China’s Trade Surplus Defies Gravity Again to Shift Focus to Trump and the USD

The risk off sentiment continued through the early part of the day, with better than expected trade data out of China doing little to settle the markets.
Bob Mason

Earlier in the Day:

Economic data released through this morning’s Asian session was on the heavier side, with key stats including September Business PMI numbers out of New Zealand, August home loan out of Australian, along with the RBA’s Financial Stability Review and September trade data out of China, while Japan’s Tertiary Industry Activity Index and outstanding new loan figures out of China are due out later.

For the Kiwi Dollar, the business PMI slipped from 52.0 to 51.7 in September. Looking at the sub-indexes:

  • The production sub-index contracted in September, falling from 52.5 to 49.6.
  • Employment saw a pickup again, following a contraction in August, the sub-index rising from 49.0 to 50.5.
  • New orders saw slower growth, the sub-index easing from 53.1 to 52.4, while the rate of growth in finished stocks picked up, the sub-index rising from 51.4 to 52.7, while deliveries slowed, falling from 54.1 to 52.5.

The Kiwi Dollar moved from $0.65246 to $0.65268 upon release of the figures, before easing to $0.6518 at the time of writing, down 0.2% for the session.

For the Aussie Dollar, home loans fell by 2.1% in August, which was far worse than a forecasted 0.9% decline, following a 0.4% recovery back in July, according to figures released by the ABS.

  • The value of owner occupied dwelling commitments fell by 2.7%, while the value of investment housing fixed loans fell by 1.1%.
  • The number of dwelling commitments for the purchase of new dwellings rose by 0.3%, while the number of commitments for the purchase of established dwellings fell by 1.8%. The number of commitments for the construction of dwellings slumped by 6.2%.

Alongside the release of the home loan figures was the release of the RBA’s Financial Stability Review, which included the following salient points:

  • The Australian economy has been strong with unemployment falling, though wage growth has been low.
  • Given a low gearing environment, businesses have been earning solid profits, with few having difficulty to service debt.
  • Conditions in the housing market have eased, reflecting a shift in supply and demand, with sentiment towards the sector becoming more cautious.
  • Recent falls in new home loans were reflective of slowing demand for housing finance, with stricter lending conditions also being rolled out this year.
  • Expectations are that most borrowers will be able to continue to meet repayment obligations, reflected in an overall low NPL level.
  • There is exposure to a sharp contraction in global growth or dislocation in global financial markets because of the importance of trade and capital inflows, worsening conditions likely to lead to a downturn in the domestic economy.
  • High household debt levels do not appear to be a large risk to the financial system, with majority of debt well secured, the risk of high household debt being to the economy through consumption.

The Aussie Dollar moved from $0.71267 to $0.71278 upon release of the figures, which came ahead of trade and outstanding new loan numbers out of China.

Out of China,

September’s trade surplus, in U.S Dollar terms, widened from $27.89bn to $31.69bn in September, which was better than a forecasted narrowing to $21bn.

  • Imports rose by 14.3% year-on-year, coming up short of a forecasted 15% rise, following August’s 19.9% increase.
  • Exports rose by 14.5 Y% year-on-year, coming in well ahead of a forecasted 9.1% rise, following August’s 9.8% increase.

There was little movement in the Aussie Dollar considering the upbeat figures, which would have been attributed to efforts by businesses to push out goods ahead of the introduction of tariffs, the weaker than expected import figures a possible early indicator of the beginnings of a fall in manufacturing sector productivity that would be aligned with the recent manufacturing PMI numbers out of China.

At the time of writing, the Aussie Dollar was down 0.04% to $0.7121.

Elsewhere, the Japanese Yen stood at ¥112.33, down 0.15% for the session, with the rout in the global equity markets and softer than anticipated inflation numbers out of the U.S providing support.

In the equity markets, it was a mixed bag at the time of writing, with the Hang Seng finding some support following the latest rout, up 0.48% at the time of writing, while the Nikkei, CSI300 and ASX200 continued to struggle, with declines of 0.45%, 0.48 and 0.05% respectively, the CSI300 showing little response to the latest trade figures.

The Day Ahead:

For the EUR, economic data out of the Eurozone is limited to finalized September inflation numbers out of Germany and the Eurozone’s August industrial production figures.

While we expect finalized inflation numbers to have a muted impact on the EUR, some further support for the EUR could come off the back of the Eurozone’s industrial production figures, though with market jitters over the outlook towards the global economy and the Eurozone’s reliance on trade, August figures may well be discounted by the markets later this morning.

September trade data out of China impressed this morning, though the weaker import number may be a red flag, supporting the IMF’s downward revision to economic growth for this year and next. Any slowdown in the global economy is never a good thing for the Eurozone economy and the EUR. Throw in the Italian coalition government’s budget plans and it’s looking precarious, though there is always the reverse carry trade to consider, inflows into the EUR likely to continue should the global equity market rout continue.

At the time of writing, the EUR was up 0.08% to $1.1602, with budget chatter from Italy and today’s stats and market risk appetite in general the key drivers for the EUR.

For the Pound, it’s another quiet day on the data front, leaving the Pound firmly in the hands of Brexit chatter, which has provided some much needed support of late, the Pound up 0.84% for the week through Thursday, though some Dollar weakness as contributed to the gains.

On the Brexit front, there were no updates out of Brussels, while the news wires suggest that the British PM intends to persist with the Chequers plan that was roasted by EU member states and pro-Brexit members of parliament in recent weeks. A softening in the EU’s stance on the Irish border is one thing, but returning to the table with a lambasted proposal could backfire…

At the time of writing, the Pound was up 0.02% to $1.3232, with Brexit chatter to influence through the day.

Across the Pond, key stats through the day include September import and export prices along with October’s prelim Michigan consumer expectations and sentiment figures.

While we can expect some direction from the consumer figures, the survey was likely carried out before the latest global equity market rout, which may well limit the effects of any numbers that are in line with or better than forecasted, consumer sentiment expected to improve in September.

Labour market conditions may be a huge plus, but rising concerns over the ongoing trade war between China and the U.S, long with doom and gloom from U.S corporates and even the IMF, consumers could begin to become anxious, particularly as the FED looks hell bent on continuing with its move towards policy normalization amidst plenty of uncertainty in the global economy.

Outside of the stats, FOMC members Evans and Bostic are scheduled to speak, with Trump’s attacks on the FED and other chatter from the Oval Office also there to consider, the mid-term elections rapidly approaching as the global economy and the global equity markets begin to unravel.

At the time of writing, the Dollar Spot Index was down 0.02% to 94.994, with today’s stats, FOMC member speeches and chatter from the Oval office needing consideration through the day.

For the Loonie, there are no material stats scheduled for release, with some upside against the Greenback coming off the back of the softer than anticipated September inflation numbers out of the U.S. A slide in crude oil prices and risk aversion across the global financial markets are likely to pin the Loonie back through the day, the lack of stats providing the markets with little to go on ahead of next week’s retail sales and inflation figures.

The Loonie was down 0.02% at C$1.3034 against the U.S Dollar at the time of writing.

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