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US slowdown concerns set to weigh on European open

Yesterday saw another broadly positive session for European markets, with the FTSE 100 once again underperforming after UK inflation data showed itself to be much stickier than anticipated, putting upward pressure on the pound in the process.

US markets initially started the day on the front foot until a double punch of weak data saw yields slide sharply on both the short and long end, prompting concerns that US economic activity was being impacted by the lagging effects of multiple rate hikes. This concern about the economic outlook, along with announcements from the likes of Amazon and Microsoft about job losses, saw US markets roll over after European markets had closed, closing sharply lower, as once again the S&P 500 failed above the 4,000 level.

Yesterday’s weakness came as a result of concerns about the health of the US consumer. After a strong performance throughout most of 2022, consumer spending appears to have run out of steam with November and December retail sales declining 1% and 1.1% respectively. US PPI for December also saw a lower-than-expected rise of 6.2%, a sharp drop from the 7.4% seen in November.

The Fed Beige Book added little to the picture when it came to how the US economy is doing, apart from an acknowledgement that price pressures are starting to slow, however St. Louis Fed President James Bullard added to the uncertainty by insisting that the Fed needed to get rates above 5% sooner rather than later. This view conflicts with the prevailing market narrative of a 25bps hike next month, as concerns rise that the Fed could well be hiking into a potential recession.

These economic concerns also translated into crude oil prices which having hit their highest levels since the beginning of December early on the day, promptly reversed course to close the day sharply lower. One thing in the favour of the US economy in the face of disappointing economic reports is a resilient labour market, with today’s weekly jobless claims expected to see a modest rise from 205,000 to 214,000. We also have housing starts and building permits data for December, with the recent cold weather not expected to offer much hope of a respite here. 

Last night’s weaker US close looks set to translate into a lower European open.

The US dollar had a mixed day slipping to a marginal eight-month low against the euro before recovering, while against the Japanese yen we saw a 400-point range, after the Bank of Japan pushed back on market expectations of further measures to tweak its monetary policy settings around yield curve control.

Governor Kuroda went on to say that a further widening of the YCC band wasn’t needed yet, as he looked to finesse the central banks messaging around its next policy move. The BoJ’s biggest problem is that yesterday’s events only delay the inevitable, with national CPI for December expected to reach a 42 year high of 4% later today. With the Fed closer to the end of its rate-hiking cycle, and the Bank of Japan yet to start its tightening regime, the line of least resistance for USD/JPY is likely to be a move towards 120 and possibly lower in the coming weeks.

EUR/USD – made a marginal new high of 1.0887 yesterday, before sliding back again, as the market struggles for direction. Could see a deeper fall towards 1.0720. The key resistance sits at 1.0950 which is a 50% retracement of the move from the 2021 highs to last year’s lows at 0.9536. A move through 1.0950 opens up a move towards 1.1110.

GBP/USD – ran out of steam just shy of the December peaks at 1.2440. Above 1.2450 could see a move towards 1.2600. We need to hold above the 1.2000 area for further gains to unfold or risk a return to 1.1830.

EUR/GBP – the failure at the 3-month highs at 0.8895 this week has seen a move below last week’s low at 0.8770/80, with the risk we could see a move towards the 0.8720 area, and 50- and 100-day SMA. The next support below 0.8720 targets 0.8680.

USD/JPY – the failure to hold onto the gains above 130.00 yesterday suggests the prospect of further weakness and a move towards the 126.50 area which is the 50% retracement of the up move from 101.18 to the highs at 151.95. Below 126.50 targets the 120.60 area.

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