Take Five: Powell, payrolls, oil production: World markets themes for the week ahead


Fed chairman Jerome Powell sent the stock market soaring when he appeared to signal that a three-year long rate-hike cycle may be nearing a peak. It could be that Powell’s comments were misread by jittery markets; if so they have another chance on hear him on Dec. 6 when he testifies to the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Powell will speak just before November employment data emerges. His most recent speech made little specific reference to this. So the report will be key, given unemployment is at a 49-year low and employers are boosting pay.

Markets will be particularly attuned to wages, which logged their largest annual gain in 9-1/2 years in October. If that 3.1 percent gain in average hourly earnings is repeated, it will look like enough of an inflation whiff for the Fed to keep the rake hike path intact at its Dec. 18-19 meeting.

– U.S. job growth soars; annual wage gain largest since 2009

– Fed’s Powell, in apparent dovish shift, says rates near neutral


With Chinese factory activity now at the slowest in more than two years, U.S. President Donald Trump’s agreement to hold off with further tariff increases on Chinese imports is good news for Beijing. Given Trump’s hardnosed trade stance and the long odds of President Xi Jinping caving in to American demands on opening up China’s economy, it is unclear if the ceasefire will morph into a peace deal. But it is nevertheless welcome.

Since the trade war began in March, Chinese stocks and the economy have felt the pain. But the G20 deal has pushed yuan to the highest since February 2016 and stocks are 2.5 percent higher. That may allow Beijing to delay wheeling out more stimulus – many had expected that after loosening bank reserve ratios, authorities could resort to an interest rate cut for the first time in three years.

– Trump says China to cut tariffs on U.S.-made cars in potential lift for Tesla, BMW (Full Story) (Full Story) – US trade restrictions have hit $369 bln of Chinese exports – monitoring group – (Full Story) – Weak credit growth raises odds of first China rate cut in years (Full Story)


Now the G20 tango in Argentina is over, Germany auto firms are waiting their turn to waltz in Washington — top executives from Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler will be in the White House this week with hopes they can head off additional tariffs on their cars.

Their trip follows threats from Trump to slap more tax on vehicles assembled in the EU. Combined with the effect of China’s economic slowdown, this will spell bad news for Europe’s carmakers, whose earnings have already been hit by tighter regulations.

What’s more a 25-percent auto tariff could also reduce 2019 economic growth in the euro zone by 40 basis points to 1.2-1.3 percent, Barclays calculates.

Shares in Europe’s auto sector have bounced after the weekend trade ceasefire between Trump and Xi but they are still down more than 20 percent this year. A negative outcome in Washington will dash hopes that the rebound can last.

– What if Trump lifts tariffs on European car imports to 25 pct?

– Chinese sneeze could give Europe Inc. a nasty flu

– World leaders set to convene Argentina summit clouded by disputes


It started with a vote. Now, there is a chance that another vote could stop Brexit in its tracks.

The odds look stacked against British Prime Minister Theresa May getting parliament’s nod on Dec. 11 for her draft Brexit agreement; members of her own Conservative Party, the opposition and the Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government all oppose it.

Some Britons hope a rejection by parliament will open the door to another Brexit referendum in order to head off the risk of crashing out without a deal. Signs are public support has risen to reverse the June 2016 Brexit vote, and the opposition Labour Party’s finance spokesman has backed a second referendum.

What’s more, on Dec. 4, the European Court of Justice’s advocate-general will give his opinion on whether Britain can revoke its notice to withdraw from the EU without agreement of the other 27 states. The Scottish politicians behind the ECJ case hope a ruling in their favour will pave the way for another referendum.

How will markets react? Anyone’s guess. If a no from parliament is interpreted as a slide towards no-deal, the pound may tumble. But if a second referendum — and a ‘remain’ outcome — becomes a possibility, the opposite is likely.

– UK PM May says focused on her Brexit deal, not a plan B (Full Story)

– Worst-case Brexit more painful than global financial crisis, Bank of England warns (Full Story)

– UK’s Labour could back option of second Brexit vote, nL9N1U5015

– EU court adviser to publish opinion on Brexit reversibility (Full Story)


Crude oil futures have just endured their worst month for more than 10 years, plunging more than 20 percent in November. That follows losses of around 10 percent in October. With world growth slowing, supply is outstripping demand. So when the OPEC producers’ club meets in Vienna on Dec. 6-7, the stakes could not be higher.

With WTI dipping below $50 a barrel and Brent now below $60, one would think OPEC is nailed on to cut production and get prices rising again. But it is not quite so simple.

For one, U.S. President Trump won’t be happy. Having repeatedly called for lower oil prices, he has got his wish so any action to raise them could provoke a political reaction from the White House. Second, Saudi Arabia’s desire and ability to cut production significantly is limited because of its budgetary needs and also because higher oil prices raise competition from U.S. shale. And other OPEC and non-OPEC countries are still lukewarm to the idea of cutting production. Watch this space.

– Saudi energy minister goes to OPEC with a weak hand: Kemp (Full Story)

– Saudi Arabia wants united front on oil output; Russia and Nigeria hold out (Full Story)

– Oil falls as high inventories outweigh likely OPEC cuts (Full Story)

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