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Equities: Momentum is building with breakout in technology stocks
US equities rose yesterday with S&P 500 futures reaching their highest close since mid-December and Nasdaq 100 futures rallied all the way to 12,000 before closing a bit lower. Sentiment is improving on technology stocks due to the significant layoff announcements improving the outlook for profitability. The US leading indicators were weaker than estimated and the level observed fits with a high degree of certainty of a recession, so it feels like the equity market is balancing on a knife-edge. Today is an important earnings session with the key focus being Microsoft after the market close, but ahead of the market open earnings from industrials such as GE and 3M will set the tone on the opening.
FX: USD falters again as risk sentiment bulls higher
The greenback has traded weaker since yesterday, although yesterday’s high water mark in EURUSD above 1.0900 yesterday has not yet been surpassed as the USD weakness was more pronounced against more pro-cyclical currencies like AUD and SEK within the G10 on the strong surge in risk sentiment, even as the anticipation of Fed rate cuts for late this year and through next year has eased significantly (about 30 basis points for the policy rate priced by end of 2024 from the trough of late last week). The Fed has entered a quiet period ahead of next Wednesday’s FOMC meeting, with little data in the interim save for the December PCE inflation data this Friday. Elsewhere, New Zealand and Australia report Q4 CPI tonight in the Asian session and a Bank of Canada decision is up tomorrow (see preview below).
Crude oil (CLH3 & LCOH3) supported by firm diesel prices ahead of sanctions
Europe’s diesel market reached a two-month high on Monday with the ICE gasoil (FPc1) contract trading above $1000 per ton. A development being driven by EU’s ban on seaborne imports of Russian fuel products from February 5, and increased demand for jet fuel as travel continues to recover. Overall, the focus stays with China amid hopes of a recovery in fuel demand more than offsetting potential weakness in the US as economic data points to slowdown. National holidays across Asia, especially in China and Singapore kept trading to a minimum. In Brent, traders will now be looking for $90 next while support is in the $84 area.
Gold trades higher on US recession concerns
Gold reached a fresh nine-month high overnight after US leading indicators saw another sharp fall in December, and together with weak company earnings and layoffs and last week's weak retails sales it raises the risk of a US recession in the near term. A senior director at The Conference Board said: “Overall economic activity is likely to turn negative in the coming quarters before picking up again in the final quarter of 2023”. Developments that raises the potential for just one more US rate hike before the FOMC decides to pause. ETF holdings, which has been drifting lower this month finally saw a small pickup in demand while silver’s plunge remains a concern. At one point on Monday, it dropped 5% on technical selling and long liquidation below $23.20 before recovering to trade $23.60 this am.
US Treasuries (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) yields continue to edge higher
US treasuries continue to soften, taking yields modestly higher after the 10-year benchmark’s move below the prior significant 3.40% low was rejected. This morning sees the 10-year benchmark trading back above 3.50% with company earnings and guidance in focus as the heart of earnings season swings into motion today. Yields at the front of the US yield curve have also rebounded from new lows posted last week in the wake of weak US Retail Sales and a dovish BoJ meeting, with the 2-year rising from a low of 4.03% last Thursday to 4.23% currently. The US treasury will hold a 2-year auction today.
What is going on?
Biden administration confronts China, accusing Chinese companies of supporting Russia’s war effort
Citing “people familiar with the matter”, a Bloomberg article claims that the Biden administration has confronted China with evidence that state-owned Chinese companies are supplying “non-lethal” military and other assistance that amounts to a support of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, while stopping short of “wholesale evasion” of US sanctions.
More positive signs the travel sector is roaring back in Asia; on land and in the air
Chinese road traffic congestion increased 22% from a year ago, as measured across 15 key cities. This is a positive sign that Chinese residents are striving to return to normalcy. Moving to air traffic, we believe the broader Asian-Pacific regional will likely report stronger numbers for Q4 of 2022 and Q1 of 2023, supporting higher revenue in the travel and tourism sector. Despite airlines travel returning, airlines costs are also rising with fuel costs higher after the oil price has bounced up 17% off its December low. Growth has a high ceiling for domestic Chinese air travel, with passenger traffic in November (the most recent available data point) at some 75% below late 2019 levels.
The Aussie dollar above 0.7000. Australia CPI next test
AUDUSD has traded back above 0.7000, nearly matching the highest levels since last August. The Aussie initially jumped to 0.7045 today in Asia after Australia’s service sector data improved, even though the Services PMI print remained in contractionary phase. The Q4 Australian CPI report is out tomorrow and is expected to rise to 5.8% YoY from 5.6% (for the important trimmed mean CPI), amid tighter energy markets, and higher metal prices.
Spotify to cut 6% of workforce
Like the rest of the technology sector Spotify announced yesterday that it is cutting 6% of its workforce to offset the top line weakness and improve profitability. The initial reaction in Spotify shares was strong but was faded during the session.
The US Leading Indicator (LEI) fell sharply again in December
It continues to signal recession for the US economy in the near term said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director, Economics, at The Conference Board. “There was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December, indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing construction, and financial markets in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the coincident economic index (CEI) has not weakened in the same fashion as the LEI because labor market related indicators (employment and personal income) remain robust. Nonetheless, industrial production— also a component of the CEI—fell for the third straight month. Overall economic activity is likely to turn negative in the coming quarters before picking up again in the final quarter of 2023.”
What are we watching next?
Bank of Canada meets tomorrow – most see a 25-basis point hike tomorrow followed by a pause
Most observers are looking for the Bank of Canada to hike one last time for this cycle tomorrow to take the policy rate to 4.50% and to indicate a pause to assess inflationary and labor market conditions before deciding on next steps. The Bank of Canada hiked rapidly in 2022 in an attempt to catch up with galloping inflation but has contrasted with the Fed in signalling a pause in the hike cycle before the Fed, which has been slow to signal that peak rates may be nearing. USDCAD trades near the lows since last November at 1.3350 this morning, with the 200-day moving average creeping higher and near 1.3200.
Earnings to watch
The Q4 earnings season accelerates this week with key earnings from Microsoft, ASML, Tesla, Visa, and Chevron. The aggregate earnings surprise for the S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings is currently 4.1% and the market has responded positively to the Q4 earnings reported so far with Netflix’s 8.5% jump on its strong outlook for its advertising business being the clearest evidence. Today’s key earnings focus is Microsoft (read our earnings preview here) with expectations of lower revenue growth and lower operating margin. Other important earnings today are from J&J, Texas Instruments, GE, and 3M.
- Today: Nidec, Microsoft, J&J, Danaher, Verizon, Texas Instruments, Raytheon Technologies, Union Pacific, Lockheed Martin, Intuitive Surgical, GE, 3M, Halliburton, DR Horton
- Wednesday: ASML, Lonza Group, Tesla, Abbott Laboratories, NextEra Energy, IBM, Boeing, ServiceNow, CSX, Freeport-McMoRan, Lam Research, Norfolk Southern
- Thursday: Tryg, Novozymes, Kone, Nokia, LVMH, Christian Dior, STMicroelectronics, SAP, Diageo, Atlas Copco, Volvo, SEB, Visa, Mastercard, Comcast, Intel, Blackstone, Valero Energy, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Dow, Nucor, L3Harris Technologies, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines
- Friday: Fanuc, Chevron, American Express, Colgate-Palmolive
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
- 0810 – ECB’s Klaas Knot to speak
- 0815-0900 – Eurozone Jan. Flash Manufacturing and Services PMI
- 0930 – UK Jan. Flash Manufacturing and Services PMI
- 0945 – ECB President Lagarde to speak
- 1100 – UK Jan. CBI Business Optimism and Trends in Total Orders/Selling Prices
- 1300 – Hungary Central Bank Rate Decision
- 1330 – Philadelphia Fed Non-manufacturing Survey
- 1445 – US Jan. Flash Manufacturing and Services PMI
- 1500 – US Jan. Richmond Fed Business Conditions
- 1800 – US Treasury auctions 2-year notes
- 2130 – API's weekly report on US oil inventories
- 2145 – New Zealand Q4 CPI
- 0030 – Australia Q4 CPI