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Market Insights Today: Fed tone remains key; worsening Covid outbreak in China – 21 November 2022

Equities 6 minutes to read
APAC Strategy Team

Summary:  Markets remain on edge amid lack of economic data but heavy focus on Fed commentaries which were mixed at best with Collins remaining hawkish but Bostic again signaling a slowdown in the pace of rate hikes. Meanwhile, covid outbreaks in China continue to get worse, keeping expectations of a Xi pivot also restrained. Commodities including oil and gold gave up recent gains on higher USD and China concerns. Weekend elections in Malaysia saw its first ever hung parliament, although not a complete surprise.

What’s happening in markets?

The Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) traded sideways

US equity markets had a lackluster session with modest gains on Friday. Nasdaq 100 was unchanged and the S&P 500 edged up 0.5%. Nine out of the 11 sectors within the S&P 500 gained, with utilities, up 2% being the top performer. Energy was the largest laggard, down 0.9% as WTI crude oil fell to as low as USD77.24 at one point before settling at USD80.08, down 1.9% on Friday and 10% for the week on the concerns of weakening demand. Retailers Foot Locker (FL:xnys), Rose Stores (ROST:xnas), and Gap (GPS:xnys) surged by 7% to 10% on earnings and guidance beating street estimates.

US  treasury (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) yield rose as Fed member Collins keeping 75bps on the table

Investors sold the front end of the treasury curve, seeing 2-year yield up 8bps to finish at 4.53% on Friday, following Boston Fed President Susan Collins kept the option of a 75bps hike in December open. Nonetheless, the money market curve continue to assign a higher than 80% chance of a 50bp hike in the next FOMC meeting.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HISX2) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) consolidated on Friday but ended the week higher

The risk-on sentiment in Hong Kong and mainland China faded towards the end of last week as investors became cautious about the surge of Covid cases in mainland China that might be testing the resolve of the Chinese authorities, in particular, that of the local governments to implement the 20-item guidelines of relaxing pandemic control measure. Hong Kong stock markets traded higher initially in the morning, led by China Internet stocks, following Alibaba (09988:xhkg) reporting earnings beating expectations and adding to its share repurchase programme and The Chinese authorities’ grant of a new round of 70 online game licences to firms including Tencent (00700:xhkg) and NetEase (0999:xhkg). China property developers declined and dragged the benchmark indices lower, after Moody’s warned that the recent government policy support to the mainland real estate sector was no game changer. Hang Seng Index dropped by 0.3% on Friday and gained 3.9% for the week. In mainland bourses, healthcare shares gained as new Covid cases surged to above 25,000, a new high since April. CSI 300 declined 0.5% on Friday and edged up by 0.3% for the week.

Crude oil (CLZ2 & LCOF3) suffering from worsening Covid outbreak in China

WTI futures took a look below the key $80/barrel mark on Friday amid the return of demand concerns as the Covid outbreak in China continued to get worse. Further developments over the weekend (read below) suggest further caution on Xi pivot expectations will likely remain. Meanwhile, the winter demand has so far remained restrained but the week ahead may bring further volatility as the deadline for European sanctions on Russia crude looms. NatGas prices were also lower after Freeport LNG announced initial operations are set to resume from their export facility in mid-December, one month later than prior guidance.

Gold (XAUUSD) still eying the hawkish Fed

Gold stayed short of making an attempt at the key $1800 level last week and was down over 1% as the USD gains returned amid the generally hawkish rhetoric from Fed speakers confirming more rate hikes remain in the pipeline. It is now testing the resistance-turned-support at 1750, and a move higher needs support from further declines in yields and the US dollar or some other catalyst that sees a run to safety.

FX: NZD in gains ahead of RBNZ rate decision this week

The Reserve Bank of New Zeeland is likely to deliver its sixth consecutive 50bps rate hike this week, or more with consensus tilting towards a larger 75bps move. The calls for a hike come amid hot inflation at 7.2% YoY in Q3 – well above the RBNZ’s 1-3% target – which comes in conjunction with a tight labour market. Most members of the RBNZ shadow board also supported a 75bps rate hike. NZDUSD started the week on a stronger footing, after having touched 0.62 on Friday. AUDNZD remains in a downtrend with China’s Covid outbreak as well as a relatively dovish RBA limiting the prospects for AUD.


What to consider?

Fed’s Collins says 75bps still on the table for December, Bostic dovish

Fed’s Boston Governor Collins appeared on a CNBC interview on Friday, and said she hasn’t decided on the magnitude of next month’s interest rate hike, but that a 75bps rate hike still remains on the table. She also emphasised that there is no clear and significant evidence that the overall inflation is coming down at this point, and there is also no clear consistent evidence of softening in labor markets. In fact, her comments raised terminal rate expectations as she said that data since September have kind of increased the top of where the Fed may need to go with interest rates. On the economy, she is concerned there could be a self-fulfilling dynamic that could make a more severe downturn more likely. However, Collins is reasonably optimistic a recession can be avoided. On the other hand, we also heard from Atlanta Fed Governor Raphael Bostic who said he favours slowing down the pace of rate hikes and also hinted that terminal rates will be about 1% pt higher from here. Worth noting however that Collins is only a voter this year (and not in 2023) while Bostic is not a voter this year or next.

China’s Covid outbreak is getting worse

China reported its first Covid-related death in nearly 6 months in Beijing as the outbreak continues to get worse and cast doubts on a Xi pivot. The capital added 516 cases on Sunday, and called the situation "grim." There are some retail and school closures, and the request to stay home was made over the weekend and has been extended. Meanwhile, a district in Guangzhou has imposed a 5-day lockdown to conduct mass coronavirus testing in some areas.

ECB balance sheet reduction kicks off

Euro zone banks are set to repay 296 billion euros in multi-year loans from the European Central Bank next week, less than the roughly 500 billion euros expected, in its latest step to fight runaway inflation in the Eurozone. The ECB has given banks an incentive to get rid of those loans by taking away a rate subsidy last month. It was its first move to mop up cash from the banking system and the first step towards unwinding its massive bond purchases. While the odds of a 50bos are still in favor for the December 15 meeting, key focus will also be on how fast this move can reverse the ECB's 3.3-trillion-euro Asset Purchase Programme. Christine Lagarde continued to sound the alarm on inflation, saying that even an economic downturn wont be enough to tame soaring prices. However, Knot hinted at slower pace of rate hikes, expecting rates to reach neutral next month. He still reaffirmed that policy needs to be restrictive and QT should be used alongside.

UK retail sales signals a temporary recovery in consumer spending

A rebound in UK’s retail sales for October signalled that Q4 may see concerns on consumer spending ease slightly. Retail sales grew 0.6% MoM in October after a decline of 1.5% in September. However the outlook remains bleak given the squeeze on incomes amid high inflation and the rise in interest rates.

Political gridlock in Malaysia

After Saturday’s election, Malaysia saw its first ever hung parliament as none of the three major coalitions won enough seats to form a majority, extending the political crisis in an economy on a fragile rebound. It is unlikely to be a big shock to the markets, as the results were generally as expected. The king has asked the parties to name their PM candidates by Monday afternoon, and while a coalition will likely be formed it is hardly enough to ensure a smooth functioning government. Ex-PM Mahathir lost the election while the ruling coalition was reduced to 30 seats, signalling a complete lack of trust in the political framework.


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