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Weak start for Europe ahead of German IFO

Brandenburg Gate Berlin with a German flag

After an unexpectedly dovish pivot from Fed chairman Jay Powell on Wednesday, European and US markets ended another positive week very much on a mixed note after New York Fed President John Williams pushed back on market expectations of a rate cut as early as March, saying it was premature to be even considering anything of that sort.

Williams was followed in his comments by Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic who delivered a similar line of thought, saying he expected rate cuts to begin in Q3 of 2024 if inflation falls as expected.

With the Fed dots indicating that US policymakers saw rates back at 4.6% this appears to be more in line with the message the Fed had hoped to deliver on Wednesday, however markets decided to take Powell’s press conference comments and run with them, getting out in front of their skis in doing so.

Given where the US economy is now it’s surprising that the Fed are said to be to start to be thinking in terms of cutting rates simply because with the economy currently where it is, there is currently no need. With GDP at 5.2% in Q3, unemployment at 3.9%, and weekly jobless claims at just over 200k the risk of inflation reigniting is clearly still a concern for some policymakers.

That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case in Europe where economic activity is stagnating at best and even now the ECB comes across as being reluctant to counter a rate cut, even though a reduction in borrowing costs is clearly needed, given that headline inflation is back within touching distance of its 2% target.

The same could be argued for the UK except wage growth is still trending well above 7%, while headline CPI is at 4.6%, though this could come down further in numbers due to be released on Wednesday.

As we look towards the final week before the Christmas break, trading activity is likely to be somewhat thin and choppy, and while we have seen record highs for the Dow, DAX and CAC 40 in the last week or so, we still remain some distance away from the 2021 record peaks of the Nasdaq 100 and S&P500.

As for the FTSE100 we’re looking at yet another year of underperformance, after the record highs of mid-February, with the UK benchmark up by just over 1% year to date, with the FTSE250 not faring that much better.

Due to the relatively subdued nature of Friday’s US finish, today’s European market open looks set to be a slightly weaker one with the only data of note the latest German IFO Business survey for December. Given the weak nature of last week’s PMI numbers it would be surprising to see a significant improvement on the November numbers when the current assessment improved slightly to 89.4.

The US dollar was one of the big losers last week driven lower by expectations that US rates have peaked and are on their way back down, with the Japanese yen one of the biggest gainers.

This shift in sentiment will no doubt be welcomed by the Bank of Japan and to some extent helps them out with respect to the weakness of the yen ahead of tomorrow’s rate decision. There is now less incentive for them to think about altering their current policy settings, although they might hint at starting to execute some form of shift early next year.    

EUR/USD – the rebound to 1.1010 last week didn’t last long, unable to push through the November peaks at 1.1015/20. We still have support now back at the 200-day SMA at 1.0830. A break above 1.1030 has the potential to target the July peaks at 1.1275.

GBP/USD – broke briefly above the 1.2730 area, and the 61.8% retracement of the 1.3140/1.2035 down move, pushing up to 1.2795 before reversing. The bias remains for further gains while above the 200-day SMA at 1.2520. We also have support at the 1.2590 area.

EUR/GBP – slipped back from the 100-day SMA at 0.8640 last week, with support at the 0.8570/80 area. A move below 0.8580 targets 0.8520.

USD/JPY – slipped below the 200-day SMA at 142.50 last week, opening the prospect of a move towards 140.00. We now have resistance at 146.00 and while below that we could push towards 139.20.  


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