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FOREX-Dollar buoyed by signs of solid U.S. economy, pound ticks up – Reuters

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* U.S. data points to modest growth, supports dollar

* Pound steadies after 2.6% fall last week

* North Korea tensions could upset calm markets

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Dec 23 (Reuters) – The dollar held firm at the start of a holiday-thinned week on Monday, as U.S. data pointed to solid economic growth while the British pound bounced slightly after having suffered its biggest weekly fall in three years.

A batch of economic data published on Friday showed the U.S. economy, already in its longest expansion in history, appears to have maintained the moderate pace of growth as the year ended, supported by a strong labour market.

Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1% annualised rate, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate of third-quarter GDP. That was unrevised from November’s estimate.

“The U.S. economy appears to have stopped slowing. There is no indication it will be hitting a recession,” said Ayako Sera, market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

Earlier this year, investors were spooked by fears over the possibility of a U.S. recession when the U.S. yield curve inverted, which has been historically one of the most reliable signs of a U.S. downturn.

Separate data showed consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.4% last month as households stepped up purchases of motor vehicles and spent more on healthcare.

That contrasted with an unexpected deterioration in German consumer sentiment.

The euro stood at $1.10778, little changed on the day but in retreat since it hit a four-month high of $1.12 on Dec. 13.

The dollar index was at 97.659, flat on the day but maintaining its recovery trend since hitting a five-month low of 96.605 on Dec. 12.

The dollar has been supported by optimism over the global economy since Washington and Beijing came to an interim trade agreement earlier this month.

China said on Monday it would lower tariffs on products ranging from frozen pork to some type of semiconductors next year, as Beijing looks to boost imports amid a slowing economy and a trade war with the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday the United States and China would “very shortly” sign their so-called Phase 1 trade pact.

Against the yen, the dollar changed hands at 109.41 yen , little changed on the day and not far from a six-month high of 109.73 touched earlier this month.

“One thing to look at is whether market players cut their (yen-short) positions ahead of the holiday period on concerns there could be a flash crash like a year ago,” said Minori Uchida, chief currency analyst at MUFG Bank.

The dollar tumbled as much as 4.4% on the second trading day of this year as a lack of yen liquidity, due to a Japanese market holiday, amplified the dollar/yen’s fall sparked by a rare revenue warning from Apple Inc.

Currency speculators have cut their net short positions in the yen slightly in the week that ended last Tuesday after having increased bets against the currency constantly for a few months, data from the U.S. financial watchdog showed on Friday.

Some noted concerns over increasing tensions between North Korea and the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a meeting of top military officials to discuss boosting the country’s military capability, the state news agency reported on Sunday amid heightened concerns the North may be about to return to confrontation with Washington.

Sterling traded at $1.3011, up slightly as it regained some stability after hitting a 2-1/2-week low of $1.2979 on Friday.

It fell 2.6% last week, the biggest weekly fall since October 2016, after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set December 2020 as a hard deadline to reach a trade agreement. (Editing by Lincoln Feast and Jacqueline Wong)

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Soft landing hopes for U.S. economy brighten outlook on stocks – The Globe and Mail

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Optimism is seeping back into the U.S. stock market, as some investors grow more convinced that the economy may avoid a severe downturn even as it copes with high inflation.

The benchmark S&P 500 has rebounded about 15% since mid-June, halving its year-to-date loss, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is up 20% over that time. Many of the so-called meme stocks that had been pummeled in the first half of the year have come screaming back, while the Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, stands near a four-month low.

In the past week, bullish sentiment reached its highest level since March, according to a survey from the American Association of Individual Investors. Earlier this year, that gauge tumbled to its lowest in nearly 30 years, when stocks swooned on worries over how the Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening would hit the economy.

“We have experienced a fair amount of pain, but the perspective in how people are trading has turned violently towards a glass half full versus a glass half empty,” said Mark Hackett, Nationwide’s chief of investment research.

Data over the last two weeks bolstered hopes that the Fed can achieve a soft landing for the economy. While last week’s strong jobs report allayed fears of recession, inflation numbers this week showed the largest month-on-month deceleration of consumer price increases since 1973.

The shift in market mood was reflected in data released by BoFA Global Research on Friday: tech stocks saw their largest inflows in around two months over the past week, while Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which are used to hedge against inflation, notched their fifth straight week of outflows.

“If in fact a soft landing is possible, then you’d want to see the kind of data inputs that we have seen thus far,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth. “Strong jobs number and declining inflation would both be important inputs into that theory.”

Through Thursday, the S&P 500 was up 1.5% for the week, on track for its fourth straight week of gains.

Until recently, optimism was hard to come by. Equity positioning last month stood in the 12th percentile of its range since January 2010, a July 29 note by Deutsche Bank analysts said, and some market participants have attributed the big jump in stocks to investors rapidly unwinding their bearish bets.

With stock market gyrations dropping to multi-month lows, further support for equities could come from funds that track volatility and turn bullish when market swings subside.

Volatility targeting funds could soak up about $100 billion of equity exposure in the coming months if gyrations remain muted, said Anand Omprakash, head of derivatives quantitative strategy at Elevation Securities.

“Should their allocation increase, this would provide a tailwind for equity prices,” Omprakash said.

Investors next week will be watching retail sales and housing data. Earnings reports are also due from a number of top retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot, that will give fresh insight into the health of the consumer.

Plenty of trepidation remains in markets, with many investors still bruised from the S&P 500′s 20.6% tumble in the first six months of the year.

Fed officials have pushed back on expectations that the central bank will end its rate hikes sooner than anticipated, and economists have warned that inflation could return in coming months.

Some investors have grown alarmed at how quickly risk appetite has rebounded. The Ark Innovation ETF, a prominent casualty of this year’s bear market, has soared around 35% since mid-June, while shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings , one of the original “meme stocks,” have doubled over that time.

“You look across assets right now, and you don’t see a lot of risks priced in anymore to markets,” said Matthew Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management.

Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Truist Advisory Services, believes technical resistance and ballooning stock valuations are likely to make it difficult for the S&P 500 to advance far beyond the 4200-4300 level. The index was recently at 4249 on Friday afternoon.

Seasonality may also play a role. September – when the Fed holds its next monetary policy meeting – has been the worst month for stocks, with the S&P 500 losing an average 1.04% since 1928, Refinitiv data showed.

Wall Streeters taking vacations throughout August could also drain volume and stir volatility, said Hogan, of B. Riley Wealth.

“Lighter liquidity tends to exaggerate or exacerbate moves,” he said.

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Malaysian economy smashes forecasts, growing 8.9 percent in Q2 – Al Jazeera English

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Southeast Asian country continues strong pandemic recovery after reopening its borders in April.

Malaysia’s economy grew at its fastest annual pace in a year in the second quarter, boosted by an expansion in domestic demand and resilient exports, but a slowdown in global growth is expected to pose a risk to the outlook for the rest of 2022.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in April-June surged 8.9 percent from a year earlier, the central bank said. This was faster than the 6.7 percent growth forecast in a Reuters poll and was up from the 5 percent annual rise in the previous quarter.

It was also quicker than any annual rate seen since the second quarter of 2021, when GDP was 16.1 percent higher than a low year-earlier base.

Seasonally adjusted GDP for April-June was up 3.5 percent on the previous three months, when quarterly growth was 3.8 percent.

Malaysia’s economy has been on a strong recovery path since the country reopened its borders in April.

“Going forward, the economy is projected to continue to recover in the second half of 2022, albeit at a more moderate pace amid global headwinds,” Central Bank of Malaysia Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus told a news conference.

Full-year growth for 2022 would likely be at the upper end of the previously forecast range of 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent, Nor Shamsiah said.

Headline and core inflation were expected to average higher in 2022, though Nor Shamsiah said any adjustments to the overnight policy rate would be measured and gradual to avoid stronger measures in the future.

The central bank lifted its benchmark interest rate for the second straight meeting in July.

Capital Economics said in a note it expected Malaysia’s economic growth to slow in coming quarters, as commodity prices dropped back and the boost from border reopening fades.

“That said, the slowdown is likely to be relatively mild, with the reopening of the international border set to provide decent support to activity,” said Gareth Leather, the group’s senior Asia economist.

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The UK Economy, and Sterling, Face Next Big Crisis This Winter – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Headwinds for the UK economy spell trouble for sterling, and the real test for the Bank of England and the currency may still be in store.

The cost-of-living crisis is about to intertwine with the energy crisis this winter, leaving the BOE in a bind. UK wholesale natural gas prices have more than tripled in the last year and are more than four times higher than the seasonal average over the previous five years. Household energy bills are forecast to rise while the government plans for organized blackouts in a worse-case scenario in January.

If the energy crisis gets out of hand, the market might expect the BOE to pivot because rates can only do so much in the face of supply-driven forces such as Russian gas supplies, inventories, and alternate energy sources that are being tested by climate change.

There is also the question of fiscal support and the uncertainty surrounding it. The BOE has forecast inflation topping 13% in coming months and a recession through 2023 as it raises rates. The central bank is an apolitical body that has no say over government fiscal policies, making whoever becomes the next prime minister that much more significant. Front-runner Liz Truss is pledging an emergency budget and more borrowing to stimulate the economy, while the competing former chancellor Rishi Sunak is advising caution while also vowing to offer more cost-of-living support.

Currency traders aren’t convinced that economic data Friday is enough to prove the economy’s resilience, which is why even as money markets are raising their BOE tightening bets, the pound is the second worst-performing G-10 currency against the dollar on the day.

But it’s fair not to read too much into the curious gross domestic product print. A small contraction was expected given the Jubilee bank holiday, but June’s drop is smaller than in comparable periods, as Samuel Tombs, chief U.K. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted. July data will likely offer a better picture. It’s possible that numbers would either be revised lower or show that the economy has indeed been more resilient than many expect. Looking ahead, however, there aren’t many other concessions that the pound can give way to.

NOTE: Nour Al Ali writes for Bloomberg’s Markets Live. The observations are her own and not intended as investment advice. For more markets commentary, see the MLIV blog.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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