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APAC Daily Digest: What is happening in markets and what to consider next – August 31, 2022

Equities 6 minutes to read
APAC Strategy Team

Summary:  US stocks move below the key 4,000 level for the first time since July, while also moving under the 50-day moving average, signifying the S&P500 could gain momentum to the downside and potentially retreat to the low set in June. Selling pressure in GBP ramps up, crude oil prices tumble from fresh highs, iron ore retreats below the key $100 level and could remain contained for the year ahead, meanwhile, coal prices remain in record territory. The first shipment of wheat out of Ukraine arrives in Africa. In company news, we cover the latest in the EV space, plus what the latest is from Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity giant. Here is what's happening in markets right now, and what to consider next.


What is happening in markets?


Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) again on the back foot, being pressured lower

US equities fell for the third straight day on Tuesday, with the S&P and the Nasdaq both falling 1.1%. Pressure fell upon equities last night for several key reasons; firstly the market had another reality check - rate rises will intensify. New York Fed President John Williams said on Tuesday restrictive policy will be needed to slow demand, and rate hikes have not achieved that yet. Over in Europe a policy makers said the ECB should make a 75 basis-point hike at its September meeting. All in all, this caused short-term rates, the US 2-year Treasury yield, to rise to its highest level in almost 15-years, as traders bet more rate hikes are coming. This pressured commodity prices, which pulled back on fears rate hikes will soften demand. On top of that OPEC+ didn’t discuss production cuts. So Oil fell ~6%. WTI settled around ~$91.64. As such, the Oil and Gas sectors fell 4%, adding the most weight to Tuesday’s drop. Secondly, equities were also pressured on fears that geopolitical tensions could escalate, after Taiwanese soldiers fired shots to ward off civilian drones flying close to islands near China. And Thirdly, equities are also facing end of month rebalancing; where investors typically take profits from top performers and buy laggards to bring their assets allocations into alignment.

Noteworthy movers in US equities

Retailers Big Lots (BIG:xnys) and Best Buy (BBY: xnys) surged 11.8% and 1.6% respectively after reporting Q2 earnings that beat market expectations.  Big Lots’ narrower loss was attributed to margin improvements from cost controls. Likewise, Best Buy’s better-than-expected earnings was largely due to cost controls, as sales fell nearly 13% YoY in the quarter. The discount retailers indicated they’re copping the brunt of trade-downs, while they also warned about a pullback in consumer spending. 

U.S. treasuries (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas)

Treasury yields were little changed on Tuesday, with the 2-year yield rising modestly by 2bps to 3.44% as the market continued to price in a 75bp Fed hike at the September FOMC.  The stronger JOLT job openings data and consumer confidence data, plus Fed officials’ reiteration of determination to bring inflation back under control contributed to the bids to the front end of the curve.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HSIU2) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg)

Hong Kong and mainland China equities pulled back moderately, Hang Seng Index -0.37%. Tech names were weak.  Hang Seng Tech Index plunged as much as 3% before bouncing off the low to finish the day only 0.5% lower.  The news of Shenzhen and other cities stepping up pandemic control measures fuelled the risk-off sentiment that has already been hanging over the market.  Share prices of Chinese developers were broadly lower as mortgage repayment boycott cases increased to 103 cities and 347 development projects.  According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, smartphone sales in China fell 2.9% YoY in the period between Jan and July.  Despite reporting solid 1H results, China automaker, BYD (01211:xhg) slid 0.5% following an exchange filing showing that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway reduced its stake in the company. Auto retailer, Zhongsheng (00881:xhkg) plunged by 7%.  In A-shares, mining stocks, gas, electric equipment, and auto parts underperformed.

In U.S. trading, Hang Seng Index Futures tumbled 2.3% in a confluence of factors including Taiwanese soldiers on front-line islands firing shots at civilian drones believed flying from mainland China, a newswire report saying the U.S. regulator, PCAOB, selected

Alibaba (BABA:xnys/09988:xhkg) for audit inspection commencing in September, Berkshire Hathaway reducing holdings in BYD, Covid-related lockdown concerns, and the continuous decline of the U.S. equity markets.  Compared to their closes in Hong Kong, ADRs of BYD fell by 4.2%, and Alibaba by 3.3%.

Selling pressure in GBP ramps up


Despite a relatively stable USD, pessimism built in sterling after Goldman Sachs hinted that peak inflation in the UK could reach 22% in early 2023 and downgraded its GDP forecast. GBPUSD touched lows of 1.1622 before settling around 1.1660. EURUSD was stable-to-stronger given the stabilising gas situation and the hawkish ECB rhetoric pushing for a jumbo rate hike at the September meeting again. EURGBP pushed higher to 0.8600, its strongest levels since early July.

Crude oil prices (CLU2 & LCOV2)

Crude oil was down over 6% after recording the best day in six weeks on Monday when Brent traded above $105/barrel. The reversal yesterday came on the back of a general improvement in risk appetite as European gas prices plunged. This will likely lower diesel prices, reducing the demand for oil. Fresh lockdown announcements in key Chinese cities also raised demand concerns. Meanwhile the supply situation looked better in the near-term amid reduced Iraq supply disruptions risk and rumours of a potential Iran agreement. Oil inventories also surprised with 593k barrel rise. Reports that OPEC+ not considering a production cut supported price action in the Asian morning hours, and WTI futures reversed to inch back above$92/barrel. Further volatility can be expected in European gas prices today, and that could spill over to crude oil as well, as Nord Stream 1 goes into maintenance. 

Gold (XAUUSD)

Gold continues to have trouble finding direction amid a hawkish Fed speak but rising geopolitical tensions. A host of Fed speakers were on the wires yesterday, and all of them focused on inflation, suggesting aggressive action from the Fed will continue. Meanwhile, Taiwanese soldiers fired shots to ward off civilian drones flying close to islands near China, spooking fears that tensions could escalate. Strong US economic data both from consumer confidence and JOLTS jobs opening also bumped up the US 10-year yields, and Gold was seen dipping below the key 1729 support on Tuesday, coming in sights of the one-month lows. 

First shipment of wheat out of Ukraine arrives in Africa

The first export of wheat from Ukraine since the invasion of Russia in February has arrived in Djibouti, east Africa. The 23,000-ton shipment is bound for Ethiopia which is struggling with ongoing drought and conflict. A recent agreement between Russia and Ukraine, mediated by the UN and Turkey, has allowed 50 ships to resume shopping grain around the world. Wheat harvest was also seen picking up in Canada as yields improved amid better weather conditions, helping to ease supply worries in the key agricultural crop. 

What to consider? 


US consumer confidence and JOLTS data came in better-than-expected

US consumer confidence rose to its highest level in three months to come in at 103.2 in August from 95.7 previously. Both the expectation index and present situation index saw improvements, rising to 75.1 (prev. 65.6) and 145.4 (prev.139.7), respectively. This could be partly driven by lower pump prices, but also signals that a healthy job market report may be coming this week. The 1-year ahead inflation expectation fell to 7.0% (prev. 7.4%), which was a seven-month low. Meanwhile, US JOLTS rose to 11.239mln in July, above the expected 10.45mln and previous 10.698mln, hinting that the labor market remains tight. 

German CPI’s upside surprise, ECB still leaning towards front-loading

Germany CPI came in higher than expected at 7.9% YoY (vs. 7.5% prev and 7.8% expected) while the MoM print was slightly softer at 0.3% (vs. 0.9% prev and 0.4% expected). Food and energy price gains underpinned, but fuel rebate helped to take some pressure off. Meanwhile, ECB speakers continued to push for more front-loaded rate hikes, in contrast to ECB’s Lane calling yesterday for more step-by-step increases and signaling recession concerns yesterday. ECB’s Knot however clearly said he’s leaning towards a 75bp hike in September but he is open to a discussion, as did Muller. Wunsch also vouched for rates in restrictive territory, and Vasle (non-voter) said the September rate hike should exceed 50bps. 

The Chinese Communist Party will hold its national congress on Oct. 16

The politburo meeting held on Tuesday decided to propose to the Central Committee of the 19th National Congress to schedule the next once-every-five-year National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (the “CCP”) for Oct 16, 2022.  The 2,300-odd delegates attending the National Congress will elect the CCP’s Central Committee which consists of 205 full (voting) members and 170 alternate (non-voting) members. The full members of the Central Committee will elect among themselves the 25 members of the Politburo and the members of the Politburo will then choose among themselves the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, who are the highest leaders of the CCP.  The National Congress will review the CCP’s work over the past five years and formulate policy directions and action plans for the next five years.  

Taiwan shot at drones flying close to its offshore islands 

Taiwan’s authorities said in a statement Taiwanese soldiers fired shots in three incidents on Tuesday to ward off drones flying close to small offshore islands controlled by Taiwan. The statement did not identify where these civilian drones were from but said that the drones flew away in the director of Xiamen, a coastal city of mainland China. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen previously urged Taiwan’s military force to take “appropriate by necessary” actions to drive away civilian drones having been buzzing Taiwan’s military installations on its front-line islands.  

Iron ore falls below the key $100 level

The key steel ingredient fell below $100 for the first time in five weeks, on signs of China’s steel industry worsening. Steel production will fall by more than 8 million tons in the second half, due to plans to restrict output in the key hub of Tangshan. This is according to Minmetals Futures. That cut in production equates to a decline of 10%. China’s steel industry is reeling amid a property crisis, that’s showing no promise of turning around any time soon. Authorities in Tangshan, near Beijing also decided to cut production at a recent meeting, Meanwhile a major steel maker, Angang Steel says it sees tough conditions persisting through the end of the year. This backs up BHP’s comments last week, where BHP’s CFO told Saxo in an one-on-one interview, that iron ore demand will remain limited in the year ahead, not able to outpace supply. This means iron ore pricing will remain capped.

Coal prices are back at record highs, amid the energy crisis

With global electricity prices skyrocketing and likely to worsen, and nothing being resolvable, the coal price is being bid again, pushing it once again back to record territory. For consuemrs, unfortunately this means higher power bills, especially in those regions dependent on coal for electricity (India, China, Australia). With the coal futures price, and the spot coal price moving to higher levels, this supports future earnings and cashflows in coal companies. As such, many coal stocks are trading at record highs. Shares in Australia’s largest pure-play coal company Whitehaven Coal (WHC) hit a brand-new record all-time high yesterday, A$8.15, but today is facing selling pressure (profit taking perhaps). Other stocks that make money from Coal include BHP in Australia. In Asia, Bayan Resources, and Yankunang Energy, as well as Shaanxi Coal.

Alibaba has been selected for audit inspection by the PCAOB

According to Reuters, Alibaba (BABA:xnys/09988:xhkg) has been selected, together with some others, by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (the “PCAOB”) for audit work inspection commencing in September. 

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway reduces its stake in the Chinese EV maker BYD

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sold around 1.33 million shares of BYD (01211:xhkg) at an average price of HKD277.10, bringing its stake in BYD to 19.92% of the total issued H shares or 7.51% of the total issued share capital on Aug. 24.  Comparing the ending balance after the sale to the ending balance as of June 30 revealed in BYD’s interim results announcement released earlier this week, Berkshire Hathaway had previously undisclosed sale of 4.95 million shares since July.  Assuming the 4.95 million shares were sold at the average closing prices in July and August, Berkshire Hathaway cashed out a total of about HK$1.8 billion from the sale of these 6.28 million shares over the past two months which was similar to the aggregate cost that Berkshire Hathaway had initially paid for the whole amount of 7.73% stake (or 20.49% of H shares) in BYD.

Covid cases resurface in 31 provinces in China

China’s southern technology hub, Shenzhen shut down the world’s largest electronics retailing marketplace in response to a surge of Covid cases. The cities of Dalian, Chengdu, Yiwu, and Sanya are also under some sort of restriction.

Baidu reported inline Q2 results

Baidu’s (BIDU:xnys/9888:xhkg) revenue fell 5% YoY to RMB 29.65 billion, largely in line with consensus estimates. Its operating margin came in at 22%, contracting 5 percentage points YoY, due to sluggishness in the high-margin ads business and a revenue mix shifting toward lower-margin non-ads business.  Q2 Non-GAAP EPS increased 2% YoY to RMB15.79, well above analysts’ RMB9.82 median forecast.     

American companies have a downbeat outlook on doing business in China

The US-China Business Council’s annual member survey showed that a record 21% of the 117 multinational companies headquartered in the US said they were downbeat on their business in China for the next five years, (according to those surveyed). 90% of respondents said their businesses were affected by lost sales and uncertainty over reliable deliveries.  

China is set to tighten scrutiny of companies seeking to raise funds through issuing offshore bonds

According to a consultative draft document on the portal of the National Development and Reform Commission, China is planning to require companies that seek to issue bonds offshore to register, report and receive approval from the authorities for debts that have tenors exceeding one year.  

China’s official PMIs are scheduled to be released today

The median forecasts of economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect China’s official NBS manufacturing PMI to edge up to 49.2 in August from 49.0 in July, while firmly remaining in contractionary territory. Heatwaves and drought-induced power curbs have caused Sichuan and Chongqing to shut-down manufacturing activities for six days and eight days in August respectively. The stepping up of pandemic controls in some cities could also affect the survey negatively. The median forecast for August official NBS non-manufacturing PMI is 52.2, down from last month’s 53.8 but remains in expansionary territory.  

Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity giant reported better than expected results

Crowdstrike shares were higher after hours in the US, following a 0.7% rise in the regular session after reporting second-quarter results that topped analysts expectations, while it raised its forecasts for the year. The cyber security giant reported revenue rose to $535 million, up from the $337.7 million in the year-ago quarter. Annual reoccurring revenue grew 59% to $2.14 billion compared to the same time last year. This is a somewhat of a testament that cyber security is a defensive industry that is able to do well, regardless of economic conditions weakening.

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