By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
Stock markets aren’t faring too badly on Thursday, which is arguably surprising considering how eventful the last 24 hours have been.
It’s hard to know where to start on a day like today. While the Fed’s hawkish rate hike is probably the dominant driver in the broader markets, the dangerous nuclear threats from the Kremlin are causing quite a stir and then there’s the small matter of Japan’s first FX intervention in 24 years which has triggered some huge moves in the yen.
Fed resists the urge
The Fed’s decision to hike by 75 basis points, despite the obvious temptation to opt for a full percentage point, was probably sensible given the scale of tightening we’ve already seen this year. It now expects to go further with rates, with markets pricing in another 125 basis points this year and 25 next, although as we’ve seen throughout the year, that will probably change as we get more data. In much the same way that investors got too excited by the July inflation data, it may prove to be the case that the August setback isn’t as bad as feared. In such uncertain times, overreaction is becoming the norm.
Japan finally intervenes as BoJ stands firm
The Bank of Japan is standing firm on its policy stance, despite the widening differential with the US and others. That has put considerable pressure on the currency this year, so much so that the Ministry of Finance completed its first intervention in 24 years as the yen neared 146 against the dollar. The move on the back of that was quite something and it may not be the last. Interestingly, the level the pair reached was only a little shy of that in 1998 when it last intervened, prompting further speculation about whether this is the unofficial line in the sand. That has been denied but the rate check also occurred around 145 so perhaps there is more to it than just volatility. It will be interesting to see how keen traders are to put that to the test in future.
BoE continues with conservative approach
The Bank of England raised rates by 50 basis points today; a move some may view as a little conservative under the circumstances. Of course, that’s an accusation that’s been levelled against the MPC a lot this year as it proceeded with 25 basis point hikes while others were accelerating them. But without the benefit of new economic projections and details of tomorrow’s mini-budget, the decision is that much harder as was evident from the vote split. Perhaps the BoE will regret passing up another opportunity to ramp up the pace of tightening, with inflation now seen peaking just below 11% in October and remaining in double-digits for a few months after. But with the economy potentially already in recession, the Bank – like many others – finds itself between a rock and a hard place.
CBRT keeps cutting despite soaring inflation
One central bank that isn’t concerned about the consequences of its actions is the CBRT. It cut rates by another 100 basis points today despite inflation sitting above 80% which sent the lira to a new record low against the dollar. You have to wonder what it will take for the central bank to accept that its experiment – at the worst possible time – has failed but clearly, we’re not nearly at that point. More pain to come, it seems.
Franc slides as SNB hikes by 75 basis points
The Swiss National Bank hiked rates by 75 basis points today which was at the lower end of expectations. The franc tumbled in the aftermath of the decision, slipping more than 1.5% against the dollar, euro and pound. That’s despite Chair Thomas Jordan hinting at more to come including potentially at an unscheduled meeting, should conditions warrant such action. He also suggested that FX interventions could take place as necessary – which is obviously a hot topic today – while also stressing that the stronger franc has actually aided the fight against inflation.
Oil rises amid more nuclear threats
Oil prices are rising again on Thursday after giving up initial gains a day earlier. Nuclear threats are increasingly becoming the norm from the Kremlin but energy prices remain very sensitive to them. Still, crude isn’t trading too far from the six-month lows and another round of aggressive tightening around the world today won’t be helping, as economic fears continue to weigh on demand prospects. A move below those lows – around $86-88 in Brent – could signal much gloomier economic forecasts and frustrate OPEC+ which has stated it could announce further output cuts, even before the next scheduled meeting.
Choppy trading in gold as the dollar pares gains
Gold has been quite choppy since breaking below $1,680 last week. It has fluctuated largely between here and $1,650 since then and even briefly moved above in the aftermath of the Fed decision. Even today, it slipped back towards the lower end of that range but has since recovered back to the upper end as the dollar has erased gains. Perhaps that’s a sign of a floor appearing, with the market now having priced in a large amount of tightening. I’m not convinced at this stage as the break of $1,680 appeared very significant but time will tell. A pull back in the dollar could certainly facilitate such a recovery in gold.
Bitcoin seeing strong support
Bitcoin is managing small gains after slipping earlier in the day. Once more, it slipped back towards $18,000 where it ran into some support. With the summer lows around $17,500 just a little below again, this is a huge test for bitcoin and cryptos overall. If risk appetite doesn’t improve, that support is at risk of breaking, with further support then potentially appearing around $16,000.
Oil Prices Recover Slightly Amidst Demand Concerns in U.S. and China
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
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