Last ditch efforts to avoid “fiscal cliff”

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Democratic and Republican leaders pushed the United States to the edge of the “fiscal cliff” on Sunday as they struggled to reach a last-minute deal that could protect the world largest economy from a politically induced recession. Senate lawmakers are still hoping to clear the way for swift action thereby avoiding sweeping tax increases and spending cuts due to tick in on Tuesday, January 1st. The two sides are, however, still at loggerheads in talks. Senate was adjourned yesterday and meet again today for a last ditch effort to reach a compromise.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid last night postponed any possible votes; “There are still significant differences between the two sides”, Reid stated. President Obama had originally proposed a USD 250 000 income threshold for increased taxes. The Republicans are in principle against all tax increases, but has voiced a compromise threshold on USD 1 million. The parties are also wide apart on possible budget spending cuts.
As hours ticked away it appeared increasingly unlikely to avoid a USD 600 billion hammer blow to the fragile US economy recovery. Americans could see a bigger bite taken out of their pay checks starting on 1st January as payroll and income tax cuts expire. Two million unemployed Americans could see their jobless benefits run out. The uncertainties have weighed in on global, financial market. Investors are likely to sell off stocks at the beginning of the new year expressing their displeasure with a no deal.
In a rare appearance on Sunday’s NBCs “Meet the Press”, president Barack Obama warned against the immediate negative effects on markets and blamed the Republicans for rejecting significant presented compromises. His accusations were flatly refused by Republican spokesmen.
Due also to Christmas and the New year holidays investors have been sitting on the side lines waiting for Washington to act. US markets were down for a fifth straight session on Friday, and there were small changes in the currency and commodity markets. Euro/USD is trading around 1.3215 up from last week’s low on 1.3175. USD/JPY is stabile on 86 yen to a dollar. Oil prices are high with Brent crude above USD 110 a barrel. No major changes in commodity and precious metal prices. Gold is at USD 1660 an ounce.
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Last talks on “fiscal cliff” strengthen EURO

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President Barack Obama and lawmakers are launching a last chance round of budget talks just days before a New Year’s deadline to reach a deal to avoid a “fiscal cliff”: an increase of USD 600 billion of taxes and budget cuts to be automatically executed from January 1st if politicians fail to find a budget compromise. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with congressional leaders from both parties in the afternoon today. The news has for now strengthened risk appetite and Euro/USD is up.
The two political parties remained far apart particularly over plans to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help close the US budget deficit. The coming days are likely to see intense bargaining over numbers or political theatre as each side attempt to avoid blame if a deal looks unlikely.
US stocks sharply cut losses and rose on news of the House reconvening as investors clung to hopes of an 11th –hour deal. Even a partial agreement on taxes that would leave tougher issues like entitlement reform and the debt ceiling until later could be enough to keep markets calm. US stocks recovered, but fell for a fourth day after a jittery session which saw a one % fall after Senate Majority leader, Henry Reid, initially warned that a deal was unlikely. Stock markets recovered and ended flat on news on new negotiations. Dow Jones ended down 0,14 % to 13 096 after a one percentage free fall in the opening of yesterday’s session.
Asian shares inched higher on signs that Washington is making a last ditch effort to reach a budget compromise. The USD/JPY fell to its lowest level in 2 years trading at 86,64, and Japanese stocks to 21 months high on expectations of drastic monetary easing. Australian shares rose to a 19 month high and are on track to post its strongest annual gain since 2009. Oil prices rose on hopes of a US political deal. Brent crude reached USD 111 a barrel.
EURO/USD has recovered to 1.3240 after falling to 1.3170 before Christmas on news of failed budget negotiations. A budget settlement will create renewed optimism for continued US economic growth and increased risk appetite which will strengthen the Euro and smaller currencies. Australian dollar hit a 20-month peak against the yen at 89,93 and is also up against the USD.
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Markets wait for news from Washington

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The European stock exchanges were closed yesterday, but American indexes showed not so positive dynamics and were closed with a decrease. Dow Jones lost 0.18%, but Nasdaq and S&P500 were closed with a fall of 0.74% and 0.47% accordingly. Fears of the American investors are again connected with a dependence of the main problem of year – “fiscal cliff”, and also with a ceiling of the public debt which limit, according to the Minister of Finance – Timothy Geithner, will be reached already on December 31 of the current year.
Also oil to fire was added by data on retails which were record-breaking low, their volume from October 28 till December 24 grew only by 0,7% in comparison with the similar period last year. Master Card also specifies that many people show today restraint in the purchases, being afraid of “fiscal cliff” which can come on January 1 and bring with itself increase of taxes.
Futures for WTI brand oil yesterday jumped up for $2,37 to $90,98 for barrel. Today WTI oil is traded on a level of $91,18 for barrel, Brent is decreasing less than 0,2%, bargaining at the level of $111,05 for barrel.
Gold loses the positions in one of the last days of 2012, trading passes very inertly as many participants of the market already left for holidays. Gold is losing 0.25% and traded on a level of $1656.50, silver is bargaining around level of $30.00 second day in a row.
Absolutely other situation is observed in copper futures which add more than 1.3%. Quotations break through a level of $7900 after the National bureau of statistics of the People’s Republic of China reported that the profit of the industrial companies in the country grew in November by 22.8% in comparison with the similar period last year. China is the largest consumer of copper therefore investors hope that recovery of the Chinese economy will positively influence demand for metal.
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Serious set-back for “cliff” negotiations

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In a statement to the House late yesterday, Republican Speaker, John Boehner, announced that there was not enough support to have “Plan B” to avoid the fiscal cliff voted through. Two options seem to remain: The Republicans can wash their hands on the entire matter or try negotiate a compromise with Democrats that could secure support from a sufficient number of Republicans. Plan B involved increased taxes on incomes above USD 1 million. President Obama’s proposals set the threshold at USD 400 000.

Dow Jones and Nasdaq gained on new expectations for a budget solution within year-end before the news announcement. A solution seems for the moment unrealistic. A possible compromise would mean that a substantial member of Republicans give up their bedrock resistance to all tax hikes. The non-vote in the House represents a serious set-back for the prospects to avert the “fiscal cliff”, automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to start in January. The news had an immediate effect on Asia. Asian shares slid. The MSCI index for the Asian Pacific dropped 0,7 %. Nasdaq and Dow Jones futures are down 1,7 %.

Risk assets from shares, oil to currencies as the Australian dollar and EURO, were sold off in the morning hours. Euro/USD is falling below 1.32 losing 60 basis points. The USD/JPY is slightly firmer at 83,93 down from 84,50 yen a dollar yesterday. The market uncertainty has generally strengthened the dollar. The DXY index where the USD is weighed against a basket of major currencies, gains 0,2%. The steep fall in precious metals continue. Gold is USD 1640 an ounce and silver has dropped two dollars during the last day trading to 29,72.

The Republican-led House of Representative which abruptly recessed late Thursday may return with a not yet decided new plan on December 27th. Markets see the event yesterday as major set-back for a fiscal compromise. The chance for a deal is downscaled from 60 to 30 %. Markets are extremely volatile and will continue to be swayed by the budget negotiations over the next days. 

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Stalled negotiations turn markets

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After reaching a 18-month high Asian stocks eased and commodities fell in morning trade on stalled budget negotiations in Washington. President Barack Obama accused his opponents of holding a personal grudge against him and threatened to use his veto power. The top Republican negotiator branded the President “irrational”. The mutual accusations came after substantial progress to avert the so called “fiscal cliff” had been obtained during the last days. The personal taunts put a timely solution at risk and threaten the world largest economy with recession.

The harsh rhetoric had an immediate effect on markets. After a flat opening Dow Jones plunged 0,78 while Nasdaq lost 0,33 %. Financials and retailers, the big winners earlier in the week, were hardest hit. General Electric, Alcoa, Home Depot and the Bank of America were among the big losers. The Asian indexes with exception for the South Korean Kospi which rose 0,3 % on news of the election of its first female president, lost ground. Australia is still up. It is expected that European and US markets today will open lower on profit taking and risk aversion. Decreased risk appetite shall probably hit also smaller currencies.

Bank of Japan (BOJ) has according to expectations expanded its asset-buying program by 10 trillion yen to fight deflation. USD/JPY which saw 84,50, has fallen to below 84 as result of the stalled budget negotiations. Euro/USD peaked to 1.33085 on Wednesday has fallen back trading at 1.3210. Smaller currencies are due to the changed risk sentiment atmosphere losing ground.

Oil prices which rose on growth optimism, has retreated somewhat in early Asian trading. Brent crude stands at 110.08 with NYMEX just below USD 89 a barrel. Copper is down. Gold and silver are at the lowest levels seen for months.

US prosecutors have charged two former UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) traders for participating in a scheme to manipulate Libor and other benchmark interest rates. This is the first individuals criminally accused in the Libor scandal. UBS has agreed to pay a fine of USD 1,5 billion to regulators in the US, UK and Switzerland. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has simultaneously stated that UBS is under investigation for similar fraud in Hong Kong. 

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Euro outperforms on increased risk appetite

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The Euro reached multi-months high against dollar and Japanese yen on Wednesday extending recent gains. Signs of progress in the US fiscal talks bolstered demand for riskier assets. Euro/USD is trading at 1.324655. USD/JPY stands at 84,282. The Scandinavian currencies, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish krones have gained substantially against the dollar over last week.

The US House of Representatives Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, said yesterday that he expected a vote on a Republican offer to avert the “fiscal cliff” on Thursday. Republicans plan a vote on a bill to raise taxes on income above USD 1 million while extending low rates on other tax payers. The White House has proposed a compromise USD 400 000 threshold. Cantor said he expected to have enough votes to pass the measure.

In spite of the big distance between the two parties’ stock markets all over the world rose on expectations of a compromise. Gains in Asia this morning came after Wall Street S&P 500 index for the biggest 500 companies rose more than one percent completing the best two-day rally in a month. The US market is higher driven by the fact that the parties now at least are engaged in constructive negotiations striving to find a middle ground.

Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 1,3 percent topping 10 000 points for the first time since April as Bank of Japan (BOJ)started their two day meeting. BOJ is expected to take measures for monetary easing and a more expansionistic fiscal policy. The Yen continues to fall against most currencies. Australian shares rose to a 17-month high led by miners and banks. Australian dollar, however, barely budged in part because currency speculators were already holding record long positions.

Boosted by optimism on a US budget compromise analysts predict that EURO/USD might reach the 1.33 level year-end targets. Oil prices are steady with Brent crude trading at 108,88 on better economic outlook. Copper is flat in the morning after falling Tuesday. Both Gold and silver fell rather dramatically yesterday slowly recovering somewhat this morning. Gold fell from a 1705 peak down to a 1660 bottom. It is now trading at 1670.

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“Cliff” optimism boosts markets

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Both US and Asian shares inched higher as optimism grew for a “fiscal cliff” deal as President Barack Obama yesterday met with his Republican counterpart, House of Representative Speaker, John Boehner. Obama presented a counter-offer to the Republicans that is said to include a major change in position on tax hikes for the wealthy in efforts to hammer out a compromise to avert steep tax hikes and indiscriminate spending reductions set for the beginning of 2013.

According to informed sources the White House in a dramatic change of position has proposed leaving lower tax rates for everyone except for those earning above USD 400 000. That is up from the former threshold of USD 250 000 proposed by the President, but still far from the Republican proposal of USD 1 million. Obama is also said to be willing to compromise on budget cuts and revenue figures.

The rumors on movement in the negotiations had the US stock indexes to soar led by financials and other growth-orientated sectors. Bank of America jumped by 3,97 % followed by other major blue chips as Home Depot, JP Morgan, General Electric and Sisco. Dow Jones were up 0,76 % to 13 235. Nasdaq rose 1.32 % and ended at 3010 again passing the 3000 threshold. The positive trend continued in Asia this morning where Australian shares outperformed with a 0,7 percent increase. Also Nikkei, Shanghai and the MSCI index for Asian Pacific rose.

The more optimistic market attitude had a positive impact on commodities and precious metals. Oil prices led by Brent crude are up to 108,18 and gold again passed the USD 1700 ounce level after falling back to below 1690. The pressure on Yen following the Japanese elections continues. USD/JPY is trading at 83,98 after reaching 84,48 on Monday. The dollar has probably still an upside against yen prior to the Central Bank of Japan’s meeting later this week. Prime Minister Abe’s comments yesterday strengthened the assumption that BOJ would initiate monetary easing. EURO/USD stands at 1.3170, in line with the new higher level seen established in relation between USD and Euro. The Euro countries principle decision to establish a banking union has positively impacted the strength of the Euro.

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