US cash equity markets were broadly higher at the bell on Monday as the DJIA snapped a four-day losing streak. Energy stocks were supported by gains in oil prices with US crude futures adding over 2% at the highs – US crude futures settled at $62.57 (+$1.32). Investors also appear to be looking through concerns of a global trade war despite comments from Trump that he will not back down on the steel and aluminium tariffs. A spokesman for House speaker Ryan said he has urged Trump not to advance on planned steel and aluminium tariffs. Meanwhile, House Republican sources said congressional leaders will not rule out potential action down the line if Trump continues with his tariff plan. On the NAFTA front, US Trade Representative Lighthizer said they have not made progress on NAFTA that many has hoped for, adding they agreed to include a chapter in negotiations on NAFTA for energy. He stated so far, they have concluded just six chapters in NAFTA negotiations, and urges all parties to move more swiftly to conclude negotiations. Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland said Canada is still determined to get a good deal on NAFTA, not any deal, adding they’ve made solid progress in round seven of NAFTA talks. Freeland said any tariffs on steel or aluminium would be viewed by Canada as unacceptable and will take appropriate measures to protect workers and industries if need be. Lastly, Mexican Economy Minister Guajardo said to strike an agreement on NAFTA, we need to be aware of the positions of the other signatories, adding as time passes, we should gather speed on concluding the accord. The Canadian Dollar plunged to its weakest level since July 5th against the Greenback on the NAFTA headlines. Elsewhere, gains in equity markets pushed US Treasuries into negative territory, also weighed by stronger data after ISM non-manufacturing beat at 59.5 (f/c. 59.0). In FX, Sterling remained the outperformer after rallying on comments from UK PM May, she said they are close to an agreement on Brexit transition. We also heard from Fed Governor Quarles who said US regulators are considering material changes to streamline Volcker rule.
After the bell, US Trade Representative Lighthizer followed up on earlier remarks, he said steel and aluminium tariffs is an incentive for Canada and Mexico to conclude agreement on NAFTA, adding after NAFTA deal is reached, tariff exemptions will apply to Canada and Mexico. Lighthizer said he is making more headway with Mexico than Canada and added he is still aiming for a trilateral NAFTA agreement.
Looking ahead, the RBA wraps up its March monetary policy in which no change is expected (f/c +1.50%; Prev. +1.50%). Data wise, we get Aussie current account balance and retail sales. In Europe, we get the UK’s BRC shop price index.