Mar 28, 2019, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing for talks seeking to reach an end to the trade standoff between the world’s two largest economies, with hopes of a breakthrough remaining low. The Trump administration has recently become increasingly assertive in challenging China on its geopolitical red line, engaging in literal gunboat diplomacy as recently as this weekend. The moves echo a wider strategic rivalry, with the U.S. giving tacit approval to Taiwan’s request to purchase F-16 fighter jets, and asking allies to join it in restricting use of telecommunications equipment built by Huawei Technologies Co.
In Parliament last night British MPs seized the chance they had given themselves to take charge of the way forward for Brexit, and failed to agree on anything. All eight motions voted on – from no deal to cancelling Brexit – failed to reach a majority. Options are now rapidly running out, with even Prime Minister Theresa May’s offer to resign seemingly not enough to get her deal over the line. Parliament gets another chance to vote on a way forward on Monday, which may bring a different outcome, May could ask the EU for a long extension, or she may even call an election.
With Treasury yields yesterday hitting the lowest level in 15 months and the European Central Bank talking about how it can mitigate the effects of its negative interest rate policy, investors will be looking for any hints as to what the Federal Reserve plans to do next. Today might be a good day to gauge the mood at the central bank with Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles, Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard all due to speak at various events.
Overnight the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.5 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed down 1.7 percent amid growing fears over the outlook for the global economy. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.3 percent higher at 4:45 a.m. Eastern Time with miners and luxury goods makers among the sectors leading the gains. S&P 500 futures pointed to little change at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.377 percent and gold was lower.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect today’s fourth-quarter GDP revision to show that growth slowed more than previously reported in the last three months of 2018, which may be enough to drag economic expansion for the year below 3 percent. That data is released at 8:30 a.m., the same time as weekly jobless claims which are expected to be little changed from last week’s 221,000. At 10:00 a.m. pending home sales data for February is released.