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Festive Season Dominates Asian Markets

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By Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA

With Hong Kong and Australia closed today, along with the UK this afternoon, and a number of secondary locations, it is hardly a surprise that Asian markets are quiet today. The weekend headline newsreel was relatively quiet. Omicron cases are surging in the US and Europe, and although markets have well and truly priced in a less virulent strain, the disruption to goods and services from isolating workers, notably air travel, seems to be the main fallout so far. That is only likely to cause short-term nerves, with the global recovery story for 2022 still on track. The divergence between Brent and WTI this morning can likely be laid at that door.

In China, Industrial Profits rose by a healthy 38% (YTD) YoY Nov versus 42% for October, but well above the forecast 34%. Uncertainty in the property sector continued to be a drag in otherwise broadly strong data sector-wise. On that note, the PBOC on Saturday said that they would safeguard the legal rights of home buyers and provide greater support for the real economy. The targeted stimulus is a theme in recent times from China, as opposed to previous Stimulus strategies. Reuters also reported that Evergrande had made progress restarting home construction and that its Chairman said it would deliver 39,000 units in December. That batch of positive news, though, is being offset by increasing omicron cases in China, leaving markets in a holding pattern.

The data calendar globally, is unsurprisingly, fairly thin this week, especially for tier-1 releases. Headlines will continue to dominate intraday moves in thin trading. For Asia, the highlight will be on Friday when China releases official Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing PMIs. The recent fall in industrial commodity prices should boost Manufacturing, while Non0-Manufacturing looks vulnerable to downside risks around consumer sentiment and virus restrictions.

Otherwise, experience tells me this week will be a feast or a famine, with little in between. Either the headline reel will spur ugly intraday moves on holiday-thinned liquidity, or volatility will remain so flatline, that if it were an ECG, the doctors and nurses would be yelling code blue. In the meantime, pondering how to make the best use of Christmas leftover food may be a more productive course of action.

On one final note, I would like to acknowledge the passing of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu over the weekend. I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with him as part of my MBA in Cape Town in 2014. A formidable intellect, a kind heart, a patriotic South African and a great sense of humour was my overriding impression. I know this as he made me stand in the corner facing a wall for a while for being a Kiwi, as penance for the All Blacks beating the Springboks in rugby. He gave his heart to try to heal South Africa and gave more to society as a whole than he ever took. We need more people like him in the world. R.I.P Archbishop Tutu, it has been an honour.

Asian equities hover between slightly mixed and unchanged.

Asian equities are off to a quiet start this week, with little in the way of concrete drivers from the weekend to drive price action, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong markets closed, as well as the UK this afternoon. With volumes holiday-thinned, the Nikkei 225 is 0.25% lower, while the Kospi is down 0.10%.

Mainland China is slightly in the green after positive headlines from Evergrande and the PBOC over the weekend, which is being tempered by rising virus cases. The Shanghai Composite is 0.18% higher, and the CSI 300 has eked out a 0.05% gain.

Regionally, Singapore is unchanged while Kuala Lumpur has gained 0.65% and Bangkok 0.20%. Taipei is 0.86% higher, with Manila down 0.10% and Jakarta up 0,15%. US futures have restarted trading today and are having a quiet session as well.  Nasdaq futures gained 0.25%, S&P 500 futures 0.10%, while Dow futures are unchanged. It looks like only bored Minnesota dentists are playing in the space today.

Short of a headline surprise, I expect Europe to follow much the same pattern this afternoon.

US Dollar trades sideways.

Currency markets are in holiday mode and will likely remain so until the middle of next week. The dollar index barely changed from Friday at 96.11, marking three days of sideways trading. If anything, the US Dollar looks vulnerable to positive headlines still on the virus front this week with support between 95.80 and 95.85 the important level to monitor. Liquidity is further reduced in Asia due to several regional centre holidays.

Major currencies continue to tread water with EUR/USD at 1.1320, GBP/USD at 1.3410, USD/JPY at 114.40, AUD/USD at 0.7235, NZD/USD at 0.6820 and USD/CAD at 1.2810. None of that has been much different since last Thursday. The return of US markets this afternoon and the gnomes of Wall Street should see volatility pick up slightly this evening.

Asian currencies continue range trading as the Asian interbank market looks to have closed shop for the year now. A stronger Yuan continues to backstop Asian FX from negative sentiment shifts.

USD/TRY fell by nearly 6.0% on Friday as intervention and the central government’s effective Lira value guarantee on deposits for retail savers continues to play out. USD/TRY has risen by 3.50% today though and USD/TRY looks to be forming a base ahead of 10.0000 now. The authorities in Turkey may find engineering further Lira rallies harder going from here, and I will be watching their foreign reserve data going forward for more signals of when to re-enter the short Erdogan trade.

Brent crude and WTI stage rare divergence.

Oil prices traded sideways on low liquidity and participation on Friday, Brent crude easing slightly to $75.90 a barrel, and WTI easing to $73.20 a barrel. In Asia today, however, we are seeing a rare divergence in pricing direction. Brent crude has risen 0.70% to $76.40, while WTI has fallen by 0.65% to $73.20 a barrel.

I believe two different stories are in play here to explain the price action. CNN reported over the weekend, based on satellite photos, that Saudi Arabia is manufacturing ballistic missiles with Chinese assistance just outside of Riyad. An escalating arms race between Saudi Arabia and Iran is as good a reason to buy Brent crude as any.

In the US, hundreds of flights have been cancelled over the weekend due to staff shortages as airlines employees are forced to isolate themselves due to Covid-19 infection, notably omicron. Lower travel equalling lower economic activity in the US equals lower WTI, the US oil benchmark. Momentum is muted though, and I doubt either story will have a lasting impact on oil prices.

Brent crude has resistance at 77.05 a barrel, its 100-day moving average (DMA). It has support at $75.70. WTI has resistance at $74.10, its 100-DMA, and support at $72.30 a barrel.

Holiday risk-hedging lifts gold.

Pre-holidays risk-hedging appears to have lifted gold higher on Friday, rising 0.27% to $1808.50 an ounce. In Asia, volumes are muted, with gold edging another 0.13% higher to $1810.80.

Gold’s attempts to stage a meaningful recovery remain unconvincing, with traders cutting long positions at the very first sign of trouble intra-day. It faces a double top around the $1815.00 region which will present a formidable barrier, ahead of $1840.00.  Support lies at $1790.00, followed by $1780.00 an ounce. $1790.00 to $1815.00 continues to be my call for the range for the week.

With the US Dollar looking more vulnerable to positive virus sentiment at the moment, gold could potentially move higher throughout this week, but I wouldn’t put my house on it sustaining those gains.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Markets

Markets Today – Inflation, Jobless Claims, Boris Blunder, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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outlook

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

It’s been a rollercoaster start to the year and as we head into earnings season, it’s hard to say exactly where investors stand.

Blocking out the January noise is one thing but it’s made far more complicated by omicron, inflation, and the rapid evolution of monetary policy. Yesterday’s reaction to the inflation data was a case in point. The data mostly exceeded expectations, albeit marginally, while headline inflation was a near 40-year high of 7%. And yet the response was broadly positive.

I get that traders were perhaps fearing the worst and, as I’ve referenced before, it does feel like markets are at peak fear on US monetary policy which could make relief rallies more likely. But there is also underlying anxiety in the markets that could make for some volatile price action for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps earnings season will bring some welcome normality to the markets after a period of fear, relief, and speculation. The fourth quarter is expected to have been another strong quarter, although the emergence of omicron will likely have had an impact during the critical holiday period for many companies. Of course, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, that will likely have been to the benefit of others.

And while earnings season will provide a distraction, it is happening against an uncertain backdrop for interest rates and inflation which will keep investors on their toes. It does seem that investors are on the edge of what they will tolerate and it won’t take much to push them over the edge. Which will be fine if we are near the peak of inflation, as many expect.

The data today looks a mixed bag on the face of it, with jobless claims coming in a little higher than expected, which may be down to seasonal adjustments. The overall trend remains positive and continues to point to a tight labor market. The PPI data on the other hand will be welcomed, with the headline number slipping to 0.2% month on month. Perhaps a sign of supply-side pressures finally starting to abate which will come as a relief after inflation hit a near-40 year high last month.

Sterling solid as pressure mounts on Boris

It seems impossible to ignore the political soap opera currently taking place in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again in the public firing line after finally admitting to attending an office party in May 2020.

In other circumstances, uncertainty around the top job in the country could bring pressure in the markets but the pound is performing very well. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the controversy that forever surrounds Boris, and we’re all therefore numb to it, or a sign of the environment we’re in that the PM being a resignation risk is further down the list when compared with inflation, interest rates, omicron, energy prices etc.

Oil remains bullish near highs

Oil prices are easing again today after moving back towards seven-year highs in recent weeks. It was given an additional bump yesterday following the release of the EIA data which showed a larger draw than expected. But with crude already trading near its peak, it maybe didn’t carry the same momentum it otherwise would.

The fundamentals continue to look bullish for gold. Temporary disruptions in Kazakhstan and Libya are close to being resolved, with the latter taking a little longer to get fully back online. But OPEC being unable to hit output targets at a time when demand remains strong is ultimately keeping prices elevated and will continue to do so.

A big test for gold

Gold is off a little today but the price remains elevated with key resistance in sight. The yellow metal has remained well supported in recent weeks even as yields around the world continue to rise in anticipation of aggressive tightening from central banks.

It could be argued that the bullish case for gold is its reputation as an inflation hedge, especially given central banks’ recent record for recognizing how severe the situation is. But with inflation likely nearing its peak, that may not last. That said, fear around Fed tightening may also be peaking which could support gold in the short-term and a break through $1,833 could signal further upside to come.

Can bitcoin break key resistance?

Bitcoin is enjoying some relief along with other risk assets and has recaptured $44,000, only a few days after briefly dipping below $40,000. That swift 10% rebound is nothing by bitcoin standards and if it can break $45,500, we could see another sharp move higher as belief starts to grow that the worst of the rout is behind it. It looks like a fragile rebound at the moment but a break of that resistance could change that.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Trading at $84.53 a Barrel

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Crude Oil - Investors King

The increase in Omicron variant cases has cast doubt on demand for crude oil in the near-term and trimmed gains recorded earlier in the week on Thursday during the Asian trading session.

The brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, pulled back from $85.16 per barrel on Wednesday to $84.53 per barrel at 9:50 am Nigerian time on Thursday.

The uncertainty surrounding the highly contagious Omicron variant and its impact on fuel demand has shown by the U.S Energy Information Administration on Wednesday dragged on the global crude oil outlook.

The data released on Wednesday revealed that gasoline stockpiles rose by 8 million barrels last week, way higher than the 2.4 million barrel increase projected by experts. Suggesting that demand for the commodity is gradually waning in response to omicron.

“Gasoline demand was weaker-than-expected and still below pre-pandemic levels, and if this becomes a trend, oil won’t be able to continue to push higher,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya stated.

However, in a note to Investors King, Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA, expected the impact of omicron to be short-lived. Libya’s inability to ramp up production after outage and OPEC plus continuous failure to meet production target are expected to support crude oil in the main term even with Kazakhstan expected to get back to pre-disruption levels in a few days.

“With omicron seen being less of a drag on growth and demand than feared. Combine this with short supply and there may be some room to run in the rally as restrictions are removed. Of course, Covid brings unpredictability and zero-covid policies of China and some others bring plenty of downside risk for prices,” he said.

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Commodities

Soybean Oil Prices to Rise by 4% in 2022 Over Increase in Demand for Biofuels

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Soybean Oil

In 2022, global soybean oil prices, driven by an increase in the demand for biofuels, have been projected to rise by about 4 percent, to $1,425 per tonne; a market report from IndexBox reveals.

According to the IndexBox report, the growing demand for biofuels, especially in Asia, will increase the prices of soybean oil globally.

The platform put it that in 2021, the average annual soybean oil price rose by 65 percent year-on-year to $1,385 per tonne, from $838 per tonne. Strong demand and high freight rates in China, which is the world’s second-largest importer of soybean oil, resulted in the most rapid price growth of the commodity in the third quarter (Q3) of the same year. Weather-related disruptions to production in South America also caused soybean oil prices to rise fast.

In 2020, IndexBox estimates that soybean oil purchases in the foreign markets rose by 7.5% to 13 million tonnes, increasing for the second year in a row after three years of decline. In value terms, soybean oil imports have grown notably to $10.3 billion.

India was the highest importing country with a purchase volume of around 3.7 million tonnes, accounting for 28% of global supplies. China ranked second with a purchase volume of 963 thousand tonnes.  Algeria (670 thousand tonnes) and Bangladesh (666 thousand tonnes) were ranked as the third and fourth major importing country.

The four countries altogether accounted for about 17% of total soybean oil imports. Coming behind as the fifth-highest importer is Morocco (547 thousand tonnes), followed by Mauritania (537 thousand tonnes), Peru (521 thousand tonnes), South Korea (390 thousand tonnes), Colombia (378 thousand tonnes), Venezuela (373 thousand tonnes), Egypt (243 thousand tonnes), Poland (229 thousand tonnes) and Nepal (215 thousand tonnes).

India in value terms ($3 billion) being the largest market for soybean oil imports in the world, accounted for 29 percent of global imports. The second position in the ranking was taken by China ($725 million) with a 7 percent share. North African country, Algeria came third with a share of 4.6 percent of the total value.

Top Soybean oil exporters

In 2020, Argentina was the major exporter of soybean oil (5.3 million tonnes), constituting 42% of total exports. The United States (1238 thousand tonnes), Brazil (1110 thousand tonnes), Paraguay (631 thousand tonnes), the Netherlands (615 thousand tonnes) and Russia (611 thousand tonnes) follow, altogether accounting for 33% of global supplies. Meanwhile, Spain (387 thousand tonnes), Bolivia (377 thousand tonnes), Ukraine (302 thousand tonnes), Turkey (208 thousand tonnes) and Germany (192 thousand tonnes) had relatively small shares in the total volume.

In value terms, Argentina remains the largest supplier of soybean oil in the world ($ 3.7 billion), which accounts for 39% of global exports. The United States ($ 979 million), with a share of 10% of the total supply is ranked second. Both countries are followed by Brazil with an 8% share.

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