While improving economic landscape, particularly in the Eurozone economies, and less focus on political risk to the region have underpinned some lift in investor sentiment, uncertainty over stretched bond and equity..
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valuations lingers. Rising volatility across asset classes is likely to keep investors somewhat cautious and with central banks continuing to surprise markets with more aggressive stimulus, gold in particular looks well-placed to benefit, especially for non-USD investors. With Greek debt discussion to resume this week, we could see some of the recent optimism dampen.
Oil rally continues to defy rising inventories. Oil rallied sharply on Friday (after the data cut-off for this report) as the market becomes increasingly optimistic about tightening supply. For now however, inventories continue to rise. A cut in production will be required to sustain current prices. The spread between Brent and WTI benchmarks has widened to the highest since September 2014, with Brent leading the gains. Natural gas and heating oil also gained 4.1% and 5.1% as a cold weather snap in the US North East boosted demand for heating energy. Cocoa rose 6.5% as a lack of rain in West Africa threatens to spoil the flowering for the April-September ‘mid-crop’ period. Industrial metals were pressured by concerns over weak global growth, although the better-than-expected GDP reading from the Euro area (in particular Germany) on Friday, could reverse some of those losses.
Growth data boosts confidence. The S&P 500 rose to an all-time high while European bourses rallied as Euro area GDP defied doomsayers’ expectations of collapse on Friday. However, volatility is also rising. The EURO STOXX 50® Investable Volatility Index gained 2.6% last week after having fallen more than 16% in the past month. Meanwhile strong lending data helped the MSCI China A-Share index recover 2.1% last week, as the market has become more optimistic about the scope of policy easing on increasing credit intermediation. With the week-long Chinese New Year holidays commencing on 19th February, we expect activity to be subdued. Gold miners lost some of their recent momentum, with performance tracking the gold price lower. The DAXglobal gold mining index fell 5.8%.
Riksbank enters the currency battle, pressuring SEK lower. In another policy surprise, the Swedish central bank cut rates last week, sending the Krona lower against major G10 currencies. The governor of the Riksbank noted that additional measures targeting the currency cannot be ruled out and we expect SEK to remain under pressure. With global economic activity improving, the USD experienced a modest sell-off last week. Despite USD positioning appearing somewhat stretched near record highs, investor sentiment remains fragile and we expect the USD to remain well supported in the near-term. The focus for investors will be on Greek debt negotiations alongside central bank policy, with the Bank of Japan holding a policy meeting and monetary policy minutes scheduled for released from the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. In light of recent aggressive moves from central banks in terms of stimulus and rising volatility, if there is any pause in the support being provided, a sharp rally could ensue, with JPY one likely candidate this week.