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US equities (US500.I and USNAS100.I): caught between growth and inflation
US equities headed lower yesterday with S&P 500 futures closing at the 3,975 level. The index futures are trying to rebound this morning following stronger than expected China February PMI figures suggesting the economy is responding positively to the reopening. This growth impulse lifted Hang Seng futures by 4.2% and breathed fresh air into commodities. The growth impulse from China will keep inflation pressures high in the global economy and that could force long-term bond yields in the US and Europe higher from current levels which will make equities caught between responding positive to growth or negatively to inflation and potentially higher interest rates.
Hang Seng Index (HSI.I) and CSI300 (000300.I) jumped on strong China PMIs
Hang Seng Index surged 3.5% and CSI300 gained 1.7% by in the morning session following the release of strong PMI data much above consensus estimates. The headline official NBS Manufacturing PMI surged (more below). The NBS non-manufacturing PMI and the Caixin Manufacturing PMI, also released today, both bounced strongly and signaled economic expansion. Mega-cap China internet names surged 5-7% and EV stocks jumped 5-8%. In A-shares, telcos, digital economy, software, gaming, and media stocks led the charge higher.
FX: AUD and JPY were the laggards last month as dollar regained ground
The dollar closed firmer at the end of the month as inflation concerns returned and sent the short-end yields surging to 15-year highs. AUDUSD was the weakest on the G10 board as a beating of the risk sentiment and weaker metal prices saw pair test 0.67 despite the return of RBA’s hawkish stance. Yen had a double blow from surging yields and the dovish read of Ueda’s nomination hearing for the Bank of Japan governorship, and USDJPY tested close to 137 yesterday before reversing back below 136.50. EURUSD touched highs of 1.0650 after the French/Spanish inflation prints yesterday but is back below 1.0600 this morning. GBPUSD nearly hit 1.2150 yesterday after the N. Ireland border announcement, but is back closer to 1.2050 this morning.
Crude oil recovers as strong China PMI re-ignites demand focus
Brent crude trades near $84 and WTI at $77.50 as both futures markets continue to recover from the latest the macroeconomic related selloff. With a hawkish Fed having been priced in, the dollar has started to weaken allowing traders to return their focus to an ongoing recovery in China. The strength of which was confirmed overnight when China’s PMI data showed across the board strength. The official headline surged to 52.6 and highest since 2012 while production and new orders improving markedly and new export orders move well above 50 and into expansion territory for the first time in 23 months. Increased tightness is being signaled through steepening prompt spreads with Brent trading at 59 cents a barrel from a recent 34 cent low. Also supporting are reports that Russia is struggling to find new buyers with million of barrels currently stored at sea. Ahead of EIA’s weekly stock report, the API said US inventories rose 6.2m barrels last week. Short-term momentum indicators point to higher prices with Brent once looking to challenge the downtrend from last March around $84.50.
Silver led gold higher, but more work needed to shift sentiment
Precious metals trade higher for a third day after the market concluded the latest round of hawkish comments from US FOMC members and additional rate hikes were now being fully priced in. Continued strength in US yields, near recent highs, have been offset by weaker dollar, allowing buyers once again to gain the upper hand. Silver, down around 12% in January, led the recovery which gathered speed overnight following the release of stronger than expected economic data in China (see below). The gold-silver ratio which yesterday hit a four-month high at 88.4 (ounces of silver to one ounce of gold) has since retraced to around 86.80. Gold as a minimum needs to break $1864, and silver $22 to signal an end to the current corrections
Industrial metals jump on strong China rebound
Copper and not least aluminum, zinc and iron ore traded higher following a batch of economic data from China showed improved factory activity as well as rising home sales, both driving expectations for an accelerated demand recovery, thereby once again replacing concerns about the economic impact of additional US rate hikes. Having found support below $4, the HG copper futures contract trades back above its 21DMA, a sign momentum is turning positive again. Since mid January the price has traded within a 30 cents downward trending channel, and for that to change, the price needs to break above $4.20, some 2% above the current level. Focus now turns to on China’s “Two Sessions” starting at the weekend.
Yields on US Treasuries (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) steady near recent highs
US Treasury yields staid pinned near recent cycle highs, with the 2-year trading above 4.8% this morning again and the 10-year benchmark hovering just below 4.00%. Yields were dragged higher yesterday by a fresh surge in European short yields on the French and Spanish CPI data for February (see below) and stayed elevated in the US despite the weak February Consumer Confidence print. The next test for the US treasury market is perhaps the February ISM Services survey on Friday.
What is going on?
China's economy shows strong recovery as PMI’s beat expectations
The official NBS China Manufactuing PMI surged to 52.6 in February, the highest level since 2012, from 50.1 in January. The strength was across the board with the Production sub-index and New Orders sub-index improving markedly to 56.7 and 54.1 respectively. When a diffusion index goes above 50, it signals expansion. The export sector, which has until now been sluggish, showed signs of a strong recovery. The New Export Orders sub-index in the NBS survey unexpectedly surged to 54.1 in February from 46.1 in January and was the first time returning to the expansion territory in 23 months. The Caixin Manufacturing PMI, which covers smaller and more private enterprises in the export-oriented coastal regions of China relative to those covered in the NBS survey, also recovered strongly to 51.6 in February from 49.2 in January and the new order sub-index in the Caixin survey bounced to 52.2 from 49.3. The NBS non-manufacturing PMI continued to accelerate well into expansion, rising to 56.3 from 54.4. Both major sub-indices rose further, with the Services sub-index advancing to 55.6 and the Construction sub-index soaring to 60.2.
US consumer confidence in a surprise drop, labor market strength intact
The Conference Board's US consumer confidence index saw a surprise fall to 102.9 in February (vs. exp 108.5) from January’s 106 which was also revised lower from 107.1. The present situation index looked resilient at 152.8 from 151.1 and reaching its highest levels since April 2022, but the forward expectations index declined to 69.7 from 76.0 previously. While the headline figures may be a small input for the Fed, the labor-supply mismatch has become more evident from the consumer confidence report.
The report showed that the labor differential improved to 41.5 in February from 37 in the prior month, rising for a third consecutive month and reaching its highest levels since April 2022. The differential represents the percentage of respondents who say jobs “are plentiful” less those who say jobs “are hard to get”. Its rise could be an early indication of labor market strength heading into next week’s February Payrolls data. Focus turns to ISM manufacturing survey today which is expected to improve but still remain in contraction.
ECB rate hike bets pick up after higher French and Spanish inflation
Consumer prices in France jumped by a record 7.2% YoY in February as food and services costs increased, while Spain saw a stronger-than-expected 6.1% YoY advance. The strong inflation now results mostly from companies passing through to consumers higher prices in the service sector and higher food prices. Looking at the French data, food prices (price increase of+14.5% YoY) contribute twice more to inflation than energy prices. The increase of prices in the service sector (which represents about 50% of the CPI basket) is another source of worry. Expect it to get worse in the short-term. We also see a similar trend in most European countries (the situation is even uglier in the CEE region), with the first print of German February inflation due today and the Eurozone print due tomorrow. Euro bonds slid with German yields up 7bps and Spanish yields up 6bps as ECB terminal rate pricing briefly touched 4%.
AUD swings to a gain after China’s economy shows signs of a stronger rebound
After China's manufacturing activity hit a decade high as noted above, the Australian dollar against the US dollar (AUDUSD) rose sharply. Iron ore, copper and aluminium prices all gained. This supported the AUDUSD pair rebounding from 10-week lows, which it hit earlier after Australian GDP slowed to pace of 2.7% YoY in Q4 as expected while headline monthly CPI cooled to 7.4% YoY, vs the 8.1% growth forecast. Short covering also added to the Aussie dollar whipsawing higher.
What are we watching next?
Tesla Investor Day
Tesla’s annual ‘Investor Day’ is scheduled for tonight at 21:00 GMT and will be livestreamed on Tesla’s website. Elon Musk has teased in tweets that the Investor Day presentation will revolve around the part 3 in his ‘Master Plan’ which was first announced back in 2006 and Elon Musk has specially written that the ‘Master Plan 3’ is about ‘the path to a fully sustainable energy future for Earth...’ suggesting it might be around energy. One the key variables in the path to electrifying society is about energy production, energy storage, and the electric grid, and as such it might be that Tesla will aim solve these issues so Tesla’s growth is not constrained too early by the lack of investments and solutions on the infrastructure side of the equation.
Germany’s Feb. CPI data today, Eurozone Feb. CPI tomorrow
After French and Spanish February CPI readings sparked higher expectations for the ECB as noted above, we will get a look at German regional CPI releases this morning for February and the nationwide data this afternoon at 1300 GMT, with the German 2-year yield having leaped to nearly 3.20% yesterday after starting the weak below 2.9%. Expectations are for a reading of +0.5% MoM and +8.5% YoY vs. +8.75 in January, with the “EU Harmonized” reading seen slowing to +9.0% YoY vs. 9.2% in Jan.
Earnings to watch
Today’s key US earnings releases to watch are Salesforce (reporting after the close), Snowflake (reporting after the close), and NIO (reporting before the open). Analysts expect Salesforce to report 9% y/y revenue growth for the quarter that ended in January and EBITDA of $2.67bn up from $1.02bn a year ago as the software application maker is under pressure from several activist investors to improve profitability. Analysts expect Snowflake to report revenue growth of 50% y/y in the quarter that ended in January and EBITDA of $25mn up from $-146mn a year ago. NIO, that finally ramped up its EV production in Q4 after several quarters of slow increases, is expected to report 73% y/y revenue growth but still delivering an operating loss of CNY -3.4bn.
- Wednesday: Royal Bank of Canada, Beiersdorf, Reckitt Benckiser, Kuehne + Nagel, Salesforce, Lowe’s, Snowflake, NIO
- Thursday: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Argenx, Yunnan Energy New Material, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Fortum, Veolia Environment, Merck, Hapag-Lloyd, CRH, London Stock Exchange, Haleon, Flutter Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Broadcom, Costco, VMware, Marvell Technology, Dell Technologies
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
0815-0900 – Eurozone Final Feb. Manufacturing PMI
0855 – Germany Feb. Unemployment Change / Claims
0930 – UK Jan. Mortgage Approvals
1000 – UK Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey to speak
1300 – Germany Feb. CPI
1500 – US Feb. ISM Manufacturing
1530 – EIA's Weekly Crude and Fuel Stock Report
1830 – Mexico Central Bank Inflation Report0030 – Australia Jan. Building Approvals