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Nerves Amid China Warnings

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

We’re seeing more risk aversion on Tuesday as Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan generates numerous unsettling headlines at a time of strained ties between the US and China.

US House Speaker Pelosi’s proposed visit has been met with numerous threats from Beijing including an unspecified military response. They have continued this morning, hours ahead of the apparent arrival which is clearly making investors very nervous.

Stock markets throughout most of Asia are in the red, with those in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan unsurprisingly seeing the biggest declines. In Europe, it’s more of a mixed bag while US futures are pointing to a slightly lower open which may change in the hours leading up to the opening bell depending on where Pelosi touches down.

Another member of camp “data-dependent”

The Australian dollar slid on Tuesday as the RBA joined the Fed in camp “data-dependent” following a string of aggressive rate hikes. The central bank maintained that further tightening will be warranted but was keen to stress that they are not on a pre-set path and that they will be driven by the data.

The RBAs forecasts highlight the challenges facing the economy, with unemployment seen falling a little further before rising to 4% but this is naturally subject to immense uncertainty in the outlook. I expect the RBA, like the Fed and others, will continue tightening fairly aggressively over the course of the remainder of the year before proceeding with far more caution into 2023.

Smashed it out of the park

BP unsurprisingly smashed it out of the park in the second quarter, reporting its second highest profit ever as energy firms continue to capitalise on soaring prices. The company has boosted its dividend by 10% and intends to execute a $3.5 billion share buyback on the back of the results which were far stronger than expected. It also highlighted its investment in the energy transition although, in the current climate, that will be overshadowed by the billions being returned to shareholders.

There will undoubtedly be an enormous amount of attention on these earnings, which come days after Shell’s record profits, coming at a time when households are facing eye-watering energy bills. But in much the same way that these firms make huge profits when prices are high, it works both ways. Not that this makes it any easier to accept when we’re experiencing such an extreme example as we are currently.

How influential is Biden in OPEC+?

Oil prices are slipping again on Tuesday as traders take a more cautious stance ahead of the OPEC+ meeting. There’s a lot more uncertainty this time around as they’re no longer on a pre-set path that people were hoping would change but never really did. The decision this week will tell us just how unified the group still is, how committed it is to rebalancing the market and whether President Biden has any influence in the cartel at all.

There have been reports that Saudi Arabia will put forward a case for higher levels of production at the meeting after making assurances to President Biden. Of course, that won’t necessarily translate into an agreement on higher output, with the priority remaining the unity of the alliance. And let’s not forget that the group is still incapable of delivering on what it’s already agreed. So unless Saudi Arabia and the UAE are going to do more heavy lifting, any deal may have little impact on the situation.

Can gold push on from here?

Gold is relatively flat on Tuesday after securing a fourth consecutive day of gains at the start of the week. The yellow metal has been buoyed by the moves we’ve seen in bond markets, the shift to a less hawkish stance by the Fed and the pullback in the dollar. The threat of recession and the potential realisation that the stock market is just experiencing another bear-market rally may also feed into further gold strength.

The next big test to the upside falls around $1,800 although it could see some resistance around $1,780 where it appears to have stumbled this morning. A corrective move to the downside could see support arrive around $1,750-1,760, as we’ve seen in the past. It all depends on how much further yields can fall given inflation is still high and more tightening is almost inevitable.

A bottom in bitcoin?

Bitcoin is recording losses for a third consecutive day in what could be a sign of recovery momentum waning. There certainly were signs of this during the most recent rally which peaked a little shy of $25,000 and the corrective pattern that’s formed over the last month and a half could easily be viewed as a bearish setup following the sell-off that preceded it. It’s difficult to say at this point but it will probably ultimately depend on inflation, the Fed and whether we see any more worrying crypto news flow. Perhaps the hesitancy is a sign that traders lack confidence that this is a bottom and the start of the good times returning.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Markets

Steady After Fed Minutes

The European session is off to a mixed start after both the US and Asia posted small losses overnight.

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

The European session is off to a mixed start after both the US and Asia posted small losses overnight.

The Fed minutes on Wednesday didn’t really offer anything we didn’t already know. Even those that leapt at the opportunity to buy the supposed “dovish pivot” are aware that this isn’t quite the case and the minutes really back that up. Not that they needed to as the Fed commentary that has followed has made that perfectly clear.

The central bank did stress the need to slow the pace of rate increases as monetary policy tightened further which most expected would be the case anyway. Of course, that is ultimately dependent on the inflation data allowing for such a move and the July reading was certainly the first step towards that.

It also referenced the risk of monetary policy being tightened more than necessary to restore price stability which could be read a couple of different ways. While it doesn’t suggest it will over tighten intentionally, the Fed is clearly determined to get inflation back to target and ensure the public believes it will.

The statement could therefore suggest it will act in a more aggressive manner than markets expect in order to deliver on that. Alternatively, it could indicate that the central bank is aware of the risks and may therefore ease off the break as soon as the opportunity arises in order to avoid tightening too much. ​

It also raises the possibility of a swift u-turn from hiking rates to cutting them as markets have indicated recently and policymakers have pushed back against. Needless to say, there are many more twists and turns to come.

A cause for concern or merely a blip?

The Australian jobs data looked pretty shocking on the face of it. Not only did employment fall by 40,900 – against an expectation of a 26,500 gain – but the drop in full-time employment was considerably worse at 86,900 which was then partially offset by a rise in part-time workers. All told, it looks pretty grim but as is so often the case, there’s a caveat.

This data was not in keeping with the trend that we’ve seen in the labour market data in recent months and there are numerous possible explanations for why the dip has happened. With the labour market still very tight and unemployment at a record low – helped there last month by a drop in participation – this report will probably be viewed as an anomaly albeit one that will draw more attention to the data in the coming months. Ultimately, it’s unlikely to deter the RBA from raising rates at the next meeting, with markets currently favouring a 25 basis point hike.

Oil steady after inventory boost

Oil prices are treading water following Wednesday’s rally which came on the back of the EIA inventory data. The surprising and substantial drawdown alongside record crude exports provided a boost just as the price was testing multi-month lows. There are numerous factors at play right now and we may be seeing traders taking a more cautious approach considering how close a decision on the Iran nuclear deal appears to be.

There remains plenty of doubt that it will get over the line but if it does, that could be the catalyst for another move lower and perhaps even take the price to levels not seen since before the invasion.

Gold struggling amid resurgent dollar

Gold is a little higher after slipping once more on Wednesday. It failed to get a sustained lift from the Fed minutes with the dollar quickly recovering its initial losses and wiping out any gains for the yellow metal. The US 2-year is not too far from its recent highs and the 10-year has also made moves higher over the last couple of days which could continue to pressure gold.

The inversion very much remains in play though which means there’s still seemingly a disconnect between what bond traders expect and what equity traders do. If the recession narrative starts to weigh more heavily on financial markets, gold could make another run at $1,800 and maybe even have more success this time.

Steady post-Fed minutes

Bitcoin is relatively flat on the day after losing more ground on Wednesday. It’s now suffered four consecutive days of losses and has fallen around 7% from its peak at the start of the week. By its standards, that’s not really anything to write home about and the trend of the last couple of months still looks positive. The difficulty is that the rally that brought it back to $25,000 has lost considerable momentum and that could begin to weigh more heavily on the price. A move below $22,500 may suggest the rally has run its course for now.

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Markets

Mixed Ahead of Fed Minutes

A mixed start to trade in Europe after a more promising session in Asia overnight where stocks may have been boosted by talk of more pro-growth policies in China.

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

A mixed start to trade in Europe after a more promising session in Asia overnight where stocks may have been boosted by talk of more pro-growth policies in China.

That followed disappointing data late last week and early this from the world’s second-largest economy so the comments came at a good time. Still, we’re not seeing investors getting too carried away by comments alone, action needs to follow and small rate cuts from the PBOC don’t really fall into that category.

More misery for the UK as prices rise by the most since the early 80s

UK inflation hit its highest level in 40 years last month, with the annual CPI jumping 10.1% and the core reading 6.2%, both faster than expected. Double-digit inflation was inevitable but it has come earlier than expected which will leave households and businesses worrying about what that ultimately means for peak inflation later this year and how sustained it will be.

The data today has probably locked in a 50 basis point hike from the Bank of England as a minimum, especially when combined with yesterday’s wage growth numbers. Real incomes are still falling at a rapid rate but the central bank will have little choice but to persevere regardless and the economy will suffer the consequences.

RBNZ committed to tackling price rises as it raises the cash rate peak

The New Zealand dollar is trading a little lower on the day but the session has been quite volatile. We’ve seen some big swings in response to the RBNZ announcement despite the rate decision itself falling in line with expectations. The central bank now expects the cash rate to peak higher and earlier than previously anticipated, hitting 4.1% in the second quarter of next year, compared with 3.95% in Q3.

The RBNZ still firmly believes though that the actions it’s taken will both return inflation to the midpoint of its 1-3% target range in 2024 and not trigger a recession, although it did caution that the country will likely experience sub-par growth. That all sounds very hopeful but BoE aside, that appears to be the view of central banks still.

Fed minutes eyed as traders seek dovish pivot clues

There’s plenty more to look forward to today but the FOMC minutes naturally stand out. What’s interesting about them is that despite the supposed “dovish pivot” from the Fed, the commentary since has been anything but. Rather than talking up the prospect of falling inflation allowing for slower tightening, the message remains hawkish. What’s more, policymakers are continually pushing back against the policy u-turn next year that markets have been flirting with the idea of.

I expect any hawkish components of the minutes will be overlooked today and instead traders will dissect them for any additional dovish concessions that could further fuel the stock market recovery. That’s very much what we’ve seen in recent weeks and the decline in CPI last week only encouraged it.

Oil rebounds off support as JCPOA talks continue

Oil prices are edging higher on Wednesday, bouncing off technical support over the last 24 hours as Chinese Premier Li pushed for more pro-growth measures from local officials. There are growing downside risks as a result of the growth outlook and ongoing uncertainty around Chinese Covid restrictions.

What’s more, talks between the US and Iran are continuing around the nuclear deal which, if it gets over the line, could be a big positive for oil supply and therefore a negative for prices. There is no shortage of scepticism around the prospects for the JCPOA to be revived though but we may be reaching a point where that will become clear. For now, Brent appears to have decent support around $92.

Gold flat after a pullback

Gold is marginally lower on the day with focus fully on the Fed minutes later in the day. The yellow metal has been knocked back in recent days after briefly breaking through $1,800 resistance. It’s remained quite resilient though against the backdrop of a strengthening dollar and the FOMC minutes later could potentially reward that.

Could Fed minutes be the catalyst bitcoin needs?

Bitcoin rallies have struggled to generate much momentum of late, with $25,000 proving to be a strong barrier to the upside. What’s interesting is how shallow the pullback has so far been from that level which could be a bullish signal. Traders may be struggling to get on board with a break higher but they’re perhaps not keen to cash out either. The FOMC minutes later may be the catalyst it needs, one way or another.

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Crude Oil

Weak Chinese Data Drags on Crude Oil Prices

Oil prices extended their declines on Monday as weak Chinese data suggested possible slow demand

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oil-rig

Oil prices extended their declines on Monday as weak Chinese data suggested possible slow demand for the commodity in the world’s largest importer of crude oil.

Brent crude, against which Nigerian oil is priced, declined by $1.14, or 1.2%, to $97.01 a barrel after shedding 1.5% on Friday. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil depreciated by $1.06, or 1.2% to $91.03 a barrel, after a 2.4% decline in the previous session.

The unexpected slowdown in the Chinese economy in the month of July weighed on refinery output. Refinery output slipped to 12.53 million barrels per day, the lowest since March 2020.

“The official data suggests that oil demand is weakening as domestic logistics and consumer demand are deterred by the record high oil pump prices,” said Heron Lin, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Oil demand could stay on the downtrend for the rest of the year as the threat of COVID-19 restrictions encourages precautionary savings and reduces oil consumption, he added.

Saudi Aramco stands ready to raise crude oil output to its maximum capacity of 12 million bpd if requested to do so by the Saudi Arabian government, Chief Executive Amin Nasser told reporters on Sunday.

“We are confident of our ability to ramp up to 12 million bpd any time there is a need or a call from the government or from the ministry of energy to increase our production,” Nasser said. He added that China’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions and a pickup in the aviation industry could add to demand.

Oil prices rebounded more than 3% last week after a damaged oil pipeline component disrupted output at several offshore Gulf of Mexico platforms and as investors pared back expectations for interest rate increases in the United States.

Producers had moved to reactivate some of the halted production after repairs were completed late Friday, a Louisiana official said.

Energy services firm Baker Hughes Co (BKR.O) reported on Friday that U.S. oil rig count rose by 3 to 601 last week. The rig count, an early indicator of future output, has been slow to grow with oil production only seen recovering from pandemic-related cuts next year.

Global oil markets remained supported by tight supplies in the run-up to EU sanctions on Russian crude oil and refined product supplies this winter. read more

More supplies could come if Iran and the United States accept an offer from the European Union to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which would will lift sanctions on Iranian oil exports, analysts said.

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