US equities ran out of steam on Friday, closing unchanged from Thursday, and up 7% from the previous week. The positive weekly performance was in large part due to US Q2 company earnings, which have beaten beat analysts' estimates by an average of 16% for the 38 companies in the S&P 500 that released results since 8 July. Those estimates have admittedly been low, profits falling an average 35%, and forecast to drop 21% in Q3. Citigroup's headline result was boosted by the Smith Barney sale, and was otherwise weak. Better housing starts and building permits for June pushed oil futures up 2.5%, and added 10bp to US 10yr treasuries, which had earlier hovered around 3.55%. 3mth Libor shed another 0.6bp to 0.504%.
EUR was under pressure around the Sydney close after a terrorist bomb blast in Jakarta claimed 9 lives and injured over 50. It fell to 1.4065, before recovering to 1.4145on the US data and rumours of a bailout for the CIT group, and closing at 1.4100. GBP fell to 1.6265, firming at the close to 1.6335. JPY weakened throughout the London session to 94.40.
The AUD dipped to 0.7970 London, but firmed to 0.8035 thereafter.
NZD ranged between 0.6420 and 0.6475, and AUD/NZD held a 1.2400 to 1.2475 range.
US housing starts up 3.6% in June. This housing report revealed a solid growth trend is emerging, with starts building upon May's surge with a further June rise, and April revised up by 4.8 ppts. The strong signal is more clearly revealed when looking at the single family home data: up for four months running, including a 14% surge in June. The multiple family dwelling starts figures were, as always, volatile, dropping 26% after May's 66% surge; multiple permits jumped 19%, their first rise in 2009. The level of home building activity remains weak, at 582k annualised for total starts in June, which compares to 2273k at the peak in early 2006 (i.e. a decline of 74% over three and a half years), but the evidence is now pointing more towards a housing recovery than a mere bottoming out in the sector. But any recovery will falter if new home sales do not soon start to rise: so far this year, sales of new dwellings have hovered close to their multi decade lows.
The Euroland trade balance has returned to surplus, with April revised from a small deficit, and May's surplus a touch wider still at EUR0.8bn. In May, exports fell 2.7% but imports slipped 2.8%. This result suggests a positive contribution to the economy from net exports so far in Q2, even though exports' 23.0% yr slump is indicative of the crisis facing the region's exporters.
Canadian CPI -0.3% yr in June. With last year's gasoline price rises dropping out of the calculation, the headline CPI turned negative in June, for the first time since 1994. However with the core rate still hovering around the 2% target, there is every reason to expect upward pressure on the annual rate to emerge later this year (as the post July gasoline price falls drop out of the numbers). However with the economy still depressed, below target inflation is likely to persist for quite some time yet, so we don't expect the Bank of Canada to drop its conditional commitment to keep rates low until mid 2010 any time soon. In other news, the leading index continues to fall, albeit only marginally, with the May and June declines of 0.1% comparing to five consecutive falls of 1% or more between December and April. The latest result is a clear signal that Canadian economy should stabilise in H2 2009 after several quarters of rapid output decline.
The NZD has ranged between 0.6150 and 0.6600 since 2 June. A break from this range is required to confirm the direction of the medium term trend from here. We have been expecting a downwards break, based on factors we thought may support the US dollar during Q3, and forecast an eventual target of 0.55-0.59. Our confidence in that view has waned with last week's price action, but while 0.6600 holds, we'll stick with the view.
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