Apr 4, 2019, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
There continue to be signs that progress is being made at trade talks between the U.S. and China in Washington this week. Later today Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will meet with President Donald Trump in the White House, with the goal over the next few days to reach an agreement on core issues which would allow a signing ceremony between Trump and China’s Xi Jinping. Drafts of the agreement give China until 2025 to meet commitments on commodity purchases and open the way to full takeovers of its companies by U.S. bidders. For the U.S., trust remains an issue, while authorities in Beijing are keen for a breakthrough to help turn the economy around.
Well, agreement not to do something, that is. Last night lawmakers in Westminster passed a vote by a majority of one to block a potentially destructive no-deal Brexit. This means that if a stalemate on exiting the European Union persists until the April 12 deadline, British Prime Minister Theresa May will be forced to ask the EU for a long extension to the process. With some members of the bloc still opposed to that, and Conservatives in London not happy about holding EU legislative elections, there remains little clarity on what the eventual outcome will be. Pound traders reacted positively to the vote, but without exuberance.
There was more bad news for German manufacturing this morning when factory orders data for February dropped 8.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest plunge since 2009. A report issued today by the country’s five largest economic research institutes predicts expansion this year will slow to 0.8 percent, compared with a previous estimate of 1.9 percent. Signs of increasing growth concerns are one of the things that investors will look for when the minutes of the ECB’s March meeting are published at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
Overnight the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.2 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.1 percent lower as the yen strengthened. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.4 percent lower at 5:40 a.m. as investors awaited details from the trade talks, the ECB minutes and tomorrow’s U.S. jobs report. S&P 500 futures pointed to a small drop at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.499 percent and gold was slightly higher.
Initial weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. will give one last look at the health of the job market ahead of tomorrow’s big number with a slight increase to 215,000 expected in today’s reading. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker speak at separate events, both at 1:00 p.m. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is due in court in Manhattan to face a SEC complaint that his tweets put him in contempt.