After risk sentiment took a beating from conflicting news regarding the vaccine results, investors shook off the immediate concerns and concentrated on the reopening economies and the receding number of COVID-19 cases. The optimism in the markets remain fragile as doctors warn that the new cluster of cases in China in the north-east appear to carry the virus for a “longer period of time” and “take longer to recover”, compared to the original outbreak in Wuhan.
On the geopolitical front, tensions between the US and China continue to escalate. The Senate has passed a bill that could potentially delist Chinese companies from the American stock exchanges. This bill would require Chinese companies to establish they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government.
Global equities rebounded on Wednesday driven by a rally in the technology sector. Major US equity indices pared yesterday’s losses and rose above 1.5%:
- Dow Jones Average Industrial rose by 369 points or 1.5% to 24,576.
- S&P 500 gained 49 points or 1.7% to 2,972.
- Nasdaq Composite 191 points or 2.1% to 9,376.
In the FX space, major currencies were stronger against the US dollar in the European and US session as risk appetite improved on the back of receding virus cases and reopening of economies. The US Senate bill and the escalating tensions between the world’s two powerful economies are weighing on the greenback.
Despite virus concerns that the second wave of an outbreak could be of a stronger mutation following reports on the new clusters of virus cases in China and trade tensions, the Antipodeans were among the best performers. AUD traders ignored the dismal economic data on retail trade and the deterioration in economic activity:
- Preliminary Retail turnover falls 17.9 per cent in April: Unlike March figures which reflected the unprecedented demand in the food retailing industry and a mixed impact related to COVID-19 across industries, these figures have shown strong falls in almost every industry with no offsetting rises in the other industries.
- Westpac Leading Index: The growth has collapsed from -1.06% to -5.16% in just two months. The speed of the collapse in the index is unprecedented, as previous lows were a deterioration gathered over a period of six to twelve months.
Both the AUDUSD and NZDUSD pairs closed higher for three consecutive days amid a weaker US dollar and a risk-on environment.
The British Pound struggled to edge higher despite the weaker US dollar, as investors take note of the possibility of negative interest rates in the UK. After growing speculations, the BoE’s governor stated that negative rates were under review.
The oil market continues to find support from a combination of production cuts, buoyant inventory reports, and the prospects of increasing demand following the reopening of economies. After a buoyant API report, the Energy Information Administration reported a decrease of 5 million barrels in the week ending May 15th in crude oil inventories. The draw of crude oil inventories will slowly ease fears of storage problems.
As of writing, WTI Crude oil (Nymex) is currently trading 0.4% higher at $33.61 while Brent Crude (ICE) is trading at 36.02, up by 0.8%.
Despite the positive headlines that are clearly driving the markets, virus concerns, uncertainties and geopolitical tensions are creating an environment of caution. After surging to more than 7-year high, the XAUUSD pair is currently trading in a tight range around $1,745.
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