July 20, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
President Donald Trump criticized the interest-rate polices of the Federal Reserve under Chair Jerome Powell, saying “I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up,” in an interview with CNBC broadcast yesterday. The president’s comments, which break with a two-decade tradition of the White House respecting the central bank’s independence, may make the Federal Open Market Committee more inclined to raise rates to signal that independence. The dollar fell immediately after the comments were released, with the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index trading 0.5 percent below yesterday’s high this morning.
The yuan recovered from a steep decline overnight amid signs authorities were seeking to halt the plunge that have hit Chinese markets this week. The central bank’s apparent indifference to the drop in the currency have made traders nervous, with some expecting further volatility through the summer. Hopes of currency stabilization have given a boost to battered base metal prices, with copper rebounding as much as 0.8 percent this morning.
Italian bonds suffered a selloff this morning after reports emerged of a rift between the leaders of the populist coalition government and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, leading to speculation he may be forced to step down. Bond yields remained elevated even after the country’s treasury office called the claims “pure invention.” Elsewhere, the U.K.’s new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will meet with Chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels later today with negotiations over Britain’s path out of the trading bloc still stalled as Prime Minister Theresa May continues to grapple with rebels within her own party.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.5 percent, with the Shanghai Composite Index closing 2 percent higher as the yuan stabilized. Japan’s Topix index ended the session 0.3 percent lower. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.1 percent higher at 5:45 a.m. Eastern Time as equities fluctuated between gains and losses. S&P 500 futures pointed to a loss at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.856 percent and gold was higher.
In the wake of Trump’s remarks on interest rates, there will be plenty of attention on St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s comments when he speaks in Kentucky at 8:20 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., Baker Hughes will publish its latest U.S. rig count, with that company also due to report its financial results today. Over the weekend, G-20 finance ministers meet in Buenos Aires with trade conflict seen as the main risk to economic growth.