S&P futures are unchanged and Asian stocks closed mixed, however European stocks rebounded for first time this week, led by auto stocks after Daimler’s quarterly profit, as a break in alarming political news prompted traders to “swoop” – as Reuters puts it – on equities, cooling a safe-haven rally that saw the yen and gold at five-month highs and global government bond yields to drop their lowest this year.
Still, with many geopolitical unknowns in the days ahead as well as potential military escalation in North Korea, the mood remained “skittish”, and meant that what looked set to be oil’s longest winning run since August – up for 8 consecutive days, its longest streak in 2017 – has largely gone under the radar.
As DB’s Jim Reid puts it, it has felt quite quiet and orderly this week considering the risk-off tendencies and relatively big spike in volatility. However that might be because of a lack of activity given the pending Easter break. So poor liquidity is probably exacerbating the moves. Add to this the rising geopolitics tensions (North Korea, Syria), slow burning ongoing concerns about Trump trades post the healthcare debacle, and a steady increase of support for Melenchon in the recent French polls making it less certain who’ll contest the final round run-off. For now equity and credit markets remain fairly resilient which reduces the immediate worry but if vol remains elevated at these levels for a few days expect weakness.
This morning in Asia we got the latest inflation data out of China. In terms of the numbers, PPI in March has moderated somewhat after dipping two-tenths to +7.6% yoy (vs. +7.5% expected) following a bit of a levelling out in commodity prices. That said it also marks the seventh consecutive monthly positive print after 54 months of deflation in prices at the factory gate. Meanwhile CPI has edged up one-tenth to +0.9% yoy although did miss slightly relative to expectations for +1.0%, with a -4.4% yoy decline in food prices in particular having an impact.
Bourses in China are a touch weaker although that is the case for much of Asia this morning, if not the rest of the world. Global markets halted their recent declines with an early 0.3 percent rise for Europe’s STOXX 600 share index put it on course for its best day of the month. The rise in oil underpinned energy stocks while banks and carmakers also made ground. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan saw a late rally though Shanghai closed down 0.4 percent as China reported a slight slowdown in producer price inflation. South Korean stocks and the won gained for the first time in seven days. Hong Kong equities erased losses to rally in late trading. The yield on 10-year U.S. notes rose after closing Tuesday below 2.3 percent for the first time in four months. Oil extended its longest winning streak since December. Japan’s Topix fell to the lowest level of the year after the yen breached 110 yen per dollar for the first time since November on Tuesday. A quick breakdown from Bloomberg:
- The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.3 percent, with automakers leading gains as Daimler AG’s first-quarter profit almost doubled. Daimler shares rose 1.6 percent.
- Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent, after dropping 2 percent over the previous six sessions. Japan’s Topix fell 1 percent, led by declines in banks, autos and other exporters. South Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index gained less than 0.1 percent.
- The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index climbed 0.3 percent and the Hang Seng Index jumped 0.6 percent, wiping out earlier losses at the end of the trading day. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 percent. Data showed China’s producer price gains slowed last month from a peak in February, tempering the global inflation outlook.
At the same time, volatility is easing after the VIX climbed to a level unseen since November on Tuesday amid escalating global tensions.
“It is a modest rebound,” said Rabobank strategist Philip Marey. “We have discounted much of the news like the conflict between the Americans and the Russian on Syria and Trump’s tweets on North Korea, so maybe its time to move on.”
S&P500 futures are unchanged, having spent the Asian session in the red. Japan’s Nikkei had slid just over 1 percent as a rising yen weighed on exporters’ shares.
However, while stock traders are hoping to BTD, the allure of save havens persists with gold climbing as far as $1,280.30 at one stage, its highest since Nov. 10, while the 10Y TSY was at 2.30% at last check, flirting with the key support ling that has emerged since the Trump election, after dropping to 2.28% overnight.
“A degree of uncertainty has found its way into previously seemingly bulletproof financial markets,” wrote analysts at ANZ. “There is clearly some nervousness out there, with tensions around North Korea ratcheting higher and adding to an already heightened geopolitical environment. Global cyclical assets have not yet responded, but that can’t last.”
In geopolitics, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday stressed the need for a peaceful solution for the Korean peninsula on a call with U.S President Donald Trump. North Korea has warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the Korean peninsula – a force Trump described as an “armada”. Japan’s navy also plans joint drills with the U.S. force, sources told Reuters. Trump said in a Tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the U.S. would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.
The bellicose language has dragged South Korean stocks and the won to four-week lows and caused jitters across Asia. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Moscow to denounce Russian support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, raising the stakes in the Middle East. A joint news conference by Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was also likely to generate headlines.
In currencies, the yen, a favoured harbor in times of stress due to Japan’s position as the world’s largest creditor nation, also cooled in Europe after having surged over 1.2 percent against the dollar on Tuesday. The dollar huddled at 109.70 yen, having been as low as 109.35 at one stage. Dealers warned there was little in the way of chart support until the 200-day moving average at 108.72.
The euro steadied too, having dropped to its lowest in five months at 115.91 yen. It was looking to snap 11 straight sessions of losses, a record for the single currency. It was shade higher on the dollar at $1.0618. Political uncertainty in France added to the euro’s woes as hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon surged in the polls ahead of the May presidential election.
All this unease boosted bonds with yields on 10-year Treasuries US10YT=RR boasting their lowest close of the year on Tuesday. Yields were last at 2.30% and testing a hugely important barrier on the charts. European yields nudged only cautiously upwards despite the easier mood in other assets, as nearly 16 billion euros of upcoming debt sales weighing on risk-averse, holiday-thinned markets.
Meanwhile, US traders are looking for an upbeat earnings season set to kick off tomorrow with a handful of banks reporting Q1 results. Analysts expect earnings for all S&P 500 companies to have risen 10 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Oil’s winning streak got an added lift from reports Saudi Arabia was lobbying OPEC and other producers to extend a production cut beyond the first half of 2017. Global benchmark Brent edged up 30 cents to $56.53 a barrel, while U.S. crude added 25 cents to $53.66. If sustained, this would be the longest stretch of gains since August 2016.
Bulletin Headline Summary from RanSquawk
- European indices have remained afloat with oil prices rising amid a drawdown in last nights API report, while Saudi support of extension to cuts also keeps oil elevated.
- GBP undecided after mixed jobs report where importantly wage inflation is now below CPI.
- Looking ahead, highlights include DoE and Bank of Canada rate decision.
- S&P 500 futures up 0.1% to 2,353.00
- STOXX Europe 600 up 0.5% to 382.98
- MXAP down 0.08% to 146.72
- MXAPJ up 0.5% to 479.87
- Nikkei down 1% to 18,552.61
- Topix down 1% to 1,479.54
- Hang Seng Index up 0.9% to 24,313.50
- Shanghai Composite down 0.5% to 3,273.83
- Sensex down 0.3% to 29,685.83
- Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.08% to 5,933.96
- Kospi up 0.2% to 2,128.91
- German 10Y yield unchanged at 0.204%
- Euro up 0.1% to 1.0616 per US$
- Italian 10Y yield rose 3.9 bps to 1.986%
- Spanish 10Y yield rose 0.3 bps to 1.647%
- Brent Futures up 0.5% to $56.49/bbl
- Gold spot down 0.1% to $1,273.27
- U.S. Dollar Index down 0.07% to 100.64
Top Overnight News From Bloomberg
- Amazon Said to Mull Whole Foods Bid Before Jana Stepped In
- Meredith Said in Late-Stage Talks for Time Inc. Takeover
- Xi Urges North Korea Talks in Trump Call as Tensions Mount
- Oil Extends Longest Gain of 2017 as Saudis Seen Extending Curbs
- Tillerson, Lavrov Meet in Moscow as U.S. Blasts Russia on Syria
- BHP CEO Rejects Oil Spinoff for Third Time After Singer Demand
- Neurocrine Wins FDA Approval on Drug for Movement Disorder
- Arista Networks Says Ruling Allows for Product Imports Into U.S.
- Daimler’s First-Quarter Earnings Surge on Mercedes Success
- NuStar to Buy Navigator in $1.5 Billion Bet on Permian Pipelines
Asian markets were weighed by geopolitical concerns with the Nikkei 225 (-1%) the underperformer amid JPY strength. The downbeat tone was evident across the region, with the Shanghai Composite (-0.4%) finding itself in negative territory not helped by the 0.90%, vs. Exp. 1.00% CPI Y/Y miss, while ASX 200 (+0.1%) was also subdued, although strength in the materials sector and mining names stemmed downside. Finally, JGBs followed European and US fixed income markets, finding bullish pressure throughout the session. Noticeably, the BoJ lowered its 3yr-5yr purchases by JPY 30bIn which had no effect on the 10yr or the flight to safety, with the 10yr JGB Jun’17 contract higher by around 20 ticks. Chinese CPI (Mar) Y/Y 0.9% vs. Exp. 1.0% (Prey. 0.8%); – PPI (Mar) Y/Y 7.6% vs. Exp. 7.6% (Prey. 7.8%). PBoC refrained from open market operations again for a net daily drain of CNY 40bIn. BoJ Governor Kuroda stated BoJ easing is not targeting an FX level and that JPY weakness could help inflation reach target quicker. Kuroda further stated that he sees no problem with asset purchases or expansion of monetary base.
Top Asian News
- China Producer Price Reflation Moderates as Commodities Cool Off
- Xi, Trump Exchange Views on Issues Including North Korea Today
- China Says Escalating Korean Situation ’Irresponsible, Dangerous’
- Cathay Promotes Operating Chief Rupert Hogg to CEO After Loss
- Qantas Stops Selling Tickets in Zimbabwe Amid Cash Shortage
In Europe the risk off sentiment doesn’t last long with the markets shrugging off yesterday’s concerns to see equities trade higher again this morning. Energy names are leading the charge, with the sector benefitting as WTI trades above USD 533.50/bbl in the wake of reports of Saudi Arabia want OPEC to extend production cuts and is pushing for a six-month extension. Elsewhere this morning, Tesco’s earnings failed to lift the company, with concerns remaining after profits were weighed on by the 2014 accounting scandal. Fixed income markets have traded in a tighter range for much of the morning amid the slew of supply. Additionally, gilt prices notched lower in the wake of a relatively soft 2065 auction in which the tail had notably widened by some 1.7bps.
Top European News
- Tesco Lays Down Price Gauntlet to Rivals as Pressure Grows
- U.K. Households Facing Biggest Earnings Squeeze Since 2014
- EU Won’t Back Trade Deal If U.K. Chooses ‘Singapore-on- Thames’
- Puma Raises 2017 Earnings Forecast as Turnaround Progresses
- Swedish Elk-Hunt Bribery Case Widens to Handelsbanken Chairman
- Banco Popular Rises Most in Three Months on Takeover Speculation
- Melenchon Crashes Front-Runners’ Party as French Risks Rise
- German Economy Saw ‘Vigorous’ Expansion in 1Q 2017: Government
In currencies, the yen fell less than 0.1 percent to 109.70 against the dollar as of 8:44 a.m. in London, erasing an earlier gain of 0.2 percent. The currency jumped 1.2 percent on Tuesday for the biggest increase since January. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.1 percent. The South Korean won rose 0.4 percent, after six days of declines. The euro added 0.1 percent to $1.0620, gaining for a third day. Focus in the FX markets has been on the JPY, as it gains across the board on geopolitical fears. We have finally broken through the 110.00 on the downside, tripping stops through 109.50 but with limited momentum though here as some had feared. Tensions over North Korea and Syria are unlikely to go away any time soon, so expect JPY demand to continue in the meantime. We see the EUR benefiting from times of risk off, but there is no relief for the single unit as the French elections continue to unnerve the market — there seems to be little confidence in the polls which continue to see Le Pen lagging. EUR/USD tested through 1.0600 yesterday and today, but struggles ahead of the first point of resistance at 1.0650. We saw EUR/JPY dipping under 116.00 in late Asia, but demand noted below here.
In commodities, oil climbed 0.4 percent to $53.61 a barrel, after advancing for six straight sessions. Saudi Arabia is likely to support extending OPEC output cuts into the second half of 2017 in an effort to boost oil prices, according to a person familiar with the kingdom’s internal discussions. Gold fell 0.1 percent to $1,273.70 an ounce, after jumping 1.6 percent on Tuesday to the highest since Nov. 9. The flight to safety has seen Gold on the ramp again in recent sessions, tipping USD1280.00 alongside the drop in the USD which has seen the JPY take out 110.00. Silver is now back above USD18.00 as a result, as precious metals have been the obvious trade in the last few days. Oil prices have pushed higher also as Saudi Arabia wants OPEC to extend the production cuts by another 6 months, with the API’s showing a drawdown to add impetus to the WTI rise through USD53.00. Brent is now pushing into the upper USD56.00’s. Base metals naturally suffer with the risk off tone as, with Copper now back under USD2.60, but techs note some near term support on the horizon. Zinc has been underperforming as supply picks up, but also stabilises to a modest degree today.
Looking at the day ahead, it’s quiet again in the US with just the March import price index reading and monthly budget statement due out. Away from the data the BoE’s Carney is due speak this morning, while the IMF’s Lagarde is also scheduled to speak at a conference in the next few hours. The Fed’s Kaplan then speaks this afternoon at 3pm BST. As highlighted earlier, expect politics to also remain a focus with Tillerson’s visit to Russia one to watch.
US Event Calendar
- 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -1.6%
- 8:30am: Import Price Index MoM, est. -0.2%, prior 0.2%; YoY, est. 3.95%, prior 4.6%; Import Price Index ex Petroleum MoM, est. 0.0%, prior 0.3%
- 8:30am: Export Price Index MoM, est. 0.0%, prior 0.3%; 8:30am: Export Price Index YoY, prior 3.1%
- 10am: Fed’s Kaplan Speaks in Fort Worth
- 2pm: Monthly Budget Statement, est. $169.0b deficit, prior $108.0b deficit
* * *
DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
So far this week vol has been spiking up like Sergey after he’s planted his pole at the end of the runway. Given the moves it’s got us asking the question as to whether this is the rise in vol we’ve been waiting for? Last night the VIX closed (15.07) at the highest level since the US election with European VSTOXX (22.95) also at the highs over the same period and just over double the all-time lows seen just over 3 weeks ago. Simultaneously Gold (+1.61%) hit 5 month highs last night and 10yr Treasury yields hit a 5 month low after falling 7bps to 2.296%. 10y Bund yields also held steady at 0.201% and continue to hover a shade above the 2017 low of 0.179% made intraday back in February.
It has felt quite quiet and orderly this week considering the risk-off tendencies and relatively big spike in volatility. However that might be because of a lack of activity given the pending Easter break. So poor liquidity is probably exacerbating the moves. Add to this the rising geopolitics tensions (North Korea, Syria), slow burning ongoing concerns about Trump trades post the healthcare debacle, and a steady increase of support for Melenchon in the recent French polls making it less certain who’ll contest the final round run-off. For now equity and credit markets remain fairly resilient which reduces the immediate worry but if vol remains elevated at these levels for a few days expect weakness.
In terms of the actual geopolitical developments yesterday, it was President Trump’s latest tweeting around North Korea which initially saw vol spike higher midway through the afternoon. Trump tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble” and that the US “will solve the problem” with or without the help of China – reiterating comments he has made previously. Overnight in an interview with Fox News, Trump also said that “we are sending an armada” to the North Korean peninsula. In addition to this and ahead of his visit to Russia, secretary of state Rex Tillerson was fairly blunt in his comments about Russia’s involvement in Syria. Speaking at the G-7 summit, Tillerson said that Russia had aligned itself with an “unreliable partner” in Syria’s al-Assad and urged Russia to abandon its support. Tillerson has travelled to Moscow and is due to meet foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. There’s also some chatter that he could meet President Putin although that is still to be confirmed. Putin had said yesterday that the recent chemical attacks in Syria were “provocations”.
So expect there to be plenty more headlines around this today. While safe havens rallied and volatility spiked higher yesterday it was notable that risk assets actually stayed relatively resilient all things considered. The S&P 500 pared a loss of as much as -0.85% to finish the day down only a modest -0.14%. The percentage loss for the Dow (-0.03%) was even smaller while the Stoxx 600 was -0.02% by the closing bell, despite the obvious moves in vol. In fact in the last six sessions, the Stoxx 600 hasn’t moved up or down by more than 0.20%. Meanwhile credit was a bit weaker at the margin (CDX IG +1bp, iTraxx Main +0.5bps, Crossover +3bps) but again the moves were pretty modest in reality.
This morning in Asia we’ve had the welcome distraction of the latest inflation data out of China. In terms of the numbers, PPI in March has moderated somewhat after dipping two-tenths to +7.6% yoy (vs. +7.5% expected) following a bit of a levelling out in commodity prices. That said it also marks the seventh consecutive monthly positive print after 54 months of deflation in prices at the factory gate. Meanwhile CPI has edged up one-tenth to +0.9% yoy although did miss slightly relative to expectations for +1.0%, with a -4.4% yoy decline in food prices in particular having an impact. Bourses in China are a touch weaker although that is the case for much of Asia this morning. The Shanghai Comp and CSI 300 are -0.32% and -0.04% respectively while the ASX and Hang Seng are -0.17% and -0.15%. In Japan the Nikkei (-1.24%) has notably underperformed reflecting the rally for the Yen (+1.04%) over the past 24 hours. US equity index futures are down about -0.20%.
Moving on. It was another fairly quiet day for macro data yesterday although we did get the first of a number of inflation reports during the week. In the UK headline CPI was reported as rising a higher than expected +0.4% mom in March (vs. +0.3% expected) which had the effect of holding the annual rate unchanged at +2.3%. However the core rate fell a little more than expected to +1.8% yoy from +2.0% although still remains well above the levels of 2015 and 2016. Headline RPI was a little softer than expected (+0.3% mom vs. +0.4% expected) however PPI output rose +0.4% mom and well ahead of the consensus estimate for +0.1%. Sterling (+0.61%) closed higher for the second day in succession yesterday.
Elsewhere in Europe there was some disappointment in the February industrial production print for the Euro area which came in at -0.3% mom (vs. +0.1% expected). More disappointing however was the six-tenths of a percent downward revision to the January data to +0.3%. Our European economists note that if industrial production remains unchanged in March, it will have fallen marginally in Q1 versus the strong +0.9% qoq growth in Q4. This lends some support to their view that the hard data is limiting upside in growth in Q1 despite the strong survey data. On that note, the German ZEW survey was upbeat in April with the current situations index rising 2.8pts to 80.1 and to the highest since July 2011, while the expectations index surged to 19.5 from 12.8. The data in the US yesterday was a bit of a non-event. The BLS JOLTS report revealed that job openings rose to 5.74m in February from 5.63m with both the quits rate and hiring rate edging down one-tenth. Meanwhile the NFIB small business sentiment index nudged down 0.6pts to 104.7 in March, although remains nearly 10pts above its pre-election level. Elsewhere there was a bit of Fedspeak yesterday although nothing that really moved the dial with San Francisco Fed President John Williams reiterating this view that three to four rate hikes this year seems appropriate.
Before we move on to today’s calendar, it’s worth highlighting yesterday’s report by our FX strategy team in which they look at how an exit from unconventional ECB policy would impact the euro. They find that “not all tightenings are created equal” and argue that it is the sequencing of the exit, rather than the overall monetary policy stance, that will determine whether the euro appreciates. A policy focused on an early exit from negative rates would be very bullish for the euro. The report shows that FX is far more sensitive to front-end rather than back-end yields and that this sensitivity has dramatically increased after the 2008 financial crisis. The report also shows that the effects of negative rates are highly non-linear, so that an early ECB hiking cycle will have a disproportionately positive impact on FX. In contrast, a policy focused on a tapering of the ECB’s PSPP program would not be bullish for the euro. QE operates via signaling effects on the short-term rate path as well as by depressing term premia. If the ECB is able to keep the front-end anchored, a rise in term premia alone could have bearish implications for the EUR via reduced demand for European fixed income. Similar effects were observed around the Fed taper tantrum.
Looking at the day ahead, this morning in Europe the main focus is likely to be on the UK again where we’ll get the March and February employment data. The consensus is for no change in the ILO unemployment rate at 4.7% and a slight dip in weekly earnings ex bonus to +2.1% yoy. It’s quiet again in the US this afternoon with just the March import price index reading and monthly budget statement
due out. Away from the data the BoE’s Carney is due speak this morning, while the IMF’s Lagarde is also scheduled to speak at a conference in the next few hours. The Fed’s Kaplan then speaks this afternoon at 3pm BST. As highlighted earlier, expect politics to also remain a focus with Tillerson’s visit to Russia one to watch.