Indices around the world have been consolidating Wednesday's big gains and breakouts at a higher level. US index futures plus the FTSE are up 0.1% while the Dax is up 0.4%. The Nikkei gained 1.4% overnight after a disappointing Japanese GDP report put pressure on the Yen.
Currency markets are more active on today’s big news from the ECB. The ECB's current €80B per month QE asset purchase program is scheduled to end in March 2017. As was widely expected, the ECB announced a number of changes today. The program will be extended to December 2017 out past next year’s big elections in Germany, France and elsewhere but starting in April, purchases will be cut to €60B per month.
The street initially took this as a hawkish surprise sending EUR sharply higher and European indices lower but this reversed itself within a few minutes taking a dovish turn and trading below pre-meeting levels on additional information including that the program could be extended past December 2018 and that purchases could be increased again if needed. This reminds us that at this point in the cycle, central banks should be getting more hawkish as economies improve. Dovish signals at this time are more likely to be seen as a sign of weakness and failure by the markets.
More details are likely at ECB President Draghi’s press conference at 8:30 am EST. One of the things to watch for is if there is any change in what bonds the ECB has been buying. To date the focus has been on government and corporate bonds with the goal of increasing bank lending. There have been calls in the press lately to shift the focus to supporting more infrastructure spending.
EUR has been climbing ahead of the meeting along with other major currencies inclding GBP, CAD, AUD and gold. The US Dollar correction appears to deepening as the exhausted greenback gives up some of its gains heading toward next week's Fed meeting just like it did in December of 2015.
Crude oil is holding steady today with WTI holding $50.00 following US inventory reports. Traders now await Saturday's meeting between OPEC and Non-OPEC countries for confirmation of production cuts from Russia, Mexico and others.