Futures Dip As Markets Brace For Hawkish Fed Surprise
Futures Dip As Markets Brace For Hawkish Fed Surprise
US stock index futures slipped on Wednesday – after a frenzied late rally into Tuesday’s…
US stock index futures slipped on Wednesday - after a frenzied late rally into Tuesday’s month-end thanks to a monstrous, $6 billion in Market on Close buy orders - but were off session lows as investors awaited the Fed’s policy decision after a stellar start to the year for stocks amid speculation the central bank will signal a slowdown in the pace of rate hikes.
Futures on the S&P 500 were 0.2% lower, trading around 4083, while Nasdaq 100 futs popped into the green as of 745am ET, with both underlying indexes surging more than 1% on Tuesday. The Nasdaq soared more than 10% in January in a furious short-covering rebound unseen in more than two decades. An index of global stocks excluding the US is making history with a gain of 8.6% last month — the best start to a year on record. Elsewhere, European and Asian stocks rose, the 10-year Treasury yield fell about three basis points and the dollar index dipped before the Fed statement, where it’s forecast to unveil a 25 basis point rate increase.
Among notable movers in premarket trading, Electronic Arts Inc. after the video game maker cut its full-year forecast and announced a six-week delay in the release of its next Star Wars game. Chipmaker AMD rose after the chipmaker gave a sales forecast that was better than feared, helped by gains in the server market. Perennial loser Snap plunged as the social media company gave a weaker-than-expected forecast, saying changes to its advertising products may be “disruptive” to its business. Shares of other companies that get a bulk of their revenue from online advertising, including Meta and Pinterest also dropped. Bank stocks were also lower in premarket trading Wednesday as traders await the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision. JPMorgan is planning to launch a digital bank in Germany as its second international consumer outpost. Meanwhile, some users of bankrupt crypto lender Celsius Network’s Custody program will be able to withdraw 94% of their eligible assets, according to a court filing. Here are some other notable premarket movers.
- Peloton jumped 8% after it reported improved cash flow and a narrower net loss in the latest quarter, leading Chief Executive Officer Barry McCarthy to say that questions about the viability of the business have been “put to bed.”
- Chinese stocks listed in the US rise in premarket trading, poised to end three days of declines, with Baidu and electric-vehicle stocks leading the way. Li Auto (LI US) +6%, XPeng (XPEV US) +4.1%, Baidu (BIDU US) +7.9%, Alibaba (BABA US) +1.5%, Pinduoduo (PDD US) +2.6%, Bilibili (BILI US) +3.1%
- Western Digital shares slide 4.5% after its revenue forecast for the third quarter fell short of estimates. Analysts blamed weakness in the NAND flash market and PC demand, though some were hopeful that the data-storage device maker could weather the storm.
- Electronic Arts shares fall 11% after the video-game company cut its full-year forecast and announced a six-week delay in the release of its next Star Wars game.
- Match Group slides 8.7% after the dating services firm gave guidance for 1Q23 showing little fundamental business improvement is expected near-term.
- Keep an eye on Rocket Pharmaceuticals (RCKT US) stock as Morgan Stanley initiates coverage with an overweight recommendation, saying the biotech is a leader in gene therapy with a robust cardiovascular pipeline and a hematology pipeline providing near-term revenue.
Today's key event is the FOMC decision due at 2pm (preview here). Economists widely expect the central bank to raise rates by 25 basis points at the conclusion of its two-day meeting Wednesday. Chair Jerome Powell is likely to keep further hikes on the table while leaning against bets they will cut rates later this year.
"Powell will certainly sound satisfied about the falling inflation and slowing wages, but he will likely point out that inflation remains high, risks to inflation remain to the upside and that the job is not done yet,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank. “He will surely push back the expectation of any rate cut this year” and a hawkish statement could further weigh on stocks, she said.
Wage cost data that undershot forecasts, a cooling housing market dwindling consumer confidence suggest the Fed’s rate hikes over the past year have begun to curtail inflation, but still-loose financial conditions are complicating the central bank’s task.
"The question is will the Fed emphasize a pause or push back against the easing being priced in for this year and the next,” said Steve Donzé, deputy head of investment at Pictet Asset Management in Tokyo. “The market is worried about this, because a lot of this rally was helped by softer yields and the dollar and if the Fed starts to fight the easing that’s priced in it will have consequences for the yield curve and equities.”
Powell will also try to push back against easing financial conditions which are now as loose as they were in Jun 2022 when Fed Funds were 1.75%.
Focus is also on company earnings, with analysts expecting the first quarterly drop in US profits since 2020. Investors can no longer count on some crucial tailwinds that helped spur a remarkable two-decade stretch of earnings growth, according to Bank of America.
In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 index pared most of its early gain after a report showed inflation in the euro area slowed more than economists’ expectations in January. The the core measure remained sticky, however, suggesting heated debate to come at the European Central Bank over how much more interest rates must rise. The central bank is expected to lift its policy rate by 50 basis points on Thursday. Here are some of the biggest European movers:
- GSK shares turned lower after gaining as much as 1.5% as its quarterly sales and profit both topped expectations, driven by a strong performance in the vaccines division and HIV drug portfolio
- ABB shares rise as much as 1.3% after the Swiss automation company’s EV-charging business raised additional funds from minority investors
- Husqvarna rises as much as 7% as the Swedish lawn care and outdoor equipment firm’s organic sales growth, particularly for its robotic products, led to an outperformance in 4Q
- BBVA shares advance as much as 2.5% after it reported earnings which Jefferies described as solid. Analysts also noted the upbeat outlook for 2023
- Virgin Money UK shares gain as much as 1.2% after the bank forecast net interest margin for the full year of 1.85% to 1.9%, in an update seen as “neutral” by Morgan Stanley
- Darktrace shares rise as much as 6%, recovering from a two-day 17% slump, after the cybersecurity firm announced plans to buy back shares
- Vodafone shares decline as much as 3.3% in early trading, after the telecom operator reported a further slowdown in service revenue growth in core markets including Germany and Spain
- SEB falls as much as 4.4% after Trygg-Stiftelsen sold 75m shares in the bank at a price of SEK120 apiece, representing a 4.9% discount versus Tuesday’s close
- Novartis dips as much as 1.9% after the Swiss drugmaker’s quarterly sales were a touch behind expectations due to a miss for psoriasis treatment Cosentyx
“Headline inflation continues to fall across the eurozone but core inflation, which strips out food and energy, flatlined,” said John Leiper, Chief Investment Officer at Titan Asset Management. “Price pressure, particularly in the services sector, will remain elevated for some time. Given the economy is holding up far better than predicted we expect the ECB to hike interest rates again on Thursday by a widely anticipated 50 basis points.”
Earlier in the session, Asian stocks rose ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate decision, as signs of cooling US inflation boosted risk appetite in the region. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose as much as 0.8%, driven by technology and consumer discretionary shares. Benchmarks in Hong Kong as well as the tech-heavy markets of South Korea and Taiwan all gained about 1%, while India declined. All eyes were on the Fed meeting later Wednesday, with markets expecting a 25-basis-point rate hike. Investors betting on a downshift in tightening were cheered by data showing slower growth in US employment costs, adding to signs of moderating inflation.
“Wall Street is slowly growing confident that this week’s Fed rate hike might end up being the last one in this tightening cycle,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda. “The economy is weakening and that is fueling Fed rate cut bets at the end of the year.” India’s benchmarks erased early gains driven by a budget boost, as a selloff among Adani group’s stocks accelerated in afternoon trading.
In India, Adani Group stocks resumed their selloff after the share sale by the Indian conglomerate’s flagship firm failed to turn sentiment from Hindenburg Research’s fraud allegations. In one bright spot for the group, nearly all dollar bonds issued by Adani companies extended gains into a second day.
Japanese stocks closed mixed ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting later Wednesday and as investors weighed domestic company results. The Topix fell 0.2% to close at 1,972.23, while the Nikkei advanced 0.1% to 27,346.88. Lasertec contributed the most to the Topix decline, falling 14% after the chip-equipment maker reported quarterly profit that missed analyst estimates and trimmed its order outlook. Out of 2,164 stocks in the index, 935 rose and 1,134 fell, while 95 were unchanged. “There is a consensus that the FOMC may end interest-rate hikes in March,” said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management. “After that, we would want to see the impact on the economy”.
Australian stocks rose with the S&P/ASX 200 index 0.3% higher to close at 7,501.70, boosted by gains in mining stocks and banks, as investors await the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting. Flight Centre was the top performer, surging 8% after the travel agency successfully completed a A$180 million placement to buy UK-based luxury travel brand Scott Dunn and provided a trading update. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1% to 12,090.93.
In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index eased 0.1% ahead of the Fed policy decision later on Wednesday where it’s expected to raise rates by 25 basis points. The greenback was steady to weaker against its most Group-of-10 peers, with Scandinavian currencies topping the G-10 leaderboard. The Treasury curve bull flattened, with the 10-year yield dropping by about 4bps.
- The euro inched up toward $1.09 though options suggest a move above $1.10 after the Fed and the ECB is unlikely. Euro-zone bonds pared an advance after core-CPI for the region came in higher than estimated in January, while the headline number eased more than forecast.
- The pound underperformed most of its Group-of-10 peers, trading little changed against a the US dollar. Domestic focus remains on Thursday’s BOE decision.
- New Zealand’s dollar was steady while short-maturity bonds gained and traders trimmed bets on a rate hike at the RBNZ’s February meeting after employment data missed estimates.
Treasury yields are slightly lower across the curve, with gilts outperforming over the early London session across the belly of the curve. US yields are richer by up to 2.5bp across the long end of the curve, which is outperforming slightly, flattening 2s10s, 5s30s spreads by 1.8bp and 0.5bp; 10-year yields around 3.485%, outperforming bunds by 3bp in the sector — the front end and belly of the UK curve is outperforming over the early London session. Fed-dated swaps market is pricing in around 27bp of rate hike premium for Wednesday’s decision and 47bp over the Feb. and March meetings; policy peak is priced at around 4.92% by the June meeting. The US session focus is on manufacturing data in the morning, before attention shifts to the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate decision at 2 p.m. in Washington and Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference 30 minutes later.
In commodities, crude futures are little changed, with WTI trading near $79.00. Spot gold falls roughly 0.1% to trade near $1,926
Looking to the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the Fed’s latest policy decision as well as Chair Powell’s press conference. Otherwise, data releases include the flash CPI release for the Euro Area in January, as well as the unemployment rate for December. Alongside that, there’s the global manufacturing PMIs for January and in the US we’ve got the ISM manufacturing print for January, the ADP’s report of private payrolls, and the JOLTS job openings for December. Finally, earnings releases today include Meta.
- S&P 500 futures down 0.2% to 4,084
- MXAP up 0.7% to 169.15
- MXAPJ up 1.0% to 554.79
- Nikkei little changed at 27,346.88
- Topix down 0.2% to 1,972.23
- Hang Seng Index up 1.1% to 22,072.18
- Shanghai Composite up 0.9% to 3,284.92
- Sensex little changed at 59,576.27
- Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to 7,501.66
- Kospi up 1.0% to 2,449.80
- STOXX Europe 600 up 0.2% to 454.03
- Gold spot down 0.2% to $1,923.98
- U.S. Dollar Index down 0.12% to 101.97
- German 10Y yield little changed at 2.26%
- Euro up 0.2% to $1.0880
- Brent Futures little changed at $85.38/bbl
Top overnight News from Bloomberg
The EU risks missing a March target to agree on a reform of its debt-limit rules in the face of resistance from countries including Germany, a prospect that may force member states into abrupt and potentially painful budgetary adjustments
For bond investors looking to bet big on a rally this year, signs of distress in the world’s highly-leveraged housing markets are only adding to their conviction. Places like the UK, New Zealand and Sweden — where house prices are slumping and mortgage payments are rocketing — are high on their watchlist
Shaky property markets across much of the world pose another risk to the global economy as higher interest rates erode household finances and threaten to exacerbate falling prices
Swathes of office staff have been forced to work from home Wednesday as widespread industrial action closes schools and cripples Britain’s rail network. As many as 475,000 union members are on strike
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for enhanced efforts to boost consumption in order to realize a virtuous economic cycle, as the world’s second largest economy gradually recovers from Covid Zero
A surge in Chinese spending last month has spurred more optimism about the country’s economic rebound, though weakness among manufacturers and sales of cars and homes still suggest the recovery isn’t yet on sure footing
Asia’s manufacturers are improving at the start of the year as the region becomes more optimistic about the boost from China’s reopening, while activity in the euro area shows the downturn is softening as cost pressures ease
A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk
APAC stocks traded higher after the positive lead from Wall St where stocks advanced into month-end and which was facilitated by the softer Employment Cost growth in the US, although gains were capped by the approaching FOMC rate decision and after disappointing Chinese Caixin Manufacturing PMI data. ASX 200 was led higher by strength in the mining and materials sectors after a rebound in commodity prices and with an upgrade in the Final Australian Manufacturing PMI also conducive for risk appetite. Nikkei 225 briefly climbed above 27,500 but closed off its highs amid a deluge of earnings releases and after Japan’s manufacturing activity was confirmed to have declined for a 3rd consecutive month. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. were positive albeit with momentum restricted after Chinese Caixin Manufacturing PMI missed forecasts and printed a 6th consecutive month in contraction territory which was in contrast to the recent rebound seen in China’s official PMIs.
Top Asian News
- US Defence Secretary Austin's visit to Manila is expected to bring a deal on expanded US access to bases in the Philippines, according to a senior Philippines official cited by Reuters.
- China's President Xi says the need to coordinate expansion of domestic demand with deepening supply-side structural reforms, via State Media.
- China securities regulator CSRC has released draft rules for IPO registration system reform for 1st February.
- Tiny Radioactive Device Found in Australia After Desert Hunt
- Modi Aims to Please All With $550 Billion India Budget
- Gold Steadies as Traders Await Fed Meeting for Rate Outlook
- China Lifts Southeast Asia Factories as Europe Downturn Softens
- Insurers Top Losers as India Budget Seeks to Tighten Tax Rules
- Adani Rout Passes $90 Billion as Stock Sale Fails to Stem Doubt
European bourses are little changed overall but with a modest positive bias, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.2%, ahead of data points and the FOMC. Sectors are predominantly in the green, but with the overall breadth narrow and no overarching theme in play despite numerous large cap earnings in the European morning; click here and here for details. Stateside, futures are a touch softer after yesterday's strength, ES -0.4%, with after-market updates weighing ahead of data and the Fed's policy announcement/press conference. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) - Q4 sales and profits topped expectations, but warns of revenue decline in Q1. +3.3% in pre-market trade Tesla (TSLA) intends to increase the Shanghai plant's average weekly output to nearly 20k vehicles for Feb and March, according to an internal memo cited by Reuters.
Top European News
- UK and EU reached a customs agreement which could pave the way for an end of post-Brexit wrangling over Northern Ireland, according to The Times.
- Officials in Brussels have reportedly dismissed claims of a compromise deal on the ECJs role in the N. Ireland Protocol, via BBC's Parker citing sources; Parker adds, "A precise timeline isn’t clear but one official says negotiators are in the “tunnel”."."Regardless any compromise of that kind would also represent a significant UK concession, as well as an EU one." (re. the ECJ).
- RTE's Connelly, on reports of an EU/UK deal on the NI protocol, says there is "Nothing new. Talks ongoing. Progress (is) being made but no sign of anything imminent.", citing a source.
- The DXY is subdued and holding modestly below the 102.00 mark with slightly softer US yields vs global peers and the pre-FOMC risk tone exerting modest pressure on the USD.
- EUR and AUD are the current outperformers despite a fleeting dip in EUR/USD following EZ Flash CPI while AUD is benefiting from soft New Zealand labour data and a subsequent paring in RBNZ rate expectations; EUR/USD just shy of 1.09 while AUD/USD resides near 0.708.
- CAD remains near 1.33 pre-data while Cable has extended above the 1.23 mark irrespective of a pushback on reporting of an EU/UK compromise.
- SEK and NOK have benefitted somewhat from their respective PMIs, though EUR upside caps gains, while the INR has slipped post-budget.
- PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 6.7492 vs exp. 6.7499 (prev. 6.7604)
- EGBs are firmer but well off initial best levels, with Bunds below 137.00 after more than paring a knee-jerk spike on the EZ Flash CPI release, where once again the headline cooled but core remains firmer.
- Gilts are faring better than their German peer post-supply, with the 2033 Green Gilt better received than the 2033 Bund, which required a hefty retention.
- USTs are marginally outperforming and towards the top-end of 114.17+ to 114.30 parameters with yields lower as such and action most pronounced at the long-end of the curve.
- Crude benchmarks have seen some modest two-way action throughout the morning, though the benchmarks are in relatively narrow ranges and near the unchanged mark overall.
- Action which comes ahead of the OPEC+ JMMC event, which is not a decision-making meeting, and other risk events throughout the session.
- US Energy Inventory Data (bbls): Crude +6.3mln (exp. +0.4mln), Cushing +2.7mln, Gasoline +2.7mln (exp. +1.4mln), Distillate +1.5mln (exp. -1.3mln).
- OPEC+ JMMC has been pushed back one hour to 13:00GMT/08:00EST, according to Energy Intel.
- Spot gold is little changed around the USD 1925/oz mark, given the broader tentative pre-FOMC price action. Base metals are softer following the miss in China's Caixin PMI release.
- US is readying a USD 2.2bln weapons package for Ukraine which includes longer-range rockets for the first time, according to two officials cited by Reuters.
- Russian Kremlin says that potential US supplies of long-range missiles to Ukraine would escalate tensions but would not stop Russia from achieving its goals; as bad as the present situation is, Russia believes the START treaty is very important; no current plans to hold talks between Russian President Putin and US President Biden, according to Sky News Arabia.
- Belarusian servicemen have begun full independent operation of the Iskander missile system, according to the defence ministry.
US Event Calendar
- 07:00: Jan. MBA Mortgage Applications -9.0%, prior 7.0%
- 08:15: Jan. ADP Employment Change, est. 180,000, prior 235,000
- 09:45: Jan. S&P Global US Manufacturing PMI, est. 46.8, prior 46.8
- 10:00: Dec. Construction Spending MoM, est. 0%, prior 0.2%
- 10:00: Dec. JOLTs Job Openings, est. 10.3m, prior 10.5m
- 10:00: Jan. ISM Manufacturing, est. 48.0, prior 48.4
- New Orders, prior 45.2, revised 45.1
- Employment, prior 51.4, revised 50.8
- Prices Paid, est. 40.4, prior 39.4
- 14:00: Feb. FOMC Rate Decision (Lower Bound est. 4.50%, prior 4.25%; Upper Bound est. 4.75%, prior 4.50%)
- 14:00: Feb. Interest on Reserve Balances R, est. 4.65%, prior 4.40%
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
After a very positive January, the start of February today marks a pivotal three days for markets that have the potential to decisively set the tone for the weeks ahead. That begins this morning with the flash CPI release from the Euro Area for January, before we have the Fed’s latest policy decision and Chair Powell’s press conference tonight. Then tomorrow we’ve got more policy decisions from the ECB and the BoE, an array of major earnings including Apple, Amazon and Alphabet, followed up by the US jobs report for January on Friday.
The last time we had a big round of central bank meetings like this in December, the rate hikes themselves were much as expected, but the hawkish rhetoric alongside them led to a big selloff. Nevertheless, the mood going into this round is much more optimistic, with the S&P 500 (+1.46%) closing at a 2-month high after the US Employment Cost Index numbers showed labour costs grew by less-than-expected, whilst the French CPI release also came in much as expected (unlike the Spanish print the previous day). So all eyes are now on the Fed to see whether they maintain their hawkish tone of recent meetings, or whether there might be any signals of a potential pause at future meetings.
When it comes to the Fed’s decision today, a 25bps rate hike is now widely expected by both markets and economists, and anything other than that would be a massive shock. It would also mark the first “normal” sized hike since March 2022 when this hiking cycle began, before they embarked on a series of supersized hikes to swiftly get the policy rate into restrictive territory. Given that the 25bps move is anticipated, the main focus today will instead be on any changes to forward guidance, both in the statement and from Fed Chair Powell’s press conference.
In their preview (link here), our US economists write that the statement is likely to keep the reference to “ongoing” rate hikes. Their view is that although the FOMC might be inclined to adjust this language as it moves closer to a pause, doing so now has little upside and risks widening the existing gap between market expectations and a more hawkish Fed. In terms of market expectations, futures are currently pricing in one more 25bps hike after today’s move, but only a one-in-three of another move after that. Indeed, terminal rate pricing points to just +58.3bps of further hikes, so closer to 50bps than 75bps. Futures are also indicating that the Fed will start cutting by year-end, which is contrary to the last FOMC minutes in December, where it said that “no participants” thought it would be appropriate to start cutting rates in 2023.
Ahead of the decision, there was some good news from their perspective in the latest ECI numbers for Q4. That’s closely followed by the Fed and showed an increase in employment costs of +1.0% (vs. +1.1% expected), which is the slowest quarterly increase in a year and added to the signs that wage growth is moderating. Nevertheless, if you wanted a more negative perspective, it’s still running above levels consistent with their target, and is above what we saw throughout the entirety of the 2010s. So as with the inflation figures, the Fed still have a way to travel before they can be comfortable about reaching their target, even if we’ve come off the highs from early 2022.
This optimism on the inflation side got added support from the French CPI numbers yesterday, with the EU-harmonised print at +7.0% as expected. That was a bit higher than the +6.7% in December, but the good news from an investor perspective was that it didn’t exceed expectations, unlike the Spanish print on Monday. All eyes will now be on the release for the Euro Area as a whole at 10:00 London time, and particularly on core inflation which hit a record 5.2% in December.
With all that to look forward to, markets staged a decent rally yesterday and the S&P 500 was up +1.46% to recover from its slump on Monday. The moves were part of a broad-based advance, with all 24 industry groups gaining on the day, led by autos (+4.32%), transports (+3.19%), retail (+2.24%), and materials (+2.22%). The worst performing industries were more defensive sectors, but even they advanced on the day as well. Meanwhile, the small-cap stocks in the Russell 2000 (+2.45%) were a particular outperformer as they closed at a 5-month high. The performance in Europe was rather weaker, with the STOXX 600 down -0.26%, but they hadn’t experienced the late selloff after the previous day’s close either.
Sovereign bonds also rallied ahead of the various meetings, with yields on 10yr Treasuries seeing a decline of -3.0bps decline to 3.507%, with yields remaining fairly stable overnight. That was echoed in Europe as well, where there were slightly larger moves in yields for 10yr bunds (-3.2bps), OATs (-3.4bps) and BTPs (-4.4bps). Those moves followed a small decline in terminal rate pricing for the Fed down -1.3bps on the day, while expectations for the ECB were basically unchanged (-0.6bps).
Overnight in Asia, that positive mood has continued with the major indices recovering after the previous day’s losses. Currently, the KOSPI (+0.72%) is leading gains with the Shanghai Comp (+0.29%), Hang Seng (+0.27%), CSI 300 (+0.25%) and the Nikkei (+0.09%), posting smaller advances. That’s also in spite of overnight data showing that Chinese manufacturing activity shrank more than expected in January, with the Caixin manufacturing PMI at 49.2 (vs. 49.8 expected), even if that was up from the 49.0 reading in December. Outside of Asia, the picture is a bit less positive as well, with futures on the S&P 500 (-0.28%) and the NASDAQ 100 (-0.39%) in negative territory ahead of the Fed’s decision today.
Looking at yesterday’s other data, the Euro Area economy unexpectedly grew by +0.1% in Q4 (vs. -0.1% expected), so avoiding a recession for the time being. That said, plenty of countries still saw a quarterly contraction, including Germany (-0.2%), Italy (-0.1%), Sweden (-0.6%) and Austria (-0.7%). Otherwise, UK mortgage approvals fell more than expected to 35.6k in December (vs. 45.0k expected), which is their lowest level since May 2020 when the economy was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the Fed’s latest policy decision as well as Chair Powell’s press conference. Otherwise, data releases include the flash CPI release for the Euro Area in January, as well as the unemployment rate for December. Alongside that, there’s the global manufacturing PMIs for January and in the US we’ve got the ISM manufacturing print for January, the ADP’s report of private payrolls, and the JOLTS job openings for December. Finally, earnings releases today include Meta.
How much more financial pressure can Australian mortgagees take?
Talk to anyone on the street these days and the conversation will inevitably turn to how inflation is increasing their cost of living in some form or another….
Talk to anyone on the street these days and the conversation will inevitably turn to how inflation is increasing their cost of living in some form or another. Inflation has risen steadily since the beginning of 2022 despite the determined efforts of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to bring it back towards its target range of 2-3 per cent.
In less than 1 year and 11 interest rate rises later, official interest rates have risen from 0.10 per cent to 3.85 per cent but inflation remains stubbornly high at 7 per cent. Interest rates have never risen this fast before nor from such a historically low level either.
As previously outlined in an earlier blog entry on Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA), the big four banks of Australia have just under 80 per cent of the residential property mortgage loan market. In “normal” economic times of rising interest rates, banks should be natural beneficiaries of these conditions. However, these are not normal times.
The business model of banks has generally stayed the same for centuries, i.e. borrow money from one source at a low interest rate and lend it to a customer at a higher rate. Today, the Australian banks generally get their funding from wholesale and retail sources. However, the banks were offered a one-off funding source from the RBA called the Term Funding Facility (TFF) during the COVID-19 period to support the economy. This started in April 2020, priced at an unprecedented low fixed rate of 0.10 per cent for 3 years with the last drawdown accepted in June 2021 for a total of $188 billion. Fast forward to today and the first drawdowns from this temporary facility have already started to roll-off which means that these fund sources need to be replaced with one of considerably more expensive sources, namely wholesale funding or retail deposits. As a result of this change in funding, bank CEOs have unanimously declared that net interest margins, and hence its effect on bank earnings, have peaked for this cycle despite speculation that interest rates may still rise later in the year.
Prior to the start of the roll-off of TFF drawdowns, the entire Australian banking industry engaged in cutthroat competition for new and refinancing mortgage loans in a bid to maintain or grow market share. In the aftermath of the bank reporting season, two of the big four banks have stated they are no longer pursuing market share at any price, with CBA and National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) announcing they will scrap their refinancing cashback offers after 1 June and 30 June respectively.
Turning our attention back to the average Australian, the big bank mortgage customers have been remarkably resilient. The Australian dream of owning the house you live in is still alive for now, with owners willing to endure significant lifestyle changes in a bid to keep up with mortgage payments. The big banks have reflected this phenomenon with a reduction in individual loan provisions and only a modest increase in collective loan provisions.
Time will tell how much more financial pressure Australian mortgagees can take, especially with the RBA still undecided on the future trajectory of interest rates. What has been agreed on by the big banks, is that things are not going to get easier. At least not in the short-term.
The Montgomery Funds own shares in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank. This article was prepared 29 May 2023 with the information we have today, and our view may change. It does not constitute formal advice or professional investment advice. If you wish to trade these companies you should seek financial advice.interest rates covid-19
U.S. Breakeven Inflation Comments
I just refreshed my favourite U.S. breakeven inflation chart (above), and I was surprised by how placid pricing has been. This article gives a few observations regarding the implications of TIPS pricing.Background note: the breakeven inflation rate is …
Background note: the breakeven inflation rate is the inflation rate that results in an inflation-linked bond — TIPS in the U.S. market — having the same total return as a conventional bond. If we assume that there are no risk premia, then it can be interpreted as “what the market is pricing in for inflation.” I have a free online primer here, as well as a book on the subject.
(As an aside, I often run into people who argue that “breakeven inflation has nothing to do with inflation/inflation forecasts.” I discuss this topic in greater depth in my book, but the premise that inflation breakevens have nothing to do with inflation only makes sense from a very short term trading perspective — long-term valuation is based on the breakeven rate versus realised inflation.)
The top panel shows the 10-year breakeven inflation rate. Although it scooted upwards after the pandemic, it is below where is was pre-Financial Crisis, and roughly in line with the immediate post-crisis period. (Breakevens fell at the end of the 2010s due to persistent misses of the inflation target to the downside.) Despite all the barrels of virtual ink being dumped on the topic of inflation, there is pretty much no inflation risk premium in pricing.
The bottom panel shows forward breakeven inflation: the 5-year rate starting 5 years in the future. (The 10-year breakeven inflation rate is (roughly) the average of the 5-year spot rate — not shown — and that forward rate.) It is actually lower than its “usual” level pre-2014, and did not really budge after recovering from its post-recession dip. (My uninformed guess is that the forward rate was depressed because inflation bulls bid up the front breakevens — because they were the most affected by an inflation shock — while inflation bears would have focussed more on long-dated breakevens, with the forward being mechanically depressed as a result.)
Since I am not offering investment advice, all I can observe is the following.
Since it looks like one would need a magnifying glass to find an inflation risk premium, TIPS do seem like a “non-expensive” inflation hedge. (I use “non-expensive” since they do not look cheap.) Might be less painful than short duration positions (if one were inclined to do that).
Breakeven volatility is way more boring than I would have expected based on the recent movements in inflation. The undershoot during the recession was not too surprising given negative oil prices and expectations of another lost decade, but the response to the inflation spike was restrained.
The “message for the economy” is that market pricing suggests that either inflation reverts on its own, or the Fed is expected to break something bigger than a few hapless regional banks if inflation does not in fact revert.
Otherwise, I am preparing for a video panel on MMT at the Canadian Economics Association 2023 Conference on Tuesday. (One needs to pay the conference fee to see the panel.) I have also been puttering around with my inflation book. I have a couple draft sections that I might put up in the coming days/weeks.
“What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism”: BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros
"What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism": BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros
Authored by Jonathan Turley,
Two years ago, I wrote columns about companies pouring money into Black Lives Matter to establish their bona fides as “antiracist” corporations. The money continued to flow despite serious questions raised about BLM’s management and accounting. Democratic prosecutors like New York Attorney General Letitia James showed little interest in these allegations even as James sought to disband the National Rifle Association (NRA) over similar allegations. At the same time, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors cashed in with companies like Warner Bros. eager to give her massive contracts to signal their own reformed status. It now appears that BLM is facing bankruptcy after burning through tens of millions and Warner Bros. cut ties with Cullors after the contract produced no — zero — new programming.
Some states belatedly investigated BLM as founders like Cullors seemed to scatter to the winds.
Gone are tens of millions of dollars, including millions spent on luxury mansions and windfalls for close associates of BLM leaders.
The usual suspects gathered around the activists like former Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias, who later removed himself from his “key role” as the scandals grew.
When questions were raised about the lack of accounting and questionable spending, BLM attacked critics as “white supremacists.”
Warner Bros. was one of the companies eager to grab its own piece of Cullors to signal its own anti-racist virtues. It gave Cullors a lucrative contract to guide the company in the creation of both scripted and non-scripted content, focusing on reparations and other forms of social justice. It launched a publicity campaign for everyone to know that it established a “wide-ranging content partnership” with Cullors who would now help guide the massive corporation’s new programming. Calling Cullors “one of the most influential thought leaders in American public life,” Warner Bros. announced that she was going to create a wide array of new programming, including “but not limited to live-action scripted drama and comedy series; longform/event series; unscripted docuseries; animated programming for co-viewing among kids, young adults and families; and original digital content.”
Some are now wondering if Warner Bros. ever intended for this contract to produce anything other than a public relations pitch or whether Cullors took the money and ran without producing even a trailer for an actual product. Indeed, both explanations may be true.
Paying money to Cullors was likely viewed as a type of insurance to protect the company from accusations of racial insensitive. After all, the company was giving creative powers to a person who had no prior experience or demonstrated talent in the area. Yet, Cullors would be developing programming for one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world.
One can hardly blame Cullors despite criticizism by some on the left for going on a buying spree of luxury properties.
After all, Cullors was previously open about her lack of interest in working with “capitalist” elements. Nevertheless, BLM was run like a Trotskyite study group as the media and corporations poured in support and revenue.
It was glaringly ironic to see companies like Warner Bros. falling over each other to grab their own front person as the group continued boycotts of white-owned businesses. Indeed, if you did not want to be on the wrong end of one of those boycotts, you needed to get Cullors on your payroll.
Much has now changed as companies like Bud Light have been rocked by boycotts over what some view as heavy handed virtue signaling campaigns.
It was quite a change for Cullors and her BLM co-founder, who previously proclaimed “[we] are trained Marxists. We are super versed on, sort of, ideological theories.” She denounced capitalism as worse than COVID-19. Yet, companies like Lululemon rushed to find their own “social justice warrior” while selling leggings for $120 apiece.
When some began to raise questions about Cullors buying luxury homes, Facebook and Twitter censored them.
With increasing concerns over the loss of millions, Cullors eventually stepped down as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, as others resigned. At the same time, the New York Post was revealing that BLM Global Network transferred $6.3 million to Cullors’ spouse, Janaya Khan, and other Canadian activists to purchase a mansion in Toronto in 2021.
According to The Washington Examiner, BLM PAC and a Los Angeles-based jail reform group paid Cullors $20,000 a month. It also spent nearly $26,000 on meetings at a luxury Malibu beach resort in 2019. Reform LA Jails, chaired by Cullors, received $1.4 million, of which $205,000 went to the consulting firm owned by Cullors and her spouse, according to New York magazine.
Once again, while figures like James have spent huge amounts of money and effort to disband the NRA over such accounting and spending controversies, there has been only limited efforts directed against BLM in New York and most states.
Cullors once declared that “while the COVID-19 illness is tragic, what’s more tragic is capitalism.” These companies seem to be trying to prove her point. Yet, at least for Cullors, Warner Bros. fulfilled its slogan that this is all “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
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