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Plenty of Macro Policy Boulders to Hit: Global Week Ahead

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This Global Week Ahead has major macro policy boulders, rising amidst the stock ticker tape stream.

On Wednesday, we have a standard Fed meeting. We get to hear about the goofy mid-meeting re-start of “QE” a few weeks ago.

Yes — no Fed Funds rate change will happen. Who needs antiques like the Fed Funds rate, when the Repo market is begging for daily doses of direct Fed liquidity? Powell will get a fair share of questions on that phenomenon at his presser. It is held at 2 pm ET.

On Thursday, the U.K. votes in its general election. Welcome back Brexit! Get back to the trader’s mainstream, once again. It’s only been 3 years of this.

However, former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow will be in the studio TV booth for this round. No more ‘Orrrder!’ His memoir is set to be out in February. He calls Brexit the U.K.’s ‘biggest blunder’ in 70 years. I can’t disagree with that. Let’s see what new political theater develops over there.

Also on Thursday, emerging market central bankers step up to the plate. They wait until after the Fed makes its decisions. So too will Christine LaGarde, operating at the helm of her first ECB meeting in Europe.

If you don’t understand global central bank liquidity supports stock prices everywhere, there is no hope for you at this point.

Then, the major macro policy events are really not over.

A Sunday, December 15th deadline for self-imposed tariffs, for 15% U.S. producer paid import taxes on $160B of new consumer goods, on the way from China to the USA, hits.

That’s right — it’s set up for next weekend. One can expect traders to be nervous about this final major macro move, in advance, all week long.

Next are Reuters’ five world market themes, reordered by importance to equity traders:

(1) Self-Imposed U.S. Tariff Increase Deadline -- Next Sunday, December 15th

The Dec. 15 deadline for the next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods is fast approaching, and that's keeping markets yo-yo-ing between despair and euphoria.

Signs of trade war damage have started showing up in U.S. data. We will now get the next dose of Chinese numbers on the ebb and flow of cash and goods. Sunday brings trade balance figures and, possibly, some lending stats. They will be the last set of numbers to land before policymakers hunker down at Beijing's army-run Jingxi Hotel to decide 2020 economic targets. They will be hoping to see a rise in exports for the first time in four months. Loan making too should rebound from the 22-month lows of October, a seasonally slow month full of holidays.

But pressure is building for more fiscal and monetary policy measures. Consumer demand is soft, meaning the data may reveal falling imports. It might all hinge on what happens in the run-up to Dec. 15; authorities will be looking for assurances from Washington on either holding off the tariff hikes or rolling back existing ones. So far there is no sign of either.

(2) A Fed Meeting on Dec. 10 and 11th; No Chance for a Rate Move

There seems little likelihood the Fed will move the Fed Funds target rate at its Dec. 10-11 meeting; after all, it cut rates for the third time this year in October and signaled it would stand pat for a while to monitor the economy.

Jerome Powell's post-meeting press conference may yield more interesting headlines. He could address tightness in the short-term interbank lending markets that sent repo rates briefly to 10% in September. Since then, the Fed has been stabilizing repo markets by offering to buy securities nearly every day. But given traders' fears of another spike at year-end, the central bank is considering a standing repo facility that would allow banks to borrow as needed instead of queuing up in daily operations.

Reporters may also seek cues from Powell on mooted changes to the Fed's monetary policy framework, especially after Fed Governor Lael Brainard's recent comments endorsing a move to targeting average inflation, from the current 2.0% upper limit. The question is all the more likely because it will come hours after the release of the November Consumer Price Index. Core CPI is running above 2% but the Fed's preferred gauge — the core Personal Consumption Expenditure — is undershooting.

(3) Emerging Market Central Banks Will Follow the Fed with Decisions

It's shaping up to be a busy week in emerging markets. Firstly, the blizzard of interest rate cuts is set to resume, with Russia slicing another 25 basis points off its 6.5% benchmark rate and Turkey expected to slash another 100 bps from its 14% rate. Brazil's real recently hit record lows but that may not deter authorities from plans to cut the 5% interest rate by 50 bps.

Then, there are the emerging market trouble spots. Alberto Fernandez formally takes over as Argentina's new president on Tuesday. Investors will hope to get an inkling of his plans to yank the economy out of crisis and get the ball rolling on restructuring sovereign debt.

Lebanon, also seemingly skidding towards default, is preparing to play one of its last cards. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will jet to Paris on Wednesday to try a mobilize international support. Deep-pocketed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among those expected to be invited to a meeting.

(4) The U.K. General Election Happens on Thursday, December 12th

More than three years after Britons narrowly voted to leave the European Union, the Dec. 12th general election will effectively offer them another vote on how they want Brexit to proceed, and if they still think it should go ahead.

Opinion polls showing the Conservative Party with a big lead have fueled a scintillating pound rally and 'short' sterling positions have been cut to seven-month lows; the belief is the Conservatives will quickly implement Brexit and end the uncertainty that's weighed on the economy since 2016.

Polls' patchy track record worries some people though, and that's evident in derivative markets where two-week risk reversals — an indicator of bullish to bearish bets — are at two-month highs. And while currency volatility everywhere is at record lows, sterling vol is approaching this year's highs.

What are the risks? One, that the polls have got it wrong and Britain will get another hung parliament. Second, if a Conservative win is already priced in, traders may be tempted to take profits, pushing sterling lower.

And focus will shift to the 11-month window for Britain to sign trade deals with the European Union. That prospect will likely keep the economy and markets jittery.

(5) LaGarde Begins Her Job at the Head of the European Central Bank (ECB)

On Thursday, Christine Lagarde will hold her first meeting and news conference as European Central Bank president. She faces no immediate pressure to take any policy action — ECB stimulus announced in September and some stabilization in indicators such as Germany's Ifo sentiment survey mean markets don't really expect an interest rate cut through 2020.

Some of the extreme pessimism in bond markets has also abated, lifting German 10-year yields more than 40 basis points off record lows.

Yet Lagarde's every word will be studied for her thoughts on the monetary policy outlook, the economy and an upcoming strategy review. And after eight years of the straight-talking Mario Draghi, expect the new ECB chief's communication style to also fall under scrutiny.

Top Zacks #1 Rank Stocks

(1) OMV AG (OMVJF - Free Report) : This is an Oil & Gas Integrated International stock. It prices at $59 a share and the market cap is $19.1B. I see an A for Zacks Value and a B for Zacks Growth.

OMV Aktiengesellschaft is an Austria-based integrated oil and gas company. It operates through two segments: Upstream and Downstream. The Downstream unit operates 3,800 gas stations in 10 countries in Europe.

With last week’s OPEC meeting offering up new oil production cuts of 500K barrels a day through March 2020, do Oil & Gas stocks like this make a move?

The Saudis make up 167K of that (1/3) agreement. But they are going to exceed their quota by 400K barrels. That pushes the cut from 1.7 mb/day to 2.1 mb/day. It was 1.2 mb/day.

(2) Prologis (PLD - Free Report) : This is a $91 a share REIT and Equity Trust, with $57.8B in market cap. I note a Zacks Value score of F (their forward P/E is 27.6) and a Zacks Growth score of D.

Prologis Inc. is a leading industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) that acquires, develops, operates and manages industrial real estate space in the Americas, Asia and Europe.

The company principally targets investments in distribution facilities for customers who are engaged in global trade and depend on efficient movement of goods through the global supply chain.

This industrial REIT stock has been a steady ‘momo’ player all year long. Go figure. There has been no trader worry seen about a core real estate business with exposure to the global supply chains of their end customers.

(3) Global Payments (GPN - Free Report) : This is a $177 stock in the Financial Transaction Services industry. It has a market cap of $53B. There is a Zacks Value score of D and a Zacks Growth score of B.

They focus on small and medium sized businesses around the world. Again, another ‘momo’ player where you would least expect it. The global macro story and the individual company story are NOT always in train. Quite the opposite at times.

Key Global Macro—

The astute global watcher at Scotiabank in Canada had this to say:

“Trade policy risks will be closely monitored on two counts.

“One is whether there is sufficient progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations to avert a tariff hike that would see the U.S. impose a 15% tariff on U.S.$160B of Chinese imports on December 15th.

“Before December 15th, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is likely to become crippled. As of Tuesday, December 10th, the WTO will lack quorum to function because the U.S. administration has been blocking appointments to replace two out of three of the Appellate Body’s members whose terms expire.

“It has been a stealth tactic by the Trump administration to cripple opposition to its trade policies that are unfriendly toward multilateralism and it could risk giving the U.S. administration a clear path to impose its will on trading partners without risking retaliation.”

On Monday, Mexican inflation is expected to hold steady around +3.0% y/y.

Japan’s Q3 GDP growth is expected to be revised higher on Monday while nevertheless remaining weak. The initial annualized growth rate of +0.2% could be tripled.

On Tuesday, the German ZEW investor confidence indexes hit the tape.

On Wednesday, the Fed is widely expected to keep its policy Fed Funds rate unchanged at 1.75% when the statement hits (at 2pm ET). Chair Powell’s press conference ensues at 2:30pm ET.

The U.S. headline inflation rate is expected to land at +1.9% y/y in the November reading. The ex-Food & Energy CPI reading is likely to be +2.3% y/y.

Banco Central do Brasil will offer another rate decision. Expect a half point reduction (50 basis points) in the SELIC rate. That would take it down to 4.5% for a cumulative 200 basis points of easing since this past summer.

On Thursday, the ECB delivers another statement and policy rate decisions on Thursday (7:45am ET). Main Refi is at 0.0%, Marginal Lending at 0.25%, and the Deposit Facility Rate is at -0.5%. No change is expected from LaGarde’s first at bat.

Banco Central de Reserva del Peru will deliver its own rate decision. Expect the reference rate to be held constant at 2.25%.

Bankgo Sentral ng Pilipinas is expected to leave its policy rate unchanged at 4.0%.

Russia’s central bank is expected to cut its key rate by 25bps again to 6.25%, after which Governor Nabiullina will hold a press conference.

Japan’s Tankan indexes come out, as does its Capacity Utilization rate.

On Friday, U.S. retail sales for the month of November comes out. Ex-Autos is looking for +0.3% m/m. That’s a +3.6% annualized rate.

I will conclude my writeup with this thought — Did you ever read about the U.S. stealth tactic of crippling the World Trade Organization (WTO) effective Tuesday, Dec. 10th? That has not been given any press coverage.

We are into the fourth straight month of declining U.S. PMIs related to U.S. trade. This pre-planned attack on the WTO quorum should have been news before this week.

Does something happen in advance of the self-imposed U.S. Dec. 15th tariff increase deadline? We shall see. Stocks will likely trade with that uncertainty hovering above all week along.

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