Stocks tread water, US jobs numbers on tap

Caution is the order of the day. European stocks are mixed after falling for the second session in a row on Wednesday. Asian share ticked up overnight, with China continuing to charge. Wall Street rose on Wednesday but overall the major indices are still well within their June trading ranges.

Nine-year high for gold, Fed cautious on economic outlook

Gold broke out to its highest level in nine years, breaking free from the $1,800 psychological resistance to clear $1818 at one point. The path is open to further gains, albeit we have just seen real interest rates come back in a touch. Nevertheless, the outlook for gold remains constructive – lower real yields, worries about inflation emerging down the line, and broader economic uncertainty all combine for a perfect environment for gold bugs.

Fed officials are increasingly sounding cautious. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said whilst businesses might have had decent order books and pipelines of work to keep them going, new orders are not coming on stream fast enough. Fiscal payments are coming to an end and it is not clear what will replace them. The US may well need to extend and pretend.

Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren said: ‘I do expect unfortunately that the economy is going to remain weaker than many had hoped through the summer and fall.’ US cases continue to soar, with the country again reporting its biggest one-day jump in cases, choking the reopening and recovery process at birth.

US jobless claims on tap

The US weekly unemployment claims data will be closely watched following the big nonfarm payrolls report last week. Initial claims are seen at 1.375m, with key continuing claims down to 1.875m. Whilst these numbers have been coming down, they haven’t been contracting at a rate fast enough to warrant great optimism.

Data from Japan at first looked encouraging but masked some nasty surprises. Core machinery orders, a volatile leading indicator of activity, rose 1.7% in May after a 12% drop in April, and ahead of the 5% decline expected. However, the 17.7% rise in orders for non-manufacturers was offset by a 15.5% decline in manufacturers’ orders and 18.5% drop in overseas orders.

Dollar weakens, WTI oil eases back after breaching $41

In FX, the dollar is being offered. GBPUSD cleared resistance and moved above 1.26. Resistance 1.2690, the Jun 16th swing high, is the next target for bulls. EURUSD has cleared 1.13 but pulled back sharply after running into resistance at 1.1370. Eurogroup members to vote on a new president today ahead of the key summit next week at which the EU needs to hammer out agreement on the €750bn rescue fund.

Crude oil pushed higher before pulling back. WTI (Aug) moved above $41 but pared gains and traded around $40.70 at send time. The EIA said US crude inventories rose by 5.7m barrels vs expectations for a draw of around 3m barrels. But the data was not as bearish as it appeared at first glance – stockpiles were up largely on higher imports, whilst gasoline inventories fell by almost 5m barrels, a good sign Americans are back on the road. Refining activity rose to a 14-week high.