As the market becomes more secure about a conclusion to the interminable US-China trade dispute, risk assets—like equities—are continuing higher on a wave of enthusiasm. We’ve argued that this motivation is short-sighted and ignores the lack of fundamental growth to anchor these loftier prices. Our eyes are closing to the dangers of a correction because it’s becoming harder to rationalise some of the moves we have witnessed in markets.
Let us point out that economic data continues to print poorly. On Monday, UK Gross Domestic Product growth and manufacturing data was pretty horrible; this morning’s inflation releases were equally poor. Japan’s Economy Watchers Sentiment figure was the lowest in over eight years, and we’re expecting more bad news from the EU later today. Each of these readings is a single data point, so we don’t wish to arrogate to them a predictive power they don’t actually have. It’s instead the virtual perpetuity of declining fundamentals that tells the more important story of economic deterioration.
Not to belabour the point, but let’s consider that BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) represent roughly 30% of global GDP. Brazil has rebounded from 2016 negative growth, but is only projected to grow by 1.0% in 2019; Russia is experiencing cautious expansion, again expecting circa 1.0% growth; both South Africa and India have been downgraded by Moody’s due to domestic turbulence; and South Africa is only expected to grow at 0.5% in 2019. India and China, the fastest growers in the pack, are forecast to expand by 6.2% and 6.1%, respectively. Those are strong numbers until you realise they are 12% and 7% slower than in 2018. This doesn’t paint a great picture of growth for 2019 and 2020, but what’s more worrying is what this slower growth reflects about developed market investment into the emerging market space.
Bottom line: While the risk-on enthusiasm persists, we anticipate current trading ranges to remain largely unchanged. It’s worth noting that overnight Donald Trump made some less-than-friendly noises about trade which might diminish some of the market’s ardour. We’ll be watching Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony this afternoon and Chinese data tonight for more hints on the global outlook.
Yesterday’s UK labour data indicated a slowing in the sector as wage growth figures were subdued, but the Pound was instead focused on political developments surrounding the UK’s upcoming general election. There was a two-way move in yesterday’s session; the Pound initially moved lower as the Brexit Party leader refused to withdraw more candidates from hotly-contested constituencies. Later in the day, Sterling recaptured its losses as a YouGov poll suggested that the Conservative lead had grown.
Despite the initial optimism fading from the news that the Brexit Party had withdrawn from 317 Conservative constituencies, the GBP/EUR pair remains firmly in the upper tier of its recent trading range. A surprisingly good German ZEW Economic Sentiment figure actually did little to move the common currency as markets are possibly waiting in anticipation of tomorrow’s German Gross Domestic Product growth figure.
The recent theme of Dollar strength continued yesterday and into this morning as a sentiment shift towards risk-off provided a boost to the Greenback. The pair briefly dipped through the 1.10 level around the time of the London open, but found immediate resistance taking it back into the low 1.10’s. Markets await US inflation data and Jerome Powell’s testimony before the Joint Economic Committee later this afternoon.