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China Crypto Crash, Retail Earnings, Global Inflation - What's Moving Markets

Economy May 19, 2021 21:22
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By Geoffrey Smith -- A fresh Chinese clampdown sends cryptocurrencies tumbling. The Federal Reserve releases the minutes of its latest policy meeting. Inflation data from around the world show price gains accelerating. Target , TJX and Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) shed more light on domestic retail strength, and oil prices tumble on reports of progress in Iran’s attempts to get sanctions lifted. Here’s what you need to know in financial markets on Wednesday, May 19th.

1. China clampdown crashes crypto

China's central bank refreshed its ban on cryptocurrency trading, with new measures designed to close loopholes that have become increasingly popular with the Chinese public.

In a coordinated move, China’s leading finance associations issued new directives to their members not to offer crypto services including access to exchanges, clearing and settlement. They also urged enhanced monitoring of money flows suspected to be linked to crypto trading.

The announcements sent cryptocurrencies crashing, with Bitcoin falling below $40,000 before rebounding to $40,333 by 6:15 AM ET (1015 GMT). That’s a drop of 10% on the day that leaves the biggest digital asset down over 35% from its peak. Dogecoin and Ethereum weren’t exempt from the rout, both losing over 14%.

2. Fed minutes and inflation everywhere

The action in crypto overshadowed the loss of value at a more sedate rate by traditional currencies.

That may change with the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s April policy meeting at 2 PM ET, although it’s hard to see what they can add to what has been said over the last week by board members Richard Clarida and Lael Brainard, firmly committing the Fed to its current policy despite what they expect to be a ‘transitory’ spike in prices this year.

The phenomenon of rising inflation was in evidence across the world overnight, with U.K. producer prices rising at their fastest rate in nine years, although consumer prices rose only 1.5% on the year, still below the Bank of England’s target. Eurozone consumer prices came in below expectations, but South Africa’s overshot. Canada, the first G7 country to start tightening monetary policy since the pandemic, releases its CPI at 8:30 AM ET.

3. Stocks set to open lower as crypto jitters worsen

U.S. stocks are set to open lower again later, spooked by the renewed sell-off in crypto assets and a fresh rise in U.S. bond yields.

The increasing popularity of crypto assets with retail investors – the crypto universe had a market cap of over $2 trillion at the start of the week - raises the risk of forced selling and increased risk aversion with regard to other asset classes.

By 6:15 AM ET, Dow Jones futures were down 240 points, or 0.7%, at a one-week low, while S&P 500 futures were down 0.9% and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 1.3%.  The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, meanwhile, rose to 1.66%.

4. Retail earnings to shed light on chains’ pricing power

The source of the latest bout of inflation nerves on Tuesday were the strong earnings from retailers Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Home Depot (NYSE:HD), which suggested that neither had struggled to pass on higher prices to their customers.

That puts the spotlight on earnings from rival retailers later: Target (NYSE:TGT), TJX (NYSE:TJX) and Lowe's all report before the opening and are all expected to have enjoyed the same uplift from stimulus checks and the gradual relaxation of rules on store openings. L Brands (NYSE:LB), the owner of Victoria’s Secret, reports after the close.

Other earnings due later include Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO).

5. Oil falls on report of progress in Iran talks

Brent and U.S. Crude oil prices fell sharply as the general risk-off tone markets was reinforced by reports that Iran and its negotiating partners had made “significant progress” toward reinstating the UN accord on its nuclear activities, something that would go hand in hand with the lifting of U.S. sanctions.

The Russian diplomat who was the source of that story subsequently walked back his comments, but they had already refocused attention on the steady increase of Iranian crude exports this year, even without a formal agreement.

U.S. government data on oil inventories are due at 10:30 AM ET, as usual. The American Petroleum Institute reported a smaller increase in stockpiles than expected on Tuesday, while inventories at the key export terminal of Fujairah in the UAE also rose slightly.


China Crypto Crash, Retail Earnings, Global Inflation - What's Moving Markets

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