ETP Weekly: Will the Federal Reserve become impatient?

Central bank activity will once again dominate markets this week. The US Federal Open Market Committee will convene this week with a post-meeting press conference. Removal of its promise to remain “patient”…

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could be seen as a trigger to raise rates in June. The Swiss National Bank which has earned a reputation for surprising will also announce a rate decision this week. The removal of the FX floor in January has deepened deflation and a further rate cut appears warranted. Meanwhile the Bank of England will release minutes for its last meeting offering an insight into the central bank’s views.  

Unabated crude oil inventory growth and lack of storage reverse prior week’s gains. Despite US oil rigs being shut off at an unprecedented rate, oil inventories continue to grow. With the WTI curve in contango many traders have sought to put oil in storage to profit from an eventual spot price rebound. That had helped put a floor on prompt month WTI. However, with storage getting close to full capacity, the glut of oil is likely to enter the market and pull prices down. The EIA expects US oil stocks to continue to increase over coming months. Production cuts will need to accelerate to tighten supply and help prices increase. WTI and Brent fell 7.3% and 5.6% last week more than reversing the prior week’s gains. The USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates Report surprisingly downgraded expected
wheat stocks for this year by 1 million bushels, pushing wheat prices almost 6% higher.

UK and mainland bourses diverge. The DAX and FTSE MIB continued their ascent as the European Central Bank began to prime the pumps of the euro area financial system with unprecedented amounts of quantitative easing. The mining and energy-heavy FTSE 100 was dragged lower by weak commodity prices. Meanwhile political jostling in the run-up to the UK General Election in May and the 2015 Budget this week has unsettled investors. The UK chancellor has promised to stick to austerity dimming hopes of any pre-election giveaways. Stronger than expected Chinese loan
growth and rapidly expanding exports drove optimism in China’s domestic equity market, with the MSCI China A-Share index gaining 2.4%. Global equity market sentiment this week will be driven by the FOMC press conference. Any indication that the central bank is closer to tightening could trigger a broad sell-off.

Patience could derail US Dollar rally. The US Dollar index reached the highest level in 12 years last week, alongside record speculative long positioning as the US economic recovery remains on track and investor expectations for tighter policy from the Fed contrast with those for other major central banks. The upcoming FOMC meeting will be a key gauge of the Fed’s willingness to support the economy – the risk for the USD rally is that the Fed remains patient about the timing of higher rates. Indeed, with softening US retail sales and manufacturing indicators recently, we expect that the USD will at least take a pause after the 11% gain in 2014. Meanwhile, European attention will be on the Swiss National Bank meeting, with deflation still threatening, the case for further action seems entirely justified. However, the SNB’s move to remove the EUR/CHF floor took the market by surprise and its negative rate policy has not delivered the expected results. Investors should expect more surprises from the SNB.


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