December 13, 2019 / 2:47 PM / 5 months ago

Take Five: What's the deal?

LONDON (Reuters) -

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

1/AFTER PHASE ONE COMES PHASE TWO

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials have agreed to a “phase one” trade deal that includes cutting U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Washington has agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods due to go into effect on Dec. 15, Trump said, and cut existing tariffs to 7.5%.

The agreement covers intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, currency, and foreign exchange, according to Washington’s Trade Representative.

Neither side offered specific details on the amount of U.S. agricultural goods Beijing had agreed to buy - a key sticking point of the lengthy deal negotiations. News of the trade deal saw U.S. stocks romp to fresh record levels. But few doubt that the rollercoaster is over yet.

While Trump announced that “phase two” trade talks would start immediately, Beijing made it clear that moving to the next stage of the trade negotiations would depend on implementing phase one first. While markets cheered the December rally, few expect the trade deal rollercoaster ride to be quite over yet.

Graphic: U.S.-China trade war timeline , here

2/MORE NICE SURPRISES, PLEASE!

First clues as to whether euro zone powerhouse Germany can avoid a fourth quarter recession emerge on Monday when advance PMI readings for November are released globally.

The economic activity surveys, a key barometer of economic health, come after Citi’s economic surprise index showed euro zone economic data beating consensus expectations at the fastest pace since February 2018. The latest surprise was a 1.2% rise in German exports in October, defying forecasts of a contraction.

Hopes are high that exports and private consumption, which helped Germany skirt recession, will hold up. Last month’s PMI data showed manufacturing remained in deep contraction across the bloc.

A Reuters poll showed expectations of a modestly higher 46.0 manufacturing reading in the euro zone but that’s still far below the 50-mark which separates growth from contraction. Services, which have held up better so far, are expected to grow modestly from November, at 52.0.

Graphic: Citi surprise index most positive since Feb 2018, here.png

3/BEWARE THE BOJ

Japan’s central bank meets on Thursday with the global economic outlook “relatively bright,” according to Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

Growth green shoots, a possible U.S.-China trade deal and something nearing certainty on Brexit has got almost everyone expecting the BOJ will do very little: Interest rates are at -0.1% and the bank has eased off bond buying - even though the bank’s balance sheet is bursting with negative-yielding paper.

The government has flagged a gigantic $122 billion stimulus package to keep things moving after next year’s Olympics. Yet the business mood is dire with Friday’s “tankan” survey at its lowest reading since 2013. Big manufacturers - especially automakers - are gloomiest, as the trade war takes its toll.

The Bank of Japan has justified standing pat on the view that robust domestic demand will cushion the hit. It blames the weather and a sales tax for recent patchy data. But another week of dollar weakness will not have gone unnoticed in Tokyo, where a cheaper yen is much desired. A surprise on Tuesday export data forecast to show further contraction and Thursday’s inflation reading could jolt yen longs out of their slumber.

   

Graphic: BOJ buying spree, here.jpg

4/JOHNSON, AND MORE JOHNSON

A thumping election win for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has raised hopes that 3-1/2 years of Brexit-fuelled chaos will finally end.

Expectations that he may swing slightly nearer the centre of his Conservative Party, sidelining the fiercest eurosceptics, and ease the path towards a free-trade deal with the European Union have sent sterling and British shares surging.

Yet there are signs of caution, with sterling stalling around $1.35. Further gains will hinge on Johnson’s new cabinet, how the global growth and trade war backdrop pans out and what the Bank of England might do.

At the central bank’s Dec. 19 meeting, markets will watch for any shifts in its views on inflation, the UK economy and the interest rate outlook for 2020. While policymakers have skewed dovish of late amid a torrent of dismal data and sub-target inflation, the election result - and a hoped-for growth recovery - have seen money markets halve the probability of an end-2020 cut to 25%.

Without more clarity, investors might just be wary of chasing sterling much higher.

Graphic: UK economic indicators, here

5/SWEDEN RETURNS TO ZERO?

While most central banks are busy pondering whether to hold or cut interest rates, Sweden may swim against the tide and deliver a 25 basis-point rate hike on Dec. 19. That will end half a decade of negative interest rates in the country and make it the first in Europe to pull borrowing costs from sub-zero territory.

Policymakers flagged a rate hike in October and recent data showing inflation rising to 1.7% — just off the 2% target — cemented those expectations. The crown’s rallied to eight-month highs versus the euro, up almost 5% since October.

The proposed interest rate increase has its critics, who cite still-sluggish inflation and factory activity at its weakest since 2012.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Meanwhile, neighbouring Norway’s policy meeting, scheduled for the same day, may be less exciting as no change is expected. Investors remain baffled by the Norwegian crown’s weakness - despite policy makers delivering four rate hikes since Sept 2018, it’s at near record lows to the euro.

Graphic: Swedish crown , here

Reporting by Alden Bentley in New York, Tom Westbrook in Singapore, Sujata Rao, Elizabeth Howcroft and Yoruk Bahceli in London, compiled by Karin Strohecker; edited by Philippa Fletcher

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