Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stressful Situations!

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By Mike Conlon | July 15, 2011

Specifically, I am referring to two events taking place around the globe that have effectively put the markets on edge. The first today is the release of the results of the European bank stress tests, and then the on-going saga of the debt ceiling debate here in the US.

The bank stress tests are intended to allay the fears of the marketplace that the European banks are adequately capitalized and that they could withstand a major shock to the system such as sovereign default. This will likely throw a few banks under the bus which is obviously bad for some individual players, but this has to be done in order to ensure “credibility” that the tests were sufficient.

The debt ceiling debate is likely to be more drawn out as the politics behind the scenes have gotten so ugly that neither side is willing to budge. So we are headed on a collision course toward disaster unless one side is willing to compromise. S&P has put the US on negative credit watch and said that a debt downgrade may be forthcoming if a deal is not reached.

This has induced some mild risk aversion in the markets today, with stocks flat to slightly lower and commodities pulling back.

In the forex market:

Aussie (AUD): The Aussie is mostly lower on risk aversion and that money flows are leaving the Aussie in favor of the Kiwi on rate hike expectations.

Kiwi (NZD): The Kiwi is higher despite the risk in the marketplace after the much better than expected GDP report showed that the economy was growing at 1.4% vs. an expectation of .5% after having to deal with the two earthquakes. The market believes that this positive growth story means that the RBNZ could be next to raise rates. (Click chart to enlarge)


Loonie (CAD): The Loonie is somewhat higher against the Dollar despite lower oil prices and mild risk aversion in the markets. Canada’s close ties to the US economy make the Loonie slightly more desirable when the risk comes from Europe rather than the US.

Euro (EUR): The Euro is slightly lower ahead of the bank stress tests results that are due out at 12PM EST. Trade balance figures came in better than expected, though the market is more concerned with the news at noon.

Pound (GBP): The Pound is mixed as austerity measures are bringing down inflation, albeit slowly. This will likely mean that the BOE will be on hold for some time.

Swissie (CHF): The Swissie has been on a tear of late as its safe-haven status has been exploited by those who do not want to own the US dollar. (Click chart to enlarge)


Dollar (USD): The Dollar has been moving higher after Bernanke backed away from his comments the other day that has led the market to believe that QE3 is very much on the table. CPI data came in largely as expected this morning, showing a headline figure of 3.6%. However, the Empire manufacturing index came in at â€"3.76 vs. an expectation of 5. Michigan consumer confidence figures are due out later this morning.

Yen (JPY): Much like the Swissie, the Yen has been appreciating of late as it’s a Dollar alternative for a safe haven play. Too much strengthening could cause the BOJ to take action, especially if QE3 looks more like a reality.

With the stress in the marketplace adding to the already declining economic data, it is only a matter of time before something gives. The Euro bank stress tests are intended to instill confidence in an already skeptical market and if the tests are deemed to not be rigid enough, then this may become a non-issue. Nevertheless, expect volatility surrounding the release.

Here in the US, we have a different kind of stress over the debt ceiling debate. President Obama will be speaking on it later this morning but expect the same political rhetoric to take place. Meanwhile, markets that are already jittery over a worsening economy have extra reasons to be cautious. Potential US credit downgrades are adding fuel to fire, as they typically occur after the fact.

Prospects don’t look great for the global economy despite better than expected corporate stock earnings. There is a major disconnect between the markets and the real economy, so don’t be surprised if at some point they begin to resemble each other more realistically.

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