Equities: New extremes and a challenging opportunity set
Discover insights on the future of equity markets in Q1 2024 and navigate the potential recession with strategic investment choices.
Head of FX Strategy
Summary: Markets shrugged off the uptick in US inflation beyond the initial knee-jerk reactions that were later reversed. Focus quickly turned to risks of escalation in the Mideast conflict with US and UK launching airstrikes. Oil up 2% could fuel upside risks in NOK and CAD. Safe haven like JPY and Gold also on watch going into the weekend, while AUD could be temporarily lifted by China rate cut bets.
US December CPI reaffirmed that the last leg of disinflation is proving bumpy as headline inflation rose and core did not cool as expected. Both headline and core rose 0.3% MoM (vs. 0.1% and 0.3% respectively earlier) while the headline YoY rose 3.4% from 3.1% in November and 3.2% expected. Core was at 3.9% YoY from 4.0% previously, but higher than the 3.8% expected. Core goods prices were flat after being in decline for the last six months. Core services inflation eased a notch, but shelter inflation, which the market has been waiting to come down, rose by 0.4% MoM, remaining elevated at 6.2% YoY but lower than 6.5% last month. Services less rent rose 0.6% MoM and 3.5% YoY.
However, the reaction function of the markets was very different from what one would expect. Ideally such an uptick would question whether a March rate cut is really likely and could instil some fear on whether the Fed meeting at the end of this month would signal willingness to cut rates. But none of that happened. Instead, March rate cut bets have jumped. This could mean two things:
The dollar index bumped higher on the inflation release, but reversed later and closed Thursday’s session nearly unchanged. Downside pressure on the dollar could remain intact as markets continue to expect rate cuts, and PPI due today or retail sales next week could mean little. However, watch for any escalation risks in the Mideast tensions as discussed below, as that could fuel haven buying which may support the dollar. DXY index is testing 102, which has held up on several tests over the last two weeks. A break below could bring focus on 76.4% fibo retracement levels at 101.42 and December lows of 100.62.
Oil prices nudged higher on reports of US and UK airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. This comes after Iran also raised stakes as its Navy captured an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, and raises risks of an escalation in Mideast tensions especially going into the weekend. This could keep focus on commodity-related currencies. EURNOK is particularly exposed with December lows of 11.18 in focus.
AUDUSD has also pushed above 0.67 and could remain supported as energy prices see upside risks on geopolitical concerns. Expectations of a rate cut from China next week also adds a layer of support for AUD into the next week, but a break of 21DMA at 0.6754 will be needed for upward bias to return. Aussie data over the last week has shown demand concerns, with November CPI and imports both coming in below expectations. If Q4 CPI out on 31 January also shows a similar pattern, that could fuel a reassessment of RBA rate cuts, which is currently priced to be less dovish than other major central banks this year.
Gold, JPY: Yen waiting for bonds to continue the rally, geopolitics on watch
Bonds also shrugged off the US inflation report and yields were lower on the day. That helped yen to recover after an initial run higher in USDJPY to 146+ levels. USDJPY tested a break below 145 in the Asian session today but could not sustain, as Treasuries pared some of the overnight gains. As bonds are likely to continue to rally this year, it appears that market participants used the decline in bonds following the CPI as an excuse to add exposure. If Treasury yields maintain this downside bias, there could be reasons for yen to rally. However, paring of BOJ pivot bets following the earthquake in Japan has pushed yen lower in recent weeks. Any moves in USDJPY to 146+ levels is likely to continue to attract sellers. EURJPY could also be key with ECB’s Lagarde declaring a victory over inflation, and seemingly waiting for a green light from Powell to start cutting rates. EURJPY shorts could also gather with any moves above 160.
With near-term focus on geopolitical escalation risks, yen and gold could see safe-haven buying. Gold has been range-bound lately, but 50DMA at $2,015 is serving as a solid support.
Other recent Macro/FX articles:
9 Jan: FX Quarterly Outlook: High yielding currencies will start to lose their appeal
9 Jan: US CPI Preview: Markets could be sensitive to an upside surprise
8 Jan: Macro and FX Podcast: Upcoming US CPI figures, USD momentum, and musings on China
8 Jan: Weekly FX Chartbook: Room for tactical gains in USD
18 Dec: Macro and FX Podcast: Watch USD sentiment and BoJ hints on rate policy
18 Dec: Weekly FX Chartbook: Dollar to end 2023 in a bearish trend
15 Dec: ECB’s policy mistake, Bank of Japan comes next
13 Dec: Fed has a final chance to pushback on rate cut expectations
11 Dec: Weekly FX Chartbook: Relative Fed and ECB policy messaging to matter more than absolute stances
11 Dec: Macro and FX Podcast: Will central banks, inflation, and PMIs deliver fireworks?
8 Dec: Exploring the impact of US NFP on different asset classes, BOJ will stick with gradualism
5 Dec: RBA under-delivers: AUD momentum could turn bearish, particularly on the crosses
4 Dec: Weekly FX Chartbook: Dovish Fed and ECB bets picking up
4 Dec: Macro and FX Podcast: Key macro data this week, the USD slide ended and gold is on the move
1 Dec: USD in a dovish fatigue, EUR gives up 1.10, and markets look to Powell
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