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A gamble from the ECB?

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By Craig Erlam  

It’s been another wild session in financial markets and the ECB had the unenviable task on Thursday of making a decision on interest rates amid all of the uncertainty and turbulence.

One thing that was clear from Christine Lagarde’s press conference is that it isn’t just markets that expect the tightening cycle may have come to an abrupt end following the events of recent days. Despite hiking by 50 basis points – as planned and supported by forecasts that were created prior to the recent turmoil – the ECB President refused to commit to further hikes as it did after previous meetings.

That is, of course, a very sensible thing to do in light of such immense uncertainty and the specific situation that is unfolding in the banking sector. And time will tell whether Thursday’s hike has rubbed salt into the wound or represents the necessary continuity and reassurance.

It was always a case of determining the least worst option and I have no doubt policymakers would have loved nothing more than to postpone for a week, but it didn’t have that luxury.

Of all the major central banks, the ECB probably had the least flexibility to pause due to it being so late to the tightening party and therefore behind the curve. Whatever it did would be a risk in some way and now we’ll have to wait and see how lucky it will be.

We’re not seeing too many jitters in the markets, but they can materialise at any point.

The euro was a little choppy over the course of the press conference, as were bond markets, but the real test will come from how European banks trade over the hours and days ahead. It’s going to be a nervy end to the week and a potentially nervier weekend.

Oil volatile amid worrying outlook

It was another volatile session in oil markets, bouncing back from their lows while remaining negative on the day. A failure to get back into the green would represent a fourth consecutive day of losses, albeit to a much lesser extent than the last three.

Traders are concerned about the economic outlook this year in light of recent bank failures and uncertainty at Credit Suisse.

Authorities may have thrown their support behind the banking sector while managing the collapse of the mid-tier institutions in the US, but traders are far from convinced that the worst is behind us. Especially if central banks persevere with hikes, as the ECB did on Thursday. Volatility is going nowhere soon.

Gold eyeing $2,000?

Gold has been choppy, but continues to trade near Wednesday’s peak amid a dash for safety and lower bond yields.

The question on traders’ lips now is whether fear is baked in, meaning yields could pare declines as (if) the dust settles, which could be a near-term headwind for gold, or if the turbulence is just getting started.

Time will tell, but further fallout could see gold move closer to February highs, around $1,960, with $2,000 then key above that.

Is bitcoin rally sustainable?

Whatever is driving the bitcoin rally right now, it doesn’t look particularly sustainable in light of what’s happening elsewhere in the markets.

Time will tell how much support for cryptos there is in these turbulent times, but one thing looks clear, it’s going to be a wild ride and there could be many more surprises around the corner that will test any gains made over the last week.

 

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.