Latest market-sensitive news and views - Nov. 8
U.S. GOP Underperforms Again as Dems Use Abortion, Turnout to Win Marquee 2023 Elections
House censures Rep. Tlaib | U.S. ag trade deficit | CR, Ukraine aid differences
— Equities today: Asian and European markets were mixed in overnight trading. The S&P 500 rose slightly. The broader market index gained 0.2%. The Nasdaq climbed 0.1% along with the Dow. Asia, Japan -0.3%. Hong Kong -0.6%. China -0.2%. India +0.1%. In Europe, at midday, London +0.1%. Paris +0.2%. Frankfurt -0.1%.
U.S. equities yesterday: All three major indices finished with modest gains, with the Dow up 56.74 points, 0.17%, at 34,152.60. The Nasdaq rose 121.08 points, 0.90%, at 13,639.86. The S&P 500 rose 12.40 points, 0.28%, at 4,378.38.
Oil prices plummeted by over 4% Tuesday to their lowest point in three months. Brent crude, the global benchmark, settled at around $81 per barrel; U.S. crude futures fell to $77 a barrel. The decline was driven by a big increase in American crude supplies and new data suggesting that China’s demand for oil may slow. U.S. crude prices have now plunged more than 15% in less than three weeks. And that is dragging U.S. pump prices down to levels not seen since March.
— Quotes of note:
— U.S. trade deficit widens in September. The U.S. trade deficit widened to $61.5 billion in September from an upwardly revised $58.7 billion gap in August. Still, it is the third lowest trade deficit since 2021. Imports were up 2.7% to $322.7 billion, the highest level in seven months. Exports rose at a slower 2.2% to $261.1 billion, the highest level since August 2022.
— Record trade gap concludes FY 2023 for U.S. ag despite exceeding export forecasts. The U.S. ag sector concluded fiscal year (FY) 2023 with a record trade deficit, as agricultural exports reached $178.75 billion, while imports soared to a record $195.37 billion, resulting in a trade gap of $16.62 billion. Despite this deficit, it was a better outcome than initially anticipated by USDA, as exports exceeded their forecast of $177.5 billion, while imports fell short of the projected $196.5 billion level that would have resulted in a $19 billion deficit.
However, the agricultural sector experienced a series of monthly trade deficits, with four consecutive months from May to August surpassing $3 billion. USDA has already forecasted a challenging year for U.S. agriculture in FY 2024, with expected exports of $172 billion against imports of $199.5 billion, leading to another record deficit of $27.5 billion. USDA's updated FY 2024 trade forecast is scheduled for release on Nov. 30.
— Americans' credit card debt swelled $154 billion Y/Y to a record $1.08 trillion in Q3, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, notching the largest increase since it began tracking household debt in 1999. Interestingly, millennials saw the most credit card delinquencies. "Credit card balances experienced a large jump, consistent with strong consumer spending and real GDP growth," said Donghoon Lee, economic research advisor at the NY Fed. Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman also noted that credit card balances have been increasing faster than any other type of debt amid high inflation and record-high credit card rates, adding that "more people are using credit cards just to get by."
— Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index was firmer, with the euro, British pound and Swiss franc all weaker against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was weaker, trading around 4.55%, with a lower tone in global government bond yields. Crude oil futures were under pressure, with U.S. crude around $76.15 per barrel and Brent around $80.50 per barrel. Gold and silver were narrowly mixed, with gold weaker around $1,971 per troy ounce and silver firmer around $22.61 per troy ounce.
— U.S. finds no major trade partners manipulated currencies. The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday said no major trading partners appeared to be manipulating their currencies, but it put Vietnam back onto a foreign exchange “monitoring list,” while removing Switzerland and South Korea from that category. Treasury’s semi-annual currency report for the four quarters ended June 2023 showed China, Vietnam, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were included on its monitoring list. These countries exceeded two of three thresholds: a trade surplus with the U.S. above $15 billion, a high global current account surplus above 3% of gross domestic product and persistent net foreign currency purchases exceeding 2% of GDP over a year.
— This year is “virtually certain” to be the hottest on record, according to the EU’s climate change service and the World Meteorological Organization. Global average air temperatures in October were 0.4°C warmer than the previous record for that month, set in 2019. Separately, the WMO said that there is a 90% chance that El Niño, a warming weather pattern, will last until at least April 2024.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Democrats experienced several notable victories in Tuesday elections:
Tuesday’s elections included GOP victories, most prominently in Republican-dominated Mississippi, where voters reelected Gov. Tate Reeves over Democratic challenger Brandon Presley.
Bottom line: These outcomes reflect a positive Election Night for Democrats, with wins in gubernatorial, legislative, and special elections, as well as advancements in issues related to abortion rights and progressive policies. Abortion-rights supporters spent millions of dollars to tell voters that GOP lawmakers couldn’t be trusted to set state abortion policy after the Supreme Court last year eliminated a right to the procedure under the U.S. Constitution. Their success gives Democrats hope that they can leverage the issue again in 2024 to offset voter disenchantment with the economy and President Biden.
— Five Republican presidential candidates who made the cut will take the stage tonight in Miami for the third, and less crowded, GOP debate. Former President Trump will skip the event for the third straight time, instead holding a rally about 15 miles away. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina qualified for the event, hosted live by NBC News.
— Rep. Rashida Tlaib censured over controversial Israel comments, with the help of Democrats. The House of Representatives voted late on Tuesday to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) due to a series of controversial comments she made regarding Israel. This decision came after bipartisan backlash and involved nearly two dozen Democrats who voted to reprimand Tlaib. A similar measure had failed the previous week.
The censure resolution passed with a vote of 234-188-4, with 22 Democrats breaking ranks to vote in favor of censure, while four Republicans voted against it. The resolution moved forward after a motion to table it failed in a 208-213-1 vote earlier on Tuesday.
The Democrats who voted yes include: Reps. Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Don Davis (N.C.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Jared Golden (Maine), Dan Goldman (N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Greg Landsman (Ohio), Susie Lee (Nev.), Kathy Manning (N.C.), Jared Moskowitz (Fla.), Wiley Nickel (N.C.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), Pat Ryan (N.Y.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Kim Schrier (Wash.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Frederica Wilson (Fla.).
Not all Republicans were on board, with Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), John Duarte (Calif.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.) voting against the resolution.
The censure resolution was introduced by Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) and cited Tlaib's statements after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, where she called Israel an "apartheid government" and attributed the violence to U.S. financial support of Israel. The resolution also condemned her refusal to retract a tweet blaming Israel for a hospital bombing in Gaza. Tlaib shared a video featuring protesters chanting "from the river to the sea," which some view as a call for violence to destroy the state of Israel. In contrast, Tlaib defended her use of the video as an "aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence."
— House GOP leaders pulled the Transportation-HUD spending bill Tuesday night because both moderate and conservative Republicans rebelled. A dispute over spending for Amtrak prompted House Republicans leaders to not take up the Transportation-HUD spending plan for fiscal year (FY) 2024. The situation is raising talk that a government shutdown could emerge as lawmakers face a Nov. 17 deadline to keep the government operating.
— Republicans reportedly did not back the concept of a laddered approach in a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded past Nov. 17. But they also failed in their weekly caucus meeting to back any other approach to keeping the government funded. Under a laddered approach, some agencies would face different spending deadlines in the CR. But that approach was also unlikely to move forward with opposition to the plan in the Senate.
— McConnell links Ukraine funding to border policy fix. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has firmly stated that Republicans will not support a substantial foreign-aid package, which includes Ukraine funding, unless there is a GOP-approved resolution for the U.S./Mexico border, encompassing policy changes and increased funding. This decision carries significant political risks, as it ties Ukraine, a pressing international issue, to the contentious immigration policy, potentially jeopardizing the larger aid package and McConnell's aspiration for robust Ukraine funding that could last until the 2024 elections.
Despite Democrats' criticism of the Republican border proposal, they are willing to engage in negotiations, recognizing the seriousness of McConnell's demands. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he aims for a "true bipartisan deal" on immigration rather than a partisan wish list, indicating a sense of urgency among top Democrats in light of GOP requirements. Democrats are emphasizing the dire consequences for Ukraine if new aid is not approved, and President Biden has stressed the importance of maintaining U.S. credibility and European security by supporting Ukraine.
Key Democrat comments. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing border operations, suggests that any border package should be "targeted" and "lean," potentially increasing the chances of a deal as it would not involve a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws, a more formidable obstacle.
— G7 foreign ministers support ‘humanitarian pauses and corridors’ in Gaza, urging Iran to avoid destabilization. During their meeting in Japan, G7 foreign ministers expressed their support for "humanitarian pauses and corridors" in Gaza but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. In a joint statement, they also called on Iran to "refrain" from actions that could destabilize the Middle East. Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, emphasized key elements for peace, including preventing the forcible displacement of Palestinians and avoiding the reoccupation of Gaza by Israel. In a separate development, Israel reported targeting a prominent Hamas weapons maker while focusing on the militant group's tunnel network beneath the Gaza Strip.
— Russia to maintain elevated seasonal grain export quota following bumper wheat harvest. Russia intends to retain a high seasonal grain export quota, expected to be set at 24 million tons for the second half of the season from Feb. 15 to the end of June. While the specific allocation for wheat was not mentioned, experts suggest that this generous quota is unlikely to restrict grain exports. Russia has historically utilized quotas to secure domestic grain supplies, but this move echoes the substantial cap introduced in 2022, which had minimal impact on global markets. The country, now the world's top wheat exporter, has achieved another significant harvest, further solidifying its position.
Meanwhile, challenges stemming from Moscow's invasion of Ukraine have hindered Ukrainian food exports, while Russian traders have managed to overcome financial and logistical obstacles to deliver record shipments. The Russian export quota also encompasses shipments from regions of Ukraine under Moscow's control, according to Interfax.
— Reuters: China makes large U.S. soybean purchases. Chinese importers bought around 10 cargoes of U.S. soybeans (about 600,000 MT) for shipment from Gulf and Pacific Northwest export terminals between December and March, trade sources told Reuters. If confirmed, Tuesday’s sales would be the largest single-day soybean purchases by China since late July. Cash premiums for U.S. soybeans at Gulf Coast terminals jumped as much as 10 cents a bushel on Tuesday as exporters scrambled to source supplies, traders said.
— Reuters: China asks insurance group to aid embattled property developer. Chinese authorities have asked Ping An Insurance Group to take a controlling stake in embattled Country Garden, the country’s biggest private property developer, four people familiar with the plan told s. A spokesperson for Ping An said the company had not been approached by the government and denied the information reported by Reuters.
— Sen. Brown opposes Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework over trade pillar concerns. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, conveyed his opposition to the Biden administration's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) during a Democratic caucus lunch. According to Politico, Brown expressed his stance that he will oppose the IPEF unless the administration removes the trade pillar from the agreement. His primary concerns revolve around labor standards within the deal. It's noteworthy that Sen. Brown's opposition could have an impact, even though Congress does not have the opportunity to vote on the IPEF, as it is not being negotiated as a free trade agreement.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— U.S. seeks to buy up to 3 million barrels for oil reserve for January delivery. The Biden administration is making efforts to acquire up to three million barrels of oil, scheduled for delivery in January 2024, to replenish the nation's strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), as announced by the Department of Energy. This procurement initiative is the second solicitation for January 2024 delivery, aligning with the Department's goal to make oil purchases at advantageous terms for taxpayers. In the previous month, the administration expressed its intent to acquire six million barrels of crude oil, slated for delivery in December and January.
Of note: Data show a static level in the SPR for October and November. Total in it is 351.3 million barrels.