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APAC Daily Digest: What is happening in markets and what to consider next – August 16, 2022

APAC Strategy Team

Summary:  The weaker-than-expected economic data from China caught much of the attention and dragged U.S. bond yields and commodities lower. U.S. equities have been in a 4-week rally. Investors are weighing if the U.S. economy is heading into a soft-landing or a recession and if the Chinese economy can recover in the coming months.

What is happening in markets?

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

U.S. equities opened lower on weak economic data prints from China as well as a weaker-than-expected Empire State manufacturing survey but climbed towards midday and finished higher. S&P 500 rose 0.4%. Nine of its 11 sectors gained, with shares of consumer staples and utilities outperforming. Nasdaq 100 rose 0.75%, led by a 3% jump in Tesla (TSLA:xnas). 

U.S. treasury yields fell

Treasury yields fell across the front end to the belly of the curve after a bunch of weak economic data from China and the Empire State manufacturing survey came in at -31.3, much weaker than 5.0 expected. Two-year yields fell by 7bps to 3.17% and 10-year yields declined 5bps to 2.78%. 

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

Hong Kong and mainland Chinese equities tried to move higher in early trading but soon reversed and turned south, Hang Seng -0.7%, CSI300 -0.1%.   The People’s Bank of China cut its policy on Monday but the unexpected move did not stir up much market excitement. The visit of another delegation of US lawmakers to Taiwan within 12 days of Speaker Pelosi’s visit stirred up concerns about the tension in the Sino-American relationship.   Container liner, Orient Overseas (00316:xhkg) plunged nearly 15%.  

Stocks that have a dual listing of ADRs, in general, declined on Monday’s trading in Hong Kong following Friday’s decisions for five central SOEs to apply for delisting from the New York Stock Exchange, PetroChina (00857:xhkg/PTR:xnys) -3.4%, Sinopec (00386:xhkg/SNP:xnys) -2.9%, Alibaba (09988:xhkg/BABA:xnys) -1.2, Baidu (09888:xhkg/BIDU:xnas) -1%, Bilibili (09626:xhkg/BILI:xnas) -1%.

SMIC (00981:xhkg) dropped more than 6% on analyst downgrades.  Chinese property names dropped as home prices continued to fall in China. 

USD broadly firmer against G10 FX, expect JPY

The US dollar started the week on the front foot, amid a weaker risk sentiment following a miss in China’s activity data and the disappointing US manufacturing and housing sentiments. The only outlier was the JPY, with USDJPY sliding to lows of 132.56 at one point before reversing the drop. The 131.50 level remains a key area of support for USDJPY and a bigger move in the US yields remains necessary to pierce through that level. The commodity currencies were the hardest hit, with AUDUSD getting in close sight of 0.7000 ahead of the RBA minutes due this morning. NZDUSD also plunged from 0.6450 to 0.6356.

The Chinese yuan weakened and bond yields fell after disappointing economic data and surprising rate cuts

USDCNH jumped more than 1% from 6.7380 to as high as 6.8200 on Monday following the weak credit data from last Friday, disappointing industrial production, retail sales, and fixed assets investment data released on Monday morning, and unexpected rate cuts by the People’s Bank of China. The 10-year Chinese government bond yield fell 8bps to 2.67%, the lowest level since April 2020, and about 20bps below the yield of 10-year U.S. treasury notes.

Crude oil prices (CLU2 & LCOV2)

Crude oil prices had a variety of headwinds to deal with both on the demand and the supply side. While demand concerns were aggravated due to the weak China data, and the drop in US Empire State manufacturing – both signaling a global economic slowdown may be in the cards – supply was also seen as being possibly ramped up. There were signs of a potential breakthrough in talks with Iran as Tehran said it sent a reply to the EU's draft nuclear deal and expects a response within two days. Meanwhile, Aramco is also reportedly ramping up production. WTI futures dropped back below $90 while Brent touched $95/barrel.

Metals face the biggest brunt of China data weakness

Copper led the metals pack lower after China’s domestic activity weakened in July, which has raised the fears of a global economic slowdown as the zero-Covid policy is maintained. Meanwhile, supply side issues in Europe also cannot be ignored with surging power prices putting economic pressure on smelters, and many of them running at a loss. This could see further cuts to capacity over the coming months. Iron ore futures were also down.

What to consider?

Weak Empire State manufacturing survey and NAHB Index

Although a niche measure, the United States NY Empire State Manufacturing Index, compiled by the New York Federal Reserve, fell to -31.3 from 11.1 in July, its lowest level since May 2020 and its sharpest monthly drop since the early days of the pandemic. New orders and shipments plunged, and unfilled orders also declined, albeit less sharply. Other key areas of concern were the rise in inventories and a decline in average hours worked. This further weighed on the sentiment after weak China data had already cast concerns of a global growth slowdown earlier. Meanwhile, the US NAHB housing market index also saw its eighth consecutive monthly decline as it slid 6 points to 49 in August. July housing starts and building permits are scheduled to be reported later today, and these will likely continue to signal a cooling demand amid the rising mortgage rates as well as overbuilding.

European power price soared to record high

European power prices continue to surge to fresh record highs amid gas flow vagaries, threatening a deeper plunge into recession. Next-year electricity rates in Germany advanced as much as 3.7% to 477.50 euros ($487) a megawatt-hour on the European Energy Exchange AG. That’s almost six times as much as this time last year, with the price doubling in the past two months alone. UK power prices were also seen touching record highs. European Dutch TTF natural gas futures were up over 6%, suggesting more pain ahead for European utility companies.

China’s activity data

China’s July industrial production (3.8% YoY vs consensus 4.3% & June 3.9%), retail sales (2.7% YoY vs consensus 4.9% & June 3.1%), and fixed asset investments (5.7% YTD vs consensus 6.2% & June 6.1%) released this more were weak across the board.  Property investment growth dropped to -6.4% YTD or -12.3% YoY in July, well below market expectations of -5.7% YTD. 

Surprising rate cuts from the PBOC met with muted market reactions

The People’s Bank of China cut its policy 1-year Medium-term Lending Facility Rate by 10bps to 2.75% from 2.85% and the 7-day reverse repo rate by 10bps to 2.0% from 2.1%.  Market reactions to the surprising move were muted as credit demand, as reflected in the aggregate financing and loan growth data was weak in China.

BHP ‘s FY22 results better than expected

The Australian mining giant reported FY22 results beating analyst estimates with strong EBITDA and EBITDA margin. Coal segment performance was ahead of expectations while results from the copper and iron ore segments were slightly below expectations.  The company announced a larger-than-expected dividend payout and a higher capex plan for 2023.

RBA minutes due to be released this morning

Earlier in the month, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) raised the cash rate by 50bps to 1.85% and the accompanying Statement on Monetary Policy emphasized an uncertain and data-dependent outlook. The RBA releases its minutes from the July meeting today, and the market focus will be on the range of options discussed for the August hike and any hint of future interest rate path. 

US retailer earnings eyed

After disappointing results last quarter, focus is on Walmart and Home Depot earnings later today. These will put the focus entirely on the US consumer after the jobs data this month highlighted a still-tight labor market while the inflation picture saw price pressures may have peaked. It would also be interesting to look at the inventory situation at these retailers, and any updated reports on the status of the global supply chains.



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