Markets Today: Didn’t we almost win it all

Theresa May and European negotiators have agreed an outline of what the relationship will be after the UK finally leaves the EU which helped the pound today.

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Today’s podcast

Overview:

  • Sterling gets some support on release of a Brexit “Declaration”, the currency up a net 0.7% since late APAC time yesterday, AUD/GBP in low 0.56s
  • But still grave doubts about whether this can get through the UK Parliament and unanswered questions
  • To be presented to EU leaders this weekend
  • No flight to Argentina for anti-China White House trade firebrand Navarro lifts hopes for a better Xi-Trump G20 summit meeting outcome; China allows US warships into Hong Kong harbour too
  • Even so, these positives fail to translate to material support for AUD and NZD
  • ECB officials give a nod to uncertainties and fragilities in meeting minutes but they say data still consistent with broad-based expansion; ECB heavyweights offer some not-unexpected advice
  • EC Consumer Confidence slips further in November ahead of tonight’s Eurozone Nov PMIs and fuller detail (and possibly revisions) of Germany Q3 growth slip

Currencies

With the US chowing down for the Thanksgiving Day holiday, it could have been a very quiet session but this wasn’t the case with Brexit news prominent.  It was the release of a Brexit Declaration setting out the future relationship between the UK and the EC.  Supposedly, this was THE document that would form the basis with a Withdrawal Agreement to provide trade and political clarity of a deal that it would get the requisite political support.

Not yet.  As observers looked at this 26 page statement of intent document it still raised as many questions as answers, with grave doubts that it would get support in the Commons.  It didn’t seem to be a document that was going to get the support of the Tory Brexiteers nor the pro-Europe Tories.

The UK and EU have agreed in principle a draft that pledges an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” but without the specific detail observers were seeking.  Unlike last week’s Withdrawal Agreement which is legally binding, this political declaration – an executive summary version of the dense legal 500+ page agreement – is not. Bloomberg reported that the draft provides a few concessions, pointing the way towards easy trade in goods – hinting vaguely that the UK will be able to pursue its own trade policy and also stop free movement of people – and offers a way out of the Irish backstop though one apparently that could well be scotched by the DUP.

PM May has been trying to sell the deal to Parliament but is meeting a lot of resistance, this document not convincing the market that it will get through Parliament, with disapproval of the agreement within May’s own Conservative party and the opposing Labour party unlikely to support the deal either.

After EU leaders are expected to rubber stamp this political declaration alongside the Withdrawal Agreement EU at a summit on Sunday, the “meaningful vote” in the UK Parliament is likely in the second week in December.  It would be far too optimistic to declare victory on a deal yet.

The stronger GBP (up a net 0.7% to 1.2880 this morning) spilled over modestly into EUR support, which is back up through 1.14.

There has also been some positive news on the US-China relationship front over the past 24 hours, but it’s failed (at least for now) to spill over into concerted support for the AUD and NZD, possibly reflecting a steady CNY/CNH.

The South China Morning Post reported that Trump’s trade policy advisor, the anti-China firebrand Peter Navarro (author of “Death by China” before joining the White House) would not be attending the Xi-Trump meeting at the G20 summit in Argentina the end of the month. The report added optimism that US-China trade talks can make some progress (a ceasefire even?), with a possible halt to further import tariffs for as long as negotiations continue. As a show of goodwill, the Chinese government allowed US warships to anchor in Hong Kong after barring them back in September.

Economics

In economic news, and ahead of important German and Eurozone PMIs for November tonight, euro-area consumer confidence fell markedly to minus 3.9, the lowest since March 2017. The ECB also released the account of its 24-25 meeting noting “uncertainties and fragilities” affecting the economy, but nevertheless agreeing that they weren’t enough to weaken confidence that the euro zone’s domestic strength will prevail.  In their words: “It needed to be emphasized that the incoming data, while somewhat weaker than expected, remained overall consistent with an ongoing broad-based expansion”.

Central bank governors and ECB Governing Council members Weidmann (GE), Knot (NE), and Visco (IT) were speaking on a panel in Florence.  No prizes for guessing their views on Euro monetary policy and they didn’t disappoint. Weidmann spoke that central bank bond buying was not to finance government (pushing back against any more QE) and the costs of high inflation (pushing back against retaining negative interest rates).  Knot spoke of Italy’s problems while Visco also had a thinly-veiled warning for the Italian government noting the pressures on public debt as long as the interest rate is greater than growth, which it currently is and that Euro governments need to contribute to stability.

Speaking of Italy, there have been conflicting news reports on Italy’s budget standoff against the European Commission.  One paper reported that Deputy Premier Di Maio saw “modifications” to the budget possible during the Parliamentary process.  Another newspaper reported that Di Maio alongside Salvini would not shift on the budget, “We’re not changing a comma of the budget, we’re going ahead without concessions…if we yield now on the budget the whole structure of our government collapses”.

Bonds, commodities and equities

There was only the slightest of bid tones to European bond markets, coming from declining European stock markets, the Eurostoxx 600 index down 0.7% and the FTSE off 1.28%.  German bund yields barely budged (down in yield by less than a basis point), Italian yields down 1.7bps.  UK 10 year gilts rose 3.2 bps.  Base metals were little changed, while oil eased further, WTI and Brent both down 1.4%, WTI to $53.85 and Brent to $62.60, both re-testing cycle lows.

Coming up

  • The second estimate of German Q3 GDP coming with its spending breakdown, hopefully throwing more light on whether the -0.2% drop was symptomatic of an underlying growth slowing or mostly the temporary dislocating impact of auto re-tooling for higher emission standards;
  • The Euro Manufacturing PMIs in October pointed to further slowing into Q4 and tonight’s November Manufacturing and Service PMIs will update the market further.  Germany’s Manufacturing PMI is expected to be steady at 52.2, having slowed from 63.3 last December, though the Services PMI has been steadier in overall direction.  The EZ Manufacturing PMI is also expected to be steady, at 52.0, easing back, as has been the Sevices PMI more than Germany’s;
  • The US has the alternative Markit PMIs for Nov, not the official closely-followed ISMs, but a little notice might be taken; and
  • Canada has Retail sales and CPI, expected to confirm core inflation at close to 2%,right in the mid-point of the BoC target range and expected to support the case for another rate hike at its 5 December meeting to 2.00%.  Signing of the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal has removed one source of uncertainty, but lower oil prices introduces another.

Market prices

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