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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Dollar falls from five-month highs, this week's focus on Fed minutes


SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The dollar traded below a five-month high against a basket of currencies on Tuesday, catching its breath after a broad rally inspired by rising U.S. bond yields and relief at an easing of U.S.-China trade tensions.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies last traded at 93.564, down from a five-month high of 94.058 set on Monday.

The greenback’s surge to that Monday peak had marked a gain of 5.4 percent in about a month, compared to a mid-April trough of 89.229, which was its lowest since late March.

A pull-back in U.S. 10-year Treasury yields from seven-year highs set last week has probably prompted traders to book some profits on their bullish dollar bets, said Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda in Singapore.

“We came a long way...so ultimately we are going to get profit-taking,” Innes said.

He noted that while the dollar’s near-term outlook still looks positive, one factor worth watching was whether business sentiment and the economic outlook in developed countries other than the United States would start to improve.

Optimism about synchronous global economic growth had been one of the factors that had weighed on the dollar earlier this year.

Over the past month, however, the dollar has been bolstered by generally solid U.S. economic data that has backed the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy tightening stance this year, as well as rising U.S. bond yields that bolstered the greenback’s yield appeal.

The prospect of a resolution to the U.S.-China trade tensions has further added to the dollar’s shine.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield last stood at 3.0523 percent , down from Friday’s near seven-year high of 3.128 percent.

Against the yen, the dollar eased 0.1 percent to 110.89 yen, down from Monday’s four-month high of 111.395 yen.

There was talk of dollar-selling interest among Japanese exporters at levels around 111.00 yen. Market participants also cited dollar-selling by short-term players during Tuesday’s Asian trade.

Analysts at Maybank said they favoured being long the dollar against the yen for now. “Dips in U.S. Treasury yields could be temporary and a rebound could widen yield differentials between U.S. Treasuries and Japanese government bonds and lift the dollar against the yen,” the Maybank analysts said in a research note.

They added that U.S. 10-year Treasury yields may have limited room to fall for now, with the market awaiting the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting due to be released on Wednesday. The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.1784, but remained above Monday’s low of $1.1717, the common currency’s lowest level since around mid-November.

The euro has been affected by concerns over political uncertainty in Italy. This week will bring about a further test for determined euro bulls with the release of “flash” PMI data for May on Wednesday, and markets waiting to see whether the first-quarter slowdown in Europe spilled over to later months.

Reporting by Masayuki Kitano

Asian shares stumble as dollar strengthens, oil surges


SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares skidded on Tuesday as a strong dollar sapped demand for emerging market assets while surging oil prices stoked concerns about a flare-up in inflation and faster U.S. interest rate increases.

Japan’s Nikkei was mostly flat while Australian shares fell 0.9 percent. Chinese shares opened in the red with the blue-chip CSI300 off 0.7 percent.

Liquidity was relatively thin due to holidays in South Korea and Hong Kong.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was just a shade higher at 568.4 points, but well below an all-time peak of 617.12 hit in January.

“We are seeing U.S. dollar strength and that is causing money to flow out from emerging markets to the U.S. There is some sort of risk aversion going on,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

“People are cautious about taking exposure in emerging markets.”

Those concerns offset the boost to sentiment from overnight gains on Wall Street over the apparent reconciliation between the United States and China over import duties.

Analysts said investors in the region were worried about the growth outlook, with the U.S. Federal Reserve staying on its policy tightening path.

“Stocks have rallied several times on the belief that trade tensions were easing, only to fall back down as investors took the opposite view,” said James McGlew, executive director of stockbroking at Perth-based Argonaut.

“While the global economy remains robust and first-quarter earnings have been strong, stock markets have mostly traded sideways this year because many investors have started to fear that the pace of the expansion has already peaked.”

The MSCI ex-Japan index is flat so far this year after a super-charged 33.5 percent gain in 2017.

JPMorgan’s Shigemi said investors will now turn their focus to the next Fed meeting on June 13 where it is widely expected to raise rates for a second time this year.

A total of three hikes is almost fully priced-in by the market for 2018 although some investors expect the Fed to be more aggressive.

It was the fear of higher inflation and thus faster Fed rate rises that caused a bond market rout earlier this year, sending yields sharply higher and triggering a share market sell-off.

The dollar hovered near five-month highs against a basket of currencies, boosted by the U.S.-China trade optimism.

The dollar index was last down 0.1 percent at 93.56 from Monday’s top of 94.058.

The euro held at $1.1782, within spitting distance of a more than six-month trough of $1.1715 touched on Monday amid continued political uncertainty in Italy.

Italy’s far-right League and the 5-Star Movement agreed on a candidate to lead their planned coalition government and to implement spending plans seen by some investors as threatening the sustainability of the country’s debt pile.

The Japanese yen steadied near four-month lows at 110.99 per dollar, while sterling eased slightly to $1.3428 ahead of key data that could determine whether the Bank of England raises rates in 2018.

Elsewhere, oil prices soared to their highest since 2014 after Venezuela’s presidential election heightened worries that the country’s oil output could fall further.

The market is also weighing the possibility of additional U.S. sanctions on the country.

U.S. crude added 24 to $72.48 per barrel and Brent rose 17 cents to $79.33.

The combination of higher oil and conciliatory actions on the US-China trade front boosted the Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for risk, to a one-month peak.

As the dollar strengthened, gold prices eased to stay near the lowest since late December at $1,290.5.

Reference: Swati Pandey

Monday, 21 May 2018

Energy may give further impetus to U.S. small-cap stocks


NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. small-cap stocks look poised to extend a breakout rally, especially if oil prices advance deeper into levels last seen in 2014 to drive further gains in the small energy companies that have provided leadership in recent week, analysts and investors said.

The Russell 2000 index of small capitalization stocks closed at a record high for a third day in a row on Friday and registered its third week of gains, sharply outperforming large-cap stocks on Wall Street, with all three major indexes posting losses for the week.

The Russell is up 11.1 percent since its Feb. 8 low for the year, while the S&P 500 is up just 5.1 percent since that date.

The S&P 600 small-cap index is also at a record high. Energy shares within the S&P 600 have led recent gains, thanks to a jump in oil prices, which analysts said should boost earnings forecasts for the sector.

The outperformance of small-cap stocks has been driven partly by the December U.S. tax overhaul. The legislation included steep corporate tax cuts that particularly benefited smaller-cap companies, which had been paying higher rates than large-cap companies overall.

Recent trade tensions have also lifted shares of small caps, whose business is largely domestic, along with stronger U.S. economic growth.

Some of those benefits have been reflected in small-cap earnings growth, which has outpaced growth of larger names. First-quarter profit growth for Russell 2000 companies is estimated at 33.8 percent, while earnings for the S&P 500 companies increased 26.2 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

ENERGY SPIKES UP
The S&P 600 energy index is up 31.3 percent for the quarter so far, the best-performing group, followed by health care, up 12.2 percent.

U.S. crude futures edged lower on Friday but remained above $71 a barrel and registered a third straight week of gains, lifted by falling Venezuelan production, strong global demand and looming U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“Even though (energy stocks have) had a good run, estimates will be climbing because analysts are raising their oil forecasts. So even though the stocks go up, they can still look cheap because the earnings estimate is going to go up as fast as the stock,” said Steve DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies in New York, which has been overweight energy since January.

J. Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois, said he has been buying shares of small-cap energy service providers.

“Some of the smaller energy service providers got banged up so badly when oil went down,” he said. “But the ones who survived have a real opportunity to grow and take market share now that oil is at $70 a barrel.”

BANKS, HEALTH CARE ALSO FAVORED
Several investors also said they favored financials within the small-cap space, particularly regional banks, which have risen sharply this year compared with bigger banks. The S&P 500 bank index is down 0.3 percent year to date, compared with a 6.2 percent gain in the KBW regional banking index.

The prospect of regulations being reduced further for some smaller banks has been a positive.

Regulations have “been a big headwind in the last couple of years,” said Anthony Saglimbene, global market strategist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan. “Easing regulation would benefit small-cap banks.”

The health care group has benefited from merger activity, including Zoetis Inc’s announcement this week to buy Abaxis Inc .

Health care has been the best-performing sector within the S&P 600 so far this year, up 26.8 percent.

Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch

Sterling down half percent versus resurgent dollar to approach five-month low


LONDON (Reuters) - Sterling fell to its lowest in nearly five months on Monday as the dollar surged and investors prepared for data that could determine whether the Bank of England raises interest rates this year.

A broad rally by the dollar and dwindling expectations that interest rates will rise have caused what had been one of the best-performing major currencies to give up all its 2018 gains.

Sterling slumped half a percent to $1.3392 , its lowest since Dec. 28, as the dollar soared on reports that the United States was putting its trade war with China “on hold”.

Important data on the British economy, including inflation figures on Wednesday and gross domestic product on Friday, will be scrutinised by investors to gauge whether the BoE might tighten monetary policy as early as August.

“Markets have lost faith and conviction over BoE policy tightening, we now place a strong emphasis on UK data to guide market policy expectations,” said ING FX analyst Viraj Patel. “Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the pound this week.”

Risks around the sort of post-divorce relationship Britain can agree with the EU weighed on the pound last week. But the biggest reason for sterling’s fall has been a drastic shift in market expectations of when the BoE will raise rates.

Recent weak economic data mean markets are now not even pricing in a full 25-basis-point hike by the end of 2018. They had expected two 25 bp rises this year.

Concerns over Brexit also continue to dog the pound.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday she would consider another vote on independence for Scotland when the British government offers some certainty over Brexit.

Adding to the political uncertainty, lawmakers from Prime Minister Theresa May’s governing Conservative Party reportedly are bracing themselves for a snap autumn parliamentary election amid fears that the Brexit deadlock will become insurmountable.

Analysts at CMC Markets and Commerzbank, in notes to clients, predicted the pound would fall toward the $1.3300 level in the short term.

But Stephen Gallo, European head of FX strategy at BMO Financial Group, said that forthcoming data would show underlying strength in Britain’s economy and the pound would rebound to $1.38 in the next three months.

Reporting by Tom Finn

Stocks rally after Mnuchin says Sino-U.S. trade war "on hold"


TOKYO (Reuters) - Stocks rose on Monday as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared the U.S. trade war with China “on hold” following an agreement to drop their tariff threats that had roiled global markets this year.

U.S. S&P mini futures ESc1 rose 0.60 percent in Asian trade on Monday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS advanced 0.55 percent in early trade, led by strong gains in greater China. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1.0 percent, Taiwanese shares 1.1 percent and mainland shares 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.4 percent.

Mnuchin and U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the agreement reached by Chinese and American negotiators on Saturday set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.

“The weekend talk appears to have made progress. While they still need to work out details of a wider trade deal, it is positive for markets that they struck a truce,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

As safe-haven demand for debt fell, U.S. bond prices were under pressure, keeping their yields not far from last week’s peaks.

The 10-year Treasuries yield stood at 3.065 percent, near a seven-year high of 3.128 percent hit on Friday.

“Recent data suggests the U.S. economy is very strong, hardly slowing down in Jan-Mar. The world economy slowed in that quarter but it appears to be rebounding. And recent rises in oil prices are likely to lift inflation expectations further,” said Tomoaki Shishido, senior fixed income analyst at Nomura Securities.

“We expect more selling until the next Fed’s meeting in June,” he said.

In the currency market, higher U.S. yields helped to strengthen the dollar against a wide range of currencies.

The euro dipped 0.1 percent to $1.1756 EUR=, hovering above Friday's five-month low of $1.1750.

The common currency was also hit after two anti-establishment parties pledged to increase spending in a deal to form a new coalition government.

The dollar maintained an uptrend against the yen, rising 0.20 percent to fetch 110.97 yen, JPY=, close to Friday's four-month high of 111.085.

Oil prices held firm near 3-1/2-year highs also on easing trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

The market is keeping an eye on Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro appeared to be set for re-election, an outcome that could trigger additional sanctions from the United States and more censure from the European Union and Latin America.

Oil prices have been supported by plummeting Venezuelan production, in addition to a solid global demand and supply concerns stemming from tensions in the Middle East.

U.S. crude futures rose 0.8 percent $71.83 per barrel, near last week’s 3 1/2-year high of $72.30 while Brent crude futures notched up 0.8 percent to $79.10 per barrel. It had risen to $80.50 last week, its highest since November 2014.

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano

Friday, 18 May 2018

Asia stocks steady as markets eye U.S.-China trade talks, dollar elevated



TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks were steady on Friday amid caution over developments in U.S.-China trade negotiations, while the dollar perched near a five-month peak after the benchmark U.S. Treasury yield hit its highest in seven years.

Spreadbetters expected European stocks to open mixed, with Britain’s FTSE dipping 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX rising 0.13 percent and France’s CAC little changed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed. The index was headed for a 1 percent loss this week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.17 percent and Shanghai climbed 0.3 percent as some investors bet Beijing and Washington will reach a deal in the latest round of trade talks.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.35 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI was up 0.3 percent and Australian stocks dipped 0.2 percent.

Wall Street ended slightly lower on Thursday as investors grappled with U.S.-China trade tensions after U.S. President Donald Trump said that China “has become very spoiled on trade”.

But helping ease some of the tension, Beijing has offered Trump a package of proposed purchases of American goods and other measures aimed at reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China by some $200 billion a year, U.S. officials familiar with the proposal said.

A second round of talks between senior Trump administration officials and their Chinese counterparts started on Thursday, focused on cutting China’s U.S. trade surplus and improving intellectual property protections.

“President Trump does not do the actual trade negotiations, which are done by officials from both sides,” said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

“China should be well accustomed to Trump’s ways by now. Judging from how the talks are proceeding so far, there is a greater chance of the negotiations ending in some sort of a compromise instead of falling through, and such an outcome would bode well for risk sentiment,” he said.

In currencies, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was steady at 93.471 after rising to a five-month peak of 93.632 on Thursday.

The index has gained about 1 percent this week, buoyed by the surge in U.S. Treasury yields, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield hitting a seven-year peak of 3.128 percent.

The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.1805, but not far off a five-month trough of $1.1763 brushed on Wednesday. The currency has fallen nearly 1.2 percent this week, largely pressured by Italian political uncertainty.

Reports this week that Italian populist parties likely to form the country’s next government may ask the European Central Bank for debt forgiveness have raised concerns about Italy abandoning fiscal discipline.

The dollar extended an overnight rally and rose to 111.005 yen, its highest since late January. The greenback has gained about 1.4 percent against its Japanese peer this week.

Emerging market currencies have also lost ground against the dollar this week as the rise in U.S. yields showed little signs of slowing.

The Turkish lira fell to a record low against the dollar this week, the Brazilian real plumbed a two-year low while Mexico’s peso has shed more than 5 percent this month.

A retreat by Indonesia’s rupiah to a 2-1/2-year low prompted the central bank to tighten monetary policy on Thursday for the first time since 2014 to support the currency.

“Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the recent rupiah weakness has been the sheer speed in which the currency markets have turned against some emerging market countries,” wrote Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist at Jefferies.

“However, policy credibility is the most important tool and the fact that the Indonesian central bank has begun to tighten ought to alleviate some of the FX pressures.”

In commodities, Brent crude oil futures were 16 cents higher at $79.46 a barrel after rising to $80.50 on Thursday, their highest since November 2014.

Brent has risen 3 percent this week and is headed for a sixth week of gains.

A rapid slide in oil supply from Venezuela, concern that U.S. sanctions will disrupt exports from Iran, and falling global inventories have all combined to push oil prices up nearly 20 percent in 2018.

Inflation concerns, strong U.S. economic indicators and worries over increasing debt supply have pushed Treasury yields higher this week.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro

Dollar hits four-month high vs. yen, buoyed by rising U.S. yields


SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The dollar edged higher against the yen on Friday and set a fresh four-month high, buoyed by a further rise in U.S. Treasury yields that suggests a more upbeat outlook for the world’s largest economy and possibly more rate hikes.

U.S. benchmark 10-year yields hit a high of 3.128 percent in early Asian trade on Friday, the highest in nearly seven years.

The U.S. 10-year bond yield has climbed about 15 basis points this week, putting it on track for its biggest weekly rise in more than three months.

The rising yields reflect continued optimism about the U.S. economy and expectations of growing price pressures, reinforcing expectations that the Federal Reserve would raise borrowing rates at least two more times this year and lifting the greenback.

“Moves in U.S. yields remain the focus. If they rise further the dollar could strengthen on the back of that and pull the dollar higher against the yen,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

The dollar touched a high of 111.005 yen, its strongest level since Jan. 23, and last changed hands at 110.92 yen, up 0.1 percent on the day.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 93.467, trading within sight of a five-month high of 93.632 set earlier this week.

The euro inched up 0.1 percent to $1.1806. On Wednesday it had set a five-month low of $1.1763 as it came under pressure on concerns about the demands of populist parties likely to form Italy’s next government.

Italian markets had been jolted on Wednesday by a draft coalition document showing plans to ask the European Central Bank to forgive 250 billion euros in debt, and create procedures to allow countries to exit the euro.

But broader Italian markets held up better on Thursday as investors played down the broader impact on euro zone political stability and questioned whether the Italian parties would really follow through on such plans.

On Thursday, the far-right League and 5-Star Movement agreed the basis for a governing accord that would slash taxes and ramp up welfare spending.

A 5-Star source said the programme contained no reference to a possible exit from the euro.

The euro has slumped six cents from more than $1.24 in about a month, after a huge dollar rally. Investors are betting U.S. interest rates will need to rise further, while other central banks are postponing monetary tightening.

That has forced investors who took big positions against the dollar anticipating a fall in 2018 to unwind and cover their positions, pushing the greenback even higher.

The dollar will probably stay on solid footing against the yen and the euro in the near term, with U.S. economic data looking more upbeat compared to the recent indicators out of the euro zone and Japan, said Tan Teck Leng, forex analyst for UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.

In order for the dollar’s rally to lose momentum and start reversing, there needs to be an improvement in euro zone and Japanese economic data, Tan said.

“We need the data in Europe, in Japan to recover, because in the year to date, data disappointment was happening in Europe and Japan but in the U.S. it was a different picture so there was the divergence,” Tan said.

Most emerging market currencies continued to wilt against the surging dollar.

The Indonesian rupiah weakened half a percent to 14,115, its lowest in more than 2-1/2 years and shrugging off a rate rise by the central bank late on Thursday.

Reporting by Masayuki Kitano