What is our trading focus?
US equities (US500.I and USNAS100.I): US equity momentum extends
US equities gained slightly yesterday with S&P 500 futures closing at 4,052 after trading as high as 4,082 intraday. This morning in early European trading hours S&P 500 futures are extending their gains as the US 10-year yield continues to push lower lifting overall sentiment. During yesterday’s session social media stocks such as Meta, Pinterest, Snap, and Alphabet were rallying as TikTok bans across the US and Europe are gaining traction. The earnings and macro calendars are light today so the only market moving event is Fed Chair Powell’s speech later today at 1500 GMT.
Hang Seng Index and CSI 300: rally fades on Sino-American tensions
After follow-through rallies in state-owned enterprises in Hong Kong and mainland bourses in the telecommunication and energy space in the morning, the Hang Seng Index and CSI 300 lost steam and turned south, losing 0.7% and 1.2% as of writing. In a press conference on the side-line of the Two Sessions, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang reiterated the “China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era” and downplayed Russia’s invasion into Ukraine to that the “Ukraine crisis has complex historical fabrics and practical reasons with the underlying nature being the eruption of the conflicts in the security governance of Europe”. The pro-Russian stance, as opposed to the more conciliatory-leaning stance in recent months toward the West, added to investors’ concern over the Sino-American relationship.
FX: AUD in the dumps on dovish RBA, EUR firm
The US dollar is not the focus at the moment as the market awaits further signals from Fed Chair Powell today and tomorrow in his two days of testimony before Congressional panels. The euro is firm on hawkish rhetoric from the ECB (more below) that has the market pricing more than 150 basis points of further tightening this year. Elsewhere, the Aussie weakened sharply as the statement overnight suggested the RBA is looking for excuses to pause its tightening regime – more on that below. The JPY trades passively as we await a pivotal Bank of Japan meeting on Friday, Governor Kuroda’s final meeting before he leaves office in early April.
Crude oil climbs to a five-week high
Cude oil trades higher for a sixth session amid a broader rally in stocks and a softer dollar. The market will keep an eye on comments from oil insiders, currently meeting in Houston at the annual CERAWeek, one of the world's premier energy conferences. Commentary made alluded to a pickup in demand, while supply remains somewhat restricted. It was said at the conference that 75% of global oil demand growth will come from China this year. Meanwhile, Estonia called for the EU to halve the $60 price cap on Russian oil this month. Overall, crude oil remains rangebound with Brent currently stuck between $81 and $87. US natural gas plunged on forecasts for milder-than-expected weather, and in just two trading sessions it gave back almost half the 53% gain achieved during the prior two weeks.
Gold eying Powell’s testimony
Gold (XAUUSD) hit a five-week high on Monday at $1858 before reversing lower overnight to test support around the 21-DMA at $1844. Together with US real yields reversing higher following last week’s drop when inflation expectations moved higher, the market sentiment is becoming a bit more cautious ahead of testimonies on Capitol Hill from Fed Chair Powell today and tomorrow. However, with the market currently pricing in a terminal Fed fund rate around 5.5%, any weakness in incoming data – the next major being Friday’s job report – may add further support. For the current recovery to become more than just a bounce, the price as a minimum need to break above $1864, the 38.2% of the February drop.
US wheat drops below $7/bu as market awaits monthly supply/demand report
The Chicago benchmark wheat contract (ZWc1) dropped below $7 a bushel on Monday for the first time in 17 months, pressured by adequate global supplies, especially from Russia, and optimism a deal can be reached to extend the UN-brokered Ukraine grain corridor deal when the current deal expires later this month. Ukraine’s grain exports are down 26.6% at 32.9 million tonnes in the 2022/23 season so far. Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics raised its estimate of its 2022/23 wheat harvest by 2.6 million tons to a record 39.2 million tons. Traders now look ahead to USDA’s monthly supply and demand report (WASDE) on Wednesday, in which the main change is expected to be another sizable drop in Argentine’s soybean and corn harvests following a troubled crop year hit by droughts and excessive heat.
US Treasury yields (TLT:Xmas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) close near unchanged after probe lower
The US 10-year yield extended to below 3.90% at one point yesterday before resistance came in and yields rebounded to unchanged near 3.95% ahead of two days of testimony from Fed Chair Powell today, although yields may pay more attention to the February US jobs report this Friday and CPI next Tuesday as Powell may bring little new to the table in his semi-annual testimony today, which is often more about the political theatre of the Congressional politicians.
What is going on?
Dovish hike from the RBA, which guides for a tightening pause
The RBA hiked by 25bps as expected to 3.6%, with the RBA seeing further tightening ahead. But a small change of phrase positioned this as a dovish hike and an RBA that may be seeking to pause its hiking regime at coming meetings. In the guidance on further tightening, February’s “In assessing how much further interest rates need to increase”, was changed in March to “In assessing when and how much further interest rates need to increase”, with the introduction of “when” a tip-off that the RBA is hoping to pause. Australia’s 2-year yield dropped some 14 basis points as the implied Australian cash rate this year peak fell from 4.1% to 4%. The RBA is concerned both that services inflation remains too high, but also that the lag effects of interest rates had not yet been felt in full by mortgage holders. AUDUSD erasing its intraday gain and slid into the red to below 0.6700 at one point.
Hawkish ECB chatter supporting EUR
ECB’s Holzmann called for interest rates to be raised by 50bps at each of the next four meetings, and suggested a restrictive policy rate would start from ~4%. President Lagarde and Chief Economist Lane were also on the wires suggesting more rate hikes as well. One of the investment banks, as a result, came out with a terminal rate forecast of 4.25% in wake of Holzmann's remarks, and this led to a drop in EU bonds and a surge higher in EUR crosses.
HelloFresh slips 9% in pre-market trading
The world’s largest meal-kit provider reports Q4 revenue of €1.87bn vs €1.92bn ahead of the European equity session and EBITDA of €160mn vs est. €137mn. HelloFresh is guiding FY23 EBITDA of €460-540mn vs est. €543mn. Investors are not impressed by these figures sending the shares down 9% in pre-market trading.
TikTok ban making progress in the US
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner is set to unveil a bill Tuesday that would allow the US to ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok and other Chinese technology. He said that the law will give the US the power to ban or prohibit foreign technology where necessary, considering companies like TikTok do not keep American data safely and is also a propaganda tool. US tech stocks Snap (+9%), Alphabet (+1.6%) and Pinterest (+1%) rallied on reports. Similar TikTok bans are sweeping through the continent of Europe with the EU parliament banning TikTok across three institutions and other EU members are considering national bans.
Trip.com beats estimates
Trip.com beat revenue and EPS forecasts as it reported Q4 results yesterday, fuelling more weight to the case for the upcoming surge in Chinese outbound travel demand. We had launched the APAC tourism basket to get exposure to this trend, and Trip.com is also included in this basket. Trip.com reported revenue of $729mn (vs. $709mn expected) and EPS of 11 cents (vs. loss of 3 cents expected).
What are we watching next?
Powell’s testimony kicks off today
Fed Chair Powell will begin his two-day testimony today before Congress, beginning with a session before the Senate Banking panel today. Over the last few weeks, data out of the US has been far more resilient than expected, fueling bets that the Fed will have to raise rates beyond what was communicated earlier and rates will stay elevated for longer as well. Most Fed members have also sounded hawkish, raising the prospect of a shift higher in March dot plot. If a similar message is conveyed by Chair Powell, we could see US Treasury yields rising again and the USD reversing back to an uptrend.
Earnings to watch
Today’s key earnings release is Crowdstrike expected to report FY23 Q4 (ending 31 Jan) results after the US market close. Analysts expect revenue of $625mn up 45% y/y and EBITDA of $113mn up from $7mn a year ago. Crowdstrike is expected to remain optimistic on its outlook as demand overall for cyber security solutions remain strong. It recent partnership with Dell Technologies provides additional exposure to on-premise workloads and should help on the outlook.
- Tuesday: Ashtead Group, Sea Ltd, Ferguson, Crowdstrike
- Wednesday: Ping An Bank, Thales, Adidas, Geberit
- Thursday: CATL, Deutsche Post, JD.com
- Friday: Daimer Truck, AIA Group, Oracle, DiDi Global
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
1500 – US Fed Chair Powell before Senate Banking Panel
1700 – EIA's Short-term Energy Outlook (STEO)
1730 – Switzerland SNB President Jordan to speak
1800 – US Treasury to sell 3-year Notes
2130 – API's Weekly Crude and Fuel Stock Report2155 – Australia RBA’s Lowe to speak