What’s happening in markets?
Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) were dragged down by higher bond yields and tech weaknesses
U.S. equities declined for a fourth consecutive session. Nasdaq 100 dropped 1.4% and S&P 500 was 0.9% lower on Monday. All sectors, except energy, within the S&P 500 declined, led by communication services, consumer discretionary, and information technology. The 10bp jump in the 10-year yield weighed on growth stocks. The NAHB Housing Market Index plunged to 31, approaching the March 2020 Covid-19 recession low.
Key U.S. stock movers
Warner Brothers (WBD:xnas), down 6.6%, Meta (META:xnas), down 4.1%, and Amazon (AMZN:xnas) were among the top losers in the Nasdaq 100. Warner Brothers said the entertainment company is to record a large restructuring charge. Meta was hit by news that the European Union antitrust regulators were probing the company for allegedly unfairly squeezing out rivals. Walt Disney (DIS) slid 4.8% after releasing the debut weekend box office of Avatar: the Way of Water, below expectations. Supported by the possibility that Musk stepping down from Twitter, the shares of Tesla were little changed despite general market weakness and a probe by German prosecutors on suspected illegal storage of hazardous materials.
US Treasuries (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) cheapened as UK yields surged on BOE QT
The surge in yield across the pond in the U.K. and Eurozone dragged U.S. Treasury yields higher, with the yield on 2-year notes 8bps higher to 4.26% and that on 10-year notes up 10bps to 3.58%. At the futures trading pits, large selling was on the 10-year (ZNH3) and the ultra 10-year (TNH3) contracts. The 2-10-year curve steepened by 3bps to -68bps. The move was triggered by a 17bp jump in the yield on the U.K. 10-year Gilts after the Bank of England announced the Q1 2023 bond selling schedule for its Asset Purchase Facility portfolio (i.e. bonds accumulated during QE) starting from January 9, 2023, in five auctions for a total of GBP9.75 billion, dividing equally in short, medium, and long-maturity bonds (including the first time). Adding further to the upward pressure on yields were the remarks from ECB’s Simkus and Guindos on more 50bp rate hikes in the Eurozone.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIZ2) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) slid on surge of Covid cases in mainland China
Hong Kong and Chinese stocks pared all the early gains and finished the session lower as investors turned cautious following media reports of rises in Covid inflections and death tolls across large cities in China. The lack of commitment to more large-scale economic stimulus measures from the Central Economic Work Conference was considered underwhelming by investors who had higher expectations ahead of the meeting. The positive development of shifting to a more conciliatory stance towards the private sector was buried in the risk-off sentiment. Alibaba (09988:xhkg), Tencent (00700:xhkg), and Meituan (03690:xhkg) gained between 0.7% and 1.7%. Online healthcare providers were among the largest losers, Alibaba Heath (00241:xhkg), JD Health (06618:xhkg), and Ping An Healthcare tumbled by 4% to 8%. Chinese pharmaceuticals and Macao casino operators were among the largest losers. In A-shares, pharmaceutical and biotech names led the decline while the new energy space bucked the broad market and rise.
FX: Dollar range-bound ahead of key PCE data this week
The US dollar saw mild selling on Monday in thin markets and lack of any tier 1 data or Fed speak. Focus remains on US PCE data due later in the week which remains the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge. EURUSD rose above 1.06 again supported by hawkish commentary from ECB's Kazmir. Kazmir noted rates will not only need to go to restrictive territory but they will need to stay there much longer, noting inflation requires a strong policy response. Meanwhile, Germany's IFO Business climate data came in better than expected on the headline, led by a rise in both expectations and current conditions. USDJPY saw a modest uptick to 137+ levels in the Asian morning hours on Tuesday as the BOJ policy announcement was awaited, and expected to remain dovish (read preview below). GBPUSD testing a break below 1.2150 following the BOE’s long-end QT announcement. AUDUSD was little changed ahead of the RBA minutes.
Crude oil (CLF3 & LCOG3) prices modestly higher
Crude oil prices continue to find it challenging to balance the varied narrative around the demand outlook. China demand faces short-term headwinds as the Covid wave spreads, but is likely poised for a rebound in the medium term as authorities remain committed to driving up consumption recovery. Meanwhile, global demand outlook faces headwinds amid the massive tightening seen by global central banks this year. Supply side volatilities also persist with US refilling its SPR and sanctions on Russian oil. Crude oil prices were slightly higher, with WTI futures above $75/barrel and Brent futures getting close to $80.
What to consider?
BOE announces restart of long-end bond selling, triggering another sell-off in Gilts
After pausing the sales of long-end bonds recently to help the market to stabilize after the September rout, the Bank of England has announced that it will now start selling evenly across short, medium and long maturity bonds starting from Jan 9, as part of its QT. 2yr gilt yields up 20bps and 10yr up 17bps. Still, gilt yields are well below the peaks near 5% struck in late September and early October, when prices slumped in response to plans for tax cuts and extra spending from former British Prime Minister Liz Truss's short-lived government. Further pressure on gilts cannot be ignored as BOE likely to raise rates by another 50bps at the Feb 3 meeting.
EU energy ministers lower gas price cap
European nations reached a deal to cap natural gas prices at €180 per MWh, in a measure that will be applicable for a year from Feb 15. The price cap is significantly lower than an earlier proposal by the European Commission, and will only take effect if the benchmark Dutch TTF gas prices are above €180 per megawatt-hour, and their price difference with global LNG prices is greater than €35 per megawatt-hour. While this may take the immediate pressure off the consumers who are reeling under the energy crisis, we think price caps rarely work and only transfer the pressure somewhere else.
Watch for Bank of Japan’s policy review hints
The Bank of Japan is set to announce its policy decision today, and no change is expected in its monetary policy stance. The BOJ is expected to keep rates unchanged at -0.1% while maintaining its cap on the 10-Year JGB at 0.25%. Even as inflation increased to 3.6% YoY in October, the BOJ remains focused on achieving wage inflation before it considers a shift in policy stance. However, keep an eye out for any comments about a monetary policy review, which can trigger a strong JPY correction. There have been some mentions by BOJ members regarding a review of how monetary policy is conducted, they have generally been dismissed. While the timeline is still expected to be closer or after Governor Kuroda’s retirement in spring, any notes on who will succeed him or what policy change can be expected would be critical.
US December NAHB housing market index slips further
The NAHB housing index fell for a 12th straight month from 84 in December 2021 to 31 this month. However, the rate of decline moderated to its slowest in 6 months, indicating that we are possibly nearing the bottom of the cycle for builder sentiment. Of the index’s three components, current sales conditions fell 3 points to 36, buyer traffic was unchanged at 20, but sales expectations in the next six months increased 4 points to 35, also indicating an improved outlook.
Better German business climate than expected in December
The headline German IFO business climate index, which is based on 9,000 monthly survey responses from firms in the manufacturing, service sector, trade and construction, was out better than expected in December. It climbed to 88.6 versus prior 86.3 and expected 87.2. The current economic assessment and the expectations also improved to 94.4 and 83.2, respectively. Companies are slightly less pessimistic about the macroeconomic trajectory. Though a recession is certainly unavoidable in Germany, the impact of the energy crisis has been so far more limited than initially feared. On a flip note, ECB policymaker Gediminas Simkus, who serves as the Chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, indicated that a 50 basis points rate hike in February is a done-deal. This is aligned with comments from ECB president Christine Lagarde at last week’s ECB press conference. The market reaction was muted.
Nike and FedEx earnings on watch today
Recently sell-side analysts have raised their price targets on Nike (NKE:xnys), citing potential margin recovery. The sportswear giant reports FY23 Q2 (ending Nov 30, 2022) today and the street consensus is expecting its revenue to grow 11% Y/Y to USD12.6 billion. Peter Garnry suggests in his note that the focus will be on the outlook for the holiday season quarter ending in February 2023 which can give investors some ideas if consumers are still keeping up their spending on discretionary items. Analysts covering Nike seem more optimistic about consumer spending in 2023 than the US bank CEOs who recently suggested that US consumer spending has been coming down. FedEx (FDX:xnys) earnings are also key to watch today. FedEx is now on the other side of the pandemic boom in logistics and expectations for revenue growth have collapsed to zero revenue growth over the next two quarters which in real terms are very low given the inflation. This means that the bar is set low for FedEx when its earnings hit the wire today.