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APAC Daily Digest: What is happening in markets and what to consider next – August 17, 2022

APAC Strategy Team

Summary:  S&P500 index broke above the key 4,300 resistance level while the NASDAQ pushed lower amid mixed economic data and better-than-feared earnings from Walmart and Home Depot. US housing data continues to worsen, but the focus now turns to FOMC minutes due later today, as well as the US retail sales which will be next test of the strength of the US consumer. Asia session may have trouble finding a clear direction, but Australia’s wage price index and RBNZ’s rate hike may help to provide some bounce.


What is happening in markets?

Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) 

U.S. equities were mixed. Tech names had an initial pullback, followed by short-coverings that narrowed the loss of the Nasdaq 100 to 0.23% at the close. S&P500 edged up 0.19% to 4,305 on better-than-feared results from retailers, moving towards its 200-day moving average (4,326). Walmart (WMT:xnys) and Home Depot (HD:xnys) reported Q2 results beating analyst estimates. Walmart gained 5% on strong same-store sales growth and a deceleration in inventory growth. Home Depot climbed 4% after reporting better than expected EPS and same-store sales but with an acceleration in inventory buildup. The declines in housing starts and building permits released on Monday and the downbeat comments about the U.S. housing market from the management of Compass (COMP:xnys), an online real estate brokerage, highlighted the challenges faced in the housing sector. 

Short-end U.S. treasury yields rose as the long-end little changed

The bigger than expected increases in July industrial production (+0.6% MoM), manufacturing production (+0.7% MoM), and business equipment production (+0.6%) triggered some selling in the short-end of U.S. treasury curve, pushing the 2-year yield 8 bps higher to 3.25% as 10-year yield edged up 1bp. 

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HSIQ2) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg)

China internet stocks were sold off on Tuesday afternoon after Reuters ran a story suggesting that Tencent (00700:xhkg) plans to divest its 17% stake (USD24 billion) in Meituan (03690:xhkg).  The shares of Meituan collapsed 9% while Tencent gained 0.9%.  After the close of the Hong Kong market, Chinese media, citing sources “close to the matter” suggested that the divesture story is not true. However, the ADRs of Meituan managed to recover only 1.7% in New York trading. The newswire story also triggered selling on Kuaishou (01024:xhkg), -4.4%, which has Tencent as a major investor. The decline in internet stocks dragged the Hang Seng Index 1% lower. On the other hand, Chinese developers soared on another newswire report that state-owned China Bond Insurance is going to provide guarantees to new onshore debts issued by several “high quality” developers, including Country Garden (02007:xhkg) +9%, Longfor (00960:xhkg) +12%, CIFI (00884:xhkg) +12.9%, and Seazen (01030:xhkg) +7.6%.  Shares of Chinese property management services also surged higher. 

GBPUSD bounced off the 1.2000 support, NZD eyeing RBNZ

A mixed overnight session for FX as the US yields wobbled. Risk sentiment held up with the mixed US data accompanied by a less bad outcome in the US retailer earnings than what was expected. This made the safe-haven yen a clear underperformer, and USDJPY rose back above 134. But a clear trend in the pair is still missing and a break above 135 is needed to reverse the downtrend. Cable got lower to remain in close sight of the 1.2000 big figure, but rose above 1.2100 subsequently. UK CPI report due today may confirm the need for further BOE action after labor data showed wage pressures. NZDUSD remains near lows of 0.6320 but may see a knee-jerk higher if RBNZ surprises on the hawkish side.

Crude oil prices (CLU2 & LCOV2)

Crude oil prices remain under pressure due to the prospect of Iran nuclear deal, and printed fresh lows since the Ukraine invasion. Some respite was seen in early Asian session, and WTI futures were last seen at $87/barrel and Brent is below $93. The EU submitted a final proposal to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, and prospects of more energy supply are dampening the price momentum. It has been reported that Iran’s response was constructive, and they are now consulting with the US on a way ahead for the protracted talks. The API reported crude inventories fell by 448,000 barrels last week, while gasoline stockpiles increased by more than 4 million barrels. Government data is due later Wednesday. European Dutch TTF benchmark gas futures (TTFMU2) touched €250/MWh, but has cooled off slightly recently, but still signals the heavy price that Europe is paying for the dependence on Russian gas.

Copper holding up well despite China slowdown concerns

Despite reports of weaker financing and activity data from China earlier this week, Copper remains well supported and registered only modest declines. BHP’s results provided some offset, as did the supply side issues in Europe. Only a break below the key 350 support will turn the focus lower. Meanwhile, zinc rallied amid concerns of smelter closures in Europe.

What to consider?

US housing scare broadens, industrial production upbeat

Housing starts fell 9.6% in July to 1.446 mn, well beneath the prior 1.599 mn and the expected 1.537 mn. Housing starts are now down for five consecutive months, and suggest a cooling housing market in the wake of higher borrowing costs and higher inflation. Meanwhile, building permits declined 1.3% in July to 1.674 mn from 1.696 mn, but printed above the expected 1.65 mn. There will be potentially more scaling back in construction activity as demand weakens and inventory levels rise. On the other hand, industrial production was better than expected at 0.6% m/m (prev: -0.2%) possibly underpinned by holiday demand but the outlook is still murky amid persistent inflation and supply chain issues.

US retailer earnings come in better than feared

Walmart (WMT:xnys) and Home Depot (HD:xnys) reported better-than-feared results on Tuesday. Walmart’s Q2 revenues came in at USD152.9 billion (+8.4% YoY, consensus USD150.5bn). Same-store sales increased 8.4% YoY (vs consensus +6.0% YoY).  EPS of USD1.77, down 0.8% from a year ago quarter but better than the consensus estimate of USD1.63. While inventories increased 25.5% in Q2, the rate of increase has moderated from the prior quarter’s +32.0%. The company cited falls in gas prices, market share gain in grocery, and back-to-school shopping key reasons behind the strength in sales. 

Home Depot reported Q2 revenues of USD43.9 billion (vs consensus USD43.4bn), +6.5% YoY.  Same-store sales grew 5.8%, beating analyst estimates (+4.9%).  EPS rose 11.5% to $5.05, ahead of analyst estimates (USD4.95). However, inventories grew 38% YoY in Q2, which was an acceleration from the prior quarter. The management cited inflation and pulling forward inventory purchases given supply chain challenges as reasons for the larger inventory build-up.

Target (TGT:xnys) is scheduled to report on Wednesday.

Eyes on US retail sales

US retail sales will be next test of the US consumer after less bad retailer earnings last night. Retail sales should have been more resilient given the lower prices at pump improved the spending power of the average American household, and Amazon Prime Day in the month possibly attracted bargain hunters as well. However, consensus expectations are modest at 0.1% m/m compared to last month’s 1.0%.

A cooling labor market in the UK

UK labor market showed signs of cooling as job vacancies fell for the first time since August 2020 and real wages dropped at the fastest pace in history. Unemployment rate was steady at 3.8%, and the number of people in employment grew by 160,000 in the April-June period as against 256,000 expected. There was also a sprinkle of good news, with the number of employees on payrolls rising 73,000 in July, almost triple the pace expected. Also, wage growth was strong at 4.7% in the June quarter from 4.4% in the three months to May, which may be key for the BOE amid persistent wage pressures.

Australia Q2 Wage Index to determine future RBA rate hike size?

The RBA Minutes out on Tuesday showed a central bank that is trying to navigate a “narrow path” for keeping the Australian economy on an “even keel”. The RBA has often singled out wages as an important risk for whether inflation risks becoming more embedded and on that note, today sees the release of the Q2 Wage Index, expected to come in at 2.7% year-on-year after 2.4% in Q1. A softer data point may have the market pulling back expectations for another 50 basis point rate hike at the next RBA meeting after the three consecutive moves of that size. The market is about 50-50 on the size of the RBA hike in September, pricing a 35bps move.

RBNZ set to decelerate its guidance after another 50 basis point move today?

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is expected to hike its official cash rate another 50 basis points tonight, taking the policy rate to 3.00%. With business and consumer sentiment surveys in the dumps in New Zealand and oil prices retreating sharply the RBNZ, one of the earliest among developed economies to tighten monetary policy starting late last year, may be set for more cautious forward guidance and a wait and see attitude, although wages did rise in Q2 at their second fastest pace (+2.3% QoQ) in decades. The market is uncertain on the future course of RBNZ policy, pricing 45bps for the October meeting after today’s 50bps hike and another 37bps for the November meeting.

FOMC minutes to be parsed for hints on future Fed moves

The Federal Reserve had lifted rates by 75bps to bring the Fed Funds rate at the level that they consider is neutral at the July meeting, but stayed away from providing any forward guidance. Meeting minutes will be out today, and member comments will be watched closely for any hints on the expectation for September rate hike or the terminal Fed rate. The hot jobs report and the cooling inflation number has further confused the markets since the Fed meeting, even as Fed speakers continue to push against any expectations of rate cuts at least in ‘early’ 2023. We only have Kansas City Fed President Esther George (voter in 2022) and Minneapolis Fed President Kashkari (non-voter in 2022) speaking this week at separate events on Thursday, so the bigger focus will remain on Jackson Hole next week for any updated Fed views.

 

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