It may be a holiday in the US, but US equity futures are once again levitating and on the verge of new all time highs, while global shares posted their longest winning streak in three months on Monday, aided by fading odds of an imminent taper coupled with talk of more stimulus in Japan and China, while oil slid as the Saudis cut prices for Asian customers by more than twice the expected amount in a sign the world’s largest crude exporter wants to entice buyers to take more of its barrels.
The labor day holiday in the US means trading conditions will be extremely thin, which helped MSCI’s all-country world index gain 0.2%, touching a new record level and on course for its seventh consecutive closing high. Meanwhile in the US, S&P futs rose 0.2% to 4,544 while Nasdaq futures inched up 0.3%.
In Europe the STOXX index of 600 European companies was 0.7% higher, inching closer to August record peaks, while the Euro Stoxx 50 rose as much as 0.9%. Other majors added ~0.6% with tech, household & personal goods and insurance doing much of the heavy lifting. Real estate is the only sector in the red. S&P futures follow Europe, rising 0.2%. Luxury firms LVMH, Kering and Hermes led gains on France’s CAC 40 Index, with Bryan Garnier noting that China’s “common prosperity” goal won’t hurt all luxury companies the same way while helping expand the country’s middle class — a positive overall for the sector; LVMH shares were up 2% as of 12:20pm in Paris while Kering, the owner of Gucci, gains 1.6%; Hermes gained 1.8%. LVMH shares had shed 7% in August, as investors jumped out of the expensive luxury sector amid worries about the new policy in China, a crucial growth engine for the industry. “Common prosperity” policy “does not mean ‘killing’ rich people,” Bryan Garnier analyst Loic Morvan writes in a note. Elsewhere, here are some of the biggest European movers today:
- Norsk Hydro shares jump as much as 5% to the highest level since July 2008 after the aluminum price climbed because of political unrest in Guinea.
- Scor shares gain as much as 3.4% after JPMorgan raised its recommendation on the stock to overweight from neutral.
- Leonardo shares rise as much as 2.3% after the group’s CEO said on Friday that the company plans to proceed with the IPO of its U.S. unit DRS “as soon as conditions allow.”
- Dechra Pharmaceuticals shares fall as much as 9.5% after the company posted results that met estimates. Stifel cuts its rating to hold, noting little upside in the stock.
- EQT AB shares drop as much as 6.4%, seeing $2 billion wiped off the company’s market value after analysts at Nordea Bank cut their recommendation on the stock to sell.
- Spie shares lose as much as 4.7% after the company said it’s submitting an offer to buy Engie’s Equans unit and plans to use a combination of debt and equity to fund the transaction.
Investors were also still assessing the fallout from the September payrolls report, which showed a much smaller increase in jobs than expected, at just 235,000, but also a sharp pickup in wages, hinting at stagflation. The latter was enough to nudge longer-dated Treasury yields higher and steepen the yield curve, even as markets speculated over whether the Federal Reserve might not start tapering until later than previously thought.
“Expectations of a delay in Fed tapering as well as a new administration in Japan is supporting equity markets and we expect this to continue,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Investment Funds. “Buy-on-dip is as robust as ever, taking negative news such as U.S. nonfarm payrolls as good news which is typical of an advanced carry trade.”
Investors “are now already betting on the Fed delaying tapering,” Pierre Veyret, a technical analyst at ActivTrades, wrote in emailed comments. “Even if the prospect of sustained monetary support is helping to lift market sentiment, today’s session is likely to stay muted but technical,” especially given the holiday in the U.S. and lack of macro data releases, he said.
“Employment decelerated sharply in August, with little indication of a pickup in labour supply,” said Barclays economist Jonathan Millar. “This puts the Fed in a quandary as it balances risks of a sharp demand slowdown against those of tight supply and inflation…We still expect the Fed to signal tapering in September, but now expect it to begin in December not November. QE will likely end by the middle of 2022.”
Earlier in the session, Asian stocks rose, boosted by a rally in Japan on prospects of better economic and pandemic policies under a new leader. Chinese shares also jumped. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose about 0.6% overnight to the highest since late July, while the broader MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 0.8%, on track to close at a two-month high, as communication services and technology shares led the advance. Gains in Asia were led by Japan, where the equity benchmark rose to a 31-year high on wagers for new economic policies once Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga steps down. Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.8% to a five-month top, extending a rally on hopes a new prime minister there would bring added fiscal spending (and thus even more debt-monetizing QE). Hopes of fresh stimulus from Beijing through fiscal and monetary policy lifted Chinese blue chips 1.9%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 gauge was among top-performing benchmarks, while the Topix extended gains from a more than 30-year high after Japan’s prime minister’s exit was announced Friday. “As Suga’s rising unpopularity partly stems from a perceived inability on his part to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, the new leadership will have to address this issue,” Jun Rong Yeap, a market strategist at IG Asia, wrote in a note. “This seems to bring high hopes of further economic stimulus to aid businesses and also bolstering of healthcare systems to tackle rising Covid-19 cases.”
Chinese stocks rose overall, with the Hang Seng Tech Index ending the day higher. China’s technology majors committing funds to social initiatives “could potentially turn out to be the critical ‘circuit breaker’ that eases negative sentiment towards the sector,” Nomura strategists Chetan Seth and Amit Phillips wrote in a note, effectively saying that CHinese tech giants can bribe their way to stock upside. Tencent shares were among the top contributors to the Asian benchmark’s rise as Citigroup said its to-be-launched League of Legends Mobile game could buoy sentiment about China’s gaming industry. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing also jumped as Goldman Sachs raised its price target on expectations of a price hike for wafers. Sentiment toward Asian stocks has improved since late August on optimism of gradual tapering by the Federal Reserve. Disappointing U.S. payroll growth data on Friday reinforced that view, as the economy added 235,000 jobs in August – the smallest increase in seven months
In rates, the rise in U.S. 10-year yields to 1.33% limited some of the pressure on the dollar from the poor payrolls print, though its index still touched a one-month low before steadying at 92.207. Cash Treasurys were closed on Monday. Fixed income was also quiet in Europe ahead of this week’s risk events. Bunds bear flatten a touch, gilts bull steepen; both settling off extremes of the morning’s trade. Italy leads a modest tightening in peripheral spreads. Long-end Spain lags after reports the sovereign intends to raise 5 billion euros from a debut green debt deal.
In FX, the dollar was changing hands versus the yen at 109.90, while the euro stood at $1.1868 after hitting a five-week top of $1.1908 on Friday. currencies traded in a tight range with a hint of USD outperformance. AUD, SEK and NZD are at the bottom of the G-10 scoreboard. Indonesia’s rupiah and the Thai baht led most emerging Asian currencies higher as gains in regional equities boosted risk appetite. The Taiwan dollar climbed, touching the strongest level since early June. Indonesia’s rupiah advances for a third day, aided by foreign fund inflows into the nation’s bonds and equities.
The European Central Bank holds its policy meeting this week and a number of policy hawks have been calling for a step back in the bank’s huge asset-buying programme, though President Christine Lagarde has sounded more dovish. Euro zone sovereign bond yields barely budged on Monday. In early trade, Germany’s benchmark 10-year Bund yield was steady at -0.36%. “We expect the ECB to announce a reduced pace of Q4 PEPP (pandemic emergency purchase programme) at its September meeting on the back of easier financial conditions,” said analysts at TD Securities. “All other policy levers are likely to be left on hold, with inflation forecasts revised sharply up this year and next. Communication risks are high, and Lagarde will want to avoid sounding overly hawkish, instead emphasising ‘persistence’.”
In commodities, oil slid after Saudi Arabia slashed prices of all crude grades to Asian customers, while leaving prices to northwestern Europe and the United States steady. While futures rebounded from Asia’s lows, WTI remains ~0.9% lower but recovers above $68.50; Brent returns back below $72 after a short-lived bounce.
The prospect of a later start to Fed tapering proved only fleetingly positive for non-yielding gold, which stood at $1,825 an ounce, having reached its highest since mid-June at $1,833.80. L
Aluminum hit the highest in over a decade on the LME as political unrest in Guinea fueled concerns over supply of the raw material needed to make the metal. A unit of the military seized power and suspended the constitution, raising the possibility of disruption to bauxite shipment from the key global supplier. LME lead and nickel lag peers, dropping over 1%.
Bitcoin was up for a sixth day, trading around $51,700 apiece, while Ethereum continued to coil just under $4,000 waiting for the next major short squeeze that will take it to new record highs and $10,000 thereafter.
There is nothing on the US calendar today due to Labor day. In Germany, we got the July factory orders (3.4% vs -1.0 Exp.), August construction PMI (49.5, Last 49.5) and UK August construction PMI (55.2, exp. 56.9).
* * *
DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
All of a sudden after 18 months at home I’m going to a DB conference this week and I’ll also be back in the office for a day. My wife is hosting a “he’s finally gone back to the office” party at home. Talking of parties we hosted a huge children’s party for the twins 4th birthday on Saturday. Given the lockdowns of the last year we wanted to do something special but boy was it stressful. Indeed I’m still recovering from having 70 screaming kids running loose and shouting in my ears. Good preparation for my first “live” team meeting back.
The champagne corks might be about to go off in the offices of the more hawkish European member states’ central banks this week as an important ECB meeting (Thursday) will be the main highlight. They could use it to announce the start of the end of the PEPP (more later). Before that though, today is a US holiday (Labor Day) with tomorrow and Wednesday Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). So the week will likely get off to a slow start.
Elsewhere we’ll get monetary policy decisions from Australia (tomorrow), Canada (Wednesday), and Russia (Friday), and prior reports from Bloomberg have suggested that President Biden could decide who the next Fed Chair is from around this week. In terms of other data, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the German ZEW (tomorrow), US JOLTS (Wednesday), China CPI/PPI (Thursday) and US PPI (Friday).
The ECB meeting on Thursday is likely the most important event though. At this meeting, the Governing Council are due to conduct a joint assessment of financing conditions and the outlook for inflation, which will be the basis for a recalibration of the pace of PEPP net purchases. The big question for investors will be whether the ECB slows down these purchases, and recent comments by Chief Economist Lane implied that the hurdle to decelerating purchases might be lower than the market had assumed, as he played down the broader significance of a deceleration. Furthermore, we’ve also had the flash CPI estimate that’s showed inflation was running at +3.0% in August, the highest level in nearly a decade. In their preview (link here), our European economists are of the view that an announcement of slower purchases is slightly more likely at this meeting than in December. So it could be a taper week.
Elsewhere it’ll be interesting to see what the Fed speakers make of Friday’s payrolls report. NY President Williams’ (dove) has a speech on the economic outlook on Wednesday. Dallas’ Kaplan (hawk / non-voter) talks on Wednesday and he has been a proponent of a September taper so will he wobble? Elsewhere Cleveland’s Mester (hawk / non-voter) also talks on Friday.
Friday’s jobs report had something for everyone. Weak payrolls but signs of supply constraints in the details. The headline (235k vs. 1053k last month including revisions) and private (243k vs. 798k) payrolls were below the consensus of 733k and 610k, respectively. It seems the Fed are disproportionately focused on this headline number but there was strength elsewhere. Both the headline U-3 (5.2% vs. 5.4%) and U-6 (8.8% vs. 9.2%) rates improved amidst a 509k gain in employment and 318k decline in unemployment. In addition, the prime-age (25-54) employment-to-population ratio improved a couple of tenths to 78% and prime-age participation held steady at 81.8%. Average earnings were at +4.3% against +3.9% expected. Perhaps this explains why 10 year yields ended the day around +4bps higher even with the substantial payrolls miss. It may also tell us a bit more about the positioning of the market now. We had many days of strong data in the early summer while rates rallied hard. The technicals back then were phenomenal and the market short. The technicals are now far less strong.
We’ll get an early chance to see an alternative view of the labour market with Wednesday’s JOLTS report even if it refers to July. This report has shown great tightness in labour markets of late with quits rates around record highs and vacancy yields at records low. Elsewhere on employment, Thursday’s jobless claims will be interesting with Federal UI benefits ending this week for all states. As such we could see a bigger decline in initial claims, though such a fall may wait for another week. As of mid-August, there were still 9.2mn people collecting either PUA or PEUC, most of whom will lose all income support in the coming weeks. While this may provide some relief with respect to the labor shortage it could also leave some light on income which may impact consumption.
Back to central banks the most interesting outside of the ECB will be the RBA tomorrow where our economist (link here) is expecting that they will reverse their taper decision, and announce that they’ll continue to purchase government bonds at the current average pace of A$5bn per week, rather than tapering to A$4bn per week.
Asian markets have started the week on the front foot with the Nikkei (+1.80%), Hang Seng (+0.51%), Shanghai Comp (+1.02%) and India’s Nifty (+0.47%) all gaining ground. The Kospi (-0.04%) is flattish. US and Euro Futures are pretty flat. Elsewhere, Brent crude oil prices are down -1.12% after Saudi Arabia slashed crude prices for Asian buyers, raising the prospect of competition between OPEC+ producers to gain/maintain market share.
Turning to the latest on the pandemic, Italy’s Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said that the country will decide by the end of September whether vaccines will become mandatory for all people aged 12 and over. The law will be passed if the country hasn’t reached a vaccination level between 80% and 90%. Here in the UK, the government will decide by the end of September on whether to make it mandatory to provide vaccine certification for entry to large venues where infection risk may be higher. The UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi further said that the government hasn’t yet decided on whether to roll out vaccines to healthy 12- to 15-year-olds, but if the move does go ahead, then parental consent would be needed.
Recapping last week now and global markets saw some divergence as ECB members grew more hawkish and Fed officials stuck to their more dovish tones, with economic data partially reinforcing both views. US equities finished the week just off their highs with the S&P 500 just worse than unchanged (-0.03%) on Friday but finishing up +0.58% over the course of the week. There was a shift to defensives and growth stocks with the NASDAQ gaining +1.55% last week (+0.21% Friday) while cyclicals, such as US banks (-3.69%), were on the back foot. European equities, which are more cyclically focused, underperformed as the STOXX 600 ended the week marginally (-0.09%) lower after Friday’s -0.56% loss.
The divergent central bank tones was most apparent in sovereign debt performance. US 10yr Treasury yields ended the week up +1.5bps, most of that coming on Friday’s +3.9bp gain despite a weaker-than-expected employment report as markets looked at other aspects of the report and ahead to the upcoming supply outlook after the holiday weekend. On the other hand, hawkish comment ahead of the ECB meeting saw bond yields in Europe move higher across much of the continent, with those on 10yr bunds (+6.2bps) reaching their highest level in over 6 weeks. Peripheral bonds in southern Europe sold off similarly, with 10yr Italian (+7.4bps), Spanish (+4.2bps), Portuguese (+5.0bps), and Greek (+8.9bps) yields all climbing.
Outside of the employment report on Friday, global composite PMIs for August slowed from the previous reading, but remained in strong expansionary territory in Europe and the US. The final Euro area composite PMI was down 0.5pts from the initial reading at 59.0, while Germany’s figure fell 0.6pts to 60.0. Meanwhile the US saw the composite PMI stay at 55.4, which is the lowest reading in eight months as the pace of growth seems to have definitively peaked back in May. The US ISM services PMI fell 2.4pts to 61.7 last month while the commentary continues to highlight supply chain disturbances and labour shortages. Finally, Euro Area retail sales for July showed a -2.3% slowdown (0.0% expected), after the previous month was revised up 0.3pp to 1.8%. The drop is reflective of the surge in cases at that time due to the delta variant.