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Markets Today: US yields at critical levels – 20 February 2023

Equities 7 minutes to read
APAC Research

Summary:  Data was light on Friday and US equity indices ended mixed after markets catching up with the Fed’s December dot plot over the week. Fed speakers Barkin and Bowman were however somewhat less hawkish than Bullard and Mester earlier in the week. Dollar off its highs as US yields retreated lower amid short covering, helping metals regain some footing. US markets remain closed today, and key focus this week on geopolitics as US-China tensions continue to ramp up and one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.

What’s happening in markets?

Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) mixed, European indices outperformed in the week

The S&P500 was down for the second consecutive week as hot inflation data and steady retail sales supported the case for more rate hikes from the Fed, shifting the market expectations for the Fed path higher. The S&P500 was down 0.3% on Friday, with NASDAQ100 down 0.7%, even though the Dow Jones index recovered later to close 0.4% higher. NASDAQ however closed the week higher, with Tesla notching up gains of ~6% in the week. European indices outperformed in the week, led by France’s CAC 40 (FRA40.I) which was up over 3% and EuroStoxx 50 (STOXX50.I) was up 1.8%.

Importantly, US markets are shut on Monday for Presidents Day, however yields remain a key focus this week after the US 2-year yield rose to 4.7%+ levels on Friday and 10-year is getting close to the 4% mark again.

Key stock movers

On Friday, US farm equipment maker Deere (DE:xnys) led market gains being up 7.5%, Moderna Inc (MRNA:xnas) fell 3.3% after its experimental messenger RNA-based influenza vaccine delivered mixed results in a study. Lithium miners Livent Corp (LTHM:xnys), Albemarle Corp (ALB:xnys) and Piedmont Lithium (PLL:xnas) slumped between 9% and 12% due to concerns about weakness in Chinese prices for the EV battery metal.

Agricultural spending bellwether - Deere - drives up, putting the spotlight on the tangible world outperforming and food security

Deere was the star performer in the S&P500 on Friday, rising 7.5% after raising its forecasts for the year, and reporting better than expected Q4 results. It reported $6.55 earnings per share from sales of $12.7 billion, beating estimates (of $5.56 per share on sales of $11.28 billion). The bottom line is demand from farmers is strong, and producers are prepared to buy more equipment and upgrade their fleets. Its production and precision ag division which includes autonomous crop planting and harvesting – saw the most sales growth – with quarterly sales up 55% in the quarter, from a year prior. The company has not only evolved from selling ag equipment to automation equipment and farm management systems, which helps farmers optimize their operations using crop data analytics. For the year ahead, Deere sees net income rising to $8.75 billion to $9.25 billion, which is higher than its prior estimate ($8 billion to $8.5 billion). This reinforces Saxo’s bullish view of investments in the physical world outperforming the intangibles.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIG3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) suffered a third consecutive week of losses amid regulatory concerns

Hong Kong's stocks suffered a third consecutive week of losses, with the Hang Seng Index dropping by 1.3%, weighed down by China's tech and internet shares. The Hang Seng Tech Index fell by 2.5%, and turnover was the lowest in 2023 at HK$89.7 billion. Fears of regulatory crackdowns in China were fueled by the disappearance of high-profile investment banker Bao Fan and speculation that Wu Qing, who was known in the securities industry for iron-fisted handling of market irregularity cases, would be the new chief of the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Fan’s majority-owned China Renaissance took a 28.2% hit while internet giants Alibaba (09988:xhkg), Tencent (00700:xhkg), and Meituan (03690:xhkg), registered loses over 2%. Baidu (09888:xhkg) fell 4.6% as ChatGPT concept stocks retraced in both the Hong Kong bourse and mainland exchanges. Lenovo (00992) slid 3.1% following reporting net income, revenue declines, and job cuts. Hong Kong jewellers with large exposure to Chinese tourists declined 2-4%, while Chinese traditional medicines and childcare products gained.

The A-share market in China also closed lower, with CSI300 Index down by 1.4%. Computing, electronics, communication, ChatGPT concept, and electric equipment stocks led the charge lower. Digital China (000034:xsec) and Montnets Rongxin Technology (002123:xsec) plunged over 8%. Meanwhile, Chinese traditional medicine names and COVID-19 drug pharmaceutical stocks bucked the decline. Shangdong Xinhua Pharmaceutical (000756:xsec) went limit up by 10% and its H-shares (00719:xhkg) traded in Hong Kong surged 26.4% following positive comments on a generic drug manufactured by the company.

FX: Dollar off its highs, NZD in focus as RBNZ meets this week

After a run higher this week with the hawkish tilt in Fed expectations, the US dollar was off its highs on Friday with US 10-year yields turning lower after getting close to the key 4% mark. This helped USDJPY retreat from 2-month highs of 135 but Japan’s CPI due this week along with BOJ governor nominee Ueda’s parliamentary hearings will likely keep the yen volatile. NZD was one of the underperformers last week on slowing 2yr NZ inflation expectations, and remains in focus this week as RBNZ is likely to downshift to a 50bps rate hike with some even considering a 25bps hike amid risks from the recent cyclone. GBPUSD touched lows of 1.1915 but was back above 1.2000 handle on Friday. ECB commentary remains mixed (read below) and EURUSD still close to 1.07.

Crude oil (CLH3 & LCOJ3) end last week lower on Fed worries

Crude oil prices tumbled over 2% last week amid a hawkish tilt returning in the US data and Fed commentaries, which brought up the prospects of more rate hikes in the current cycle. Moreover, data confirming a pickup in real economic activity in China has been meagre so far, and near-term oversupply fears have pushed WTI prices lower to touch $75/barrel on Friday, while Brent took a look below $82. OPEC and IEA however raised the medium-term demand outlook, but this week’s focus will also be on geopolitics (read below) with US-China tensions ramping up and the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Copper focusing on supply-side issues

Despite the hawkish tilt in Fed expectations, copper ended the week only down 0.4% as the key $4 area continued to provide support. Supply issues also remained in focus. Freeport-McMoRan Inc suspended operations at its Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia due to landslides. This is on the heels of disruptions to output in Peru amid social unrest. Zambia also reported that its copper output fell to a seven-year low in 2022. US yield and dollar trends this week will be key for metals and commodities in general.

Gold (XAUUSD) approaching key supports

Gold fell to a six-week low last week amid hawkish comments from Fed officials after the CPI report last week and Fed commentaries shifting market expectations for the Fed path higher. Gold took a look below the key support at $1828 on Friday but a subsequent recovery to 1840 was seen as dollar was off its highs. Next key support at $1800 level remains a key focus, followed by the 200DMA at 1776.


What to consider?

Fed speakers note inflation and jobs data surprises

Fed member Bowman (voter) said she wants to see a consistent decline in inflation and she thought the moderation of inflation before the prior meeting meant we could be seeing the beginning of disinflation, but notes the most recent data however has been surprising. Barkin (non-voter) also said that he does feel the US is making slow progress on inflation. Both also emphasized labor shortages, with Barkin stating clearly that he prefers the 25bps rate hike path.

ECB’s mixed messages

ECB speakers had mixed messages on Friday with the hawkish Isabel Schnabel saying that investors risk underestimating the persistence of inflation. That bolstered rate-hike bets, with money markets pricing a 3.75% peak in the deposit rate. However, later dovish member Francois Villeroy said that rate are now in restrictive territory and that they may raise above 3% but it’s not automatic.

Rainy season in Brazil-putting iron ore supply in question

Rainfall at Brazil's largest iron ore mines increased in the second week of February, but remained below historical levels since the start of the year. Despite a dry start to 2023, iron ore supply risks are high ahead of seasonal rainy season peaking in month end. Brazilian Iron ore shipments are down this year, while Australian iron ore shipments are up YTD. We need to see Chinese property stimulus pick up to propel further demand in iron ore which could also act as a catalyst for the next move up in iron ore prices. Vale is the biggest iron ore producer in Brazil. Australia’s largest iron ore producers are BHP and Rio Tinto, who report results over the next two days. 

Luxury stocks are the key contributors to the French CAC 40 index’s 2023 performance

The French CAC 40 index is recording a strong YTD performance with an increase of +14 %. This is quite astonishing. This is partially explained by the weight of luxury stocks in the index. Kering, L’Oréal, LVMH and Hermès represent about a third of the jump. Other major contributors are Schneider Electric (which directly benefits from China’s economic reopening), BNP Paribas, Vinci (a construction company and operator of toll roads), STMicroelectronics (semiconductors) and Air Liquide (which can be considered as a market maker in his business segment). The French index is now valued at less than 13 times the estimated profits. This is below its 10-year average of 14. This could imply the market can go much higher in the short- and medium-term. The French stock market is the largest one in Europe followed by the UK’s.

China’s loan prime rate fixing due today

China's loan prime rates will likely stay steady at the fixing today, considering the People's Bank of China's decision to keep its medium-term lending facility rate unchanged earlier this month. The one-year and five-year LPR rates are likely to remain unchanged at 3.65% and 4.3%, respectively. Still, the uncertainty around the rate path is increasing given the increasing focus in China to drive up consumption and growth, and rate cuts remain likely in H1.

Geopolitics keeps Saxo’s Defense basket in focus

In Saxo’s equity theme baskets, the Defense basket was one of the top performers last week despite the news of China sanctions on US defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon due to balloon shooting incident. Geopolitical tensions, and therefore the Defense stocks, will remain in focus again this week as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Biden will be visiting NATO ally Poland to talk about the importance of the international community’s resolve, and unity in supporting Ukraine, adding that the next weeks and months are going to be difficult for Ukraine’s forces, and the US is going to continue to stand by them. Meanwhile, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi kicked off his week-long tour through Europe in Paris on Wednesday. The diplomat is expected to travel to Italy, Germany, and Hungary – with a final stop in Russia. There were also some reports suggesting that the US has information that China may be considering supplying arms to Russia. Putin will also be giving a state of the nation address, and focus will be on any risks of further escalation noting that 500k Russian troops have been mobilised.


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