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Market Insights Today: Yield curve inversion unnerves investors – 10 February 2023

Equities 6 minutes to read
APAC Research

Summary:  Equities erased early gains with S&P500 falling below 4100 as short-end Treasury yields jumped higher and yield curve inversion deepened to a fresh record. Riksbank’s hawkish surprise, along with Banxico’s, is raising concerns that central banks will have to continue to hike rates. Dollar was off its lows, and Gold pulled back to test the $1860 support again. Crude oil prices slid despite risks of lingering supply disruptions, as demand concerns weighed. China’s inflation data due today ahead of more Fed speakers and University of Michigan survey.

What’s happening in markets?

US equities (US500.I and USNAS100.I) slide lower on Thursday; Tesla hits a new cycle high

The S&P 500 wiped an earlier 1% jump, ending 0.9% lower on Thursday and 1.3% down on the week. It’s the first time in three weeks the benchmark index is in negative territory. That said, the S&P500 hold a gain of about 16% from its October low.

On Thursday, options traders piled into bets the Federal Reserve is targeting a peak rate of 6%, nearly a whole percentage point above consensus. The two-year yield traded near 4.5%, and earlier pushed above the 10-year yield rate, by the widest margin since the early 1980s — This is a sign of fading confidence in the US economy’s ability to withstand additional tightening, and weighed on bank stocks. Alphabet (GOOGL) was also a key laggard as the underwhelming chatbot event continued to drag. Walt Disney (DIS) also reversed its gains after reporting earnings and announcing layoffs.

Tesla (TSLA) shares were a top performer rising 3% on Thursday, taking its rally to 100% from its January low, bolstered by signs that demand for its EVs are rebounding - particularly with China out of lockdown. Still, Tesla share are down 50% from their record high. The technical indicators on the weekly and monthly charts look interesting – suggesting buying could potentially pick up over the longer term, as reflected in the MACD and RSI. 

Yields on US Treasuries (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) jump higher

The 2-year note Treasury yield rose 6bps to top 4.5% for the first time since November 30th, which means the bond market is beginning to take the Fed more seriously again. The surprise hawkish announcement from Riksbank likely added to concerns that central banks will continue to hike rates. The 10-year yield was up 5bps taking the Treasury yield curve inversion to 86bps, the widest since the 1980s.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIG3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) gained as optimism returned

Hang Seng Index rallied 1.6% and CSI300 bounced over 1.3% after a week-long consolidation. Xiaomi (01810:xhkg), surging 8.5%, was the biggest winner within the Hang Seng Index. Lei Jun, Chairman and founder of the mobile phone and electronic device maker, announced on Twitter in the form of Q&A with a Chatbot that the company is launching its Xiaomi 13 Series mobile phone on 26 Feb.

Alibaba (09988:xhkg) climbed 4% following its announcement of a plan to develop a ChatGPT-like chatbot. The hype on AI-generated content and chatbot spilled over to chip makers with Hua Hong (01347:xhkg) and SMIC (00981:xhkg) each rising over 3%. Mobile phone hardware suppliers Sunny Optical (02382:xhkg) and AAC (02018:xhkg) surged 5.7% and 5.9% respectively.

The technology space outperformed overall, with the Hang Seng Tech Index climbing 3.2%. Macao casino operators advanced with MGM, surging 9.2% and other operators gaining 3% to 5%. In A-shares, semiconductors, food and beverage, communication, defense, and internet-of-things stocks led the advance. Northbound flows registered a net buying of over RMB 12 billon.

Australian equites (ASXSP200.I) likely to end the week lower, with rate sensitive stocks down the most, while banks and insurers lift ahead of RBA saying more hikes ahead

The Energy sector is up the most this week, followed by Materials – with activity in China picking up after Luna New Year holidays. The best ASX200 returns this week so far are from Gold mining giant, Newcrest, up 11%, followed by insurance group Medibank up 5%, while regional bank Suncorp is up 4%. On the downside, Block, also known as Square (SQ, SQ2) fell over 9% this week, after rising for the last 6 weeks. ASX tech logistics giant WiseTech (WTC) fell about 10% so far this week, knock it off its record all time high and ending its four-week strong rally with the logistics industry improving. WiseTech has contracts with global logistics giants including UPS, DHL etc. 

FX: SEK outperforms on hawkish Riksbank; JPY awaits new governor

The big drag on the USD came from the outperformance of the Swedish krona after Riksbank surprised hawkish (read below). However, the dollar bounced back as Treasury yields picked up in wake of a dismal 30yr auction. Even as EURSEK plunged below 11.20, EURUSD rushed back above 1.0750 and came in close sight of 1.0800, although reversing most of these gains in the wake of dollar strength subsequently. GBPUSD also pushed higher to test the 50DMA at 1.2187 but reversed towards 1.21 later. USDJPY finding it difficult to go below 130 with PM Kishida saying he doesn’t want to surprise the markets with his Governor choice, which is shifting the consensus towards safer bets. AUDUSD failed another attempt at 0.70, awaiting RBA’s quarterly outlook.

Crude oil (CLH3 & LCOJ3) dips as investors clip profits

WTI oil traded 0.5% lower at $78.06, ending its best three-day rally since December. Some investors moved into profit taking mode, worried about a sagging US economy and that it could drag on oil demand. As the Fed has turned marginally hawkish recently, a large draw in inventories recently is also sending caution about oil demand. This comes despite supply disruptions with exports of Azeri oil from Turkey unlikely to resume until late next week. This has wiped out about 600kb/d of shipments. Meanwhile, Kazakh crude production has been reduced by about 200kb/d due to unplanned maintenance work.

Gold (XAUUSD) back lower to test $1860

Gold turned lower again as the surge higher in 2-year yields and the US dollar strengthened, and was testing the $1860 support in early Asian trading hours. A marginally hawkish stance by the Fed members over the last week, coupled with fears from a very strong job market report, continues to bolster the view that interest rates will need to keep rising to contain inflation. Still, if gold manages to stay above the 38.2% retracement of the run up from early November at $1828, the broader uptrend can remain intact.


What to consider?

Riksbank’s 50bps rate hike boosts krona

The Riksbank hiked the 50 basis points to 3% and guided for “probably” more tightening to come, but importantly also announced an acceleration of bond sales to reduce the balance sheet (QT) in April, which helped boost 10-year Swedish Government bond yields a chunky 20 basis points today, bringing them suddenly close to par against German yields. New Govenror Thedeen’s u-turn on the krona policy helped to bring EURSEK below 11.15, with the 11-handle and 200DMA at 10.81 now in focus.

US jobless claims rose but still sub-200k

Initial jobless claims rose to 196k from 183k, and above the expected 190k. Continued claims also surpassed expectations and printed 1.688mln (exp. 1.68mln), above the prior 1.650mln. While there is a pick-up in claims, it must be noted that it comes from a low level and still continues to signal a tight labor market.

German inflation slows to five-month lows

A delayed preliminary inflation print for January was released in Germany yesterday and it retreated to 9.2% YoY from 9.6% in December as government aid to ease the burden on households from soaring energy costs helped ease price pressures. Still, the disinflationary pressure appears to be slower than expected, and the ECB will have to keep its foot on the pedal.

Hawkish outcome from Mexico’s central bank

Banxico surprised markets with a 50bps rate hike once again and signalled another, smaller hike at the next meeting. Expectations were for a final 25bps rate hike. This appears to be in trend with what we have seen from RBA thins month, as also from the Reserve Bank of India, suggesting broad inflation pressures are still continuing to challenge central banks from considering a pause.

China inflation is expected to inch up

China’s Inflation may have accelerated as the headline CPI is forecasted to bounce to 2.2% Y/Y in January from 1.8% in December. A surge in in-person service consumption after the reopening may have underpinned some price increases but the upward pressure on the general level of inflation has remained moderate. Rises in vegetable and fruit prices were likely damped by a decline in pork prices. The decline in producer prices is expected to narrow to -0.4% in January from -0.7% in December as industrial metal prices bounced offsetting a decline in coal prices.

Australian trade update: Commodity optimism picks up after Lunar New Year, Chinese students to return to AU, RBA inflationary forecasts due today. Could Australian wine tariffs from China be dropped? AUDUSD on watch.

Aussie dollar volatility continued this week, with the AUDUSD losing 2% over the last 5 sessions, mirroring commodity prices pulling back. But optimism has started to pick up. The Copper (HG1) price fell 0.6% over the last five sessions, moving up yesterday, while the Iron ore (SCOA) price is 0.6% down on the week, but picked up over the few sessions, with construction kicking off in China - after the Luna New Year break. Plus, a top China economist said interest rates could be cut next quarter. This supports further commodity buying, on top of Fortescue Metals, BHP and Rio Tinto’s quarterly outlooks, hinting China demand will pick up in 2023. China also docked its first Australian coal import shipment in two years yesterday, which supports the Aussie dollar over the medium to long-term, with the market to perhaps see more coal orders. Regardless, the coal export to China will add to quarterly GPD.

Supporting Australian GDP this quarter as well - will be the 50,000 influx of Chinese students expected to arrive in Australia this month - ahead of the start of semester. Beijing’s government ruled that degrees earnt online would not be accredited any more.

The next catalysts for the AUDUSD might come from the RBA’s quarterly economic forecasts and policy outlook released today. We think the RBA can afford to make upward revisions to its underlying inflation forecasts, given energy prices are expected to pick up later this year - as the AEMO alluded to. Lasty, consider China’s commerce ministry is willing discuss tariffs imposed on Australian wine that began in 2020. Should the tariffs be dropped or reduce, it may encourage China to buy Australian wine again – and add to AU GDP.

For what is ahead at markets this week – Read/listen to our Saxo Spotlight.

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