Markets lacking momentum

There isn’t an enormous amount of momentum in the markets at the moment and that’s being reflected in stocks which are once again treading water on Tuesday.

Europe is on a slightly positive trajectory but we’re talking incremental gains each day that don’t add up to much and could collectively be wiped out in a moderately negative session.  The US, as we’re seeing in large parts of Asia, is a little choppy and not making any significant moves in either direction, with Wall Street eyeing a slightly positive open. Asia ended the day a little mixed with the Hang Seng standing alone in making decent strides forward while other indices were broadly a little lower.

We still seem to be caught between two strong counter-forces, a strong earnings season providing the bullish case and a long list of downside risks – most notably inflation and interest rates – which continue to weigh on sentiment. This could make for some choppy trading into year-end although it’s notable that we’re seeing strong resilience despite all of the uncertainty around central banks.

One additional layer of uncertainty is who will lead the Federal Reserve out of the pandemic, with the position reportedly down to two candidates – Chair Jerome Powell and Governor Lael Brainard.

A decision is reportedly due very soon and based on how markets reacted when they learned Brainard was in the running, it’s clear who’s viewed as the more dovish between the two. Ordinarily, that would make her the stock markets’ pick but that may not necessarily be the case if investors view inflation as a greater risk than the central bank perceives, making inaction the less desirable approach longer term.

UK labour market paves way for December BoE hike

Data released this morning suggest the UK labour market is in a far healthier position than many feared. We’ll have to wait a month to see what the full hit will be, with today’s unemployment data only covering the three months to September, after which the furlough ended. But what we did see from the report in relation to October payrolls was encouraging. Which makes the December BoE meeting very much a live one.

This follows comments from Andrew Bailey on Monday when he reiterated that the central bank held off on raising rates this month in order to assess the state of the labour market in the aftermath of the furlough scheme. The picture will be clearer again when the October report is released two days before the MPC meeting.

Today’s report, along with comments from MPC members yesterday, suggests that the majority of the 1.1 million people that were still using the furlough scheme in September have returned to work. Of course, this doesn’t tell us about the number who went back on reduced hours and now qualify as underemployed, contributing to the slack in the labour market. The question now becomes how much demand there’ll now be to fill a large number of vacancies without putting much upward pressure on wages and inflation.

Meanwhile, flash GDP data showed growth in the euro area rising 2.2% in the third quarter, leaving the economy just 0.5% smaller than the final quarter of 2019. Employment also rose by 0.9% in the last quarter. Surges in virus cases, supply problems, slowing Chinese growth and more will continue to be major headwinds for the economy in the current quarter when growth is expected to slow.

Deeper correction for bitcoin?

In a sign of how different asset classes can be, while I’ve just referred to a 5% gain in gold over a couple of weeks as being very strong, today’s 5% decline in bitcoin is anything but extraordinary. No panic is setting in when bitcoin slips 5% in the way it would for the yellow metal.

The cryptocurrency has quickly seen support around USD 58,500 after breaking below USD 60,000, where it also rebounded off just a few weeks ago. A break of this level may point to a deeper downturn, with attention perhaps shifting back towards the USD 50,000 region, but as ever with bitcoin that is never clear. There is incredible support in the space and a big rally towards the highs never feels that far away.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar:

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Craig Erlam

Craig Erlam

Former Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA at OANDA
Based in London, Craig Erlam joined OANDA in 2015 as a market analyst. With many years of experience as a financial market analyst and trader, he focuses on both fundamental and technical analysis while producing macroeconomic commentary.

His views have been published in the Financial Times, Reuters, The Telegraph and the International Business Times, and he also appears as a regular guest commentator on the BBC, Bloomberg TV, FOX Business and SKY News.

Craig holds a full membership to the Society of Technical Analysts and is recognised as a Certified Financial Technician by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.