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Top 5 things to watch on Thursday

1. Trump’s diplomacy boosts stocks

The decision of President Trump to opt to impose new economic sanctions on Iran rather than call for military action prompted the risk-on tone in the markets.

There has been a strong tone in the equity markets throughout Asia overnight, Europe is higher and U.S. stock futures point to further gains. The S&P 500 Futures contract rose 11 points, or 0.34% while the Nasdaq 100 Futures climbed 44 points, or 0.47%.

2. Safe havens in full retreat

Investors have turned their backs on the USD/JPY, often used as a haven for risk averse investors, sending it sliding from a three-month high to a two-week low of 109.33 yen per dollar. Similarly, the USD/CHFhas been hit, also falling to a two-week low of 0.974 francs per dollar. Gold has given back the sharp gains made on Wednesday, and trades 0.9% lower on the day at $1,545.95 an ounce, around the levels seen at the start of the month.

The yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes stood at 1.874%, largely unchanged from Wednesday’s U.S. close, but well off the intra-day lows of around 1.705% seen on that day.

3. Crude remains in focus

Oil prices have been on a wild ride over the last couple of days, spiking sharply higher Wednesday amid fears the missile strikes by Iran on U.S. troops based in Iraq would lead to supply disruptions in the Middle East, before handing back these gains when a more conciliatory tone emerged.

However, the news from the Energy Information Administration that U.S. crude supplies edged up by 1.2 million barrels for the week ended Jan. 3, hit prices hard as this had followed declines in each of the previous three weeks. Analysts had expected to report a drop of about 3.6 million barrels.

Global benchmark Brent crude was up 48 cents to $65.75 a barrel considerably off the levels above $70 since earlier this week.

U.S. crude futures were last at $59.84, having earlier hit $65.85, the highest since late April last year.

4. Hearing from FOMC members

A number of members of the Federal Open Market Committee are due to speak later today, namely Richard Clarida, Neel Kashkari and John Williams.

The FOMC holds eight regularly scheduled meetings per year, where it reviews economic conditions and determines the appropriate stance of monetary policy. The next meeting is due at the end of this month and thus investors will be parsing these speeches for clues as to the likely next move by the central bank.

In its December meeting the committee decided to leave the benchmark federal funds rate unchanged, at a range of 1.50% to 1.75%, after cutting interest rates three times in 2019.

5. British retail woes

The British retail sector is in the doldrums, amid worries about what the U.K.’s exit from the European Union means for exporters. The British Retail Consortium said total sales posted the first annual sales decline since 1995, with sales in November and December particularly weak. This corresponded with the period when speculation of a no-deal Brexit was at its peak.

Not helping matters were comments from outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who warned that central banks were running out of the ammunition needed to combat a potential recession.

Shares in Marks and Spencer Group PLC (MKS.US), for a long time regarded as the bellwether of the U.K. high street, slumped over 9% after its latest results showed a slump in sales. GBP/USD also moved lower, dropping 0.5% to trade at $1.3031.


 Trader Milko Zashev


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