By Craig Erlam
Equity markets have erased early gains to trade in the red on Thursday, as investors take a cautious approach ahead of Friday’s jobs report.
The narrative in recent days of weaker data being positive as it could be a precursor to slower tightening, didn’t seem sustainable and it’s already proving to be the case. It was more a reflection of the steep sell-off in the markets and the performance of risk assets in general over the previous six weeks, rather than the data.
If the Fed wasn’t prepared to jump at the first sign of inflation easing, it certainly won’t on the back of a weaker PMI and decline in job openings.
The recovery provides some relief and while weaker data is likely to precede a deceleration in rate hikes, we’re not there yet. Wednesday’s services PMI – which is far more important – was still strong, as was the ADP number and Friday’s jobs report is expected to remain hot.
That may put an end to the narrative for now, although any weakness in the labour market data, or signs of additional slack, could boost the relief rally once more and see equity markets end the week strong.
It’s all clutching at straws at this point but after weeks of heavy losses, perhaps that’s not overly surprising.
UK facing major headwinds
The UK economy appeared to get some good news from the Construction PMI Thursday morning, which easily beat expectations rising to 52.3 rather than dropping to 48.1 from 49.2.
Rather than contracting at a faster rate, the industry posted strong growth in the survey. Unfortunately, the headline number simply doesn’t tell the full story.
The improvement was driven by delayed projects and easing supply shortages, while new orders showed the weakest growth since May 2020. That’s a more accurate reflection of the state of play in the UK right now.
As was captured overnight by Fitch downgrading the outlook from stable to negative in light of the mini-budget, the overall rating remained at AA- but that may change once the details of how everything will be paid for are released in the budget.
Sterling is down for a second day after recovering over the last week, off around 0.6% against the dollar.
OPEC+ boosts oil prices
Oil prices are edging lower after OPEC+ announced a huge production cut on Wednesday of 2 million barrels per day. With the group failing to hit output targets by a widening margin as the year has progressed, the net cut will be around half that, if not less, but that’s still a substantial reduction in an already tight market.
Of course, the global economy is slowing as a result of an inflation and interest rate shock – which soaring oil prices and underproduction is partially responsible for – and that should weigh on demand over the next year offering some balance.
But that is highly uncertain, so it’s understandable that the backlash has started as higher oil prices will only compound inflation and cost-of-living issues in the interim.
Gold relief rally over?
Gold is paring gains again Thursday after a strong relief rally earlier in the week. The yellow metal was buoyed by a softening dollar and lower yields, but both are bouncing back. It was always likely to face strong resistance above as the rally was driven more by hope than substance.
A weaker jobs report on Friday could give it another boost, but even that may prove to not be sustainable.
Bitcoin choppy ahead of jobs report
Bitcoin continues to be choppy around $20,000, with trade in the middle of the week having lost the momentum it started with.
Traders appear to have one eye on the jobs report in the hope it’s bad enough to trigger another risk rally. Given the strength of the labour market until now, they may be disappointed once more.
Craig Erlam is Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA at OANDA
Opinions are the author’s, not necessarily that of OANDA Global Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. Losses can exceed investments.