Asian stock markets mostly moved higher

20 October, 2016

European Outlook: Asian stock markets mostly moved higher, as the Dollar strengthened in the wake of the last U.S. presidential debate. The weaker Yen helped to underpin Japanese markets and the most recent rise in oil prices is also helping to underpin investor demand. The front end WTI future has come off highs but is holding comfortably above USD 51 per barrel. In Europe the focus is on the ECB meeting and even if policy is likely to remain on hold today, Draghi will hope to keep his options sufficiently open to avoid a temper tantrum as markets focus on further stimulus beyond the current QE program, which ends in March next year. The European calendar also has U.K. retail sales, BoP and current account data from the Eurozone and Swiss trade data at the start of the session.

BOC Rate Decision: Governor Poloz said they actively discussed adding more monetary stimulus before deciding to leave the policy rate unchanged. He said the Governing Council “actively discussed the possibility of adding more monetary stimulus at this time, in order to return to the economy to full capacity.” Yet, they “identified a number of uncertainties in the current framework that are serving to widen the zone of balance within our risk-management framework.” Those uncertainties include “the macroeconomic effects of the new mortgage rates, the likely path of our exports; the impact of the federal government’s fiscal measures…and the effects on business confidence of the U.S. election.” The revelation that they “actively discussed” the possibility of adding more stimulus is not exactly a surprise. Given where the domestic and global economy currently sit, expectations are that this will continued to be discussed but with the same result (no change in rates) to be the same.

Poor Australian Labour Data: The number of jobs fell last month by 9,800, expectations were for an increase of 15,200, also the previous month was revised down to a fall of 8,600 from a fall of 3,900.  Fulltime employment for September showed a dramatic fall of 53,000 and August was revised down to 10,500 from 11,500. AUD/USD dropped from around 0.7725 to under 0.7700, spent a few minutes chopping in a small range before slipping further and its under 0.7665 currently. Just as doubts were raised after big employment gains in the past, doubts were raised on big employment losses on today’s figures, the -53K for full time jobs in the month result in particular was greeted with questions.

Fedspeak: Dallas Fed moderate (and non-voter) Kaplan sees inflation firming while GDP growth for 2016 will likely average 1.75%, sufficient to drive down unemployment and take some slack out of the labor force. He sees political uncertainty likely affecting capital spending, but once the election is out of the way focus needs to shift to entitlement reform and infrastructure spending. Kaplan also notes that the Fed needs to be “humble” about the limits of monetary policy. Fed’s Potter says the Fed should be prepared to sell MBS, in comments at a Minneapolis Fed conference. Potter is head of the Fed’s Markets Group, so he has a lot of authority behind his words. Though “current FOMC guidance states that the sale of agency MBS is not anticipated…it is prudent for the Desk to be prepared for a wide variety of scenarios, including sales or the need to purchase additional agency MBS.” The large size and structure of the agency MBS market makes it a “desirable choice for conduction operations of the magnitude necessary t have a meaningful impact on financial and macroeconomic conditions.” However, the Fed’s experience with selling MBS is much more limited than purchasing agency paper, he noted. The Fed’s portfolio and possible manipulations of such has been in the news lately, especially after a “twist” operation was broached by Boston Fed’s Rosengren last week.

Main Macro Events Today                

ECB Rate Announcement & Press Conference –  Even if the ECB more likely to postpone any major decisions until December Draghi will be facing a difficult balancing act at today’s press conference, especially since a Reuters reported suggested that the planned tweaks to the asset purchase program designed to address looming supply shortages could already be discussed this week. At the same time, the question is whether the ECB will extend the QE program beyond March next year, when the current schedule of EUR 80 bln purchases per month is set to end. With growth indicators suggesting ongoing economic expansion and inflation starting to move higher, the ECB clearly is reluctant to add even more stimulus to an already very expansionary policy but the doves at the council will press for a follow up program with the end result likely a gradual phasing out of asset purchases. It will depend on Draghi’s delivery whether this will spook markets as the dreaded “tapering” or whether he can sell it as the further expansion of monetary policy it actually is. For now Draghi will be keeping all his options open and try to deliver a statement that keeps markets guessing and hoping and thus avoids a temper tantrum.

US Philly Fed Index – October Philly Fed should reveal a headline dip to 6.3 after the September bounce to 12.8 from 2.0 in August. The Empire State Index for October is already out and declined to -6.8 from -2.0 in September. Broadly, expectations are for producer sentiment to trend sideways in October with the ISM-adjusted average of all measures holding at 50 from August and September.

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