FOMC speakers and Brexit polls dominate trading to start the week
Trading this week is off to a mixed start as traders assess the implications of Friday’s weak nonfarm payrolls, a number of Brexit polls showing the Leave side starting to pull away, and prepare for today’s comments from Fed Chair Yellen.
European trading this morning finds the FTSE up 0.9% and outperforming its continental peers where the Dax is up 0.1% and the CAC down 0.1%. US index futures are flat after Friday’s roller coaster ride which saw US stocks claw back most of their early losses. Commodity trading finds crude oil up nearly 1.0% today with Brent sitting on $50.00 once again and WTI trading above $49.00. Commodity gains are broad based with copper rising 0.5% plus corn and wheat gaining 1.5%.
Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report which showed jobs only increasing by 38K sparked an initially big knee-jerk reaction from traders who sent USD and stocks lower and gold higher on speculation that this could keep the Fed from raising interest rates in June or July as the central bank had previously been hinting.
Friday afternoon and into today, however, the initial flight to defensive havens has been fading. US stocks have regained all their early losses and remain supported. USD has stabilized at a lower level and has started to rebound today while JPY and gold are starting to drop back. The one defensive haven still attracting capital today is CHF which may continue attracting interest from some traders concerned about the potential for volatility in both the UK and continental Europe around this month’s Brexit vote and Spanish election.
There a been a lot of speculation from FOMC members in recent weeks about the potential for a US interest rate increase in June or July. Today, Fed Chair Yellen gets the last word before the blackout starts heading into next week’s FOMC meeting. While she appears likely to take a neutral stance again, traders will be looking to see if she shifts to dovish from neutral in response to the payrolls.
There are three ways the shockingly low nonfarm payrolls can be interpreted:
As a sign that the US economy is slowing and the Fed should wait for more data before raising interest rates, as was suggested by Fed governor Brainard, a known dove in her speech on Friday.
Considering that there was no warning about a low payroll figure from jobless claims through the month from jobless claims or ADP payrolls, and with the unemployment rate falling to 4.7% from 4.9%, the payroll data could be an outlier with the potential to be revised back upward. Over the weekend, Cleveland Fed President Mester indicated one data point doesn’t change her thinking on gradual rate increases.
A slowing in job growth could also be a sign that the US is nearing full employment. Boston Fed President indicated the 4.7% level has reached his estimate of full employment. He also suggested, however, that while he supports rate hikes over time, it remains to be seen if the May payrolls are an anomaly or the start of labour market slowing.
Where Chair Yellen lands on this divide could have a significant impact on trading in USD and stocks through the week as the big June meeting approaches. It also will be interesting to see if she makes any comments on whether the Brexit vote may influence their decision.
In early May, FOMC several speakers had suggested that they could hold off raising interest rates in June as their meeting is being held just a few day ahead of the UK Brexit referendum. After it was pointed out to them that letting events in Mother England influence their decision making could be seen as giving up US independence, Fed members changed their tune for a couple of weeks and downplayed the influence of Brexit on their thinking. With Friday’s nonfarm payrolls weakness giving the Fed another a domestic to hold off in June and wait to see the next payrolls report, Fed Governor Brainard raised Brexit risks in her speech although regional Presidents Mester and Rosengren appear to have stayed silent on the matter.
Today’s trading in UK markets in reaction to a series of polls showing the Leave side pulling out in front and gaining momentum indicates that the street appears to have already priced in the potential for a Brexit at current levels. GBP continues to come under pressure following polls favouring Leave, but each drop is getting smaller and shorter before support comes in. Meanwhile, the FTSE outperforming continental indices today on all the news favouring Leave momentum suggests that some traders could be thinking that the prospects for the UK should Leave win may be brighter than the prospects for an EU without the UK. It’s also possible the street could be seeing as getting the vote over with and moving on regardless of the result as a potential positive. Either way, it’s becoming clear that fear of a Brexit in the markets continues to fade away.
Canadian gold stocks staged major rallies on Friday outpacing to the gold price to the upside and could be vulnerable today with gold levelling off. Base metal miners could benefit from the rising copper price while energy producers could attract support with crude hovering near $50.