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Trading  | October 18, 2017

World stocks stayed near peaks and currencies moved in tight ranges on Wednesday as China’s 19th Communist Party Congress opened while focus in Europe turned to speeches from top euro zone central bankers before next week’s key policy meeting, as well as Catalonia’s ultimatum due on Thursday. S&P futures are solidly in the green as usual, with Dow futures jumping above 23,000, driven higher by IBM as investors looked for new reasons to extend gains after hitting new all-time highs Tuesday. The dollar continues to strengthen, buoyed by speculation that the next Federal Reserve chair will be more hawkish, as volatility in major currencies fell to a three-month low, while Treasury yields rose. 

Among the factors contributing to today’s burst of risk on buying is the continued bid in USD, which has forced markets into hybrid risk-on mode according to Bloomberg. EUR/USD and GBP/USD push through yesterday’s session lows, which consequently supports domestic equity markets via exporters and multinationals. Rally in USD/JPY pressures USTs, dragging down core fixed-income markets; UST/bund spread wider by 1.6bps. U.S. equity futures also supported, Dow futures test 23,000; crude futures hold small gains after bullish API data.

European stocks are on fire, with the Stoxx 600 heading for its biggest rise in 2 weeks as the euro weakened for a fifth day on speculation the ECB will remain accommodative even as it tapers asset purchases, while volatility slid; the Stoxx 600 gained 0.4% while euro falls back to $1.1750 and VStoxx hits intraday record low. Technology, food and beverage best performers among industry groups, all 19 sectors in green; DAX hit another record high. The European vol index, the VStoxx dropped as much as 8% to 10.7, the lowest level on record. bond yields fell ahead of a series of speeches from top European Central Bank officials before next key policy meeting on Oct. 26.

Looking at European stocks, BNP Paribas Wealth Management CIO Florent Brones said that “there are many positive elements supporting the euro-area stock market at this point, and while the market has been rallying, we’re not yet seeing double-digit gains.”

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, Chief Economist Peter Praet and Executive Board Member Benoit Coeure are among those officials scheduled to speak. First remarks from Draghi at a conference in Frankfurt had limited initial market impact. “Today, bond market investors will probably concentrate exclusively on the various ECB speakers, who could influence market expectations for the last time ahead of next week’s meeting,” said ‎BayernLB rate strategist Alexander Aldinger.

The MSCI’s Asia-Pacific index ex Japan was flat, near its late 2007 peak after China President Xi Jinping kicked off the twice-a-decade party congress with a wide-ranging speech, in which he warned of “severe” challenges while laying out a road map to turn the country into a leading global power by 2050. Investors are watching to see whether Xi will push through tough reforms as the world’s second-largest economy faces structural challenges over the next five years. Jinping said the market would be allowed to play a decisive role in allocating resources but also said the role of the state in the economy had to be strengthened.

“His speech offered nothing to move the markets in Asia,” ‎Bayern LB’s Aldinger also said. Investors are looking for clear direction on economic and financial market reform over the next five years, but as has been the case in history, the actual speech was light on detail.

China’s CSI300 index added 0.8 percent in reaction, while Shanghai stocks rose 0.3 percent. “Market participants are paying much more attention to the party congress this time, as they are watching if any surprise reforms will emerge amid concerns over economic growth,” said Yan Kaiwen, analyst with China Fortune Securities.

Still in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei rose for a 12th consecutive day, getting a lift from hopes that this weekend’s election will produce political stability and continuation of loose monetary policy even as technical indicators suggest the gauge is overheating. An opinion poll by Kyodo showed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition was on track for a roughly two-thirds majority in Sunday’s general election there. The 14-day relative strength index stood above 70 – a level frequently seen as overbought – for an eighth day, while the Toraku Index, a barometer of momentum, climbed to 128, far higher than the 120 level that signals the Topix is poised to fall.

“The Japanese stock market may be on alert for high prices and stay in a narrow range,” said Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer with Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Yet business sentiment is on a firm footing not only in the U.S. but also globally.” Pharmaceutical stocks and automakers were among the biggest boosts to the benchmark gauge, while banks and services companies weighed the most. About two stocks fell for every one that rose. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average extended its winning streak, the longest since June 2015, boosted by Fast Retailing Co. and Astellas Pharma Inc. The Topix has gained 2.5 percent in an 8-day rally, boosting its advance this year to almost 14 percent. It trades at 15.3 times estimated profits for the next year, well below the high of 20.5 reached in March 2013 and compared with the S&P 500 Index’s 19.4 times. “Valuations are low, both compared to other global markets and particularly so when taking account of the 0% yield on 10yr government bonds,” said Nicholas Smith, a strategist at CLSA Ltd. in Tokyo. “Sure, over the short-term it might have a pullback, but I think the fundamentals are excellent and the market is pricing in the decreased uncertainties that go with Abe stronger for longer.”

In currencies, the dollar edged up amid speculation President Trump could chose a more hawkish leader to replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, while investors awaited for any news on progress on U.S. tax reforms.The dollar index rose 0.07 percent to 93.54, extending a rebound from Friday’s 2 1/2-week low of 92.749. It rose as high as 93.729 on Tuesday. The onshore yuan predictably strengthened against the dollar as the 19th Party Congress began in Beijing while the U.S. Treasury’s twice-yearly report softens China FX criticism. The PBOC injected a net 270 billion yuan of liquidity helping the Shanghai Composite 0.3% higher. Australian 10-year yield drops to a one-month low of 2.72% as the curve extends bull-flattening; Treasuries steady. Canadian dollar outperforms G-10 peers after Nafta negotiators agree to extend talks into next year; kiwi slips following weaker Fonterra milk price auction. WTI crude holds above $52; Dalian iron ore futures gain 2.2 percent

In Europe, the euro was holding at $1.17, still some way above the recent low and major chart support at $1.1667, as dealers awaited speeches by several policymakers from the European Central Bank due later on Wednesday, which includes President Mario Draghi. Some risks linger: Catalonia has until Thursday to back down from its secession push. Investors were reminded of the economic cost of the crisis when Spain, the euro-region’s fourth-biggest economy, cut its growth forecasts for next year. The Catalan standoff is one of several political risks facing investors in Europe, including high-stakes coalition talks that began Wednesday in Germany between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and potential partners to lead Europe’s biggest economy.

Overnight, the biggest mover was the Mexican peso which boasted its biggest rise in over four months after trade ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico extended the deadline on a contentious round of talks.

In commodity markets, talk the next U.S. Federal Reserve chief may be a policy hawk kept gold pinned down $1,283.01 an ounce. Oil prices were lifted by a fall in U.S. crude inventories and concerns that tensions in the Middle East could disrupt supplies. Brent crude futures were at $58.31, up 0.4 percent from their last close – and almost a third above mid-year levels.

Rates markets remain paralyzed with barely any moves across the bond complex: the yield on 10-year TSYs rose 3 bps to 2.33% , the highest in a week; Germany’s 10-year yield gained two basis points to 0.39 percent, while Britain’s 10-year yield advanced two basis points to 1.276 percent.

The Fed’s Beige Book and earnings from American Express, EBay and Alcoa will be in focus today.

Bulletin headline summary from RanSquawk

  • European equities higher, with IT outperforming
  • CAD and MXN notably firmer after NAFTA ministers agreed to extend negotiations into 2018.
  • Looking ahead, highlights include US Housing Starts and comments from Praet and Coeure.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.1% to 2,559.50
  • VIX Index trading 0.3% lower at 10.28
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 0.4% to 391.35
  • MSCI Asia down 0.01% to 167.44
  • MSCI Asia ex Japan up 0.01% to 552.36
  • Nikkei up 0.1% to 21,363.05
  • Topix up 0.07% to 1,724.64
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.05% to 28,711.76
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.3% to 3,381.79
  • Sensex up 0.1% to 32,656.28
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.01% to 5,890.48
  • Kospi down 0.06% to 2,482.91
  • WTI Crude up 0.3% to $52.05
  • Brent futures up 0.68 to $58.35/bbl
  • Gold spot down 0.2% to $1,282.88
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.1% to 93.60
  • German 10Y yield rose 0.6 bps to 0.371%
  • Euro down 0.06% to $1.1759
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 3.4 bps to 1.732%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 2.8 bps to 1.575%

Top Overnight News

  • Xi Jinping warned of “severe” challenges while laying out a road map to turn China into a leading global power by 2050. The nation will continue opening its doors to foreign businesses and strengthen financial sector regulation
  • The U.S. softened FX criticism for China, lauded it for acting to avoid a “disorderly” depreciation and then allowing the yuan to rise against the dollar this year. The Treasury Department said no major trading partner is manipulating its currency to gain an advantage in trade
  • Senators from both political parties said a bipartisan deal was reached to stabilize Obamacare, just two weeks before Americans start signing up for 2018 coverage
  • Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will use a Wednesday Security Council meeting to seek world attention on Iran’s actions in the Middle East in an early test of whether President Donald Trump’s toughening position on the Islamic Republic is alienating allies and leaving the U.S. isolated internationally
  • The SEC is preparing to provide formal assurances to Wall Street by telling financial firms they won’t have to overhaul their operations to comply with sweeping new European rules on investment research, three people familiar with the matter said
  • With monetary policy being accommodative, there is a window of opportunity for economic reforms, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said as he spoke on Wednesday
  • Dollar continued to strengthen helped by speculation that the next Federal Reserve chair will be more hawkish; Trump’s choice will be unveiled before he leaves Nov. 3 for an 11-day trip to Asia and Hawaii, a person familiar with the process said Tuesday
  • Spanish Deputy PM: Spanish government will take control of Catalonia unless the regional leader withdraws his claim to independence by 10 a.m. on Thursday
  • Housing starts and building permits for Sept. will be announced and the U.S. Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book

Asia equity markets traded marginally positive following a similar picture in the US where all indices extended on record levels, in which the DJIA briefly surmounted the 23,000 milestone for the 1st time ever. The mild momentum from the historical feat in US carried over to Asia which saw ASX 200 (+0.1%) briefly above 5,900 and at its highest in almost 6 months, while Nikkei 225 (+0.1%) also eked minor gains. Hang Seng (Unch) and  Shanghai Comp. (+0.3%) were kept afloat after a continued substantial liquidity operation by the PBoC, although upside was capped as focus remained on the 19th CPC National Congress which opened today. Finally, 10yr JGBs were flat amid a lack of drivers and with demand restricted by a mildly positive tone in Japan and a tepid BoJ Rinban announcement for JPY 400bln of JGBs. Chinese President Xi delivered address at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress in which he said China will continue to reduce overcapacity and that China will deepen interest rate and FX reform. President Xi also commented that China will lower barriers of entry for foreign businesses and that GDP is to increase to CNY 80tln from CNY 54tln over the next half-decade.

Top Asian News

  • Topix Holds Near 10-Year High as Indicators Signal Overheating
  • Japan Equity Movers: Ichiyoshi Securities, Matsuya, Toho Zinc
  • Espenilla Vows Philippines Won’t Overheat, Peso Is Under Control
  • Xi Imagines China in 2050: Highlights From His Three-Hour Speech
  • Europe Aviation Agency Warns on Kobe Steel as Scandal Deepens
  • China Sells Bonds at Cost Lower Than Forecast as PBOC Adds Cash

European bourses were relatively directionless early in the session, although they have since picked up some upward momentum, with the Stoxx 600 up 0.4%. Focus this morning has been on the latest batch of earnings releases, particularly from the some of the Dutch large caps, with Akzo Nobel announcing a second profit warning this year, while ASML Holding also announced a weak earnings update. EGBs softer across the board, the belly of the German curve noticeably underperforming with the yield up 2bps. Focus will be on the German auction in the long-end.

Top European News

  • U.K. Jobless Rate Stays at 42-Year Low Amid Strong Labor Demand
  • ECB Bond Program Survives Another Challenge at German Court
  • ECB’s Draghi Sees ‘Window of Opportunity’ for Economic Reforms
  • ECB Set-Up in Euro Bonds Underway as Market Sees QE for Longer
  • Bond Calls Clash at JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley Before ECB Tapering
  • Saenz Says Spain Will Apply Art. 155 if Catalans Don’t Comply

In FX, the dollar index caught a bid overnight and throughout the morning session, trading back above 93.50. This comes off the back of yesterday’s reports that the US President could be swaying towards, noticeable hawk, John Taylor as Janet Yellen’s successor, with the announcement expected before Trump’s department for Asia on November 3rd. NAFTA reports were a theme of yesterday’s US session, as early source reports indicated that Canada and Mexico were said to reject US NAFTA proposals. However, as the story developed, later comments took focus, stating that ministers had agreed to extend negotiations into 2018. Following the initial reports, USD/CAD hit 1.2590, however, over the following hours, the move was reversed, as the pair broke through 1.25, hitting lows through 1.2490. USD/MXN saw similar price action, after firstly moving to highs of 19.1500, the pair came back to trade at lows of 18.7300. Sterling trades subdued, following the bearish BoE commentary seen yesterday. GBP/USD took a slight move higher following the release of the UK jobs reports, however this was quickly pared given that wages had slowed from the prior month. GBP/USD has consolidated through 1.32, with EUR/GBP running into a slowdown at 0.8930, now behaving as the weekly high.

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude increased 0.3 percent to $52.04 a barrel, the highest in three weeks.  Gold dipped 0.4 percent to $1,280.13 an ounce.

Looking at the day ahead, data will likely play second fiddle with the most notable releases being August/September employment data in the UK and September housing starts and building permits data in the US. The Fed’s Beige Book is also due out in the evening. Corporate earnings results on Wednesday include eBay and American Express

US Event Calendar:

  • 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -2.1%
  • 8am: Fed’s Dudley and Kaplan Discuss Economic Development
  • 8:30am: Housing Starts, est. 1.18m, prior 1.18m;  Building Permits, est. 1.25m, prior 1.3m
  • 2pm: U.S. Federal Reserve Releases Beige Book

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

China’s 19th Party Congress is front and centre today with headlines developing as we type. In his opening speech, President Xi Jinping started with the opening remark that “the prospects are bright while the challenges are also grave”, before reminding his audience of his achievements over the past five years, which included: poverty reduction, strengthening the one party rule, national security, cutting down pollution and the Belt and Road infrastructure initiatives. Further, his anti-graft drive has achieved an “important and irreversible’ momentum and he insisted that China has ‘zero tolerance” on corruption. On the long term, he wants to set the agenda for the country to be “a modern, socialist power” by 2050. On the economy, he says the liberalisation of both interest rate exchanges will continue as “the door China opened will not close but will open wider and wider”. Elsewhere, he wants China to make the “quality and efficiency” of growth a priority and deepen supply side reforms as well as insisting on the need to reduce excessive capacity and debt ratios. On housing, he said “houses are for people to live in, not for speculation” and he promised to provide more homes through a variety of different channels. Before his formal address, Deputy central bank chief Pan also noted that he expects that the Yuan will have a more secure foundation after the congress allowing the central bank to push exchange rate market reforms.

This morning in Asia, markets are trading marginally higher. The Nikkei (+0.12%), Hang Seng (+0.01%) and Chinese bourses (+0.2% to 0.5%) are up slightly, while the Kospi is down -0.12% as we type. For those who have missed it, our China Chief Economist Zhiwei Zhang published a prior note previewing the 19th National Congress meeting. Zhiwei notes that this week-long event actually kicks off a six-month process that continues with the Central Economic Working Conference (CEWC) in December and the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March next year. He notes that the current event is more about politics than setting economic policies, as the representatives will elect a group of leaders. Based on the age rule, five of seven incumbent members of the Politburo should retire as they are older than 67. Other important things to look out for include the CEWC setting GDP growth targets, while finally, the NPC will see a reshuffle of cabinet ministers and government posts.

Over to the US, and the search for the next Fed Chair is apparently very close, with an announcement potentially as soon as 3 November according to sources familiar with the selection process (per Bloomberg). Earlier, Trump told reporters that “within those five (candidates) you’ll get the answer” and that “honestly I like them all”. The five candidates he is referring to are Mrs Yellen, Kevin Warsh, John Taylor, Jerome Powell and Gary Cohn. Elsewhere, Trump continued to rally support for his tax reforms, this time speaking at the Heritage Foundation and reiterating the need for lower corporate tax rates and that “let’s give our country the best Christmas present of all – massive tax relief”.

Turning to the UK, Gilts outperformed yesterday with 10y yields down 6.1bp (Bunds -0.8bp, OATs -1bp; UST -0.3bp) but GBPUSD fell 0.46% following the combination of Brexit headlines and a slightly less hawkish tone from  central bankers. Firstly, in BOE Governor Carney’s testimony to UK lawmakers, he has reiterated that the “majority of the committee (believe) some raise in rates over the coming months may be appropriate”, in part as the UK economy is running out of spare capacity. However, other new MPC members seem a bit less hawkish, with Deputy Governor Ramsden saying “I still think there is some slack in the economy” and noted he was not part of the majority of MPC members pushing for a rate increase. Elsewhere, Tenreyro noted that “we’re approaching a tipping point at which it would be necessary to remove some of that stimulus” but her decision on rates in the coming months will depend on how the economy evolves. Finally, Carney noted the “very limited amount of time” between now and March 2019 and that the Bank was preparing for the possibility of a “hard Brexit” without a transition period, although he conceded that an “agreement is in everyone’s interests”. The next BOE meeting is on 2 November and the odds of a rate hike fell 1.5ppt to 80.6% (per Bloomberg).

Over to Brexit talks, where the stalemate has continued with rhetoric suggesting a reduced chance of a breakthrough at the EU Summit later this week. The EU negotiator Barnier noted Monday’s dinner with UK PM May has  yielded little and that “we are ready to accelerate the rhythm, but to accelerate you need two”. On the other side, UK negotiator Davis has signalled his side is unlikely to make more offers until after the EU Summit, noting “let’s wait and see what they are before we make the next move” and that “we’re reaching the limits of what we can achieve without considerations of the future relationship”. That said, there is still hope, with the Council of the EU reportedly working on preparatory work on the future relationship with UK and aim to have a roadmap ready by December, although this is contingent on the EU deciding that UK has made sufficient progress on the divorce bill issue. Elsewhere, perhaps the Irish PM summed it up well, saying “it’s quite a difficult negotiation when people who want to leave EU in the UK don’t really seem to agree among themselves with what that actually means”. So for now, we continue to wait and see which side blinks first.

Onto yesterday’s market performance, the Dow edged (+0.18% to 22,997) higher and touched an intraday high of 23,002, which was the sixth time the index passed a 1,000 increment in the last 12 months. Elsewhere, Nasdaq was broadly flat while S&P 500 rose +0.07%. Within the S&P, the healthcare sector rebounded (+1.31%) following a bipartisan deal to allow insurance subsidies for Obamacare to resume, while modest losses were led by the consumer staples and financials sector (-0.55%). Both Goldmans and Morgan Stanley’s results beat consensus with weaker trading income mainly offset by stronger revenue from investing and lending units (GS) and wealth management (MS) respectively. However, the share price performance diverged slightly with MS +0.37% and GS -2.61% on the day. Notably, the VIX rose above 10 yesterday (+0.4pts to 10.31).

European bourses were broadly softer, with the Stoxx 600 (-0.25%), DAX (-0.07%) and FTSE (-0.14%) down slightly, while Spain’s IBEX was the one of the few higher (+0.35%). Turning to currencies, the US dollar index  strengthened 0.20% while the Euro and Sterling fell 0.25% and 0.46% respectively. In commodities, WTI oil was broadly flat (+0.02%) yesterday but is trading slightly higher this morning, as tensions between Iraqi and Kurdish forces have reduced. Precious metals softened for the second consecutive day (Gold -0.82%; Silver -1.11%), while Copper retreated (-1.14%) from its 3 year high and other base metals (Zinc -3.07%; Aluminium -0.82%) also fell.

Turning to other central bankers commentaries. In the US, the Fed’s Harker told the WSJ that he thinks one more rate hike is appropriate this year, but warned “we just have to be prudent and take our time” with his view dependent on the inflation readings. The Fed’s Kaplan reiterated his views, noting that softer inflation readings recently “may well be transitory” and that “it’s likely we’ll see greater evidence of this progress (rising inflation), so “as a consequence, it will be appropriate to continue the process of gradually removing monetary accommodation”. Elsewhere, he pointed out that the change in fiscal policy and structure reforms “could provide upside” for US economic growth.

In Europe, ECB VP Constancio noted that the euro area is “more resilient” than last year”, but that “in the present configuration of risks….(we) will have to take macro prudential policy much more seriously or they will face the risk of other financial crises that monetary policy cannot prevent.” Elsewhere, he noted that monetary policy, even when recalibrated, “will continue to keep a very accommodative stance”.

Finally, back onto a topic that has gone quiet for a while. As per the Politico, special counsel Mueller’s team has interviewed President Trump’s former press secretary (who left in August) Sean Spicer back on Monday. He has been previously tasked with investigating potential Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election. For now, we await what eventually comes out from these investigations.

Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the September IP was in line with market expectations at 0.3% mom (up for the first time since June), but the prior month reading was revised upwards by c0.2ppt. Elsewhere, the capacity utilization was slightly softer at 76% (vs. 76.2% expected). The September import price index came in higher at 0.7% mom (vs. 0.6% expected) but was partly offset with the export price index at 0.8% mom (vs. 0.5% expected). Finally, the NAHB housing market index was stronger than expectations at 68 (vs. 64).

In the UK, the macro data was broadly in line with consensus. The September CPI was in line at 0.3% mom and 2.7% yoy (for core CPI) – steady on August and the joint highest since December 2011. The PPI was also in line at 0.2% mom and 3.3% yoy. Elsewhere, the RPI was slightly lower than expected at 0.1% mom (vs. 0.3%) and 3.9% yoy (vs. 4.0% expected), along with the house price index at 5% yoy growth (vs. 5.4% expected). Across Europe, the final reading of the Eurozone September CPI was unchanged at 0.4% mom and 1.5% yoy. Germany’s ZEW survey of the current situation was slightly lower than expected at 87 (vs. 88.5) along with expectations at 17.6 (vs. 20 expected). Finally, the October Eurozone ZEW survey on expectations continued to weaken from the recent peak back in June (37.7) to a still reasonable level of 26.7.

Looking at the day ahead, the ECB’s Draghi, Coeure and Praet are all taking part at a Conference in Frankfurt. The Fed’s Dudley and Kaplan are also due to speak in the afternoon. Data will likely play second fiddle with the most notable releases being August/September employment data in the UK and September housing starts and building permits data in the US. The Fed’s Beige Book is also due out in the evening. Corporate earnings results on  Wednesday include eBay and American Express.

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