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Settled start to the week - APAC brief 12 Feb

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MaxIG

A thus far settled start to the week: It was a day of low activity and mixed results, generally across global markets in the last 24-hours. Equities were patchy in their performance, on much lower than average volumes, while a retracing in bonds revealed stable risk-sentiment. It hasn't been so for some time, but yesterday market participants behaved in a classic "Monday" way. There was a lack of a unifying theme to drive market activity in a macro-sense, leaving traders to trade-off the idiosyncratic stories moving prices region-by-region. Granted, the trade-war negotiations currently going-on in Beijing were of top priority, however the interest in that event extended only as far as speculation by the commentariat. For traders, fresh leads are being awaited, to add some semblance of volatility to the market.

Traders awaiting tradeable leads: The data docket is stacked to the end of the week, so perhaps it'll be another couple of days of listless trade before global markets really start to reshuffle the deck. Of course, a surprise could ignite some excitement; but naturally that's inherently unpredictable and difficult to position for. Chinese markets returned to the fray yesterday, adding that lost liquidity from markets. Japan was offline instead, creating some choppy trade in the CHF in very early trade. The reintroduction of Chinese markets may well have soothed the bull's concerns temporarily. After a week away, during which plenty of market moving events occurred, Chinese traders felt it fitting to ignore the noise, and jumped back into stocks, to deliver a 1.82 per cent gain for the CSI300 yesterday.

Iron ore prices rocketing higher: Iron ore prices demonstrated best the impact of the return of Chinese demand to markets. Having continued to climb despite the absence of Chinese traders, and in light of further concerns about future production and supply into commodity markets after the tragic Vale dam collapse, iron ore burst out of the gates upon the reopening of the Dalian Commodity exchange. So much so, that on the first tick, the active iron ore contract reached its limit-up level, and effectively froze trade in the market. The price in iron ore is looking aggressively overbought in the short-and-medium term and is likely to attract short-sellers; however, there’s no knowing how long worries about iron supply into markets will linger, meaning countering this trend is not for the faint hearted.

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ASX200 held together by strength in materials sector: Australian markets are, as one can easily imagine, benefiting from iron ore’s parabolic rise. Despite an overall lacklustre day in domestic equities, during which breadth was quite balanced and volume was below average, a 16-point gain from the materials sector proved enough to staunch much of the ASX200’s losses. On the back of this, today SPI Futures are indicating a 14-point jump at the open for the index, probably once more courtesy of, in a big way, further falls in Australian Commonwealth Bond yields, and the depreciating Australian Dollar. Price action in the short-to-medium term is showing an ASX200 somewhat in no man’s land: at 6060, and with slowing momentum, the market eyes support at 5950, as it pulls gradually away from 6100/05 resistance.

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Markets keep pricing in weaker Australian growth: The Australian economic growth outlook is still looking clouded. Markets have been leading policy makers on this fact, and after the RBA’s admission last week their growth forecasts aren’t as strong as they once were, traders have taken another leap ahead to price-in weaker growth and inflation, and lower rates for the Australian economy in 2019. The pivotal event to watch will be GDP figures when they are released to gauge the merit of this view; but unfortunately, market participants will need to wait for the start of March to receive that information. The day ahead does contain NAB Business Confidence figures however, which may prove illustrative in a small way how the supply side of the economy views the domestic economy now and into the near future.

Greenback rallies on weaker European growth outlook: In reference to currency markets, the US Dollar sustained its rally overnight, as the combination of a desire for safe-haven assets and higher yields push-up the greenback. The conspicuous loser out of this dynamic has been the EUR/USD, which has broken below the 1.13 handle once again overnight. Although they climbed yesterday, the trend lower in European bonds yields looks to be manifesting in the shared currency, as traders price in the prospect of a major European slowdown. The flight to the greenback weighed heavily on commodity currencies, too. The Australian Dollar registered an overnight low of 0.7057, pressured by widening yield differentials, with the spread between the very interest rate sensitive 2 Year ACGBs and USTs widening to 82 basis points. 

The UK experiences its own growth concerns: Still in currency land, and the Pound was one of the worst performing G10 currencies overnight, following the release of a slew of weak economic data during European trade. Most conspicuous was the fall in headline month-on-month GDP, which printed at -0.4 per, driving a miss in the more-impactful quarterly figure of 0.2 per cent – a skerrick below the 0.3 per cent that economists had estimated. Remarkably, even in light of the data-dump, which clearly illustrated the sluggishness of the UK economy, interest rate markets scarcely moved. A likely reflection of (an arguably Panglossian outlook for) Brexit expectations, interest rate traders are still maintaining an implied probability of 33 per cent that the Bank of England will hike interest rates before year end.

Written by Kyle Rodda - IG Australia

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