Futures Surge As Nuclear, Trade War Threats Fizzle

The overnight session was already in a festive, risk-on mood with global market a sea of green amid fading fears of trade wars and concerns about Italy and European stability, when the news hit that North Korea is ready to denuclearize  "if the regime safety is assured", which sent futures to session highs, the dollar sliding, the USDJPY spiking and 10Y yields surging to 2.895%.

S&P futures were especially delighted, with the E-mini tracking dollar weakness, and spiking 8 points on the North Korea news, and up 12 points on the session, while the USDJPY pushed higher by 40 pips, rising above 106 and trading at 106.40 last.

Earlier, European stocks had already extended gains following Monday's rally in the U.S. and Asia, even as the European Union was prepared to announce 25% punitive tariffs on American goods. Automakers take pole position among sector, a reversal from yesterday’s underperformance.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose a second day, with all Stoxx 600 sectors rising (547 Stoxx 600 members gain, 40 decline) following a broad advance in Asia as indexes from Hong Kong to Seoul clawed back losses incurred since U.S. President Donald Trump laid out a series of import tariffs last week. In the latest development, the European Commission proposed retaliatory measures on U.S. goods ranging from T-shirts and whiskey to motorcycles and ladders. The plans were limited in scope, targeting some 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) of merchandise, and the euro traded little changed.

In fixed income, treasuries, bunds extend losses after North Korea signaled its openness to denuclearization; U.S. 10-year yield resumes ascent toward 2.90%, while periphery debt outperforms, while Italy's 10-year BTPs erased all post-election declines.

In the aftermath of German and UK auctions Bunds and Gilts witnessed another bout of selling. The core bond is now just off a fresh 159.12 base (-76 ticks) and now eyeing the next downside chart level at 159.03. Gilts have fallen to 120.68 (-63 ticks), with support seen at 120.48 (February 27’s Liffe session low) according to RanSquawk. Risk back on flows come amidst very conciliatory talk attributed to North Korea. Elsewhere, previously resilient US Treasuries have not been able to escape the latest fallout in core EU bonds with futures now all underwater and the curve steeper.

The rebound in stocks - even prior to the North Korea news - suggested that fears of an escalation of trade war may be easing as Trump is facing growing domestic resistance to his planned levies on steel and aluminum imports within his own party: House Speaker Paul Ryan has called on him to reconsider, while White House economic adviser Gary Cohn is said to be arranging a meeting between Trump and U.S. executives in a bid to halt the order.

“People are realizing a large trade war does not have consensus support, and decent leads last night in the U.S. are driving global risk assets higher,” said Joshua Crabb, the head of equities at Old Mutual Global Investors in Hong Kong.

Asia’s emerging currencies and stocks rose amid a rebound in risk appetite driven by speculation that U.S. President Donald Trump will soften his proposed trade tariffs. Sovereign bonds were mostly steady to lower.

Separately, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda dialed back some of his recent perceived hawkishness.  Recall last week futures slumped after Kuroda told parliament Japan's QE may end in 2019.  Today, the BOJ governor spoke again in a parliament hearing and "clarified" his comments last week: "Regarding exit, I didn’t say that we would make a change in FY2019, what I said was that the chances of inflation reading 2% in FY2019 was high" he said, further adding that "therefore, I said that we would be discussing how to move forward with exit. I never said we would be exiting immediately in FY2019."

Also overnight, the Australian dollar pared gains as the central bank left interest rates unchanged at 1.50% as expected, and gave no indication an increase was coming soon. The RBA reiterated that it judged holding policy rates was consistent with sustainable economic growth and reaching the inflation target, while it also repeated that a strengthening exchange rate could slow pace of economic activity and inflation. Furthermore, RBA also stated that low level of rates continues to support domestic economy and that the outlook is for faster growth this year than last year, while it added that wage growth is to remain subdued for some time and gradually pick up.

Elsewhere, Riksbank Governor Ingves stated that weaker inflationary pressures creating uncertainty, adding that monetary policy needs to proceed cautiously. Furthermore, saying that inflation will be near 2% even though forecasts have been adjusted downwards. It’s too early and too big a risk to raise rates now.

WTI crude rises for a third-straight day to approach $63/barrel. WTI and Brent crude futures trade little changed but in close proximity to yesterday’s highs after the IEA took an upbeat view on global oil demand and OPEC Sec-Gen continued to show support for the solidity of the global supply cut agreement. Further newsflow will likely emanate from the Houston energy conference. In metals markets, spot gold trades with modest gains alongside a slightly softer USD with the move in the yellow metal capped to the upside by this morning’s risk appetite. Elsewhere, zinc prices saw their largest declines in three months in China following rising inventories whilst steel saw further selling pressure overnight as soft demand continues to hamper prices.

Looking ahead, highlights include API Inventories, New Zealand GDT Auction and a slew of speakers.

Top Overnight News

  • North Korea is said to be open to denuclearisation if regime safety is guaranteed, and added they are willing to freeze nuclear and missile activities during discussions with the US
  • White House economic adviser Gary Cohn is summoning executives from U.S. companies that depend on aluminum and steel to meet this week with President Donald Trump in a last-ditch attempt to blunt or halt the tariffs announced last week, according to two people familiar with the matter
  • The European Commission has proposed retaliatory dues on imports of U.S. steel, apparel, textile and footwear, selected industrial goods, according to draft list seen by Bloomberg
  • BOJ’s Kuroda says lessening stimulus before reaching inflation target is unthinkable, and that in the near term he doesn’t think the BOJ will be unable to buy bonds nor hit the limit before attaining target; also says he didn’t mean in earlier comments that exit will start as soon as FY2019
  • The EU offer on a post-Brexit trade that U.K. PM Theresa May will bring back from Brussels is likely to be short on detail, leaving Britain in the vulnerable position of having to negotiate substantial chunks of a trade deal after it’s lost much of its leverage
  • Ahead of the ECB’s March 8 policy meeting, the triple whammy of trade war fears, political uncertainty in Italy following Sunday’s election and signs that the euro-area’s economic upswing may be hitting a speed bump all strengthen the case repeatedly made by President Mario Draghi that officials must be patient and persistent in providing stimulus

Asian stocks were mostly higher after sentiment rolled over from the strong US session where all majors gained at least 1% after trade war fears somewhat abated and amid encouraging data releases. This positive momentum gathered pace across Asia-Pac bourses with ASX 200 (+1.1%) also underpinned by strength across the energy sector, and Nikkei 225 (+1.8%) outperformed as exporters cheered a weaker JPY. Elsewhere, Hang Seng (+2.1%) joined in on the elation, while the Shanghai Comp. (+1.0%) initially retreated amid a glum tone in the mainland after the PBoC refrained from liquidity operations, but then later conformed to the region. Finally, 10yr JGBs were subdued with demand sapped amid gains across riskier assets and a mixed 30yr auction result.

Top Asian News

  • Asia’s Biggest Currency Gain in 20 Years May Be About to End
  • BOJ May Be Thinking But Not Doing Exit in 2019, Kuroda Says
  • Noble Group 2018 Bonds Set for Biggest Gain in Over a Month
  • H.K. Shares Soar as Trade Fears Ease, Chinese Big Caps Advance

As trade war fears are easing, the European cash open followed the strong lead seen in the US and overnight in Asia, with all major bourses now firmly in the green (Eurostoxx 50 +0.9%). FTSE MIB (1.4%) and DAX 30 (+1.1%) are clear outperformers today following the underperformance seen yesterday in both indices. Materials sector outperformance has been supported by firmer commodity prices. Smurfit Kappa (+18.9%), a noticeable mover today following news of the company rejecting an unsolicited offer from US based International Paper. Telecom Italia (+5.6%) are seen at the top of the FTSE MIB amid news Elliott Management have increased their stake in the company. Just Eat (-7.2%), a major laggard in focus today after the company failed to deliver on earnings.

Top European News

  • Bank of Ireland Senior Executives to Depart in Latest Reshuffle
  • Tesco Rises, Sainsbury Lags After Industry Data Shows Divergence
  • Brexit Is Hurting London Hotel Trade, Hilton’s Nassetta Says
  • Hungarian Opposition May Struggle to Unify Voters, Poll Shows

In FX, the dollar dropped after news that North Korea is open to scaling back on its nuclear weapons if the safety of Kim Jong Un’s regime is guaranteed. There was not much net movement in USD pairs prior to the announcement, but an overall improvement in risk appetite has sapped some strength from the traditional safe-havens, with the Jpy also taking on board comments from BoJ Governor Kuroda who clarified that easy policy will remain in place until such time that inflation reaches the 2% target level, which is currently forecast during fy 2019. Usd/Jpy back below 106.00 and Usd/Chf nearer the top of its 0.9385-0.9420 trading parameters with little reaction Swiss CPI data that was firmer than expected m/m, but bang in line with consensus in y/y terms. Usd/Cad remains firmer having just crossed over 1.3000 yesterday amidst ongoing NAFTA and US import tariff concerns, and with the options market indicating more Loonie depreciation ahead. The Kiwi is still benefiting from relative Aud weakness down under after some Aussie data misses overnight (Q4 current account and January retail sales vs a tad smaller decline in Q4 net exports) and a largely unchanged RBA on rates and in the accompanying statement (growth to pick up vs 2017, but inflation and wages still lagging). Nzd/Usd just over 0.7250 and Aud/Usd retreating from a brief 0.7800 test, as Aud/Nzd pulls back towards 1.0700. Elsewhere, some divergence in Eur/Scandi crosses, with the Nok up near 9.6250 highs on an upbeat Norwegian regional survey, but the Sek down to fresh 10.2000+ multi-year lows on more cautious Riksbank policy guidance from Governor Ingves and shrugging off reasons to start normalisation now from rate hike dissenter Ohlsson. Back to Usd/G10 pairs, Eur/Usd looks more supported above 1.2300, but perhaps capped by its 30 DMA around 1.2363, and Cable is holding the bulk of Monday’s gains over 1.3800 on UK PM May’s claims that a transition deal is getting closer (and notwithstanding more reports of hard-line EU demands).

In commodities, WTI and Brent crude futures trade little changed but in close proximity to yesterday’s highs after the IEA took an upbeat view on global oil demand and OPEC Sec-Gen continued to show support for the solidity of the global supply cut agreement. Further newsflow will likely emanate from the Houston energy conference. In metals markets, spot gold trades with modest gains alongside a slightly softer USD with the move in the yellow metal capped to the upside by this morning’s risk appetite. Elsewhere, zinc prices saw their largest declines in three months in China following rising inventories whilst steel saw further selling pressure overnight as soft demand continues to hamper prices.

Looking at the day ahead, with nothing of note in Europe, the main focus is on the US where we are due to receive January factory orders data along with final revisions to durable and capital goods orders. BOE’s Haldane will speak and over at the Fed, Dudley is due to speak at 7.30am ET.

US Event Calendar

  • 10am: Factory Orders, est. -1.4%, prior 1.7%; Factory Orders Ex Trans, prior 0.7%
  • 10am: Durable Goods Orders, est. -3.6%, prior -3.7%; Durables Ex Transportation, prior -0.3%
  • 10am: Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, prior -0.2%; Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, prior 0.1%

Central Banks

  • 7:30am: Fed’s Dudley Speaks at U.S. Virgin Islands
  • 7pm: Fed’s Brainard to Speak in New York
  • 8:30pm: Fed’s Kaplan Speaks at Energy Conference

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

As I get on the plane markets are looking a lot better than me and also on where they were towards the end of last week. In the US yesterday House Speaker Ryan’s comments (see below) and the general perception that last week’s protectionist fears may have been too much too soon seemed to drive risk assets higher yesterday, with the S&P (+1.1%) up for the second consecutive day and all sectors higher with gains led by utilities, financials and real estate stocks. Notably, the S&P has now had 14 days of plus or minus 1% moves in either direction since the start of February, which compares to only 10 days from Jan 17 to Jan 18. The Dow (+1.37%) and Nasdaq (+1.0%) also advanced while the VIX fell 4.4% to 18.73.

Delving into the rhetoric a bit more, House speaker Ryan’s spokeswoman noted “we’re extremely worried about the consequence of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this (tariffs) plan”, in part as they do not want to jeopardize the economic gains from recent tax reforms. Although President Trump has said “no, we’re not backing down”, he did seemed to softened his stance and opened the door for negotiations, at least for Canada and Mexico where he noted “tariffs on steel and aluminium will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed”. Later on, US trade representative Lighthizer confirmed those sentiments and noted that the President’s “view was that it makes sense that if we get a successful (NAFTA) agreement, to have them excluded” from the tariffs. Over in Germany, Ms Merkel’s Chief spokesman Seibert noted “…it makes little sense to compare tariffs on individual products” but added “…we certainly don’t want anything like a trade war”.

Turning back to Europe, the Italian election story hasn’t moved on significantly since we discussed it first thing yesterday morning but there has been some posturing. As a reminder the populists of 5SM and the Northern League remain the biggest winners. Arithmetically these two could form a coalition but the former has previously suggested they won’t enter a coalition. However their success means that a government will be incredibly difficult to form  without them.

Their leader Di Maio did say that 5SM’s victory should allow him to govern Italy and that we are open to talks with all parties. So we’ll see if that means they’re more open to a coalition than before.

Meanwhile NL leader Salvini said on live TV that “the centre-right coalition is the coalition that won”. He also said that result requires NL “to be responsible” and that the NL not available for “bizarre coalitions” and that “We want to  govern with the centre-right.” This would argue against the desire for a 5SM tie-up. It’s also worth noting that Salvini did say that “the common currency system is bound to come to an end….not because Salvini wants that but because that’s what facts, good sense and the real economy say”. So although his party haven’t been pushing to leave the euro recently he is clearly very negative about the single currency’s future which is interesting for someone who could be a kingmaker.

However he has always felt this way so it’s not really new news. Elsewhere, Mr Renzi noted the results were “very disappointing” for the Democratic Party and has resigned as Party Leader. Here is DB’s note published yesterday  morning on the results and the implications.

This morning in Asia, markets are rallying post the positive US lead. The Nikkei is up for the first time in five day (+1.75%) while the Kospi (+1.48%), Hang Seng (+1.58%) and China’s CSI300 (+0.68%) are also up as we type. Elsewhere, BOJ’s Kuroda spoke at his confirmation hearing in the upper house and noted the BOJ is keeping financial conditions as accommodative as possible. On inflation, the board’s consensus is that it will reach 2% in around fiscal year 2019 and the BOJ will work with the government to end deflation, although conceded that the 2% target is still distant.

Now recapping other markets performance from yesterday. European bourses initially opened weaker but recovered  quickly to close broadly higher. Across the region, the DAX (+1.49%) led the gains as the SPD voted to form a coalition government with Ms Merkel’s bloc, while the Stoxx (+1.04%) rose for the first time in five days and FTSE (+0.65%) also advanced. In Italy, the FTSE MIB and 10y BTPs both traded down earlier on (-2%; +7bp) but ended the day relatively resilient with BTPs +3.6bp and MIB -0.42% with bank stocks underperforming the market.

Over in government bonds, core 10y bond yields were mixed but little changed (UST 10y +1.7bp; Bunds -0.8bp) while peripherals excluding BTPs outperformed with yields down 4-5bp. Turning to currencies, the US dollar index edged higher for the first time in three days (+0.05%), while the Euro and Sterling gained 0.15% and 0.34% respectively. In commodities, WTI oil was up 2.22% to $62.61/ bbl partly due to a production disruption at Libya’s Sharara oil field, although production is expected to resume later this week.

Away from the markets and onto China’s National People’s Congress, Premier Li has signalled tolerance for slower growth and cut the fiscal deficit for the first time since 2012 (2017: 3% of GDP; 18E 2.6%). Our Chinese economists believes the changes reinforces their view that GDP growth will slow in 2018F to 6.3% from 6.9% in 2017. The main takeaways from the Premier’s work plan include: i) tightening fiscal policy, tolerating slower growth, ii) stronger support for the new economy, iii) better market access and lower tariffs for foreign firms in China and iv) monetary policy stance to stay unchanged. Refer to their note for more details.

In the US, the Fed’s Quarles noted the Volcker rule “…is an example of complex regulation that is not working well” and that “…banks spend far too much time and energy contemplating whether particular transactions or positions are consistent with the Volcker rule”. Hence, US financial agencies are working quickly to make “material changes” to the rules. Elsewhere, the Mississippi Republican Senator Cochran will resign from Congress on 1 April due to health reasons (age 80). His departure sets up a special election this November and could weigh on the Republican’s current slim majority of 51-49 in the Senate.

In credit, Michal in my team published a report “IG Strategy: ECB Keeps More Weight on the CSPP as It Takes Steinhoff Losses in Its Stride”. It provides an update on the latest CSPP purchases, their breakdown into primary and secondary, and their relative weight in the ECB QE programme. It includes estimates of the ECB’s average allocation of primary deals and an update on relative pricing of CSPP-eligible and ineligible securities. Finally, it estimates the ECB losses on the Steinhoff bond that they sold after it plunged by half and notes that it has been comfortably absorbed by the returns on the overall CSPP portfolio.

Finally, for those interested in empirical studies, the San Francisco Fed published a finding yesterday that noted negative yield curves have predicted all nine US recessions since 1955 with a lag of 6 to 24 months and “while the current environment appears unique”, the authors find “…the term spread is by far the most reliable predictor of recessions”. Something we’d generally agree with!

Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the February non-manufacturing ISM index was above market at 59.5 (vs. 59 expected). In the details, the new orders index rose 2.1pts to 64.8 (highest since 2005) while the employment index fell 6.6pts from January’s all-time high to 55.0. Elsewhere, the final readings of the February services PMI was in line at 55.9 while the composite PMI was slightly softer at 55.8 (vs. 55.9 previous) but still the highest since January 17.

In Europe, the January retail sales print was in line at -0.1% mom, leading to an annual growth of 2.3% yoy, while the March Sentix investor confidence was below market at 24 (vs. 30.9) and the lowest since April 17. The final readings for the Euro area’s February composite PMI (57.1 vs. 57.5 expected) and services PMI (56.2 vs. 56.7 expected) were revised c0.4pt lower. Across the countries, Germany’s composite PMI was +0.2pt higher than expectations to 57.6 while France was -0.5pt below to 57.8. Elsewhere, the flash composite PMI for Italy was lower than expected (56 vs. 57.9) while the UK was above market (54.5 vs. 53.6 expected) and the services PMI was the highest since October (54.5 vs. 53.3 expected).

Looking at the day ahead, with nothing of note in Europe, the main focus should be on the US where we are due to receive January factory orders data along with final revisions to durable and capital goods orders. BOE’s Haldane will speak and over at the Fed, Dudley is due to speak at 12.30pm GMT.