Thursday 11th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Following a recent Morningstar Analyst Ratings meeting, the firm has downgraded the Morningstar Analyst Rating for the L&G All Stocks Index Linked Gilt Index fund to Bronze. The fund previously held a Silver rating. Jose Garcia Zarate, senior fund analyst at Morningstar says, “We continue to have a positive view on the fund’s price, its tracking accuracy, and the parent company’s commitment to the provision of passive investing solutions. However, we have concluded that the heavily long-dated nature of the underlying market exposes investors to a volatile return profile over a market cycle. In particular, a rules-based passive fund tracking this market is particularly vulnerable to the downside relative to category peers that have the discretion to tweak duration. As such, we feel a Bronze rating reflects more accurately our conviction in this fund’s ability to outperform its category peers over a full market cycle.” - The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) says it has rescheduled the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) public meeting to Tuesday, February 23rd, from 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., at CFTC’s Washington, DC headquarters. The meeting was originally scheduled for January 26, but was cancelled because Federal Government offices in the Washington Metropolitan Area were closed due to inclement weather. The TAC will discuss: the CFTC’s proposed Regulation Automated Trading (Reg AT); swap data standardisation and harmonization; and blockchain and the potential application of distributed ledger technology to the derivatives market. The CFTC says members of the public who wish to submit written statements in connection with the meeting should submit them by Monday, February 22nd - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a ministerial meeting this morning to discuss the latest key domestic developments including the open issues whose implementation is required for the completion of the 1st programme review as well as farmers’ escalating protests against the planned overhaul of the income tax and the social security pension system, says Eurobank in Athens. Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos warned earlier this week that the programme review should conclude by the end of February noting that Greece will be “in trouble” if it carries on into May-June - India’s Power, coal and renewable energy minister Piyush Goyal yesterday offered a $1trn prize to Australian power and energy firms to come and invest in the country’s power sector. Goyal's pitch comes as the government is pegging economic growth at 7.3% for Q4 2015, marking a slight drop on previous quarters but still outpacing China. Goyal says India's power sector is at an inflection point as the Modi government is focusing on structural reforms with an integrated outlook for the energy sector – Tomorrow (February 11th), the Latvian parliament (Saeima) will hold a vote of confidence on the new composition of the Cabinet of Ministers set up by incoming premier Māris Kučinskis. The first ceremonial sitting of the new government will be held tomorrow at 15.00 in the Green Hall of the Cabinet of Ministers. Ināra Mūrniece, acting president and speaker of the Saeima will also participate in the sitting - freemarketFX, the currency exchange, has appointed services veteran Rich Ricci as Chairman. Formerly CEO of Barclays Corporate and Investment Banking - JP Morgan Asset Management has appointed Paul Farrell as head of UK Institutional Clients. Based in London, Farrell will join JPMAM in April and will report to Patrick Thomson, head of International Institutional Clients. Farrell will be responsible for leading the sales team that manages and builds client relationships with Institutional Pension Funds in the UK & Ireland. He will have responsibility for direct client relationship management in the defined benefit as well as business development in the defined contribution marketplace and will work closely with our consultant client team led by Karen Roberton. Farrell joins most recently from Dimensional Fund Advisors, where he served as Head of UK Institutional Clients and was responsible for new business development, client service and consultant relations. Before that he was head of UK Strategic Clients at BlackRock - Vistra Group, a provider of fund admin services, has bought UK-based business expansion services provider Nortons Group, the accounting and advisory service. The Nortons team, led by Andrew Norton and Pete Doyle, is joining the Vistra Group to boost their existing range of services and benefit from Vistra’s global reach. Martin Crawford, CEO of Vistra Group, says: “Offering support services to companies moving abroad is a core business for Vistra and of growing importance. Nortons has the expertise, the experienced staff, and the network to add significant value to this service line. We are very proud to welcome Andrew Norton, Pete Doyle, and their colleagues to our international team and look forward to expanding our global reach with their experience and leadership". The acquisition of Nortons is expected to complete by the end of February and will take the combined headcount of the Vistra Group, inclusive of the soon to be merged Orangefield Group, to over 2,200 staff in 39 countries - Asian markets had another tough day. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 2.3% to its lowest closing level since late 2014, and reaffirming a trend across the last few months the yen remained near its strongest level against the dollar in over a year. Despite the Bank of Japan's decision last month to introduce negative interest rates, a policy that tends to weaken the local currency, the yen has strengthened in recent sessions to levels not seen since 2014. The Japanese 10-year treasury yield traded shortly in negative territory, and touched -0.08%, before stabilising above the neutral mark. The dollar was last up 0.1% against the yen at ¥ 115.00. Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 1.2%, the downward drift being led by energy stocks. The Australian Dollar consolidated yesterday’s gains and is currently testing the next resistance, which lies at $0.71. AUD/USD up 0.21 in local trading. Other Asian currencies did well today against the dollar. The South Korean won rose 0.74%, the Taiwanese dollar edged up 0.60%, while the Indian rupiah climbed 1.05%. That uptick was not reflected in equity markets. The Topix index slid 3.02%. In Singapore the STI slipped 2.14%, while New Zealand equities were down 0.85% respectively. China's markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year holidays – The story today is all about Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s testimony to the US Congress. Analysts say that the market is pricing in no further rate increases in the near future and given the volatility in the markets and the general air of panic right now among investors, it would be a catastrophic move for the Fed to raise interest rates even a quantum in coming months. Truth is that no matter how well Yellen paints the US economy is it a story of two halves: yes, job numbers are rising, but there looks to be a lot of slack in the overall economy and this is contributing to a gradual weakening of the US dollar (but not against the euro). In fact, Europe is making the US look good; hence the wild swings in investor sentiment. Still, bank stocks look to remain vulnerable for the remainder of the quarter. This week's economic calendar is light; hence the focus on the Fed. The other bit of advanced market news is that expectations are rising for a rate cut by Norges Bank. Emerging market currencies are broadly trading higher this morning. The South African rand rose 0.85% against the US dollar, with USD/ZAR back below the 16.0 mark at around 15.9350. The Russian ruble also took advantage of this respite and gained 0.65% versus the greenback, which helped USD/RUB to edge lower to 79.10. In terms of data, watch out for industrial and manufacturing production figures from France, the UK and Italy and CPI data from Denmark and Norway - In commodities, Brent crude oil was last up 2.4% at $31.05 a barrel in thin trade on speculation about possible production cuts, but remains down nearly 9% for the week and roughly 19% for the year. Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank explains, "Crude oil has been able to rebound off the 12-year low ($27.78) after falling sharply by nearly 8% on Tuesday. The positive catalyst was the news that Iran has indicated that they would be willing to work with Saudi Arabia on production limits. However, markets remain sceptical of this or any coordinated production cuts. There seems to be no relief on selling pressure in sight as the US government released reports indicating that demand will remain soft by lower demand growth forecasts. In addition, the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the supply glut will continue through 2016 as production cuts have been made at a slower pace than forecasted.” In other market news this morning, spot gold in London was down 0.2% at $1188.05 an ounce, while three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.7% to $4,463 a ton.

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The push and pull of willpower & politics

Friday, 25 May 2012
The push and pull of willpower & politics June will be a battle between political will and economics. While European leaders continue to insist that they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, they are continually being reminded of the economic reality that a break-up of the single currency is almost certain. What is becoming more apparent day by day is that the markets will simply not allow the likes of Greece to have their cake and eat it without paying for it too. Whether Europe’s politicians will listen to those market siren calls for change has yet to be determined. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

June will be a battle between political will and economics. While European leaders continue to insist that they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, they are continually being reminded of the economic reality that a break-up of the single currency is almost certain. What is becoming more apparent day by day is that the markets will simply not allow the likes of Greece to have their cake and eat it without paying for it too. Whether Europe’s politicians will listen to those market siren calls for change has yet to be determined.

If the Germans and French remain reluctant to put their money in the pockets by either using the ECB’s potential firepower or create a special eurobond then they could themselves become the very nemesis of the single currency that they tell us they are so desperate to keep. Even so, risk aversion continues to whittle down the markets; at the time of writing the index is at 5380, down some 25 points. Traders are watching term support trends at 5335, 5300 and 5275; hopeful bulls out there will be looking for resistance at 5490, 5615/45. This near term downward trend sees the index capped by a downward trend line that also puts some resistance at 5450. Over the longer term now that the index has broken below its 200 day moving average and its upward trend line a close below 5400 could been seen as very negative and we’re now in the ­territory of people not wanting to catch a falling knife.

While immediate market focus will remain on Europe and its affect on the macro picture, there are a couple of important pieces of data that UK investors should note. First, following a surprising improvement in April, unemployment numbers are likely to show a weakening labour market.  There’s little in the way of encouraging data from the UK at the moment, but last month’s data was the first ­indication that unemployment is ­starting to peak. Job creation has come largely from part time rather than ­permanent work and the tick downwards to 8.3% in the rate of unemployment is expected to rise back to 8.4%. Second, it will be interesting to see whether the upcoming Bank of England’s inflation report will encourage the central bank to stick to their hawkish guns or whether the ­confirmation of the double dip recession and a further downgrading of growth projections will result in a more dove-ish tone.



Other European indicators are not great either: Italian ten year yields have crossed back above 6% and for Spain back above 6.5%, meanwhile risk adverse investors piled into German bunds driving their cost of borrowing even lower. This is classic fear gripping the markets once again as the vicissitudes of 2012 look to be playing out in a very similar fashion to 2011. Financial markets detest uncertainty and at the moment they are riddled with them since Greece has been unable to form a government and has had to call for a new round of  elections on 17th June. Up until that point we can expect volatility to remain high and continued pressure to the downside.

The euro made a low of $1.2720 as the situation in Greece continues to deteriorate. Bears sold the single ­currency heavily after socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos announced that talks to form a coalition government had failed and that the public would have to go back to the polls next month. Gold continued to fall as traders dumped risky assets and piled into the safety of the US dollar. Spot gold traded as low as $1541 an ounce.  With little technical support seen until $1531 and no turn around in Greece on the horizon, the down trend looks set to stay firmly in place.

On top of all the European woes there’s also the growing concern that China is slowing down quicker than was previously thought. Add any downturn to the euro crisis and it has negative connotations for global growth.

As ever, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets...

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