Yesterday's pessimism about a potential deal at today's oil producers' meeting in Vienna has been replaced by optimism and crude oil around 5%. Supportive comment by Iranian officials about there being acceptable proposals on the table and intimations that Russia may also participate in cuts fanned the newfound hopes.
Still, there are some moving parts. Iran has continued to indicate that freezing its own output is not on the agenda. It is not clear whether that would satisfy the Saudis. Over the past year, the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been a major stumbling block preventing agreement.
The sharp rise in oil prices is helping lift some oil-sensitive currencies, like the Russian ruble, the strongest of the emerging market currencies today. The Mexican and Colombian pesos may also be supported. Among the majors, the surge in oil is giving the Norwegian krone a fillip, and may be helping Canadian dollar hold on to yesterday's gains. The US dollar is holding just above CAD1.34. It has not been below CAD1.3380 since the US election.
Against most of the major currencies, the US dollar is little changed. The greenback is strongest against the yen, gaining nearly 0.5%. It held JPY112.00 in early Asia and poked through JPY113 in the European morning, which appears to have largely exhausted the technical scope. The euro is holding on to the bulk of yesterday's gains, finding support near $1.0620, but unable to make much headway toward Monday's high near $1.0680. Sterling looks a bit heavier than the euro, but support near $1.2450 remains intact. The results of the BOE stress test showed only one bank having to bolster its capital plans and two other banks' slight inadequate results. This may have weighed on the financials, but has prevented a broader equity advance in the UK, led by energy and consumer staples.
The Australian dollar stalled in front of $0.7500. It has been stymied by this cap this week as the rebound from $0.7300 on November 21 stalled. The precipitating cause today may have been the unexpectedly sharp drop in building approvals. The 12.6% drop contrasts with expectations for around a 2% gain, which was to follow an 8.7% decline in September. The September series was revised to show a 9.3% decline. This is the third consecutive decline - a streak not seen since Q4 13. Some pressure on the Australian dollar may also be coming from month-end flows and profit-taking in some of the industrial metals. In particular, coking coal, iron ore, and steel were limit down in China on Wednesday, according to reports.
The nearly 5% rally in oil prices is commanding attention and is helping lift many of the oil-sensitive currencies. Higher energy prices may be exerting upward pressure on yields, while the energy sector is underpinning equity markets. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index eked out a small gain, its fourth rise in five sessions. The Topix's 12-day advance was snapped yesterday, but perhaps a new streak began today. Month-end pressures were evident in China, where equities eased and the overnight repo rate soared to over 9%.
The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is up about 0.4% in the European morning, helped by a 2.4% rally in the energy sector. Of note, Italian assets continue to fare well despite uncertainty about the fallout from this weekend's referendum. Italian shares are leading the major markets with a nearly 1% gain, though bank shares are flat after yesterday's 4% advance. Italian bonds are flat, while Spanish and Portuguese yields are firmer. US 10-year yields are 4 basis points higher at 2.33%. The US dollar is mostly heavier, leaving the weakness of the yen and the Australian dollar as exceptions.
There were three more economic reports of note. First, Japan's October industrial output was in line with expectations. It rose 0.1% on the month, the third consecutive gain. However, the year-over-year rate slumped back into negative territory. The 1.3% fall snaps the two months it has been positive. The sentiment is positive for November output, where the government's survey suggests expectations for a strong rise (~4.5%), before falling again in December. Japan's industrial shipments rose 2.2% in October, while inventories fell 2.1%. The Japanese economy appears to be finding some traction, helped by rising exports and somewhat better domestic consumption figures.
Second, France reported a flat November CPI, which, due to the base effect, was sufficient to lift the year-over-year rate to 0.7% (from 0.5%). As recently as April, it stood at minus 0.1%. The 0.7% rise is the largest in two and a half years. Despite the slight disappointment with yesterday's German report (a 0.7% year-over-year rise in CPI, rather than 0.8%), the aggregate for the eurozone CPI rose 0.6% year over year, in line with expectations, while the core was flat at 0.8%. The flat core suggests that the rise in the headline is stemming from food and energy.
Note that energy prices in France have been edging higher as several nuclear plants have been undergoing safety checks. Reports indicate that due to some damaged cables, the UK-French electricity connection may only be at half capacity for a few months. Typically, the UK takes electricity from France, but recently, it has been the another way around.
Third, Germany's November employment report was in line with expectations (6.0% unemployment rate and a 5k decline in the number of unemployed). However, German shoppers surprised by being particularly active in October. Retail sales jumped 2.4% on the month, more than twice what was expected and more than offsetting the 1.5% decline in September.
As the North American session gets under way, there are three developments that will vie for attention. First, the sound bites from the OPEC meeting may still pose headline risks. We suspect there is still scope for disappointment, even if some agreement on paper materializes. Enforcing the cuts, and the rise of Libyan supplies and non-OPEC producers may deter a sustained rally. Second, President-elect Trump may formally announce Ross as Commerce Secretary and Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. Third is the US economic data. The ADP jobs report may be the most important, but the October personal consumption and Chicago PMI will also attract attention. Later, the Beige Book will be released ahead of the mid-December FOMC meeting.
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