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Dow Streak Of Record Highs In Danger As S&P Slides; Gold Surges

The near-record string of 10 consecutive Dow Industrials record highs, a streak not seen since early 1987, may be about to end if futures, which are currently trading -0.3% lower, fail to stage a rebound.

Global markets started off Friday on the back foot, with most Asian markets dropping, while commodity-related sectors and banks led European shares lower for a third straight session on Friday as the dollar was poised for a weekly loss as the latest attempt to spark the "Trumpflation trade" fizzled, sending gold to $1,256, the highest since the US presidential election, as the dollar slumped following Mnuchin's comments. Investors are turning cautious as European political risks remain and ahead of a major speech from U.S. President Donald Trump next week.

The big mover in commodities is Gold which has solidly jumped above the $1,250 level, a largely USD-based move, as risk sentiment rose despite the weaker greenback, but sustainability as these levels (Gold) are key over coming sessions. Gold's rise for a fourth week was aided by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who said Thursday he expects low borrowing costs to persist, sparking a drop in the dollar. Mnuchin also took the edge off the recent market optimism when he said any policy steps by the Trump administration would probably have only a limited impact this year. The comments, made in his first televised interviews since taking office last week, suggested much work was still needed on a sweeping tax reform plan that Mnuchin called his main priority.

"Mnuchin's comments were less belligerently reflationary than they could have been, in a dollar strength context, and that probably did much of the damage (to the dollar)," said UBS Wealth Management currency strategist Geoffrey Yu, in London.

Concerns about the credibility of Trump's tax plan also emerged: “Next week it will be three weeks since President Trump promised something ‘phenomenal’ with respect to tax reform and investors are starting to become a little restless,” Michael Hewson, the London-based chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a report. If Trump’s speech next week fails to provide details, “then the rally that we’ve seen in the past three months could become susceptible to some profit-taking,” he said.

As a result, a fifth weekly gain for global equities that’s helped push their value above $70 trillion is losing momentum as money managers grapple with political uncertainty and the Federal Reserve’s schedule for lifting borrowing costs. Traders are taking profits before Trump’s address to House and Senate lawmakers Tuesday in the U.S.

European shares slid after subdued forecasts from European bluechips including BASF and Vivendi and a drop in mining shares, while Standard Chartered was among the worst performers in the FTSE 100 as profits fell short of analyst expectations. RBS also trades in the red after the bank announced a whopping GBP 7bIn loss for 2016. Elsewhere, French telecom giant Vivendi is the notable laggard across Europe amid reports that Milan prosecutors are looking in the company over alleged market manipulation in stake building in MediaSet. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.3 percent as of 10:06 a.m. in London, dropping for a third day and paring a weekly advance.

London copper prices recovered slightly from their big overnight fall on the back of fresh doubts about Chinese demand. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 was up 0.8 percent at $5,907 a tonne by 0700 GMT after falling 3 percent in the previous session.

Japan’s Topix index lost 0.4 percent. The gauge rose 0.4 percent for the week. Futures on the S&P 500 fell 0.3 percent. The index rose less than 0.1 percent on Thursday, while the Dow posted a 10th day of gains, its longest streak of record closes since 1987.

Oil prices fell after U.S. crude inventories rose for a seventh week, showing the market is still struggling to ease oversupply despite producers' efforts to rein in output. Benchmark Brent crude oil was down 48 cents at $56.10 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate traded at $54.06 a barrel, down 39 cents.

In rates, German bonds were supported as credit spreads widened. German two-year yields dropped three basis points, with the ECB’s bond-buying program seen supporting the sector. Having routed the French bond market recently, sellers are now focusing on Italy where the German-Italian 10Y spread rose above 200 bps.

The swap spread rose to new records across the two- to five-year sector. A note from Citigroup suggested that German two-year yields could fall to minus 1 percent or more, as the ECB will be forced to buy more short-dated bonds.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.3% to 2,354
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.6% to 371
  • MXAP down 0.4% to 145.92
  • MXAPJ down 0.5% to 468.82
  • Nikkei down 0.5% to 19,283.54
  • Topix down 0.4% to 1,550.14
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.6% to 23,965.70
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.06% to 3,253.43
  • Sensex up 0.1% to 28,892.97
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.8% to 5,738.99
  • Kospi down 0.6% to 2,094.12
  • German 10Y yield fell 2.9 bps to 0.204%
  • Euro up 0.07% to 1.0589 per US$
  • Brent Futures down 0.7% to $56.19/bbl
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 3.1 bps to 2.225%
  • Spanish 10Y yield rose 5.4 bps to 1.74%
  • Brent Futures down 0.7% to $56.19/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,255.96
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.2% to 100.90

Top Overnight News from BBG

  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc laid out a plan to cut costs by 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) over the next four years as it posted its ninth straight annual loss and delayed profitability targets
  • After striking deals in Russian oil and Congolese copper mining, Glencore Plc has set its sights on the U.S. grain- trading industry
  • Pimco says Beijing’s “cautious tightening signals” are largely being ignored by banks and at the local level, where attention is focused on maintaining steady economic growth
  • Value Partners, one of the world’s best-performing junk bond funds, is betting on stressed debt
  • New Exxon Chief Darren Woods is focusing on climate change, calling for a carbon tax to discourage use of polluting fuels

In Asia, equity markets traded lower following a mixed lead from US where the DJIA and S&P 500 were buoyed by healthcare and utilities. ASX 200 (-0.8%) underperformed and was weighed by the metals & mining sector amid commodity prices sliding lower, after Dalian Iron ore declined 5.5% yesterday. Nikkei 225 (-0.5%) conformed to the downbeat tone despite support from a weakening JPY overnight as well as Toshiba stocks trading higher by around +5%. In China, Hang Seng (-0.4%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.1%) suffered from the PBoC's trend of ever weakening liquidity injections this week, with the daily operation providing only a total of CNY 30bIn. 10yr JGBs traded higher due to the risk averse tone in the region with the curve flattening amid outperformance seen in the super long end.

Top Asia News

  • Japan Equity Movers: Komatsu, Kobe Steel, NEG, Morinaga, Line
  • China’s New Banking Regulator Chief Faces Daunting Challenges
  • Calmer Asian Currencies Spell Return of Global Yield Hunters
  • ANA to Spend $270 Million to Raise Stake in Peach Aviation
  • China H Shares Pare Weekly Gain as Anhui Conch, Great Wall Drop
  • Options Traders Make Bullish Bets on HKEX as Earnings Loom
  • Hong Kong Awards Ap Lei Chau Site For HK$16.9b to Logan, KWG
  • Hong Kong Existing Home Prices Climb to Record, Defying Curbs
  • Pearson Weighs Options for English-Language Units in China

European bourses have started the last trading session of the week on the backfoot, with Standard Chartered among the worst performers in the FTSE 100 as profits fell short of analyst expectations, while RBS also trades in the red after the bank announced a whopping GBP 7bIn loss for 2016. Elsewhere, French telecom giant Vivendi is the notable laggard across Europe amid reports that Milan prosecutors are looking in the company over alleged market manipulation in stake building in MediaSet. Across fixed income markets, yields in the German 2-yr took another leg lower to print fresh record lows (as a reminder, the ECB previously said that they investigating the squeeze in the Eurozone repo market), the GE-FR spread continues to see some modest widening, while the fixed income space has been supported by the wave of short covering.

Top European News

  • RBS Cuts CEO’s Potential Share Award 40% After Ninth Annual Loss
  • Jupiter Fund CEO Says Firm Is Big Enough to Remain Independent
  • Lower Turkish Rate Bets Emerge as Swap Curve Pares Inversion
  • Mnuchin Tells Carney to Expect America-First Push on Regulation
  • UniCredit’s Record $13.8 Billion Rights Offer 99.8% Subscribed
  • Banco BPM Extends Drop; Shares From Withdrawal Right From Feb

In currencies, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped 0.1% after falling 0.3 percent in the previous session. The yen rose 0.1 percent to 112.3 per dollar, after rising 0.6 percent Thursday. It's been more of the same in the FX markets today as the USD continues to lose ground, but very modestly so given the consensus base line of 2 Fed rate hikes this year. Rather the moves are reflective of the skew moving towards an `on-hold' call at the March meeting, though the odds are mixed among the surveys, stretching form circa 20-40% for a 25bp rate hike. Looking at the USDJPY, TSY yields are grinding towards the lower end of the range established in recent months, with the key 10yr still inside 2.30-2.55%. We have dipped under 2.37% this morning, resulting in a rather reluctant move below 112.50, though no sudden urge to recover. This is much the same for the EUR/USD move towards 1.0600, but with (French/Dutch) election news subsiding, the single unit has moderated since. GBP is in limbo as a result, with EUFt/GBP drawn towards the 0.8450 level. We have attempted a return towards 0.8400 — which may well still materialise — but comments from the Bundesbank's Dombret including the prospects of UK access looking 'rather dim' have, at the very least, curtailed the impromptu rise in GBP. Cable is struggling well ahead of 1.2600, as it did in yesterday's North American session.

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate traded 0.6 percent lower at $54.12 a barrel. Brent fell 0.7 percent to $56.22. The big mover in commodities are in precious metals where Gold has now pierced the USD1250 level, though with limited momentum. This is purely USD based, as risk sentiment remains on an even keel, so sustainability as these levels (Gold) are key over coming sessions. Base metals may be showing some gains on the day, but after reports that president Trump's fiscal plans may be delayed into next year, Copper has retreated some way below the USD2.700 level, dragging Iron Ore with it. Adding pressure on the latter are reports of growing stockpiles in China, and this has clear implications on demand forecasts going forward. Oil prices still holding familiar territory on hopes that the agreed production cuts will be followed up by 100% compliance. Yesterday's build reported in the DoE reported a small build, but having a modest impact in the aftermath.

Looking at the day ahead, the only data due is January new home sales (expected to bounce back) and the final revisions to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading.

US Event Calendar

  • 10am: New Home Sales, est. 570,500, prior 536,000; MoM, est. 6.44%, prior -10.4%
  • 10am: U. of Mich. Sentiment, est. 96, prior 95.7; Current Conditions, prior 111.2; Expectations, prior 85.7; 1 Yr Inflation, prior 2.8%; 5-10 Yr Inflation, prior 2.5%

* * *

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

It's perhaps not the best time to admit that I've no idea why Bunds are rallying so hard at the moment. 10y yields (-4.7bps) hit 0.228% yesterday, down from their YTD peak of 0.495% intraday on the 26th of January. 2y yields also closed another -3.0bps lower yesterday at -0.932%. They traded as ‘high’ as -0.648% back on the same day. The most obvious explanation is of course Euro systemic risk - especially from France and perhaps Italy. However other markets (equities, equity vol, the Euro, broader credit spreads etc) aren't moving much to price in redenomination risk in Europe. A lack of high quality collateral has been cited as an explanation but it's not clear there is much new info on this over recent days to explain the move. Perhaps it's as simple as government bond investors are generally by nature ultra conservative and Bunds seemingly offer complete safety from redenomination risk. Although on this we'd note that yesterday 10 year French OAT yields fell another -3.6bps and hit their lowest yield (0.978%) for 4 weeks. Ironically the latest Q4 Germany GDP numbers yesterday showed the country as ending the year as the fastest growing advanced economy in 2016. Indeed 2016 GDP growth in Germany was +1.9% which compares to +1.8% for the UK, +1.7% for the Eurozone and +1.6% for the US.

New US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin does however expect growth in the US to hit a “sustainable growth rate of 3% or more” towards the end of next year following comments in a televised interview with CNBC yesterday. Mnuchin also said that the new administration is looking closely at the border adjustment tax and that the White House wants to pass a “very significant” tax reform by August. There was also some focus on his remarks about possibly issuing 50y or 100y Treasury bonds, saying that they are exploring the option and that they will reach out to the market and investors. On China and the recent FX manipulation chatter Mnuchin stopped short of labelling China a manipulator but said that the Treasury would go through the usual processes of looking at “currency manipulation across the board” suggesting also that no judgments will be made before the Treasury’s April report.

On a related note there was also some focus on a Business Insider report suggesting that Trump may be considering delaying a proposed  $550bn infrastructure spending plan until 2018. The crux of it was that the administration’s time is being taken up by other big proposed reforms including taxes and the Obamacare repeal and that a timing delay to 2018 would make sense in the context of next year’s mid-term elections.

While industrials and materials names did underperform on the back of that report it was still another fairly dull session overall for US equities. The S&P 500 finished +0.04% while the Dow ended +0.17% and took its run of new record highs to ten sessions in a row. By the way that is now 52 days that the S&P 500 hasn’t closed up or down by more than 1%. As a reminder the run in 2014 was 62 days so it’s now within sight. Needless to say that the VIX – little changed at 11.71 yesterday – continues to hover only just above the decade low levels. In rates Treasury yields also marched lower yesterday. 10y yields finished the day -4.1bps lower at 2.373% and are now down some 18bps from the January highs. The curve did however steepen slightly (30y yields finishing -2.0bps lower) probably reflecting those Mnuchin comments about possible ultra long-dated issuance. In commodities WTI Oil (+1.60%) did rise back above $54/bbl following the latest inventory data although base metals took a hit with Iron Ore and Copper  in particular both down over 3%.

With little new news to report of this morning it appears that those declines in metals are to blame for a soft end to the week for risk in Asia. The Nikkei (-0.49%), Shanghai Comp (-0.35%), Hang Seng (-0.34%) and ASX (-0.85%) are all in the red. Currencies have been relatively flat while rates are stronger.

Moving on. The Fedspeak continued again yesterday although it’s clear that the market is failing to price in much more chance of a March move despite a number of Fed officials signalling how “live” the March meeting is. Atlanta Fed President Lockhart was the latest yesterday and he said also that there will be “serious consideration” at the meeting but also that the term “fairly soon” (in reference to the FOMC minutes) “leaves options open for probably the next three meetings”. Lockhart also spoke about the balance sheet and said that he would be in favour of letting “natural runoff gradually shrink the balance sheet”. Late last night Dallas Fed President Kaplan also said that the committee should keep options open for a March move. Bloomberg’s calculator currently sits at a 38% probability for a March rate hike. It’s worth noting that the US data was a bit of a sideshow yesterday. Initial jobless claims came in at 244k and marginally higher than the week before while the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing survey index rose  5pts to +14 and the highest since June 2011.

Meanwhile there were also some comments from Bundesbank President Weidmann yesterday. He opined that “the balance of risks might be more favourable today that it was before” and that possible market  anticipations about a lift in interest rates by the ECB in 2019 “don’t sound absurd” and are “in the possibility that I see”.

Staying in Europe, in terms of the other data yesterday, in Germany the latest consumer confidence reading revealed a small 0.2pt tick down in confidence to 10.0 although it’s worth highlighting that that is still at relatively elevated levels versus the last few years. In France business confidence was flat in February and in the UK the CBI’s distributive trades survey pointed to some improvement in retailers’ sales in February following a soft January. Just wrapping up, it’s worth noting that following a positive meeting between Merkel and Lagarde on Wednesday concerning Greece, the creditors are now expected to return to Greece next Tuesday where talks should focus on the exact fiscal tightening measures needed over 2018 and 2019, as well as conditional easing. So worth keeping an eye on how things proceed there.

Looking at the day ahead, it looks set to be a fairly quiet end to the week. In Europe this morning we’ll get the February consumer confidence reading as well as industrial orders and sales data in Italy. Over in the US the only data due is January new home sales (expected to bounce back) and the final revisions to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading.