Summary: Markets are steady ahead of a widely anticipated speech at the US Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming conference from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, although he may do little more than remain on message on the Fed’s plans for tightening policy. The US dollar trades near cycle highs ahead of the speech, with US treasury yields having eased back a bit yesterday on a strong 7-year treasury auction. In Europe, power and natural gas prices continue their ascent from already dire levels, thereby supporting demand for fuel-based products.
What is our trading focus?
Nasdaq 100 (USNAS100.I) and S&P 500 (US500.I)
S&P 500 futures bounced back 1.4% to the 4,200 level in what seems to have been a technical move ahead of Jerome Powell’s keynote speech at Jackson Hole which is expected today. For equities the main question is how central banks are seeing structural in the years to come because that will be linked to the terminal rate the Fed sees as neutral for the economy and inflation. The US 10-year yield is trading around the 3.05% level this morning and we expect a quiet session in US equities unless Powell’s speech delivers a hawkish tone which could then erase yesterday’s gains.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HSI.I) and China’s CSI300 (000300.I)
After staging an impressive bounce from the trough of a 2-month losing streak yesterday, Hong Kong equities opened higher before giving back much of its gains to end the morning session 0.7% higher. Yesterday’s 3.6% rally in the Hang Seng Index and 6% surge in Hang Seng TECH Index were fueled by initially chatters among traders about unverified progress on resolving the audit working papers access issue in the heart of the Chinese ADR delisting risk. During New York hours, the Wall Street Journal ran an article, suggesting that the U.S. and China are nearing a deal to allow American regulators to inspect in Hong Kong the audit working papers of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. The news sent Chinese ADRs soaring, the NASDAQ Golden Dragon China Index +6.3%.
US dollar steady on the strong side ahead of Jackson Hole
Yesterday saw some tactical chopiness in USD pairs, as the greenback sold off to support in places and criss-crossed parity in EURUSD terms before settling back to the strong side ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole conference today. Powell is widely expected to stay on message on the Fed’s hopes to get ahead of the curve, but surprises are possible if his language is a bit more pointed than expected or he brings stronger guidance on the importance of QT, etc. Next event risks for the USD in the wake of today’s Powell speech (and July PCE inflation print as noted below) are next Friday’s payrolls/earnings report, the Sep 13 Aug. CPI data release, and then the Sep 21 FOMC decision.
The Antipodean currency pair closed yesterday at its highest level since 2017 in a bid to escape the range that has prevailed since then, with a bit more range toward 1.1300 that stretches all the way back to 2013. If the pair can make a notable foray above these levels, it might suggest that traders are viewing the pair from a current account perspective, as Australia has been running record surpluses on its formidable complex of commodity exports, while New ZEaland is running unprecedented deficits on rising costs for energy imports. In the longer term perspective, AUDNZD has traded above 1.3500 as recently as 2011.
Crude oil (CLV2 & LCOV2)
Crude oil trades steady with Brent trading around $100 per barrel with a tightening supply outlook offsetting the recessionary drums that have been banging ever louder in recent weeks. Focus on today’s Jackson Hole speech from Fed Chair Powell and its potential impact on bond and currency markets, and with that the general level of risk appetite in the market. EU gas and power reached new peaks on Thursday on worries about Russian gas supplies following the upcoming 3-day maintenance supporting demand for crude-based products like diesel and heating oil. The prospect of a revived Iran nuclear deal still receiving some attention although a deal may only have a small immediate impact, small change compared with the soon to expire US SPR release program which saw 8 million barrels pumped into the market last week. In Brent, the next level of upside interest can be found at $102.50.
Copper has settled into a $3.55 to $3.73 range after making a steady recovery from the June/July +30% collapse. The primary focus remains on China and the government’s efforts to shore up its troubled property sector and its slowing economy in general. This past week we have seen rate cuts and the announcement of a 1 trillion-yuan economic stimulus program, including a 300-billion-yuan investment in infrastructure projects, which will boost the consumption of industrial metals, including copper. Above the current range copper may target $3.85/lb next but it will likely require a rally above $4/lb before speculators reverse the net short they have held since April.
US Treasuries (TLT, IEF)
US treasury yields fel back a few basis points, but the 10-year benchmark still trades above 3.00% today ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s speech. (More below – special focus on longer end of the yield curve on any QT guidance in the speech). A strong auction of 7-year treasuries yesterday helped bring support to the market after the weak 5-year auction the prior day.
What is going on?
ECB meeting minutes suggest another 50-basis points hike
The meeting minutes point to another 50-basis point hike at the September 8 ECB meeting, a move that is actually more than fully priced in by the market. At the same time, the ECB minutes noted that it saw “no evidence of significant second round effects” in which wages drive an inflationary spiral. The central bank’s “TPI” or Transmission Protection Instrument meant to prevent peripheral sovereign yield spreads from widening excessively was widely discussed and is clearly a hot potato politically. An FT article noted that hedge funds have built up a nearly EUR 40 billion speculative short in Italian BTPs
Additional hawkish Fed comments before we get to Powell
Several Fed speakers were on the wires echoing the same message on inflation and more rate hikes. The markets are still holding their breath for what Powell has to say later today. James Bullard (2022 voter) reiterated his year-end target of 3.75% to 4% and market expectation is not too far from that now. Esther George (2022 voter) was more open about rates going above 4% but stayed away from a specific guidance for the September meeting. Patrick Harker (2023 voter) said rates need to be lifted into restrictive territory. Raphael Bostic (2024 voter) told the WSJ it's too soon to call inflation’s peak and that he hasn't decided yet on a 50 or 75bps rate hike next month.
German business sentiment is not that bad in August
The headline IFO Survey reading was out at 88.5 versus 86.8 expected and 88.6 prior. This is only a bit softer than the previous month. The same goes as well for the current conditions (out at 97.5 in August versus prior 97.7) and expectations (80.3, unchanged compared to July). Overall, business sentiment remains soft. But given the quick economic deterioration, it could have been much worse. We still expect sentiment to further fall in the coming months as the German economy sinks into a recession. The energy crisis is hitting consumers and companies very hard – thus leading to lower demand and corporate investment. Yesterday, Germany’s benchmark year-end power kept rising (+13% in one day) to a new record of EU725/MWH. So far, the German government has spent roughly €60bn to limit the impact of higher energy prices on households and corporations. This represents about 1.7% of GDP according to the calculations of the Belgium-based think tank Bruegel. In percentage of GDP, this is still much less than many other European countries (3.7 % of GDP for Greece, 2.8 % for Italy and 2.3 % for Spain, for instance). In any case, this is unsustainable, of course.
The US and China are getting closer to resolve Chinese ADR audit papers inspection issue
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Chinese securities regulators “are making arrangements for US-listed Chinese companies and their accounting firms to transfer their audit working papers and other data from mainland China to Hong Kong” and “would allow American accounting regulators to travel to Hong Kong to inspect the audit records”. It is important to note that an agreement has yet to be reached and the regulators on both sides remain silent about it so far. One of the hurdles to the proposed arrangement of transfer of audit working papers from the mainland to Hong Kong will be whether it can satisfy the US regulators, particularly the SEC Chair Gensler who has emphasized “full access”. If this turns out to happen, it will not only benefit the Chinese companies that are listed in the US but also sets the US and China in a more conciliatory mood at least in some financial matters, and shows case the uniqueness of the position of Hong Kong
U.S. discount retailers reported mixed Q2 results, highlighting pricing pressures ahead
Dollar General (DG:xnys) reported revenue growth of 9% y/y to $9.4bn, in line with the consensus estimate, and EPS of $2.98, +10.6% y/y, above the consensus estimate of $2.94. Same-store sales in Q2 grew 4.6% y/y, above the consensus at +3.8%. In the company’s guidance for 2022, revenue growth was raised to +11% from previously +10.0-10.5% and the same-store-sales growth was raised to +4.0-4.5% from +3.0-3.5%. Q2 results from another discount retailer, Dollar Tree (DLTR:xnys) were however weaker, with revenue growth of 6.7% y/y to $6.77bn, slightly below the consensus estimate of $6.79bn. EPS came in at $1.60, in line with expectations. Same-store-sale for the quarter was +4.9%, below the consensus estimate at +5.0%. The company lowered its 2022 full-year EPS guidance to $7.10-$7.40 and said that 60% of the cut was due to cutting prices. The management said that they “expect the combination of this pricing investment at Family Dollar and the shoppers’ heightened focus on needs-based consumable products will pressure gross margins in the back half of the year”. The comments from Dollar Tree cast a shadow over the health of consumers in the US in general.
Meituan is scheduled to report
Meituan (03690:xhkg) is scheduled to report Q2 results on Friday after the market close. Analysts are upbeat about the food and grocery delivery platform’s potential benefitting from the recovery of consumer demand amid the reopening and cost control initiatives. The consensus estimate (as per the Bloomberg survey) for Q2 revenue is to grow 11% YoY to RMB48.59 billion and an adjusted net loss of RMB2.17 billion
What are we watching next?
The Kansas City Fed hosts its annual symposium in Jackson Hole
This year’s theme is “Reassessing Constraints on the Economy and Policy”. The symposium will last until Saturady. Fed Chair Jerome Powell will speak today. Given the loosening of financial conditions since the June FOMC meeting, the market has been concerned that Powell will echo the pushback against the notion that the Fed knows that it is set to materially slow its pace of policy tightening after the September 21 FOMC rate decision (majority looking for another 75 basis points). Data dependency will likely be underlined in his speech, but any guidance on the Fed’s approach to QT could also garner considerable attention as longer treasury yields pull back higher toward the cycle highs from June.
Softer July US PCE print would not derail Fed’s tightening
After a softer CPI report in July, focus will turn to the PCE measure – the version of the CPI that is tracked by the Fed to gauge price pressures. Lower gasoline prices mean that PCE prints could also see some relief, although we still upside pressures to inflation given that energy shortages will likely persist and easing financial conditions mean that inflation could return. We would suggest not to read too much into a softer PCE print this week, as the stickier shelter and services prices mean that the 2% inflation target of the Fed remains unachievable into then next year. This suggests that the aggressive tightening by the Fed will likely continue, despite any likely softness in the PCE this week.
Earnings to watch
Today’s earnings focus is Meituan which is expected to see 11% y/y revenue growth with estimates expecting to see growth accelerating into Q3, so this will be the market’s focus in today’s earnings release. The latest stimulus efforts by the Chinese government and lifting of mobility restrictions could provide tailwind for the consumer into Q3.
- Today: Meituan, China Shenhua Energy, China Petroleum & Chemical
Next week’s earnings releases:
- Monday: Fortescue Metals, Haier Smart Home, Foshan Haitian Flavouring, Agricultural Bank of China, BYD, Pinduoduo, Trip.com, DiDi Global
- Tuesday: Woodside Energy, ICBC, China Yangtze Power, Midea Group, Tianqi Lithium, Bank of Montreal, China Construction Bank, Bank of China, Great Wall Motor, COSCO Shipping, Partners Group, Baidu, Crowdstrike, HP
- Wednesday: MongoDB
- Thursday: Pernod Ricard, Broadcom, Lululemon Athletica, Hormel Foods
- Friday: BNP Paribas
Economic calendar highlights for today (times GMT)
- 0800 – Italy Aug. Consumer/Manufacturing Confidence surveys
- 1230 – US Jul. Personal Income/Spending
- 1230 – US Jul. PCE Inflation
- 1400 – US Fed Chair Powell to speak at Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- 1400 – US Aug. Final University of Michigan Confidence
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