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Services PMIs in focus as stock markets struggle

Yesterday saw another day where rising US yields and a strong US dollar continued to exert downward pressure on stock markets with the DAX sinking to a fresh 6-month low, while the FTSE250 fell below its July lows to its lowest levels this year.  

US markets also fell back with the S&P500 closing just above its 200-day SMA, as well as at a 4-month low. The Nasdaq 100 also had a poor day after the latest numbers for job openings jumped sharply in August by 600k, while the Dow slipped into negative territory for the year.

The sharp rise in long term rates relative to short term rates suggests investors think that US interest rates are likely to remain higher for longer due to the continued resilience of the US economy. Consequently, this bear steepening is slowly unwinding the inversion of the 2/10s from the -105bps we saw at the end of June and where we are now at -35bps.

If this trend of rising long-term rates continues, then stock markets could well be in for even more volatility in the days and weeks ahead.

Let’s not forget 2-year yields are still above 10-year yields, a situation which is far from normal. Under normal circumstances long term rates would be above short-term rates, which means this yield adjustment still has some way to go. How it plays out will be key to how stock markets perform over the next few weeks.

Also weighing on US markets was the voting out of US House speaker Kevin McCarthy, by fellow dissident Republicans on disappointment over the weekend agreement of a deal to avert a US government shutdown until November 17th.

With the House now without a majority leader, a new leader will need to be appointed, a time-consuming process if the McCarthy experience is any guide, which could complicate the prospect that we might get a new deal when the current deal expires next month.

If you thought UK politics was dysfunctional, then the US runs it a close second.  

The weak finish in the US looks set to translate into a weak European open, with Asia markets falling sharply this morning with the focus today on the services sector and the latest US ADP jobs report.    

The recent flash PMIs for France, Germany and the UK suggest further economic weakness in the services sector in September.

France especially has seen a sharp slowdown despite hosting the Rugby World Cup with the flash services number falling to 43.9 from 46. Germany, on the other hand, saw a modest pickup from 47.3 to 49.8.

In the UK we also saw a modest slowdown from 49.5 to 47.2, as concerns about a Q3 contraction across Europe continued to gain strength.

The weak flash readings from France and Germany make it even more puzzling as to why the ECB felt it necessary to raise rates at its last meeting, although one suspects it may well have been its last. In the US the services sector is proving to be more resilient at 50.2, while the ISM services survey has tended to be more resilient and is expected to come in at a fairly solid 53.5.

Yesterday the latest JOLTS numbers for August showed a big jump in vacancies to 9.6m in a sign that the US labour market remains surprisingly resilient driving long term US yields to new multiyear highs. Today’s ISM as well as ADP payrolls report could add further fuel to that yield fire with another set of strong numbers, ahead of Friday’s September payrolls report.

ADP payrolls saw 177k jobs added in August, falling slightly short of forecasts of 195k. Slightly offsetting that was sizeable upward revision to July from 324k to 371k, but overall, the main gains have been in services. Expectations are for 150k jobs to be added.   

EUR/USD – has slipped below the 1.0480 lows of last week, opening up the potential for a return towards parity, with the next support at 1.0400 which is 50% pullback of the 0.9535/1.1275 up move, followed by 1.0200. The main resistance remains back at the 1.0740 area, which we need to get above to stabilise and minimise the risk of further weakness.  

GBP/USD – looks set for a test of the 1.2050 area with a break targeting the 1.1835 area which equates to a 50% retracement of the move from the record lows at 1.0330 to the recent peaks at 1.3145. Only a move back above the 1.2430 area and 200-day SMA stabilises and argues for a return to the 1.2600 area.    

EUR/GBP – appears range bound with resistance at the 0.8700 area and resistance at the 200-day SMA at 0.8720, which is capping the upside. A break of 0.8720 targets the 0.8800 area, however while below the bias remains for a move back to the 0.8620 area.

USD/JPY – made a 12-month high of 150.16 yesterday before plunging to 147.35 on the back of possible intervention from the Bank of Japan. With no confirmation at the time of writing that intervention took place, any further moves higher could be choppy. Below 147.30 signals the top is in.


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