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Dollar Slide Accelerates After Fed Fails To Boost Confidence, Pressures US Futures

ZeroHedge  |  Tyler Durden

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European shares and S&P futures fell amid mixed earnings from corporate heavyweights, while Asian stocks were fractionally higher. The dollar slump continued against all its major peers after the Federal Reserve gave dollar bulls little to be optimistic about.  The U.S. currency dropped toward the lowest close since November after the Fed reiterated its intention on Wednesday to lift rates only gradually.

Dollar bulls had hoped that Yellen would provide a stronger signal about the pace of interest-rate increases this year after comments by the new Trump administration overshadowed data showing economic growth is picking up steam, prompting some skeptics to ask “what does the Fed know that we don’t.” With all the political uncertainties about, the big central banks appear to be lying low – or at least trying not to add to the volatility. It sent the dollar to its lowest level since mid-November against a six-strong group of other top world currencies, to add to January’s worst start to a year in three decades.

As DB’s Jim Reid put it, “the message from the Fed overnight was a fairly steady one which acknowledged improvements in the outlook but didn’t really further the debate on when the next rate rise will occur. There was a mention of improving “measures of consumer and business sentiment” although interestingly there was a notable omission of the recent improvement in business fixed investment which they continue to say “remained soft”. We also got the usual “some further strengthening” in the labour market while on the inflation front the Fed noted that “inflation increased in recent quarters but is still below the committee’s 2% longer-run objective”. There was nothing new to take from the language concerning the rates path or balance sheet policy – the latter having been a fairly topical discussion amongst Fed officials recently. One thing that is worth noting though is the change in the composition of the voting members this year. Both George and Mester have dropped off and both were previously seen as having a strong hawkish leaning and so implying a more dovish Fed overall.”

Others were more cheerful: “this is a confirmation of the strength of the U.S. economy and an affirmation rate increases will be gradual,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila. “It’s a silver lining for Asia and the rest of the world against the dark clouds brought by the lack of clarification in the policies and direction of” U.S. President Donald Trump.

Investors will now be keeping one eye on Friday’s jobs report and another on the narrative from the White House for signs of pro-growth policies.

“The dollar and other currencies are in a push-pull situation,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments Ltd. in Edinburgh. “On the one hand economic fundamentals imply the dollar should rise, but on the other hand there is political risk. If the political risk premium rises too much, then it’s contrary to what the fundamentals are actually saying.”

Back in the currency market, sterling also pounced on the weakened dollar to hit a 12-week high as construction sector data showed builders, like manufacturers the day before, are seeing a sharp rise in their costs. It set the stage nicely for the Bank of England’s first meeting and economic forecasts of the year. With Brexit looming it may take a leaf out of the Fed’s book and choose to play a straight bat, although it may implicitly send a less dovish signal than normal as it’s likely to be forced to upgrade growth and inflation forecasts.

In markets, European stocks dropped with S&P 500 futures. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.2 percent at 10:39 a.m. in London as investors assessed disappointing corporate outlooks with health-care shares falling the most. Deutsche Bank tumbled 5.4 percent after its quarterly trading revenue missed analysts’ estimates. Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc added 2.9 percent after saying it’s in advanced talks to acquire baby-food maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. Futures on the S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent, after the underlying gauge rose less than one point to close at 2,279.42 on Wednesday.

That was also despite Asian shares ex-Japan hitting their highest since mid-October as Korea’s markets climbed to their best level since July 2015.

In commodities, oil began to edge higher again after news of a sharp rise in U.S. crude and gasoline stockpiles triggered a pause overnight. Brent crude futures nudged up 8 cents to $57.02 a barrel threatening its highest level of the year, while key industrial metals like copper and nickel, but also safe-haven gold, moved higher too.

Earnings are coming thick and fast, with mixed results clouding the picture on the state of the global economy. While Facebook Inc.’s sales topped forecasts, Sony Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. cut their profit outlooks. In Europe, Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Dutch Shell Plc missed estimates. “There was a clear impact from the negative news flow around Deutsche Bank in the fall, especially on the global markets unit,” said Daniel Regli, an analyst with MainFirst whose recommendation on the stock is under review. “It remains to be seen whether this effect will be reversed in 2017.”

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.2 percent at 10:39 a.m. in London as investors assessed disappointing corporate outlooks with health-care shares falling the most. Deutsche Bank tumbled 5.4 percent after its quarterly trading revenue missed analysts’ estimates. Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc added 2.9 percent after saying it’s in advanced talks to acquire baby-food maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. Futures on the S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent, after the underlying gauge rose less than one point to close at 2,279.42 on Wednesday.

Rattled euro zone bond market drew some comfort from the Fed’s apparent lack of urgency to push up rates. Yields, which move inverse to price, drifted down across the board with those on benchmark Bunds down to 0.48 percent. France’s bonds went with the flow but the gap over German peers was near its widest level in three years on nerves about far-right Marine Le Pen polling strongly ahead of elections in April and May. The yield on Spanish 10-year bond added two basis points to 1.7 percent, the highest level in almost a year. German bunds gained, with the yield on the benchmark note due in a decade dropping two basis points to 0.45 percent. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was little changed at 2.46 percent, after adding two basis points on Wednesday.

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