- Major U.S. indexes red; FOMC Minutes at 2 PM EST
- Tech weakest major S&P 500 sector; energy leads gainer
- Dollar, bitcoin down; gold, crude rise
- U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ~flat at ~2.04%
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A LOT OF RISK MAY BE BAKED IN (1330 EST/1830 GMT)
Markets have certainly been volatile and sentiment dour as investors wrestle with monetary policy normalization and geopolitical risks.
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However, a JP Morgan Global Markets Strategy team led by Marko Kolanovic, believes that risky asset markets have mostly adjusted to monetary policy shifts, and short-term rates markets have likely moved too far vs what central banks (CB) will ultimately deliver in hikes this year.
JPM adds that a China policy pivot can offset a good part of the developed market CB tightening impact. And while they think the risk of conflict in Ukraine is high, JPM also believes it should have limited impact on global equity markets and would likely prompt a dovish shift by CBs.
As JPM sees it, even as central bank hawkishness has ramped up, with market assumptions perhaps having gone too far in some cases, “the silver lining to the recent pain is that Equities are better equipped to handle it going forward.” With this, bearish sentiment appears overdone as the conditions for “late cycle” or recession are not met.
Meanwhile, JPM also published results from its latest client survey.
In terms of equity exposure plans, 71% of respondents said they planned to increase exposure in the coming days/weeks, while 29% planned to cut back.
As for bonds, which have continued to sell off amid hot inflation data, 79% of JPM clients said they were planning to decrease bond portfolio duration over the coming days/weeks, while 21% said they would increase it.
DESPITE LOW DEFAULTS, JUNK BOND INVESTORS ARE GETTING NERVOUS (1300 EST/1800 GMT)
The past week saw a fairly rare phenomenon, according to SentimenTrader’s Jason Goepfert: a “dual pullback” in both stocks and bonds. It’s one of the few times in the past 46 years when the total return for both stocks and bond saw a drawdown of 5% or more.
The picture for high-yield debt looks even more troubled. Goepfert notes that the 20-day difference between advancing and declining bonds has neared one of its most extreme readings in 15 years, with an average day seeing nearly 400 more declining than advancing issues.
“It’s a clear sign of risk off behavior among some of the most sensitive and forward looking investors,” he writes.
The McClellan Summation Index, a market breadth indicator, for the high-yield bond market has been below zero and declining for weeks, according to SentimenTrader, and is near levels last seen during the 2008 financial crisis.
Investors are also rushing out of the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF, (HYG.P), with the fund’s 20-day flow average hovering just below $100 million per day of outflows, Goepfert notes.
The outflows have shrunk the shares outstanding in HYG to the lowest in nearly 2 years. That metric stands at 196.9 million, as per Refinitiv data.
That’s despite low default rates. In fact, Fitch said last week that the U.S. high-yield trailing 12-month default rate stands at 0.3%, the lowest level on record, and there have been no defaults in six of the past 12 months.
Fitch does note that a rise in defaults is expected next month, but still predicts the high yield default rate will remain low through 2023.
INVESTORS UNSUBSCRIBE FROM VIDEO STREAMING STOCKS (1210 EST/1710 GMT)
Investors are ditching video streaming stocks on Wednesday, with ViacomCBS slumping 22% after the media company’s quarterly profits missed analysts’ estimates.
Shares of the conglomerate that owns CBS, Showtime, Comedy Central, and MTV were by far the worst performer in the S&P 500.
As well as posting disappointing quarterly results, ViacomCBS announced it will change its name to Paramount, and it announced a large slate of programming – and spending – to help draw new online customers who have several options from Netflix Inc , to Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and others. read more
With competition continuing to heat up in the streaming space, Netflix is off almost 4% and Discovery Inc (DISCA.O) is losing almost 5%. Walt Disney (DIS.N) is up 0.5% after dipping about 0.7% earlier in the session.
Meanwhile, AMC Networks (AMCX.O) is tumbling 18%, even after the entertainment company reported quarterly revenue and adjusted earnings per share above Wall Street estimates, according to Refinitiv.
Netflix’s stock is now down 35% year to date, having given up practically all of its massive gains from the “work from home” market rally in 2020 and 2021.
TOO HOT NOT TO COOL DOWN: WEDNESDAY DATA POINTS TO AGGRESSIVE FED TIGHTENING (1127 EST/1527 GMT)
An avalanche of data on Wednesday buried market participants under a pile of evidence that the economy is running hot enough for Powell & Co to toss a bucket of water on it in the form of impending interest rate hikes.
Receipts at U.S. retailers (USRSL=ECI) jumped by 3.8% in January, breezing past the 2% consensus, according to the Commerce Department, rebounding from December’s downwardly revised 2.5% drop. read more
Line-by-line, the clear outlier was non-store retail sales, a category that includes e-commerce, shot up 14.5%. This, combined with a 5.7% jump in autos/parts, more than offset declines in gasoline and food services receipts.
“The strong, broad-based rebound in retail sales after the weak December is particularly impressive given the drag from the Omicron variant and serves as a reminder that the U.S. consumer doesn’t stay down for long,” writes Jeff Buchbinder, equity strategist at LPL Financial.
“Rising wages are supporting spending despite high inflation,” Buchbinder adds.
So-called “core” retail sales, which excludes building materials, autos/parts, gasoline and food services – the measure corresponding most closely tracks the consumer spending element of GDP – jumped 4.8%, well above the more modest 1% gain analysts expected.
In a separate report, industrial production (USIP=ECI) bounced back more strongly than anticipated in the first weeks of 2022.
Output jumped 1.4% versus the meager 0.4% growth expected, reversing December’s 0.1% dip.
But utilities, amid frigid winter temperatures, did much of the heavy lifting, notes Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
“Headline production was hugely flattered by weather effects; colder-than-usual temperatures, both in absolute terms and relative to December, triggered a huge increase in demand for utility energy,” Shepherdson says.
Capacity utilization (USCAPU=ECI), a measure of economic slack, jumped 1.1 percentage points to 77.6%, above the 76.3% pre-pandemic level.
Speaking of supply chain disruptions, let’s talk about inflation. Recent indicators (CPI, PPI, wage growth) have been coming in hotter than anticipated, adding to the probability that the Federal Reserve will take action at its next monetary policy meeting and raise key interest rates.
And the cost of goods imported to the United States (USIMP=ECI), which jumped by 2% in January – the biggest jump in nearly 11 years and above the more tame 1.3% gain expected. read more
Year-over-year, import prices rose a whopping 10.8%, and excluding fuel, hit 6.9% – an all-time high.
“The record pace of core inflation is especially noteworthy as it offers another sign that price pressures are continuing to broaden across the economy in early 2022,” says Mahir Rashid, U.S. economist at Oxford Economics (OE).
The graphic below shows import prices, among other indicators, and how far they continue to soar beyond the Powell & Co’s average annual 2% inflation target:
Turning to the housing market, the mood of U.S. homebuilders has dimmed a bit this month.
The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) housing market index (USNAHB=ECI) unexpectedly shed 1 point to a reading of 82. Analysts thought the reading would hold steady.
An NAHB number above 50 signifies optimism.
Waning affordability appears to be weighing on the sector, according to NAHB.
“Rising home prices and interest rates are taking a terrible toll on housing affordability, with 87.5 million households — or roughly 69% of all U.S. households — unable to afford a new median priced home,” they warn on their website.
“Higher input costs and shortages remain headwinds for builders,” says Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “While tight inventories should be supportive of building activity, high prices as well as rising mortgage rates this year will likely be constraints for buyers.”
Thanks for the tidy segue, Ms. Farooqi. Demand for home loans dipped last week as interest rates continue their uphill climb, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).
The average 30-year fixed contract rate (USMG=ECI) jumped 23 basis points to 4.05%, poking its head above the 4% line for the first time since November 2019.
Applications for loans to purchase homes (USMGPI=ECI) and refinance existing mortgages (USMGR=ECI) both decreased, by 1.2% and 8.9%, respectively.
“The jump in mortgage rates reflected both the backup in Treasury yields and a further widening in mortgage spreads to Treasuries,” says Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at OE. “The rise in rates is taking a toll on homebuying affordability and will weigh on home sales in the months ahead.”
The graphic below tells the tale. Total mortgage demand is down 39.8% from the same week last year:
Finally, in more ancient news, the value of goods in the store rooms of U.S. businesses (USBINV=ECI) grew by 2.1% in December, inline with economist forecasts.
The Commerce Department’s inventories seems to confirm its initial take on fourth-quarter GDP, which showed private inventories contributing 4.9 percentage points to the total 6.9% quarterly annualized growth reported late last month.
The mood on Wall Street is sour ahead of the Fed minutes and as investors keep an eye on the constantly shifting situation along the Russia-Ukraine border.
JITTERS RETURN FOR U.S. STOCKS (0951 EST/1451 GMT)
U.S. stocks are lower in early trade on Wednesday after stronger-than-expected retail sales data gave the Federal Reserve more ammunition to tighten policy, while geopolitical tensions over Russia and Ukraine added to caution.
The data comes ahead of minutes from the Fed’s last meeting, due at 2 p.m. EST. Investors are looking for more clues on the central bank’s plans to trim its massive balance sheet and hike interest rates. read more
In any event, the S&P 500 (.SPX) is finding its 200-day moving average, which now resides around 4,456, to be a sticky level. Traders will be watching to see if the benchmark index can decisively move way from it, in one direction or the other.
Here is where markets stand in early trade:
NASDAQ 100 TRIPLE-Qs: CHECKING A FLOW METER (0900 EST/1400 GMT)
The Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1 (QQQ.O), which tracks the Nasdaq 100 index (.NDX), has been battered of late. That said, the Money Flow index (MFI), an indicator that incorporates both price and volume, is attempting to stabilize at an important support line.
Indeed, the QQQ ended Tuesday down around 12% from its November record close. For 2022, the ETF is off 10.5% so far, and 1.9% this month.
Of note, on a monthly basis, and since early 2018, the MFI has been trapped between a resistance line from its 2014 high and a support line from its 2009 low read more :
After topping shy of the resistance line this past December, while diverging from the QQQ, the MFI plunged in January to once again test the support line. It ended the month essentially right on the line.
So far in February, and despite the QQQ’s monthly drop, the MFI is holding the line, and is actually on track to tick up very slightly.
It is only mid-month, but if the support line can continue to work its magic, and the MFI has bottomed, the QQQ could be on the verge of a surprise upside turn.
Conversely, an MFI support line break at the close of the month will end what has been a consistent pattern. This could then suggest potential that the QQQ could see another waterfall slide given the substantial room before the MFI would reach its support line from 2002. read more
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Terence Gabriel is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own
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