Focus Turned From Geopolitical Tensions to UK Election, French Election and US Tax Reform, Volatility Remains
Geopolitical tensions somewhat took a back seat last week. The headlines were filled by news of UK snap election, French election, and to a lesser extent US tax reform. Sterling ended the week as the strongest major currency after boosted by the news of snap election and prospect of a "softer" Brexit. Euro survived the terrorist attack in Paris and French election uncertainties to end as the second strongest one. Dollar ended the week mixed as markets seemed not too convinced by news of Trump administration's tax reform. Meanwhile, Canadian Dollar ended as the weakest one as dragged down by WTI crude oil's sharp fall and break of 50 handle. The result of French election on Sunday will be the first market mover this week.
Worries on geopolitical tensions and US policies were the two main forces driving the markets in a holiday shortened week. Yen surged broadly and the relative strength to Swiss Franc argues that worries are mainly on the tensions in Korean Peninsula. The rally in Yen was also accompanied safe haven flows into US treasuries. Long term yields tumbled sharply to the lowest level this year, breaking key near term support levels. Gold surged to as high as 1290.7 and is having its sight on 1300 handle. WTI crude oil also extended recent rise before losing some momentum ahead of 55.24 resistance. In the currency markets, Dollar ended as the weakest major currency as talked down by US President Donald Trump, and dragged down by falling yields. Euro ended as the second weakest ahead of French presidential election and dragged down the Swiss Franc.
"The market is always right". That's by no means saying that the market is efficient, that's a topic for the academics. But, the market always move with certain underlying forces. We may or may not always understand why stocks, yields, currencies commodities move that way. It doesn't matter. And indeed, the voice of the market is usually the loudest when it does something that doesn't make sense. It's up to us to hear it or ignore it. And, reading news is not about reading the news but the reactions to the news. It's our choice to see the reactions, or just to criticize the reactions.
Euro was sold off broadly last week as the markets got a wake up call regarding expectation on ECB policy path. The common currency topped the top mover chart with EUR/GBP losing -1.96% and EUR/CAD lost -1.81%. Weakness in Euro also dragged down the Swiss Franc as GBP/CHF rose 1.77% while CAD/CHF rose 1.58%. On the other hand, Sterling ended as the strongest major currency last week, after some volatility on UK's trigger of Brexit finally. Yen followed as the second strongest major currency as the recovery in US stocks and yields were disappointing. Meanwhile, Canadian dollar ended as the third major currency as WTI crude oil rebounded and closed above 50 psychological level.
Risk aversion was the dominate theme last week on reverse Trump trade. DJIA suffered the biggest decline this year and lost -317.9 pts or 1.51% to close at 20596.72. S&P 500 dropped -34.27 pts or 1.44% to close at 2343.98. Treasury yield followed with 10 year yield losing -0.101 to close at 2.400. Dollar index dive through 100 handle to close at 99.62, down from prior week's close at 100.31. In the currency markets, Yen was the biggest winner last week on risk aversion and falling yields. Swiss Franc closely followed as the second strongest major currency. Dollar weakened against European majors and Yen but ended up against Aussie and Canadian Dollar. The two were the weakest major currencies last week. In other markets, Gold extended recent rise from 1194.5 and closed at 1248.5, but kept below resistance at 1264.9. WTI crude oil continued to stay in sideway consolidation between 47/50.
There were some major surprises in the markets, much volatility and some interesting developments, last week. Dollar ended the week as the weakest major currency as markets were clearly disappointed by the outcome of the dovish FOMC rate hike. Technical developments in Dollar index and treasury yields suggest there more down would be seen in the greenback in near term. There were some good reasons for Euro to surge last week. Those factors include speculations of ECB rate hike by the end of the year, as well as the Euro-friendly results of Dutch elections. But the common currency did end up as the second weakest one. In particular, the sharp pull back of EUR/CHF from as high as 1.0823 to close at 1.0718 indicates that traders are still concerned with political uncertainties ahead. On the other hand, Australian dollar ended as the strongest major currency last in spite of weak employment data. Sterling followed as the second strongest major currency after hawkish BoE minutes. Also, FTSE 100 closed at new record high despite all the Brexit and Scexit news.
The set of strong non-farm payroll data from US should have finalized the case for Fed to hike interest rate this week. Dollar was indeed given a boost over last week and ended strongly. Nonetheless, the greenback was firstly overwhelmed by strength in Euro, and secondly retreated on profit taking. Overall, Euro ended the week as the strongest major currency as supported by upbeat comments from ECB president Mario Draghi as well as rate speculations. Dollar followed as the second. At the other end, Sterling was troubled by worries over the fading impact it depreciation last year on the economy, uncertainties over Brexit terms, and uninspired by UK budget. The pound ended as the second weakest major currency next to Kiwi.
Dollar strength dominated the forex markets most of the time last week as speculations of a Fed hike in March heated up. Markets were also relieved as US president Donald Trump's first address Congress didn't deliver anything dramatic. Stock indices surged to new record high, taking yields and Dollar up too. Nonetheless, as most of the positive factors in greenback were priced, traders took profit on Dollar long positions after Fed chair Janet Yellen's comments. And more importantly, Euro staged a U turn after polls showed that far-right French president candidate Marine Le Pen lost ground, thus reducing Frexit risks. Euro has indeed ended as the strongest major currency, followed by Swiss France and Dollar. On the other hand, Canadian dollar ended as the weakest on the sharp pull back in oil price.
Yield treasury yield suffered sharp selloff on Friday. 30 year yield closed below 3.000 handle at 2.955, down -0.068. 10 year yield also lost -0.071 to close at 2.317 and carried near term bearish implications. Markets are getting increasing dissatisfied on the lack of progress from US president Donald Trump's administration regarding fiscal stimulus. There was no detail on the so called "phenomenal" tax reform yet. Instead, Trump just continued his attack on media, intelligence agencies and other countries like China. There were talks that Trump could eventually deliver virtually no fiscal stimulus that has an impact of this year's growth. All eyes will turn to his address to Congress on February 28. And reactions could be even more apparent if Trump fails to deliver anything concrete. Dollar also suffered and ended the week mixed.
While US equities surged to new record high last week, other markets didn't follow. Dollar ended mixed in spite of a chorus of hawkish comments from Fed officials, including chair Janet Yellen. A batch of stronger than expected data also provided little support to the greenback. Instead, Dollar was dragged down by treasury yields, which failed to break out from recent range and reversed during the week. Political uncertainties could be a major factor in triggering safe haven flows to US bonds. And such sentiment could also be seen in the broad based weakness in Euro, which closed as the second weakest major currency next to Sterling. Swiss Franc decouple from Euro and Sterling and ended as the second strongest currency. And overall risk aversion on European situation could be the factor in driving up the Japanese Yen, which ended as the strongest major currency.
US stocks soared to new record high last week on resurgence of talk of president Donald Trump's expansive policies. In particular, bulls regained control after Trump said he would announce "phenomenal" tax reforms within two or three weeks. DJIA closed the week up 197.9 pts, or 0.99% at 20269.37. S&P 500 gained 18.7 pts or 0.81% for the week to close at 2316.10. NASDAQ rose 67.4 pts or 1.19% to close at 5734.13. All three major indices closed at record highs. The developments helped lift treasury yield from intra-week selloff. 10 year yield closed at 2.409 after dipping to 2.325, comparing to prior week's close at 2.491. Dollar was given a boost and ended as the second strongest major currency, next to Sterling. The Dollar index closed at 100.71, up from prior week's close at 99.73. Fed chair Janet Yellen's testimony to Congress will be a major focus this week. But Trump's tweets and any economy-related announcements will be the things that move markets.
The financial markets traded with solid risk appetite last week and the three major US equity indices surged to new record highs in US president Donald Trump's first week in White House. Markets took Trump's signing of some executive orders, include trade and immigration, as sign that he will deliver his election promise and push an expansive fiscal policy. Nonetheless, the rally in stocks and yields lost some steam towards the end of the week after disappointing Q4 GDP data. And Dollar ended mixed. Meanwhile, Sterling ended as the strongest major currency as Supreme Court ruled that prime minister Theresa May's Brexit plan must seek parliament approval. The sale of a new 40 year government bond in UK also attracted record demand, showing appetite for UK assets. Meanwhile, Yen ended as the weakest one as BoJ stepped up its asset purchases to cap the rally in JGB yields.
US equities ended Friday mildly higher but closed the week down as US president Donald Trump's inauguration provided little inspiration to the markets. DJIA closed at 19827.25 comparing to prior week's close at 19885.73. S&P 500 closed at 2271.31 comparing to prior week's close at 2274.64. Treasury yields, however, were notably higher. 10 year yield closed at 2.467 comparing to prior week's close at 2.309. Dollar ended the week mixed, closing higher against Yen and Canadian but down against all others. Dollar index gyrated around 101 last week, where the 55 day EMA sits. In other markets, Gold hit as high as 1218.9 but lost momentum above 1200 handle. WTI crude oil stayed in recent range and closed at 53.24.
Dollar ended the week broadly lower, except versus Sterling, after US president-elect Donald Trump disappointed the markets by not giving any details on his policies during the first post election press conference. Dollar index reached as low as 100.72 before recovering to close at 101.18. Meanwhile, the greenback also took out key near term support level against Euro, Yen and Canadian Dollar, which carries some bearish implications. However, treasury yields staged a strong rebound on Friday, which could provide some relieves to Dollar bullish. 10 year yield closed at 2.380, after dipping to as low as 2.309, comparing to prior week's close at 2.418. Stocks were also resilient with NASDAQ closing a fresh record of 5574.12. DJIA stayed in tight range of around 200 pts. below 20000 handle. There are still prospects for the greenback to strike back is Trump delivers in his inauguration on January 20.
The markets originally looked set for a general trend reversal with the synchronized sharp decline in US stocks, yield and the Dollar leading into 2017. Nonetheless, equities staged a strong come back towards the end of last week and helped stabilized both yields and the greenback. The overall solid non-farm payroll report, with strong wage growth, provided some support to sentiments. But it looked more like the trump rally is back in force. While there are still risks of trend reversals, it's much lowered now with S&P 500 and NASDAQ closing at record high at 2276.98 and 5521.06 on Friday. DJIA also just missed 20000 handle by a hair and reached as high as 19999.63 before closing at 19963.80. The coming would be crucial to the overall developments in the markets as Donald Trump's inauguration day on January 20 approaches.