Wall Street jumps, Asia cautious
US stock markets roared higher overnight as omicron nerves settled on initial indications that the new variant is very contagious, but less severe symptom-wise. Whether that is the case or not remains to be seen and omicron sentiment will continue driving swings in market direction into next week. It was enough to flush the FOMO gnomes of Wall Street into action though, with stock markets rallying impressively on Wall Street.
Believe it or not, there are other things going on in the world, however. Most immediately, the US releases Non-Farm Payrolls this evening and assuming the omicron news remains less end of the world, a print above 550,000 jobs should see the faster Fed-taper trade reassert itself. That may nip the equity rally in the bud, while the US Dollar and US yields could resume rising.
Asian markets are subdued today across asset classes and even US equity futures have edged lower this morning. There is a fair bit of negative news floating around this morning, and Asia as a whole, after a tumultuous week, looks ready to sit out today’s session on the sidelines. The US Non-Farm Payrolls is as good a reason to be cautious as any. Additionally, the US Congress has passed a bill to temporarily fund the US government into mid-February, but no progress has yet been made on lifting the overall debt limit, which could be hit as early as next December 15th.
Staying with the US, the US SEC has announced a tightening of listing requirements surrounding ownership and the certifying of auditors in overseas territories who audit foreign companies listed on US exchanges. That is directly aimed at China of course, which has no intention of allowing any such thing. Markets are speculating today that the requirements will see an exodus of Chinese companies from the US exchanges. China ride-hailing giant, Didi Global, has announced it will delist from the US after a troubled IPO that also angered the Chinese government, never a smart business move. It comes after the Grab SPAC IPO flopped yesterday, with a classic stagging of the IPO occurring. Buying the IPO and dumping into the initial rally. That saw Grab finish 20% lower on the first day of trading. Time will tell if Grab’s “patriotic” listing in the US will remotely justify its USD 40 billion valuation. I suspect not, and that the only winners will be the pre-IPO shareholders.
Nerves continue to swirl in the China property space as well today, with troubled developer Kaisa failing to gain the 95% approval to swap out its maturing USD 400 million, note due next week, for longer maturities. Default risks have now reached deafening levels for Kaisa who have until December 7th to pay. Additionally, a 30-day grace period on an USD 82.50 million coupon for Evergrande falls on 6th December next week.
China’s Caixin Services PMI for November fell unexpectedly to 52.1 this morning from 53.8 in October, raising fears that domestic consumption is fading on the mainland on rising labour and energy costs, as well as selective virus restriction. That has overshadowed improved services PMI data from Japan, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. South Korean markets are struggling as well, with virus cases surging, capping gains on the Kospi and also the won.
Add in the danger of being whip-sawed on random omicron headlines, it’s hardly surprising Asia wants to sit the rest of today out. I expect a similar response from Europe as well. Next week, we see a lot of CPI releases from the region, including China, as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia and Reserve Bank of India policy decisions, plus China trade data. The week after will see a central bank policy meeting frenzy, including the US FOMC, and depending on where the world is with omicron, a number of central banks will struggle to hit the W for Wimp button, regarding their inflation outlook. Volatility has been the winner this week, and I fully expect it to continue to do so through the rest of December.
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