Yuan drops after China changes its fixing mechanism, oil rally continues with Brent approaching $70, and euro-area jobless rate falls again. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
Fixing the fix
China’s central bank made changes to how it calculates the yuan’s daily reference rate that effectively removes the volatility-reducing “counter-cyclical factor” it introduced last year. The move, which saw the currency weaken against the dollar, will increase the role of markets in setting the daily fix. Analysts say the decision shows authorities are confident pressure on the currency to depreciate has eased, though policy makers won’t hesitate to reintroduce the factor if market volatility increases.
Monthly average prices for Brent crude have increased every month since July, with the benchmark now close to its highest level since Dec. 2014, and closing in on $70 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was trading at $61.87 a barrel at 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time as the U.S. benchmark held recent gains ahead of inventories data. Perhaps surprisingly, the rising prices are not being welcomed by one OPEC producer, with Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran’s oil minister, saying he’s not keen on prices over $60 a barrel as that encourages shale production.
Joblessness in the euro area dropped to the lowest level since early 2009, with the unemployment rate falling to 8.7 percent in November, according to a report from Eurostat. There was good news for Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni ahead of the March election as data showed the number of Italians in employment reached the highest level since records began in 1977. In still-without-a-government Germany, meanwhile, industrial production rebounded in November, rising 3.4 percent from the previous month, well ahead of projections.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.1 percent as the region’s stocks rose for a sixth day, while Japan’s Topix index gained 0.5 percent in its first session of the week to close at the highest level since June 1991. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.4 percent higher at 5:50 a.m. as stocks were lifted by positive economic data. S&P 500 futures were slightly higher, the U.S. 10-year Treasury briefly passed 2.5 percent this morning, and gold was a little lower.
Lost in space
The second-stage booster section of the Falcon 9 rocket used by SpaceX to launch a military satellite failed, according to people familiar with the matter, with one saying both the booster and the satellite fell into the ocean. No parties involved in the launch have commented as the operation is classified. The news comes as a setback for Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in its first mission in a year in which the company plans roughly 30 assignments.