February 16, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
The strengthening recovery across U.S. equities — the S&P 500 Index capped its best five-day run since 2011 yesterday — continues to set the tone for global benchmarks. Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.7 percent in a fairly quiet session as the Chinese New Year holiday began, while Japan’s Topix index closed 1 percent higher after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated Haruhiko Kuroda to lead the Bank of Japan for another five-year term. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index had risen 1 percent by 5:40 a.m. Eastern Time, with energy shares leading a broad rebound. S&P 500 futures added as much as 0.4 percent, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.895 percent and gold was higher.
The move lower in the U.S. dollar continued, with the yen falling below at 106 to the greenback for the first time since November 2016. The prospect of widening twin deficits is giving dollar bears more ammunition. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was trading at $61.59 by 5:40 a.m. as commodities priced in dollars prove attractive.
Retail sales in the U.K. barely grew in January, with the 0.1 percent monthly increase, far below analyst expectations. The Office for National Statistics said that sector is in the grip of a longer-term slowdown. There are signs that Brexit uncertainty is starting to bite elsewhere, with job losses starting to hit the auto workers, amid fears of factory closures should the U.K. lose tariff-free access to the single trading bloc.
The Senate rejected both a White House-backed proposal and a bipartisan compromise on solutions to address the fate of 1.8 million young immigrants. This leaves the chances of a broad deal on immigration this year all but dead. With the November elections already starting to loom over lawmakers, positions on the issue are only likely to become more entrenched in the coming months as President Donald Trump maintains a hardline stance.
Economists will closely watch the University of Michigan February Consumer Sentiment report, due at 10:00 a.m. for any signs of the recent market turmoil feeding through to the broader economy. At 1:00 p.m., the latest Baker Hughes rig count is due, with analysts watching closely following last week’s biggest jump in a year.