What is our trading focus?
Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I)
On Friday, it seems the market was looking past the strong labour market data focusing on the miss on the ISM Services Index in December at 49.6 vs 55. This bolsters the view that bad news is good news as it will cause the Fed to halt its monetary tightening sooner rather than later. Our view is still the same that inflation will remain stickier than what the market expects and thus even a mild slowdown in the economy will not lead to substantially lower interest rates. When the market recognizes this, it will begin to price equities more on slowing growth not offset by lower interest rates. Nevertheless, the US equity market is picking up momentum with S&P 500 futures extending their gains up 0.2% trading around the 3,924 level and above the upper level of the recent trading range. If momentum extends and the news flow remains supportive then the 3,950 level could quickly come into play.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIF3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg)
Alibaba (09988:xhkg), surging 7.6%, was the best performing stock within the Hang Seng Index on Monday, following Ant Group announcing a new arrangement in which Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma cedes his indirect control of Ant Group. The new arrangement, which apparently has the blessing of the Chinese authorities, signals that Alibaba and its affiliates may be close to an end of the government-imposed reorganization and return to relative normal business. Separately, Chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said that the rectification of the financial arms of internet platform companies had basically finished. Hang Seng Index surged 1.4% as of writing. China’s CSI300 gained 0.7% with non-ferrous metal, education services, and poultry farming leading.
FX: USD sells off on weak ISM Services survey
The US dollar sold off after a mixed jobs report delivered not signal, but then a shocking drop in the December ISM Services (more below) took down US treasury yields sharply all along the curve. By this morning’s trade, the move sent EURUSD back above 1.0675 and within reach of the 1.0700+ highs from December, while AUDUSD jumped to new cycle highs above 0.6900 on the weaker greenback together with surging metals prices on China’s policy shift (more below.). Despite the big drop in yields, USDJPY reacted less than other USD pairs as the strong rally in risk sentiment saw flows focusing on more pro-cyclical currencies, like AUD, NZD and NOK.
Crude oil (CLG3 & LCOH3) remains volatile amid China’s chaotic reopening
The first week of 2023 was tough for crude oil, driven by global growth concerns, a very mild winter across the Northern Hemisphere dampening demand, and a mixed outlook for China. Despite removing most virus-related restrictions, a surge in cases across the country has hit the short-term demand outlook while at the same time setting the economy on a path to recovery. Meanwhile, the IMF warned that a third of the global economy could be in recession in 2023. Supply side concerns are also seen with European sanctions on Russian oil having kicked in, while OPEC has reiterated that it is willing to step in with further production cuts. Short-term resistance being the 21-day moving at $75.65 in WTI and $81.15 in Brent.
Gold (XAUUSD) surged higher on weak US ISM
Gold’s already positive start to 2023 received a further boost on Friday after the mixed jobs report and very weak ISM services (see below) triggered a plunge in yields and the dollar. Total ETF holdings reached a one-month high while central banks remain active with the PBoC saying that it bought another 30 tonnes of gold in December 2022, following 32 tonnes in November, boosting the country's stash of gold to 2,010 tonnes. Speculators started the new year by boosting their net futures long to a seven-month high, supported by the current strong momentum and a general gold friendly outlook for 2023 driven by recession risks and peak dollar and yields. The next major hurdle for gold being $1896, the 61.8% retracement of the 2022 correction, with a break above confirming the change in direction that has been under way since November.
Copper trades near key $4 level as China stimulus continues
Copper jumped to a six-month high in Asia on Monday, driven by a general rebound in base metals as China looked to support its property sector. Beijing may allow some firms to add leverage by easing borrowing caps and push back the grace period for meeting debt targets. These were part of the “three red lines” policy that contributed to the downturn in recent years. Copper has advanced since November after lockdown protests led to an abrupt change in direction towards reopening the economy following months of fruitless lockdowns. The change in direction set by the government has bolstered the outlook for demand beyond the first quarter. Having broken above its 200-day moving average on Friday, now support at $3.8475, HG copper almost touched the key $4 level overnight.
US Treasuries (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) soared with yields on the 10-year notes 16bps richer to 3.56%
Treasuries were bid Friday following the news of slowing average hourly earnings. Yields oscillated for a while as investors weighed the soft wage growth against the solid payrolls and fall in unemployment rates. Decisive declines in yields came after the release of the shockingly wevak December ISM Services Index (more below on the ISM and US jobs report), indicating contracting activities in the service sector. Two-year yields fell 21bps to 4.25% and those on the 10-year notes dropped some 16 bps to 3.56%.
What is going on?
Asian and EM equities enter bull market
The leading MSCI indices tracking these two segments of the global equity market have entered a bull market up 20% since their lows in October fueled a more positive narrative. The market is betting on a shallow recession in some parts of the world, while inflation keeps coming down, and on top of a successful kickstart of the Chinese economy. All three wishes may not be able to be fulfilled simultaneously and our view is that the market is getting too excited about growth too early as a lot of uncertainty persists.
Eurozone inflation is cooling off
It was largely expected that the eurozone inflation would cool in December. But the first estimate was much lower than forecasted, at 9.2 % versus 10.1 % in November. This is a positive development and goes in the right direction, but this is still a high number. Looking at the main components, energy had (without surprise) the highest annual rate in December at 25.7 %), followed by food, alcohol and tobacco (13.8 %), non-energy industrial goods (6.4%) and services (4.4%). What is worrying is that core CPI continues to increase at 5.2 % versus prior 5.0 % and expected 5.1 %. This will push the European Central Bank (ECB) to keep hiking interest rates in the short term. But the peak in interest rates is getting closer (Mario Centeno) and the Eurozone macroeconomic outlook is not as bad as feared (if there is a recession underway, it is at the mild end according to the ECB chief Philip Lane).
US macro: big miss in ISM services overshadows NFP gains
The ADP report from last week had set up expectations for a stronger NFP print on Friday, and while the headline came in stronger than expected at ´+223k and the unemployment rate dropped back to the cycle low of 3.5%, the market instead focused on significantly slower wage growth than expected. The Average Hourly Earnings in December slowed to 4.6% YoY (0.3% MoM) from a revised 4.8% YoY November, keeping the market reaction to the overall jobs report mixed. Ninety minutes later, the December ISM services survey saw a shocking drop into contraction for the first time since May 2020 at 49.6 vs. expected 55 and 56.5 in November. The forward-looking New Orders sub-index fell over 10 points to 45.2 but details were still mixed with 11 of the 18 services sectors remaining in expansion.
AUDUSD jumps to new 4-month high, clears 200-day moving average
With the US dollar suffering its longest streak of weekly drops in two months, the Aussie dollar broke above its 200-day moving average for the first time since last April, and traded above 0.6900 for the first time since last August. Also supporting the currency is that China’s reopening is expected to add considerably to Australia’s GDP. There’s a potential 0.5% addition to GDP in a year once Chinese students and tourists return, and an anticipated rise in commodity exports to China, especially coal after a prior ban, could add an extra boost to GDP. JPMorgan thinks that over the next two years, Aussie GDP will grow 1% alone thanks to inbound Chinese students and holiday makers likely returning. The next catalyst for the currency is inflation (CPI) data out on Wednesday Jan 11. Core or trimmed CPI is expected to have risen from 5.3% YoY to 5.5% YoY.
Fed speakers continue to highlight inflation concerns
A host of Fed speakers were on the wires on Friday, and key message was the need for more rate hikes still despite signs of price pressures cooling. Cook (voter) said inflation is "far too high" and "of great concern" despite recent encouraging signs, while Bostic (non-voter) said the Fed needs a target rate above 5% and he expects Fed to hold at a peak policy rate for an extended period, "well into 2024". Barkin, another non-voter, touched more on inflation saying that that the Fed is still resolute on inflation, and needs to stay on the case until inflation is sustainably back to the 2% goal. Retiring member Evans however called for a slower pace of rate hikes.
What are we watching next?
How long will market celebrate any additional signs of a slowing US economy?
The market’s primary focus on Friday after a very weak US ISM Services survey was the celebration of lower US treasury yields as weak data drives expectations that the Fed can ease its policy tightening more quickly than previously expected, but typically, a weaker economy would mean falling earnings and a credit crunch, which drives markets lower. Only hopes for a benign “soft landing” can continue to see the market celebrating signs of a weakening economy, if that is indeed what we get. This week includes very little in the way of important US data outside of Thursday’s December CPI (perhaps less focus there than previously, given we have seen a number of softer inflation-related data of late). Q4 Earnings season begins this Friday with the largest US financial institutions reporting and the reports and guidance coming over the following couple of weeks will bear close watching.
Earnings to watch
The Q4 earnings season kicks off this Friday with banking earnings from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup with consensus expecting earnings to continue contracting among US banks before coming back to growth this year. The key uncertainty is credit quality in 2023 as it is linked to the degree of a recession or maybe no recession at all in the US economy. With higher interest rates level expectations are that banking revenue will slowly begin to accelerate and if high interest rates persist for an extended period, the longer-term growth for banks could be quite attractive. Overall, the Q4 earnings season is likely going to see an extension of value and tangible companies performing better than intangible-driven companies.
- Tuesday: Albertsons
- Thursday: Fast Retailing, Seven & I
- Friday: DiDi Global, Aeon, Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, UnitedHealth, BlackRock, Delta Air Lines, First Republic
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
- 1000 – Eurozone Nov. Unemployment Rate
- 1200 – Mexico Dec. CPI
- 1330 – Canada Nov. Building Permits
- 1530 – UK Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill to speak
- 1730 – US Fed’s Bostic (non-voter) to speak
- 1730 – US Fed’s Daly (non-voter) to speak
- 2000 – US Nov. Consumer Credit
- 2330 – Japan Dec. Tokyo CPI
Follow SaxoStrats on the daily Saxo Markets Call on your favorite podcast app: