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Services PMIs expected to remain soft, as RBA leaves rates unchanged

European markets got off to a rather lacklustre start to the week, weighed down by a rebound in the US dollar as well as weakness in basic resources and energy prices, as investors took a pause after the gains of the past couple of weeks. 

US markets fared little better, sliding back in the face of a modest rebound in yields as investors hit the pause button ahead of this week’s jobs data, which is due at the end of the week, with markets in Europe set to open slightly weaker this morning.

Earlier this morning the RBA left rates on hold at 4.35% after last month’s decision to raise rates by another 25bps.

Despite last month’s surprise decision to raise rates today’s decision acknowledged that inflation was now starting to moderate in goods even as concerns remained about services inflation. Nonetheless, despite this acknowledgement that inflation appears to be slowing there was little indication that the central bank was considering another rate move in the near term.

Last month’s decision to raise rates was driven by concern about domestic price pressures and while today’s decision to hold was a relief there was little sign that a policy change in either direction was being considered with Governor Bullock acknowledging significant uncertainties around the outlook.

Nonetheless today’s decision to hold came against a backdrop of a month which has seen 2-year yields decline almost 40bps from their 4.52% peaks on the 1st November, as markets surmised the central bank is now done, with the Australian dollar falling sharply.   

The recovery in US yields yesterday appeared to be because of the possibility that the declines seen over the past few days may have been a little too much too quickly, given Powell’s comments on Friday last week when he pushed back on the idea that rate cuts were on the cards for the first half of 2024.

There is certainly an element of the market getting ahead of itself when you look at a US economy that grew at 5.1% in Q3 and still has an unemployment rate of 3.9%.

The same sadly cannot be said for Europe where the French and German economies could well already be in recession.

While recent manufacturing PMI data in Europe suggests that economic activity might be bottoming out, the same can’t be said for the services sector which on the basis of recent inflation data is experiencing sticky levels of inflation. This in turn is prompting a continued hawkish narrative from the ECB despite rising evidence that the bloc is already in contraction and possible recession as well.

Recent data from the French economy showed economic activity contracted in Q3 and there has been little evidence of an improvement in Q4.

The recent flash PMIs showed that services activity remained stuck in the low 45’s, although economic activity does appear to be improving, edging higher to 48.7.

The main concern is that the resilience shown by the likes of Spain and Italy as their tourism season winds down appears to have declined after Italy fell sharply in October to 47.7, while Spain was steady at 51.1, although both are expected to show slight improvements in today’s November numbers with a rise to 48.3 and 51.6 respectively.

The UK economy also appears to be showing slightly more resilience where there was saw a recovery into expansion territory in the recent flash numbers to 50.5, while earlier this morning the latest British Retail Consortium retail sales numbers for November, which showed that consumers remained cautious despite the increasing number of Black Friday deals ahead of the Christmas period as retailers looked to tempt shoppers into opening their wallets. Like for like sales in November rose 2.6%, the same as the previous month, with sales of high value goods remaining soft, with consumers preferring to go with lower ticket and essential items spend of food and drink, health and personal care.   

In the US we also have the latest October JOLTS job opening numbers which are expected to show vacancies slow from 9.5m to 9.3m, while the latest ISM services survey forecast to show a resilient economy.  

The headline is expected to show an improvement to 52.3, with prices paid at 58 and employment improving to 51.4 from 50.2 due to additional holiday period hiring.

Gold prices are also in focus after yesterday’s new record high saw a sharp reversal with prices closing lower in what looks like a bull trap and could see prices pause for a period of time and retest the $2,000 an ounce in the absence of a rebound.

EUR/USD – continues to look soft dropping below the 200-day SMA at 1.0825, with a break of the 1.0800 having the potential to retest the 1.0670 area. Resistance now at the 1.0940 area, and behind that at last week’s highs at 1.1015/20.

GBP/USD – the failure to move above the 1.2720/30 area has seen the pound slip back with support at the 1.2590 area currently holding. A break below 1.2570 signals a deeper pullback towards the 1.2460 area and 200-day SMA. A move through the 1.2740 area signals a move towards 1.2820. 

EUR/GBP – found support at the 0.8555 area for the moment, but while below the 0.8615/20 area, the risk remains for a move towards the September lows at 0.8520, and potentially further towards the August lows at 0.8490.

USD/JPY – found some support at the 146.20 area in the short term, with resistance now at the 148.10 area. Looks vulnerable to further losses while below this cloud resistance with the next support at the 144.50 area.

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