S&P Futures In Holding Pattern Ahead Of Jackson Hole

U.S. equity futures were unchanged on Wednesday, while global stocks and bond yields rose as investors were stuck in a holding pattern amid optimism about U.S.-China trade and expectations of ample central bank stimulus before a key speech by Jerome Powell at Jackson Hole. Treasuries and European government bonds declined, while the dollar was flat.

Eminis were flat at 3,443 after the cash index closed at another record high on Tuesday.

The MSCI world equity index gained 0.1%, just shy of its all time high. Europe’s Stoxx 600 shrugged off early losses to gain 0.4% by late morning as news on jobs support and trade was countered by persistent concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic, with indexes in Frankfurt and Paris up 0.5% and 0.2% respectively, though London’s FTSE 100 and Italy’s FTSE MIB were both in the red.

Earlier in the session, markets in Asia were mixed, with Shanghai Composite and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 falling, and Taiwan’s Taiex Index and Thailand’s SET rising. The Topix was little changed, with AltPlus rising and Land Co falling the most. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 1.3%, with Shenyang Jinshan Energy and Founder Technology Group posting the biggest slides. Chinese equities retreated Wednesday after a three-session rally as investors were seen worried about some companies’ earnings. Tech stocks were the worst performers. “A lot of firms’ first-half earnings growth have failed to keep up with their valuations and that’s one key reason for the selloff,” said Wang Chen, a partner with XuFunds Investment. “That’s especially the case for Star board and ChiNext stocks. Expectations on overall liquidity have also turned negative and weighed on the market.”

“The Fed has all but guaranteed that rates are going nowhere for at least two years,” Saxo strategist Eleanor Creagh told Bloomberg TV. “Equity remains the place for investors to escape the secular stagnation that we’re seeing within the real economy that this zero-yield world produces.”

In rates, Treasurys were sold ahead of the Jackson Hole speech where Powell is expected to unveil Average Inflation Targeting, with the yield on U.S. 10-year debt rising as high as 0.7190%, close to a two-month peak before paring some losses as markets begin to price in a return to inflation and growth for major economies. A day earlier, investors dumped U.S. debt and bought stocks after a productive call between top Beijing and Washington officials stoked hopes of smoother trade relations between the world’s two biggest economies. Eurozone bonds calmed, with safe-haven Bund yields rising a smidgeon after enduring on Tuesday their biggest daily losses since May as better German economic data and trade dented hunger for government debt.

With trading muted, traders were eagerly looking at tomorrow’s Jackson Hole webcast where for many investors, bets on even looser policy were at the forefront. Powell is due to speak at a virtual Jackson Hole symposium on Thursday, where investors think he could outline a more accommodative approach to inflation which would open the door to easier policy for a long time to come.

“Jackson Hole is a big one,” said Jeremy Gatto, an investment manager at Unigestion in Geneva. “Investors are expecting a bit more clarity on what the Fed is looking at. We are likely to see a high level of accommodation for some time to come.”

In fx, the dollar was unchanged after taking a knock a day earlier on data that showed U.S. consumer confidence falling to the lowest in more than six years because of worries over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs. The Japanese yen fell 0.2%, with MUFG analysts arguing that uncertainty over the health of Shinzo Abe, the long-serving premier, was adding to downward pressure along with advances for stocks and rising U.S. yields.

China’s yuan sets another 7-month high on Wednesday, as some banks sold the dollar, according to four foreign exchange traders. Onshore yuan advances as much as 0.29% to 6.8911 versus the dollar in afternoon trading, the strongest since Jan. 21; it was at 6.8958/USD as of 4:06 p.m. in Shanghai. Sales of the greenback by investors including some big Chinese banks drive the yuan’s rise, before some dip buying of the dollar caps yuan’s gain, say four traders who asked not to be identified as they are not authorized to comment on the market.

In another sign of a more positive mood, Reuters notes that gold faced collateral damage from rising bond yields, falling 0.5% as it headed for a fourth straight day of losses. “Higher yields also tend to act as a headwind against the gold price,” said John Hardy, head of FX strategy at Saxo Bank, in a note to clients.

In other commodity markets, a positive mood on trade and U.S. producers shutting most of their offshore output in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Laura kept Brent crude oil mostly steady. Producers evacuated 310 offshore facilities and shut 1.56 million barrels per day of crude output, 84% of Gulf of Mexico’s offshore production – near the 90% outage that Hurricane Katrina brought 15 years ago. Brent futures lost 7 cents, or 0.2%, to $45.78 a barrel by late morning, shedding earlier gains, with the benchmark having settled at a five-month high a day earlier.

Economic data include durable goods orders, mortgage applications. Scheduled earnings include Royal Bank of Canada, Dick’s Sporting Goods

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.06% to 3,445.00
  • STOXX Europe 600 up 0.3% to 370.89
  • MXAP up 0.1% to 173.67
  • MXAPJ up 0.06% to 575.43
  • Nikkei down 0.03% to 23,290.86
  • Topix down 0.05% to 1,624.48
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.02% to 25,491.79
  • Shanghai Composite down 1.3% to 3,329.74
  • Sensex up 0.3% to 38,961.01
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.7% to 6,116.36
  • Kospi up 0.1% to 2,369.32
  • Brent Futures up 0.2% to $45.93/bbl
  • Gold spot down 0.5% to $1,919.13
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.09% to 93.11
  • German 10Y yield rose 1.1 bps to -0.42%
  • Euro down 0.2% to $1.1813
  • Brent Futures up 0.2% to $45.93/bbl
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 8.1 bps to 0.9%
  • Spanish 10Y yield unchanged at 0.382%

Top Overnight News

  • Germany extended its wage-supporting program, which helped millions of workers to keep their jobs, until the end of 2021 to drive economic recovery
  • In the U.S., the summer virus spike shows signs of easing. Japan’s virus czar said the country faces a second wave of Covid-19 cases larger than the first, while Singapore is tightening restrictions for South Korean travelers
  • Hurricane Laura is poised to become a life-threatening category four storm as it nears the U.S. Gulf Coast, potentially inflicting as much as $18 billion in damage on the region and keeping some of America’s largest oil refineries shut for months
  • Finland is leading the action in Europe’s market for new bond sales, supported by an easing in risk sentiment across the region ahead of the Jackson Hole summit

Asian equity markets traded cautiously amid a lack of fresh macro drivers and following on from the somewhat choppy performance of US counterparts, where the DJIA underperformed whilst the S&P 500 and Nasdaq eventually extended on record highs. ASX 200 (-0.7%) underperformed in which utilities and financials led the broad descent across its sectors and as earnings continued to dominate headlines. Nikkei 225 (-0.1%) swung between gains and losses in tandem with an indecisive currency and as early momentum was stalled by resistance at the 23,350 level, with slight political uncertainty also clouding sentiment following PM Abe’s recent hospital visits that have spurred some speculation of a possible step-down, although officials were quick to refute this. Elsewhere, Hang Seng (U/C) and Shanghai Comp. (-1.3%) were subdued despite the recent constructive trade discussions, as there were also reports the Trump administration is mulling accusing China of ‘genocide’ over the maltreatment of Uighur Muslims. Furthermore, the PBoC continued its liquidity efforts but to a lesser extent and refrained from 14-day reverse repos in today’s open market operations, while Alibaba shares were a notable gainer overnight after its affiliate Ant Group filed for an IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai as it targets a USD 225bln valuation and could raise as much as USD 30bln which would be the biggest on record. Finally, 10yr JGBs were lower in a continuation of the retreat from the 152.00 level and amid spillover selling from USTs, while prices also failed to benefit despite the lacklustre risk appetite and BoJ’s presence in the market for nearly JPY 1.2tln of JGBs with 1yr-10yr maturities.

Top Asian News

  • China Stocks, Sovereign Bonds Drop on Worries About Liquidity
  • Southeast Asia’s Virus Hotspot Risks Losing in Vaccine Race
  • Three-Decade Economic Boom Comes to a Sudden Halt in Vietnam
  • H.K. Police Arrest Bank VP For Alleged Rioting in 2019 Protest

European stocks are mixed (Euro Stoxx 50 +0.2%), having opened with mild losses of around 0.3-0.5%, albeit cash bourses and equity futures remain contained amid a lack of fresh catalysts. There was no particular news flow that prompted the initial turnaround in the first half-hour since the cash open – it is worth keeping in mind the holiday-thinned conditions and caution heading into the Fed Jackson Hole Symposium, with the schedule set for release at 20:00ET/0100BST. Sectors are mixed with no clear risk profile to be derived; the IT sector outperforms as SAP (+1.3%) moves higher on the back of stellar numbers from Salesforce (+13% pre-mkt), who raised guidance. Note: SAP carries an almost 6% weighting in the Euro Stoxx 50. In terms of individual movers, Elekta (+13.7%) tops the European charts post-earnings, Telecom Italia (+3.8%) trades firmer after the Italian government gave the green light for KKR’s purchase of a stake in Co’s secondary grid. Meanwhile, Carnival (+2.8%) shares trade higher amid a firmer performance in the Travel & Leisure sector, although Co’s Princess Cruises has announced early-2021 world cruise cancellations for two out of 19 ships.

Top European News

  • Angela Merkel Is Exasperated by Putin as Navalny Lies in a Coma
  • EU Trade Chief’s Defense of Quarantine Actions Draws Irish Ire
  • Ambu Shares Fall as FY Outlook Cut to Low End of Range
  • Mowi Falls; Handelsbanken to Lower 2020 Estimates

In FX, the Dollar is holding up relatively well ahead of durable goods, spot month end and the start of this year’s global Central Bank ‘gathering’ in Wyoming, albeit with assistance from certain currency rivals and a fade in broad risk sentiment after the recent bull run. The index has tightened its grip around 93.000 following several false breaks below, but is also meeting stiff resistance on rebounds amidst the usual sell signals for portfolio rebalancing from various bank models. Hence, the DXY is meandering within a 93.215-92.990 band and Usd/major pairs remain mixed/rangebound.

  • CHF – A marginal G10 underperformer, though still straddling 0.9100 vs the Greenback and 1.0750 against the Euro after an improvement in Swiss investor sentiment and eyeing Q2 GDP on Thursday that is expected to confirm a technical recession via a more pronounced q/q contraction compared to the previous quarter.
  • EUR – The Euro has waned ahead of 1.1850 for a 3rd consecutive session and failed to convincingly breach a technical barrier in the form of the 200 HMA that is currently at 1.1848, but the latest pull-back is shallower and not far from daily chart support just above 1.1800. Fundamentally, not much from an independent perspective as the single currency continues to track Buck moves alongside the general market mood.
  • NZD/JPY/AUD – No real reaction to NZ trade data overnight, but the Kiwi may be benefiting from a combination of short covering/corrective price action given the magnitude of post-RBNZ policy meeting depreciation. On that note, Assistant Governor Hawkesby may have contributed to the Nzd/Usd bounce from sub-0.6550 towards 0.6575 and latest Aud/Nzd retreat from near 1.1000, as he seemed to infer a preference for upping the balance sheet over conventional easing. However, the Aussie has also staged a firmer rebound vs its US counterpart to retest 0.7200 in wake of considerably less weaker than anticipated construction work completed during Q2. Similarly, the Yen has regained some poise between 106.55-17 parameters following firmer than forecast Japanese services PPI.
  • GBP/CAD – The Pound is pivoting 1.3150 against the US Dollar and outpacing the Euro as the cross dips a bit further beneath 0.9000, but Cable stopped just a handful of pips short of Tuesday’s best awaiting commentary from BoE chief economist Haldane for some specific inspiration. Elsewhere, firm oil prices could be keeping the Loonie afloat above 1.3200 rather than remarks from BoC’s Schembri on alternative policy measures including an average inflation target, as the spotlight switches to Senior Deputy Governor Wilkins this afternoon.

In commodites, WTI and Brent front month futures remain relatively uneventful but remain near 5-month highs as traders keep an eye on the Hurricane situation in the Gulf of Mexico. In terms of the latest update, NHC said Hurricane Laura is expected to rapidly strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane (out of 5 categories), and is forecast to produce a life-threatening storm surge, alongside extreme winds, and flash flooding over Eastern Texas and Louisiana later today. The hurricane is forecast to make landfall in late US hours. Meanwhile, the BSEE’s latest estimates note that ~84.3% of current oil production in the region has been shuttered in anticipation of the hurricane, whilst Shell resists shutting its Deer Park Texas refinery (275k BPD), Marathon Galveston Bay Texas refinery (571k BPD) reported a potential shutdown, Valero Port Arthur Texas refinery (395k BPD) was also ceasing operations and Citgo Lake Charles Texas refinery (428k BPD) announced also it was shutting ahead of Hurricane. Elsewhere, prices also remain propped up by the latest inventory figures – which printed a larger than expected drawdown of 4.5mln barrels vs. exp. 3.7mln barrels. WTI and Brent October futures are contained, with the former towards the bottom of its USD 43.20-47/bbl current range, and the latter sub-46/bbl having had printed a range of USD 45.76-46.10/bbl. Elsewhere, spot gold moves at the whim of the Buck but holds onto a USD 1900+/oz status within a USD 20/oz range. Spot silver similarly sees losses and reside below USD 26.50/oz, having touched a base at USD 26.150/oz. In terms of base metals, LME copper prices eke mild gains, with a similar performance seen in Shanghai, whilst stainless steel futures in Shanghai rose in excess of 1% amid supply shortages of nickel ore and ferronickel.

US Event Calendar

  • 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -3.3%
  • 8:30am: Durable Goods Orders, est. 4.65%, prior 7.6%; Durables Ex Transportation, est. 2.0%, prior 3.6%
  • 8:30am: Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. 1.7%, prior 3.4%; Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 1.75%, prior 3.3%

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Being in quarantine there’s not a lot to tell you this morning apart from the highlight of our week being the arrival of the supermarket delivery man yesterday. Even I downed tools to greet him as it was our first contact with the outside world for over a week. The poor delivery man was only too happy to escape after all the attention he got from 5 humans and a dog.

Luckily I have markets to escape to and in spite of some weak consumer confidence data from the US, equity markets climbed to fresh records stateside yesterday with both the S&P 500 (+0.36%) and the NASDSAQ (+0.76%) seeing a late day rally. Global bonds were more exciting even with a sell-off that reversed a bit in late European trading and the second half of the US session.

10yr Treasury yields were up +6.0bps at one point intraday, before settling up +2.9bps at 0.684% with both bonds and equities rallying in the back half of the session. In Asia 10yr USTs are back up another +2.5bps though and within touching distance of yesterday’s yield highs. This comes ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s much-awaited speech tomorrow at Jackson Hole in which he’s set to discuss the monetary policy framework review. It’s true to say that volatility in Treasury markets has been subdued by historic standards recently, with the MOVE index having reached a multi-decade low in late July, but since then the index has risen somewhat off the bottom, hitting a one-month high yesterday.

Over in Europe, the rates selloff was even more severe, with 10yr bund yields up +6.0bps in their largest one-day increase since late May, as OATs (+5.5bps) and BTPs (+8.2bps) also saw yields move higher. The sharp rise in European rates seemed to start with the German Ifo business climate indicator rising for a fourth straight month and ahead of expectations (more below). Also notable ahead of Powell’s speech was that 10-year inflation breakevens in the US hit a post-pandemic high yesterday of 1.704%, having last been at those levels in January. Back then 10yr Treasuries were 105bps higher than now at 1.73% so collapsing real yields have been the big swing factor.

Back to equities and the S&P has now traded within a relatively narrow 18-20 point range in each of the last three sessions. August has been a particularly quiet month for the S&P with only 2 sessions seeing a daily trading range eclipse 1% (1.08% and 1.64%). The index has not seen such low volatility since the market was reaching new highs back in February prior to the pandemic. Tech (+0.52%) and communication services (+0.97%) once again took the reins, after the previous day’s rotation into cyclicals. This was helped in particular by Facebook rising +3.47% on news that the company is adding a new e-commerce offering on its main app, aiming to benefit from the significant rise in online ordering during the pandemic.

The index being led higher by a mega cap growth stock tied into out CotD yesterday where we showed the S&P 500 has outperformed its equally weighted equivalent over the last 3-4 years, with the pandemic exacerbating this trend. However over the long term owning more of the smaller cap names has been clearly beneficial and time will tell if that pattern continues. See here for the chart and comments.

The risk rally and bond sell off all occurred even as a poor consumer confidence reading from the Conference Board reminded investors that there’s still a long way to go before the economy returns to any kind of pre-Covid normality. The main reading fell to a 6-year low of 84.8 in August, as both the present situation and the expectations readings declined. Moreover, the differential between those saying jobs were “plentiful” and those saying they were “hard to get” saw a further deterioration, and that’s been a good indicator of the unemployment rate previously, so a concerning harbinger of future labour market performance.

Oil was another segment that saw sizeable price moves yesterday, as the incoming arrival of Hurricane Laura to the United States led to worries over potential fuel shortages. Both Brent crude (+1.97%) and WTI (+1.71%) rose to new post-pandemic highs of $46.02/bbl and $43.35/bbl respectively, as the National Hurricane Center warned that Laura would reach the northwestern Gulf Coast tonight, with the danger of life-threatening storm surges. Much of the oil production in the area has already been shut down, and there are obvious concerns of further damage to come.

Overnight the risk rally has stalled a touch in Asia with the Nikkei (-0.18%), Hang Seng (-0.21%), Shanghai Comp (-1.08%) and Kospi (-0.19%) all down. Meanwhile, futures on the S&P 500 are trading flat while those on the Nasdaq 100 are up +0.13%.

Before looking at the latest on the virus it’s worth noting a Reuters report from last night which highlighted that the US Treasury has determined that Vietnam’s currency was undervalued in 2019 by about 4.7% against the US dollar due in part to government intervention. This is the first assessment issued by the US Treasury under a new US rule that allows the Commerce Department to consider currency undervaluation as a form of subsidy when determining anti-subsidy duties and potentially increasing them. However, the assessment doesn’t necessarily mean that countervailing duties will get imposed by the commerce department but nonetheless should be a significant input.

Onto the coronavirus, attention continues to remain fixed on how leaders react to the current rising caseloads. Spain reported another 7,117 cases in the last 24 hours, though the PM has rejected the idea of another national lockdown. The weekly number of new cases in Germany has not been this high (9400) since the last days of April, while some countries like France and Italy have seen cases drop again slightly in the last 2 days. However you’ll remember that early week case counts often include a lagged weekend effect.

In efforts to help the German government and ensure that its operations will not have to be stalled again due to lockdown measures, Volkswagen has installed sites for voluntary testing across the country, with the largest one allowing 2400 tests per day and results within 24 hours. Germany also announced that the government would extend subsidies aimed at preserving jobs through 2021, after it was originally intended for 12 months. According to the Ifo Institute, 5.6m received benefits in July, down from 7m in May. Elsewhere Bloomberg has reported overnight that the UK government has asked staff and pupils in secondary schools in areas under possible local lockdowns to compulsorily wear masks from September 1 when moving around the building and in communal areas, but not in classrooms. In less risky areas, face masks will not be obligatory but schools will have the discretion to make it a requirement. In the US, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that 5 states would be removed from the 14-day quarantine requirement, including Arizona. New cases are continuing on an easing trajectory in the US with California and Florida adding to the positive trends.

In one of those strange side consequences of the virus, the Associated Press reported overnight that KFC is temporarily suspending its long-time tagline that its food is “Finger Lickin’ Good,” deeming it “the most inappropriate slogan for 2020” due to the pandemic.

Looking at yesterday’s other moves now, equity markets in Europe didn’t experience a great deal of movement for the most part, with the STOXX 600 (-0.30%), the DAX (-0.04%) and the CAC 40 (+0.01%) seeing mixed performance. Separately, the move out of sovereign bonds was reflected in the performance of safe havens more generally, with the Japanese Yen (-0.39% vs. USD) as the worst-performing G10 currency yesterday, whilst gold (-0.04%) and silver (-0.27%) prices also fell back. On precious metals, our colleague Michael Hsueh, wrote a report taking profit on his gold-silver ratio trade idea, seeing the ratio at “a point which might be consistent with complete normalisation in economic conditions to pre-Covid status.” For more see his piece here.

The other main data release yesterday was the aforementioned Ifo business climate indicator from Germany, which beat consensus expectations in August with an increase to 92.6 (vs. 92.1 expected). That makes it the 4th consecutive monthly increase since the trough of 74.4 back in April, though it still stands below February’s 95.8. Looking in more depth, expectations are now at their long-term average, with the August reading of 97.5 its highest since November 2018. On the other hand, the assessment of the current situation is at 87.9, which is well below its pre-covid levels (98.8 in February). The other German data release yesterday was a small positive revision to the GDP contraction in Q2, which is now estimated at -9.7% (vs. -10.1% previously).

To the day ahead now, and the data highlights include French consumer confidence for August, along with the preliminary July readings for US durable goods orders and nondefence capital goods orders ex air. Central bank speakers include the Fed’s Barkin, the BoE’s Haldane and the ECB’s Schnabel and Kazimir. Finally, Royal Bank of Canada will be releasing earnings.

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