Daily Market Color

Risk Assets Continue Decline with Escalated Geopolitical Concerns

Global financial markets exercised caution again today as investors continue to look ahead to this Thursday’s events, which include a UK election (in which the polls are tightening each day we get closer to the vote), an ECB policy decision, and testimony from former FBI Director James Comey.  Additionally, markets remain concerned about the unrest in the Middle East, where the leading Arab nations remained committed to the economic and political isolation of Qatar.  President Trump issued comments on the situation this morning, confirming that while he was on his trip to the region last week, several leaders he met with had warned of Qatar’s funding of “radical ideology.”  Energy prices continue to fluctuate as the outcome of the current standoff and its potential effect on supply balances is still in doubt.  Crude oil is currently up 1.5% on the day, bringing a barrel of WTI crude near $48.25, after falling by as much as 1% earlier in the session.   US stock markets declined on the day, with all three major indices down 0.2%-0.3%.  Treasurys maintained a steady rally from the beginning of the session, and yields/swap rates are currently down 1-4 bps across the curve.  The US dollar continued its descent, down 0.3% on the day to its lowest levels against major currencies since October 2016.  A small bright spot for the dollar was a 0.9% gain against the South African Rand, whose value suffered after GDP data showed the nation officially slipping into a recession for the first time since 2009.      

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) headlined a light day for new economic data.  The report from the Labor Department showed job openings in April were at their highest level on record at 6.044 million, a 259,000 rise from the previous month’s revised figure and well above expectations of 5.765 million.  Job postings increased the most in construction, food services, and financial activities, while manufacturing and retail openings declined.  The number of hirings fell by 253,000 to 5.05 million, further widening the openings/hirings gap, which points to a likely imbalance between the skill levels demanded by employers in new roles and the existing skills of the available workers in the pool.   Other details in the report included layoffs, which edged lower to 1.59 million and the number of workers quitting their jobs, which declined 111,000 to 3.03 million.  

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