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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Global Markets, S&P Futures Flat With US Markets Closed For MLK Holiday

US cash markets may be closed for Monday’s MLK holiday, but US equity futures are humming and at last check they were unchanged from Friday’s close at 3, 762 after earlier dropping as much as 20 points.

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“Markets needed a breather or even a pull back to justify reflationary expectations,” said Ben Emons, managing director of global macro strategy at Medley Global Advisors.

Despite the dip, stocks remains just shy of all time highs with Goldman joining Morgan Stanley and JPM in warning that the levels of sheer euphoria suggest a drawdown is imminent.

As Reuters notes, investors have been debating whether markets are in or may be headed for a bubble. In a monthly letter to clients last week, Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said all of the preconditions for a bubble are in place.

“Financing costs are at record lows, new participants are being drawn into markets, and the combination of high accumulated savings and low prospective returns on traditional assets create both the means and the desire to engage in speculative activity,” he said, warning that in the months ahead, investors will need to pay particular attention to “risks of a monetary policy reversal, rising equity valuations, and the rate of the post-pandemic recovery.”

Haefele said however that while he sees pockets of speculation, the broader equity market is not in a bubble. He is, of course, dead wrong as the following clip from TicToc showcasing GenZ trading veterans so vividly demonstrates. 

In any case, back to markets, where after initially dipping as much as 0.4% at the start of trading, Europe’s Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2% a little after 6am ET, the highest level on Monday and reversing the earlier drop as Carrefour SA tumbled 6% after Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. abandoned talks on a $20 billion merger under pressure from the Macron government.

An increase in consumer products and services shares offsetts declines in utilities, travel and leisure and insurers. It was around this time that U.S. futures also turned positive. Shares boosting the index the most by points: LVMH Moet Hennessy +1.6%, Fiat Chrysler +7.2%, Infineon Technologies +4.2%, Nestle +0.6%, ASML Holding +0.7%, AstraZeneca +1.2%.

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks were broadly lower as investors took a breather following a three-week rally that saw the regional benchmark hit fresh records. Chip stocks and Huawei Technologies suppliers dropped after Reuters reported that the U.S. is planning to revoke their licenses to work with the Chinese company. In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co. fell 3.4%. Indexes in China and Hong Kong bucked the selloff and rose as data showed the Chinese economy expanded a better-than-expected 6.5% in the last quarter of 2020 from a year earlier, topping forecasts of 6.1%.

Industrial production for December also beat estimates, although retail sales missed expectations.

“The recovery in domestic demand still lacks a solid backing,” said Lauri Hälikkä, fixed income and FX strategist at SEB. “Sporadic virus outbreaks have intensified downside risks in the near term.” Hallika said the impact of the latest regional lockdowns and mass testing is likely to be limited and short-lived.

China reported more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day, with rising infections in the northeast fuelling concern of another wave when hundreds of millions of people travel for the Lunar New Year holiday. Tough new controls in the city of Gongzhuling in Jilin province, which has a population of about 1 million people, brings the total number of people under lockdown to more than 29 million.

South Korea’s Kospi was the hardest hit, sliding more than 2% due to losses in Samsung Electronics. Shares of the conglomerate slid the most since August after heir Jay Y. Lee was sentenced to a 2.5-year jail term for bribery. Overall, financials were the biggest drag on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Technology stocks were also weak after Reuters reported that the U.S. government revoked several companies’ licenses to work with China’s Huawei Technologies

The pick-up in China was a marked contrast to the United States and Europe, where the spread of coronavirus has hit consumer spending, underlined by dismal U.S. retail sales reported on Friday. Poor U.S. consumer spending data last week helped Treasuries pare some of their recent steep losses and 10-year yields were trading at 1.0835%, down from last week’s top of 1.187%.

The more sober mood in turn boosted the safe-haven U.S. dollar, catching a bearish market deeply short. Speculators increased their net short dollar position to the largest since May 2011 in the week ended Jan. 12. The dollar index firmed to 90.908, its strongest since Dec. 21, and away from its recent 2-1/2 year trough at 89.206.

Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, is expected to rule out seeking a weaker dollar when testifying on Tuesday, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal reported.

Elsewhere, the euro had retreated to $1.2070, to its lowest since Dec. 2, while the dollar gained 0.1% against the yen at 103.78 and well above the recent low at 102.57. The Canadian dollar eased to $1.2792 per dollar after Reuters reported Biden planned to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Bitcoin traded up more than 3%, rising to $37,000.

In commodities, crude oil prices ran into profit-taking on worries the spread of increasingly tight lockdowns globally would hurt demand, a fall that also dragged the Russian rouble lower by 1.1%. Brent crude futures were down 0.1% at $55.60 a barrel, while WTI gained 0.1% to $52.43. Gold prices gained 0.4% to $1,833 an ounce, compared to its January top of $1,959.

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Janet Yellen is expected to affirm the U.S.’s commitment to market-determined exchange rates when she testifies on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said. She will make clear the U.S. doesn’t seek a weaker dollar for competitive advantage, according to Biden transition officials familiar with her hearing preparation
  • China’s economy recovered to pre-pandemic growth rates in the fourth quarter, propelling it to a stronger- than-expected full-year expansion of 2.3% and making it the only major one to avoid contraction
  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte risks emerging weakened from a parliamentary showdown this week even if he can muster enough votes to hold on to power
  • President-elect Joe Biden plans an early blitz of executive action to reverse some of Donald Trump’s most contentious policies and address the coronavirus pandemic, according to an outline of Biden’s first 10 days in office
  • Oil extended losses in Asia after slumping the most in almost four weeks on Friday following the release of disappointing U.S. economic data
  • Global coronavirus cases approached the 95 million mark, while the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 neared 400,000. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s promise of delivering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days is “absolutely a doable thing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of NewSquawk

European indices kicked the week off lacklustre (Euro Stoxx 50 -0.2%) following on from a mixed APAC lead and as US players enjoy a long weekend on account of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (US equity futures are currently trading). The tentative mood during the overnight session reverberated into Europe amid a lack of fresh catalysts against the backdrop of mixed Chinese GDP figures and the continuing deterioration in the COVID environment alongside US-Sino ties as the Biden admin prepares to take the wheel. On that note, the NYT reported over the weekend that Biden plans to roll out dozens of executive orders in his first 10 days, reversing some policies set in the Trump era. Furthermore, the FT reported that the EU is set to warn that global market are too reliant on the US Dollar in EC policy paper which revealed the depth of frustration with the Trump admin, in a bid to curb the EU’s vulnerability to US sanctions and other financial risks. Back to Europe, overall indices are somewhat mixed with no clear under/outperformance seen. Sectors are mostly lower with Consumer Discretionary and IT the outperformers while Travel & Leisure and Oil & Gas lag. Delving deeper into the sectors, Consumer Discretionary is supported by Stellantis’ (+6%) debut – the merged entity between Fiat Chrysler and PSA – with the stock trading in Paris and Milan today ahead of the US debut tomorrow. As such, peers Renault (+1.6%), Volkswagen (+0.7%), Daimler (+0.4%) and BMW (+0.4%) are pulled higher in tandem. The IT sector is buoyed by the recent demand in chips which led to a string of auto names temporarily pausing production, whilst some reports noted that Intel orders outsourced to Taiwan could increase 10% this year. Chip name Infineon (+3.5%) also saw an upgrade at Goldman Sachs. To the downside, Travel & Leisure is pressured by the COVID-variant prompting nations to tighten restrictions and shutter travel corridors amid worries of cross-border contamination. In terms of individual movers, Carrefour (-5%) sees substantial pressure after Couche-tard abandoned Carrefour takeover plans due to the French government’s opposition. Aviva (+1.1%) is buoyed by reports Aviva France is said to have received four non-binding takeover. BT (-1.3%) meanwhile sees losses amid reports the Co. is facing a GBP 600mln lawsuit over claims it failed to compensate elderly customers who were overcharged for landlines for eight years. Under the court ruling, around 2.3mln customers could receive compensation of up to GBP 500 each. Across the pond, Apple is reportedly planning mostly incremental changes for the next iPhone models this year, although is said to be developing an internally foldable iPhone screen to compete with Samsung devices.

Asian equity markets began the week cautious after Friday’s losses on Wall St where participants sold the news following President-elect Biden’s stimulus announcement which provided no major surprises and with some believing Biden could be forced to scale back some of the spending plans and increase in minimum wage amid opposition from moderate Democrats. Furthermore, mostly weaker than expected data from US where there is an extended weekend due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and mixed Chinese GDP data added to the tentative mood for stocks. ASX 200 (-0.8%) finished lower with the declines in the index led by weakness in mining names and financials after recent similar underperformance in those sectors stateside, while Nikkei 225 (-0.9%) was subdued as exporters suffered the ill-effects of a stronger currency and with reports suggesting the spike in COVID-19 infections has taken a toll on PM Suga’s public support and increases the risk of him being replaced by the party for this year’s election. KOSPI (-2.1%) was the worst hit amid a slump in its largest weighted stock Samsung Electronics amid the sentencing of Samsung heir and de facto chief Jay Y. Lee who was handed a jail term of 2 years and 6 months for bribery. Conversely, Hang Seng (+0.7%) and Shanghai Comp (+1.0%) are positive but with upside limited as participants digested mixed economic growth data from China whereby GDP Q/Q disappointed at 2.6% (exp. 3.2%) but Y/Y growth topped forecasts at 6.5% (exp. 6.1%), while Industrial Production also beat expectations but was offset by softer Retail Sales. US-China tensions continued to linger after the Trump administration notified some Huawei suppliers that it is revoking their licences to sell to the Chinese tech firm and the US also announced fresh sanctions against six individuals on Friday linked to the mass Hong Kong arrests. Finally, 10yr JGBs were lower with prices pressured at the open on reports the BoJ is to consider a proposal to allow wider fluctuations to the 10yr JGB yield target in which it may allow fluctuations of more than 0.2% on either side according to Japanese press, although the report didn’t reference the timing for when it will consider such a move and analysts don’t expect this to be for the upcoming meeting later in the week.

In FX, the Buck remains broadly, albeit not quite uniformly firmer, with little sign of depreciation due to reports that the EU is planning to curb is reliance on the Greenback or from expectations that US Treasury Secretary nominee Yellen will back a market-determined level for the Dollar rather than strength or weakness in terms of its exchange rate. Indeed, the DXY is holding ‘comfortably’ above 90.500 within a 90.736-948 range and inching closer to the 91.000 handle after breaching the 50 DMA (90.931), albeit in thin US holiday trade.

  • CAD/AUD/GBP/NZD – Subdued risk sentiment at the start of a new week and flattish oil prices may be weighing on the Loonie ahead of Canadian data in the form of housing starts and securities purchases, but the bounce in Usd/Cad to almost 1.2800 seems more related to media speculation that incoming US President Biden will take executive action to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline permit. Meanwhile, mixed Chinese data has not helped the Aussie or Kiwi resist the advances of their US counterpart as the former reverses from just above 0.7700 towards 0.7660 and latter tests bids/support around 0.7100 in the run up to NZIER business sentiment for Q4 and December electronic card retail sales. Elsewhere, the Pound is under pressure amidst the ongoing UK lockdown and divergence within the Conservative Party over universal credit, with Cable down in the low 1.3500 zone compared to nearly 1.3600 and Eur/Gbp back above 0.8900.
  • JPY/EUR/CHF – All narrowly mixed vs the Dollar as the Yen retains 104.00+ status in wake of talk that the BoJ may be contemplating a shift in YCT to allow fluctuations in the 10 year JGB in excess of +/- 0.2% points vs the current zero percent target, while the Euro is hovering between 1.2050-1.2100 on the wide irrespective of the aforementioned European Commission policy paper about severing links to the Buck. The Franc is just under 0.8900 and 1.0750 in Eur/Chf terms following latest weekly Swiss sight deposits showing a pronounced increase in domestic bank balances relative to the total rise, and inferring intervention to cushion the cross from further downside on Italian and Dutch political uncertainty.
  • SCANDI/EM- The Sek is losing more ground vs the Eur after failing to hold above 10.1000 last week, but not as much as the Nok on the back of the downturn in crude and overall risk appetite, with the latter now closer to 10.4300 after getting to within single digits of 10.2700 recently. Turning to EM currencies, the Rub, Mxn and Zar are on the back foot alongside commodities, like Gold sub-Usd 1850/oz, though the Cnh is managing to contain losses through 6.5000 in the face of yet more tit-for-tat China-US sanctions with assistance from selective data (y/y Q4 GDP and December ip were both better than forecast in contrast to q/q growth and December retail sales).

In commodities, WTI and Brent Mar eke mild gains after nursing the modest overnight losses despite a lack of fresh catalyst, a firmer Dollar and a lacklustre performance across stocks – albeit the magnitude of the price action across the crude complex is limited. The only notable developments over the weekend was on the geological landscape whereby the IRCG tested long-range missiles and drones against land and sea targets in Iran’s fourth large-scale military show of force in two weeks amid tensions with the US. Additionally, the Iranian army announced that they will begin tomorrow large-scale ground exercises involving special forces and airborne control teams in the south of the country, according to Al Jazeera. Brent Mar trades on either side of USD 55/bbl in a tight range while its WTI counterpart sees itself oscillating on either side of USD 52/bbl. Spot gold and silver post modest gains in spite of the firmer Buck as the reflationary narrative provides prices with underlying support. This reflationary narrative has also supported base metals overnight – Shanghai copper also advanced on robust Chinese industrial output data whilst Dalian iron ore hit four-week highs on the prospect of rosier Chinese demand.

US Event Calendar

  • Markets are closed for the MLK holiday

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

It was a landmark weekend at home as both twins gave up their nighttime dummies which have been with them since birth. They are 15! Ok 3 actually. Both were bribed into it by the promise that the dummy fairy would bring them a new toy in return. However the dummy fairy failed as she (or he) bought them two separate remote control vehicles (excavator and dumper truck) from different companies and yet they were both on the same radio frequency. So when they tried to use them it was chaos with lots of cross commands causing multiple pile ups and subsequently fights. Oh and no dummies to shut them up.

It won’t be so lively in markets today as with the US closed for MLK day expect a quiet start to the week. After the likely lull today, the week ahead is a busy one with Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday an obvious focal point. Outside of that we have an array of central bank decisions to expect, including from the ECB and the Bank of Japan (both Thursday), while data highlight will be the flash PMIs for January. In addition, earnings season will begin to ramp up, with 43 S&P 500 companies reporting this week before the heavy couple of weeks after that.

More detail on the above in the text below but it’s been a busy Asian session for data with China’s December macro data coming out alongside the 4Q GDP print. Growth surprised on the upside (at +6.5% yoy vs. +6.2% yoy expected in the quarter) thereby bringing the FY 2020 GDP growth to +2.3% yoy (vs. +2.1% yoy expected). This makes China the only major economy across the globe which avoided contraction last year. Looking at the other macro data, China’s December industrial output came in at +7.3% yoy (vs. +6.9% yoy expected) while retail sales came in lower at +4.6% yoy (vs. +5.5% yoy expected). Fixed asset investment for FY 2020 came in at +2.9% yoy (vs. +3.2% yoy expected) and the surveyed jobless rate stood at 5.2%, in line with expectations.

Chinese bourses – the CSI (+1.02%), Shanghai Comp (+0.76%) and Shenzhen Comp (+1.36%) – along with the Hang Seng (+0.68%) are outperforming this morning in Asia. Other regional markets are largely trading lower with the Nikkei (-1.09%%), Asx (-0.78%) and Kospi (-2.17%) all down. Overnight news from Reuters that the US government has notified several of Huawei’s suppliers that it’s revoking their licenses to work with the Chinese company seems to be weighing on sentiment. The report also added that the US commerce department has indicated that its intent is to deny “a significant number of license requests for exports to Huawei.” Futures on the S&P 500 are down -0.21% before the holiday while European counterparts are also pointing to a weaker open. In keeping with the small risk off spot gold prices are up +0.16% while Brent crude oil prices are down c. -1%.

In other overnight news, the WSJ reported that Treasury Secretary elect Janet Yellen will state at her confirmation hearing that the US remains committed to market-determined exchange rates and will not seek a weaker currency for competitive trade advantages. We also saw news on Italy’s political turmoil over the weekend ahead of today’s confidence vote on the government with Bloomberg reporting that PM Conte’s government will likely survive the vote in the lower house today. Furthermore, former PM Renzi said in an interview with Rai Tre television yesterday that his 18 senators will probably abstain in any confidence vote in the Senate on Tuesday. This would likely be enough for Conte’s government to survive and plays down the near term election risk for the country which were low anyway.

Turning to the latest on virus now and we saw a little worrying news on the vaccine on Friday which was fleshed out over the weekend as Norway reported that 29 elderly people died shortly after receiving inoculations from the Pfizer/ BioNTech’s vaccine shot. It was said over the weekend that vaccines may be too risky for elderly people with serious underlying health conditions. This event has led to some concerns around the safety of the vaccine particularly in Australia and Thailand. Pfizer and BioNTech have said that they are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths. Meanwhile, the UK will step up its mass vaccination program from today as vaccines will now get offered to people aged 70 and over, and those deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable”, the third and fourth priority groups. Over the weekend, Brazil gave emergency use authorisation to vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac thereby paving the way for the deployment of the inoculations.

Looking more into the week ahead now, with regards to Mr Biden, the clock will start on his first 100 days in office post the inauguration. He has already announced that he is aiming for 100m vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, as well as an economic package that includes topping up the recently passed $600 cheques to individuals up to $2,000. In February, he is then expected to outline his “Build Back Better Recovery Plan” before a Joint Session of Congress, where he’ll push for investments in infrastructure, R&D and clean energy. If you want more info on what the first 100 days will likely involve, we’ve released a podcast with DB’s Frank Kelly and Matthew Luzzetti running through some of their views on the early days of the administration which look set to be very busy (link here ).

Staying on the political scene, the German CDU have elected Armin Laschet as the new party leader over the weekend and someone who was the closest politically to Chancellor Merkel. However, it’s far from a given that the new leader will necessarily be the chancellor candidate of the CDU/CSU in September’s federal election, with the CSU’s Markus Söder strongly tipped for that role which is expected to be decided upon in April. So from that respect there’s too much water to flow under the bridge before September for this to be a big market moving event at the moment.

As mentioned at the top, this week sees an array of central bank decisions, with 7 of the G20 central banks deciding on rates. In terms of the highlights, the consensus is not expecting the ECB to make any changes in rates on Thursday following their easing package in December, and President Lagarde warned earlier this week against tightening simply on the back of inflation rising thanks to pent-up demand. See our economists’ preview here. Meanwhile our Japan economist thinks the BoJ will maintain their policy stance, but they’re likely to downgrade their economic outlook in light of the state of emergency declaration. The other monetary policy decisions to watch out will be from Canada and Brazil on Wednesday, and then Turkey, South Africa and Indonesia on Thursday.

As also discussed above, earnings season ramps up as 43 companies in the S&P 500 will be reporting. The highlights will be Bank of America, Netflix, Charles Schwab and Goldman Sachs tomorrow, then on Wednesday, releases will come from Procter & Gamble, UnitedHealth Group, ASML Holding, Morgan Stanley and BNY Mellon. Finally on Thursday, we’ll hear from Intel, Union Pacific and IBM. In Europe we have 30 reporting in the Stoxx 600 as the season slowly gets into gear. We put out a CoTD on Friday highlighting Binky Chadha’s view that this will be another strong US season beat, relative to expectations, of 13pp. The median over the last 15 years is 3.4pp. The last two quarters have been 20pp and 17pp above consensus. See the CoTD here and Binky’s full earnings preview here. Note that with valuations and positioning stretched he’s not expecting big market moves alongside the big beats.

On the data side, the main highlight next week will be the release of the flash PMIs on Friday, which will be one of the first indications of how the global economy has fared into 2021. However, with the pandemic continuing to spread in numerous regions and fresh restrictions having been imposed, the consensus estimates are generally pointing to lower readings in January compared with December. Over the last couple of months of fresh lockdowns, growth had generally held up better than expected as more activity seems to be permissible relative to last spring. However it’s fair to say that these restrictions are likely to last longer than economists expected so calibrating what that means for revisions is tough. Probably less bad but for longer is the message.

Last week global equity markets took a step back as a variety of concerns weighed on risk appetite. There were concerns over central bank tapering, megacap tech backlash worries and a buy the rumour sell the fact on Biden’s fiscal package. The S&P 500 retreated -1.48% on the week (-0.72% Friday), while the NASDAQ composite dropped -1.54% (-0.87% Friday). It was the biggest weekly loss for the S&P 500 since the last week of October. The largest tech companies in the US saw losses after Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet’s YouTube all banned President Trump from services following his actions that led to his second impeachment last week, with the NYFANG Index falling -3.74% on the week. Cyclical stocks outperformed under the surface on both sides of the Atlantic for the most part, which helped European equities outperform their US counterparts slightly as the STOXX 600 ended the week -0.81% lower, dragged down by a -1.01% loss on Friday.

There was a significant effort from the FOMC last week to dispel speculation that the tapering of QE is on the horizon. Fed Chair Powell said that the central bank had learned a lesson from the tapering process following the Global Financial Crisis. He promised that the FOMC will “communicate very clearly to the public …well in advance of active consideration of beginning a gradual taper of asset purchases.” This seemed to help pause the selloff in US Treasuries, with 10yr yields down -3.6bps (-4.6bps Friday) on the week to 1.08% after yields spiked over 20bps the week prior. Core bond yields in Europe fell back slightly as well with 10Yr Bund yields -2.4bps (+0.7bps Friday) lower to -0.54% and 10yr Gilt yields were flat (-0.3bps Friday) at 0.29%. Following the news that former Italian Premier Renzi’s party, Italy Alive, would be quitting the ruling coalition – thereby possibly causing yet another government to form in Italy – Italian 10yr BTP yields rose +8.3bps, while their spread to 10yr Bunds widened +10.7bps, the largest weekly widening since June.

On the data front in the US on Friday, December’s PPI reading showed that prices rose less than expected at +0.3% (vs +0.4% expected) while retail sales fell -0.7% (0.0%% expected) last month. November’s reading on the latter measure was revised downward three tenths to -1.4% as concerns on the US economy continue. The preliminary University of Michigan sentiment indicator for January showed consumers’ moods cooled more than expected, falling to 79.2 (79.5 expected) from 80.7 last month. While in Europe, November data on UK GDP showed a -2.6% contraction, which was better than the -4.6% estimates.



Zerohedge

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