Category Archives: Markets

UK woos South Korea’s tech industry in wake of the Brexit vote

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the UK’s relationship status with the rest of Europe remains in the ‘it’s complicated’ category. So it is no surprise that our government is sweetening our relationships in Asia.

Our new chancellor Philip Hammond is in China today promoting British business, while the Treasury has just announced a new “FinTech bridge” with the Republic of Korea (better known as South Korea – the less scary one).

The South Korea deal includes a regulatory co-operation agreement between the two countries, so that FinTech start-ups can easily operate in both. The idea is that it will encourage South Korean investment into UK businesses and vice-versa. The government says it will promote information sharing about new technologies and help scale up FinTech businesses in both countries.

Hammond said: “The newly established FinTech bridge between the UK and the Republic of Korea is an important step for one of this country’s most exciting industries.

“The government is determined to help the UK FinTech sector to innovate and grow and to ensure that Britain remains the location of choice for FinTech start-ups.”

This can only be a good thing for the UK and its hugely significant FinTech industry, which employs around 60,000 people and last year generated £6.6bn in revenue.

While South Korea may be a relative newcomer to FinTech, it is certainly a veteran in the tech/IT space (Samsung, SK Hynix, LG) so is well-placed to provide innovation for our home-grown tech start-ups.

Conversely, there are areas of UK FinTech that could potentially benefit South Korea – such as our peer-to-peer finance industry, which has lent £5bn since 2010.

“Whilst the level of cross-border international lending to date has been limited, a number of countries have looked to the United Kingdom as an example of how an appropriate regulatory regime can be constructed which facilitates innovation and growth in the alternative finance landscape,” said a spokesperson from the Peer to Peer Finance Association, which represents the UK’s fast-growing peer-to-peer finance industry.

“As developments in the FinTech sector gather pace, more partnerships – such as the FinTech bridge with the Republic of Korea – will enable other countries to follow the path which has made the United Kingdom a global exemplar in peer-to-peer finance.”

With the UK’s status as a financial hub at risk if we fail to secure a decent agreement with the EU on passporting, it makes good sense to improve relations further afield and remind the world about what we have to offer.

Many years ago, Qatar hoped to become the financial hub of the Gulf, competing with the likes of Bahrain and Dubai. Dubai won, in part due to its swiftness in developing a friendly regulatory regime. So what did Qatar do? It created a ‘three-pronged plan’ to offer niche areas of finance that would set it apart from the rest of the Gulf: asset management, reinsurance and captive insurance.

Now I’m not comparing the UK to Qatar, for many reasons – one being that we already have a highly developed financial centre – but it would not hurt to turn a potential disaster into a positive opportunity by using our newfound independence to innovate. And FinTech should certainly be a key part of that.

US interest rates: Ignore the scaremongers, non-farm payrolls aren’t enough to derail Yellen

When Janet Yellen speaks in Philadelphia later today, everyone will have just one question on their minds – when will the US Federal Reserve next raise interest rates?

Fed members had been hinting at another rate hike over the summer, but equities are today trading higher – and the dollar is weaker – in anticipation of no change over the summer months, following last Friday’s highly disappointing non-farm payroll (jobs) numbers.

Official data on Friday showed that the US economy added 38,000 jobs last month – the fewest in more than five years – which pushed back expectations of a rate rise until later in the year.

But NFP data is a very small part of the story – and Fed chair Yellen knows it. The surprisingly low figure has been seen as an anomaly by some market commentators, contrasting with broader signs of a US economic recovery.

“Something about the NFP numbers don’t add up for me, when you compare them to more positive recent data such as regional reports from the Beige Book,” said Kully Samra, managing director of Charles Schwab in London.

“Two Fed members have already implied that the figures were an anomaly and I expect Yellen will do the same. I don’t think the NFP data would change the stance of the Fed.”

Perhaps a bigger factor in the expected no-change result at the 15 June meeting of US policymakers is the imminent risk of Brexit, ahead of Britain’s EU referendum vote on 23 June.

“I was amazed as to the degree of importance the Fed puts on the EU referendum,” said Samra. “It was mentioned in the minutes of the last meeting due to its potential impact on the global financial markets.”

Augustin Eden, research analyst at Accendo Markets, agreed. “Suffice to say that a US rate hike seems unlikely either in June or July given the iffy print and added headwinds provided by an intensifying Brexit whirlwind,” he said.

“[But] there remains an outside chance the FOMC will act despite the dire jobs number – it was after all just one number – since to do so would at least signal that US economic conditions are right and that the Federal Reserve is not hiding anything from us.”

While a rate rise now looks more likely later in the year, this should not simply be put down to the NFP number and certainly does not mean the US economy is doing badly. It’s actually faring pretty well, the Fed just needs to convince the markets, as Samra explains.

“There is a difference between where the Fed and where the market wants rates to be,” he said. “Rates have been low for so long and there is a disparity about how strong the economy is.

“It’s all about the consumer – they’re at the heartbeat of the domestic economy,” he added. “Data shows they are continuing to spend and they’re slowly borrowing more. The US is the strongest developed economy. It’s forecast to grow at well over two per cent this year.”

Brexit and the Fed: stock market investors should brace themselves for a bumpy June

This week, Mike van Dulken and Augustin Eden of Accendo Markets tell Hot Commodity why we should brace ourselves for a bumpy June…

An optimistically cautious end to May was punctured by a surprise surge for the Leave camp in the latest UK Brexit poll. Whether this says more about what Guardian readers are thinking as they pack their bags and buggies in preparation for this summer’s festival season, or does indeed reflect a wider swing in sentiment is unclear – and will surely remain so until the result is announced. Remember how polls at the last UK general election showed that they’re not always spot on? Nonetheless, polls are seldom ignored and two markets that certainly didn’t ignore this one were cable (the GBP/USD exchange rate) and the FTSE 100.

The two are only really semi-co-dependent. The FTSE 100 contains so much international exposure as to be almost entirely US dollar sensitive, but the fact that these two markets got a big dose of volatility at the end of May and into June says much about current market sentiment: it’s cautious and it’s jumpy. Cautiously nervous? Nervously cautious? Whichever it is, it doesn’t like loud bangs!

Whoever chose June as the month in which the UK would vote on its future relationship with, let’s face it, the rest of the civilised world could not have predicted that we’d also find ourselves once more staring down the barrel of the US Fed’s proverbial interest rate cannon. And while a mere 25bp rate hike is surely nothing to be worried about, now we’re here, it’s natural to wonder what effect one will have on the other. Might the Fed hold off because of Brexit risk? After all, last September it held off because of “international headwinds”. International headwinds have been a feature of the world for, like, ever. Yet Brexit has no real precedent. On the other hand the Fed went ahead in December, right in the middle of a hideous time for stock markets, just because some jobs were added in the US economy.

The dilemma that faces policymakers right now is hardly a subtle one. June is sure to be a tumultuous month because, right in the middle of it, there’s a potentially paradigm-shifting referendum in the UK. Whatever the outcome, the potential for considerable political unrest in both the UK and Europe is very real indeed, so July may also throw up the sorts of international headwinds the FOMC loathes so much.

All that considered, June might actually present the more realistic opportunity. Will the US simply get it out of the way and adopt the brace position for what will surely follow?! Whatever happens, we can be sure that the FTSE 100 index and the GBP/USD pair will find themselves with few hiding places, if any, for the remainder of the year. It’s time to buckle up.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Accendo Markets: https://www.accendomarkets.com.

Good news! The US economic revival is definitely on its way

This week, Mike van Dulken and Augustin Eden from Accendo Markets tell Hot Commodity why the US is on the up…even if the rest of the world isn’t.

Equity markets went to town yesterday on positive US data and hopes of more stimulus from the European Central Bank (ECB) and China’s People’s Bank of China (PBoC). Yet this is surely supporting the case for the US Federal Reserve to deliver further interest rate hikes this year – something likely to stifle US growth.

So was the market reaction simply increased confidence in the US economic recovery, coupled with a realistic belief the Fed won’t dare hike this year for fear of a repeat of January’s volatility? This should maintain a nice accommodative tilt to global monetary policy to spur economic recovery elsewhere.

US interest rates have risen only a touch to regain 0.5 per cent and equal the historic lows of its peer across the pond – the UK’s Bank of England (BoE). However, US macro data has blown too hot and cold since then for the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to be comfortable hiking again anytime soon. Mixed Fed chat of late, with some quite noticeable changes of heart by long-term committee hawks (Bullard), adds to our belief.

With markets already building up to Friday’s US Non-Farm Payroll numbers, it’s worth noting that jobs data has been anything but a worry for the Fed for a good while now, with net monthly additions averaging around 225,000 since 2013. Unemployment at 4.9 per cent remains in a downtrend towards 10 year lows, but wage growth is still lacking.

News that US Q4 2015 GDP growth was revised up to one per cent quarter-on-quarter from 0.4 per cent last week was welcomed by markets, but it still showed a slowdown from previous quarters.

US Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) expectations have also faded quite dramatically (just 1.4 per cent for the next decade, suggestive of another oil price plunge), and sit way below the Fed’s two per cent target. Core CPI figures (excluding food & energy) may have accelerated back to target but for this to hold up oil prices must fall no further, allowing the influence of their 2014 price plunge to dissipate.

So aside from the fact that Friday’s US jobs figures are sure to deliver the traditional monthly market volatility, for us it will only serve to bolster confidence in the US economic revival. Good news. This in turn may further support the case for policy normalisation, but it’s not going to be enough for the Fed to consider the stars truly aligned for another press of the big red button. Even better news for risk appetite. Enjoy the first Friday’s usual fun ‘n’ games, but other data is far more important.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Accendo Markets: www.accendomarkets.com.

Accendo Markets: will the Fed release the doves?

In the first of Accendo Markets‘ regular market commentary for Hot Commodity, Augustin Eden and Mike van Dulken discuss whether the Fed is having cold feet and why gold is good…

This week’s main event is sure to be this evening’s US Federal Reserve policy statement and whether it dares issue some form of dovish mea culpa regarding its December decision to hike, especially given the market turmoil that has greeted us in 2016. While credibility was on the line after such a protracted warm-up, it probably felt obliged to hike rates on US data improvement.

However, it at least has the option to tone down its opening message of 2016 (with no press conference or Q&A) about how many more hikes we might expect this year. From a lofty three, markets are now pricing in one at best. What’s clear is that while the US may have been ready, the global markets were not.

Will the Fed’s focus lie with the US economy’s continued recovery progress or recent financial market volatility? It should be the former, but the latter can’t be ignored. Arguments may dwell on how it was right to move then, but hold now.

Financial markets have neither enjoyed the second half of 2015, nor the tricky start to 2016, but the same needn’t necessarily be said about all asset classes. While equities are hindered by persistent commodity price weakness after an 18-month rout, and a slowing and troubled China, many ask whether the worst is priced in and the doom and gloom overbaked.

So far so gold…

What’s this got to do with the price of gold? Well, it’s having a cracking start to the year, bouncing from 5/6yr lows on talk of output having peaked. Also, as a safe-haven, it needn’t worry about US dollar strength. If people are that fearful (unless they’re Warren Buffett) they’ll probably be yellow-metal bound. The zero-interest bearing asset has seen rising demand from market volatility and technical drivers as well as hopes the Fed will go all dovish on us after December’s ‘mistake’ to raise rates from record lows.

If this does happen, we could well see a pullback in recent USD strength. It’s almost as if the dollar has been simply resting near its 2015 all-time highs, waiting for its next pointer, which could well be revised US monetary policy guidance for 2016. There’ll arguably be a knock-on for the entire commodities sector from that. Even oil could gush a little higher from the FX benefit, despite a more meaningful recovery surely needing moves to cut output and reverse its own supply glut.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Mike and Augustin at Accendo Markets – https://www.accendomarkets.com.

Do you agree with Mike and Augustin or do you have a different take on the Fed’s next move? Email info@hotcommodity.co.uk with your comments.