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Market Insights Today: US jobs data confirms labor market strength; ECB’s surprise hawkishness – 20 January 2023

APAC Research

Summary:  The US equity markets ended lower again on Thursday as strong US jobless claims data underpinned, despite Fed speakers largely supporting the case of a downshift in February. Meanwhile, ECB speakers surprised hawkish, supporting EURUSD, and the post-BOJ strength in Japanese yen also sustained. Mixed earnings results with P&G down but Netflix rising despite missing EPS estimates as subscriber numbers grew. Gold returned to gains after three days of pullback, and crude oil prices also edged higher on China optimism.

What’s happening in markets?

Nasdaq 100 (NAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I) slid on concerns about earnings

Nasdaq 100 moved down by 1% and S&P500 slid 0.8% in a relatively quiet day. Energy and communication services bucked the decline and managed to each gain around 1%. Microsoft added to its previous day’s decline, falling 1.7% on Thursday. Consumer product giant, Procter & Gamble (PG:xnys) dropped 2.7% on a small earnings miss but disappointing organic sales growth due to a weaker-than-expected volume trend. Netflix (NFLX:xnas) jumped 6.9% in the extended hours after reporting a 7.7 million subscriber increase in Q4.

US Treasuries (TLT:xnas, IEF:xnas, SHY:xnas) consolidated on hawkish ECB comments and a strong Philly Fed survey

Treasuries erased their gains in Asian hours as yields followed German bunds higher in London hours on pushbacks from ECB’s Lagarde and Knot to speculation on a downshift of ECB rate hikes from 50bps to 25bps. Yields, especially in the short-end of the curve, climbed further following a smaller-than-expected 190K rise in initial jobless claims and an increase of the Philly Fed Business Outlook Index by 4.8 points to -8.9, better than the consensus estimate of -11.0. The 6-month ahead conditions sub-index improved nearly 6 points to 4.9. The Fed’s Vice Chair Brainard said she was supportive of slowing the rate hike to 25bps at the February FOMC while reiterated “the need for further rate increases, likely to just above 5 percent”. According to Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal, Brainard raised the possibility that the Fed might not need to see as much evidence of a slowdown in labor markets to be confident of inflation improving. The USD17 billion TIPS auction went very strong with bid-to-cover at 2.79, well above the average of 2.25. As the federal government reached its debt limit, Treasury Secretary Yellen wrote a letter to Congress about measures that the Treasury Department is taking to keep meeting obligations until at least early June to allow time for Congress to work on raising the debt limit. Yields on the 2-year rose 4bps to 4.13% and those on the 10-year climbed 2bps to 3.39%, bringing the 2-10-year curve 2bps more inverted at -74.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HIF3) unchanged; China’s CSI300 (03188:xhkg) higher

Hang Seng Index opened lower on Thursday but managed to pare losses and finished the day nearly unchanged. Techtronic (00669:xhkg), falling 5.4% on analyst downgrades, was the biggest loser with the Hang Seng Index. Chinese developer stocks and consumer names outperformed while China internet stocks, except Tencent, dragged. Country Garden (02007:xhkg) gained 4.9% and Longfor (00960:xhkg) climbed 3.5%. Leading sportswear name, Li Ning (02331:xhkg) rose 3.9%. BYD (01211:xhkg) rose 2.3% while other EV markers edged down. The speculation that a new “Strong Nation Transportation” ride-hailing app is backed by the government to compete with the incumbent platform companies, though later clarified being not the case, weighed on internet stocks, seeing Meituan (03690:xhkg) down 2.1% and Alibaba (09988:xhkg) down 1.7%. Chinese social platform, Kuashou (01024:xhkg) plunged nearly 6% after a co-founder sold shares. The Hang Seng TECH Index slid 1.7%. Overseas buying into A-shares through Stock Connect continued for 12 days in a row with a net buying of RMB9 billion on Thursday, bringing the net buying in January so far to over RMB100 billion. On Thursday, semiconductors, computing, ride-hailing, electronics, pharmaceuticals, brokerage, and defence stocks outperformed. CSI100 gained 0.6%.

FX: Dollar slightly lower as Yen and Euro continue to gain

The USD was slightly lower on Thursday as the ECB hawkishness continued to outpace that of the Fed and the post-BOJ recovery in the Japanese yen continued. USDJPY traded at sub-129 levels after a trip higher to 131.50 on the BOJ-day. EURUSD has returned above 1.0800 amid ECB member Knot and President Lagarde staying hawkish (read below). NZD and AUD were the underperformers. NZDUSD slid below 0.6400 before a slight recovery as news of NZ PM Ardern’s resignation weighed. AUDNZD’s drop below 1.0800 was also reversed.

Crude oil (CLG3 & LCOH3) rebounds

Crude oil prices gained as China optimism continued to reign. Reports that China’s covid caseload has peaked further boosted optimism that demand will start to recover more sustainably. Markets shrugged off rising inventories in the US. Commercial stockpiles rose 8,408kbbls last week, according to EIA data. Global demand expectations also got a boost as US jobless claims data supported the view that the labor market is still tight. WTI futures touched $81/barrel again after a drop towards $78 while Brent was back above $86.

Gold (XAUUSD) climbed higher after three days of decline

Gold continues to show resilience and found fresh bids on Thursday after three days of pullback. Support at $1900 continued to hold, and the yellow metal rose back above $1930 as US yields remained near new cycle lows despite some gains last night. However, demand from ETFs is yet to pick up with expectations that inflation will eventually come back to Fed’s target levels. Some correction may also be seen as Gold’s demand eases after China’s Lunar New Year festival, but the long-term view holds that 2023 will be friendlier towards investment metals, as last year’s headwinds – most notably dollar and yield strength – begin to reverse.

For investors, what’s the big picture in markets right now with bond yields down 94bps and gold up nearly 20%?

Despite bond yields rising on Thursday, to 3.4% the US 10-year Treasury yield broke below key support two days ago. As our head of technical analysis points out the closely watch yield could drop to 3.22%. As you may recall, our view at Saxo has been that peak hawkishness came in Q4 2022, which supports the retreat in bond yields since November last year. Bond yields are now down 94 basis points from their October peak. At the same time, the gold price rose 19% during the same period, given it typically tends to have an inverse relationship to bond yields, in particular real yields. If we see the Fed pauses later in the year, as Ole points out on yesterday’s podcast, the gold price could rally further in 2023. 

What to consider?

More Fed members, including Brainard, hinting at a 25bps rate hike

Lael Brainard (voter) said the recent downshift in the pace of rate hikes allows the Fed to assess more data as it moves policy to a "sufficiently restrictive" level, noting we are now in "restrictive" territory and are probing for a sufficiently restrictive level. She didn’t clearly confirm a 25bps rate hike for February, but hinted at that saying Fed downshifted the rate hike pace in December to absorb more data, and that logic is applicable today. Another voter Williams is speaking in the Asian morning hours, and signalling that the Fed has more work to do but labor demand far exceeds supply. Non-voter Collins reaffirmed her view that rates need to rise to likely just above 5%, and then the Fed needs to hold rates there for some time, also saying that it is appropriate to slow the pace of hikes particularly with risks now more two-sided.

US initial jobless claims a good reminder that labor market is still tight

While the focus somewhat shifted towards growth concerns yesterday after the disappointment from US retail sales and industrial production data. US jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week by 15k to 190k vs. expected 214k. Pre-covid monthly average was 345k per week while the 5Yr trend was 245k. So the data is still strong and a good reminder that inflation may continue to stay much higher than expected levels. The Philly Fed regional manufacturing index was also released yesterday, and it wasn’t as bad as the Empire State manufacturing survey stressing our view that survey results can be volatile. That index came in at -8.9 which was better than the -11.0 expected and marginally better than the -13.9 last month.

Hawkish ECB speakers pushback against reports of slowing rate hikes

ECB's Knot said that market developments of late are not entirely welcome and that the ECB won't stop after a single 50bps hike, planning to hike by 50bps multiple times. Despite a softer CPI print lately, Knot said that there are no signs of underlying inflation pressures abating, and said that the ECB will be in "tightening mode" until at least mid-year. ECB President Lagarde was also on the wires, saying economic news has become much more positive as the contraction in Eurozone 2023 GDP may be smaller than previously expected, so the ECB will stay the course with rate hikes.

It's the demography, stupid!

Earlier this week, we have learnt that China reached its demographic peak with 10-year ahead of projections. This will serve a as wake-up call for other countries, certainly. The world population growth is now below 1 % for the first time since the first half of the 20th century. About 61 countries in the world are expected to see their population decrease by at least 1% by 2050 (the population of Japan has been decreasing since 2010 while that of Italy since 2014, for instance). Expect massive consequences for the labor market. In Germany, about 500,000 people will leave the labor market each year between 2025 and 2035. This is massive! We are entering into a world of human capital shortage.

Japan’s December CPI touches 4%, eyes on BOJ nominations due in February

Japan’s December CPI came in at 4.0% YoY from 3.8% YoY previously, with core CPI also at 4.0% YoY while the core-core measure was a notch softer-then-expectations but still above the 2% target, coming in at 3.0% YoY. Despite the Bank of Japan’s pushback on expectations to tweak policy this week, speculations are likely to continue as inflation breadth is spreading. A contender to succeed Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda, Takatoshi Ito, said that the BOJ's next step may be to widen 10y band, could raise it to 0.75% or 1.00% by mid-year, likely won't tweak yield curve control at least until April, and may abandon negative rates this year depending on inflation and wage developments.

Procter & Gamble disappointed on weaker organic growth and volume trend

Procter & Gamble, the consumer product giant, reported FYQ2 2023 EPS of USD1.59, slightly below the USD1.60 street estimate. The bigger disappointment came from weaker organic growth as a result of a softer than expected volume trend. The management raise sales outlook for FY23 sales outlook but had its FY23 EPS outlook at the low end of its initial range.

Netflix reported a gain of 7.7 million subscribers in Q4

Netflix reported Q4 2022 EPS at USD0.12 below market expectations. However, share prices jumped on a better-than-expected gain of 7.7 million subscribers in Q4. Guidance for Q1 2023 revenue at USD8.17 billion was stronger than market expectations.



For a look ahead at markets this week – Read/listen to our Saxo Spotlight.

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

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