December 15, 2017 by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Final tax plan due, showdown in the oil market, and Brexit talks set to get messy. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
The final details of the tax plan are due to be released later today by Congressional Republicans, with two important questions still hanging over a successful passage of the bill. The first is on money, with the program needing to come in under the $1.5 trillion limit set by Congress. Every sweetener added to secure votes risks pushing deficits over that limit. Secondly, it remains unclear if there is enough support among Republican senators to get the deal done. In the last 24 hours, Senators Marco Rubio, Bob Corker, Mike Lee, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins have all said they are undecided on the vote.
The two biggest voices in the oil industry have very different outlooks for next year. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies predict their production cuts will succeed in clearing a glut, while the International Energy Agency says the surplus will barely budge in 2018. For both organizations, the wildcard is on the supply side, with predictions over the size of U.S. shale production next year the swing factor. In the market this morning, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was trading at $57.35, virtually unchanged for the week.
EU leaders are set to formally agree today that sufficient progress has been made to allow Brexit talks move on to the critical second round, where negotiations on the future trade relationship with Britain can begin. The first round of talks were dominated by a strongly united European front, but that may come under threat in the coming months as agreements need to be reached on areas such as aviation, financial services, and trade in goods, in which member states place vastly different importance. The more discord among EU states on such issues, the more difficult an agreement becomes ahead of the March 2019 exit date.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.4 percent, while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.8 percent lower as worries about the U.S. tax bill’s passage weighed on global markets. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.4 percent lower at 5:50 a.m. Eastern Time, with lenders giving up yesterday’s gains. S&P 500 futures added 0.1 percent, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.362 percent and gold was slightly higher.
The Bank of Russia rounded off this marathon week of monetary decisions with a cut in interest rates to 7.75 percent, as inflation remained below 4 percent for a fourth month. The over-arching theme from the sixteen policy updates seems to be that the world’s central banks would like everything to keep going just the way it is as they quietly take the punchbowl away.