What’s happening in markets?
Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) erase part of the post-FOMC announcement declines
Equity markets were in a whipsaw falling sharply after the announcement of a 50bps rate hike which was accompanied by a hawkish shift in the dot plot which brought the terminal rate projections to 5.1% for end-2023 from 4.6% at the September meeting. Some of the decline was however reversed later as Chair Powell press conference went underway. Fed Chair Powell started the press conference with a hawkish tone in which he noted there is still some ways to go and the Fed needs to see substantially more evidence to have confidence inflation is on a sustained downward path back to target, although there was some reprieve after Powell stated during the Q&A that he thinks policy is getting to a pretty good place and close to sufficiently restrictive. S&P 500 ended the session down 0.6% and Nasdaq 100 was down close to 0.8%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIZ2) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) edged higher in a lackluster session
Hong Kong and Chinese stocks edged up higher. The Bloomberg story speculating about a delay in China’s annual Central Economic Work Conference due to a surge in Covid inflections in Beijing did not worry investors much. Investors were encouraged by signs that the Chinese authorities were not reversing course despite outbreaks after the easing of restrictions. China will stop reporting infections without symptoms as mandatory testing has been dropped. Hang Seng Index climbed 0.4%. CSPC Pharmaceutical (01093:xhkg), rising 6.5%, was the best performer in the benchmark index. Hengan (01044:xhkg), Sunny Optical (02382:xhkg), Techtronic Industries (00669:xhkg), Li Ning (02331:xhkg), and Baidu (09888:xhkg) were other outperformers, gaining between 3% and 6%. Previously battered Chinese educational services providers soared while online healthcare names pulled back from recent strength on profit-taking. Alibaba Health (00241) slid 7%. In A-shares, CSI 300 gained 0.3%, with semiconductor, tourism, lodging, and Chinese liquor stocks advancing.
FX: Hawkish Fed unable to provide a lasting bid to the dollar
The USD eventually settled lower on Wednesday following the FOMC rate decision and the press conference by Chair Powell. Initial positive reaction following the upside adjustment in the dot plot was erased as Chair Powell said he thinks policy is getting to a pretty good place and policy is getting close to sufficiently restrictive. GBPUSD tested the critical 1.2450 with UK CPI also coming in softer than expected at 10.7% and cooled from the prior 11.1%. EURUSD got in close sight of 1.0700 while USDJPY fluctuated between 135-136.
Crude oil (CLF3 & LCOG3) extended the rally on IEA outlook
Crude oil prices surged higher again on Wednesday with the IEA warning that prices may rise next year as sanctions squeeze Russian exports. It expects its output will fall by 14% by the end of the first quarter. It also increased estimates for global demand by 300kb/d, in a nod to China’s reopening. Overall crude consumption is expected to rise 1.7mb/d next year to average 101.6mb/d. A weaker US dollar despite the Fed’s hawkish shift in the dot plot also underpinned, while the unexpectedly large increase in US inventories was shrugged off. WTI futures rose above $77/barrel while Brent touched $83.
What to consider?
FOMC sets the terminal rate forecast at 5.1%, above market expectations
The Fed voted unanimously to lift the Federal Funds Rate target by 50bps to 4.25-4.50%, as expected, downshifting the pace of rate hikes. While the statement was broadly unchanged, the updated economic projections showed Fed Funds at 5.125% by December 2023 and core PCE still at 3.5% by that time. That implies 75bps of more tightening in this cycle, which will be seen in 2023, but the markets are still pricing in a peak rate of 4.87%. After that point, the dot plot is far more distributed, but the median projects the Federal Funds Rate target at 4.1% by the end of 2024, suggesting 100bps of rate cuts. Equities did see a negative reaction to the upside surprise in terminal rate projections, but this may remain short-lived as markets remain focused on incoming data. Bond markets had little reaction to the Fed’s updated dot plot. Dollar fell.
Australia employment report better-than-expected
Australia’s November employment rose 64k, higher than the +19k estimate and more than the revised +43k gains for October. Jobless rate was steady at 3.4% and participation rate came out higher to return to the record highs of 66.8% (vs. estimate 66.6%). The strength in the labor market will continue to provide room to the Reserve Bank of Australia to continue with its modest rate hikes, after it has already downshifted to a smaller rate hike trajectory.
A weak set of Chinese activity data is expected
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are forecasting that China’s retail sales shrank sharply by 3.9% Y/Y in November. The potential weakness is likely attributed to poor performance of auto sales, dining-in activities, and sales during the “double-11” online shopping festival in the midst of Covid-19 lockdowns during the best part of November. November auto sales in China fell by 9.2 %Y/Y and by 10.5% M/M. Courier parcels processed on Nov 11 fell 20.7% Y/Y. The growth in industrial production is expected to fall to 3.7% Y/Y in November from 5% to 3.7%, following a weak November NBS manufacturing PMI and soft high-frequency data of steel production. Year-to-date fixed asset investment is expected to edge0 down to 5.6% from 5.8%, dragged by stringent pandemic control practices.
ECB also likely to downshift to a smaller rate hike
The European Central Bank (ECB) is also expected to slow down its pace of rate hikes to a 50bps increase this week. Headline inflation eased slightly in November, coming in at 10.0% YoY (exp. 10.4%), but was overshadowed by an unexpected rise in core inflation 6.6% YoY (exp. 6.3%, prev. 6.4%). While there is likely to remain some split in ECB members at this week’s meeting, the central bank’s Chief Economist Lane remains inclined to take into account the scale of tightening done so far. There is also uncertainty on the announcement of quantitative tightening.
Bank of England may remain more divided than the other major central banks
The Bank of England is also expected to follow the Fed and the ECB and downshift to a smaller rate hike this week, but the decision will likely see a split vote. A host of key data, including GDP, employment and inflation will be due this week in the run up to the BOE decision, and significant positive surprises could tilt the market pricing more in favour of a larger move which also creates a bigger risk of disappointment from the central bank. Headline annualised inflation advanced to 11.1% Y/Y in October, while the core rate remained at an elevated level of 6.5%. Consensus expects inflation to cool slightly to 10.9% Y/Y in November, but the core to remain unchanged at 6.5% Y/Y. Wage pressures are also likely to be sustained, and the cooling in the labor market will remain gradual.
The U.S. is adding China’s top memory chips maker to the trade blacklist
The U.S Department of Commerce is reportedly moving Yangtze Memory Technologies, a leading memory chip maker in China, together with 30+ other Chinese companies, from the Unverified List to the Entity List, after the expiry of a 60-day period for the company to answer requests for information about its business and customers. The Entity List is the official export control blacklist that restricts companies from access to American technologies.
New Zealand Q3 GDP comes in above expectations
A big positive surprise in NZ Q3 GDP which came in at 2.0% Q/Q sa vs expectations of 0.9% and higher than last quarter’s revised 1.9%. With the possibility of a recession in 2023 highlighted yesterday, this print suggests that there is a substantial amount of work left to be done by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to dampen demand in order to curb inflation.
Bank of Japan policy review speculation gathers further pace
Some reports suggested that the BOJ could review policy next year, after pay growth and any slowdown in the global economy are closely examined. The results of spring wage negotiations come in mid-March, after Governor Haruhiko Kuroda's final policy meeting, so an assessment would probably be done after he departs. The review could reaffirm the existing ultra-loose framework, but possibility of some tweaks to the yield curve control policy remains as inflationary pressures remain a concern.