Slinking through the back door
Today's news headlines:
- ‘Hunt tells Johnson to stop being a “coward” and face questions’. It’s quite clear that Boris Johnson hasn’t become the front runner of the race for Prime Minister based on his policy positions, focusing instead on his unusual style of personal charm. Given that tact, Jeremy Hunt has ratcheted up the pressure on Johnson to be more transparent about his personal affairs. (Financial Times)
- ‘Hong Kong sees surge in people looking to leave, agents report’. China’s consolidation of Hong Kong should have taken place over the next 25 years, but recent extradition bill protests have increased tensions between the territory and China. If developments continue against the express wishes of the population, the flight from Hong Kong for both residents and businesses may leave China with a diminished prize. (Financial Times)
War of the words
According to a Mail on Sunday survey, support for Jeremy Hunt is rising while Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to submit to public scrutiny. Hunt has accused Johnson of 'cowardice' and 'slinking through the back door' to 10 Downing Street, by dodging media interviews and TV debates designed to probe his Brexit policy. Meanwhile, fears are mounting over an immediate vote of no-confidence if Johnson becomes PM. Tobias Ellwood, a defence minister, has already intimated that several Tory backbenchers would band together with the Labour Party to bring down Johnson. Boris's lack of engagement with the debate is the catalyst for this form of kamikaze politics. The gap between Hunt and Johnson should continue to narrow unless the latter enters the public debate and defends his legitimacy.
Bottom line: The Pound is likely to remain static due to the political uncertainty inherent in a leadership contest. Boris Johnson's determination to force a departure by October 31st could give markets a rational reason to fear a Halloween Brexit.
Trump favours talk over action
In the past several weeks, Donald Trump has been the aggressor in his dealings with China, Iran, and North Korea. However, this week, we appear to be witnessing a softening of that approach. Following attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the downing of a drone, the US administration blamed Iran, which nearly resulted in military action. Over the weekend, the President has pivoted to sanctions on Iran—which already suffers from penalties on 80% of its economy—along with an unqualified willingness to enter talks. The market reaction has been mixed; while Brent Crude continues its rally back towards $70 a barrel, US Treasury yields have ticked lower, and the Japanese Yen has gained from USD selling. One might expect a more pronounced market reaction to this de-escalation in geopolitical risk, but Trump is remarkably unpredictable, and everyone is waiting to see what will happen next.
The Dollar sell-off which began last week in response to the Federal Reserve’s policy easing continues to dominate this pair, pushing GBP/USD towards one-month highs. The focus is understandably on geopolitical tensions—US/China trade and Iran Sanctions—with very little on the data calendar today.
In response to Dollar selling, the common currency extended last week’s rally towards the trade-weighted 200-day moving average. Sterling losses seem to have been capped, but with the race for Number 10 in the background, the prospect of a rally is unlikely. There is little economic data this week for either currency, so the pair is likely to remain buoyant if market sentiment stays relatively positive.
With USD selling resulting in EUR buying, it isn’t surprising that EUR/USD has experienced a very strong week, pushing above the 200-day moving average. The data this week is mostly USD related, but the primary focus is still on geopolitical issues; headlines and Twitter feeds continue to drive the market.