By Craig Erlam
Equity markets are poised to open in the green once more on Thursday, continuing what has been a rather strange week of trade so far.
We’ve gone from euphoria at the start of the year on the back of some really encouraging economic data, to turning a blind eye to it when it suits.
It’s all really quite odd, especially when other corners of the market are behaving in a more orthodox manner, which begs the question, what do equity (and crypto) traders know that the rest of us do not?
In the last two weeks, we’ve had a red-hot jobs report, a more modest decline in inflation data, and a strong retail sales release. That triggered a retreat in gold and an adjustment in bonds to account for rates likely rising further and maybe no longer falling later this year.
The pendulum has now probably swung too far the other way on rate expectations this year; it could come back to bite them if we don’t see a swift cooling next month.
Cause for concern for the RBA
The Australian dollar has recovered earlier losses that came on the back of weaker employment figures.
For a second straight month, the unemployment rate ticked higher and employment fell, alongside a slight downward revision to December on the latter.
While this wouldn’t typically be considered good news, investors have been forced to accept the possibility of higher interest rates recently as inflation has stayed stubbornly high.
A slightly looser labour market will alleviate some of those fears of inflation becoming entrenched, although more evidence will be required to appease RBA policymakers after the last couple of inflation prints.
Markets are still pricing in a few more 25-basis point hikes over the coming months before cuts begin either late this year or early next. A further deterioration in the labour market could see those expectations pared back further.
Oil to break higher?
Oil prices are choppy at the moment, with traders having a lot to take in, be that a 500,000 barrel decline in Russian output in March, a strong Chinese economic recovery, and an uncertain global outlook amid ongoing monetary tightening, among other things.
It would appear crude has settled into a range, although it continues to trade at the upper end, which may indicate a breakout attempt is developing.
A move above $89 could be a very bullish development and suggest a tighter market is being more heavily priced in, aligning with comments from OPEC on Tuesday.
First big test for Gold
Gold traders don’t share the enthusiasm in equity markets and the yellow metal has continued to trend lower in the aftermath of recent data releases. It ran into support around $1,830 on Wednesday, around the upper end of the first barrier to the downside.
This sits around the 38.2% retracement of the move from the November lows to February highs and coincides with support and resistance in December and January. The bigger test arguably lies a little lower around $1,780-1,800, should it get that far.
A bright future for bitcoin?
It’s been a fantastic 24 hours for bitcoin and one that could generate further enthusiasm for cryptos, with it hitting a new six-month high and breaking above another big moving average only days after a bullish rebound off the 200-day SMA.
While regulatory crackdowns continue to drive some unease, there’s clearly a growing sense of relief that the worst is behind it for the industry and 2023 could be a much better year.
The next big test falls around $24,500-25,500, a break of which could convince any remaining doubters that the future is bright.
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.