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U.S. Stock Futures Climb After Yuan Fix Stronger Than Expected

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U.S. stock index futures rose in Asia after China’s central bank set its daily fixing stronger than expected, tempering concerns that the nations’ trade war will worsen.

S&P 500 Index futures contracts expiring in September rose 0.2% as of 11:30 a.m. in Tokyo, rebounding from an earlier 0.4% loss after the People’s Bank of China set its daily reference rate at 7.0039 per dollar. Analysts and traders had projected a rate of 7.0156, according to the average of 21 forecasts compiled by Bloomberg in a survey. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 and Dow Jones Industrial Average rebounded as much as 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively.

“If the Chinese government intervenes less and lets the currency find its own level, it’s actually better from a reputational point of view,” Nader NaeImi, AMP Capital’s head of dynamic markets in Sydney, said on Bloomberg Television.

The bounce in Asia came after U.S. equities and benchmark Treasury yields mounted an impressive comeback late Wednesday, reversing sharp drops as investors turned more positive on the outlook for global growth amid central-bank moves to ease monetary policy. The S&P 500 Index eked out a modest gain after tumbling as much as 2%, while yields on 10-year Treasuries edged higher after an earlier plunge.

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EUR/USD Daily Forecast – Rally Stalls as Trade War Fears Lessen

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Chinese yuan consolidates losses

It’s not often that EUR/USD traders look to the Chinese exchange rate for clues on where the single currency might go next, but such is the case this week as the trade battle between the US and China is dominating the financial markets.

Initially, it was a tweet from the US president about more tariffs that spooked the financial markets. A drop in the yuan below the key 7 level versus the greenback back intensified fears.

The decline in the Chinese currency stirred up speculation that China is fighting back by devaluing the yuan. However, it seems that there is an attempt to contain the drop in the yuan as the exchange rate has fallen into a range.

I think it is important to have a correct assessment of sentiment here. While equities have bounced back and the dollar decline looks like it has stalled out a bit, I don’t think the backdrop has changed in such a manner that warrants a reversal to erase the price action across financial markets in the early week. At least not in the 

Although there was an intraday push above the resistance level, the pair closed below it on an intraday basis. Not only that, a doji candle was posted in the process which signals exhaustion and builds towards the case for a pullback.

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Valuations for India have become a lot more attractive, says Dan Fineman of Credit Suisse

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Credit Suisse has upgraded Indian equities to 'overweight', up  from 'market weight'. Dan Fineman, co-head of equity strategy for the Asia Pacific region at Credit Suisse, shared the rationale behind this upgrade.

"India may be a relative outperformer rather than producing a strong positive return," Fineman said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.

“We are quite cautious on the region as a whole for the second half of the year. Valuations for the region as a whole are no longer cheap as they were,” he added.

“India though has some appealing features and I feel pretty confident it will outperform at least on the downside and might produce some absolute positive returns.”

According to him, valuations for India have become a lot more attractive.

“India tends to outperform in times of falling global interest rates and global monetary easing especially with the latest escalation of the trade war we probably will be seeing continued downward pressure on rates and easing from global central banks,” added Fineman.

Talking about the renminbi, he said, “I do not want to give a hard forecast but I will note that our economic team has calculated that if China were to try to offset all of the damage from the tariffs which Trump might be imposing in September on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese exports, the renminbi would have to go beyond 7.20/dollar to 7.25/dollar.”

About the MSCI India index, Fineman said, “We have an index target for the region as a whole of 2 percent for the second half of the year that was said before the latest escalation of the trade war; there is downside risk to that forecast.”

“India should do a bit better than the region as a whole. I do not think we can expect double-digit returns by any means, it would be too difficult of an environment unless we have some positive outcome on the trade war. We are looking more at something in the low single digits or mid-single digits,” Fineman added.

RBI cuts rates by 35 bps, a bigger-than-expected cut (USD/INR stays below 71.00)

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Addressing growth concerns by boosting aggregate demand assumes highest priority at current juncture.

Transmission of policy rate cuts to weighted average lending rates on fresh loans has improved marginally since June.

Impact of monetary policy easing since February expected to support economic activity going forward.

Inflation projected to remain within target over a 12-month ahead horizon.

Aggregate demand, investment activity remain sluggish.

To take measures to enhance credit flow to non-banking finance companies.

The Rupee remains under pressure on a bigger-than-expected rate cut announcement, with USD/INR flirting with multi-month highs near 71.00.

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RBI policy: MPC unlikely to change stance to 'accommodative', says JPMorgan's Jahangir Aziz

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All eyes are on the Reserve Bank of India’s first monetary policy decision for FY20. Jahangir Aziz, head of EM economic research at JPMorgan, shared his expectations.

“We had been expecting a significant easing since December last year. We got one cut already done, we expect another cut this week and then followed by at least one more cut in the next round,” Aziz told CNBC-TV18.

With regards to a change in the RBI’s stance, Aziz said, “You are making way too much about the wording of the forward guidance being provided by the wording of the monetary policy committee (MPC). Most likely they will probably maintain a neutral language because moving to an accommodative stance would mean giving expectations to the market that there will be significantly more rate cuts coming down the road. My sense is that the MPC will not want to take that risk of providing that kind of an indication to the market.”

“I think it will provide forward guidance that there are no rate cuts to come but it is not the beginning of a significantly long easing cycle,” said Aziz.

AUD/USD buyers can take some comfort but rebound is hardly convincing so far

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The pair came close to testing the January flash crash low this week with price hitting 0.6748, just shy of the low at 0.6742. That said, the daily closes we're experiencing are the lowest since the financial crisis back in 2009.

However, buyers can take some comfort from the fact that price is rebounding a little towards 0.6800 currently today. That should put an end to the poor run of form in the pair over the past two weeks or so.

I mean price did close by one pip higher last Friday but I wouldn't count that as a real win considering the circumstances.
Price is still unable to find a way back above 0.6800 and the 100-hour MA (red line) @ 0.6811 is still not breached. That means sellers are still in near-term control of the pair.

The turnaround in risk today will ultimately prove to be short-lived if US-China trade tensions continue to escalate and as the RBA looks towards more rate cuts before the year-end, it's hard to see Australian yields sustain at current levels for much longer.

Of note, 10-year yields survived a brief drop below the RBA cash rate of 1.00% earlier today but there will be more troubling days ahead. The dark clouds from US-China trade tensions continue to preside over markets and pair that alongside lower rates will continue to see yields suffer in the bigger picture.

With AUD/USD being largely a yields story over the past two years, that doesn't bode well for the pair to maintain any solid upside momentum.

Desalination: It is a big money game baby!

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How big is desalination in India?  That is hard to tell because one is confronted with two different sets of numbers.

One source is a document prepared by a Gujarat government brochure of 2017 inviting investors to build desalination plants in Bhavnagar and Mundra. It gives out data which many industry players believe is quite credible.  Of course, it must be admitted that ever since the preparation of this document, the ambitions of the state government have grown. The present chief minister talks about his state setting up 10 desalination plants.

Another good source is the Indian Desalination Association.  According to the latter, there could be more than 1,000 membrane-based desalination plants (the more popular technology) of various capacities ranging from 20 m3/day to 10,000 m3/day.

This flies in the face of figures given out by the Gujarat government document -- “As of 2013, India has 182 desalination plants operating majorly in western and southern parts and is expected to increase to over 500 by 2017.”  It is quite possible that the Gujarat government documents only lists large plants, and not experimental or small plants.

However, the government document does confirm that membrane based desalination plants are more popular – around 85% of the plants use this technology which is known to be 23% cheaper than the use of thermal technology. This document also talks about how many big players in India have been eyeing this sector – some names include Nirma, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals and Indian Rayon  -- to meet their captive requirement for water.

Desalination costs:

But why should companies opt for desal water? Simple. Desal water is cheaper than the water provided by the state for chemical process industries.  True, desal water is much more expensive than the natural water states get from aquifers, lakes and rain water that is stored.  But it is much cheaper than the exorbitant price tags state governments like to put on water for business or industrial use, hoping to use the additional money to cross-subsidise free water to vote banks.

In Mumbai, for instance, while the cost of fresh water supplied through pipes is just under 0.8 paise a litre, the price the government wants industry to pay the state charges industries is around Rs.4.8 per cubic metre (1,000 litres) for normal processing industries, but Rs 120 per cubic metre for industries where water itself is a raw material (bottled water, carbonated drinks etc) and for chemical industries. The latter comes to around 12 paise per litre.

This is significantly higher than cost of desal water (inclusive of interest and depreciation, but without including the cost of environmental damage and loss to sea life).

So, how much does desal water cost?

In July 2010, desalination cost around $1 per cubic metre. And given the exchange rate of Rs.50 per dollar then, the cost was 5 paise per litre.  But even then Igal Aisenberg, then CEO and president of Netafim, the world’s largest micro irrigation company did mention how “newer technologies have permitted this cost to come to under half-a-dollar per cubic metre.  We believe that these costs will go down further.”

This is confirmed by a recent (March 8, 2019) report by Bloomberg that the cost of producing one cubic metre of treated water could be around 50 cents. At today’s exchange rate (Rs.70=$1), that would come to around 3.5 paise per litre.


A hint of corruption

And this is where one begins to suspect that the hype over desalination could have a lot to do with money.  Two factors point in that direction.

First, there is a lot of money involved in setting up projects for state and central governments.  The Gujarat government estimates the costs to be around Rs.387 crore for a 100 MLD (million litres a day) membrane-based plant  (and this is after capitalisation of five years of working capital requirement). True, there is a caveat that plant costs could vary, there has to be some excellent justification for the varying costs.

Yet, many of the desalination plants set up by private players for governments (they are invariably set up by private players in India) have a higher price tag.  For instance, the price at which Essel Infraprojects wants to set up a 100 mld desalination plant in Gujarat is expected to cost double this sum – Rs. 700 crore. Or consider Tamil Nadu’s plans to set up  two desalination plants at Nemmelli and Minjur, each of 100 MLD capacity, another 400 MLD capacity plant is being set up at Perur. These plants too are at significantly higher costs.  According to one media report, each 10 MLD desalination plant in “would cost around Rs 140 crore. The three plants will cost over Rs 420 crore.”


And the price at which Tamil Nadu procures desalinated water is well over 10 paise a litre compared to the cost of 3.5 to 5 paise a litre.  A five paise difference translates into Rs.50 lakh a day for a 100 MLD plant.  That translates into Rs.182 crore each year for each 100 MLD plant.  As the procurement prices increase, the numbers grow uncomfortably larger too.  When multiplied into the number of plants, the sums could be scandalous

Significantly, the Niti Aayog proposal mentions neither normative capital costs nor normative pricing for desal water.  As a think tank it should have done that as well.

In brief

Niti Aayog should have made a case for better metering, working out consumption estimates, making a case for preventing contamination of existing freshwater sources – rivers, ponds, lakes, the sea and even ground water.  It should have talked about ways to harvest water on a public-private-partnership basis. It ought to have made a case for pricing of water in a sensible but sustainable manner.

As had been pointed out by Madhav Gadgil in his report on environment in the Western Ghats of India, there are times when unscrupulous industrialists try to conceal effluent discharge by pumping it into the ground.  There are instances of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and its state affiliates actually ignoring enforcement of a zero discharge policy for all highly polluting companies. Niti Aayog should have put up a note on how to strengthen monitoring mechanisms – even using third-party inspections by reputed global organisations like the SGS.

That would have given India more water than all the proposed desalination plants.

Instead of doing this, it is sad to see a body like Niti Aayog actually advocating a disastrous policy of putting up desalination plants along the country’s coastline. Such a move will destroy environment, livelihoods of fisherfolk, and burden India with a huge import cost. It will divert the attention of policymakers away from the actual things that need to be done.

GBP/USD Daily Forecast – Range Emerges as Dollar Weakens

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After a sharp drop early last week, GBP/USD has fallen into a range while the dollar eases lower.

GBP/USD Consolidates Losses

If there was a clear theme in July for the FX markets, it was that the British Pound was weak. Although Sterling has been able to hold the downside a bit over the past few sessions, there is no reason to believe this theme has not carried over into August.

A weaker dollar over the past few sessions has triggered a range in GBP/USD. This is not all that surprising after the sharp earlier fall in the pair. However, while the technical outlook for EUR/USD shows that that the near-term trend has shifted upwards, GBP/USD does not share the same bullish sentiment.

The pair has been weighed by concerns over a no-deal Brexit as the new Prime Minister has not convinced UK citizens that he can pull off an exit with a deal in place. He has vowed to leave the European Union whether a deal is made or not which has caused the markets to reprice Sterling.

For this reason, I don’t expect that GBP/USD is trying to carve out a bottom here. Unless there are some developments that will boost confidence that a deal will be made, I think the natural course for the pair is lower.

Technical Analysis

I think it is important to keep in mind that there is significant support in play here. On the chart below, I have marked it off at 1.2150. However, I think we can extend a bit below the level even as it was around this area that GBP/USD bottomed in late 2016 to early 2017.

Because of the underlying support, and as the dollar as trending lower, I think GBP/USD will try to move to upper bound of the current range. I think it’s possible the pair attempts to break higher from the range. But as mentioned, I don’t think a catalyst is in place for the pair to bottom here.

Resistance has come into play from the 100 moving average on an hourly chart. If the pair pushes through it, I expect it will attempt to trigger stops above Friday’s high of 1.2188.

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A coincidence is helping Indian banks tame NPAs, not for the first time

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A swift bond rally triggered by a fall in interest rates and a fiscally-responsible Budget has come to the rescue of beleaguered Indian banks, which are in the throes of a deleveraging cycle.

India's 10-year bond yield have fallen over 150 basis points from their highest point this year.

Bond yields and prices are inversely correlated as a fall in yields makes older bonds yielding higher interest rates more attractive.

So investors holding bonds in a falling-yield environment see a notional gain. For banks, this means that bad loans become smaller as a proportion in an overall book that has been repriced higher.

The fall in bond yields, combined with a generous Rs 70,000-crore cash infusion by the government, would help exacerbate pressure on Indian banks, which are battling their worst NPA crisis in two decades.

Every basis point fall in bond yields benefit banks by an overall $50 million, given the size of their portfolio, an Economic Times article quoting an estimate by ICRA said.

The bond rally has been further bolstered by India's proposal last month to issue its first overseas bond.

Further, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) rate-cutting panel will again meet on August 7 to decide policy rates.

India is among few countries with an investment-grade rating to offer yields of more than 5 percent, Manu George, director of fixed income at Schroder Investment Management Ltd. in Singapore, told Mint. “Indian bonds offer good value in a low-yielding world and have the potential to rally further."

In a recent interview, Romesh Sobti, chief executive officer at IndusInd Bank, pointed out that even in 2002, around the time the NPA cycle peaked out, it was a fall in bond yields that had come to the rescue of banks.

Hence, this is not the first time that a strong bond rally helped in dealing with the bad debt hovering over India’s financial system.

“While this time around the drop in the sovereign bond yields is not as dramatic, the quantum of bond holding is way higher,” Sobti said in the interview. “Gains will be handsome enough to enable banks to start cleaning up the books faster."

AUD/USD at the Possible Fragile 0.6800 Support

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Long-term perspective

The steep decline that came after the confirmation of the double resistance etched by the upper line of the descending channel and the 0.7055 with 0.7013 resistance area managed to bring the price under the 0.6858 major support level, pausing at the 0.6800 psychological level.

This movement, besides taking out the previous low that falsely pierced the 0.6858 level, is composed of strong bearish candles — the only one which does not have a long body, although is bearish, is the one on July 29, 2019, the reason being that the bulls were trying to halt the decline around an important psychological level, 0.6800, respectively.

From here, the price could consolidate above 0.6800 and then continue the downwards movement. Another possibility is the one of a throwback. In this case, the price might retrace towards 0.6858. This could end up with the actual confirmation of 0.6858 as a resistance, followed by a new leg down. Another possible scenario is a confirmation as a resistance of the projection of the 0.6831 low. Also to be considered is a false break of 0.6858 — the price might get above it but fail to confirm it as a support, with the consequent fall beneath it and the continuation of the decline.

So, as long as the price does not confirm 0.6858 as support, the movement towards south is natural, being the materialization of the impulsive wave that pertains to the descending trend. A first target is represented by 0.6700, with a possible extension on the first run to 0.6650.

Short-term perspective

The price is in a clear descending movement and, as long as it continues or as long as its change prints a continuation pattern, it is expected to continue.

The first sign of a pause could be offered if the price gets above the 0.6865 level — which corresponds to the 23.6 level of Fibonacci retracement. But even in this case the other projections — preferably up to 50.0, which corresponds to the 0.6935 level — are well suited short-term areas from where the price to continue declining. The first target is represented by the 0.6700 psychological level.

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