The US mid-terms have passed, and while there were signs throughout yesterday’s trade that the vote would throw up a few curly situations, the outcome fell broadly in line with market expectations.
The fall out:
The VIX has dropped and US equities, paced by the NASDAQ, have subsequently rallied, primarily on the knowledge that everything went according to plan — proving the notion that the biggest drag in markets all-in-all is uncertainty. There are enumerable possibilities, all with various implications for traders, opened-up by yesterday’s result, and one assumes that they’ll be digested calmly by market participants in the times ahead. Ultimately, however, one major risk has been navigated through without much bloodshed, allowing traders to return their attention to arguably the more significant, fundamental issues at hand.
The term that perhaps has been hurled around most since it was confirmed that the Republicans would hold the US Senate and the Democrats would nick the House of Representatives is “gridlock”. In the so-called “age of partisanship”, a split in power within congress all but assures the adversarial tone of the late-Obama era returns. In a representative democracy, in principle, that need not be cause for concern, but it does imply greater inertia in legislative action. That means Tax Cuts 2.0 (as they’ve been dubbed) are all but dead, buried and cremated, and that a push for fiscal restraint by the Democrats could complicate issues around budget policy and the national debt ceiling in the future.
US bond markets:
The possible dynamic has shown up in prices already. An analysis of the US Treasury yield curve reveals this. The fact yesterday’s results ensure a possibly stagnant congress has been interpreted as a continuation of the status quo in the short term. The yield on interest rate sensitive US 2 Year Treasuries has ticked higher to 2.94 per cent over night on expectations that the current growth formula will go unchanged – and lead to a continuation of the US Federal Reserve’s rate-tightening regime. Conversely, the yield on fiscal policy (read: debt and deficit) sensitive US 10 Treasuries has dipped slightly to 3.19 per cent, on the belief that a debt blow-out from Trump’s planned tax cuts and infrastructure spending program will not go ahead.
The consequence of this shift in expectations regarding US fiscal policy is the US Dollar has sold-off overnight. It appears the interplay of forces is the ideal recipe for a slower rise in the greenback: global growth remains supported in the short-term, benefitting riskier currencies, but lower long-term yields are making the USD relatively less attractive. The knock-on effect has seen the EUR and Pound rally above 1.1450 and 1.3140, supported by strong German industrial output figures last night; and commodity-bloc currencies such as our own Australian Dollar has definitively broken its downward trend to trade at 0.7280. The balance between a weaker greenback but greater risk appetite has kept the USD/JPY flat at 1.1340, while gold has also remained steady at $US1226 per ounce.
What for the trade-war?
The implications for the other major global macro-risk from yesterday’s vote, the US-China trade war, has thus proven a touch unclear. China’s equity markets closed lower for the day, the Yuan whipsawed, and prices in growth proxy commodities — such as copper –fell, seemingly on the uncertainty of what a greater representation of Democrats in Congress means for US foreign policy. In principle, the philosophically liberal-internationalist Democrat party could lobby for greater multilateral engagement with China and other world powers, but in this new age of populism, old assumptions may no longer prove reliable. Futures markets are projecting a better day for the Asian region, however a flicker of greater volatility in Asian markets should be expected leading into the highly anticipated G20 summit at the end of the month.
SPI futures are indicating a 28-point jump at the open for the ASX 200 this morning, as the local market looks to extend its solid gains this week. The day yesterday ended in a 0.4 per cent gain for Australian shares, on reasonably solid breadth of 64 per cent. Volume was below average owing to the major event risk of US mid-term elections once again, however a rotation away from defensive sectors and into growth stocks and cyclicals supported the narrative that the outcome of yesterday’s vote is positive for the equity bull market. The ASX200 now sits on the cusp of technically reversing the short-term trend brought about by October’s massive stock market correction, with a meaningful hold of around 5930 today the level to watch.
Today’s major events:
Amid all the news and analysis around US mid-terms, a quick refocusing on the week’s other risk-events will emerge in markets today. Of significance today: the RBNZ met this morning – in what is probably the key event for the Asian region – and kept interest rates on hold as expected. The tone struck by the RBNZ has thus far been judged as rather dovish, legging the Kiwi Dollar’s run higher above the 0.6800 handle. Turning attention to more pressing global event-risk, it comes no bigger than tonight’s meeting of the US Federal Reserve. The Fed won’t move rates, that much is known. The attention will be directed instead towards the Fed’s commentary about its flagged December interest rate hike, plus its views on further rate hikes into 2019.