Overview: Investors have been shrugging off the first shutdown of the US Federal Government in seventeen years, with most asset classes and gold seeing relatively limited reaction. The calm is unlikely to last long in our view….
ETF Securities Research
Toward the end of last week there were tentative signs of increasing market impatience with the lack of progress, including continued selling of the US dollar and buying of perceived safe haven currencies such as the Japanese yen and Swiss franc. The cavalier attitude being taken by politicians about fiscal matters is leading to growing doubts about the ability of US politicians to come to a compromise that will avoid a sovereign default. With the debt limit likely to be breached around 17th October (unless extended), markets are likely to remain volatile and short term news driven over the next few weeks. In the meantime, some investors are taking the opportunity to increase positions in beaten down cyclicals. But if progress on debt negotiations maintains the current stalemate much longer, gold is likely to move back into the spotlight.
Commodities: Although gold often gains during extreme events, the start of the first US Federal shutdown in seventeen years last week failed to lift the gold price. Investors appear to be looking through the storm and are focused on assets that will either benefit from the continuation of the global growth recovery or are generally uncorrelated with debt risk. Cotton and sugar gained 2.3% and 1.8% last week, bouncing from lows hit in September, but without strong news driving the trend. Platinum and palladium fell 3.6% and 2.5% respectively. That comes despite a 17% rise in Japanese auto sales (to a 14-month high) and a 12.1% rise in UK car sales (to a five-year high). US car sales also remained brisk, despite the timing of Labor Day distorting the monthly statistics. Autocatalyts are the primary source of demand for the platinum group metals (PGMs). The strike that started two weeks ago was still on-going last week at Amplats, constraining the supply of PGMs.
Equities: US equities remain under pressure as the negotiations over raising the US debt ceiling continue. The S&P 500 fell for the second consecutive week as Republicans and Democrats continued to fight over the budget and debt ceiling. European equities have also been sensitive to the political turmoil in the US. The Euro Stoxx 50® Investable Volatility Index, which provides exposure to the forward implied volatility of the Euro Stoxx 50® Index, surged 5% last week, followed by the FTSE® MIB Super Short Strategy Index and the ShortDAX® x2 Index, up 3.5% and 1.4% respectively. Global equities are likely to remain volatile and under pressure as we get closer to the estimated 17 October hard deadline for lifting the debt ceilding.
Currencies: Safe haven currencies benefit as US fiscal negotiations drag on. The Japanese Yen (JPY) was the best performing G10 currency last week as investors sold risky assets and paid back JPY loans on growing concern about the lack of progress on US fiscal and debt negotiations. For similar reasons the Swiss Franc (CHF) and even the Euro (EUR) also rallied against the US dollar last week. The British Pound (GBP) held up, continuing the trend of the past three months. However, towards the end of the week the currency showed some weakness, indicating the rally may be peaking. In our view, the GBP is one of the more overvalued G10 currencies and – despite recent rhetoric – has one of the more dovish central banks. We therefore believe the currency is particularly vulnerable to a sharp drop once growth data stop surprising to the upside.
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