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 are trying to build some positive energy as the volatility in the US treasury market has eased in recent days, although Fed tightening expectations remain near the peak for the cycle ahead of another important CPI release on Thursday, certainly the macro event of the week. Today is mid-term election day in the US, where the Republicans are expected to take back at least the House of Representatives.
US equities gained 0.8% pushing above the 3,800 level and the 50-day moving average. The resistance level is up at around the 3,900 level with the 3,724 level being the short-term support level to watch. For US equities the biggest event to watch is today’s Midterm elections in the US which could change the political landscape in favour of the Republicans flipping the House. But for years polls have been terrible in predicting anything on US politics, so we remain neutral on the outcome. The US 10-year yield is advancing to 4.22% adding headwinds on equity valuations.
The China reopening trade took a pause in Hong Kong and the mainland bourses as domestically transmitted new cases in the mainland doubled to 7,455. Guangzhou, the capital city of the Southern Guangdong province reported 2,377 new cases and launched mandatory testing in 9 of the 11 districts of the city and extended the lockdown of Haizhu district to Friday. Hang Sang Index fell 0.7% and CSI300 dropped 1.3%.
The US dollar traded in a narrow range yesterday, with EURUSD near parity this morning after trading solidly above yesterday, but not yet threatening the 1.1094 pivot high from late October. Elsewhere, GBPUSD has traded briefly above 1.1500 but is still bottled up below the key range high above 1.1600, while AUDUSD is closer to the cusp of a break-out as it has traded as high as 0.6491, just shy of the 1-month pivot high of 0.6522 and the AUD likely keying off developments in China (hopes for an easing of Covid restrictions, commodities following through higher after last week’s rally, etc.) It feels like the next move for the greenback will key off the Thursday October CPI release, as CPI releases have sparked considerable volatility in recent months.
Crude oil remains in consolidatory mode after failing to find additional buying interest during Monday’s temporary break above the October high in Brent at $98.75 and $93.65 in WTI. The themes driving markets remain the same with supply worries driven by OPEC+ production cuts and EU sanctions against Russian oil from December 5 being offset by concerns about the health of the global economy and China’s prolonged battle with Covid with daily infections hitting a six-month high. Despite this latest acceleration in cases, the market has started to price in a lifting of restrictions sometimes early next year, an event Goldmans estimate could add between $6 and $15 upside risks to prices. Today, the US Midterm elections is likely to steal some of the attention ahead of API’s weekly stock report tonight. Meanwhile, US natural gas (NGZ2) futures soared beyond $7/MMBtu on cold weather fears in the West and the Northeast before trimming the advance overnight.
The MOVE index, a measure of the implied volatility of the US treasury market, has dipped sharply in recent days, posting its lowest levels since early September, perhaps as the market feels there are few surprises left in store from the Fed now that Fed funds expectations have reached above 5.00% and US yields at the longer end have remained bottled up in the 3.90%-4.30% range. The October US CPI release on Thursday is the next test for the US treasury market.
The Bank of Japan released summary of opinions of the October policy meeting today, broadly reaffirming the easy monetary policy stance. Still some members stuck a slightly different tone, noting that Japan's inflation likely to remain fairly high as there are signs service prices starting to rise, and “cannot rule out chance prices will sharply overshoot forecasts.” Still, sustained wage gains remained the base case for Japan to achieve its price target and members agreed that there was no immediate need to tweak monetary policy. Importantly, one member noted that the Bank of Japan must continue examining how a future exit from ultra-low interest rates could affect financial markets, in a rare mention of an exit.
Tesla shares were 5% lower yesterday as investors are getting more nervous about CEO Elon Musk intense focus on Twitter after he acquired the social media platform. Many advertisers have pulled back on advertising on Twitter leaving the company losing around $4-5mn a day with sizeable debt due. Investors are worried that Elon Musk is losing his focus but also that he will be forced to sell Tesla shares to fund Twitter operations.
The gaming company lifts its FY net income projection to JPY 400bn from previously JPY 340bn on strong demand with the company seeing little impact on its sales from global inflation.
Australia’s consumer sentiment tumbled to its lowest level in 2.5 years and business confidence also weakened as higher interest rates and surging inflation stoke caution over the economic outlook. NAB business confidence plunged to 0 from 5 in September, while the Westpac consumer confidence index was down to 78 for November from 83.7 previously. This bodes ill for spending ahead, suggesting RBA’s caution on rate hikes may continue to prevail despite the continued hot CPI reports.
The Eurozone Sentix Investor confidence index was out at minus 30.9 in November versus 38.3 in October. This is a strong improvement. But the index was actually at its lowest level last month since March 2020. The other components increased too. The current situation improved to minus 29.5 while the expectations index jumped to minus 35.5. The uptick is clearly not a reversal trend. This is more of a rebalancing. Investors were too pessimistic in recent months regarding the evolution of the European energy crisis. The risk of energy rationing was overestimated, for instance. High gas storage and better weather will help avoid this nightmare scenario. This does not mean that the improvement in the Sentix index will continue, however. The eurozone recession will likely dampen investors’ hopes.
According to the Manheim index, used car prices continue to crash, with a year-over-year change at minus 10.4 % in October. This is the worst drop since December 2008. This matters because until the summer used car prices were one of the main contributors to U.S. inflation.
The crypto market is in negative territory today after growing concerns about the liquidity of the crypto exchange FTX - specifically tied to its hybrid investment fund/market maker Alameda Research. The selloff in cryptos was partly triggered by the nosedive of the FTX token, which together with the Solana token makes up a notable portion of Alameda's balance sheet.
Pundits suggest that the Republicans have very strong odds of flipping the House of Representatives in their favour, while the odds look finely balanced for whether the Senate ends retaining the slim Democratic majority or moves to Republican control, which would only require one more Republican seat. There are few immediate ramifications if Republicans take both houses, as US President Biden has the presidential veto, but a stronger than expected Democratic showing that somehow sees them retaining the House and strengthening their Senate majority would be a game changer – opening for more policy dynamism (and inflation from fiscal stimulus) from the US over the next two years rather than the expected lame-duck presidency. The latter is a very unlikely scenario, but uncertainty is high as pollsters have had a hard time gathering accurate polls, especially for specific states, for every election since Trump’s victory in 2016.
Today’s US earnings focus is Walt Disney which is expected to deliver revenue growth of 15% y/y but also significant margin pressure with gross margin expected at 32.5% the lowest Q1 2021. EPS is expected at $0.51 down from $0.91 in Q2.
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
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