Market Directions Sunday, October 7, 2007
- The stoics-the Bank of England and the European Central Bank
- Job growth returns to the US, but not optimism to the Dollar
- The ECB wants a strong dollar but not a strong Euro?
The Week in Review October 1 - October 5
It was status quo in the central bank market this week. The Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Reserve Bank of Australia all left their base rates unchanged. Only the American Federal Reserve has felt the need to chop rates in this post sub-prime world.
In the immediate aftermath of the recent credit problems the currency markets have placed the onus squarely on the Usd. The States were the source of the original problem and the most likely sufferer from its aftereffects. The Fed September rate cut and the admission it represented for the immediate health of the American economy drove the Usd down and down. The skein did not completely unwind until this past Monday when the Euro reached its lifetime high at 1.4280.
The fears that financial markets would freeze up in credit scarcity brought on by defaults in the sub prime housing and asset backed sectors have subsided. And while another large bank or mortgage company failure would make headlines it is unlikely it would incite the worldwide panic of early August. One of the chief fears in August was the unknown extent of the problem. How much questionable debt was held and how much would come due for refinancing in the following weeks. The period until the end of October was seen as crucial. We are now more than two thirds through that period and the credit markets have returned to normal functioning, if not to entirely normal spreads. The Europeans and the British central bankers, while acknowledging the severity of the credit liquidity situation, have demonstrated their resolve. They judge that their economies do not require preventative medicine. The remaining question is the health of the US economy; it weighs heavily on the dollar.
The situation is similar to that of last December. From October to December the then relatively new housing market collapse was expected to crack the wider US economy and produce a severe slowdown if not recession. The dollar sank against the Euro through the last quarter of the year in anticipation of the economic result. However, the US economy did not falter and the statistics improved throughout December. In January the Dollar gained almost 3.4% against the Euro. The case here is not to predict a Dollar recovery but to underline the fact that the market assumption is not yet proven. The speculative urge that is driving down the Usd is produced by anticipation of events not the events themselves. It may prove to be correct and the American economy may slip to neutral or recession. But the two figure fall in the Euro on Thursday reminds traders of the potential fragility of that assumption.
The difference between the economic views of the ECB and the Fed as expressed in their actions and policy are driving the dollar lower. Both are based on projections of current economic trends that are not yet fully substantiated.
The US economy has not rolled over; it is still growing and creating jobs, the basic value for a consumer economy. But most economic numbers are sliding. Both ISM numbers, manufacturing and services, and factory orders were below forecast. The slowing trends that are evident in most US statistics originated before the credit crisis surfaced. However, there does not seem to be a generalized depiction of weakness, moderating growth is still the order of the day. With the Christmas and Holiday season approaching and the credit crisis behind a return to more buoyant spending is always possible. The main forward looking statistics, the purchasing managers indices and the consumer sentiment numbers were no doubt swayed by the emotional effects of the credit market crisis.
The Fed and Chairman Bernanke should be pleased with the NFP report. Job growth was not unduly affected by the credit liquidity crisis and recession fears are reduced as a consequence. Moderate but not dramatic job growth can support consumer spending without aggravating inflation. And while the three month moving average has been falling steadily all year, from +190,000 in January to +97,300 in the latest month this may help spur productivity and forestall rising labor cost pressures. Average Hourly Earning gained in September and with PCE Core Inflation at only +1.4% there is room for an increase in retail spending.
The ECB program for rate policy is clear and well expressed in the statement accompanying the rate decision. The reference to an "accommodative' rate policy was eliminated and replaced by "upside risks...to price stability". The wording may be different but it is hard to see how the rate stance has changed. Economic "fundamentals...support a favorable outlook for economic activity...on balance risks to the outlook for growth are judged to lie on the downside...[but] these downside risks relate mainly to the potential for a broader impact from the ongoing reappraisal of risk in financial markets..". In brief, except for the financial and credit market problems, the EMU economies are expanding at or above trend, producing a serious future potential for inflation that remains the bank's central concern. By implication, if the credit problems disappear then the bank will have no reason to be other than vigilant against inflation and the governing council will raise rates when and if it deems necessary.
Earlier in the week Jean Claude Trichet, ECB President speaking in Valetta Malta, reminded his audience that the US Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank have historically supported a strong dollar. His point was not to lecture the dignitaries that a strong Euro is good for the EMU economies and that the Europeans should stop complaining, but to remind the US officials of their traditional stance.
On Tuesday French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde had suggested that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson should say "loud and clear that a strong dollar is good for the US economy". If a strong Dollar is good for the US economy why wouldn't a strong Euro be good for the EMU economies? Would not all the advantages that a strong currency confers on the US also accrue to the EMU? Are the laws of economics different in the Old world than the New?
Or as one commentator, Barbara Rockefeller of Rockfeller Treasury Services put it, as quoted by Market News International, "the chance of ECB or G7 intervention is nearly zero, especially if it depends on the US participation". The Fed does not appear to be worried about the Dollar and the Treasury is unlikely to be either with exports up over 12%. While the US say "a strong dollar [is in its] best interest", it does nothing to support such a policy. "The real policy is let the markets decide". As for the Euro, the European have long said that they wanted a currency that could compete with the dollar's reserve status, "now let them live with it". No major industrial country predicates its economic, fiscal or monetary policy on exchange rates. The overriding operational factor is the health of the domestic economy; the Europeans are no different.
The Tankan Survey for the third quarter from the Bank of Japan held ground with large manufacturing firms reporting sentiment the same as in the second quarter, 23. Since GDP contracted 1.2% in that quarter according to the latest government figures the status quo reading was a small victory, reflecting strong demand from non US customers.
Economic Releases October 1 - October 5
Monday: the Institute for Supply Management Survey of Manufacturing for September recorded a decline for the third month in a row at 52.0. This is consistent with a 2.5% growth in manufacturing. The median prediction had been 52.9, the same as the August reading. "Prices Paid' fell to 59.0 from 63.0, "New Orders' to 53.4 from 55.3. Only the result for 'Employment' increased to 51.7 from 51.3.
Tuesday: the Pending Home Sales Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) plunged 6.5% in August to 85.5. It is down 21.5% from the same period last year. Pending sales are those where a price between the seller and buyer has been agreed but the sale has not closed. The decline reflects the increased difficulty in mortgage financing for retail home buyers. The Pending Index acts as a leading indicator for 'existing home sales' and promises further weakness in the largest category of home purchase in the US. It also underlines the still lively potential for wider economic impact from the year long decline in the residential housing market.
Wednesday: the Institute for Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index (ISM) at 54.8 was slightly better than the 54.5 forecast but below the August reading of 55.8. Though this was a bit less than the 56.6 average for the past it is nevertheless indicative of continued moderated growth into the fourth quarter. The 'Employment' Index staged a recovery to 52.7 from 47.9 in August; 'New Orders' fell to 53.4 from 57.0.
Thursday: Factory Orders for August underperformed expectations at -3.3% against the median forecast of -2.8%. It was the largest monthly drop since January when they fell 5.7%. The Euro climbed 50 points immediately after the release.
Friday: Non Farm Payrolls returned to positive territory in September as excepted adding 110,000 jobs. More interestingly the August deficit of -4,000 was erased with the adjustment to +89,000 for the month, most of the addition being in government payrolls. July's number was adjusted higher to +93,000 from +68,000 for a total revision of 118,000 over the two months. The unemployment rate moved 0.1% higher to 4.7%. The three months moving average has almost halved since the beginning of the year: January 180.7, February 159.3, March 142.3, April 129.0, May 162.3, June 127.0, July 117.3, August 83.7, September 97.3. Average Hourly Earning moved up 0.4% for the month, now 4.1% annually, a gain of 0.2% over July and August and slightly better than the average for the past year.
Monday: The final issue for the September PMI manufacturing number was 52.3 as expected and unchanged from the preliminary issue. It is the third monthly decline since June registered 55.6 and the lowest reading since February of last year.
Tuesday: the Produce Price Index gained 0.1% in August as expected, flattening the yearly rate to 1.7% from 1.8% in July. Energy prices ebbed 2.2% in August helping to lower the overall result but prices have since surged higher in September and were the chief cause for the spike to 2.1% in the preliminary HICP rate as reported last week. The ECB is unlikely to take much ease with this number. Unemployment in the EMU was steady at 6.9% in August, the third month in a row that it has sustained the historic low for this series which began in 1993. German unemployment fell to 6.2% from 6.4%; French to 8.6% from 8.7%. The jobless rate in the US is 4.6% and in Japan it is 3.8%.
Wednesday: Retail Sales rose only 0.1% in August, a quarter of the +0.4% forecast. The annual rate was +0.5% as predicted. The July result was revised to +0.4 from +0.1% monthly, and to +1.3% from +0.5%. The Euro was unmoved by the disappointing monthly number, the July adjustment negating the August result.
Monday: the NTC/BME Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) dropped to 54.9 in September 1.1 points lower than August.
Wednesday: the NTC PMI Report on Services registered a sharp drop to 53.1 in September from the August reading at 59.8. It was the lowest result in more than a year. NTC Economics is a private British economics date and research firm that produces a wide array of data on the economies of 20 of the worlds largest industrial countries.
Monday: the CIPS/NTC Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for September fell slightly to 55.1 from 56.1.
Wednesday: Reuters Services PMI for September eased to 56.7 from 57.6, a tad below the 56.8 median forecast and the weakest result in 13 months. "Employment' fell to 51.8 from 43.7 and "Prices Charged" jumped to 53.7 from 53.1. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Shop Price Index in September gained 0.2% and was 0.4% ahead of last year's prices. Food prices were the main culprit, up 0.6% in September, and 2.7% annually. It was the largest increase since last December. In August the yearly inflation rate for food prices was only 2.1%. Non-food prices sank 0.1% in September, a +0.7% annual rate. The 'final' RBS/NTC Report on Services PMI added 0.2 to 54.2, a substantial drop from the 58.0 reading in August. Nationwide Consumer Confidence rose to 99 in September a major improvement over the 94 reading in August. However, the current relevance of the September score is questionable because 90% of the data was collected before the BOE rescue of Northern Rock.
Monday: The BOJ Quarterly Tankan Report for the third quarter presented a mixed picture for the Japanese economy. Business confidence at large manufacturing companies remained at 23, as it was in the second quarter but better than the forecast of 21. All other major categories of business confidence recorded losses: 'small manufacturing firms' were 20 against 22 in quarter two; 'large service firms' were 20 versus 22 in the second quarter and 'small service sector firms' categories were -10 as opposed to -7 in the second quarter. Firms were polled for their opinion between August 28th and September 28th.
The Week Ahead October 8 - October 12
Monday: Columbus Day Holiday US markets closed
Tuesday: FOMC minutes at 2:00 ET for the September 18th meeting when the Fed unexpectedly cut rate 0.5%.
Thursday: International Trade Balance for August at 8:30 ET; July -$59.2 billion
Friday: Retail Sales for September at 8:30 ET; August +0.3%. Retail Sales ex Food and Auto for September at 8:30 ET; August -0.4%. Producer Price Index (PPI) September at 8:30 ET; August -1.4%. PPI for September at 8:30 ET; August +0.2%. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment for October at 10:00 ET; September 83.4.
Thursday: GDP for the second quarter (second issue) at 9:00 GMT; first quarter +0.7% q/q, +3.1% y/y. EU Commission GDP forecast at 9:00 GMT; Q3 2007 +0.3%-0.8%, Q4 2007 +0.2%-0.8%, Q1 2008 +0.2%-0.8%.
Friday: Industrial Production for August at 9:00 GMT; Jul +0.6% m/m, +3.7% y/y.
Monday: Total manufacturing Orders for August at 10:00 GMT; expected +2.0% m/m, +4.3% y/y. July -7.1% m/m, +6.1% y/y.
Tuesday: Industrial Output for August at 10:00 GMT; expected +0.5% m/m, +3.9% y/y. July +0.1% m/m, +4.4% y/y. Manufacturing Sector Output for August at 10:00 GMT. July +0.2% m/m, +5.7% y/y.
Thursday: Wholesale Prices for September a 6:00 GMT. August +0.5% m/m, +2.5% y/y.
Monday: Manufacturing Output for August at 8:30 GMT; July -0.3% m/m, +0.6% y/y. Industrial Production for August at 8:30 GMT; July -0.1% m/m, +0.9% y/y.
Wednesday: RICS House Price Survey for September at 23:01 GMT.
Chief Market Analyst
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