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Services PMIs set to confirm contraction, RBA leaves rates unchanged

European markets struggled for gains yesterday in the absence of US markets, as the initial boost of a China stimulus inspired rally in Asia faded out, even though basic resources outperformed. 

This late weakness in the European day looks set to continue this morning. 

The day began brightly when Asia markets rallied on signs that China’s recent stimulus measures were helping to boost the property sector, after a jump in China home sales in two major Chinese cities helped to propel the Hang Seng to 3-week highs. This followed on from the Friday boost of a US jobs report, which added to the argument that the Federal Reserve would be able to keep rates on hold when they meet later this month.

The return of US markets after yesterday’s Labour Day holiday should offer a bit more depth to today’s price action in Europe with the focus today set to be on the services PMIs for August, after the RBA left Australian interest rates unchanged at 4.10% earlier this morning, and the latest Chinese Caixin services PMI slipped back to its weakest this year at 51.8.

No surprises from the RBA keeping rates on hold for the 3rd time in a row, with little indication that rates will be cut in the future, with the central bank insistent that inflation remains too high, and that it will take until late 2025 for prices to return to the 2-3% target range.

For most of this year it has been notable that services PMIs on both sides of the Atlantic have managed to offset the weakness in manufacturing in the form of keeping their respective economies afloat.

The strength of services has been a major factor behind the hawkishness of central banks in their efforts to contain inflation with prices and other related costs proving to be much stickier than other areas of the economy, due to high levels of employment and tight labour markets.  

In the last couple of months there has been rising evidence that this trend has started to shift with the August flash PMIs from Germany and France seeing a sharp drop off in economic activity.

This weakness translated into a sharp slide in services sector activity in both France and Germany during August to 46.7 and 47.3, with Italy and Spain also set to show a similar slowdown, although given the size of their tourism sectors they should be able to avoid a contraction, with Italy expected to slow to 50.4 and Spain to 51.5.

Today’s numbers could well be the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to whether the ECB decides to pause its rate hiking cycle, even as August inflation saw an unwelcome tick higher.

Further complicating the picture for the ECB is the fact that PPI has been in negative territory for the last 3 months on a year-on-year basis and looks set to slide even further into deflation territory in July. On a month-on-month basis we can expect to see a decline of -0.6% which would be the 7th monthly decline in a row. On a year-on-year basis prices are expected to fall by -7.6%.  

On the PMI front the UK services sector is expected to confirm a fall to 48.7 from 51.5 in June, in a sign that higher prices are finally starting to constrain consumer spending.

EUR/USD – holding above the August lows at the 1.0760/70 area for now, as well as the trend line from the March lows. A break of the 1.0750 area potentially opens up a move towards the 1.0630 level. Resistance remains back at the highs last week at 1.0945.

GBP/USD – currently holding above the support at the August lows at 1.2545, after last week’s failure to push above the 1.2750 area. We need to push back through the 1.2800 area to diminish downside risk or risk a move towards 1.2400, on a break below 1.2530.    

EUR/GBP – the bias remains for a move back towards the August lows at 0.8500, while below the 0.8620/30 area, where we failed last week. We also have resistance at the 50-day SMA, and while below that the bias remains to sell into rallies.

USD/JPY – having found support at the 144.50 area on Friday, the bias remains for a return to the 147.50 area. A break above 147.50 targets a move towards 150.00. Below support at 144.50 targets a move back towards 142.00.


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