26 JUNE 2013: US DATA LIFTS STOCKS

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Strong manufacturing and housing data lifted the US equity markets after several losing sessions following the meeting in the Federal Reserve (FED) and Chairman Ben Bernanke’s statement last Wednesday. Global markets have since been in turmoil on the prospect of a tapering in the USD 85 billion monthly bond buying program, which have fed stocks with liquidity and created what many see as an artificial rally. Uncertainty as to whether monetary easing will continue, has in two weeks wiped out most of these gains.

The economic data presented yesterday gave strong arguments to those arguing that the US economy is back on the right track and the 6.5% unemployment target set by FED, is within reach. Realizing the heavy waves last week’s statement has created, FED representatives were, on Wednesday, eagerly playing down the likelihood for a quick end to monetary easing, stressing the many uncertainties and FED’s conditions for a termination.

These efforts were, to a certain degree, undermined by better than seven years housing figures. Greater demands for capital goods such as cars and aircrafts point in the same direction. The positive numbers had Dow Jones turn sharply up after four dismal losing sessions. Dow ended 0.65 % up at 14 754, still far from the benchmark 15 000. Nasdaq also gained ground and added 0.5 %. The European markets ended in positive territory after big losses since last week.

The Dollar is the big winner of the FED statement. It gained new ground after the housing data was published, but fell somewhat back. EUR/USD which started on a good note on 1.3235 dipped at a point below the resistance level on 1.3172 which represents the last 200 days moving average. A fall below that level will indicate that the EURO is in bullish territory. EURO fell as deep as 1.3162, but has since recovered well above 1301,72 to 1.3091.

The USD/JPY followed a similar trading pattern and stands 97.90. Australian Dollar rebounded strongly while the Chinese Central Bank’s tighter credit conditions towards private lenders conducting a freewheeling policy, sent new shivers through the Chinese stock markets. The losses were, at one point, 5.5 %, but turned back to a relatively modest 0,2 %. While the US economy seems to improve fundamentally, there are big question marks around the world’s second biggest economy . Oil and commodity prices have risen on the back of the new positive data in US.

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20 JUNE 2013: FED STRENGTHENS USD WHILE STOCKS PLUNGE

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The US Federal Reserve (FED) will start to taper its monetary easing program in the second half of 2013 ,and terminate the bond buying completely in the first half of 2014. That was Chairman Ben Bernanke’s message after FED’s meeting yesterday. A termination depends, however, on continued growth, controlled inflation and achievement of FED’s 6.5 % unemployment target. The US economy is moderately growing, but FED see increased downturn risks due to budget cuts, which have weakened growth. The low interest rate policies will continue.

Markets reacted by sending stocks down. Dow Jones Industrial fell 1.35 %. Nasdaq lost 1.12 %. The Asian indexes plunged on the news. The bond buying program has been the main driver behind this year’s stock rally. A termination invites uncertainty. The Asian-Pacific MSCI-index fell more than 3 %. The Japanese Nikkei was equally hard hit as were Australia, New Zealand and other Asian markets. The downturn in equity markets is most probably going to continue in Europe today.

FED’s conclusion and Bernanke’s comments don’t come as a big surprise. Over the last few weeks there has been continuous speculation as to when tapering would start. FED seems to be convinced that the US economy is on the right track, but keeps the door open for continued stimulus policies in the worst case scenario. This “exit” from monetary easing shall hardly calm nervous markets which usually overreact to news regarded as negative.

FED’s decision has strengthened the Dollar in relation to all currencies. EUR/USD has fallen from the 1.34 level to 1.326. Yen has also lost ground and trades at 96.28 Yen to a Dollar.GBP/USD, which lately has traded at around 1.57, plunged to 1.5448. The USD/AUD continues to fall, 0.9250, on new data confirming a slower Chinese growth. Oil prices are down. Brent crude trades at USD 104.69 a barrel, down one-and-a-half Dollars. Gold and commodity prices continue to lose ground.

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19 JUNE 2013: MARKETS WAIT FOR BERNANKE

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Stocks led by General Electric grew higher on Wall Street yesterday, as markets eagerly wait for US Federal Reserve’s , FED, policy statement to be published later today. Both Dow Jones Industrial and the technology heavy Nasdaq added 0.91 and 0.87 % respectively on expectations that FED, for now, will maintain its aggressive bond buying program, which over the last half year has boosted stocks. Markets are gambling on continued monetary easing in spite of recent data pointing to an improvement in the US-economy.

FED Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated that the bond buying would be wound down when the economy has proven stronger. FED has put a 6.5 % unemployment rate and an inflation rate below 2.5 % as benchmark targets. An improving US economy seems, at present, capable of growing without monetary easing, but FED has not yet decided on the final exit strategy. It is expected that a tapering of the bond buying will begin in September/October.

Japanese stocks followed the positive lead from New York, outperforming the rest of Asia. Nikkei rose 1.1 %, helped by a softer Yen. USD/JPY traded at 95.28 down from the 94.50 level seen over the last couple of days. The Asian Pacific MSCI-index eased 0.3 % led by a 1.3 % fall in mainland Chinese stocks. Hong Kong and South Koreas were also lower. The MSCI index has lost 8 % since May 22nd, when Bernanke indicated to Congress that a decision to wind down bond buying would come in the next few meetings.

The question for many investors is whether Bernanke will succeed in convincing markets that any tapering is conditional on incoming data opposed to the foregone conclusion: tapering is going to come regardless. The uncertainty has convinced most currency and equity investors to retreat to the sidelines. The Dollar has moved marginally over the last day. EUR/USD trades at 1.3390 after reaching close to a four-month peak at 1.3416 yesterday. Commodities, oil and gold are trading at steady levels.

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09 MAY 2013: STOCKS RALLY AS MAJOR CURRENCIES LOSE DIRECTION

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Global equity markets continue to rally as major currencies have lost a clear direction. Encouraging global data and Wall Street’s extended record rally, took Asian shares to a new two-year peak Thursday morning. Australia presented strong unemployment numbers. While 50 100 new jobs were added in April, the South Korean central bank made a surprise 0,5% interest cut lowering the interest rate to 2,5%. These steps further cemented the positive mood in global markets.

Lower interest rates and central banks increased money printing have created spare liquidity which moves into stocks. The Japanese monetary easing brought the Nikkei index within striking distance of a five-years highs outperforming its global peers. Stocks remain the favored asset class among investors as monetary easing depresses return on bonds. Unclear prospects regarding the world economic growth weigh negatively on commodity prices. Commodities trade without any clear direction with precious metals temporarily falling out of favor with investors.

In contrast to the clear uptrend in global equities major currencies have lost direction. This is the case with Japanese yen, JPY, which depreciated continuously since November last year and depreciated and lost 20 – 25% against most currencies. The last weeks USD/JPY has traded in the interval between 97 – 99 yen a dollar unable to make a major breakthrough and jump above the psychological 100 level.

Investors which made huge profits betting on big cash currency positions earlier this year go into equities which regardless of economic fundamental outlooks are strongly buoyed by monetary easing. As long as central banks keep their accommodative stance the uptrend in stocks would continue. Stocks were also helped by the upbeat US unemployment figures last Friday, Chinese trading data and more promising prospects for the German industry.

In spite of the economic outlook for the Euro zone continues to be dismal, the Euro remains resilient. Euro/USD trades at 1.3160. The economic problems in Europe are indeed serious, but traders have recently burnt their fingers on going short on Euro and stay away. The Euro seems to have discounted eventual bad news, and the balance of payment and real interest rates are no lower than anywhere else. There is no clear conviction among traders as to the timing of Euro weakness. In this financial climate oil prices are keeping up steady. Brent is hovering around USD 104 a barrel. Gold price which fell to USD 1449 on Tuesday, has picked up and trades at 1474.

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24 April 2013: Apple lifts Asia after false tweet

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Apple climbed 4,9% to USD 425,95 in after closing trade yesterday night after reporting strong second quarter earnings. Apple also unveiled plans to double the amount of capital returned to shareholders after for a long time being heavily criticized for not sharing excessive profits. The Apple quarterly report made stock markets in Asia to rally. Wall Street recovered Tuesday after initial sharp declines sparked by an Associated Press tweet about explosions in the White House.

The false tweet by hackers of two explosions at the White House that injured US President Barack Obama, provoked a steep drop in stocks. The benchmark S&P index fell 16,6 points or close to one percent in 3 minutes. Index values of USD 136 billion were wiped out. Stocks quickly recovered minutes later. The tweet episode illustrates the advantages, but simultaneously the fall outs of an instantaneous pricing technology.

Asian shares advanced on Wednesday on the back of Apple and other solid US quarterly earnings. The Euro came under pressure by soft German data which underscored the fragile state of the euro zone economy. The Asia-Pacific MSCI-index climbed 0,8%. The Australian stock index gained 1.4% along with a firmer Aussie dollar. The positive US numbers also gave a lift to oil and other commodities. Copper is up after several day’s decline. Brent crude trades at USD 100,54 a barrel. Gold (USD 1426) and silver (USD 23,15) prices are up after falling back during yesterday’s trading.

The more positive tone in global equities markets seem to indicate that investors regard continued monetary easing by major central banks as justified. Monetary easing encourages investments in shares. But that also means that stock markets don’t reflect the real economic fundamentals. Equities continue to rally in spite of sluggish manufacturing surveys and weaker economic data from both the US and China, the two major engines in the global economy.

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