Manufacturing and Service PMIs come in on the soft side, along with Japanese Inflation, which edged lower in June YoY to 2.40%. We have a bunch of S&P Global PMIs still to come for the European heavyweights, the Eurozone, and the US today. It looks like they will all have downside risks for obvious reasons, but I am not sure it will be enough to deter the FOMO gnomes of Wall Street.
I will be covering my last FOMC meeting next week, and it seems likely that this will be the defining moment for markets in what has been a tumultuous month. 0.75% or 1.0% I know not, although my gut says 0.75%. The statement will be crucial and, depending on how it plays out, could stop what I consider a bear market rally, in its tracks. Inflation remains and will remain stubbornly high, geopolitical risk abounds, growth is slowing around the world, and recession risks are rising. I can’t see how that is a productive environment for equities, and that’s before the rest of big-tech reports quarterly earnings.
That said, the technical pictures across the equity and currency space suggest we have more room for a further retracement. AUD/USD and NZD/USD have broken up out of falling wedges, with GBP/USD about to do so. The S&P 500 is approaching resistance at 4,020.00, as is the Dow right here at 32,030.00, although the Nasdaq’s lies far away still at 13,500.00. Failure of 106.40 by the dollar index will signal a much deeper correction lower, and the slump in US yields overnight is setting up USD/JPY for a serious culling of long positions.
Two warning signs remain for me. One is that the US Dollar moves lower has all but passed by the Asia FX space. Most USD/Asia pairs remain at or near recent highs, which in some cases, are record highs. We likely need to see a much bigger fall in US yields and/or oil prices to change that. I can’t see the Fed being so happy to see the US yield curve slump at this stage in the process, though. The second is gold. Gold’s price performance has been appalling in July, remaining at multi-month lows no matter whether the US dollar or US yields have rallied or fallen. The US dollar usually rallies during a recession, part of the “dollar smile” complex. Gold seems to be telling us that we call “peak dollar” at our peril.
One news event that may lift sentiment in Asia today is an announcement by Turkish officials overnight, saying that an agreement to resume Black Sea grain exports from Ukrainian ports will be signed at some stage today. Fingers crossed on that one.
Happy Friday, everybody.
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