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Markets Today – Cautious Optimism, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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Stocks - Investors King

By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Equity markets are marginally lower after strong sessions on Monday and Tuesday, a sign that investors are remaining cautious despite encouraging data on the new variant.

Volatility is going nowhere over the coming weeks but investors are clearly enthused by what the early data is telling us. That said, with the UK considering “plan B” restrictions, it would appear leaders are not as enthused by what they’re seeing, which frankly makes me wonder whether markets are getting ahead of themselves.

The knee-jerk reaction to the new variant was obviously overdone based on the information we now have but where the markets will end up is anyone’s guess. There’s still plenty more to learn. Of course, investors love to buy those dips so no one would be surprised if we were in the early stages of this year’s Santa rally.

There are so many different risk factors to contend with right now. Just as Covid appeared to take a back seat for much of the last few months, there’s now far less talk of inflation risks and interest rates. Markets are now pricing in little chance of a rate hike next week from the BoE and a faster taper from the Fed also looks less certain.

Is the market going to reward such caution from the central banks or will inflation fears take over again and push real yields lower. That would certainly be great for gold prices in the near term but could make for some nervous times next year. As has been said so often recently, central banks are stuck between a rock and a hard place and life isn’t getting any easier for them.

Oil recovers well but faces major resistance

Oil prices are easing slightly today after an impressive rally since the OPEC+ meeting last week. Brent appears to have run into some resistance around the lower end of $76.50-77.50 which could be a big obstacle to the upside. This was a big area of support in late September and again in late November and a move back above here could set the stage for a push back above $80.

That may be tough in the near term with so much still unknown about the Omicron variant and governments in discussions about appropriate restrictions to slow the rapid spread. But clearly, OPEC+ warnings have not fallen on deaf ears and should the variant not prove too bad, crude prices could remain well supported.

Gold edges off lows but remains vulnerable

Gold is slightly lower on the day as it continues to struggle to generate any upside momentum whatsoever. It recently held onto the mid-October and November lows but continues to face significant resistance to the upside. Omicron uncertainty didn’t help the yellow metal despite its safe-haven reputation, which begs the question, what will drag it higher?

Central banks are unlikely to flood the market with liquidity again if we see severe restrictions or lockdowns as it battles uncomfortably high and widespread inflation. But they may take a more patient approach in order to remain as accommodative as possible, which could still be viewed as an inflation risk and drive more hedge flows in the coming weeks. If not, we could see the ground below become very shaky.

Can bitcoin cling on

Bitcoin has clawed its way back above $50,000 and appeared to be clinging on after sinking back below earlier in the day. The risk rebound we’ve seen in the markets has aided the recovery but it still looks vulnerable after the weekend plunge and any sudden shift in risk appetite could trigger another dip. Should it hold above $50,000 then the next test remains around $53,500, with a move above leaving it on a much stronger footing and perhaps signaling the end of the correction.

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Fed Must Not Fail on Inflation AGAIN With Too Many Hikes

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The U.S. Federal Reserve has already failed on inflation, they must not do so again by “hitting the brakes too hard with too many rate hikes,” affirms the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, asset management and fintech organisations.

The comments from deVere Group’s Nigel Green follow the world’s most influential central bank on Wednesday refusing to rule out an aggressive run of interest rate rises as he all but confirmed the first increase would be implemented in March.

He says: “As was widely expected by the markets, the Fed –  now in hawkish mode – has practically green-lit a rate rise for the first time in three years in March as it tries to take on surging inflation, which is running at its hottest in 40 years.

“The Fed admitted that inflation may not drop toward its pre-pandemic levels any time soon, and that the rise in prices could, in fact, speed-up.

“Why, then, did the world’s most powerful central bank not act sooner to stem this off quicker?

“This grand scale inaction must be the biggest miscalculation in the Fed’s history.”

He continues: “However, now the debate is focusing on how fast the U.S. central bank will move toward policy normalization.”

Some leading experts on Wall Street are saying there could be up to five rate hikes in 2022, others are now suggesting even more than this.

“I would urge the Fed not to fail on inflation again by hitting the brakes with too many rate hikes,” says Nigel Green.

“The excess money in the system will come out fast. There’s a real risk that numerous interest rate hikes would cause a recession and may not even slow inflation as the soaring prices are triggered by supply chain issues which the Fed’s hikes will not solve.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Chair Jerome Powell swerved a question about whether the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) would raise rates at all subsequent meetings this year, which would mean seven increases in 2022.

The deVere CEO concludes: “With booming demand, snarled supply chains and high levels of wage growth, the Fed might be tempted to act too fast with rate hikes this year.

“But such moves could turn out to be a masterclass in the law of unintended consequences.”

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Markets Today – Earnings, Fed, BoC, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

We’re seeing a strong start to trading on Wednesday after what has been a very turbulent start to the week.

We’ve seen some sharp sell-offs already this week but investors appear to be encouraged by just how quickly and strong markets have bounced back. Monday looked like it was going to be a bloodbath in equity markets but rather than panic, investors poured back in and seized upon the lower valuations.

We saw this again after the close on Tuesday, when Microsoft earnings caused another wobble but reassurances around decelerating cloud growth were enough to trigger another wave of bargain hunting and we’re seeing that carry through to Europe today. US futures also look very healthy ahead of a crucial Fed decision later.

Fed misstep could have severe consequences

The Fed could have a big role to play in whether stock markets will build on these encouraging signs. As ever, every word will be poured over so I expect the central bank will take a very careful approach in its communication later on.

They need to be careful to find the right balance between taking inflation seriously and not overdoing it. These markets will be easily spooked so today is all about finding just the right balance. That means sending a clear signal about a March hike and alluding to discussions around balance sheet reduction towards the middle of the year.

We probably won’t get any specifics from Powell on when that will start or how fast it will happen, nor on how many hikes we’ll get this year. He will probably be keen to stress how seriously they’re taking it though and how they’ll do whatever is necessary. Ultimately, we may learn very little but the important thing is we don’t see a misstep as the consequences could be severe.

BoC expected to start aggressive tightening cycle

The Bank of Canada is unlikely to wait until March, with markets quite heavily pricing in a rate hike today and as much as six this year. This comes as inflation has risen to the highest level in 30 years and far above its 1-3% target range. With the labour market also tightening following a strong recovery from the pandemic, the time has arrived for accommodation to be removed.

The only question now is just how fast they’ll move and whether they’ll look to reduce their balance sheet, rather than just aggressively raise rates. The loonie has performed well recently, buoyed by very hawkish rate expectations and we could get more clarity on how accurate they are today.

Oil eyeing triple figures after brief pullback

Oil prices are continuing to edge higher after a brief pullback last week. The move followed some turbulence at the start of the week and came as API reported an 872,000 barrel draw which exceeded expectations. Crude prices are once again closing in on $90 and at this point, it doesn’t look like we’ll be waiting long.

So immediately it becomes a question how long we’ll be waiting for triple figures. The supply/demand dynamics remain favourable and the potential for conflict in Ukraine can only be supportive, as additional risk premiums are priced in. It’s still unlikely that oil and gas will be used as a weapon any time soon but if it was, it could lead to a serious surge in prices given how tight the markets are.

Gold awaits Fed decision

Gold is continuing to hold up ahead of the Fed meeting, close to $1,850 where it has seen some resistance recently. The central bank will have a big role to play on whether the yellow metal breaks above here or below $1,830 support.

It has been rising recently even as the market has priced in four hikes and balance sheet reduction which may suggest we’re seeing some inflation hedging in case more tightening is needed. Risk aversion may also be supporting the gold price. Either way, we should have more clarity later today.

Cause for optimism?

The recovery in bitcoin over the last couple of days has been really encouraging. After falling to around $33,000, more than 50% from its highs, the cryptocurrency has performed extremely well and finds itself 4% higher on the day around $38,000. It’s not out of the woods yet though and if broader risk appetite takes a hit, I’d expect bitcoin to suffer more. Whether that will see it test the crucial $30,000 region, only time will tell, but traders will be very relieved at what they’ve seen this week. The key test above is $40,000, a break of which could see momentum accelerate to the upside.

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Markets Today – Rollercoaster Ride, Fed, Earnings, Ukraine, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

It’s been a rollercoaster start to what was always going to be a massive week in the markets and there’s little reason to expect that to change in the coming days.

The turnaround on Monday was incredible. From eye-watering losses to ending the day in the green; it’s not often you see that kind of action. Investors will no doubt be relieved but that could prove to be short-lived. US futures are back in negative territory ahead of the open – albeit to a much lesser degree at the moment – and even at the close on Monday, the Nasdaq was more than 13% off its highs.

The next couple of days will be huge. So much could hang on the communication from the Fed tomorrow and whether they strike the right balance between taking inflation seriously and not raising rates too aggressively. It’s a tightrope situation but if the central bank can find the right balance, more may be tempted by these levels.

It’s not just on the Fed, of course. On Monday, it was geopolitics that appeared to tip investors over the edge. The reaction looked over the top but that is indicative of the level of underlying anxiety in the markets at the moment. And if things don’t improve this week, we may see more episodes like that.

Which brings us to earnings season and a week in which numerous companies release fourth-quarter results, including a number of big tech names. A disappointing start to the season hasn’t helped to lift the mood but that could change this week. If not, the January blues could turn into something far more unsettling.

Fundamentals remain bullish for oil

Oil got caught up in the sell-everything panic at the start of the week, sliding more than 3% at one stage before recovering a little. There wasn’t much sense behind the move, but the fact that the dollar was strengthening and crude was already seeing profit-taking after peaking just shy of $90, probably contributed to it.

The market remains fundamentally bullish and conflict with Russia does nothing to alleviate supply-side pressures. If anything, the risks are tilted in the other direction, not that I think it will come to that. Nor does the market at this point, it seems.

Still, it was only likely to be a matter of time until oil bulls poured back in and prices are up again today. The correction from the peak was less than 5% so that may be a little premature, but then the market is very tight so perhaps not.

Conditions remain favourable for gold

Gold continues to be well supported at the start of the week, following some turbulent trading conditions and dollar strength. It continued to hold over the last couple of sessions around $1,830 and has pushed higher with $1,850 now in its sights.

The yellow metal is pulling back a little today, off a few dollars, but it remains in a good position. There still appears to be momentum behind the rally which could continue to take it higher. A move through yesterday’s lows could see that slip but at this point in time, conditions continue to look favourable. Of course, the Fed tomorrow could have a huge role to play in whether that continues to be the case which may explain the consolidation in recent days.

A strong recovery for bitcoin

Bitcoin rebounded strongly on Monday, alongside other risk assets that had also been pummelled earlier in the day. It’s trading a little lower today but that won’t be a major concern at this stage as broader risk appetite is holding up so far. Whether that is sustainable will determine how bitcoin responds and that may depend on the Fed tomorrow.

Bitcoin found support at $33,000 on Monday which isn’t far from a hugely important support zone around $30,000. If risk appetite takes a turn for the worse again, we could see that come under severe pressure. If the price can hold above here in the short term, it could be a very positive sign.

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