Futures Rebound As Global Stocks Slide After Powell “Hawk Shock”

Asian bourses and European shares fell after surprisingly bad Chinese PMI and Japanese econ data added to a perceived hawkish tilt in Fed policy emerging from Chair Powell’s testimony which weighed on global equities. Benchmark Treasury yields held near a four-year high and the dollar was steady after Tuesday’s jump.

As a reminder, in addition to the unexpectedly hawkish Powell testimony, China disappointed with a broadly weak set of Mfg and Service surveys, as the Chinese NBS Manufacturing PMI printed 50.3 vs. Exp. 51.1 (down from 51.3), and the lowest since September 2016, while the Chinese NBS Non-Manufacturing PMI dropped from 55.3 to 54.4 vs. Exp. 55.0.

The result has been a sea in most global stock markets…

… if not S&P futures, which after hitting session lows shortly before midnight ET have managed to stage another modest rebound and were on the green side of unchanged this morning.

As noted above, the watercooler topic this morning was Fed Chair Jay Powell’s upbeat assessment of the world’s biggest economy, whose inaugural testimony  provided a hawkish view on inflation and was also optimistic on economic growth, which raised the prospects of 4 hikes for this year and subsequently weighed on equity markets across the globe. The market noticed, and has pushed the number of priced-in Fed hikes for 2018 to precisely 3, the highest yet; a little more hawkishness from Powell and the market will start considering 4 hikes as a realistic option.

What the markets are telling you today and year-to-date is that interest rate hikes are expected and that’s getting priced in,” Medha Samant, Fidelity International investment director, told Bloomberg TV. “The question is, despite all the upbeat data that we see coming out of the U.S., what is going to be the pace of these rate hikes and how quickly is it going to happen.”

Still, not everyone is convinced: as SocGen’s Kit Juckes notes in the aftermath of the disappointing Chinese PMI data, “it would take a big surprise from US ISM data to avoid a second monthly decline in global PMI measures. That, along with falling economic surprise indices, and signs that at a global level inflationary pressures aren’t noticeably building, fuels the view that the growth spurt at the end of 2017 is now behind us. The case for fading the long-end Treasury sell-off would seem to be growing” (more on this note shortly).

Investors’ focus now shifts to U.S. GDP data due Wednesday after Powell opened the door to four Fed rate increases this year, saying his personal outlook for the economy had strengthened. U.S. and European bond yields have soared in recent months amid speculation that the Fed’s monetary policy will be tightened at a faster pace, but for equity investors, that’s testing nerves. As Bloomberg notes, global stocks are poised for their worst month since January 2016 after years of central-bank stimulus push up valuations.

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Meanwhile, European equities slide in tandem with their U.S. and Asian counterparts as investors digested Powell’s testimony; miners lead declines after weaker-than-expected China manufacturing PMI data. However, losses have been pared throughout the morning (Eurostoxx 50 -0.4%). In terms of sector specific performance, movements have been relatively broad-based with support for IT names following strong earnings from Dialog Semiconductor (+10%) which has sent their shares to the top of the Stoxx 600, energy names also firmer as crude modestly recoups some of its post-API losses. Most euro-area and U.K. bonds rise, while Germany underperforms after a soft 10-year auction.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index also dropped across the board as the impact from Fed Chair Powell’s testimony reverberated in the region and as participants also digested disappointing Chinese PMI data. ASX 200 (-0.7%) and Nikkei 225 (-1.4%) were lower with the worst performers in Australia also dampened by poor earnings results, while Nikkei 225 suffered from a firmer JPY as well as weak Industrial Production and Retail Sales data. Elsewhere, Hang Seng (-1.4%) and Shanghai Comp. (-1.0%) were the early laggards.

Of note: Bloomberg highlights that Chinese offshore investors became sellers of mainland-listed equities in February for the first time since 2016, dumping net 564 million yuan ($ 89 million) of A shares via the exchange links with Shanghai and Shenzhen, Bloomberg calculations based on daily quota usage showed. That translates into average daily net selling of 37.6 million yuan.

Elsewhere, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index consolidated and stays near 2 1/2-week high seen yesterday; yen outperforms after the Bank of Japan cut purchases of ultra-long JGBs, although offsetting tapering fears, the BOJ left its planned bond purchase amounts for March unchanged from February. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is set to halt a three-month decline, with the yield on Treasury 10-year notes holding around 2.9%, close to cycle highs.

On the topic of the dollar, Citi writes that “all anyone in markets can talk about Jerome Powell, but has the game really changed that much overnight? Any sustained USD strength from here faces evident headwinds, but in the short-term, today is month-end, which might mean just the opposite.”

Indeed, it has been another difficult day for euro bulls as a still-crowded trade becomes a pain one for leveraged names. The euro briefly slipped below 1.22 handle for the first time since Jan. 18 as leveraged names that have been supporting the common currency in the past week offload part of their longs, but euro-area inflation data which met estimates helped to keep the currency off its day low. Month-end flows do no favors as they lean toward the dollar-supportive side, keeping cable below 1.3900 ahead of the EU’s draft Brexit treaty.

Elsewhere, crude oil was little changed as the International Energy Agency warned about seemingly unstoppable U.S. shale production. Sterling added to yesterday’s decline as U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May squared off for a fight with the European Union over a Brexit deal. Brent crude recovered from day lows, though remains below $ 67/barrel, with WTI crude near $ 62.60.  Traders will also be mindful of yesterday’s source reports stating that OPEC are set to meet with US shale producers next Monday. In metals markets, spot gold is particularly flat today in the wake of  yesterday’s Powell-inspired sell-off whilst Chinese steel futures were seen higher overnight with the move to the upside capped by soft demand. Dalian iron ore weakens for second day.

Wednesday’s agenda includes the second revision of Q4 GDP, Chicago PMI, pending home sales and MBA Mortgage Applications. L Brands and Mylan are among companies set to report quarterly numbers.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 2,753.00
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.2% to 381.52
  • MSCI Asia Pacific down 1% to 177.16
  • MSCI Asia Pacific ex Japan down 1% to 578.27
  • Nikkei down 1.4% to 22,068.24
  • Topix down 1.2% to 1,768.24
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.4% to 30,844.72
  • Shanghai Composite down 1% to 3,259.41
  • Sensex down 0.5% to 34,189.13
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.7% to 6,015.96
  • Kospi down 1.2% to 2,427.36
  • German 10Y yield fell 1.2 bps to 0.667%
  • Euro down 0.1% to $ 1.2216
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 1.3 bps to 1.736%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 2.8 bps to 1.537%
  • Brent Futures up 0.2% to $ 66.79/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.2% to $ 1,320.50
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.1% to 90.44

Bulletin Headline Summary From RanSquawk

  • European bourses kicked the session off on the back-foot following similar performance in their Asia-Pac counterparts, post-Powell
  • The broad Dollar continues to benefit from month end positioning and a more hawkish tone emanating from Fed chair Powell during the live testimony and Q&A session
  • Looking ahead, highlights include US GDP, Chicago PMI, Pending Home Sales, DoE inventories, EU Brexit Draft Treaty

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Jerome Powell opened the door to the Federal Reserve raising U.S. interest rates four times this year as he acknowledged stronger economic growth may prompt policy makers to rethink their plan for three hikes
  • Jared Kushner can no longer attend some meetings of the National Security Council, see the highly classified President’s Daily Brief or war-related intelligence after losing his top-secret security clearance as part of a broader White House crackdown, according to a person familiar with the matter
  • Eight Conservative Party lawmakers have backed an amendment calling for the U.K. to keep close ties to the European Union after it leaves, an attempt to reverse Theresa May’s Brexit policy that could threaten her political survival
  • U.K. consumer and business confidence was muted in February as Brexit obscured prospects for economic growth.
  • The Bank of Japan cut purchases of bonds maturing in more than 25 years for the second time this year, after yields declined on the back of solid demand before the end of the fiscal year in March
  • China’s official manufacturing gauge fell the most in five years in February as Spring Festival holiday closures curbed output and export orders declined
  • China-based Geely Group structured the purchase of its 7.3 billion-euro ($ 9 billion) stake in Daimler AG through complex derivative transactions that allowed the buyer to build a large equity holding while limiting the risks, people with knowledge of the matter said
  • China is ‘strongly dissatisfied’ with U.S. duties on aluminum foil and the country will take necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights, Wang Hejun, chief of the trade remedy and investigation bureau at Ministry of Commerce, says in a statement on website
  • China plans to cap the amount that investors can redeem from money- market funds on a single day, according to people familiar with the matter
  • Governor Haruhiko Kuroda says the Bank of Japan won’t continue its current powerful monetary easing once inflation hits its 2% target in a stable manner, even if the government puts pressure on the central bank to keep interest rates low

Asian equity markets were negative across the board as the impact from Fed Chair Powell’s testimony reverberated in the region and as participants also digested disappointing Chinese PMI data. The inaugural testimony by Fed Chair Powell provided a hawkish view on inflation and was also optimistic on economic growth, which raised the prospects of 4 hikes for this year and subsequently weighed on equity markets across the globe. ASX 200 (-0.7%) and Nikkei 225 (-1.4%) were lower with the worst performers in Australia also dampened by poor earnings results, while Nikkei 225 suffered from a firmer JPY as well as weak Industrial Production and Retail Sales data. Elsewhere, Hang Seng (-1.4%) and Shanghai Comp. (-1.0%) were the early laggards with investor sentiment dragged following a miss on Chinese Official Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing PMI data in which the former printed its weakest since September 2016, while aluminium names also felt the brunt after the US confirmed tariffs on aluminium foil imports from China. Finally, 10yr JGBs lacked demand despite the broad global risk-averse tone, as Japanese yields tracked the upside in their US counterparts and which also followed a reduction of the BoJ’s Rinban purchases in the  super-long end. The PBoC skipped open market operations for a 2nd consecutive day. PBoC set CNY mid-point at 6.3294 (Prev. 6.3146)

Top Asian News

  • BOJ Cuts Purchases of Super-Long Bonds After Curve Flattens
  • Chinese H Shares Sink, Wrapping Up World’s Biggest Monthly Drop
  • Noble Group Perpetual Holders Unite to Oppose Restructuring
  • Afghan President Offers Taliban Political Recognition, Talks

European bourses kicked the session off on the back-foot following similar performance in their Asia-Pac counterparts, post-Powell. However, losses have been pared throughout the morning (Eurostoxx 50 -0.4%). In terms of sector  specific performance, movements have been relatively broad-based with support for IT names following strong  earnings from Dialog Semiconductor (+10%) which has sent their shares to the top of the Stoxx 600, energy names also firmer as crude modestly recoups some of its post-API losses. Other notable movers this morning post-earnings include St James Place (+3.9%), Ahold (+2.8%), Travis Perkins (-6.2%), Taylor Wimpey (-2.4%), ITV (-6.2%) and Bayer (-3.4%).

Top European News

  • Swedish Economic Growth Accelerates Along With Global Revival
  • German Joblessness Falls as Companies Struggle to Find Workers
  • Johnson: Irish Border ‘Being Used’ to Keep U.K. in Customs Union
  • New ITV CEO Disappoints on Ad Revenue Outlook, Lack of Dividend

In FX, the broad Dollar continues to benefit from month end positioning and a more hawkish tone emanating from Fed chair Powell during the live testimony and Q&A session. The index is retesting near term chart resistance in the 90.500-600 area, and could establish a firmer recovery base if it manages to close above. EURUSD may be pivotal on this front as the pair only just held the 1.2200 level having breached 1.2206 support, with stops expected on a clear break below and exposing several tech supports (1.2181/1.2173 Fibs and 55DMA at 1.2176) ahead of the January 18 ytd low at 1.2165. Above forecasts German jobs data has subsequently seen the headline pair move back into the 1.2220 area. The Greenback is also extending gains vs the JPY, but struggling around 107.00 again amidst decent offers above the big figure and option expiries at the strike (today and more running off this week). Cable looks prone to a deeper pull-back from 1.4000 and while under 1.3900 further declines could see techs target double bottom support circa 1.3855 (especially if the EU’s draft Brexit paper is particularly hard-line). AUDUSD is also hovering above key downside levels and a hefty 0.7800 expiry (1.1 bn), including 200 and 100 DMAs from 0.7784-76 and the 2018 low at 0.7758, while NZDUSD is inching closer to 0.7200 after Tuesday’s trade data miss. Usd/Cad is holding just below strong resistance at 1.2796 ahead of Canadian PPI and raw material price data.

In the commodities complex, WTI and Brent crude futures have seen a mild uptick in recent trade following last night’s API-inspired losses. Whereby, prices suffered despite a smaller than expected build to headline crude stockpiles, as it was also accompanied by an unexpected build to gasoline inventories. Traders will also be mindful of yesterday’s source reports stating that OPEC are set to meet with US shale producers next Monday. In metals markets, spot gold is particularly flat today in the wake of yesterday’s Powell-inspired sell-off whilst Chinese steel futures were seen higher overnight with the move to the upside capped by soft demand.

 

US Event Calendar

  • 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -6.6%
  • 8:30am: GDP Annualized QoQ, est. 2.5%, prior 2.6%; Personal Consumption, est. 3.6%, prior 3.8%; Core PCE QoQ, est. 1.9%, prior 1.9%
  • 9:45am: Chicago Purchasing Manager, est. 64.1, prior 65.7
  • 10am: Pending Home Sales MoM, est. 0.5%, prior 0.5%; NSA YoY, prior -1.8%

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

The big story yesterday was yields spiking after the inaugural testimony from new Fed Chair Powell to the House Financial Services Committee. The first impressions of Mr Powell are favourable from us here in the Thematic Research team at DB as he gave our “yields are rising … and why they’ll continue to….” theme week some fresh impetus yesterday as 10 year Treasuries climbed over 7bps from the lows of the day after his Q&A to the House yesterday. Staying with yields the big event today is core PCE in the US which is the Fed’s preferred inflation measure. Before we delve into Mr Powell’s testimony, a reminder of the theme week so far and to highlight today’s piece on what higher yields mean for global equity investors.

So Powell’s testimony at Capitol Hill was fairly hawkish yesterday but it took until the Q&A for the market to decide this. Most were expecting a more ‘steady as she goes’ approach so it took investors a bit by surprise. As soon as the initial headlines from the prepared testimony hit the wires the main takeaway was perhaps Powell’s comments that “some headwinds facing the US economy are now tailwinds” and also that the policy committee “will strike a balance between avoiding an overheated economy and moving inflation to the 2% target on a sustained basis” and that financial conditions “remain accommodative”. There were also the usual mentions of seeing “further gradual rate hikes” and also that the “outlook remains strong”.

For the market however, Treasuries really got moving once the Q&A kicked off. The Fed Chair confirmed that while he wouldn’t prejudge, his personal outlook for the US economy has strengthened since December and that “we’ve seen some data that will, in my case, add some confidence to my view that inflation is moving up to target”. He also noted that “we’ve seen continued strength around the globe, and we’ve seen fiscal policy become more accommodative”.  Powell also added that he does not want “regulations to inappropriately slow credit”. Overall there appeared to be no sign of Powell being concerned about the mini selloff in February as impacting the Fed’s outlook for the economy while all the risks appeared to be biased toward upside to growth rather than downside to inflation, as well as the benefits from fiscal policy going forward. Much of the interest now will be on whether or not this translates into a change in the March dot plot.

10y Treasuries quickly spiked through 2.90% as Powell spoke after trading as low as 2.846% after his prepared remarks were released. They topped out at 2.923% and eventually closed at 2.894% (+3.1bp). The move was led by the belly of the curve with 3, 5 and 7y yields 4-5bp higher while 2y and 30y yields ended 3.8bp and 0.6bp higher respectively indicating a notable bear flattener. In Europe, 10y Bunds ended +2.6bps higher having chopped around earlier in the day in response to a slightly softer Germany CPI print (more below). Meanwhile the USD index closed +0.58% and just off the highs while risk assets suffered with the yield move. The S&P 500 ended down -1.27% – with declines accelerating in the evening session – and brought to an end the three-day winning streak, while the Dow ended -1.16%. The early moves lower in risk were also enough to see European markets edge into the red by the close of play (Stoxx 600 -0.18%). The VIX was up for the first time in five days to 18.59 (+17.7%).

The Powell testimony straddled some mixed US data with the hard numbers weak but with confidence data and survey data strong (see below). However the hard data was enough to push the Atlanta Fed GDPnow Q1 tracker down to 2.58% versus 3.20% previously and as high as 5.4% early in the quarter!

This morning in Asia, markets are all lower with the Nikkei (-0.97%), Kospi (-0.95%), Hang Seng (-1.36%) and China’s CSI 300 (-0.48%) all down as we type. Datawise, China’s February manufacturing PMI (50.3 vs. 51.1 expected) and non-manufacturing PMI (54.4 vs. 55.0 expected) were both below market and declined mom, with the former at the lowest since July 2016. Elsewhere,Japan’s January IP (2.7% yoy vs. 5.3% expected) and retail trade (1.6% yoy vs. 2.4% expected) were also lower than expectations. We’re definitely seeing global data dipping from a strong peak in the last week.

Turning to other markets yesterday. The Euro and Sterling fell 0.68% and 0.42% respectively given the USD strength. In commodities, WTI oil fell 1.67% to $ 62.84/ bbl, in part as the IEA warned about “explosive growth” in US output. Elsewhere, precious metals weakened c1.3% (Gold -1.15%; Silver -1.39%) and other base metals retreated as the USD firmed (Copper -1.16%; Zinc -0.96%; Aluminium +0.04%).

Away from the markets and onto the ECB’s Weidmann where he broadly reiterated his prior comments. On the outlook for rates, he noted the market’s expectation for hikes to begin in mid-2019 was “not completely unrealistic” and that ECB’s current policy guidance of keeping rates unchanged “well past” the end of QE “is a rather vague time dimension” and should be strengthened. On QE, he would have preferred the ECB to have set a “clear end date” when it  extended the program back in October.

Turning to the US, the US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said President Trump “is willing to negotiate” on the Transpacific Partnership, “whether we do multilaterals or going back to TPP…that’s something that’s on the table”. Elsewhere, the US commerce department has proposed duties of 49%-106% on Chinese aluminium foil for selling the product in the US. The issue will go to a vote on 15 March at the US International trade commission.

Turning to some Brexit headlines. On the transition period, the UK had recently suggested “around two years” with suggestions of potentially leaving it open ended. Yesterday, the EU negotiator Barnier was quite firm, noting that the transition period “must be short…must be clearly specified and for the moment this is clearly the line that we’re pursuing – a period ending on Dec 2020”.

Elsewhere, the UK trade secretary Fox noted if the UK stayed in the customs union post Brexit, this would be a “complete sell out” and limit UK’s ability to negotiate other trade deals. Finally, the UK PM May “remains committed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK” with more details to be provided in her big speech on Friday.

Before we take a look at today’s calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from yesterday. In the US, the CB consumer confidence index was above market and rose to a 17 year high (130.8 vs. 126.5 expected) while the February Richmond Fed manufacturing index also beat at 28 (vs. 15 expected). However on the downside, the January advanced goods trade deficit was the widest since 2008 at -$ 74.4bln (vs. -$ 72.3bln expected) as growth in imports outpaced exports. Elsewhere, wholesale inventories grew 0.7% mom (vs. 0.4% expected) while both core durable goods orders (-0.3% mom vs. 0.4% expected) and core capital goods orders (-0.2% mom vs. 0.5% expected) were below market but still up 6.9% yoy and 6.3% yoy respectively. Finally, the December FHFA house price index (0.3% mom vs. 0.4% expected) and the S&P corelogic house price index (6.3% yoy vs. 6.35% expected) were both slightly below expectations.

Germany’s February CPI was 0.1ppt lower than expectations, at 0.5% mom and 1.2% yoy respectively, with the annual rate at a 16 month low. Spanish inflation beat expectations though (1.2% yoy vs. 0.9% expected). The Euro area’s January money supply was in line at 4.6% yoy and the final reading on February consumer confidence was unrevised at 0.1. Elsewhere, the February confidence indicators across Europe were slightly ahead of market, with the Euro area’s economic confidence at 114.1 (vs. 114 expected), Italy’s manufacturing confidence at 110.6 (vs. 109.2 expected) and consumer confidence at 115.6 (vs. 115 expected).

Conversely, France’s consumer confidence was below market at 100 (vs. 103). Looking at the day ahead, Germany’s March GfK consumer confidence index is due in early morning. Then the flash February CPI readings for the Euro area, France and Italy will be out. Elsewhere, France’s January PPI and 4Q GDP along with Germany’s February unemployment rate are also due. In the US, the February Chicago PMI, second reading on the 4Q GDP and Core PCE as well the January pending home sales data will be due. Onto other events, the EU negotiator Barnier will brief permanent EU representatives on Brexit and the withdrawal text is also expected to be published.

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