team discussion

Morning Brief – Oil

Oil

 

Oil prices are a little firmer at present with WTI at $52.10 on a weaker USD and capped on concerns that the time to roll out vaccinations will weigh on global economic performance. However what has changed radically in the past year is the amount of oil that was being stored in tankers -in January 2021 the number of crude carriers being used for oil storage rather than transportation stood at 95 versus almost 300 in May 2020. That has meant that the daily charter rate for VLCC’s or Very large Crude Carriers has fallen from $240,000 to $7,000.

 

McDonald’s

 

Results came out yesterday showing that global sales were slightly slower than forecast at USD 5.31 billion in Q4. Not so shabby despite sales being down internationally and especially in Europe but up in the USA. Drive Thru outlets have been especially good in the USA and sales of the McRib sandwich served in a bun at $3.69 have been a bestseller. The McRib reintroduced in the UK at the end of 2020 for the first time since 2012 comes in at £2.69. The SGM-FX team are missing their McMuffin Mondays in these days of lockdown but plan on reinstating them as soon as possible. £1.89 in the UK if you are interested or USD 2.79 in the USA. Readers will spot immediately that the McRib has an implied exchange rate GBP/USD of 1.37 whereas the McMuffin is 1.47…..

McArbitrage?!

 

Formula E

 

Not surprisingly the Paris race has been cancelled but at present the April 10 race in Rome and April 24 race in Valencia are both still on. Marrakesh on May 22 and Santiago,Chile on June 5/6 are also planned. There are 12 teams and the average wage for the drivers is EUR 750,000 with the top ones making up to EUR 2 million. There is something particularly exciting about races held in city centres as F1 fans will concur, viz the huge success of Monaco each year. It’s just a question of whether petrolheads can be persuaded about the attraction of near silent electric vehicles.

 

Car Wash

 

Back in 1977 Rose Royce, went to Number One with their hit, Car Wash. R&B band Rose Royce have been active since 1973 and are still going strong. Hands up all those who have met an Indian Chief at the car wash…here in East London, it’s a struggle to find any car washes that are still open:

 

Oh, I need everybody to stand up
Come on, I need some energy
Come on! Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, get up, hey
Come on now!

 

Come on, get your hands together (one, two…)
The car wash is open!

 

You might not ever get rich
But let me tell you, it’s better than digging a ditch
There ain’t no telling who you might meet
A movie star or maybe even an Indian chief

 

At the car wash
Talking about the car wash, yeah
Come on y’all and sing it with me, car wash
Sing it with feeling now, car wash, yeah

 

Come summer, the work gets kinda hard
This ain’t no place to be if you planned on bein’ a star, no, no
Let me tell you, it’s always cool
And the boss don’t mind sometimes if you’re at the pool

 

At the car wash
I wanna hear you singing it now
Car wash, yeah
Come on…

 

Have a Great Weekend!

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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Morning Brief – Prospects

Prospects

 

The stories this week about day traders on Reddit out muscling Wall Street in specific equities are fascinating. For now at least, this group of Robin Hood traders hold little chance of upsetting foreign exchange valuations directly given that it is the most liquid market on the planet. Blamed in part for the widening disparity between economic fundamentals and markets, the new role of the retail trader is reported to have led hedge funds and major investment firms away from equity markets in the short run. This shift if lasting could lead to an increasing importance of diverging global growth patterns as big money focusses back on fundamentals.

 

The IMF this week produced a report laying bare its expectations for China and the US economies to outperform the rest of the world. Held back by vaccinations, other emerging markets and the European Union would remain further shy of their pre-pandemic output by the end of this year. Diverging fortunes in the global economy will feed into the foreign exchange market too. The jury is still out on the Chinese Yuan (CNY) whilst Biden and his administration first formulate and later act upon their position towards the nation following the inauguration. This has led to one of the widest sets of forecasts on CNY with analysts across the market most recently predicting anything from a 7.2% fall to a 6.6% climb versus the US Dollar in 2021. Having rallied considerably since the outbreak of the pandemic, the growth story has so far prevailed with USDCNY now sitting comfortably below 6.5.

 

The roots of the Chinese and US recoveries look very different. The former is expected to outperform (as it proved capable of in the last quarter of 2020) thanks to an impressive containment of the virus. China’s strict and well enforced lockdowns have largely eliminated all domestic incidences of the virus. Ahead of the lunar new year celebrations where the risk of infection will inevitably rise, China has even reportedly brought out an anal Covid test. Having personally failed to reach a conclusive test with the tonsil/nose combination, I’m writing myself out of this new technology…

 

Coronavirus cases in the US by contrast have raged as the previous administration took little action towards stopping the spread. The US’s fortune of a quicker than average economic bounce back is thanks to the enormous fiscal and monetary support provided to the economy by public institutions. If Biden’s $1.9tn spending program is secured then this would only add to the economy’s recovery. There is one big concern that would upset risk conditions in the future and turn the entire market on its head. In an unusual statement the IMF noted that those countries who are putting aside the concern of over stimulating their economies and high inflation are the ones likely to bounce back faster. If countries do spend their way out of the virus the risks to inflation are non-negligible and could even break the decade long paradigm of ever lower interest rates. This would have huge implications for emerging markets and major currencies alike.

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Charles Porter

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Figures

Morning Brief – Luxury Goods

Luxury Goods

 

Good cheer for luxury brands with the release of Louis Vuitton results yesterday showing an increase of 18% in leather goods and fashion sales in Q4 2020. Tight cost control and some price increases have not blunted business which continues on line and demonstrates that if anyone wants to bet on this sector, buying shares in Bernard Arnault’s LMVH Group would be worth considering. LVMH 2020 sales were EUR 44.6 Billion and profits EUR 4.7 Billion.

 

The Loonie

 

Can$ trading at 1.2695 v USD on some USD weakness and strong corporate earnings. With both equity markets and commodity markets trading so well-especially oil at USD53, the Can$ is a beneficiary.

 

Champagne Sales

 

Globally champagne sales fell from 300 million bottles in 2019 to 245 million bottles in 2020. Interestingly and it says plenty about the positive outlook of the Australian psyche that fed through to that market, sales there rose 14% whereas in France, UK and the USA sales fell by 20%. With restaurants and bars still mostly shut, 2021 will again be a tough year for champagne producers, but supermarket deals are indicating some offset already with people ready to shop on line for home consumption.

 

New Seekers

 

Some readers will remember the 1972 hit from British band the New Seekers which was also adopted by Coca Cola for their advertisement which became one of the best loved and memorable advertisement of all time. Lead singer Eve Graham despite being credited with a number of hits was, due to poor advice and consequently less success with her own commercial deal, on £80 a week before finally giving up in 1974 when the band split up. Here is the New Seekers gold hit, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing:

 

I’d like to build a world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

 

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land

 

That’s a song I hear
Sing it along
Let the world sing today
Over and over

 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
La, la, la, la
To, do, do, do, do, do
La, la, la

 

I’d like to build a world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
(That’s a song I hear)

 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
And I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it…

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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Morning Brief – Con-te Partiro

Con-te Partiro

 

Towards the end of yesterday’s European close there was a correction in risk appetite that saw the US Dollar appreciate against the Euro and commodity currencies. The sharp move that was precipitated by little fundamental adjustments or news headlines highlights the still fragile sentiment in global markets, particularly within the Eurozone. As this year has begun, despite the obstacle for Brexit largely surmounted, Eurozone risk has ticked up. This fragility allowed risk conditions to turn around almost instantaneously, translating into real price movements as sentiment ebbs and flows. Eurozone risk is heightened by the political uncertainty in Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as lockdown’s accelerating throughout the Union’s core economies. Last night, the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte didn’t move markets immensely with expectations for political uncertainty already priced in.

 

The spread of Italian yields over German Bunds in a key metric of risk in the Eurozone and bears a strong correlation usually to the Euro. This spread has been rising to three-month highs, bracing for an inevitable breakdown in many Eurozone polities. Last night’s resignation by the Prime Minister was largely expected after he lost the support of former Prime Minister and leader of the Italia Viva party, Matteo Renzi, one of Conte’s coalition partners. However, the resignation was framed as an opportunity to secure a Presidential mandate to form a stronger government within the Senate, possibly without so many coalition partners. Given the near impossibility of holding elections within the nation given the current pandemic, it is thought now that Conte might use the need for immediate and strong governance to his advantage to secure a reformed coalition.

 

Stepping down ahead of a vote in the Senate scheduled for tomorrow on his own terms is even being interpreted as a potential improvement in European risk. The PM is set to offer his formal resignation to President Sergio Mattarella early this morning having failed to build sufficient support having narrowly survived votes of no confidence in both houses of the Italian parliament last week, saving him from potential embarrassment on Wednesday. The Five Star Movement was quick to reassert their support for Conte in an early sign that a new coalition could be formed. The Euro this morning, now trading within more liquid and voluminous European and London trading hours has shrugged off any weakness that the announcement of his resignation ushered in last night.

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Charles Porter

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UK buildings

Morning Brief – Global Growth

Global Growth

 

This weekend has seen the first cautioning by both the Federal Reserve and the IMF that the global economy may not snap back in 2021 in the anticipated V shape and may be more of an elongated U due to the time that it will take to rollout the Covid vaccine.

Consequently WTI oil has pulled back almost 2% and USD has lost a bit of ground in early trading.

 

Indian Rupee

 

In this topsy turvy world, it is a source of confusion for many people that the Indian Rupee is not stronger versus USD given that generally emerging market currencies have benefitted at the expense of USD. The reason for this is that the Indian Central Bank has taken the opportunity at this time of general USD weakness to bolster their FX reserves which now stand at $586 Billion which is the fifth largest reserve fund globally behind Russia. That necessitates the Reserve Bank of India selling INR which means that USD equates to INR 72.9 at present. Perversely, once the USD strengthens in the future, the value of the FX reserves in India will appreciate which will….strengthen the INR! Forecasts have an appreciation in the INR to 72 by end 2021 and 70 by end 2022.

 

Feeling Lucky?

 

A shopper at grocery store Kroger in Detroit Michigan clearly was on Friday night. A few hours later that shopper discovered just how lucky: the ticket purchased was drawn and the prize of USD 1 Billion or EUR 825 Million was awarded. The odds were 1 in 302.5 million. To put that in perspective, bookies are offering 50000/1 on Elvis Presley being found alive in 2021…!

 

Jailhouse Rock

 

Just in case Elvis is out there-he would now be 86 incidentally, so definitely a possibility-fans may like to be reminded of this song that was released in 1958 and went straight to Number One this day 63 years ago: Jailhouse Rock

 

The warden threw a party in the county jail
The prison band was there, and they began to wail
The band was jumpin’, and the joint began to swing
You should’ve heard them knocked out jailbirds sing

 

Let’s rock
Everybody, let’s rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock

 

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone
Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone
The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang
The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang

 

Let’s rock
Everybody, let’s rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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Morning Brief – Euro

Euro

 

Following yesterday’s ECB meeting confirming that European ultra easy monetary conditions will be maintained and with confirmation that there will be further stimulus measures to counteract the economic effects of Covid when necessary, the market was reassured and the EUR remained firm at USD 1.2150.

 

U.S. Employment

 

At a high level, of the 22 million jobs lost in March/April 2020 in the USA, 12 million have been restored. Yesterday in the USA, as expected there were 900,000 initial claims for the past week slightly down from the preceding week. Expectations are that it will take another 2 years for the US economy to recover these jobs lost as a result of the Covid pandemic.

 

South Africa

 

Initially praised for their swift and decisive action, the SA government is now under pressure to explain that while other developing countries such as Indonesia and Argentina are rolling out vaccination programs, South Africa has yet to start. While at present the ZAR is at its recent high at 14.87 versus USD, this is more to do with a weaker USD than a testimonial for the SA vaccination program.

 

Glastonbury

 

For the second year running the organisers of the Glastonbury music festival have bitten the bullet and cancelled this hugely popular and successful event once again. Tickets from both 2020 and 2021 will be rolled over to 2022. The numbers behind Glastonbury explain the financial success of the festival that has been going strong since1970: 900 acres, 200,000 people attend over a 5 day period; 79 stages and 2,800 acts fuelled by 400 food and refreshment outlets. Lastly, in 2020 tickets sold out in just 34 minutes.

 

I Wish

 

A huge hit for Stevie Wonder in 1976 that appeared on his album, Songs in the Key of Life and went straight to Number 1 on the Hot 100 on the US Billboard Chart. The song which seems from another and more innocent age was subsequently also recorded by Celine Dion.

Here is I Wish:

 

Looking back on when I
Was a little nappy-headed boy
Then my only worry
Was for Christmas what would be my toy
Even though we sometimes
Would not get a thing
We were happy with the
Joy the day would bring

 

Sneaking out the back door
To hang out with those hoodlum friends of mine
Greeted at the back door
With ‘Boy thought I told you not to go outside’
Tryin’ your best to bring the
Water to your eyes
Thinkin’ it might stop her
From whippin’ your behind

 

I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ever have to go
I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ever have to go
‘Cause I love them so

 

And….. we wish all of our readers a very good weekend!

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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Morning Brief – Inauguration

Inauguration

 

Passed down from Latin, to French and an English sounding ‘al’ stuck on some time in the late 17th century, inaugural is a word that had carried a similar meaning for a long time. The Roman and Greek picture of an inauguration involved an augur (appropriately named) watching out for natural signs like the behaviour of the birds or a change in the wind to see if the candidate had the will of the gods to fulfil the position the people had elected him/her to. It’s a bit of a far cry from ‘JLo’ singing from the podium to an empty crowd. Fortunately for President Biden, her high notes didn’t scare off the birds and force the augur to condemn his election against the will of the gods…

 

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has now been confirmed as the 46th President of the United States. Our modern day augurs appeared to bypass the constitutional requirement for a transition of power at 12pm London time exactly, with Mr. Biden being addressed as Mr. President a handful of minutes before. The pause that followed the short and sweet swearing in process didn’t stop the BBC presenter falling into a state of confusion and disarray as she wondered whether a 10 minute pause was now due and what on Earth she was supposed to do with it.

 

Following a term of division and recent chaos, the inauguration may have meant much more than usual for many US citizens. Indeed those that have felt the wrath of Trump’s policies abroad may too have focussed on the transition of power more than they usually might have. As expected the hours leading up to the inauguration ceremony were characterised by USD buying. Early session Dollar weakness met strong resistance at 1.37 and 1.215 versus the GB Pound and Euro respectively. The Dollar peaked immediately following Biden’s inauguration as the risk of civic unrest and disturbance subsided. The new President enacted as many as 15 executive orders immediately upon being sworn into office to set the course of his own administration. It is customary for an outgoing President to leave a note for their successor. The White House has confirmed this to be the case in the recent transition but has not released its contents to the public. My bet is on ‘MR Biden, you’re fake news’. Time will tell.

 

A policy decision at the ECB today will be pivotal to the Euro. No policy change is expected by the market either to interest rates or the asset purchase program (QE). Therefore any signs of deviation or comment on the Euro from President Lagarde could unsettle the single currency. The valuation in the euro however suggested that the meeting in combination with the EU summit presents risk to the Euro that is being reflected in its price this week. The potential for Lagarde to surprise us with an expansion in the QE program or a significant move forward in the bloc’s vaccination program could move the Euro dramatically.

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Charles Porter

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Morning Brief – UK

UK

 

UK Consumer Price Index up by 0.6% v expected 0.5%. GBP unmoved by that but inflation watchers monitoring closer for any signs of price moves outstripping forecasts.

 

U.S.Treasury Secretary Nominee: Janet Yellen

 

Yesterday’s address by Janet Yellen to the Senate Finance Committee was closely watched by markets yesterday and she did not disappoint, urging further economic stimulus assistance to the economy and stating that interest rate rises can wait until the USA is back in recovery mode. “Act big” was her message to the Senate. On the exchange rate Janet Yellen was clear that markets should determine the value of the USD and not foreign central banks. Emboldened by that, the USD duly weakened to 1.2130 v EUR.

 

On Another Planet

 

We all know that it takes Earth 365 days to complete an orbit around the Sun. Mars on the other hand takes 687 days but at the far end of the orbit scale for planets is Neptune which takes 165 years! With NASA planning the first Moon landing for decades, later this year (once they sort out the white flash that brought their test to a premature end last weekend) space travel and looking up planets is a welcome diversion from the current orbit of restricted lockdown activity.

 

Ozzy Osbourne

 

Today is the 38th anniversary of the now infamous Ozzy Osbourne act of biting the head of a bat during his Brummie band Black Sabbath’s performance in Des Moines, Iowa USA this day in 1982. Even ignoring 2021 Covid awareness implications of eating bats, SGM-FX’s I.T. guru and committed vegan, Michael looked quite faint when some of his headbanging BS fan colleagues were speculating on the circumstances behind this. It’s now time to reassure him that the bat was thrown on stage by a fan and was already dead. Released in August 1970 is this song which defined both Black Sabbath and Ozzie Osbourne, Paranoid:

 

Finished with my woman
‘Cause she couldn’t help me with my mind
People think I’m insane
Because I am frowning all the time

 

All day long I think of things
But nothing seems to satisfy
Think I’ll lose my mind
If I don’t find something to pacify

 

Can you help me occupy my brain?
Oh yeah

 

I need someone to show me
The things in life that I can’t find
I can’t see the things that make true happiness
I must be blind

 

Make a joke and I will sigh
And you…

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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Morning Brief – Two hands on the wheel

Two hands on the wheel

 

Either the result of a calendar mixup or just a series of unavoidable events, the week ahead is packed with risks that will dominate foreign exchange flows. President elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will take place in Washington on Wednesday. This week members of the European Council, the EU’s executive arm, will also meet. If that wasn’t enough, no fewer than four of the G10 currencies have a monetary policy decision or announcement due this week. All of these events, in conjunction with the less than certain times we live in, should prove to unsettle markets and drive up demand for safe havens. This will create risks as well as the potential for rewards across the foreign exchange market.

 

Yesterday the market saw heightened and renewed demand for safehaven assets creating direct and indirect flows in foreign exchange. As a result of a flight to safety the world’s largest and most liquid currency, the US Dollar, rallied from a defensive market bid. Other classic safehavens including the Japanese Yen rose in value as investors sought protection from expected volatility from this week’s events. Commodity and emerging market currencies lost some traction as the reflationary cycle took a breather to account for this week’s great number of episodic risks. We could rightly expect these trends to continue to gather pace throughout the remainder of this week as markets continue to be defensive, wary of the potential for widespread change at each scheduled event.

 

Top of the list of risks is this week’s Presidential confirmation. We have already learned of the heightened security due at the Capitol for Biden’s inauguration. As a result of the violence witnessed last week at least 25,000 members of the national guard will secure the streets of Washington to ensure a smooth transition of power. As a result of a ‘small fire’ yesterday the entire complex was put into temporary lockdown with lawmakers inside told to stay away from external windows and doors. The tensions therefore could not be higher moving into the inauguration, pushing investors into less risky assets.

 

The EU Summit too will be of particular importance given the scope of potential and planned discussions. With Italy’s Prime Minister teetering on the brink of resignation, the European Recovery fund still facing problems and the vaccination program all up for collective change, risks behind the Euro are mounting too. The ECB is also one of those central banks in the G10 currency space making a decision this week. Given the Euro’s persistent advance the market is still wary of the damage Lagarde and her Board could do with passing comments about the single currency’s strength.

 

Whilst less is expected from other central banks hosting decisions this week, including banks behind the currencies NOK, JPY and CAD, the overall picture of risks is daunting. This has been driving the wider market to take protection behind USD at the expense of riskier currency holdings. This market positioning and a focus on individual currency pairs will reveal market opportunities as this week unfolds. Our desk would be glad as always to talk you through how to maximise your exposure to these potentially market moving events.

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Charles Porter

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Morning Brief – US Federal Reserve

US Federal Reserve

 

Next meeting for the Board of the Fed is on 26/27 January and following comments from members including the Boston Fed President, there is little expectation of any tightening in rates nor the reduction or removal of the bond buying program designed to inject stimulus into the US economy. Despite both the $1.9 trillion stimulus backed by President elect Biden and an expected pick up in the economy now that the vaccine program is being rolled out in the USA, markets have concluded that easy monetary conditions will need to prevail for the foreseeable future.

 

South Africa: Eskom

 

South Africa is experiencing rolling blackouts and Eskom has been using the mechanism of “load shedding” between 2300 Sunday and 0500 Monday. Unplanned maintenance, outage delays and breakdowns have been exacerbated by Covid infections among contractors and while not at its highest level, load shedding is currently at level two. Eskom as a 100% state owned utility is seen as the bellwether for South Africa and the health of the economy. Back in April 2020 USD was trading at ZAR 19.05 and having reached 14.54 in December 2020 is now at 15.23.

 

Brandy Supply Chain: It’s Getting Serious

 

This weekend I researched online and then ordered a particular bottle of cognac from a UK company that is Dutch owned and staffed. The problem is that those staff are locked down and therefore stuck at home in…Holland while the stock including my brandy is in North London. With little prospect of an early lifting of restrictions, I have been warned that I may need to be patient until the end of February when the company hopes to restart their supply chain in the UK. Meanwhile I am rediscovering some “treasures” at the very back of the drinks cupboard. Creme de menthe frappe anyone?!

 

That’s What Friends are For

 

Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight released this song for charity in January 1986 and it went to Number One. Originally sung by Rod Stewart in 1982, it struck a chord with the public in 1986 and was the best selling record of the year. Now at this time in 2021, it resonates:

 

And I never thought I’d feel this way
And as far as I’m concerned
I’m glad I got the chance to say
That I do believe, I love you

 

And if I should ever go away
Well, then close your eyes and try
To feel the way we do today
And then if you can remember

 

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

 

Well, you came in loving me
And now there’s so much more I see
And so by the way
I thank you

 

Oh and then for the times when we’re apart
Well, then close your eyes and know
The words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember

 

Keep smiling and keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends…

 

 

 

Discussion and Analysis by Humphrey Percy, Chairman and Founder

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