Stock markets are struggling to capitlize on their strong start to the week, with Europe a mixed bag and US futures relatively flat ahead of the open.

We’re closing in on month and quarter end, which will likely have an impact on trading – the usual portfolio rebalancing that gets mentioned around this time – but more broadly speaking, we could just be seeing investors taking to the sidelines ahead of this evening’s debate.

Joe Biden still has a healthy lead and therefore everything to lose, while the debating stage surely benefits President Trump as he looks to close the gap. The New York Times expose on Trump’s tax affairs will certainly add extra spice to the evening, with the President going into the debate on the backfoot, meaning he’ll probably come out all guns blazing.

We’re just over a month away from what is going to be an election for the ages. Covid has turned the election on its head. A year ago, Trump had it in the bag. Now he has a significant deficit to make up and already election day is surrounded in controversy. A tightening of the polls over the next month will only add to the drama.

Cautious optimism in sterling as Brexit talks take a small step forward

The pound had a good day yesterday as Brexit talks appeared to take a step in the right direction. With the mid-October “deadline” fast approaching, the EU agreed to break with its previous position and agreed to start drawing up legal text on parts of the deal already agreed, despite all issues not being resolved.

This is only a small concession on the EU’s part but symbolises its determination to get a broad agreement in place by the EU summit in the middle of October and encourage progress on fishing rights and state aid. As always, I remain confident a deal will be reached – perhaps naively so – but less sure it will be done in time for the summit. These deadlines are never as final as they’re made out to be. Surely the tale has a final twist in it.

$40 a happy compromise for oil

Oil prices are continuing to hover around the $40 mark after finally catching a bid on Monday, with the dollar weakness giving the broader commodity market a lift. It continues to face resistance to the upside though, for good reason. The evolving Covid landscape is a massive downside risk for crude prices but downside risks are probably being alleviated by the readiness of OPEC+ to cut more if needed. That may be put to the test in the coming months but for now, $40 looks a happy compromise.

Dollar enjoying rebound but may not last

Profit taking in the dollar is providing some relief for gold, as it climbs off its lows and sets its sights on $1,900. It could face stiff resistance here though, with it having been a floor throughout August and the early part of September, broadly speaking. It’s a big week for the dollar – Presidential election, jobs report, etc – so we could see some big swings in the coming days. I don’t think the correction is finished though and this bit of profit taking we’re seeing may not last. If that’s turns out to be the case, there could be plenty more downside to come.