February 2017

Feb. 25, 2017 (Commerzbank AG) – Germany – Housing overpriced but boom continues

House prices in Germany keep on rising. According to our new model, they are now overpriced by around 10%. Only a marked rise in interest rates would be likely to end this boom and such a move is nowhere in sight. House prices should therefore continue to climb for the time being. This does not pose a great danger for the economy at present as the building sector is not yet over-inflated and the rise in private debt has been limited so far. However, the longer the boom lasts, the greater the risk that major imbalances will emerge whose correction would hit the German economy hard.

Outlook for the week of 27 February to 3 March 2017

  • Economic data: Euro zone inflation in February may well see a two before the decimal point for the first time in four years. While this could drive inflation expectations further up, it is likely that the inflation rate will soon fall again as underlying inflation pressure remains weak.
  • Bond market: The long-end of the curve is increasingly impacted by the Bundesbank’s sizeable €QE purchases in the one-year maturity sector. Moreover, investors remain nervous regarding political risks in France and Italy, while ample redemptions need to be reinvested. We therefore continue to expect Bund yields to trend downward amid a steeper curve.
  • FX market: Strong support in polls for the eurosceptic French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen continues to weigh on the euro. Speculation that strong US inflation will prompt higher rates continues to support the USD.
  • Equity market: High DAX valuations, notably inflated P/B ratios, have increased the importance of selective stock-picking. We favour companies with credible restructuring plans; that have a high share of sales in the USA and whose earnings react positively to a stronger dollar.
  • Commodity market: In the week ahead, the price of a barrel of Brent oil should remain range-bound around USD 55. Survey-based estimates of OPEC production are expected to confirm that the agreed output cuts have been largely implemented. Further support should come from upbeat sentiment indicators.


USA 

Feb. 23, 2017 (Tempus Inc.) – The U.S. dollar is fluctuating in a downward trend against most counterparts following the dovish reading of the Fed Minutes yesterday, in which the central bank seemed cautious about raising interest rates. The odds of a hike coming at the March 15th Fed meeting fell to 34.0% after trending in the 40.0%+ range.

Market watchers interpreted the Minutes as a sign of hesitation from Fed officials who appeared less concerned about inflationary growth exceeding their desired 2.0% annual target and want to see further consistency in economic growth. The outlook for the economy is a positive one, but that’s taking under consideration that the Fed is awaiting plans for major fiscal spending from the Trump regime.

We believe current ranges are bound to change next week as we enter March with a slew of data to digest. While the Fed’s policy may be on focus at the moment, the spotlight will turn to Europe and other developments abroad, which because of their negative nature, could hold the dollar afloat. Home Sales figures and consumer Sentiment from the Wolverines (Univ. of Michigan) will close out the week.

JPY

The Japanese Yen advanced overnight based on the pessimism behind the Fed rate outlook and downward stock markets across the Asian session. Once again the Yen is improving on being a safe-haven asset and the fact that policy divergence may not be a drag on the Yen in the short-term.

Also, day-trading of USD/JPY pair has increased in Japan where investors are jumping on the wild swings that occur from statements and uncertainty in the U.S. The currency couple that looked so boring just a few years back is the most exciting investment in a time of high volatility. JPY is up 1.8% since February 15th.

EUR

The Euro strengthened by over half a percent since noon yesterday as a result of major changes to the upcoming presidential election in France. Candidate Francois Bayrou announced that he would no longer seek to be head of state in order to support candidate Emmanuel Macron and significantly improve his chances of preventing a Marine Le Pen presidency. Ms. Le Pen has promised to do all she can to isolate France if elected by pushing for abandonment of the Euro and the European Union as well. Markets welcomed the news of the alliance.

We expect the euro to continue trading in positive ranges since it recovered from falling to its weakest level since January from political developments, but also because German and French data met expectations. Gross domestic Product in Germany and Business Confidence in France boosted the shared currency, but the effect may have been subdued by Italian Retail Sales that revealed a contraction instead of an expected expansion.

Feb. 18, 2017 (Commerzbank AG) – Emerging weaknesses

The catch-up process evident in many emerging markets now appears to have come to an end. Per capita GDP is no longer growing more rapidly than in developed markets, and this is set to continue as globalisation trends lose momentum and reform policy in many emerging markets becomes bogged down. In addition, rising US interest rates means that the decade of cheap money across the EM space is coming to an end.

Netherlands: How wild will it get with Wilders?

Geert Wilders’ anti-European PVV is expected to become the strongest single party in the general election on 15 March and will thus play a dominant role in Dutch politics. A “Nexit”, however, is an unlikely scenario.

Outlook for the week of 20 to 24 February 2017

  • Economic data: The euro zone PMIs should indicate that the region’s growth pace is unlikely to change in the first few months of this year. In the USA, the upward trend in residential construction continues.
  • Bond market: Political risks in the euro zone are likely to keep Bunds well underpinned through next week.
  • FX market: EUR-USD is expected to continue fluctuating strongly in the coming days, with the release of the FOMC meeting minutes likely to ensure a slight uptrend in the USD.
  • Equity market: The steep US yield curve and powerful global M1 money growth indicate that the equity bull market will continue into a ninth year.
  • Commodity market: The price of Brent oil is expected to hover around 55 USD next week. While gold remains in demand as a safe haven, soybean prices should come under pressure.

Feb. 11, 2017 (Commerzbank AG) – Euro zone – Le Pen knocking at the gates

If Marine le Pen had her way, France would follow the UK example and leave the EU which would probably mean the end of monetary union. Even though the latest polls suggest that she is unlikely to become the next French President, investors are growing increasingly nervous. Moreover, political developments elsewhere could seriously unsettle the euro zone. Together with weak core inflation, this will means that the ECB will be unable to abandon its ultra-expansionary policy for some time yet. Page 2.

Outlook for the week of 12 to 17 February 2017

  • Economic data: “Hard” US economic data up for release in the week ahead are unlikely to reflect the upsurge in survey-based indicators. In Germany, the economy looks set to have expanded strongly in the fourth quarter of 2016.
  • Bond market: French sovereign bonds (OATs) are showing an idiosyncratic spread pattern as Le Pen factor looms large on the horizon. In Bunds, the current risk-off sentiment is pushing short to mid-dated swap spreads to multi-year highs but we do not envisage any sustained correction.
  • FX market: Speculation that France may exit EMU is weighing on the euro and has raised implied EUR volatility. At the same time, the market is underestimating the risk to sterling, though it could appreciate further near-term on the back of rate hike speculation.
  • Equity market: Experience suggests that it would have been a mistake for equity investors to react to political risk events over the last two years. We stick to our view that investors should only become bullish during periods with a VDAX at 25 and a VIX at 20.
  • Commodity market: Brent oil should remain quite close to 55 USD per barrel next week. Higher shale oil production is probably already priced in and OPEC members are expected to (still) hold to the agreed production cuts.

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Feb. 10, 2017 (Tempus, Inc.) – The U.S. Dollar is trading in mixed direction as it has throughout the week with statements and political developments driving fluctuation in the absence of major data. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index shows a relatively flat USD since the start of February, a quiet time as foreseen in our monthly outlook.

President Trump is trying to improve his diplomatic approach by writing a letter to China and will meet with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tomorrow to discuss trade as well as military capabilities. His administration also seems more focused on domestic policy and continues to deal with the legal havoc of the travel ban, an item on the agenda that many global leaders have criticized.

Equity markets and commodities are on the rise, boosting CAD and “Aussie” slightly. In terms of Jobless Claims in the U.S., they continue to be around the lowest levels in four decades with this week’s reading 12,000 points lower. We expect the greenback to stay in familiar ranges as we close the week with Consumer Sentiment and Trade figures.

 

JPY

The Japanese Yen fell overnight along with its domestic stock index, the NIKKEI, while other global exchanges improved by 0.5% on average. The Yen hit the brakes, but it’s up by 1.25% thus far in February, primarily improving on uncertainty regarding Europe’s potential for further division. Tomorrow will mark a very important meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump in which trade and exchange rates will be discussed.

Since his inauguration, Trump has freely accused many countries, including Japan, of devaluing their currency for benefits to their exporters. On the other hand, Japanese officials have reiterated commitment to manufacture Japanese-brand vehicles in the U.S. and explained that they never deliberately intervened in the FX market, but rather focused on creating price stability. We’ll see if their commentary moves markets right away, but it will definitely have an impact moving forward.

 

GBP

The Pound appreciated after the lower House of Commons approved Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty that officially starts separation from the UK. The thumbs up on the Brexit process will now fall in the hands of the unelected House of Lords. The political drama may not necessarily be over as the Prime Minister faces pressure from her Conservative party members to have an early vote on the final agreement and some in the opposition who would like to reject it.

This is all unchartered territory, but it seems the government is determined to have a deal that parliament will finally approve. There are still many doubts on how to work on tariffs and other trade issues between the EU and the UK once the divorce is official. With fundamentals still consistent, GBP may stay in current ranges, but any delay to Brexit or companies fleeing could bring it down swiftly. Pound is up by 3.3% thus far in 2017.

Jan. 5, 2017 (Commerzbank AG) – The risk of a trade war

President Trump wants to put an end to the allegedly unfair treatment of the US economy in global trade and reduce the foreign trade deficit. However, the Republicans’ destination-based cash flow tax is too complicated, and broadly-based import tariffs directed against China would be hazardous given that China can retaliate. In our baseline scenario, this culminates in trade policy skirmishes without breaking into a full-blown trade war, even though the risk of an escalating trade dispute has increased recently. Trump apparently sees international trade as a zero-sum game and is therefore likely to act tough to gain advantages for the US.

Outlook for the week of 6 to 10 February 2017

  • Economic data: December data from the German manufacturing sector are likely to come in on the weaker side due to distortions resulting from the timing of the Christmas holidays. However, this should not be interpreted as a sign of renewed weakness, since business sentiment has remained healthy until recently.
  • Bond market: Euro area bond markets are at a crucial crossroads as the renewed focus on elections and US policy risks compound the pressure from rising inflation. Some headwinds will fade over the coming weeks, but this should only make an impact once 10y Bund yields have climbed above the pivotal 0.50% mark.
  • FX market: The US government is talking the dollar down. Although it is not certain that it will be successful over the medium-term, this departure from traditions practiced for decades suggests that the recent USD weakness will continue near-term.
  • Equity market: Despite individual exceptions, the Q4 2016 results and 2017 outlooks released in the current reporting season have been convincing so far. Consequently, analysts are likely to make fewer downside revisions to their 2017 earnings expectations, which should provide additional support to the German equity market.
  • Commodity market: Oil will not be able to hang to its recent gains for long as it becomes evident that the supply-side shortfall in the wake of production cuts is not as great as first assumed. On the base metal markets, lower Chinese copper imports in January are likely to hit sentiment whilst gold continues to respond to dollar fluctuations.

Feb. 4, 2017 (Tempus Inc.) – The U.S. Dollar is trending in a negative direction following the U.S. Non-farm Payrolls report and stellar data out of the Euro-zone and growing concerns over the unpredictability of President Trump’s administration. The U.S. economy added 227k jobs in January, up from 156k in December, but the drop in wage growth means less inflation and reduced odds of more aggressive rate hikes by the Fed.

Markets are also worried that President Trump’s tough and confusing stances on immigration as well as travel could negatively impact business activity across the globe. More concerning was yesterday’s firing of Sally Yates who as Attorney General stood against the controversial measures which deemed her as too soft on immigration. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is down by 1.9% since January 20th.

The Dow Jones, S&P, and NASDAQ indexes have tumbled after reaching record highs. With trade agreements also on the chopping block, there is little in terms of stability at the moment.

 

JPY

The Japanese Yen is up this morning after the Bank of Japan’s policy meeting in which the outlook for economic growth was upgraded. No changes were made, but the tone was positive and the commitment to quantitative easing will be there to keep credit flowing.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda did not criticize Trump’s statements regarding the perceived unfairness of trade agreements with Japan and others, but did point out that protectionism only serves as an obstacle to progress in an already globalized world.

Kuroda also explained that the BOJ does not have an exchange-rate target in mind and, once again, BOJ meetings are leading to Yen appreciation. The currency of the rising sun is up 4.0% since its weakest level of the year reached during the first week of January.

 

EUR

The Euro is up as a result of better-than-expected inflation data and likelihood of reassessment of loose monetary policy by the European Central Bank. Inflation for the Euro-zone revealed a 1.8% annual increment for the first month of the year, the best pace of growth in four years. A lot of it is owed to higher costs of energy, but puts the level near the ECB’s 2.0% target for price-growth.

Additionally, a trade advisor for the White House described the Euro as “grossly weak,” which in turn has benefitted Germany greatly, he said. These types of statements not only move markets, but are preambles to more incendiary statements that could signal a trade/currency war, which no one would want to be involved in. Euro is up 3.3% thus far in 2017.