Fed Rhetoric to Dictate Dollar Direction

Friday February 23: Five things the markets are talking about

Ahead of the U.S open, Euro equities are struggling for direction after a positive Asian session as the market debates the outlook for central banks ‘normalizing’ their policies.

Euro bonds have gained along with Treasuries, while the dollar steadies after yesterday’s drop.

With no U.S data on the docket today, the market will shift its attention towards a plethora of Fed speakers doing the rounds.

First up will be New York Fed Chief, William Dudley, who kicks off proceedings at 10:00 am EDT as he addresses the “Monetary Policy Forum” in Chicago.

Note: Dudley is making his final rounds of appearances before his retirement.

Appearing at the same conference shall be Boston Fed President Rosengren, who is one of the Fed’s more “dovish” members, but who is not a “voter” this year.

Ms. Mester, the President of the Cleveland Fed, will be speaking at the same conference this afternoon at 1:00 PM EDT. She is a “voter” this year and a “hawk.”

Finally, Mr. Williams, the President of the San Francisco Fed, a “voter” on the FOMC this year and generally considered a “moderate,” will be speaking to a group on the west coast on the economy and monetary policy at 03:40 pm EDT.

1. Stocks gain in thin trading

In Japan, stocks rallied in light trade as receding fears of more aggressive U.S interest rate hikes boosted sentiment. The benchmark Nikkei ended +0.7% higher. For the week, it was up +0.8%.The broader Topix gained +0.8%.

Down-under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed +0.8% higher to cap its best week since Oct. In S. Korea, the Kospi had its best day since Oct. 10 rising +1.5%.

In Hong Kong, stocks rose overnight, capping a holiday-shortened trading week, as main indexes managed to recover much of the damage done during the recent rout. The Hang Seng index rose +1.0%, while the China Enterprises Index gained +1.7%.

In China, shares extended their rebound overnight, on sign’s that the Chinese government is once again supporting the stock market. The blue-chip CSI300 index ended up +0.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained +0.6% in a holiday-shortened week. Both indexes have rebounded over +7% from a low print on Feb. 9.

Note: One of China’s largest insurance companies, Anbang Insurance Group, was seized as it violated laws and regulations that could seriously endanger the solvency of the company.

In Europe, regional indices trade mixed this morning with strength in the Italian MIB offset by weakness in the Spanish Ibex and FTSE.

U.S stocks are set to open in the ‘black’ (+0.3%).

Indices: Stoxx600 flat at 380.4, FTSE -0.2% at 7238, DAX +0.1% at 12470, CAC-40 flat at 5310, IBEX-35 -0.2% at 9858, FTSE MIB +0.4% at 22541, SMI -0.6% at 8917, S&P 500 Futures +0.3%

2. Crude oil prices rally, gold little changed

Crude oil prices remain better bid and range bound following the release of this week’s EIA inventory report, which showed a somewhat surprising decline in crude oil inventories on the order of -2.3m barrels compared to the average increase of +3.4m barrels in the previous five-years.

U.S oil production last week was steady at +10.27m bpd, a record level, while crude exports jumped to more than +2m bpd, close to a record +2.1m hit in October.

Crude bulls are beginning to ask if the “bull” rally could fade away as the U.S. oil production undermines the OPEC production cut commitments.

Note: The decline in crude inventories was particularly acute in Cushing. U.S oil refineries averaged approximately +15.8m bpd during the week ending February 16 or about -330k fewer bpd than last week previous.

Ahead of the U.S open, gold prices are little changed, but the ‘yellow metal’ remains on track for its sharpest weekly drop in nearly three-months. Spot gold is down -0.1% at +$1,329.16 an ounce.

Note: Prices gained +0.6% Thursday, their biggest one-day percentage rise since Feb. 14. The precious metal remains on track for its biggest weekly fall since the week ended Dec. 8, 2017.

3. Sovereign yields fall

Capital markets remains somewhat sceptical that the recent streak of data on wage growth, consumer prices and producer prices points to a rapid acceleration in inflation on either side of the Atlantic.

Data this morning from the Eurozone showed that consumer price growth slowed slightly last month (see below), but the core-measure edged a tad higher for the first time in months.

The ten-year U.S yield has eased, but remains atop of their 2014 high print, while those on German bunds dropped to the lowest since early January.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries decreased -2 bps to +2.90%. In Germany, the 10-year Bund yield has fallen -2 bps to +0.70%, the lowest in four weeks. In the U.K, the 10-year Gilt yield has declined -2 bps to +1.546%. In Japan, 10-year JGB’s yield has dipped less than -1 bps to +0.05%, the lowest in more than seven-weeks.

4. Dollar on the back foot

The U.S dollar is modestly weaker as the market is apparently ready to accept as a given that the Fed shall move at least three times this year to tighten monetary policy and to raise the overnight fed funds rate. The only question is whether the Fed shall move for a fourth time and by how much?

For the ‘single’ unit, it’s not only next weekend’s Italian general election (Mar 4) that poses a risk to the EUR (€1.2313), but also Sunday week is the same date that Germany’s SPD party members will vote on the proposed CDU/SPD coalition. The market is currently pricing in a +40-50% chance of a rejection, a result that could see Chancellor Angela Merkel step down.

Elsewhere, the pound (£1.3950) has edged a tad higher after U.K’s PM Theresa May won the backing of her divided Brexit “war cabinet” to ask for an ambitious trade deal with the E.U.

The SEK (€10.0388) is a tad softer outright as the market felt that the Riksbank Feb minutes this morning were on the softer side with concerns lingering over inflation and the exchange rate given the recent negative surprise with Jan CPI data.

5. Eurozone Jan CPI unrevised, but still a distance from target

Eurostat said consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the ‘single unit’ fell -0.9% m/m in January for a +1.3% y/y increase.

Ex-food and energy, or core-inflation, fell -1.3% m/m and rallied +1.2% y/y, accelerating from +1.1% in the previous three months.

An even broader measure of core inflation, which in addition excludes alcohol and tobacco prices, also increased to +1.0% y/y in January from +0.9% in the previous three-months.

Forex heatmap

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