Asian stocks rose, led by Hong Kong, while European shares and U.S. equity-index futures are little changed. Euro, yen climb as the dollar posted an unexpected loss following some serious fireworks out of China, which intervened in funding market to crush offshore Yuan shorts.
Top news stories include Macy’s and Kohl’s cutting their outlook after weak holiday season, Deutsche Bank exploring lending money to PE firms buying distressed loans, Apple planning to invest $1b in SoftBank’s new technology fund.
Declines in the USD outweighed major peers in the past week as traders interpreted minutes from the last Fed meeting to indicate a slower path to interest-rate increases, boosting demand for bonds and assets of developing nations. The offshore yuan surged the most on record after the government encouraged companies to stock up on the currency before the week of lunar New Year celebrations.
Gold climbed to the highest in a month.
As Bloomberg notes, the growing backlash against the dollar coincides with more-sober outlooks on whether President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to boost fiscal spending will achieve rapid reflation. The Fed reiterated that a “gradual” pace of rate hikes over the coming years would likely remain appropriate, damping speculation officials will step in to counter inflation with higher rates. Stocks have rallied with the dollar, while Treasuries have plunged since Trump’s election.
While the Dow continues to flirt with 20,000, world stocks hit their highest level since mid-2015 on Thursday after strong Chinese data added to the optimism about global growth and inflation that has been driving markets since the start of the new year. The MSCI world equity index was up 0.4% at one stage to hit its highest level since July 2015. At that level it was up over 1.5 percent for the year so far. The index was pushed up by Asian shares, which rose for the eighth consecutive day on Thursday .
Growth in China’s services sector accelerated to a 17-month high in December, a private sector survey showed, adding to upbeat factory and service sector surveys out of the United States, Europe and Asia released this week.
In addition, minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s December meeting showed that many of the central bank’s policy makers are expecting a pick-up in economic growth and inflation in the world’s biggest economy as a result of fiscal, regulatory or other policies, although most expressed concern that the pace of Trump fiscal stimuli could end up overpowering the economy, and pushing inflation (and the dollar) too high.
“Recent economic data is pretty good so markets are in risk-on mode overall,” said Yukio Ishizuki, currency strategist at Daiwa Securities. “But U.S. bond yields are being capped so the dollar is losing the driver behind its rally.”
Stocks and bond yields have been rising ever since the election of Republican Donald Trump as U.S. president on expectations that fiscal stimulus will boost growth and inflation. Trump’s inauguration takes place on Jan. 20. “The FOMC’s minutes to its Dec meeting released post yesterday’s European close could best be characterized as perhaps tilted toward the hawkish side but tempered by a heavy dose of uncertainty,” said Rabobank strategist Richard McGuire. “All the policymakers emphasized the uncertainty of the outlook, reminding investors that the outlook is more nuanced than the market seems to think,” he said.
With just two weeks to go before Trump takes over, investors and policymakers are waiting to see if his actions match his rhetoric and if his policies will be approved by Republican lawmakers. The dollar extended its losses on Thursday, falling 0.42% against a basket of six major currencies – though still near the 14-year high hit on Tuesday – following losses against the Chinese yuan, which soared after Beijing stepped into both its onshore and offshore yuan markets to shore up the faltering yuan for a second day on Wednesday, sparking speculation that it wants a firm grip on the currency ahead of Trump’s inauguration.
“In the past two months it’s really been the U.S. versus the rest of the world,” said Simon Quijano-Evans, a strategist at Legal & General Group Plc in London. “Maybe there will be some wind taken out of the sails. As we move towards the end of January and the lunar new year holidays, the Chinese authorities are being overly cautious to prevent a rout.”
Maybe, but not today as the DJIA is about to try once again to cross the long-awaited 20,000 barrier.
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Global Headline News
Looking at Asian markets, stocks here traded mostly higher following the upbeat lead from Wall Street where all 3 major indices closed positive with the consumer discretionary sector underpinned by strong auto sales and the DJIA finished within 60 points of the 20,000 level. ASX 200 (+0.3%) was supported by miners and energy names after a pullback in USD buoyed the commodities complex, while Nikkei 225 (-0.4%) was dampened by a firmer JPY and as the index took a breather from yesterday’s stellar gains. Elsewhere, Hang Seng (+1.5%) outperformed following encouraging Chinese Caixin Services and Composite PMIs, although the Shanghai Comp (+0.2%) lagged amid continuing liquidity concerns and surges in money market rates after the PBoC only conducted a paltry CNY 10bIn open market operation today. Finally, 10-yr JGBs were relatively flat with minimal gains seen amid a slightly cautious tone in Japan, while today’s 10yr JGB auction later also failed to spur demand with the b/c and lowest accepted prices weaker than prior.
Top Asian News
European equities rebounded from some early downside, into rose into mid-morning trade relatively flat (Euro Stoxx 50: +0.1%), with the FTSE 100 reaching fresh record highs and printing above 7200 for the first time. The FTSE 100 benefitted from GBP softness, with material names among the best performers while Homebuilders also led the way higher after Persimmon (+4.8%) reported earnings pre-market. In a similar fashion to equity markets, fixed income has seen the entirety of the opening moves retraced, with Bunds opening around the 163.50 before closing the opening gap to trade around 163.20. Of note, today we are looking out for the potential pricing of the French 50Y, while participants will also be keeping an eye on the quantity of corporate issuance, given the significant slate so far this week. Finally, Italian yields remain in focus with the short end of curve underperforming significantly while the GE/IT 10Y spread back above 160bps.
Top European News
In currencies, the offshore yuan surged 0.6 percent to 6.8913 per dollar as of 11:25 a.m. in London after surging 1.4 percent Wednesday, putting it on track for a record two-day gain. The Bloomberg Dollar Index extended losses, declining 0.2 percent, after touching its highest level since its 2004 inception 4.5 percent since Nov. 9. It fell against The euro was little changed at $1.0490. Overall, it has been a busy session for FX, with the USD finally seeing a little more flexibility after the strong post US election gains seen. In USD/JPY, the pair dropped as low as 115.60, before rebounding 100 pipe higher. Yesterday’s FOMC minutes added to the Dollar pullback, which was largely a function of over-extended levels, but with some Fed members incorporating Trump’s expansionary policy intentions into their forecasts and rate outlook (accordingly), cause for some ‘uncertainty’ to be re-factored into the USD has since taken place. EUR/USD has pushed back through 1.0500 as a result, and with German and EU inflation rises also bolstering. Firmer commodity prices are helping to lift the related FX pairs, with AUD pushing up to fresh highs around .7325-30. NZD has been dragged higher accordingly as we tipped .7000 here also. CAD has been leading the way however, outpacing Oil price gains over the past week or so and reinforcing the resistance seen ahead of 1.3600.
In commodities, crude slipped 0.4% to $53.45 a barrel in New York as investors weighed rising Libyan supply against signs OPEC output began slipping. Gold rose 0.7 percent to the the highest level in almost a month. Aluminum led base metals higher with a 0.7 percent gain. Nickel rose 0.3 percent and zinc was up 0.4 percent.
Looking at the day ahead, the early data print in the US is the ADP employment change reading for last month which should help anchor expectations for tomorrow’s payrolls. Market consensus for the ADP print is currently 175k which compares to 216k in November. Also due out is the latest weekly initial jobless claims reading while the final services and composite PMI’s will also be confirmed. Also of note is the ISM non-manufacturing reading for last month which will come hot on the heels of the strong manufacturing print earlier this week. Market consensus for this is 56.8. Away from the data we’re due to hear from BoE Chief Economist Andy Haldane this afternoon when he speaks at an event in London.
US Event Calendar
DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
A quick scan through last night’s FOMC minutes will reveal no mention of President-elect Trump’s name but it’s pretty clear where the debates and discussions at the Fed now lie. In a nutshell “almost all” officials made mention of upside risks to their growth forecasts as a result of prospects for more expansionary fiscal policies while interestingly “about half” of the Fed officials incorporated fiscal policy into their forecasts. The caveat though is that the outlook is distinctly uncertain. Indeed the minutes acknowledged that “participants emphasized their considerable uncertainty about the timing, size and composition of any future fiscal and other economic policy initiatives as well as about how those policies might affect aggregate demand and supply”. Officials also acknowledged that this “made it more challenging to communicate to the public about the likely path of the federal funds rate”.
The minutes also acknowledged that the staff’s forecasts for higher real GDP growth over the next few years “were substantially counterbalanced by the restraint from the higher assumed paths for longer-term interest rates and the foreign exchange value of the dollar”. Away from Trump the rest of the minutes didn’t offer a whole lot of new information with officials seemingly a bit more confident about the balance of risks. That said there was a subtle change to the number of officials concerned about a sizable undershooting of the longerrun normal unemployment rate from “a few members” in November to “several members” in December.
So the overall tone fits in with Yellen’s post-meeting statement last month where she said that the Fed is “operating under a cloud of uncertainty at the moment”. So every Trump move will continue to be closely watched and scrutinized. With that in mind it’s worth circling the 11th January in your diary as it’s when Trump is due to hold a ‘general news conference’. It’s his first since the election victory and comes just 9 days before his official inauguration so it should be a closely watched event. Evaluating Trump’s administration appointments in the mean time will continue to be a focus for now though. One which stands out is the appointment of Robert Lighthizer as his new trade representative. Lighthizer is seen as a longstanding advocate of greater protectionism and was formerly a trade official under Ronald Reagan. The WSJ also notes that Lighthizer has three decades of experience arguing for punitive tariffs on overseas companies. So it appears that the appointment confirms what is likely to be a major shift in trade policy under a Trump presidency.
Meanwhile markets turned a fairly blind eye to the minutes yesterday. 10y Treasury yields were hovering around 2.450% leading into the minutes before closing the day at 2.440% and 0.5bps lower on the day. 2y yields finished flat at 1.216% while the USD index, which had struggled as the session wore on, closed -0.67% but again with little reaction post the minutes. It’s been nothing but good news for risk assets in the US so far this year though. The S&P 500 finished +0.57% and so taking the 2017 YTD gain to +1.43%. That’s the best start to the year since 2013. Consumer names were a big driver yesterday although it’s worth noting that both Macy’s and Kohl’s tumbled after market (by -8% and -9% respectively) after both lowered earnings guidance following softer holiday season sales. The MSCI EM equity index also returned +0.35% and has now gained in 7 of the last 8 sessions. The rally in Europe had earlier stalled however with the Stoxx 600 closing down a fairly modest -0.12%. Elsewhere credit has also gotten off to a flier, particularly across the pond and yesterday we saw CDX IG tighten just over 2bps to take the index to the tightest level since May 2015. The new issue market hasn’t taken any time to warm up either with Bloomberg reporting that US IG primary issuance is over $45bn in the first two trading days of the year already and so overtaking that for the first week in 2016 and 2015.
As we refresh our screens this morning it’s been a bit of a mixed performance in Asia so far. While the Hang Seng (+1.30%) has risen strongly led by gains for the energy sector, bourses in China are little changed while the Nikkei is -0.24%. The Kospi (-0.09%) is also a shade lower while the ASX (+0.29%) is up a touch. US equity index futures are also slightly in the red. There was also some data in China this morning where the Caixin services PMI was confirmed as rising 0.3pts to 53.4 in December. That’s helped push the composite reading up to 53.5 from 52.9 and to the highest level in 45 months.
Moving on. Away from the minutes, yesterday’s economic data was also generally supportive. In the US we learned that total vehicles sales increased to an annualized rate of 18.3m in December (vs. 17.7m) from 17.8m in the month prior. Over in Europe it was revealed that the estimate of headline Euro area CPI had risen more than expected in December after printing at +1.1% (vs. +1.0% expected) from +0.6% in November. That puts headline inflation at the highest level since September 2013 and encouragingly while higher energy prices led, the increase was actually relatively broad based. The core was also up after rising one-tenth to +0.9% yoy. Meanwhile the remaining PMI’s were also out in Europe yesterday. The final composite PMI for the Euro area in December was revised up to 54.4 from 53.9 after the services reading was revised up 0.6pts to 53.7. That is the highest PMI reading since 2011, just beating the 54.3 seen in August and December 2015. Our European economists also noted that at the same time, a number of the sub-indices, including the composite input and output prices and the backlog of orders, were confirmed at new cyclical highs. Across countries the news was broadly positive across the EMU countries while Italy was the relative disappointment with the composite down 0.5pts to 52.9, although this came after a 2.2pt rise in November. Our colleagues go on to say that at 53.8 on average in Q4 the composite PMI was back to in line with its 2015 levels, a year in which Euro area GDP grew on average by 0.5% qoq.
Wrapping up the remaining news yesterday. Over in France National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen confirmed that she wanted to remove France from the Euro and also redenominate French overnment debt in a new national currency. Le Pen confirmed that she wanted “a national currency with the euro as a common currency” and as the FT made mention to, suggests some softening in her views in favour of a looser form of currency sharing rather than a hard return to a national French currency. Meanwhile in the UK, PM Theresa May moved quickly and decisively to replace Sir Ivan Rogers as the UK Ambassador to the EU by appointing Tim Barrow to the role. He was previously the political director of the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Looking at the day ahead, the diary is a bit thinner in Europe this morning with the only notable data due out being the remaining December PMI’s in the UK (services and composite) and the PPI print for the Euro area. This afternoon in the US the early data print is the ADP employment change reading for last month which should help anchor expectations for tomorrow’s payrolls. Market consensus for the ADP print is currently 175k which compares to 216k in November. Also due out is the latest weekly initial jobless claims reading while the final services and composite PMI’s will also be confirmed. Also of note is the ISM non-manufacturing reading for last month which will come hot on the heels of the strong manufacturing print earlier this week. Market consensus for this is 56.8. Away from the data we’re due to hear from BoE Chief Economist Andy Haldane this afternoon when he speaks at an event in London.