Market news

Stocks Rise on Trade Talk Hopes, Dollar Steadies: Markets Wrap

Bloomberg.com — Asian stocks are ending a bruising week on a positive note after an easing in trade tensions between China and the U.S and positive results from Walmart boosted American shares. The dollar steadied and Treasuries were little changed.

Equities from Sydney to Hong Kong advanced, though Chinese shares underperformed. Futures signaled a muted start for stocks in London and New York. Emerging market equities rose for the first time in eight sessions and commodities steadied. The Turkish lira pared some of its gains as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Turkey would face more sanctions if the country didn’t release a detained American pastor.

The possibility of a breakthrough in the U.S.-China trade spat has helped shake off some of the elevated caution that’s infected markets and driven Asian equities toward their worst week since March. The trade war remains the wildcard for emerging Asian currency and bond markets, according to a Bloomberg survey of investors.

“I don’t think we’re quite out of the woods yet,” Marcus Miholich, a managing director at State Street Global Advisors Ltd., told Bloomberg TV in Sydney. “Investors have definitely taken note of these tensions and have reallocated into more defensive sectors and defensive names. Given we don’t seem to have the light at the end of the tunnel just yet, that will continue.”

Elsewhere, oil slipped, heading for the longest run of weekly losses in three years on the ongoing crisis in Turkey and after a surprise gain in U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.K. Retail Sales Rebound in July on Warm Weather, Discounts

Bloomberg.com — U.K. retail sales bounced back strongly in July as warmer weather and extended discounts at stores encouraged shoppers to open their wallets.

Sales gained 0.7 percent from June, compared with a median estimate of a 0.2 percent gain in a Bloomberg survey. The increase was led by online sales, food and clothing, according to data from the Office for National Statistics in London. Excluding auto fuel, sales jumped 0.9 percent.

Britons enjoyed a heat wave this summer that lifted spending, while the soccer World Cup helped boost sales of food and drink. Still, the warm weather may have kept people away from some high-street stores as online spending climbed to a record proportion of total. The pound climbed after the data and was 0.2 percent higher at $1.2730 as of 9:34 a.m. in London.

The Bank of England raised interest rates this month to the highest level in almost a decade on concern that domestic price pressures are building. A report yesterday showed the inflation rate climbed to 2.5 percent, above the central bank’s 2 percent target.

Still, the depreciation of the pound triggered by Brexit and meager wage growth so far have made it harder for consumers. The country is only just emerging from a year in which price gains outstripped wage growth. […]

Dollar Drops on Trade Talks, Treasury Yields Rise: Markets Wrap

Bloomberg.com — The dollar declined and U.S. equity futures climbed alongside Treasury yields, while the yuan jumped after China said its vice commerce minister will visit America for trade talks in late August.

S&P 500 Index futures rose and the greenback, which has seen recent strength on its role of a haven, fell for the first time in six days. Stocks stayed lower in most Asian markets though pared declines as news broke of the proposed meeting. Oil got a reprieve after slumping on a report that showed a gain in American stockpiles. Hopes on trade gave the Australian dollar a boost, while China’s offshore yuan had the biggest rally in more than a year. Emerging-market shares slipped, with the intraday drop from their January high reaching 20 percent.

The potential for a breakthrough in the trade standoff between China and the U.S. is helping shake off some of the caution that’s weakened risk assets over the past week. Markets have been rocked as turmoil in Turkey weighed on sentiment across many emerging- and developed-nation assets.

The Turkish lira edged lower Thursday after spiking as Turkey moved to deter short-selling of the currency while Qatar promised Wednesday to invest $15 billion in the Turkish economy to help the country avert a financial crisis.

Elsewhere, metals rebounded after a hammering Wednesday. In Hong Kong, currency interventions continued after the currency fell to the weak end of its trading band.

Australia’s Unemployment Falls to Lowest in Almost Six Years

Bloomberg.com — Australia’s jobless rate dropped to the lowest level since November 2012, edging toward the full employment level the central bank is targeting, even as hiring fell and fewer people sought work in July.

Unemployment fell to 5.3 percent from 5.4 percent in June, which was also economists’ median estimate, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed in Sydney Thursday. The central bank estimates full employment at about 5 percent, a level that theoretically drives faster wage growth. Employment fell 3,900 from June, when it rose an upwardly revised 58,200. […]

Productivity in U.S. Climbs 2.9%, Fastest Pace in Three Years

Bloomberg.com — Productivity gains in the U.S. accelerated by more than expected to the fastest pace since 2015 while labor costs fell, amid an economic-growth pickup supported by tax cuts and federal spending, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday.

HIGHLIGHTS OF PRODUCTIVITY (SECOND QUARTER)

  • Measure of nonfarm business employee output per hour increased at 2.9% annualized rate (est. 2.4%) after 0.3% pace in previous three months; fastest since 1Q 2015
  • Unit labor costs fell at 0.9% rate (est. unchanged) following 3.4% rise; biggest drop since 2014
  • Productivity increased 1.3% y/y; unit labor costs rose 1.9% y/y

U.S. Retail Sales Rise More Than Forecast in Broad-Based Advance

Bloomberg.com — U.S. retail sales rose by more than forecast in July as Americans snapped up clothes and headed to restaurants, extending solid consumer-spending gains to the start of the third quarter.

The value of overall sales advanced 0.5 percent from June, whose gain was revised down to 0.2 percent, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent gain. Excluding purchases of autos and gasoline, sales climbed 0.6 percent, topping the median estimate for a 0.4 percent rise. […]

U.K. Inflation Rate Accelerates on Fuel, Transport, Games

Bloomberg.com — U.K. inflation accelerated for the first time in eight months in July, boosted by the cost of auto fuel, transport tickets, computer games and food.

Annual consumer-price growth quickened to 2.5 percent from 2.4 percent in June, as economists forecast, figures from the Office for National Statistics Wednesday show.

The Bank of England had predicted inflation would pick up to 2.6 percent in July before resuming its downward path as the effect of sterling’s post-Brexit referendum decline fades.

Officials raised interest rates this month to tame price pressures in the labor market and indicated further hikes will be needed to return inflation to the 2 percent target, providing Britain avoids a chaotic Brexit.

Upward pressures on inflation were offset by some financial services and clothing and footwear prices, which fell 3.7 percent on the month as struggling retailers extended summer discounts. The drop in women’s clothing prices was particularly marked.

Core inflation, which excludes food, energy, tobacco and alcoholic drinks, stayed at 1.9 percent. The pound was 0.2 percent weaker at $1.2700 as of 9:39 a.m. London time.

Rail Fares

July’s retail-price inflation rate, which is used by rail carriers to set fare increases, slowed to 3.2 percent. There is pressure to link rail fares to the lower CPI rate to ease the strain on consumers whose basic wages are barely growing faster than prices.

Producer input prices rose 0.5 percent, taking the annual rate of increase to 10.9 percent with oil accounting for much of the gain. Factories, however, have chosen to absorb the pressure rather than pass it on to consumers with output prices rising just 3.1 percent.

House prices rose an annual 3 percent in June, the least since August 2013. The worst-performing region was London, where prices dropped 0.7 percent — the most since 2009 — as Brexit fears and stretched affordability sapped demand.

Risk-Off Mood Returns to Stocks; Dollar Gains: Markets Wrap

Bloomberg.com — Stocks in Asia fell, Treasuries rose and the dollar climbed back to a 14-month high as risk appetite continued to be tested by the recent Turkey-induced turmoil. China’s yuan fell to the lowest since May 2017.

Chinese shares bore the brunt of the sell-off with technology stocks tanking after regulators froze approval of game licenses in the world’s biggest gaming market. Shares also declined in Japan, while European futures were little changed. Ten-year Treasury yields dipped below 2.90 percent and the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose for a fifth day as concerns about fragility in emerging-markets returned. The Turkish lira erased some of Tuesday’s rebound and Asian emerging-market currencies fell.

“I think we have not seen the worst of it yet,” Peter Tchir, Academy Securities head of macro strategy, said on Bloomberg Television. “You’ve only started to see a knock-on effect. I think this is truly the eye of the storm and we are going to get another round of emerging-market weakness.”

Amid thin summer trading, investor caution remains with the bull market in U.S. stocks just one week away from becoming the longest in history and as trade tensions between China and the U.S. linger. Markets have been rocked over the past week as turmoil in Turkey weighed on sentiment across many emerging and developed-nation assets.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong intervened to defend its peg to the dollar for the first time in three months after the local currency fell to the weak end of its trading band. Oil extended declines as focus returned to near-term supply risks. The Australian dollar tumbled to the lowest since December 2016.

U.K. Unemployment Falls to New 43-Year Low But Pay Growth Slows

Bloomberg.com — U.K. unemployment dropped to a new 43-year low in the three months through June but the pace of wage growth eased.

The jobless rate stood at 4 percent, the least since February 1975, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday. Economists had expected it to stay at 4.2 percent.

The decline helps to explain why the Bank of England increased interest rates this month. Policy makers believe inflationary pressures are building in the labor market as skill shortages force some employers to raise wages to attract and retain staff.

Still, there was little sign of overall wages taking off in the latest data — pay growth slowed to a nine-month low of 2.4 percent between April and June — but the BOE sees a pickup toward 3.5 percent this year.

Much depends on productivity. Without a significant improvement, firms may find their profit margins coming under pressure and increase prices to compensate. Flash figures for the second quarter Tuesday show output per hour rose 0.4 percent, leaving productivity up just 1.5 percent on the year.

BOE officials expect unemployment to fall to 3.9 percent this year and Governor Mark Carney signalled that further rate hikes will be needed to return inflation to target, assuming Britain avoids a chaotic departure from the European Union next year.

Wage growth excluding bonuses slowed to 2.7 percent, the weakest since January but still ahead of the 2.4 percent rate of inflation. Upward pressure on settlements is expected to come from the public sector, where millions of workers will this year benefit from the easing of a cap on pay increases in place since 2010.

There were some signs of weakness in the labor market report. While vacancies were at a record, the jobless rate fell thanks to a drop in economic activity, and employment rose by just 42,000, less than half the increase expected.

The increase in employment over the past year was driven by U.K. nationals as foreigners arrive in fewer numbers since the Brexit vote. There was a record drop in employment among EU nationals, driven by citizens of the eight countries that joined the bloc in 2004.