What is our trading focus?
US equities (US500.I and USNAS100.I): watch the bond market for clues on direction
US equity futures were wobbly yesterday finishing lower with S&P 500 futures closing at the 3,999 level, the first close below 4,000 since 20 January, after intraday briefly flirting with the 200-day moving average. The equity market has now erased a good portion of this year’s rally and the upcoming inflation figures and the bond market’s reaction will determine where we go from here. As we wrote in our equity note yesterday, the next potential themes getting attention is margin compression during the upcoming Q1 earnings in April and May and the discussion about structural inflation. US equity futures were lifted late last night by a better-than-expected outlook from Nvidia. S&P 500 futures are trading around the 4,015 level in early European trading hours.
Hang Seng (HIG3) and CSI300 (03188:xhkg) failed to sustain an attempt to rally
The Hang Seng Index and CSI300 bounced in early trading but the attempt to rally failed to sustain itself. Both the Hong Kong and mainland benchmarks slipped by about 0.3%. Techtronic (00669:xhkg) plunged 17% and was the biggest loser within the Hang Seng Index, following a forensic research firm published a report alleging the tool maker inflating profits by capitalizing expenses as assets. Baidu (09888:xhkg) lost 1.1% despite reporting revenues and earnings that beat market expectations and announcing a share buyback programme of up to USD5 billion. The hype of ChatGPT concept cooled down somewhat as AI-generated content names were sold on mainland bourses.
FX: USD eases off the pedal ahead of BoJ Governor nominee Kazuo Ueda testimony
The US dollar eased back lower as risk sentiment stabilized in the wake of another nervous session yesterday and after EURUSD nearly touched 1.0600, AUDUSD took a stab at its 200-day moving average, and USDJPY rose toward 135.00. Risk sentiment will likely continue to drive USD pairs in coming session, with the Friday PCE inflation data the next more important event risk on the calendar (though a weekly refresh of the US labour market data is up with today’s weekly claims number.) Elsewhere, plenty of attention on the Japanese yen later today, as Japan reports its January CPI figures tonight, but even more importantly as the nominee to replace Kuroda as governor of the BoJ will speak at a confirmation hearing at the Lower House of Japan’s parliament overnight.
Crude oil (CLJ3 & LCOJ3) prices steady after slumping around 3%
A firmer dollar and expectations of more rate hikes from the Fed gathering pace saw a bearish momentum return in commodities on Wednesday, even ahead of the release of the marginally hawkish FOMC minutes in the US session. Crude oil prices slid by close to 3% with WTI below $74/barrel and Brent at $80 despite a Reuters report stating that Russia intends to cut crude exports from its western ports by a quarter in March/February, after prior reports that the country is cutting production in March by 500k BPD. API inventories were however higher, with crude stockpiles increasing by 9.9mn barrels last week suggesting demand weakness. Prices recovered marginally overnight in Asia.
Gold (XAUUSD) slumps to support again
Gold gave up its recent gains amid the renewed pressure from USD and higher yields which are now close to their cycle highs despite some softening yesterday. The yellow metal edged closer to the $1820 support again yesterday, but has rebounded above 1,830 overnight. A break below 1,810-1,800 would bring the 200DMA at 1,776 in focus.
Yields on US Treasuries (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) ease back from cycle highs
US Treasury yields eased back slightly from new cycle highs yesterday, with a strong 5-year auction showing bidding metrics at the higher end of the longer term range. A 7-year auction is up today and US January PCE inflation data is out Friday. The Japanese government bond market could sway global fixed income if nominee Kazuo Ueda makes any pointed comments in his confirmation hearing tonight.
What is going on?
FOMC minutes marginally hawkish
Despite the FOMC minutes stemming from the FOMC meeting three weeks ago and prior to the January US CPI print, they sounded hawkish at the margin suggesting there may be room for further escalation of that rhetoric, given how the economic data has fared since the Jan 31-Feb 1 Fed meeting. A few of the participants favoured raising the rates by 50bps, and all agreed more rate hikes are needed thrashing pivot hopes. It also noted that a number of participants observed that financial conditions had eased in recent months, which some noted could necessitate a tighter stance of monetary policy. While this risk of a recession was noted, data since the meeting, including the most recent PMI numbers this week have continued to allay recession concerns.
Apple announces ability to monitor blood sugar non-invasively
Apple’s Exploratory Design Group, a previously secretive outfit within the company, is reporting success in measuring blood glucose levels without needing to break the skin to test via a blood sample, with a method using semiconductor chips and silicon photonics. The project has been ongoing for years. The hope is to integrate the technology longer term into the Apple Watch, helping to boost Apple’s effort to grow its presence in health care.
US considering release of intel on China’s potential arms transfer to Russia
Chinese senior diplomat Wang Yi’s visit to Moscow was accompanied with China and Russia confirming stronger ties and President Xi’s visit to Russia in the coming weeks. This is suggesting that these escalated geopolitical tensions are here to stay. The red line for US and Europe will be if there is evidence that China is supplying weapons to Russia, and that could threaten a potential escalation of the war into an outright proxy-war style confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the US-led Nato military alliance on the other. A WSJ article reported that Western nations are considering making public the intelligence they possess that Beijing might end its previous self-imposed restraint on weapons supplies to Russia, according to U.S. and European officials, although it appears that China hasn’t yet made a final decision.
Nvidia jumps on AI chips outlook
Nvidia reported last night Q4 revenue of $6.05bn in line with estimates with the gaming segment beating estimates while the data center segment disappointed. Q4 EPS came in at $0.88 vs est. $0.81 driven by a higher than estimated Q4 gross margin of 66.1% vs est. 65.8%. Nvidia guides Q1 revenue of $6.5bn +2/-2% vs est. $6.35bn driven by strong demand in gaming and data center segments. The company is also rolling out its own cloud service together with Oracle which will later be offered by Microsoft and Google. Nvidia does not expect more downward pressure on GPU prices and thus the inventory risk is largely behind the company. While Nvidia keeps ignoring the cryptocurrency industry’s impact on demand we guess that the acceleration in speculation in cryptocurrencies and higher mining activity is what is driving Nvidia’s higher demand this quarter. Shares rose 8% in extended trading.
BAE Systems sees muted 2023 revenue growth
The UK-based defence company reports this morning higher than expected FY22 revenue at £23.3bn and underlying EBIT of £2.5bn. The earnings statement the company states that it expects 3-5% revenue growth in 2023 and 4-6% growth in EBIT suggesting expanding margins on pricing power amid surging demand. In our view, the revenue guidance seems a bit conservative given the signals over the weekend from the Munich Security Conference.
Rio Tinto’s profits and dividend slide, guides for a stronger 2023
Rio Tinto shares declined 3.4% after reporting underlying profit fell 38% to $13.3bn in 2022 vs est. $14bn. Rio’s profit fell after realised commodity prices fell from their records in the second half of 2022 while earnings were also impacted by higher energy, raw materials prices and wages. Rio Tinto’s free cash flows fell 49% y/y in 2022 to $9bn, resulting in the miner cutting its final (HY) dividend to $2.25 a share down from $4.17, taking its total 2022 dividend to $4.92. Rio Tinto’s output looks stronger in 2023 with higher copper, alumina, aluminium and iron ore production
What are we watching next?
Market sentiment is fragile after recent break lower in equities – next moves pivotal
Rising global yields and the firmer US dollar have risk sentiment and financial conditions under significant pressure, particularly in the US indices, but also in emerging markets and credit spreads on corporate bonds. European equities have fared better, but have lost their upside momentum. With the break of key supports in the US, the next levels of even more critical support are not far away to the downside (200-day moving average in the US S&P 500 at 3,941 on the cash index, for example). Volatility expansion is a prominent risk on a capitulation in sentiment, with further pressure from rising yields or rising concerns of geopolitical tensions possible triggers.
Earnings to watch
Today’s key earnings are in the European session, so the impact from earnings in the US session is minimal.
- Thursday: EssilorLuxottica, Deutsche Telekom, Munich Re, Kuaishou Technology, Eni, Anglo American, BAE Systems
- Friday: BASF, Monster Beverage
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
1000 – Eurozone Final Jan. CPI
1100 – Turkey Rate Decision
1330 – US Jan. Chicago Fed National Activity Index
1330 – US Q4 GDP Revision
1330 – US Weekly Initial Jobless Claims
1530 – US Weekly Natural Gas Storage Change
1600 – US Feb. Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity
2330 – Japan Jan. National CPI
BoJ Governor Nominee Kazuo Ueda confirmation hearing
0001 – UK Feb. GfK Consumer Confidence