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Financial Markets Today: Quick Take – February 17, 2023

Macro 6 minutes to read
Saxo Be Invested
Saxo Strategy Team

Summary:  The US equity market stumbled badly yesterday as US treasury yields continue to rise, with another strong weekly claims number and hotter than expected producer prices print weighting. The US dollar is breaking out higher in most USD pairs. A heavy load of options expiry today could aggravate US equity market volatility as weekly futures and single stock options are set to expire.


What is our trading focus?

US equities (US500.I and USNAS100.I): an echo from a distant past

In yesterday’s equity note we wrote about the key risks in equities arguing that the interest rate sensitivity is no longer the dominant risk factor as equity valuations have fallen and interest rates have already got closer to long-term averages. With the US 10-year yield advancing yesterday after comments from Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester that more rate hikes are needed to tame inflation S&P 500 futures reacted negatively. Higher long-term bond yields do still impact equities through the discount rate on future cash flows, but initial reaction in S&P 500 futures was muted and they fought back during the session before selling off into the close. Higher than expected US PPI figures reported yesterday are also negative for equities as it could indicate margin pressures will continue for companies. S&P 500 futures are continuing selling off this morning trading around the 4,080 level which is at the lower end of the trading range for February.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIG3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) pulled back

Hang Seng Index slipped 0.6% as investors lowered expectations for a rapid recovery in Chinese consumer spending. Leading Hong Kong jewellers which have large exposure to Chinese tourists as well as stores all over the mainland declined 2-4%. The Chinese traditional medicine names bucked the decline and rose 3-7%. President Xi’s plan to visit Iran and China’s Ministry of Commerce imposing sanctions on Lockheed Martin (LMT:xnys) and Raytheon Technologies (RTX:xnys) also dented the market sentiment. In A-shares, CSI300 dropped 0.7%, with stocks in the tech space retreating while Chinese traditional medicines and childcare products names advancing.

FX: Firm king dollar as yields rise; JPY threatens new lows

With US yields grinding higher still, the dollar was firmer again and hit fresh highs since 6 January. A hot PPI, still low jobless claims and Fed speakers, together with weakening risk sentiment all supportive for the greenback. It may be a quiet day ahead for macro data, but market volatility elsewhere after yesterday’s unsettling sell-off in risky assets could yet drive significant moves (note options expiry in the US below). USDCAD is pushing on 1.3500 for the first time since mid-January amid weakness in oil prices while AUDUSD rolled over to new lows since the first days of the year, touching below the recent 0.6856 pivot low and threatening the 200-day moving average just above 0.6800. GBPUSD likewise broke below its prior pivot low of 1.1961 and is trading at its 200-day moving average at 1.1940. USDJPY rose above 134.50 overnight, with the 200-day moving average still some distance higher at 136.93. EURUSD broke down through it’s range low of 1.0656 in late Asian trading as well.

Crude oil (CLH3 & LCOJ3) heads for a weekly loss amid Fed concerns and inventory build

Even as some signs of improving Chinese demand started to appear, the broader inflation and interest rate rhetoric nudging higher again this week weighed on crude oil and the commodity complex more broadly this week. A hot PPI overnight, along with Fed members now starting to open the door for another potential 50bps rate hike has further brought the Fed’s terminal rate pricing higher and US yields continue to rise. WTI prices dipped below $78 in Asia, with Brent around $85. Even as OPEC and IEA reports suggested possible uptick in demand as China reopens, US stockpile reports continued to dampen the demand outlook. Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also said the current OPEC+ deal on output levels will remain in place until year-end and that he is wary of forecasts of much higher demand from China.

Copper prices fading after posting two-week highs yesterday

Copper prices rose higher on Thursday as the dollar rally took a bit of a breather before resuming later, so the new two-week high was only briefly held before prices rolled back down into the range overnight. Copper stockpiles on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell for the first time in two months, suggesting that the Chinese demand is picking up. Growth in aluminium inventories also slowed, according to data from Shanghai Metals Market. This comes amid ongoing risks of further supply disruptions. Earlier this week, Freeport-McMoRan Inc suspended operations at its Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia due to landslides. This is adding to disruption to Peru’s output caused by social unrest. Copper prices rose to $4.15 before a retreat to $4.09 in Asia. The key $4 handle support continues to be key.

Gold (XAUUSD) testing below first key support

Gold prices were only corralled briefly by the 1,828 level this week, which is the major 38.2% retracement of the entire rally off the 1614 lows. Overnight, the stronger US dollar and higher US yields are driving new selling below 1,825, with the next levels looming the 1,809 area that was a critical range break level on the way up, and then perhaps the 200-day moving average coming in at 1,776.

Yields on US Treasuries (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) climbed on hawkish Fedspeak and producer price inflation

The US 10-year treasury yield surged 6bps yesterday and followed through higher still to the highest level of the year at 3.89% overnight after a large jump in the US PPI in January and hawkish comments from Fed’s Mester and Bullard (see below). The selling during the session concentrated on the longer end of the curve, with the 2-10 yield curve inversion moderating sharply to –78 bps after as low as –90 bps on Wednesday. The $9 billion 30-year TIPS auction had a bid/cover ratio of 2.38, below 2.69 last time. Traders are cautious ahead of next week’s $120 billion supply from the 2, 5, and 7-year Treasury note auction.

What is going on?

Albemarle –the lithium giant beat earnings expectations and gave an upbeat outlook.

Albemarle, the world's largest lithium company – in size, and scale (selling lithium to most EV makers) rose 4.7% after it delivered a stronger than expected sales outlook. It sees net sales growing to $11.3-$12.9 billion, and EBITDA getting as high as $5.1 billion. It expects to maintain positive cashflow even despite increasing capital expenditure. In Q4 - its earnings (EBITDA) swelled to $1.24 billion, beating expectations and marking a massive jump from $229 million last year, as lithium earnings rose more than expected. Adjusted EPS also grew more than consensus expected with EPS, at $8.62. Other lithium producers such as Allkem and Pilbara Minerals report results next week.

Tesla shares dive as company to recall 362,000 cars for self-driving crash risks

Tesla’s recall affects 362,758 vehicles, including certain Model 3, Model X, Model Y and Model S units manufactured between 2016 and 2023. Although Musk said it’s not a recall, even though Tesla’s full-self driving beta system “may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections”, and increase collision risk if the driver does not intervene, Musk affirmed the issue will be remedied with a software update, by April 15. Tesla shares fell 5.7% to $202.04 on Thursday after trading 15 dollars higher earlier in the session.

European earnings: Allianz, Mercedes, Hermes

Allianz reports fiscal year operating profit of €14.2bn vs est. €13.7bn and sets the dividend per share to €11.40 vs est. €11.38. On the conference call this morning the CFO of Allianz said that the company does not expect rates to go significantly higher. Mercedes reports this morning Q4 revenue of €41bn vs est. €37.7bn and adjusted EBIT of €5.1bn vs est. €4.5bn as pricing remains strong in the car industry but the German carmaker sees FY23 operating income below the 2022 level. Mercedes is also planning a €4bn buyback programme. Hermes reports this morning Q4 revenue of €3bn vs est. €2.8bn up 23% in constant currency reflecting strong demand for luxury goods. Hermes raised their global prices in January by 7% compared to a year ago.

Fed speakers mention idea of 50-basis point hikes

Two hawkish Fed members, the St. Louis Fed’s Bullard and the Cleveland Fed’s Mester, neither of whom are voters this year, argued they were in favour of a 50-basis point hike at the Feb 1 FOMC meeting (only 25-bp hike delivered). The market is pricing 28 basis points for the March 22 meeting and a peak Fed Funds rate this year of 5.29%.

China’s US Treasury holdings hit a 12-year low in December

Data published this week by the US Treasury show that China’s holdings of US treasuries fell for the fifth month in a row and to a 12-year low – to $867 billion and marking a total fall of $173 billion for the 2022 calendar year.

What are we watching next?

Significant options expiry today, 0DTE options a risk for driving volatility.

The options market in recent months has driven significant intraday volatility as options on US S&P 500 futures are available with expiry on all weekdays. It has become increasingly popular to trade the contracts that expire on the same day as they are traded, so called 0DTE, or Zero Days to Expiry options. Such trading in 0DTE options represents nearly half of all traded S&P options, with some noting that this trading represents a significant risk to accelerating market volatility on any given day. With yesterday’s ugly session in the US and other options also up for expiry, including weekly options on single stocks and ETF’s, it is worth noting the background risk that market volatility can drive a reflexive risk of further volatility as options holders rush to hedge their market exposure, which can swell as options move closer to- or deeper into the money.

Earnings to watch

Today’s US earnings focus is Deere which is expected to report FY23 Q1 (ending 31 Jan) revenue growth of 17% y/y and EPS of $5.53 up 76% y/y as demand remains robust and margins have room to expand.

  • Friday: Hermes International, Safran, Allianz, Mercedes-Benz, Uniper, Sika, Deere

Next week’s earnings releases:

  • Monday: BHP Group, Williams Cos
  • Tuesday: Teck Resources, Gapgemini, Engie, HSBC, Walmart, Home Depot, Medtronic, Palo Alto Networks
  • Wednesday: Rio Tinto, Genmab, Danone, Lloyds Banking Group, Iberdrola, Nvidia, TJX, Stellantis, Baidu, eBay
  • Thursday: EssilorLuxottica, Deutsche Telekom, Munich Re, Kuaishou Technology, Eni, Anglo American, BAE Systems
  • Friday: BASF, Monster Beverage

Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)

1130 – ECB's Villeroy to speak

1330 – Canada Jan. Teranet/Nationa Bank Home Price Index

1330 – US Fed’s Barkin (Non-voter) to speak

1330 – US Jan. Import/Export Price Indices

1345 – US Fed’s Bowman (Voter) to speak

1500 – US Jan. Leading Index

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