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Fast rising U.S. CPI data adds to equity market woes

Equities 8 minutes to read
APAC Strategy Team

Summary:  The larger than expected April U.S. CPI and core CPI reversed the attempt of the equity market to rebound and brought major U.S. equity indices firmly back onto their down trends. The surprising strength in services is particularly worrying and the money market is pricing in 143 bp hikes (i.e. almost three 50 bp hikes) in the next three FOMC meetings.


What’s happening in markets?

What spooked markets overnight was US inflation rose more than expected, which gives the Fed more ammunition to rise rates (more than they mapped out). Rising rates will cause further carnage, as when rates rise, bond yields tend to rise, which may trigger the US 10-year bond yield, to rise back over 3%,  (which is a better yield than the Nasdaq and S&P500 combined – just think about that for a second). As such the Nasdaq (with an average dividend yield of 0.9%) continued to fall and lost 3.2%. The Tech heavy index is down 28% from its high, and the technical indicators suggest it will likely continue to fall on a weekly and monthly basis, which supports our bearish fundamental view. The S&P500 lost 1.7% on Wednesday, (it has an average dividend yield of 1.66%).

The U.S. treasury yield curve flattened 13 bps since yesterday’s CPI releaseThe 10-year yield fell 10 bps to 2.89% while the 2-year yield rose 3 bps to 2.64%. It is worthwhile to note that the 10-year yield has fallen 30 bps in just three days from its May 9 high of 3.20%.  The treasury market is sending signals of investors being worried about a sharper slow-down in the U.S. economy. 

In Australia, the Aussie share market fell 1% and hit a support level 6,991 points, but energy companies hit new highs. If the ASX200 falls further bellow this level, it could fall 2.2% to the next support (at 6,837 points). The technical indicators, suggest this could occur, with the MACD and RSI suggesting a weekly and monthly could pull back. We ideally need to see better than expected news to break the cycle. All in all though, it’s worthwhile continuing to back those stocks that are outperforming and are likely to outperform this trajectory, with rising cashflow and earnings growth. Just take a look at today’s best performing stocks as an example. In Energy there is Ampol (ALD) up 3.5% with its shares hitting a 2-year high, and Viva Energy (VEA) up 3% to its highest level since 2019.

China and Hong Kong equity markets rebounded from their lows. After a weak opening, stocks traded in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen rebounded from their lows.  Hang Seng Index (HSI.I) was down  1% and CSI300 (000300.I) recouped all its early loss to close the morning session flat.  Infrastructure related A share, in particular county seat modernization names rallied.  Sunac China, China’s 4th largest property developer, failed to make a coupon payment of a dollar bond.  The news pushed down the shares of other Chinese developers traded in Hong Kong.

Asia stocks follow Wall Street down. Japan’s Nikkei (NI225.I) was down 1% in the Asian morning following US CPI release overnight and the slide in US indices overnight. Steel makers like Japan Steel (5631) and Kobe Steel (5406) surged in a big way after earnings results and profit outlook was better than expected. Singapore’s STI Index (ES3) was also in the red. Singtel (Z74) was up over 1% leading on the index as it broadened its 5G network to underground metro line. Chinese electric car maker Nio (NIO) is going to start trading on the Singapore stock exchange form May 20.

FX range trading continues. The USD had a hard time reacting to the US inflation print, suggesting range trading patterns may continue for now. While USDJPY slipped below 130 on lower real yields, EUR was still unable to overcome inflation and growth worries even with Lagarde hinting at a rate hike for July on stickier inflation, it dipped slightly to remain above 1.05 support. AUDUSD’s move above 0.7000 was not sustained and NZDUSD returned to sub-0.6300. GBPUSD is making a steadier move below 1.2300 ahead of UK GDP release.

What to consider?

US inflation may have peaked but the descent will be slow and painful. April U.S. CPI came at 8.3% YoY.  Core CPI, which excludes food & energy,  was 6.2% higher from a year ago.  Reiterating what we said in this piece, while headline inflation may be showing signs of peaking as base effects turn, it is likely to stay at these elevated levels. It was important to note that the 0.6% monthly increase of Core CPI  has brought inflation back to the uncomfortably high 0.5%-0.6% range from October 2021 to February 2022, after a temporary moderation in March.  Another worrying sign was the +0.7% core service price, which was the highest since 1990. Regular rents and owner-equivalent rents rose faster than expected and prices of reopening related spending, such as airfares and hotel lodging rose sharply.

The US consumer remains very strong, which gives pricing power to companies. Services inflation will also broaden further, suggesting we are in for a higher-for-longer mode. Take into the mix, a prolonged war, sustained disruptions from China and still-tight labor market. This means Fed’s hawkish rhetoric is set to stay. The money market has moved towards pricing in a 50bp hike in the Sept FOMC on top of the two 50bp moves anticipated for June and July.

Oil bulls pin their ears back: Both the Saudi oil Chief and UAE have warned that all energy sectors are running out of capacity, which supports our view that the oil price will hit higher levels over the longer term and also once China is out of lockdown. That being said, Saudi Aramco (ARAMCO) has strengthened regardless, along with many other oil companies, as their cashflows are rising at record paces. ARAMCO has now overtaken Apple as the world’s most valuable company. As we have been saying for some time now, it’s wise to consider revisiting oil stocks and oil ETFs. For instance, the ETF OOO that tracks the oil price, looks like it could break above a key trigger level and re-enter another uptrend, so that’s worth consideration. Also have a look at your favorite large oil stocks with rising earnings growth.

Malaysia’s rate hike will be a signal for the region. Bank Negara Malaysia started the rate hike cycle yesterday as we had expected, turning away from its patient stance in April. This comes on the back of a similar rate increase decision from the Reserve Bank of India last week in an out-of-cycle meeting. Ringgit interest rate swaps are now pricing in over 75-basis points of rate hikes over the next 6 months. This similar surge in hawkish pricing is being seen across emerging Asia, suggesting more pain for EM bonds.

Potential trading ides that could be worth your consideration?

US dollar and US dollar ETFs move higher. As mentioned last week the USD dollar is supported higher along with US dollar ETFS. The Invesco USD Index Bullish Fund ETF closed at a brand new record high overnight. BetaShares USD ETF is also hitting higher levels and looks like. As previously mentioned, also as our head of FX Strategy also said, we are bullish on the USD, as higher volatility and bond yield are expected. This supports the USD and USD ETFs.

BTC s in a bearish long term downtrend pressured by long term yield rising. For investors it could be worth considering shorting Bitcoin given rates are likely to continue to rise for now.

Buy USDHKD 12-month forward. HKD interest rates are set to rise towards or even go above those of the USD as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) withdraw HKD liquidity in its move to buy HKD against USD.  As the USDHKD spot rate touches 7.85, which is the weak-side convertibility undertaking of the HKMA, the HKMA intervened by buying HKD versus the dollar this morning.  Given the strength of the US dollar and the weak economic sentiment in Hong Kong and the mainland, it is likely that the HKMA will have to continue to intervene and withdraw HKD liquidity further.  Given the ample ammunition that the HKMA has in defending HKD’s Linked-exchange Rate Regime, investors who are interested in betting on persistent weakness in the HKD would be better off to take a long position of USDHKD 12-month forward (currently at around 7.83) which can go up as HKD interest rate rise even when the spot being capped at 7.85. 

Key economic releases this week:

  • Thursday: India April CPI, US April PPI
  • Friday: US Univ of Michigan sentiment, US import price index

     

    Key earnings release this week:

  • Thursday: Verbund, KBC Group, Brookfield, Fortum, Siemens, Allianz, Merck, Hapag-Lloyd, RWE, Atlantia, Snam, NTT, SoftBank Group, Aegon, Naturgy Energy, Motorola Solutions
  • Friday: Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, Honda Motor, Alibaba

 

For a global look at markets – tune into our Podcast. 

 

 

 

 

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