In all the drama surrounding the French elections, few noticed the PBOC’s announcement that China’s FX reserves rose for the third straight month in April, increasing by $20.45 billion to $3.03 trillion, more than the $11 billion expected and the single biggest monthly increase in three years going back to April 2014, on the back of a weaker dollar and increasingly more draconian capital controls on outflows.
Cited by the WSJ, some economists attributed April’s increase to a dollar that continued to decline in the past month especially after Trump said the U.S. currency “is getting too strong.” The value of other currencies in China’s reserve basket, including the euro, the British pound and Japan’s yen, similarly played a significant role in the rise, said Yan Ling, an economist with China Merchants Securities.
Besides USD softness (USD has weakened against the CFETS basket by over 2% year-to-date through April) and perhaps stronger RMB sentiment, the capital flow management measures introduced over the last several months have also contributed to the slowdown in outflows, Goldman speculated in a Sunday note. That could reverse, as there may be incremental relaxation of the capital account as the flow situation has improved and an overly tight capital account could hinder legitimate international trade and the authorities’ long-term RMB internationalization goals.
“I like a low interest rate policy, I must be honest with you,” Donald Trump told the Wall St Journal yesterday. His comments have further fired up already strong US government bonds, with the effects spilling over into European debt this morning. Like their US counterparts, German 10-year bond prices are now around their strongest point of the year.
Mr Trump’s new comments are not the only weight on global bond yields. Among other things, geopolitical nerves and the failure of his healthcare plans have also imposed a longer-term weight.
Still, 10-year Bund yields have sunk by 0.02 percentage points so far today to 0.175 per cent. (Yields fall when prices rise.) That’s the strongest level for Bunds since late December.
US yields, which exert a strong gravitational pull on other core markets, now stand at 2.32 per cent, the lowest since mid-November.
Four election promises/statements reversed within an hour
Trump just reversed his position on NATO.
“NATO is not obsolete,” he said at a press conference today.
He had previously said: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems,” Trump said during the interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild. “Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
Yellen is ‘toast’, he had said. He railed against Yellen and Federal Reserve in one of the debates but now he’s having second thoughts, saying he likes Yellen and is open to extender her term.
Low rate policy. “They’re not doing their jobs,” by keeping rates low at the Fed, he said in the debate. Today: “I like low rate policy.”
“China isn’t manipulating it’s currency,” he said today. That’s a 180-degree turn from what he was saying in the final weeks of the campaign, when he promised to label China a currency manipulator.
To top it off, he just said “Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low” in the relationship. He also said that going it alone against North Korea means going at it with other nations. “Going it alone means going it with lots of other nations.”
Hedge funds have cut their short position in 10-year Treasury futures by nearly two-thirds from a one-year high set at the start of March, unwinding a popular trade as US sovereign debt has rallied.
Leveraged funds, a proxy for hedge funds, reduced their net short in 10-year Treasury futures by nearly 49,000 contracts in the week to April 4, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed on Friday. The net short totaled 136,322 contracts, down from 365,650 contracts on March 7.
Traditional asset managers, who have taken the opposite side of the trade, have also reduced their net long to 226,655 contracts, the lowest level since February.
The divide has represented in part a difference of opinion on the likely path of interest rates in the US. It widened markedly after the Federal Reserve signalled last year that it would tighten policy by at least three quarter-point rate rises in 2017.
The central bank’s perceived hawkishness, alongside a sell-off in Treasuries after the US election, sent yields on the 10-year Treasury to a high of 2.62 per cent in December. Yields on the note have since slid, as the so-called Trump trade fades.
Prior to Friday’s report, IMF currency data was limited to the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen, UK pound sterling, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar and Swiss franc, and an indistinguishable category of “other currencies.”
“With the separate identification of reserves in RMB [Renminbi], eight currencies are now distinguished,” the IMF publication stated.
Chinese holdings of US dollars were $5.1 trillion at the end of 2016, compared with $10.8 trillion in total foreign currency reserves, the report explained.
The remainder was divided among other currencies, with euro holdings the largest at $1.6 trillion, according to the IMF.
Two rate hikes since last year have weakened the dollar. Why is that, and what’s ahead for dollar, currencies & gold? And while we are at it, we’ll chime in on what may be in store for the stock market…
The chart above shows the S&P 500, the price of gold and the U.S. dollar index since the beginning of 2016. The year 2016 started with a rout in the equity markets which was soon forgotten, allowing the multi-year bull market to continue. After last November’s election we have had the onset of what some refer to as the Trump rally. Volatility in the stock market has come down to what may be historic lows. Of late, many trading days appear to start on a down note, although late day rallies (possibly due to retail money flowing into index funds) are quite common.
Where do stocks go from here? Of late, we have heard outspoken money manager Jeff Gundlach suggests that bear markets only happen if the economy turns down; and that his indicators suggest that there’s no recession in sight. We agree that bear markets are more commonly associated with recessions, but with due respect to Mr. Gundlach, the October 1987 crash is a notable exception. The 1987 crash was an environment that suffered mostly from valuations that had gotten too high; an environment where nothing could possibly go wrong: the concept of “portfolio insurance” was en vogue at the time. Without going into detail of how portfolio insurance worked, let it be said that it relied on market liquidity. The market took a serious nosedive when the linkage between the S&P futures markets and their underlying stocks broke down.