January 19, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Yesterday the House passed a short-term funding measure in a 230-197 vote to keep the government funded through Feb. 16. Attention now turns to the Senate where it seems that Republican leaders may not have enough support from Democrats to get the funding extension passed. If they can’t agree, a government shutdown will begin from midnight tonight. Markets, so far, have taken the political drama in Washington in their stride.
The International Energy Agency said in its monthly report this morning that U.S. oil output is set for “explosive” growth in 2018, raising its forecast for production by 240,000 barrels a day to 1.35 million barrels. The report comes ahead of a two-day meeting between OPEC and its partners in Oman this weekend where the oil-cut strategy will be reviewed. In the market today, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was trading lower at $63.60 by 5:40 a.m. Eastern Time.
The White House has interviewed long-time Federal Reserve insider John Williams for the vacant post of Federal Reserve vice chairman, according to a person familiar with the matter. Williams, who had not previously been on the radar for the role, would be an appointment that would probably please the market as it would offer further continuity at the central bank following the nomination of Fed Governor Jerome Powell to replace Janet Yellen when her term as chair expires next month.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.8 percent, while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.7 percent higher with electronics and machinery makers leading the gains. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.4 percent higher at 5:40 a.m. with almost all sectors except energy rising. S&P 500 futures added 0.3 percent, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.628 percent and gold was higher.
One of the bigger themes emerging for markets in 2018 is the continued weakness of the U.S. dollar. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dipped 0.3 percent after trading at the lowest level in three years, as the greenback headed for its sixth week of losses against major currencies. The yuan broke below 6.4 per dollar for the first time since Dec. 2015, leaving analysts guessing as to when Chinese authorities will intervene to halt the gains. The pound rose to its strongest level against the U.S. currency since the Brexit vote.