Dollar Rises, Futures Slide Ahead Of Powell Testimony

    After euphoric premarket spikes for two consecutive days in global stocks, this morning S&P futures point to a modestly lower open, while trading in Asia is mixed and Europe is down modestly.

    Following yesterday’s closing burst in the S&P500, which was reminiscent of the late January meltup, and which resulted in the February correction, S&P futures were down 7 points, trading near sessions lows, if in a modest range after yesterday’s 33 point move higher in the cash index.

    The dollar, like S&P futures, was stuck in narrow ranges as investors await Jerome Powell’s first public comments in the role of Federal Reserve chairman on Tuesday. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index recouped earlier losses, while the Treasury 10-year yield held steady at 2.86% after declining 9bps in the past three days.

    As previewed yesterday, Fed Chair Powell will appear before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday at 1030am ET (testimony released at 830am ET) to discuss the Fed’s Semi-Annual Monetary Policy Report and the state of the economy. Investors will look for any clues on whether four 25bps rate hikes in 2018 are likely. Back in his testimony ahead of getting confirmed as Fed Chair, Powell said that risks to the economy appeared to be balanced

    The Fed Chairman should stick to the current forecast of three hikes this year as he will be cautious not to shake up expectations until the FOMC comes up with its updated projections in March, Credit Agricole strategists including David Forrester write in a note. “We don’t believe any ‘sell the fact’ attempt to sell the USD will prove lasting, especially if data continues to support higher yields.”

    Our sense is that he is unlikely to scare the horses,” said Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Sydney. “If so, the risk is that bond yields could track a bit lower and equities could remain supportive. Under such an environment, the dollar probably trades weaker.”

    The market is a little bit cautious ahead of this speech, but we think he (Powell) is likely to stress the continuity of monetary policy…because it wouldn’t be in his interest to have any major market reactions – that would make his job more difficult,” said Commerzbank currency strategist Anje Praefcke.

    “What he’s likely to state is what we’ve seen in the FOMC (Federal Open Markets Committee) minutes: that the outlook for the U.S. economy has improved considerably, short-term, and that both wages and consumer price inflation have recently surprised on the upside.”

    Meanwhile, stocks have already priced in a dovish (or at worst neutral) Fed, as the S&P is already back to the level where it was before the February selloff’s worst day. Though the S&P down over 2% for February, it has recovered more than two thirds of the losses sustained in the wake of a drastic selloff early this month.

    Europe’s Stoxx 600 extended declines this morning to 0.3%, with 2 stocks down for every one that rises; most industry groups in the index declined, led by real estate and telecoms companies.  All but two industry groups are in the red, with telecom and chemical shares leading losses. Offsetting the drop was the Stoxx 600 Media Index which jumped 1.6% as Sky surges after the Comcast overbid. Consumer discretionary is the notable outperformer, lifted by Sky (+21%) after Comcast made an offer of GBP 12.50/shr for the Co., subsequently posing a threat to FOX’s (FOXA) offer for the Co. Elsewhere, UK homebuilders are firmer this morning following the latest earnings update from Persimmon (+11%) which has lifted some of its competitors higher in sympathy; Berkeley Group (BKG LN) +2.3%, Barratt Developments (+2.1%) and Taylor Wimpey (+1.7%).

    Earlier, Asian equities edged modestly higher, with Japanese stocks climbing to the highest in more than three weeks. ASX 200 (+0.2%) and Nikkei 225 (+1.1%) were both higher with the top performers in Australia underpinned by earnings releases, while the Japanese benchmark led the region and briefly surmounted the 22500 level. Elsewhere, Chinese markets were mixed in which the Hang Seng (-0.7%) was choppy and Shanghai Comp. (-1.1%) was the laggard after the PBoC refrained from open market operations. Furthermore, press reports also noted that China is facing tight liquidity conditions in March and that the PBoC could raise rates on open market o perations next
    month following an anticipated Fed hike.

    Earlier in the session, the MSCI All-Country World Index, was up 0.1% and set for its third straight day of gains after hitting its highest level since Feb. 5, although if Europe continues to sink, and if futures fail to rebound, the streak will soon be broken.

    Elsewhere in currencies, G10 currencies traded in narrow ranges against the dollar ahead of Powell’s appearance, with 21-DMAs seen as next hurdles for several pairs. The Sweden’s krona slides to a fresh eight-year low of 10.0903 against the euro; Sweden earlier saw a weaker-than- forecast economic tendency survey, followed by comments by Riksbank First Deputy Governor af Jochnick who expressed worry over the weak underlying inflation pressures. The USD/JPY traded in narrow 31-pip range as it continues to consolidate under 108 handle. The NZD/USD sold on disappointing trade data; nearing test of initial support at 0.7271, last week’s low. The euro traded at $ 1.2334, up 0.1 percent, but off its three-year high of $ 1.2556 hit earlier this month.

    Fed funds rate futures were almost fully pricing in a rate hike at the Fed’s next policy meeting on March 20-21.

    “Expectations that Powell will be sensitive to financial markets appear to be running high. But he hasn’t said he will sacrifice policy normalization for the sake of financial markets. I feel there is room for disappointment in markets,” said Hiroko Iwaki, senior bond strategist at Mizuho Securities.

    The 10-year Treasury yield edged higher after falling to a two-week low, rising to 2.870% if well below the recent four-year peak of 2.957% touched on Feb. 21, driven by month-end buying as well as position adjustments ahead of Powell’s testimony; German bunds and U.K. gilts led a retreat in European bonds.

    In other overnight news, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said US does not set policy to impact the USD, reiterates strong USD good for the economy.

    ECB’s Weidmann said if economic upswing continues and prices rise there should be no reason not to end QE this year. Evidence that movements in FX are having a smaller impact on inflation than previously. Bigger QE reduction and clear end date to the bond buying programme would have been justifiable.

    In the latest Brexit news, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that UK will not remain subject to ECJ rulings.Reports stated the EU will threaten UK PM May’s Brexit plan by rejecting British compromises and will warn that Northern Ireland must sign up to Brussels regulations; draft Brexit treaty is to be published on Wednesday. In related news, Brussels is expected to demand the UK remain under European Court of Justice oversight indefinitely post-Brexit under divorce agreement. French President Macron says a customs union agreement with the UK after Brexit is possible, however would not give full access to single market.

    Oil prices erased earlier gains as investor concerns about rising U.S. oil output offset signs of stronger demand and faith in the ability of OPEC production curbs to curtail supply. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures fetched $ 63.68, down 0.3 percent, after hitting a three-week high of $ 64.24 the previous day.

    In addition to Powell’s market-moving testimony, the market is set to receive a number of macro data, including the house price index. Marriott and Live Nation are among the more than a hundred companies that will report quarterly numbers

    Market Snapshot

    • S&P 500 futures down 0.2% to 2,778
    • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.2% to 382.36
    • MSCI Asia Pacific up 0.2% to 179.65
    • MSCI Asia Pacific ex Japan down 0.2% to 586.04
    • Nikkei up 1.1% to 22,389.86
    • Topix up 0.9% to 1,790.34
    • Hang Seng Index down 0.7% to 31,268.66
    • Shanghai Composite down 1.1% to 3,292.07
    • Sensex down 0.2% to 34,390.05
    • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.2% to 6,056.86
    • Kospi down 0.06% to 2,456.14
    • German 10Y yield rose 1.9 bps to 0.671%
    • Euro up 0.1% to $ 1.2333
    • Brent Futures down 0.2% to $ 67.38/bbl
    • Italian 10Y yield fell 4.9 bps to 1.748%
    • Spanish 10Y yield rose 0.6 bps to 1.562%

    Bulletin Headline Summary from RanSquawk

    • European bourses trade with little in the way of firm direction as markets await Fed Chair Powell’s testimony
    • Above average Dollar demand for end of February FX portfolios seems to be keeping the broader Usd afloat as the DXY meanders around the mid-point of a tight 89.690-830 range
    • Looking ahead, highlights nation German CPI, US durables, APIs and a slew of speakers

    Top overnight news from BBG

    • EU Said to Stoke Brexit Tensions With 100-Page Draft Exit Deal
    • Comcast Offers to Buy Sky in $ 30 Billion Challenge to Fox
    • Traders Unfazed by Italy Election, But Some Warn of Complacency
    • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s embrace of his predecessor’s gradual approach to tightening monetary policy is about to be tested as he delivers his first congressional testimony on Tuesday.
    • The European Union will challenge Theresa May on Wednesday when it publishes a draft Brexit treaty that ignores some of the U.K. prime minister’s most important demands.
    • Mario Draghi largely skirted the Latvia crisis affecting the European Central Bank and stuck to his plans to keep adding stimulus as he addressed European Parliament lawmakers on Monday.
    • Xi Jinping’s decision to cast aside China’s presidential term limits is stoking concern he also intends to shun international rules on trade and finance, even as he champions them on the world stage.
    • It doesn’t make sense for the U.S. to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on other NATO members in the name of national security, according to a senior European Union official.
    • China plans to reduce its annual budget-deficit target to just under 3 percent of total economic output, people familiar with the matter said

    Asian equity markets traded mixed following yesterday’s US gains where declining yields eased some concerns of steep rate increases and the majors rallied to their best levels in over 3 weeks. ASX 200 (+0.2%) and Nikkei 225 (+1.1%) were both higher with the top performers in Australia underpinned by earnings releases, while the Japanese benchmark led the region and briefly surmounted the 22500 level. Elsewhere, Chinese markets were mixed in which the Hang Seng (-0.7%) was choppy and Shanghai Comp. (-1.1%) was the laggard after the PBoC refrained from open market operations. Furthermore, press reports also noted that China is facing tight liquidity conditions in March and that the PBoC could raise rates on open market operations next month following an anticipated Fed hike. Finally, 10yr JGBs were relatively flat despite the upside in riskier assets, with prices contained at the 151.00 level while today’s 2yr auction results were also encouraging with b/c and accepted prices higher than previous. PBoC skipped open market operations and cited relatively high liquidity in the banking system. PBoC set CNY mid-point at 6.3146 (Prev. 6.3378). PBoC may increase Open Market Operation rates in March after an expected Fed rate hike with the increases in repo rates will likely be around 5bps, while reports added that China is to face a tight balance in liquidity during next month.

    Top Asian News

    • China Is Said to Plan First Budget Deficit Target Cut Since 2012
    • Alibaba Said to Buy Out Baidu in China’s Top Takeout App
    • Bank Fraud Fallout in India Spreads to Market for Trade Finance
    • Guinigundo Doesn’t See Need to Raise Policy Rate ‘At this Point’
    • Chinese Investors Yank Record Funds From Hong Kong Stocks

    More European stocks fall, trading near session lows, (Stoxx 600 down -0.3%), after the Sky overbid and post-Asia-Pac opening gains were trimmed. Taking a look at the sectors, consumer discretionary is the notable outperformer, lifted by Sky (+21%) after Comcast made an offer of GBP 12.50/shr for the Co., subsequently posing a threat to FOX’s (FOXA) offer for the Co. Elsewhere, UK homebuilders are firmer this morning following the latest earnings update from Persimmon (+11%) which has lifted  some of its  competitors higher in sympathy; Berkeley Group (BKG LN) +2.3%, Barratt Developments (+2.1%) and Taylor Wimpey (+1.7%). Finally, Provident Financial (+74%) tops the Stoxx 600 after announcing its rights issue and settlement with the FCA.

    Top European News

    • EU Said to Stoke Brexit Tensions With 100-Page Draft Exit Deal
    • World’s Biggest Wealth Fund Returned $ 131 Billion in 2017
    • Business Gauge Picks up in Italy Shortly Before Election
    • Provident Surges on Better-Than-Feared FCA Pact, Dividend Plan

    In currencies, above average Dollar demand for end of February FX portfolios seems to be keeping the broader Usd afloat as the DXY meanders around the mid-point of a tight 89.690-830 range. Currency markets also erring on the side of caution ahead of Fed chair Powell’s House testimony and (potentially) any further clues about risks around the FOMC consensus for 3 hikes in 2018. Indeed, individual G10 pairs are equally restrained within narrow bands, with Eur/Usd holding between 1.2300-50 amidst mixed EZ inflation data (German states soft, so far vs firmer Spanish headline and harmonised prints) and Cable not deviating outside 1.3950-1.4000 despite some Gbp negative Brexit reports. Perhaps Sterling deriving some support from latest M&A developments and Comcast’s mega Gbp22 bn bid for Sky. Usd/Jpy looks even more tethered to the 107.00 level, with export supply capping the upside and buying interest supporting ahead of 106.50. Elsewhere, some further movement in Eur/Sek after Swedish trade data and more dovish-sounding Riksbank rhetoric with the cross inching above the circa 10.0800 high from 2016 to 10.0900.

    In the commodities complex, both WTI and Brent crude futures have continued to pull back from recent highs despite the softer USD as concerns over mounting US production remains a key theme with IEA Chief Birol stating that the US is to be largest oil producer by next year and sees US output exceeding 11mln bpd by late this year. In metals markets, spot gold is relatively steady at this stage of the session with markets awaiting Fed Powell’s testimony later today. Elsewhere, Chinese steel futures saw another session of gains overnight amid speculation over further extensions to output curbs. Iraqi oil production is around 4.35mln bpd, according to Iraq oil ministry official.

    US Event Calendar

    • 8:30am: Advance Goods Trade Balance, est. $ 72.3b deficit, prior $ 71.6b deficit, revised $ 72.3b deficit
    • 8:30am: Wholesale Inventories MoM, est. 0.4%, prior 0.4%; Retail Inventories MoM, prior 0.2%, revised 0.2%
    • 8:30am: Durable Goods Orders, est. -2.0%, prior 2.8%; Durables Ex Transportation, est. 0.4%, prior 0.7%
    • 8:30am: Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.5%, prior -0.6%; Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.3%, prior 0.4%
    • 9am: House Price Purchase Index QoQ, prior 1.4%; FHFA House Price Index MoM, est. 0.4%, prior 0.4%
    • 9am: S&P CoreLogic CS 20-City NSA Index, prior 204.2; CS 20-City MoM SA, est. 0.6%, prior 0.75%
    • 10am: Richmond Fed Manufact. Index, est. 15, prior 14
    • 10am: Conf. Board Consumer Confidence, est. 126.5, prior 125.4; Present Situation, prior 155.3; Expectations, prior 105.5

    Central Banks

    • 8:30am: Fed Powell’s Congressional Testimony is Released
    • 10am: Fed’s Powell Testifies to House Financial Services Committee


    DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

    The highlight today will be German inflation (1.3% yoy expected) and new Fed Chair Powell’s testimony at 3pm GMT. Mr Powell will be speaking on behalf of the FOMC, and our economists fully expect him to reiterate that a “gradual” path of policy normalization remains the order of the day. However, he will also likely discuss emerging upside risks to the growth outlook in the wake of recent fiscal policy changes. In this respect, the minutes of the January 31 FOMC meeting provide a good template for Powell’s prepared remarks. Recall that last week’s minutes indicated that “Most members noted that recent information on inflation along with prospects for a continued solid pace of economic activity provided support for the view that inflation on a 12-month basis would likely move up in 2018 and stabilize around the Committee’s 2% objective in the medium term.” In short, Powell will likely convey the message that with an improving growth and labor market outlook, the Fed continues to gain confidence that the inflation side of its dual mandate will soon be met. Outside of this the market will be fascinating to see how he handles his first big public appearance in the new role.

    Staying in the US, Mr Quarles who became a Fed Governor last October seemed reasonably upbeat last night. He noted “it has been quite some time since the (US) economic environment looked as favourable as it does now” and  that “some of the factors that have been holding back growth…could shift, moving the economy onto a higher growth trajectory”. On rates, he reiterated the Fed’s view of “further gradual increases in rates will be appropriate…”, while noting the Fed will be “looking at Volcker rule recalibrations over the next few months”.

    Elsewhere, the Fed’s Bullard reiterated his dovish views that the Fed should avoid an aggressive pace of rate hikes unless incoming macro data surprise to the upside. He added “these are good times for the US economy, but not as good as they’ve been at other junctures”.

    This morning in Asia, markets have broadly followed the positive US lead last night with the Nikkei (+0.95%) and Kospi (+0.21%) both up, while the Hang Seng is marginally down (-0.15%) and China’s CSI 300 -1.35% lower as we type.

    Earlier the S&P was up for the third consecutive day (+1.18%) and now +7.7%  above its recent lows while only -3.2% below its all-time high. Within the S&P, all sectors but utilities were up with gains led by the telco, tech and financial stocks. In tech, an equally weighted market cap index on the FANG stocks is now back at its record highs and 12.1% higher than its recent lows. The Dow (+1.58%) and Nasdaq (+1.15%) also rallied yesterday. Back in Europe, all markets were higher, with the Stoxx 600 (+0.50%), DAX (+0.35%) and FTSE (+0.62%) modestly up. The VIX fell for the fourth straight day to 15.80 (-4.2%).

    In government bonds, core 10y bond yields were little changed (UST 10y -0.5bp; Gilts -1.2bp; Bunds flat) while peripherals outperformed with yields down 4-5bp. Gains were led by Italy, in part as the governing Democratic Party leader Renzi noted “we’ll never form any government with extremists” as per the La Stempa newspaper. Turning to currencies, the US dollar index and Sterling both dipped marginally, while the Euro rose 0.18%. In commodities, WTI oil was up for the third straight day (+0.57%). Elsewhere, precious metals gained c0.5% (Gold +0.37%; Silver +0.77%) and other base metals were mixed but little changed (Copper -0.21%; Aluminium -0.70%; Zinc +0.51%).

    Away from markets and onto Mr Draghi’s Parliamentary address where he seemed slightly dovish and broadly stuck to prior commentaries. On QE, he noted “the possible extension of QE has not been discussed by the Governing Council”. On inflation, he said “we’re generally more confident that it is proceeding towards our target”, but we also “have to be persistent and patient because the underlying inflation has yet to show more convincing signs of a sustained upward adjustment”. Further, “the evolution of inflation remains crucially conditional on an ample degree of monetary stimulus provided by the full set of our monetary policy measures….” On the outlook, he noted that the “…economic situation is improving constantly”, but “uncertainties continues to prevail”, so “we need the right blend” of measures. Finally on FX, he reiterated that the recent volatility in the Euro deserves close monitoring.

    Tuning to Brexit headlines. The UK opposition leader Corbyn has confirmed what had been well flagged namely that the Labour party’s supports staying in a customs union with the EU post Brexit and is calling for cross party support. This is contrary to the government’s position, which issued a statement later to indicate “the government will not be joining a customs union…we want to have the freedom to sign our trade deals”. Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn reiterated there was no need for a second referendum on Brexit but does want a meaningful vote in Parliament at the end of the Brexit negotiations. Looking ahead, the EU is expected to publish a draft Brexit treaty on Wednesday and PM May will outline her vision of Brexit this Friday. Staying in Europe and delving into Italian credits a bit more, Michal Jezek in

    my team published a report “IG Strategy: Credit Pricing Ahead of the Italian Elections”. He notes that sovereign credit has outperformed corporates YTD and hedging flows have turned CDS indices into major underperformers, pushing the CDS-bond basis to the extreme. The report also analyses the relative performance of Italian corporate credit. It concludes that iTraxx Europe indices now trade too cheap to be efficient hedges around the event and given the strong hedging flows, it suggests that current levels offer an attractive entry point for the strategic CDSbond basis compression trade recommended earlier. Refer to the full report here.

    Finally, our US economists have built on their recent work on procyclical and acyclical inflation. Their new estimates of r-star (neutral funds rates) derived from procyclical inflation are about 20bps higher than estimates derived from core inflation, as is standard with r-star estimates. This implies that the Fed has even further to hike before getting to neutral than commonly assumed. That said, they view their analysis as evidence which makes them more confident in their current outlook for four rate hikes in 2018 and a terminal rate above 3%.

    Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the February Dallas Fed manufacturing index was above market at 37.2 (vs. 30 expected) and the highest since December 2005. The January Chicago Fed National activity index was below expectations but still above 0 at 0.12 (vs. 0.25 expected). Elsewhere, the January new home sales fell 7.8% mom to the lowest since August (593k vs. 647k  expected). In the UK, the January Finance loans for housing was 40.1k (vs. 37k expected).

    Looking at the day ahead, Germany’s flash February CPI and the Euro area’s January money supply prints are due. Then a range of February confidence indicators are due for the Euro area, France and Italy. In the US, the February Richmond Fed and CB consumer confidence index will be out. Further, a deluge of data including: January advanced goods trade balance, wholesale and retail inventories, durable and capital goods orders along with the December FHFA and S&P corelogic house price index are also due. Onto other events, the Fed’s Powell testifies in front of the House Financial services committee. Elsewhere, the ECB’s Weidmann and Mersch as well as BOE’s Sam Woods will speak. The Brookings Institution will host a conversation with the former Fed Governor Yellen and Bernanke. Finally, the EU negotiator Barnier will brief European affairs ministers.



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