Markets looking for direction after Powell testimony
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s semi-annual testimony on Capitol Hill was the centre of attention overnight. Mr Powell finally dispensed with soft landings, describing them as challenging, and instead said that a recession is “certainly a possibility.” That should have been enough to spark a somewhat counterintuitive risk sentiment rally as Fed hiking expectations were dialled back, but instead, we got a mixed response as Mr Powell asserted, quite forcefully, that soaring inflation had to be brought back to earth.
That left markets in somewhat of a no man’s land. US equities were clearly dying for any excuse to hit the buy button, such is their genetically pre-programmed disposition. But while Mr Powell was talking recession possibilities and being “nimble” from FOMC meeting to FOMC meeting, the reality that a recession probably isn’t great for stocks tempered animal spirits. US yields flopped overnight on the recession words, notably at the long end, which is a bit of a concern, given the market’s infatuation with inverse yield curves. The fall in yields was enough to stop the rot in equities, leaving them roughly unchanged, but the US dollar fell slightly versus the euro and yen.
The Bank of Japan would have been breathing a sigh of relief as lower US yields took USD/JPY back below 136.00, but in the Asian EM space, regional currencies generally weakened. Notably the Korean won, with a high beta to the health of the US economy, had a tough day at the office. Notably, the Australian and New Zealand dollar, both global sentiment indicators like the won, both finished the day lower as well.
Gold, of course, did nothing, while in the crypto space, bitcoin had another almost unchanged day, hovering once again, just above USD 20,000.00. Depending on your point of view, bitcoin is tracing out a major bottom in prices before the new dawn, or it is consolidating a dead cat bounce before heading lower. To help readers understand my point of view, here is a story from Thailand overnight. https://www.nationthailand.com/in-focus/40016806 Basically a chap in Bangkok robbed a gold store to cover his crypto losses. I’m humming “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette.
We have another day of Powell testimony on the Hill this evening, so stand by for more intraday choppiness and analysis paralysis of his every word. In Asia, we have a busy day ahead. South Korean PPI YoY for May held steady at 9.70%, although the MoM number fell to 0.50%. Australian Manufacturing and Services Flash PMIs for June were steady at 55.8 and 52.6 respectively. Japan Jibun Bank June Flash Manufacturing PMI edged lower to 52.7, but the Services PMI rose from 52.6 to 54.2, quite the surprise. I am putting that down to a gradual reopening of borders and government stimulus.
Taiwan’s Industrial Production and Retail Sales come out late today, at 1600SGT, and will likely be lost in the noise of the S&P Manufacturing and Services PMI releases from France, Germany, and the Eurozone. Both numbers should hold steady, or increase slightly from April, due to the knock-on effects of China’s covid-zero reopening. Singapore’s Core and headline Inflation for May are expected to increase slightly to 5.50% and 5.5% YoY respectively. That won’t be enough to tip the MAS’ hand for an out-of-sequence tightening announcement, especially with recession fears rising among key export markets.
Of most interest will be the monetary policy decisions out of the Philippines and Indonesia today. Both the Philippines Peso and Indonesian rupiah have been under the cosh lately. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has already indicated a 0.25% hike, with the incoming governor stating he isn’t a fan of large hikes. Bank Indonesia (BI) is murkier. Core inflation remains comfortably within the BI’s target range, but with USD/IDR approaching 15,000.00, BI may spring a surprise on markets and hike by 0.25%. Both central banks will likely be forced to hike at each policy meeting going forward now to offset currency pressures.
European and US S&P PMIs aside, the calendar is pretty light this evening. Powell’s testimony aside, Initial Jobless Claims could be interesting if the weekly number jumps sharply higher tonight. That will reinforce recession fears although frankly, I would need to see the monthly JOLTS number plummet from 11.50 jobs to confirm that. US API Crude Inventories leapt higher to 5.60 million barrels overnight, quite a surprise. More surprising is that oil didn’t move lower because of it, having plummeted in Asia. If tonight’s official US Crude Inventory data shows a huge increase as well, instead of the forecast modest drawdown, we could see some more short-term pressure on prices, especially WTI.
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