Markets Overview

  • ASX SPI 200 futures up 0.6% to 7,525.00
  • Dow Average up 0.3% to 34,921.88
  • Aussie up 0.6% to 0.7544 per US$
  • U.S. 10-year yield rose 1.2bps to 2.3951%
  • Australia 3-year bond yield rose 0.3bps to 2.38%
  • Australia 10-year bond yield rose 0.4bps to 2.83%
  • Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,932.71
  • Brent futures up 3.5% to $108.05/bbl

Economic Events

  • 9am: (AU) March S&P Global Australia PMI Servi, prior 57.9
  • 9am: (AU) March S&P Global Australia PMI Compo, prior 57.1
  • 9:30am: (AU) April ANZ Roy Morgan Weekly Consumer, prior 91.1
  • 2:30pm: (AU) April RBA Cash Rate Target, est. 0.10%, prior 0.10%

Financial markets began the week with modest moves across assets as investors assessed the latest central bank commentary and developments in Ukraine.

The second quarter kicked off slowly, with investors awaiting Federal Reserve meeting minutes Wednesday and the start of corporate earnings season next week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury gained and the dollar was stronger against peers. WTI crude oil rose above $103 a barrel as traders weighed China’s Covid outbreak and moves to tap strategic reserves.

Other News

Warren Bischoff, who leads a group of financial advisers in the Washington, D.C., area, has taken on a new role since returning to the office a few months ago. He’s the dress-code police.

In a single week, he had to tell one employee that white tennis sneakers are a no-no, another that bluejeans aren’t appropriate, and a third that T-shirts will never fly. In a recent edge-case ruling, he decided that “dress sneakers” — brown shoes with a white sole — might be OK, but only on Fridays.

“They have a foot in both camps,” he says. “They’re very tricky.”

More organizations are calling workers back to offices only to discover it’s difficult to telegraph what employees can and can’t wear. Be too strict and you risk alienating people who weren’t thrilled to come back in the first place; be too lenient and the environment no longer feels professional. In March, more workers returned to offices in the U.S. than at almost any other point in the pandemic. Many hope that after two years of working in pants with elastic waistbands they can get away with a more relaxed wardrobe.
Mr. Bischoff, 58, no longer wears the dozen or so custom suits in his closet, and instead embraces an array of blazers and button downs. At a recent business dinner, all six men in attendance wore blazers: there was a text chain before to confirm no one would wear a tie. It is the new Wall Street uniform for former suit-wearers, says Mr. Bischoff, and yet when he shows up to work in this ensemble, younger employees ask why he’s so dressed up.

“I have to sometimes defend my outfit,” he says. “This used to be the most casual thing I could wear.”

Mr. Bischoff has received complaints that the office has gotten too casual for some and is too dressy for others. His multinational employer isn’t touching the issue and wants managers to wrestle with the attire debate at the local level. “It’s the elephant in the room in every workplace right now,” he says. “It’s a land mine.”

Jenny Cromwell, who works in an IT department in Alberta, recently got a directive from her manager that said when workers go back to the office, they’ll need to show up in business casual at the minimum. “Everyone laughed when they said they expected us to adhere to some level of previous dress code,” says Ms. Cromwell, 43. “Post-pandemic bodies don’t necessarily fit pre-pandemic wardrobes.”

When Ms. Cromwell starts going into the office next week, she intends to lean into “business leisure” attire. It will involve finding every pair of soft-material pants she owns that could pass as professional — including dark leggings — and pairing them with dress shirts.

“Party on the bottom, business on the top,” she says.

During the pandemic, retailers embraced the shift in the consumer preferences toward more casual workwear. Banana Republic last year launched a collection that paired blazers with hoodies. (The company calls it “hybrid dressing.”) Dockers added more stretch to its chinos.

Some Twitter users are enchanted with a pair of boot cut yoga pants they swear can pass as office-appropriate. The pants — $23.79 with Prime — have more than 7,000 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.5 stars. Promotional photos show several ways to wear the pants: with nothing but a sports bra while doing yoga or with a white button down and pumps. “You can wear them around the house, or dress them up and wear them to work,” one reviewer says.

Robyn Hopper, an adviser with the Society for Human Resource Management, has recently been fielding inquiries from HR-types about how to get employees to not push the boundaries. “Leggings is a big one,” says Ms. Hopper. “They’ve been talking about how to explain what they really mean by if it’s casual and if it’s not casual.” Ms. Hopper says that in such a tight labor market, companies would be wise to take employee preferences into account.

Cardinal Financial Co., a mortgage lender based in Charlotte, N.C., revised its dress code in early March to include employees who don’t work in the office. “Remote employees must dress as though in the office from head to toe, even if it is believed to be unlikely anyone will see anything outside the initial view presented by the webcam,” says the code, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The list of no-nos includes pajamas, athletic gear, and garments that are more than 2 inches above the knee. Boating and deck shoes are considered appropriate footwear. Flip flops aren’t. The code didn’t specify how the company planned to enforce the rules, particularly ones pertaining to footwear for remote employees.