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APAC brief - 17 June

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MaxIG

US Retail Sales capped-off last week: The climax of last week’s trade was Friday night’s US Retail Sales data release. As is well known, sentiment in the market centres around concern for the state of the global economy. As the biggest component, of the world’s biggest economy, US consumption data was hotly awaited to test the thesis that the global economy is winding down for another cycle. As it turns out: right now, those fears are very slightly exaggerated, if the US Retail Sales data was anything to go-by. Core Retail Sales came-in bang on expectations at 0.5%, taking the annualized figure to around 3.2 per cent.

Fed-cut expectations unwound slightly: Solid-enough US Retail Sales data numbers tempered some of the enthusiasm for rate cuts from the US Fed. To be clear: imminent US rate cuts are still in the market. In fact, 25 basis-points of cuts remain implied for July’s Fed-meeting. However, as it pertains to this week’s meeting, as well as the aggressiveness of future policy intervention from the Fed, traders unwound some of their rate-cut bets in the market. US Treasury yields climbed as a consequence on Friday, stifling the rally in global sovereign debt, with the yield on 2 Year US Treasuries, in particular, jumping by as much as 7 points.

Bond yields climb, and stocks dip: The marginal pricing-out of Fed-intervention in the US economy was a negative for US stocks during Friday’s trade. Seemingly, this was particularly true for high-multiple stocks in the S&P500, like US-tech, which lead the overall market lower. As is widely known, US equities’ strong performance year-to-date has been largely attributable to a progressive increase in rate-cut expectations from the Fed. Though the overall trend remains intact – that is, rate-cuts are coming from the Fed in the near-enough future – Friday’s US Retail Sales numbers somewhat curbed the excitement for imminent, easier monetary policy-conditions, and its consequent benefit for US risk assets.

US Dollar rallies across the board: A shift higher in US rates markets catalysed a spike in the US Dollar. The Dollar Index climbed 0.64 per cent on Friday, underpinned primarily by a tumble in the EUR/USD, which fell into the low 112.00 handle following the release. The Sterling also felt the pinch, plunging into the 1.25 handle for the first time since December last year, unaided by the ongoing uncertainty associated with the UK’s ruling Tory party’s leadership contest. While the Japanese Yen, as the final piece of the global currency market’s big-quartet, also softened against the Greenback – though it’s still finding buyers amidst continued global economic uncertainty.

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Australian Dollar tests new lows: This dynamic in global currency markets weighed heavily on the Australian Dollar, in particular. The AUD/USD touched a new-low on Friday, trading at levels not experienced since January’s notorious FX-market “flash-crash”. The all-important yield differentials between US Treasuries and Australian Commonwealth Government bonds crept wider, with the spread between the comparable 2-year bonds expanding to 85 points. The local unit now hangs precariously above a level of price-support in the market around 0.6865, which has been tested on 4 separate occasions in the last month. It sets-up a big week for the currency, ahead of the release of tomorrow’ RBA minutes release, and Thursday’s Fed-meeting.

Chinese data disappoints: Of course, the Australian Dollar remain sensitive to the global growth outlook, on top of these two events – especially as it pertains to the Chinese economic narrative. Traders were handed a touch of information on the subject Friday, with the release of the Middle Kingdom’s monthly data-dump. What was revealed was, at best, a mixed picture: Fixed Asset Investment numbers missed, as did Industrial Production data; but Retail Sales beat, and joblessness held steady. For markets, the data was vapid – not good enough to ameliorate the economic outlook, but not bad enough to warrant more economic stimulus – resulting in a dip in Chinese indices.

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With rate decisions in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan this week to name just a few, focus will understandably be on policy makers in the coming days. Yet truth be told no changes are expected, so is it really where we should all be looking? Trade remains the less-predictable factor in the fate of many assets. On Monday, public hearings begin in Washington on President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on $300 billion more in Chinese goods.

At the same time, Tariff Man’s re-election campaign has reportedly severed ties with some of its pollsters after the leak of months-old surveys showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in key states. These feel like the kind of circumstances when he usually likes to send a strong message.

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