Missiles Fired, Exports Bombed, Confidence Targeted

Key News

Key Reports (WSJ):
9:00 a.m. Mar S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index: Previous: -18.8%.
10:00 a.m. May Conference Board Consumer Confidence: Expected: 43. Previous: 39.2.
10:00 a.m. May Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index: Previous: -9.
10:30 a.m. May Dallas Fed Mfg Production Index: Previous: -8.9.
5:00 p.m. ABC/Wash Post Consumer Conf For May 23: Previous: -45.

Quotable

“The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.”

                              H.L. Mencken

FX Trading – Missiles Fired, Exports Bombed, Confidence Targeted
Financial headlines are taking the opportunity of tying the risk-averse move this morning to North Korea. We’re told those friendly folks test fired some missiles — I think the term ‘nuclear’ was used too. Of course, any activity of this sort tends to remind markets of the instability there.

That’s got markets moving as the US comes out of its Memorial Day weekend. Stock futures are lower; the dollar is higher.

Assuming this North Korea news is affecting markets to the extent it’s being credited, it’s a positive sign for the US dollar-based assets. Simply: you start questioning things when talk surfaces about US Treasuries potentially losing their AAA credit rating. In such a case, would Treasuries and the US dollar still benefit from a flight-to-safety in the event of geopolitical upheaval?

One would think the answer remains a firm ‘Yes.’ Just don’t ask Bill gross what he thinks.

So until we see a run out of US assets, we can’t help but refocus on what’s been driving risk-appetite. Lately it’s been optimism emerging on the back of green shoots. Confidence has, for the most part, improved to reflect this sentiment shift.

There’s a chance expectations have turned the corner, I guess. There’s a chance the bad news has been priced in, I guess. But it’s tough to take in, day after day, new low-points on economic data essential to the improvement of the current recession. And it’s tough to think confidence can remain improved when little or no real improvement is shown in the numbers anytime soon.

Case in point: Germany dropped another export bomb. This particular export-heavy economy saw that side of its trade plunge 9.7% from the fourth quarter. German GDP felt the fallout which will contribute to the 6% contraction that’s expected over the course of 2009.

It’s not a pretty picture, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based on the recent business and investor confidence numbers out of Germany. There are two measures of consumer confidence numbers to be released in the US today. The first comes just before stocks open up here in the US; the second comes shortly after the close.

A number anywhere in line with consensus estimates shouldn’t do too much to change the market’s mood this morning. But should something dramatically upbeat hit the wires then it may be reason to celebrate … regardless of who drops the next bomb.

Here’s a snapshot of The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index courtesy of Market Harmonics. The overall number turned up in the month of April:

Whereas the present situation as reflected by the respondents of the survey ticked only marginally higher:

As we’re so graciously reminded by the markets, though, expectations are what matter:

If the evidence doesn’t soon follow expectations higher, the spike in markets we witnessed lately could prove premature.  Fundamentals can’t be ignored forever…I don’t think.