Dollar Thumped

Overview: The prospects of a UK-EU deal and US stimulus continue to underwrite risk appetites and weigh on the dollar.  Equity markets are moving higher.  Led by Australia and China, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose to new record highs, while Dow Jones Stoxx 600 in Europe is at its best level since February.  US shares are also trading higher.  Bond markets are quiet, with European yields paring yesterday's gains while the US 10-year benchmark is hovering around 0.92%.  The dollar has lurched lower against nearly all the world currencies today.  The Norwegian krone, aided by a central bank suggesting it could be among the first major central banks to begin normalizing monetary policy (not until H1 22). The Australian dollar,  boosted by a strong employment report, are leading the majors.  The euro's roughly 0.25% gain to a new 18-month high is a laggard.  Meanwhile, emerging market currencies are mostly higher, and the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is higher for the third consecutive session.  Gold (GLD) is shining in the weak dollar environment.  It has risen by about $50 an ounce over the past three sessions, and straddling $1880, it reached its best level in nearly four weeks.  Oil (OIL) is bid as well.  Ideas that demand will improve, and a drawdown in US stocks, coupled with the dollar's weakness, lifted the January WTI contract to almost $49 a barrel, while Brent is closing in on $52 (BNO).  

Asia Pacific

For the second month in a row, Australia reported employment data considerably better than economists forecast.   It created more than double the 40k jobs the Bloomberg median forecast anticipated, and the October surge pushed even higher to 180.4k (from 178.8k).  Nearly all the new jobs were full-time positions (84.2k).  While the participation rate increase to 66.1% from 65.8%, the unemployment rate eased to 6.8% from 7.0%.  Last November, the participation rate was 65.9%.

China avoided being cited as a currency manipulator by the US Treasury Department, but it remains on its watch list. It renewed its call for greater transparency.  It noted as many observers have that its large current account surplus, relatively steady yuan, and a small increase in reserves does not add up.  It notes that large banks are short yuan.  No one has argued that the yuan is free-floating.  It is not fully convertible.  Several other areas are problematic, including the rising errors and commissions catch-all category. 

MSCI announced that, like the other benchmark providers, it too was going to drop companies cited by the US as tied to the Chinese military.  MSCI will drop seven companies in early January.  S&P Dow Jones is dropping eight companies, and FTSE Russell is dropping 8.  A further adjustment could be necessary, as the subsidiaries and affiliates of the 35 companies cited by the US were not excluded on this first cut.  MSCI estimated that 0.04% of its global benchmark and 0.25% of its emerging market index are impacted.  After surveying 100 fund managers, MSCI concluded that reversing the decision will not a top priority for the Biden administration.   

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Read more by Marc on his site Marc to Market.

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