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Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I)
US equities continue to toy with key resistance levels as Q4 earnings season got underway on Friday, dipping intraday but ending the week on a high note, just one point shy of the psychologically important 4,000 level in the S&P 500 index (cash index, the future trades clear of 4k), which is also just above the 200-day moving average and near other technical levels. Today is a market holiday in the US, but through next week’s heavy calendar of megacap earnings reports, traders will watch whether the market can clear this key resistance area and make a bid to surpass the December pivot highs near 4,100 for the cash index. The Nasdaq 100 index has more work to do, still trading almost 600 points below its 200-day moving average and the December pivot highs above 12,100.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIF3) and China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg)
The CSI300 surged over 2%, led by pharmaceuticals, computing, and nonbank financials. Expectations of reacceleration of economic activities as a result of reopening and relaxation of regulation continued to boost market sentiment. Corporate filing information showed that The Chinese authorities had recently taken up “special management shares” also known as “golden shares” in local units of Alibaba and Tencent (00700.xhkg) apparently to exert influence over business decisions far beyond the around 1% equity stake that otherwise represents under normal situations. Investors generally welcome the move as it tends to signal that the Chinese authorities are shifting from a less predictable and heavy-handed crackdown on internet platform companies to more institutionalized and predictable supervision of the industry. By mid-day Monday, Alibaba and Tencent each gained about 1% and the Hang Seng Index advanced 0.7%.
FX: JPY takes centre stage this week as BoJ to meet Wednesday
The Japanese yen gained over 3% against the USD last week, moving from highs of 132.87 to lows of 127.46 on Friday. The yen was also stronger on all the crosses amid Bank of Japan’s unscheduled bond buying operations as the markets continued to test the policy yield cap of 0.5% ahead of the BoJ meeting this week and speculation of further policy tightening (more below). The US dollar was also broadly weaker, as EURUSD posted marginal new cycle highs overnight above 1.0870. AUDUSD has found a bid of late on anticipation of China’s reopening, testing 0.7000 overnight but reversing back a bit lower into early European trading today. Australia’s employment data will be key on Thursday. GBPUSD will focus on the host of UK data, from labour market data tomorrow morning, to the CPI release on Wednesday and Retail Sales data on Friday.
Crude oil (CLG3 & LCOH3) trades softer after last week's strong gains
Crude oil prices were steady to softer in early Monday trading after recording over 8% gains last week on China’s reopening optimism. China’s road traffic levels are continuing to rebound from record low levels following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. A congestion index comprising the 15 cities with the most vehicles registrations has risen by 31.3% vs a week earlier. Meanwhile, increased import quotas by China saw oil demand pick up in the physical market. Sentiment was also bolstered by expectations of the Federal Reserve slowing its interest rate hikes, following lower than expected inflation. Shale executives looking to substantially increase drilling would need US oil prices to climb to $89 a barrel, according to the latest energy survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. OPEC and IEA release their monthly oil market reports on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Gold and copper trades softer following last week's surge
Gold together with copper has been the in-demand commodities at the start of the year on China demand recovery hopes and not least the softer dollar and bond yields as the market adjust lower their expectations for future US rate hikes. Gold reached an eight-month high and copper a six-month high overnight before running into some light profit-taking. With RSIs on both in overbought territory, the underlying strength of both metals will sooner or later be tested, and the dollar probably holds the key. Hence the importance of Wednesday’s BoJ meeting, the outcome of which may trigger a major move in USDJPY (see below). Gold demand in India may suffer a temporary setback as traders adapt to near record prices. In addition, we have yet to see demand for ETF’s, often used by long-term focused investors, spring back to life with total holdings still hovering near a two-year low.
US Treasury yields rebounded slightly Friday (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas)
After trading near the cycle lows of late last year into 3.40% for the 10-year benchmark on benign inflation data last week and a series of very strong auctions for especially longer-dated US Treasuries, the 10-year yield rebounded toward 3.50%. US treasury markets are closed for a holiday today.
What is going on?
Iron ore loses heat, falling 4.5% after China accuses parties of price gouging
The key steel making ingredient, iron ore (SCOA) fell 4.5% to $119.85 in Asia today, after China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said its cracking down on illegal activities such as hoarding and price gouging as it attempts to keep the iron ore price stable, after the iron ore price had risen 65% from October. Still iron ore inventory levels are lower than they were a year ago, when China’s economy was effectively in lockdown. Shares of iron ore majors, however, remained near their record highs with investors remembering that China has made such accusations in the past, and the iron ore price has recovered. BHP ended slightly higher, closing around record high territory, Rio fell slightly from its records while Fortescue Metals fell 2%.
Corn (ZCH3) closed last week with strong gains following the US crop output report
Corn prices recorded their biggest weekly gain since August as droughts curb the world’s supply buffer. The US Department of Agriculture unexpectedly cut its outlook for US domestic production and available stocks of both corn and soybeans, a sign that an ongoing drought from last year may continue to underpin prices. The worst Argentinian drought in 60 years also led to a downgrade in the outlook for soybeans and corn production, some of that being partly offset by an expected bumper harvest in Brazil. Corn prices were up over 3% in the week and Soybeans up over 2%. Part of the rally being driven by wrongfooted speculators who ahead of the report had cut bullish corn bets by 24%.
Hedge funds opened their 2023 accounts by aggressively cutting exposure across the agriculture sector
With energy also being sold, the latest COT report covering the week to January 10 saw buying being concentrated in just a few metal contracts led by copper and gold. Overall, the gross long across the 24 major commodity futures tracked in our weekly update fell by 15% to 1,194,000 contracts, the biggest one-week drop in six months. The changes were in line with price development across the different sectors with gains in precious (0.6%) and industrial metals (1.7%) being offset by losses in energy (-3.9%) grains (-2.7%), softs (-3%) and livestock (-1.5%).
What are we watching next?
Bank of Japan meeting on Wednesday shaping up as major event risk
The recent news flow and rumor mill sees the Bank of Japan announcing further tweaks to its policy this Wednesday at its meeting, with a further JPY surge on Friday a clear sign that the market sees the meeting as a major event risk. As well, the Bank of Japan again broke its daily record for Japanese government bond purchases Friday as yields defied its 0.5% cap. The BOJ bought roughly 10 trillion yen ($78 billion) in JGBs over the past two days, with a 5 trillion yen purchase on Friday topping the high it had just set Thursday and is preparing to purchase more Japanese government bonds today, according to the Nikkei Somewhat ironically, the anticipated further widening of the BoJ’s yield-curve-control “band” (de facto more of a “cap”) on 10-year JGB’s this week or at a future meeting comes as long yields are dropping sharply elsewhere, accentuating the tightening of spreads between Japanese yields and those in, for example, Europe and the US.
Earnings to watch
The Q4 earnings season continues this week, with a relatively light schedule before next week’s mother lode of mega-cap earnings reports. The key uncertainty is credit quality in 2023 as it is linked to the degree of a recession, or even whether there will be a recession at all in the US economy. Overall, the Q4 earnings season is likely going to see an extension of value and tangible companies performing better than intangible-driven companies. Interesting names this week include a former high-flyer like Netflix, which has achieved a more than 100% rally of its 2022 lows coming into this week’s report, even if it trades at under 50% of its peak valuation back in late 2021.
- Tuesday: Sartorius Stedim, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Interactive Brokers
- Wednesday: EQT, Charles Schwab, PNC Financial Services, Kinder Morgan
- Thursday: Procter & Gamble, Netflix
- Friday: Investor, Sandvik, Ericsson, Schlumberger
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
- US Markets Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
- 1300 – Poland Dec. Core CPI
- 1500 – UK Bank of England Governor Beaily to testify on financial stability
- 2330 – Australia Jan. Westpac Consumer Confidence
- 0200 – China Dec. Industrial Production/Retail Sales/Q4 GDP
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