Fleeting relief: The Chinese and Americans are talking again; and the UK and European Union are nearing a deal. Those are the two stories that have turned the dour sentiment that characterized the first trading day of the week into something resembling optimism. Perhaps it’s another relief rally – every time the world doesn’t end we get one of those. Like when US mid-terms passed with few surprises, things going as they ought to engender nice feelings in the guts of traders. And not unjustifiably, either: the trade war and Brexit have become the two biggest bugbears in developed markets. In fact, 2018 may well be remembered in financial market history as the year the three biggest economic blocs’ almost tore one another apart – well that, and the very significant turn in US Fed monetary policy, of course.
Is this the turning point? If this sounds all a little grand, that’s because it is; and it is why although the headlines read well this morning, the text of the story is one that we’ve read before. Could this time be different? Quite possibly. The steps taken by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin to re-engage in talks is a considerable step forward, ahead of what is a planned meeting between the two nation’s Presidents, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the sidelines of this month’s G20. And the news that UK Prime Minister May has effectively secured a deal with her European Counterparts – one that includes an Anglo-friendly outcome on the Irish border, it’s been reported – bares the signs that (at the very least) the British and Europeans are on the same page.
A long way to go: Nevertheless, there is an amplitude to cover for the negotiating teams on all sides relating to both respective issues to feel comfortable that, this time around, this is the true beginning of the end. The political machinations driving both matters forward are occurring (naturally) behind closed doors – away from the prying eyes of the press and the public. For all we know, both or either one of the conflicts may be well advanced towards a resolution. From what has simply been reported thus far however, little has materially changed – at least for now. Even when stripping aside the important point that even if these issues were to disappear, the bigger fundamental challenges facing financial markets would remain, the very many sticking points to arrive at an end in the Trade War or Brexit means that turbulence inevitably lies ahead, whatever the outcome.
Asian action: The price action in markets, as it evolved throughout global trade, apparently reflects this notion. When the news broke about a possible step forward in negotiations between the Chinese and Americans, China’s equities flew, erasing a one per cent loss to close day one per cent higher. The Yuan – a better barometer– pared its losses to trade back at the 6.95 handle, and the Australian Dollar rallied above 0.7200 and the New Zealand Dollar paid a visit above 0.6750. The Nikkei, which had been down by 3-and-a-half per cent on less than one per cent breadth, rallied to contain losses to – a still considerable – 2 per cent, courtesy, in part, to a fall in the Yen to 114.00 resistance.
European follow-through: Futures markets also turned to price in the relief-pop across US and European equities, and as news filtered through about the potential Brexit-deal during European trade, traders hit the buy button. The DAX, which would have certainly fed on the prospect of reduced tensions between the US and China, added 1.30 per cent, and the Eurostoxx 50 gained 0.96 per cent for the day. The FTSE100, it must be said, only managed to register a flat finish for the session; but this was largely due to the rally in the Pound. The GBP/USD rallied above the 1.30 handle briefly and the EUR/USD pushed above 1.1250, forcing the USD to recede from its 18-month highs – a dynamic that also saw commodities generally turn higher for a period.
Wall Street fizzle: Flash forward to this moment (or really, to the moment at which this is being written): US equities are entering the final hour of trade having erased the gains attained in early trade. As has been described, the attractive headlines about the Trade War and Brexit have proven not enough to change the fundamental landscape, for now. The VIX remains hovering just below the 20-level, and a general sense of risk aversion has pushed the yield on 10 Year US Treasuries back to 3.14 per cent. Another day of losses for oil, that has seen the price of Brent Crude plunge to $US65.14, has also been blamed for the poor showing for US stocks. In a choppy end to the session caused by below average volume, the Dow Jones is down around 0.5 per cent, the S&P500 is down 0.2 per cent, while an early tech-bounce has (thus far) supported a flat day for the NASDAQ.
Australia today: SPI futures have followed US indices down at the back end of the North American session, indicating that now the ASX200 is expecting a more-or-less flat open. It was another wipe out for the local market yesterday, with the Australian share market closing 1.8 per cent lower, led by losses in the healthcare and information technology sector. A handful of companies going ex-dividend, including heavy weight Westpac, certainly exacerbated he ASX200’s fall, however a breadth of 10 per cent shows this was a widespread sell-off.
Australian trade could prove to be eventful today following Wall Street’s lead. The economic calendar is robust: locally, Wage Price Index data is released, while abroad, Chinese Fixed Asset Investment and Industrial Production data is printed. The Australian Dollar is exposed to downside in the event these three releases underwhelm – 0.7150 is a realistic level of support to watch for – and the ASX200 appears vulnerable to break below a key level at 5820, if Wall Street’s selling follows through.