Asset markets are somewhat sluggish and reluctant to recover on Friday, following Thursday’s drop, which saw S&P 500 breaking through 3900 points. Dollar was slightly bid on the back of growing risk-off, however, during this week the DXY appears to remain in equilibrium in the range of 102-102.50:
Despite a slew of negative updates on the US economy for December (ISM indices, retail sales, industrial orders, etc.), the labor market continues to shine bright. Thursday data on unemployment claims showed that the number of applications not only did not increase, but even decreased, and significantly: initial claims from 205 to 194K, continuing claims fell to 1647K against the forecast of 1660K. Another positive aspect of yesterday’s eco data was the pace of housing construction: housing starts declined in December, but were higher than estimates – 1.382 million against the forecast of 1.359 million.
On the side of US energy consumption, which is obviously correlated with the business cycle of the economy, there is a worrisome moment: both crude oil and gasoline inventories have been growing at a high pace for more than a week in a row. EIA data released on Thursday showed that oil inventories jumped 8.5 million barrels, indicating a sharp decline in oil refining, while gasoline inventories jumped 3.4 million barrels against a forecast of 2.5 million:
The ECB reacted sensibly this week to reports that a rate hike of just 25 basis points was being considered. Christine Lagarde repeated her recent hawkish rhetoric yesterday, and the minutes of the December meeting all but confirmed the growing pressure from hawks on the governing board. The details of the “deal” with a more moderate short-term outlook were quite clear: a conservative 50bp hike in December was acceptable only with a preliminary commitment of two increases of 50 bp in February and March. This is good news for the euro, and as long as the data from the US remains weak, EUR/USD should benefit from a rather favorable rate differential. A test of 1.0900/1.0950 is expected next week but things are pretty quiet today as the eurozone calendar is empty and Christine Lagarde shouldn’t surprise with anything new as she speaks again in Davos.
The UK retail sales data for December was released this morning and was rather disappointing. The numbers are down by about 1% m/m and follow another drop in consumer confidence, according to data released earlier this morning. GDP in the fourth quarter is unlikely to change. But continued weakness in consumption and some expected decline in other areas (possibly in construction/manufacturing) means GDP in the first quarter is likely to fall by more than 0.5%.