Recession concerns keep Asian markets in check
Recessionary concerns continue to hold back the buy-the-dippers in Asia today, with Asian stock markets completely ignoring the strong rally by US index futures this morning. It is always worth taking Monday morning price action with a grain of salt and regional markets are probably placing more emphasis on a flat close by Wall Street, especially given another day of intra-session histrionics which saw the 3.0% swings intraday.
Reaction to the Labour win in the weekend federal election in Australia has been muted. The new Prime Minister has already stated the obvious that the Australia/China relationship will remain challenging. Labour’s win had been expected and to a certain extent priced in anyway; the only variable is that after the 3 million postal votes have been counted, will Labour have an outright majority, or be forced into a coalition agreement with the independents, the big winners this weekend, or the greens. The Australian dollar is higher this morning, but that is a US dollar story, while stocks are unchanged.
China sparked a local equity rally on Friday after the 5-year loan prime rate was cut by 0.25%. That is supportive of the mortgage market and was a boon to an under-pressure housing sector. Unfortunately, some of that work was undone this morning when the PBOC set a surprisingly strong CNY fix. USD/CNY was fixed at 6.6756 versus market expectations at 6.6934. A stronger yuan is weighing on mainland equities today but has been supportive of Asian currencies generally. China continues to try and support growth by targeted stimulus while keeping the purse strings tight and attempting to deleverage swaths of the economy. Simultaneously, its maintenance of the covid zero policy has resulted in sweeping lockdowns across the country, including Shanghai and Beijing, increasing global supply chain disruption, and also torpedoing domestic economic activity. Little wonder that Chinese equities continue to play the cautious side, and so is the rest of Asia.
The economic calendar is light in Asia today. Most interesting will be Singapore Inflation this afternoon, and I can confirm, having been there last week, that the Red Dot is more expensive than ever. Inflation YoY in April is expected at 5.50%. A higher print than that will increase the chances of an unscheduled tightening by the MAS, supportive of the Singapore Dollar, but likely to be a negative for local equities.
Germany releases its IFO Business Climate for May this afternoon, expected to remain steady at 91.40 as the Ukraine conflict continues to crush confidence. More important is likely to be the May Services and Manufacturing PMIs from Germany, France, and the Eurozone tomorrow. For obvious reasons, there is plenty of downside risk in that data. The euro has staged a semi-decent recovery over the last week, although I put that down to weaker US yields and rising hard-landing fears in the US, than Europe turning a corner. Ukraine-related risks only have upside for Europe and weak PMI data tomorrow should confirm the euro recovery as a bear market rally.
The US releases Durable Goods, expected to be steady at 0.50% on Wednesday. Second estimate Q1 GDP on Thursday, and on Friday, Personal Income and Expenditure and the PCE index for April. The data should show the US is maintaining growth and that inflationary pressures are slowing, but not falling. To a certain extent, that is old news now, but I believe the real story will be in the US and the rest of the world, that inflation may be slowing, but it isn’t falling, and could just trade sideways at high levels for the rest of the year. Don’t put that stagflation definition back in the desk draw just yet. And I’ll say it again, stagflation does not provide fertile conditions for a stock market rally, so no, I don’t think the “worst is over.” The intraday tail-chasing histrionics of stock markets across the globe suggests they don’t either.
The Asia-Pacific has a frisky week ahead on the central bank front though. Both the Bank of Korea and Bank Indonesia, as well as my own national embarrassment, the Reserve Blank of New Zealand, all have policy decisions. The Bank of Korea should hike by another 0.25% this week, maintaining a steady course of rate hikes for the months ahead with inflation modest by Western standards. Bank Indonesia may also be tempted to follow the Philippines’ lead from last week and hike another 0.25%. However, BI has been a reluctant hiker and may wish to see if the palm oil export ban has eased food inflation. It could pause this month as it is still very much in a supporting the recovery mode.
The Reserve Blank of New Zealand is in a world of pain of its own making. Tomorrow’s Retail Sales have upside risks despite the soaring cost of living and will add to the pressure on RBNZ to get more aggressive in reeling in inflation. Anything less than 0.50% on Wednesday with guidance suggesting more 0.50% hikes ahead will see the New Zealand dollar punished. Having continued maintaining zero per cent interest rates, and unforgivably, maintained QE, even as the economy surged spectacularly, the RBNZ is now in a monetary box canyon. Pain will be necessary to put inflation back in the box in New Zealand and it, and Sri Lanka, are at the top of the list for a hard landing this year.
In China, Shanghai restrictions are continuing to ease, although mass testing was ordered for one district today. Unfortunately, while China must get lucky 100% of the time, the virus only has to get lucky once. The inescapable fact other covid zero countries discovered. Thus, there is still a huge risk of Shanghai restrictions coming back. Beijing is taking a different approach to Shanghai but is in its own virus quagmire as well. That should hold back the optimism in Chinese equities and will be a drag on oil prices as well. Friday’s China Industrial Profits YTD in April data will retreat from March’s 8.50% surprise. Depending on who you talk to, it could be +2.0% to -5.50%, Either way, it has downside risks. With China tinkering with stimulus, deleveraging, and maintaining covid zero, don’t go bottom fishing just yet.
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