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Optimism returns

Risk assets roared higher on Friday night despite a lack of specific triggers. Oil surged 3%, copper, iron ore and steel jumped, and major share indices across Europe and the US lifted by 1% to 2.5%. Commentators pointed to earlier reports that US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is interested in offering concessions to China to resolve the trade dispute. A rising US dollar kept the lid on commodity currency gains, and safe haven assets such as bonds and gold continued their recent slide.

The strength took many investors by surprise, particularly given ongoing concerns around Brexit, European growth, and the US government shutdown. However the evidence from a still young US corporate reporting season suggests fears over the impact of these issues may be overblown. Futures markets are pointing to opening gains across the Asia Pacific region of around 1%.

Important data due mid-session could either supercharge the optimism or stop it dead. China GDP growth is forecast to slow to an annual rate of 6.4%, and analysts expect industrial production and retail sales to match with modest declines to 5.3% and 8.1% respectively. The numbers for December speak directly to the impact of trade disruption, and will likely determine the outcome of today’s session.

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