Volatility has been a pervasive force not only across asset classes, but across regions, as uncertainty over the global economic recovery lingers……
Not only has ECB president Draghi warned investors to be prepared for more bond market volatility, but IMF Head Lagarde has muddied the waters by urging the US Fed to delay rate hikes despite an improving outlook because of the potential consequences that rising volatility and a strong USD could have. Indeed EM have not been excluded, with Chinese equities rebounding from recent slump, as optimism over the potential inclusion in the MSCI indices rises ahead of this week’s decision.
Agricultural commodities get boost from weather. Coffee topped commodity gains, as the potential for crop damage during the Brazilian winter sparked fears of lower harvest. Stocks-to-use are at two year lows, so we expect adverse weather conditions to fuel the current rally. In the grains space, wheat also posted a better than 7% gain for the week, as hard winter wheat quality dipped and the threat of rainfall potentially delaying harvests. Meanwhile, as expected, OPEC maintained the status quo, keeping oil production unchanged. Clearly they are playing the long game. And investors anticipated the result, with managed money positions in ICE Brent crude futures have dropped by over 35% to the lowest level seen since early April. With US rig counts stabilising, commercial crude stocks have fallen for the fifth consecutive week. However, stocks remain significantly elevated compared to longer term averages and there is still scope for downside in crude prices.
China A-shares investors waiting for MSCI. After a sharp downturn for Chinese equities, a 7.5% surge back to over 7-year highs occurred last week, as investors betted that MSCI would decide (on Tuesday) to include China A-shares in its benchmark EM index. Such a move would be tempered and managed, with initial mainland allocations capped at just over 1%. Nonetheless, inclusion would see an influx of additional foreign funds, helping support the current rally. European equity slump continues on Greek concern. The threat of a Greek default remains the one factor holding back a concerted continuation of the rally that European equity benchmarks began in 2015. Despite bundling its IMF payment until end June, European equity volatility will remain until some clarity of whether a Greek debt agreement can be reached and the scope of such a deal.
USD weakness unlikely to last. Volatility certainly has not been absent from currency markets, as policymakers prompted the EUR/USD to trade a wide 1.09-1.14 range last week. Despite the IMF’s insistence to delay rate hikes, the improving jobs environment is likely to keep the US Fed on a September rate hike path. A gradual and well communicated tightening cycle combined with the Fed maintaining a healthy balance sheet is unlikely to derail the US recovery, but it should keep the USD well supported. While US labour market conditions are a key indicator that the US Fed is looking at to give it justification for tighter policy, this week’s retail sales will also give better clarity on the health of household balance sheets and whether the Q1 weakness was a likely aberration. Meanwhile, GBP volatility is also likely to remain, with Governor Carney’s testimony on inflation to Parliament the key event of the week for UK investors.