Asian equities move higher
Asian markets have begun the day in an altogether positive mode after Wall Street outperformed overnight. Driving the equity rally were good results from department store retailers, notably high-end ones. The only blotch was Gap, which fell down a Gap with its stock price punished accordingly. That allowed the perpetually circling and no desperate buy-the-dip mafia to load up on risk positioning again with the US dollar also falling. It also allowed markets to ignore a downward revision of US Q1 GDP QoQ to -1.50%, Kansas Fed Manufacturing Index for May falling to 19, and Pending New Home Sales for April slumping deeper into negative territory at -9.1%. The latter is particularly ironic as recent soft housing data had been responsible for some previously ugly sessions on Wall Street recently. Still, why let the facts get in the way of the desperation to buy the dip.
Notable once again, is that US 10-year yields are once again retesting the four-decade downtrend line, which by my estimates comes in around 2.75%. Fears of gasoline and diesel shortages during the US driving season also pushed oil prices over 3.0% higher overnight. Some unofficial gossip ahead of next week’s monthly OPEC+ JTC meeting suggests that the grouping will stick to its scheduled 432,000 bpd incremental increase. Brent crude could test the top of my USD 120.00 a barrel medium-term range next week. I can’t see US yields and oil moving higher being constructive for equities next week.
In data out of Asia today, Tokyo’s Core CPI in May remained at 1.90%, although with the Bank of Japan saying inflation is driven by external factors, and not the Japanese consumer, we shouldn’t expect any change in their ultra-low forever stance. Australian Preliminary Retail Sales eased, as expected, to 0.90% with no serious cost-of-living cracks appearing as yet in the Lucky Country. China’s Industrial Profits (YTD) YoY for April fell to 3.50% from 8.50% in March. The Shanghai shutdowns and covid-zero policies account for the slowdown, but market impact was minimal as the number was right on market expectations. China will have bigger fish to fry going forward as it tries to keep growth and the property market on track, while enacting sweeping lockdowns across parts of the country thanks to its covid-zero policy.
The rest of Asia’s calendar is light with Singapore PPI likely to be ignored after yesterday’s firmer Industrial Production data eased slowdown fears. Europe’s calendar is similarly second-tier. US Personal Income and Personal Spending for April, along with the PCE Price Index and Michigan Consumer Sentiment round out the week. Personal Income and Expenditure and the PCE Index could settle nerves on inflation and Fed tightening if they print on the low side, ditto for Michigan Consumer Sentiment. That would set Wall Street up for another positive season to round out the week and weigh on the US dollar.
Apart from oil, most of this week has been one of frantic range trading, as the herd runs this way and that on swings in risk sentiment. Lots of noise, little substance, although reading the financial press swinging from doom to bloom day-to-day has been mentally tiring.
Next week sees the arrival of June and its “business time.” Asia sees the release of China and India PMIs and Australian GDP and Trade Balances. Europe has German, French and Eurozone Inflation, as well as the ongoing saga of an EU oil ban on Russia. Russia has kindly offered to allow exports of wheat from Ukraine and Russia, in return for sanctions relief.
I believe June will be a watershed month for Europe, the UK, and America as to the depth of their commitment to a war economy and Russia. Perversely, if they blink for short-term national gains, it would be quite a tailwind for global equities and bonds. The financial markets are a harsh mistress.
June also brings us a bevy of US data and a Bank of Canada policy decision next week. US data releases include the house price index, JOLTS Job Openings and ADP Employment, and ISM Manufacturing before the one ring to rule them all, Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls. Oddly enough, the most important event of them all is being largely ignored by markets to their peril.
In the Dark Tower of the Fed, they have USD 8.5 trillion of debt instruments they need to get rid of. Quantitative tightening starts next week, scaling up to USD 95 bio a month by September. I’d hate to see the mark-to-market P&L on that position, but I guess when you can print money, it doesn’t matter. It may well matter to markets though with the Fed also set to tighten by 0.50% per month over the coming months (including June). I am yet to be convinced that the Fed can pull this off without causing another taper tantrum or sending the US 10-years well north of 3.0%, or both. They, like everyone else, will be hoping inflation indicators flatten in the months ahead, to keep the bids out there in the bond market. All I’ll say is don’t mistake short-term noise in the equity market as a structural turn in direction higher.
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