November 17, 2016, 4:30pm EST
As the Trump rally continues across U.S. stocks, the dollar, interest rates and commodities, there are some related stories unfolding in other key markets I want to discuss today.
The Fed: Janet Yellen was on Capitol Hill today talking to Congress. As suspected, she continues to build expectations for a December rate hike (which is nearly 100% priced in now in the markets). And she did admit that the economic policy plans of the Trump administration could alter their views on inflation — but only “as it (policy) comes.” I think it’s safe to say the Fed will be moving rates up at a quicker pace than the thought just a month ago. But also remember, from Bernanke’s suggestion in August, Yellen has said that she thinks it’s best to be behind the curve a bit on inflation — i.e. let the economy run hotter than they would normally allow to ensure the economic rut is left in the rear view mirror. That Fed viewpoint should support the momentum of a big spending package.
The euro: The euro has been falling sharply since the Trump win, for two reasons. First, the dollar has been broadly strong, which on a relative basis makes the euro weaker (in dollar terms). Secondly, the vote for change in the America (like in the UK and in Greece, last year) is a threat to the euro zone, the European Union and the euro currency. With that, we have a referendum in Italy coming December 4th, and an election in France next year, that could follow the theme of the past year — voting against the establishment. That vote could re-start the clock on the end of the euro experiment. And that would be very dangerous for the global financial system and the global economy. The government bond markets would be where the threat materializes in the event of more political instability in Europe, but we’ve already seen some of this movie before. And that’s why the ECB came to the rescue in 2012 and vowed to do whatever it takes to save the euro (i.e. they threatened to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds in troubled countries to keep interest rates in check and therefore those countries solvent). With that, the events ahead are less unpredictable than some may think.
The Chinese yuan: As we know, China’s currency is high on the priority list of the Trump administrations agenda. The Chinese have continued to methodically weaken their currency following the U.S. elections, moving it lower 10 consecutive days to an eight year low. This has been the trend of the past two years, aggressively reversing course on the nine years of concessions they’ve made. This looks like it sets up for a showdown with the Trump administration, but as history shows, they tend to take their opportunities, weakening now, so they can strengthen it later heading into discussions with a new U.S. government. Still, in the near term, a weaker yuan looked like a positive influence for Chinese stocks just months ago — now it looks more threatening, given the geopolitical risks of trade tensions.
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