What is our trading focus?
Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) - the initial reaction to Powell’s statement about retiring “transitory” inflation was lower equities and higher interest rates, but the subsequent price action has not followed through. Nasdaq 100 futures, which are the most interest rate sensitive, are trading at the high end of the recent trading range around the 16,380 level with the obvious resistance level at 16,438. Short-term the price action way be confusing with low signal-to-noise ratio, but our view has been clear for over a year, and that is, that inflation is coming and in size not seen in many decades. This will have a negative effect on the most richly valued equities such as our bubble basket on stocks.
Stoxx 50 (EU50.I) - one would think that Powell’s comments on inflation would lift value stocks and interest rates, and thereby creating a bigger rebound in European equities, but that is not what we are observing this morning. Stoxx 50 futures are trading around the 4,100 level with an important resistance level at 4,125; if this level can be overcome then our view is that Stoxx 50 futures could go to 4,200 and test the 200-day moving average.
USDJPY and JPY crosses – whiplash for JPY cross traders yesterday, as the hawkish comments from Fed Chair Powell on inflation took Fed expectations for next year sharply back higher. Longer US yields, to which USDJPY is normally more sensitive, were less impacted, somewhat muting the impact on USDJPY, but the development came at a critical time, just after USDJPY had dipped below 112.73 range support yesterday. The reversal is a tentative sign that the pair will avoid pushing lower, but we would likely need to see the entire US yield curve lifting to have support for a renewed rally focusing on the 115.00+ recent top.
EURUSD - will the ECB be forced to change its tune? Christine Lagarde’s insistence that inflation is a temporary phenomenon is under severe strain, even as she has been out this week defending this viewpoint, as was the ECB’s Schnabel, who boldly claimed that the November CPI data (more below) would prove the peak of the cycle. EURUSD churned sharply yesterday from a high of 1.1383 to a low of 1.1236 on the Fed Powell comments (below) before rebounding to 1.1336. The resilience later in the day despite a sharp repricing of Fed expectations is an interesting development, but the price action would need to threaten above 1.1500 to point to a technical reversal of the recent large sell-off.
Crude oil (OILUKFEB22 & OILUSJAN21) trades sharply higher after hitting a three-month low on Tuesday in response to omicron related demand worries and general weak risk sentiment following Fed chair Powell’s comments on inflation. The market attention now turns to tomorrow’s OPEC+ meeting where the group may decide to pause production hikes while signaling a willingness to cut production should the demand suffer from fresh initiatives to curb mobility, especially for overseas travel. As a sideshow, the EIA will release its weekly inventory report later with the API reporting a 0.7m barrels draw in crude oil stock while fuel stocks rose.
Gold (XAUUSD) trades higher after once again recovering from a Powell statement. Yesterday the Fed chair confirmed his recent change in focus away from creating jobs towards increasing efforts to curb elevated inflation. Risk appetite took another setback on the news but has recovered overnight as traders weighed positive regional economic data and divided views from drugmakers over how effective existing vaccines are against omicron. Overall, gold chart looks increasingly messy with no clear signal to be found at present. A break above the 21-DMA at $1820 is needed to spark fresh momentum interest while support continues to be found below $1780.
US Treasuries (IEF, TLT). Powell’s testimony in front of the senate put things in perspective: inflation is not transitory, and the Federal Reserve will use its tools to stop it. These words provoked a fast bear-flattening of the yield curve where short term yields rose faster than log-term yields were dropping. We expect this trend to continue throughout winter as a new wave of covid will pin down the long part of the yield curve, but the Fed is likely to accelerate the pace of tapering. An inversion risk cannot be excluded. The 20s30s part of the yield curve is already inverted, while the 7s10s is just 7bps to get inverted. Although the 2s10s and 5s30s spreads are much wider, any flattening can pose a threat to next year’s Fed’s interest rate hike agenda. Powell and Yellen will testify again in front of the Senate today. Job numbers remain a big focus for Friday.
US junk bonds (HYG, JNK). According to Bloomberg Barclays indexes, junk bonds’ OAS widened by 30bps to 330bps amid Friday’s selloff reflecting the lack of liquidity in markets. Despite negative real rates continuing to support corporate bond valuations, it’s safe to expect junk bond spreads to widen throughout the end of the year amid poor liquidity. If the volatility in rates remains sustained, the widening of spreads could accelerate, posing a threat also for stocks.
German Bunds (IS0L) and Italian BTPS (BTP10). Inflation accelerated more than expected in the Eurozone during the month of November setting the yearly figure to 4.9%. Inflation figures together with the new German government adds to the catalysts of higher Bund yields. However, covid distortions are keeping yield in check. We exclude Bund yield to rise to test 0% until the new wave of covid eases. However, as soon as the worries concerning covid ease, they will resume their rise.
What is going on?
Fed Chair Powell confirms that Fed emphasis has shifted to inflationary risks. In testimony before a Senate committee yesterday, Fed Chair Powell waxed far more hawkish than the market anticipated on inflation concerns, saying outright that it is time to retire the word “transitory” regarding the description of inflation, that “the risk of higher inflation has increased” and that “the risk of persistent high inflation is also a major risk to getting back to such a labor market.“ (referring to the pre-pandemic labor market). Powell also pointed to the likelihood that the Fed would wind down Fed balance sheet expansion more quickly than previously anticipated: “perhaps a few months sooner”. In response, expectations for Fed rate hikes next year were jolted back higher, just after they had been jolted lower by the omicron covid variant news.
Hot EU CPI numbers for November. Preliminary headline November EU CPI was out at 4.9% year-on-year, far above the 4.5% expected and the 4.1% in October and by far the highest inflation print since the launch of the euro. Core CPI rose to 2.6% year-on-year, above the 2.3% expected and the October level of 2.0%. This is also the highest level since the launch of the euro in 1999.
Germany’s incoming chancellor Scholz speaks on inflation, compulsory covid vaccination. The political pressure on the ECB to act is ratcheting higher after incoming German chancellor Scholz said that action must be taken if inflation fails to drop, though he seemed now to accept the notion that inflation is linked to covid measures and the spike in energy prices. He also spoke yesterday in favor of mandatory covid shots.
Salesforce shares down 6% on Q4 guidance. Investors are used to being spoiled by Salesforce with consistently beating analyst expectations, but last night the cloud application software company disappointed on Q4 guidance with revenue in line and adj EPS at $0.72-0.73 vs est. $0.82. The company also announced that Bret Taylor will become co-CEO next to founder Marc Benioff in a sign that the founder may soon step down like so many other technology founders in recent years.
What are we watching next?
Markets adjusting to new reality of a more hawkish Fed. In particular if the omicron variant of the covid virus proves a temporary distraction, global markets will need to adjust the major adjustment in the Federal Reserve’s focus and what that could mean for the US dollar and asset valuations ahead. Fed Chair Powell’s rhetoric yesterday likely mean a heightened reactivity to incoming data from here on out, all modulated in the very near term by headline risks in either direction on the omicron variant. The first major data points are the ISM Service index and November jobs report up on Friday. The Average Hourly Earnings could take over in importance from the payrolls change number if it shows more aggressive rises, as it seems clear that labor supply is the chief problem US companies face, as seen in record job availability and “quits” as workers leave jobs for greener pastures.
ADP employment figures for November. With the US economy operating at full capacity according to estimates from CBO, continued strong job gains will add fuel to the “inflation fire”, so today’s ADP figures could more interest rates and equities. Economists are looking at 525K vs 571K in October which would be a significant two-month change for an economy that has closed the output gap, but on the other hand, the US economy is still short around 8.5mn jobs from current levels to where employment would have been if we did not have the pandemic.
Earnings Watch – growth investors will have their eyes on Snowflake set to report after the market close with analysts expecting FY22 Q3 (ending 31 Oct) revenue growth of 92% y/y. Crowdstrike, being one of the fastest growing cyber security companies in the world, will also be key to watch today.
Wednesday: Trip.com, Royal Bank of Canada, National Bank of Canada, Snowflake, Synopsys, Crowdstrike, Veeva Systems, Okta, Splunk, Elastic, Five Below
Thursday: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Cooper Cos, Marvell Technology, DocuSign, Ulta Beauty, Asana, Dollar General, Kroger
Friday: Bank of Montreal
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
0730 – Switzerland Nov. CPI
0815-0900 – Euro Zone Final Nov. Manufacturing PMI
1315 – US Nov. ADP Employment Change
1330 – Canada Oct. Building Permits
1445 – US Nov. Final Markit Manufacturing PMI
1500 – US Fed Chair Powell, Treasury Secretary Yellen to testify before House panel
1500 – US Nov. ISM Manufacturing
1530 – DOE’s Weekly Crude Oil and Fuel Inventories
1900 - Fed Beige Book
0030 – Australia Oct. Trade Balance
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