July 23, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Relations between Washington and Tehran took another turn for the worst after Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani warned the U.S. against threatening the country’s exports — drawing a sharp rebuke from President Donald Trump on Twitter. While market reaction to the increasing tensions has been relatively muted so far, Brent crude, the global benchmark, was trading 0.9 percent higher by 5:45 a.m. Eastern Time. On the domestic front, Trump is facing mixed fortunes, with his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort due to face trial this week on bank-fraud and tax charges, while as his approval rating among voters hits a new high.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spent the weekend at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires pouring cold water on fears that a currency war is about to break out while reassuring finance chiefs that the president fully supports Federal Reserve independence. This morning a foreign-ministry spokesperson in Beijing said China has no desire to devalue the yuan amid trade stresses. And tensions in commerce dominated much of the G-20 meeting, with the final statement highlighting the brewing risks to global growth.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ferrari NV fell sharply at the open in Milan this morning after sudden leadership changes, following the unexpected ending of Sergio Marchionne’s tenure as CEO due to health problems. Mike Manley, formerly head of the company’s Jeep brand, will take over as Fiat CEO and Louis Camilleri will head Ferrari. There was more bad press for Tesla Inc. when the Wall Street Journal reported that the company is seeking refunds from suppliers as the electric-car maker attempts to turn a profit.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.1 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.4 percent lower in a dramatic session fueled by reports the Bank of Japan may be planning changes to ultra-loose policy. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.1 percent lower at 5:45 a.m., as investors digested the Fiat leadership change and company earnings. S&P 500 futures pointed to a drop at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.884 percent and gold was slightly lower.
U.S. existing home sales data at 10:00 a.m. this morning may garner more interest than usual following last week’s report showing new home starts falling by the most since November 2016. Sterling watchers will keep an eye on Bank of England Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent’s speech at 1:00 p.m. to see if he joins calls for a tighter policy stance. In earnings, today sees Google parent Alphabet Inc. report.