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Market Insights Today: Dovish tilts from ECB and BOE and Meta gains push equities higher; Post-market earnings miss from Apple, Alphabet and Amazon – 3 February 2023

Equities 7 minutes to read
APAC Research

Summary:  The US equity markets extended their gains, underpinned by 23% surge in Meta as it announced a leaner and more decisive vision; while German and UK yields slumped after dovish tilts from ECB and the Bank of England. The NFP jobs report in focus as the next test of the US labor market strength. USD was back in gains while commodities reversed the post-FOMC rally as clear signals on China’s reopening demand are also awaited. The tech rally may start to get some jitters with Apple, Amazon and Alphabet missing their earnings forecasts in post-market.


What’s happening in markets?

Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) surged on Thursday, paring gains in Asia Friday morning following Apple, Google, and Amazon misses

S&P500 closed at a new five-month high on Thursday, rising 1.5%, taking its move up to 19% from its October low and its 50-day moving average above the 200-day moving average, in what is usually referred as a “golden cross” in technical analysis. The Nasdaq 100 gained 3.6% after Meta shares jumped 23% on cost-cutting which paves the road for a return to profitability. Refer to Peter Garnry’s  article here for more on Meta. On the back of the dovish comments from Fed’s Powell on the previous day about disinflation having started and the optimism boosted by the surge in Meta’s share prices, Alphabet (GOOGL:xnas) and Amazon (AMZN:xnas) jumped more than 7% in the regular session and Apple (AAPL:xnas) climbed more than 3%, driving the benchmark indices higher before they reversed in the extended hour trading following reporting results missing expectations. Post results, Apple and Alphabet fell more than 3% and Amazon plunged more than 4% in after-hours trading, bringing Nasdaq 100 futures by around 1.3% lower in early Asian hours from its Thursday close.

Apple, Amazon, Google, and Ford paint a bumpy picture ahead for equities

Apple's profit and revenue missed, but it guided for a pickup in revenue from its iPhone this quarter, as well as its services revenues. Amazon's 4th quarter sales beat, but its outlook was on the weaker side. Google-owner Alphabet’s sales were lighter, suggesting lower demand for its core search advertising which is coming under threat. The US Department of Justice called for a breakup of the search giant’s ad-technology business over alleged illegal monopolization of the market. The company’s flagship search business, which drives most of its ad revenue, may also be under attack from new entrants, with Google declaring “code red” last year after in response to Open AI’s popular chatbot, entering the market. Ford guided for the potential of higher earnings in 2023, but missed fourth quarter earnings expectations. That said, its automotive revenue was higher than expected and it will pay a supplemental dividend of $0.65 per share reflecting the cashflow from taking a stake in Rivian.

Yields on US Treasuries (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) edged down, Bund and Gilt yields tumbled on dovish hikes from the ECB and BOE

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped as much as 9bps following the massive declines in yields on German Bunds and UK Gilts before paring most of the gain (in prices, fall in yields) in the New York afternoon to finish 2bps richer at 3.39%.  Relative to European and UK bonds, the movements in the U.S. Treasuries were relatively muted ahead of the U.S. employment report today. Yields on the 10-year German Bunds dropped 21bps to 2.07%. The ECB raised policy rates by 50bps as expected and signaled another 50bps in March but indicated that the path of interest rate increases would become data-dependent afterward. Likewise, the Bank of England raised its policy rate by 50bps but commented that it had “seen a turning of the corner” and signaled that future rate hikes would be data-dependent. Yields on the 10-year Gilts tumbled a staggering 30bps to 3.01%. U.S. non-farm production improved to 3% (vs consensus 2.4%) in Q4 from 0.8% in Q3 and unit labor costs growth decelerated to 1.1% in Q4 (vs consensus 1.5%) from 2.4% in Q3. Both were good news to the Fed’s disinflation narrative. Interest rate futures are pricing in 60 bps of rate cuts by the Fed in the second half of 2023 after a 25bp hike in March.

The Australian share market rallies to its highest level since April last year

Australia’s tech sector is starting to pick up momentum, and the technical indicators are looking interesting, suggesting upside on the weekly and monthly charts. Today the market hit new cycle highs, and its highest leveis also reacting to PMIs rising, a sign Australia’s economy is beginning to strengthen. Next week we will receive financial results from one of Australia’s top 10 banks, Suncorp, as well as real estate tech business, REA. In the following week (the third week of February) earnings season ramps up with CBA and Fortescue reporting Feb 15, BHP on Feb 21, followed by Rio the next day, followed by Qantas.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIG3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) were mixed

The Hang Seng Index pared early gains to finish the Thursday session 0.5% lower on the back of a strong rally in U.S. equities overnight and less upward pressure on domestic interest rates and currencies spilled over from higher U.S. interest rates down the road. Baidu (09888:xhkg), rising 5%, extended its strong recent gains on the ChatGPT concept and following BlackRock raised its stake to 6.6% from 5.4% in the Chinese search engine giant. Baidu was the best-performing stock on the Hang Seng Index for the second day in a row. Li Auto (02015:xhkg) climbed 1.9% after reporting delivery of 15,141 units of EV in January,  up 23% Y/Y. On the other hand, NIO (09866:xhkg) slid 5.3% following a 12% Y/Y decline in delivery to 9,652 units in January and on reports that the Chinese EV maker is cutting prices. Geely (00175:xhkg) dropped 3.3% after its high-end Zeekr brand delivered 12% fewer EVs from the year-ago period. Chinese mobile gaming stocks traded in the Hong Kong bourse soared with Forgame (00484:xhkg) leading the charge and jumping over 75%.  CSI 300 slid 0.4%. Pharmaceuticals, biotech, retailing, beverage, and coal mining advanced while defense, electric equipment, household appliances, and non-bank financials retreated.

FX: USD returns to strength as global yields plunge

The 30bps plunge in UK yields after the Bank of England kind of hinting at a pause saw GBPUSD back off from 1.24 to 1.2222. ECB also surprised dovish despite some very hawkish expectations being priced in by the markets, taking EURUSD back from 1.10+ to the 1.09 handle. EURGBP however still above 0.89 with ECB still guiding for another 50bps rate hike in March. Australian bonds also joined the global rally, and AUDUSD reversed back below 0.71. JPY was the clear outlier, ignoring the global bond yields plunge, and USDJPY continued to trade steady around 128.50.

Crude oil (CLG3 & LCOH3) prices soften

Oil prices saw a modest decline as jitters about Chinese demand and Russian sanction continued to underpin. OPEC output also saw a decline of 60kb/d amid reductions in Saudi Arabia and Libya. Meanwhile, a stronger dollar after the dovish tilts from the ECB and Bank of England weighed on the commodity complex in general. The US jobs report becomes the next test for the markets today, and for the US dollar, after Chair Powell’s comments were paid little heed. WTI futures were below $76/barrel while Brent was below $83.

Gold (XAUUSD) reversed from $1960 barrier; Largest global gold ETFs sees strong fund flows

Gold broke higher to fresh cycle highs in the post-FOMC euphoria, breaking past $1950, but a stronger dollar returned after ECB and BOE also took dovish turns resulting in steep drops in global bond yields. This made the yellow metal lose some of its shine, and it reversed before the test of the 76.4% retracement of the 2022 correction at $1963 to near-1910 levels. Immediate support at $1900, and the US NFP data along with the ISM surveys will continue to be the next key market movers to watch. Meanwhile also consider, the largest gold ETF fund globally GLD, has seen over $2 billion in inflows since the start of the year, suggesting retail buying is starting to ramp up.

 

What to consider?

Bank of England hikes 50bps, but further rate hikes see a high bar

As expected, the Bank of England raised rates by 50bps to 4%, with a vote of 7-2 as two of the usual doves opted to keep the rates unchanged. The Bank eased up on its forward guidance, saying that further policy tightening “would be required”, but only “if there were to be evidence of more persistent [inflationary] pressures” and preceding all of that language touting “considerable uncertainties” in the outlook. The previous language was more direct on the need to continue hiking. The latest message with the pre-conditions set for another rate hike suggested that the bank may pause. Accordingly, market pricing moved in a more dovish manner with odds of a 25bps March falling to around 60% from 80% pre-announcement with the chance of a May 25bps move around 12% vs. around 50% pre-announcement. Inflation and growth forecasts also hinted at a dovish turn. The accompanying MPR saw a downgrade to the 2023 inflation forecast to 4.0% from 5.25% with inflation of just 1.5% next year. BoE was less pessimistic on the economy, as peak unemployment was revised down to 5.3% from 6.0% and the peak to trough GDP dip was revised up to -1% from -2.9%. UK 10-year yields saw a massive 30bps drop and the 2-year was also down ~25bps.

Dovish ECB despite confirming another 50bps rate hike; German 10-year yields plunge 30bps

With very hawkish expectations set in, the ECB had a high bar to surprise hawkish. And it failed to do so. While the European Central Bank raised rates by 50bps to 2.50% and committed to another 50bps rate hike in March; but the statement said that at the March meeting, the ECB will evaluate the subsequent path of its monetary policy. This sent out a message that the most hawkish G10 central bank currently may also be looking at stepping down its pace of rate hikes. Lagarde attempted to stress the longevity of reaching terminal by stating that when the level is reached, rates will need to stay there. However, there was a clear scaling back of hawkish market pricing for 2023 with around 25bps of tightening taken out. Reuters sources later noted that ECB policymakers see at least two more rate hikes, with an increase of 25bps or 50bps in May, which may thrash hopes of a May pause for now. German 10-year yields slumped by 30bps, posting its biggest decline since 2011.

Today’s NFP data to be the next big test for US labor market

The weekly jobless claims nudged lower again to 183k from 186k for the week ending 28 January, a surprise against the expected rise to 200k. This suggest that the labor market is still tight, as the focus shifts to nonfarm payrolls release later today. Bloomberg consensus expects a modest cooling in the headline NFP gains to 189k from 223k in December. The unemployment rate is also expected to come in a notch higher at 3.6% from 3.5% previously while wage gains may soften slightly to 4.3% YoY from 4.6% YoY previously. A larger-than-expected softness in labor market can further send dovish signals to the market that is still dealing with the post-Powell and ECB/BOE dovishness.

Challenges for India’s Adani Group continue to mount

The market loss for the Adani Group mounted over $100bn, once again sending concerns of a possible contagion skyrocketing. Challenges for the group continue to mount since the Hindenburg report, with a shock withdrawal of share sales, some banks refusing to take Adani securities as collaterals and then the Reserve Bank of India asking Indian banks for details of the exposure to Adani Group. Furthermore, S&P Dow Jones Indices said that it will remove Adani Enterprises from its sustainability indices effective February 7, which would make shares less appealing to sustainability-focused mutual funds as well and cause foreign outflows. Contagion concerns are widening, but still limited to the banking sector. Focus remains on further risks of index exclusions, while a coherent response on the fraud allegations from the Adani Group is still awaited.

Shell beats on Q4 earnings

One of Europe’s largest oil and gas majors reported Q4 adjusted profit of $9.8bn vs est. $8.3bn driven by higher-than-expected oil and gas output for the quarter. Q4 dividends are lifted to $0.2875 per share vs est. $0.285.

 

 

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