Equities: New extremes and a challenging opportunity set
Discover insights on the future of equity markets in Q1 2024 and navigate the potential recession with strategic investment choices.
Summary: Markets were surprised yesterday by the strength of the November US ISM Services survey, which suggests a fresh increase in services activity from the October level as opposed to the deceleration expected. In response, US yields rebounded all along the curve, the US dollar rose sharply, and risk sentiment rolled over again, suddenly threatening key areas in the main US index that were taken out on the way up recently.
S&P 500 futures gave up most of their gains from Wednesday last week closing just above the 4,000 key level. The rejection of the move above the 200-day moving average suggests to us that the conviction is low at this stage of the rally and if we see a breakdown below the 4,000 level then the 100-day moving average down at the 3,936 level is the next pivot point to watch.
Hong Kong stocks pulled back following overnight weakness in the U.S. market and the uncertainty in the Fed’s ability to slow down in its pace of hiking interest rates after recent data indicating strength in wage inflation and business activities in the U.S. services sector. Hang Seng Index lost 1.3% while the CSI 300 was 0.3% higher. The rapid surge in the Hong Kong dollar money market interest rates recently also weighed on Hong Kong stocks.
The US November ISM Services survey cam in far stronger than expected, inspiring a fresh surge in US treasury yields, if a relatively modest one, and a significant rebound in the US dollar as risk appetite rolled over. The USD reversal is particularly interesting from a technical perspective as it came after support had broken in a few important USD pairs. EURUSD, for example, has been pushed back below 1.0500 this morning after an attempt on 1.0600 yesterday and after clearing the prior cycle high. USDJPY has surged above 137.00 after touching below 134.00. A more comprehensive reversal of the recent USD sell-off, however, would require EURUSD back below 1.0400 and USDJPY back above perhaps 139.00, with the key oncoming event risk next Tuesday’s November US CPI print and the FOMC meeting the following day.
...and following the failure to break above $1808, the August high, it reverted lower to a challenge recently established lows in the $1765 area. The turnaround was triggered by unexpectedly strong US services data adding renewed pressure on the Fed to keep interest rates higher for longer. Total holdings in bullion backed ETF’s suffered a large 13.7 tons reduction on Monday, and it highlights golds continued dependence on the dollar and yields to provide support, and once they fail to do so, selling emerges. Focus on Friday’s PPI report and liquidity which is likely to start drying up, thereby raising the risk of volatile price action ahead of year-end. Silver meanwhile tumbled 5.6% on Monday and has now returned to challenge support at $22.25
...after supportive micro developments such as restrictions on Russian sale of oil and China easing Covid restrictions were offset by a broad shift lower in risk sentiment after stronger than expected US data lifted the dollar and bond yields while sending stocks lower. For now, the price action remains stuck in a ten-dollar range with no clear short-term direction emerging. The market is undoubtedly going through a soft patch regarding demand with Saudi Arabia lowering its official January selling prices to Asia while time spreads continues to soften as the spot price falls faster than prices further out the curve.
The stronger than expected US November ISM Services survey saw a rebound in US treasury yields all along the curve as the market priced the Fed to edge its policy rate a bit higher next year (peak yield seen hitting 5.00% again) as the 2-year Treasury yield surged over 10 basis points higher and the US 10-year benchmark pulled away from the important 3.50% level, although to suggest a reversal of the recent downtrend in yields, the benchmark yield would need to recover above 3.70-75%.
This is an important data point as the services sector dominates US economic activity. The market was looking for another deceleration of activity in November (consensus expectations for a 53.5 reading) after 54.4 in October. Among the sub-indices, the Prices Paid index was sticky at the high level of 70.0 vs. 70.7 in October, New Orders were 56.0 vs. 56.5 in October and Employment was 51.5 after 49.1 in October.
The hike took the cash rate from 2.85% to 3.1%. The AUD was mixed, rebounding sharply from session lows against NZD but that only came after a further slide late yesterday. The RBA maintained cautious guidance, saying the full effects of rates hikes since May have not been felt yet by the economy, while also declaring employment growth had slowed. As such the RBA said its path to achieving a soft landing is narrow, meaning it might be hard to avoid a recession. This also follows news out of Australia today that its current account fell into a deficit for the first time since 2019. The RBA warned it sees inflation increasing over the months ahead, particularly in wages. It conceded inflation is damaging the economy and is making life more difficult for people. The market only anticipates another 50 basis points of tightening in the coming 12 months from the RBA, as it’s rate peak lags the US Fed’s by nearly 150 basis points.
...as China’s demand isn’t meeting expectations. Tesla shares are now down 53% from their high and what’s keeping their shares at this level is that the raw material costs are still high, for example the price of lithium is back at record highs, and the market consensus suggests earnings growth will remain at near the 20% mark.
...arguing that global overcapacity and carbon-intensive production in China could see the duties assessed on imports of key metals. The story is from Bloomberg, which cited “people familiar” with the situation.
Before the Central Economic Work Conference convenes in mid/late December, the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo will meet in early December to discuss economic policies and establish the direction and policy framework for the work conference. Investors will pay close attention to the readout from the Politburo meeting for hints about the macroeconomic policy priorities and how they are balanced with the pandemic control strategy.
Yesterday’s final PMI indicators for November point to a very mild GDP contraction in Q4 in the eurozone (minus 0.1 % or minus 0.2 % in our view). The manufacturing PMI surged marginally to 47.1 from 46.4 in October. The report was rather mixed. The softening of inflationary pressures continues but additional orders are falling once again due to lower client demand at the global level. This was expected. The services PMI was also out in contractionary territory at 48.5 against prior 48.6 in October. This is the exact same number as the flash estimate. This is the lowest level since early 2021. Overall, the services and the manufacturing sectors are more resilient than most expected a few months ago when fears of the energy crisis started to cause panic.
Today’s US earnings focus is the homebuilder Toll Brothers which is expected to see revenue growth slow down to 6% y/y in the quarter that in October as the US housing market is drastically slowing down from the interest rate shock in mortgages. While growth is slowing down for Toll Brothers investors will be looking for evidence that margins might even begin expanding as building materials are coming down in price.
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