Futures Flat Ahead Of “Most Important Fed Decision Of 2023”
Futures Flat Ahead Of "Most Important Fed Decision Of 2023"
S&P 500 futures little changed, reversing a modest drop earlier in the session,…
S&P 500 futures little changed, reversing a modest drop earlier in the session, and were set for a muted open on Wednesday after two days of gains, with investors awaiting the "most important Federal Reserve rate decision of 2023" and as recent turmoil in the global banking sector subsided. Futures contracts on the S&P 500 were up 0.1% by 7:30 a.m. ET while Nasdaq 100 futures were flat. Both underlying indexes have gained for two consecutive sessions. European stocks fluctuated in a narrow range and Treasury yields were unchanged after a surge on Tuesday that added 19 basis points to the two-year maturity. The dollar dropped for a 5th straight day, its longest losing streak since April 2021, while the pound strengthened after a surprise jump in UK inflation which came above all expectations.
Among notable movers in US premarket trading, GameStop surged after reporting a surprise fourth quarter adjusted profit, lifting other meme stocks including AMC and Bed Bath & Beyond. Shares in First Republic Bank reversed all afterhous losses and edged higher as Wall Street leaders and US officials are exploring the possibility of government backing to encourage a deal that would shore up the lender. Here are some other notable premarket movers:
- Nike shares decline 1.6% in premarket trading after the sportswear brand said in prepared remarks that full-year gross margin will come in at the low end of the previous guidance range. Analysts flagged the challenges Nike faces in moving to a cleaner inventory position.
- GameStop rose as much as 50% after the video game retailer reported a surprise fourth quarter adjusted profit, with Jefferies noting that cost reductions are showing early signs of progress. Other meme stocks including AMC Entertainment and Bed Bath & Beyond US) also jumped.
- Virgin Orbit Holdings rose as much as 155%, after the company said it was targeting “an incremental resumption of operations” after temporarily halting activities last week.
- Meta Platforms edged up 0.4%, after KeyBanc raised its recommendation on the Facebook parent, the third broker to turn bullish on the stock in the space of a week. Keybanc upped the stock to overweight, from sector weight, citing bigger-than-expected cost cuts and robust ad revenue.
- Shares of US-listed Chinese electric vehicle makers may be in focus after Nio (NIO US) said it’s confident of reaching its target of doubling sales this year. Keep an eye on Nio as well as peers XPeng (XPEV US) and Li Auto (LI US).
US stocks rebounded this week after investors were rocked by the collapse of several lenders earlier in the month, spurring fears about the health of the financial system and the negative impact from higher rates on the economy. Government and monetary intervention managed to restore some calm this week, with the S&P 500 benchmark erasing monthly losses on Tuesday. The S&P Banks Index also rebounded, but is still down 18% this month. Technical indicators also showed positive signs, with MACD momentum improving for both the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones, while being firmly in positive territory for the Nasdaq 100.
That said, confidence is extremely fragile, with all eyes are now on the Fed for clues about the path of interest rates going forward. As explained, the "trapped" Fed’s next move will reveal whether the fight against inflation trumps fears of financial instability from the banking fallout in recent weeks, and vice versa. Consensus is for a 25-bp hike and swaps markets now signal 80% odds on that after market pricing was split between a hike and a pause earlier in the week, but some voices urge a pause after the banking turmoil. One economist said the “tension is leading to existential angst.” Our full FOMC preview is here.
“If the Fed raises by 50 basis points, it will come as a huge surprise and the market won’t like it,” said Roger Lee, head of UK equities at Investec Bank Plc. “But ironically, if they don’t raise at all, the market will get concerned about that too, as it will pose questions about what the Fed is seeing that the market isn’t.” Well, one thing the Fed could be seeing is all the bank failures that nobody - neither the Fed, nor the market - was seeing as recently as two weeks ago. So it's not clear they need to so anything more.
“In the run-up to today’s US interest rate decision, most market participants will be more cautious,” said Comdirect Bank strategist Andreas Lipkow. “In the current situation, it doesn’t take much to create high levels of volatility on the financial markets. On the one hand, investors are nervous, but at the same time don’t want to miss any further upside performance. The FOMO effect was already clearly visible yesterday.”
European stocks also advanced, with the Stoxx 600 adding 0.3% and on course for a third consecutive gain as banks stocks outperform. UK inflation accelerated unexpectedly in February, cementing expectations that the Bank of England will deliver another 25bps hike on Thursday. UK two-year yields have jumped ~17bps while the British pound raced to the top of the G-10 pile, rising 0.6% versus the greenback. Here are some of the most notable European movers:
- Rovio shares fall as much as 8.5%, after the Finnish mobile game maker said it has ended non-binding preliminary talks with Playtika, which had offered to buy the firm
- BHG falls as much as 8.4%, extending losses into a seventh session, after Danske Bank cut its recommendation to sell from hold on deteriorating demand
- UBS shares rise as much as 3.6%, erasing almost all the losses made during the banking rout, emerging the winner from the historic rescue deal for rival Credit Suisse AG
- Marks & Spencer gains as much as 4.8% after getting upgraded by three analysts, with Citi citing a less pessimistic UK macro outlook
- Fevertree Drinks shares jump as much as 10%, the most since November, after the maker of tonics and mixers reported full-year adjusted Ebitda that beat estimates
- Skistar rallies as much as 7.1% after Nordea initiates coverage of the Nordic ski resort operator with a buy recommendation, erasing Tuesday’s losses
- Vistry Group jumps as much as 4.5% after the UK homebuilder reported full-year revenue that beat estimates and gave guidance for 2023 that Citi sees as encouraging
- Axfood gains as much as 1.4%, outperforming a flat wider market, after Danske Bank raised its recommendation for the Swedish grocery group to hold from sell
- Colruyt surges as much as 15%, the most in three years, after Virya Energy announces sale of 100% of the shares in offshore wind energy platform Parkwind
UBS has erased almost all of its share losses suffered during the rout. It offered to buy back €2.75 billion ($3 billion) of bail-in notes it sold on Friday, two days before snapping up Credit Suisse, citing a “prudent assessment” of exceptional developments.
Earlier in the session, Asian stocks gained, with a gauge of the region’s financial shares headed for its biggest advance in more than two months, as concerns over a global banking crisis abated and focus turned to the Federal Reserve’s rate decision. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 1.6% as firms including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia jumped. Hong Kong’s equity benchmark was among the top gainers in Asia, boosted by tech names, while Japan’s gauges also rose in catch-up trade. Sentiment improved following authorities’ assurances including comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who said the US government could intervene if the stability of smaller lenders are threatened. Asian investors are now focused on the Fed’s decision as they assess the outlook for international money flows, with most of the region’s emerging markets seeing foreign funds turn net sellers this month.
“The focus for the upcoming Fed will clearly have to address the current financial stability concerns while pretending to stay on message on inflation considerations,” Saxo Capital Markets strategists wrote in a note. Investors should consider how the Fed “positions its level of concern around recent events and the risk of a funding crisis in the banking system,” they added. Read: Yellen Says US Will Intervene If Needed to Protect Smaller Banks The Hang Seng gained 1.7%, paring this month’s loss in the wake of the collapse of three US regional banks and the takeover of Switzerland’s Credit Suisse Group AG. Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 1.9%, the biggest jump since Jan. 18 after investors returned from a national holiday.
Japanese stocks also rose in catch-up trade as traders returned from a national holiday, buying shares ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy decision. The Topix Index gained 1.7% to 1,962.93 as of market close Tokyo time, while the Nikkei advanced 1.9% to 27,466.61. Keyence Corp. contributed the most to the Topix Index gain, increasing 4.2%. Out of 2,159 stocks in the index, 2,000 rose and 126 fell, while 33 were unchanged. Shares rose across Asia, tracking US gains, as concerns over financial stability eased amid assurances from authorities including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Expectations for Fed’s rate hikes have declined over the last two weeks in the wake of the collapse of three US regional banks and the takeover of Switzerland’s Credit Suisse Group AG. “Yellen’s comments and the ECB policy on AT1 bonds may have calmed investors,” said Hideyuki Suzuki, general manager at SBI Securities
Australian stock gained: the S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.9% to close at 7,015.60, in a broad rally supported by energy stocks and banks. Lenders continued to reclaim recent losses as fears over the financial sector ease, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s much-anticipated interest-rate decision later Wednesday. Traders placed greater odds that the Fed will raise interest rates 25 basis points after market pricing was split between a hike and a pause earlier in the week. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to 11,586.93
Key stocks gauges in India rose on Wednesday, tracking a risk-on trade across most Asian markets, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s rate decision later on Wednesday. The S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 0.2% to 58,214.59 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index advanced 0.3% as the gauges rose for the fourth session in five. ICICI Bank contributed the most to the Sensex’s gain, increasing 0.9%. Out of 30 stocks in the index, 18 rose and 11 fell, while one was little changed.
In FX, the pound extended gains as traders firmed up bets on a quarter-point hike on Thursday, while UK bonds fell. A Bloomberg index of dollar strength retreated. The BBDXY headed for a fifth day of losses, the longest losing streak since April 2021, but as long as 55-DMA supports holds, topside risks remain intact; on the weekly, the gauge is struggling to stay within the cloud given the bearish MA crossover and RSI divergence
In rates, treasuries were steady, yields within a couple of basis points of Tuesday’s closing levels with the belly outperforming, steepening 5s30s and unwinding a portion of Tuesday’s sharp flattening move. US 10-year yields steady around 3.60%, slightly richer on the day with bunds and gilts lagging by additional 6bp and 11bp in the sector; UK curve aggressively bear-flattens with 2-year yields cheaper by ~20bp on the day following hot February CPI numbers. Bunds underperform, following wider losses in gilts during London hours after UK inflation increased unexpectedly. US session includes Fed rate decision and updated economic projections at 2pm New York time and Chair Powell news conference at 2:30pm.
In commodities, crude futures declined with WTI down 0.4% to trade near $69.40. Spot gold rises 0.3% to around $1,945
Looking to the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the Federal Reserve’s policy decision along with Chair Powell’s press conference. Other central bank speakers include ECB President Lagarde, and the ECB’s Villeroy, Lane, Rehn, Wunsch, Panetta and Nagel. Otherwise, data releases include the UK CPI release for February.
- S&P 500 futures flat at 4,035.75
- STOXX Europe 600 up 0.3% at 447.56
- MXAP up 1.4% to 158.37
- MXAPJ up 1.3% to 509.91
- Nikkei up 1.9% to 27,466.61
- Topix up 1.7% to 1,962.93
- Hang Seng Index up 1.7% to 19,591.43
- Shanghai Composite up 0.3% to 3,265.75
- Sensex up 0.2% to 58,206.75
- Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.9% to 7,015.59
- Kospi up 1.2% to 2,416.96
- German 10Y yield little changed at 2.32%
- Euro little changed at $1.0777
- Brent Futures down 0.6% to $74.85/bbl
- Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,943.64
- U.S. Dollar Index down 0.13% to 103.12
Top Overnight News
- China has for the first time approved a Covid-19 vaccine based on mRNA technology, greenlighting a homegrown shot months after the ruling Communist Party eliminated its strict pandemic restrictions. China has long refused to use the foreign-made mRNA shots that were crucial in easing the pandemic in many parts of the world and that the United States first authorized for emergency use in December 2020. NYT
- China’s auto industry association on Wednesday urged automakers and authorities to cool “price-cut hype” to ensure the stable development of the industry. “A price war is not a long-term solution”, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers wrote. RTRS
- UK inflation spikes beyond expectations, coming in at +10.4% Y/Y (up from +10.1% in January and ahead of the St’s +9.9% forecast, with the largest upside contributors coming from restaurants/cafes, food, and clothing), placing further pressure on the BOE ahead of its meeting on Thursday. RTRS
- ECB’s Lagarde warns that the battle against inflation is far from over (“we do not see clear evidence that underlying inflation is trending downwards”). ECB
- Bundesbank head said monetary officials need to be “stubborn” and continue hiking rates to combat inflation as the battle against elevated prices isn’t over. FT
- UBS offered to buy back €2.75 billion of bail-in notes it sold on Friday, two days before snapping up Credit Suisse, citing a "prudent assessment" of exceptional developments. Holders were invited to tender for cash bonds due March 2028 and March 2032 at their respective reoffer price. BBG
- S&P warned the wipeout of Credit Suisse's AT1 notes raises the risk of heavy losses in similar debt of other banks, making future issuance more expensive. BBG
- FRC tapped Lazard to help with a review of strategic options that could include a sale, a capital infusion or asset trimming, according to people familiar with the matter. It also hired consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to help map out a postcrisis structure for the bank, the people said. WSJ
- Oil dipped ahead of an interest-rate decision from the Federal Reserve following a two-day rally, as reassurances that authorities will work to contain the banking crisis brought some investors back to risk assets: BBG
- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, making his first visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, offered strong support to Ukraine and invited President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to take part in the Group of Seven summit in mid-May, to which Zelenskiy accepted: BBG
- First Republic rescue may rely on US backing to reach a deal: BBG
- Ukraine won staff backing for a $15.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, setting up the first loan to a nation at war in the institution’s 77-year history: BBG
- Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer don’t agree on much, but neither party leader in the US Congress is in a rush to push legislation addressing the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank: BBG
A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk
Asia-Pac stocks sustained the momentum from Wall St where the major indices rallied for a second consecutive day. ASX 200 was firmer as energy and the consumer sectors spearheaded the advances in the index which climbed back above the psychological 7,000 level. Nikkei 225 was boosted as it played catch-up on its return from holiday amid notable strength in the banking industry and with Japan set to allocate more than JPY 2tln from reserves for measures to cushion the blow to the economy from rising prices. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. conformed to the upbeat mood with initial outperformance in Hong Kong, while the advances in the mainland were limited after the PBoC’s liquidity drain and with with reports yesterday suggesting the US is seeking to prevent China from benefitting from its USD 52bln chip funding.
Top Asian News
- Taiwan’s President Tsai plans to transit through New York and LA as part of her trip to Central America, while the Deputy Defence Minister said the Defence Ministry has contingency plans for all moves by China during President Tsai's overseas trip, according to Reuters.
- Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said they will allocate more than JPY 2tln from reserves for measures to cushion the blow to the economy from rising prices, according to Reuters.
- Japan maintains overall economic view; cuts Industrial Output view for first time since December 2022; cuts Corporate Profits view for first time since April 2020.
European bourses are mostly in the green, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.3%, as the constructive APAC tone continues though benchmarks are confined to pre-FOMC ranges. Upside with the exception of the FTSE 100 -0.2% following hot UK CPI and a subsequent hawkish shift in pricing for Thursday's BoE; 25bp now priced, ~10% chance of 50bp implied. Sectors are mixed with Banking names outperforming once again while defensively-biased sectors are lagging and incrementally softer. Stateside, futures are confined to narrow pre-FOMC parameters and are little changed/slightly softer, ES -0.1%
Top European News
- UK government said GBP 1.8bln was awarded to boost energy efficiency and cut emissions of homes and public buildings across England, according to Reuters.
- ECB's Nagel said the fight against inflation is not over and that rate-setters must be more stubborn in the inflation fight, while he added there is still some way to go but we are approaching restrictive territory, according to FT.
- ECB's Lagarde says they are neither committed to hiking nor is the ECB finished with hiking; can see a more-prolonged cost-push coming from wage growth.
- ECB Lane says there are reasons to believe that underlying inflation measures will ease over time; inflation falling is predicated on wage growth peaking this year.
- Greek PM announces May elections following the rail disaster, according to AFP News Agency.
- French and German banks reportedly are facing "a 500-fold increase" in capital requirements for trades in India from May after the ESMA said there were no talks with India to resolve a dispute, FT reports.
- The USD is on the back-foot ahead of the FOMC and Powell's presser with the index's downside largely a function of hot UK CPI.
- Specifically, DXY slipped below 103.00 to a 10297 trough as Cable has been lifted to an unsuccessful test of 1.23 from a 1.2209 trough alongside a marked hawkish shift in BoE pricing.
- Action which has prevented the EUR from extending convincingly beyond Tuesday's ranges, with EUR/GBP down to a 0.8773 low.
- Antipodeans are the next best performers, though this action occurs following marked pressure in recent sessions and is more of a consolidation than a concerted move higher thus far.
- At the bottom of the G10 pile are the JPY and CHF with the havens little changed overall given the firmer risk tone but with pre-FOMC tentativeness preventing any real downside thus far.
- PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 6.8715 vs exp. 6.8710 (prev. 6.8763)
- Gilts are under marked pressure following February's CPI release showing an unexpected uptick in price pressures, with EGBs down in sympathy.
- Specifically, Gilts dropped below 104.00 to a 103.53 trough with the 10yr yield testing 3.50% while Bunds slipped to a 135.24 low.
- Stateside, USTs came under some modest pressure but remain flat/firmer around 114.10 ahead of the US policy announcement with the yield curve mixed and slightly steeper currently.
- Commodities are experiencing some modest divergence, with crude softer while metals are flat/firmer.
- WTI & Brent are in the red but holding around the mid-point of circa. USD 1/bbl parameters with specific drivers limited aside from weekly crude reports.
- Spot gold resides just under USD 1950/oz ahead of the afternoon's risk events while base metals glean support from the firmer risk tone.
- Petroecuador declared a force majeure on three oil blocks due to community protests.
- JPMorgan sees iron ore at USD 100/t in Q4 2023 (vs current spot USD 120/t).
- Ukrainian President Zelensky invited China for talks on Ukraine but is waiting for an answer. it was separately reported that Zelensky said they need ammunition from partners and need it now, according to Reuters.
- Russian forces have almost completely surrounded Bakhmut, according to Donetsk's pro-Russian authorities cited by Al Jazeera.
- US said there are no signs that the summit between Chinese President Xi and Russian President Putin will lead to peace in Ukraine, according to FT.
- Syrian Defence Ministry said an Israeli air strike targeted Syria's Aleppo International Airport and caused some damage to it, according to Reuters.
- US and South Korea are planning to conduct South Korea's "largest ever" live-fire drills in June as part of a program for the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries, according to Bloomberg.
- North Korea is suspected to have fired a cruise missile on Wednesday, according to South Korean press Chosun; "North Korea launches several cruise missiles", according to Yonhap
US Event Calendar
- 07:00: March MBA Mortgage Applications, prior 6.5%
- 14:00: March FOMC Rate Decision (Upper Boun, est. 5.00%, prior 4.75%
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
Markets put in another broadly positive performance over the last 24 hours, which makes it the first time since SVB’s collapse that we’ve had two decent sessions in a row. We’ll have to see if this is maintained, and there’ve certainly been false dawns before, but yesterday saw several milestones that added to the optimistic mood. Among others, bank stocks experienced their best performance so far this year, the VIX index of volatility fell to its lowest level since the current turmoil began, and the S&P 500 closed above its level on March 8 before worries about SVB surfaced in markets more broadly. We also saw another day of historic rates moves, with the 2yr German yield seeing its largest daily gain since 2008, at +25.6bps.
This more positive market sentiment has led to growing confidence that the Fed will follow through with a +25bp hike today, and futures are pricing in a roughly 82% chance they’ll go ahead with one. As the Fed come to that decision, it’s fair to say that had their discussions been on any of the last 8 business days, the tone could have been very different. Indeed, expectations of their decision today have bounced around considerably. Before the SVB collapse, Chair Powell had said in congressional testimony that they were “prepared to increase the pace of rate hikes”, which led investors to price in a strong chance of a 50bps move. But little more than a week later, after SVB had collapsed and with major concerns about Credit Suisse, just a 7.9bp hike was expected, signalling that markets were pricing in a pause as the most likely outcome. Since that low point however, more stable markets have led to a recovery in pricing, with a 20.6bps hike priced as we go to press this morning.
There’ll be plenty of focus on whether the Fed hike today, but just as important will be how they’re looking at the current turmoil and whether they still expect any more rate hikes after today. In their preview (link here), our US economists think that the ECB’s decision last week offers a relevant blueprint for the Fed: raise rates in line with expectations, drop forward guidance, but signal a continued tightening bias. As such they think the Summary of Economic Projections will be little changed from December, when it showed officials thought the Fed funds rate would be at 5.1% by year-end.
Ahead of all that, bank stocks put in a strong recovery yesterday as investor optimism grew that we might be past the worst. For instance, both Europe’s STOXX Banks index (+4.79%) and the US KBW Bank index (+4.95%) saw their best daily performances of 2023 so far. One factor helping sentiment were comments from US Treasury Secretary Yellen, who said that “similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion”. That supported significant gains among several banks, including UBS (+12.12%) which posted its largest advance since March 2020. Furthermore, First Republic (+29.47%) witnessed a major rebound following its -90% decline over the previous two weeks, though intraday it was nearly 60% higher. On First Republic, the lender remains the source of continued concern for both major Wall Street banks and Washington DC. Last night, Bloomberg reported that CEOs of major US banks and lawmakers remain in talks to ensure there is not further contagion risk as well as discussing what would make the bank more attractive to potential investors or outright buyers. And speaking of banks, Marion Laboure on our team has published a report this morning (link here) discussing the events of the last couple of weeks, which also looks at how Bitcoin has reached its highest level since June and points out the recent weakening in the correlation between US equities and crypto.
This strength among bank stocks helped lead a broader equity rally yesterday, and the S&P 500 ended the day up +1.30% to surpass its level on March 8. That’s the first time in the last couple of weeks that the S&P has recorded back-to-back advances, and as it happens it’s also the index’s best start to a week so far this year. The more cyclical sectors helped power the rally, while the only sectors that lagged were defensives such as utilities (-2.05%) and consumer staples (-0.12%). The rise in cyclicals and growth-oriented stocks led the NASDAQ (+1.56%), the FANG+ index (+2.30%) and the small-cap Russell 2000 (1.88%) to outperform. This matched the tone in Europe, where the STOXX 600 was up +1.33% for the day.
The prospect of steadier market conditions meant that bond yields bounced back again yesterday. Indeed, the 10yr Treasury yield finished at its highs of the day, up +12.5bps to 3.609%, leaving it over +32bps above its intraday low on Monday morning. A big factor behind that has been the perception the Fed won’t need to cut rates as aggressively as anticipated only a few days ago, with the rate priced in for the December meeting up by a significant +31.5bps yesterday to 4.365%. Bear in mind that only a week ago we had over 100bps of rate cuts priced in for this year, and that’s now down to around “only” 60bps of cuts by year-end. This morning we’ve seen just slight tick down in yields again, with those 10yr Treasuries - 1.9bps lower at 3.59% as we go to print.
Over in Europe it was much the same story yesterday, with yields on 10yr bunds (+16.7bps), OATs (+14.3bps) and BTPs (+12.8bps) all recovering from their recent declines. That was even more pronounced at the front-end of the curve, with the 2yr German yield (+25.6bps) seeing its largest daily gain since September 2008. As in the US, that came amidst a re-evaluation of the ECB’s policy trajectory, with another 25bp hike being priced in for the year ahead over the course of the day. This upbeat tone has been echoed by Asian equity markets overnight. All the major indices are in positive territory, including the Nikkei (+2.08%), the Hang Seng (+1.85%), the KOSPI (+1.07%), the CSI 300 (+0.16%) and the Shanghai Composite (+0.11%). And futures are suggesting that will continue later on, with those on the Euro STOXX 50 up +0.29%, whilst those on the S&P 500 are up +0.06%. There were also signs of a declining global risk premium in FX markets, since the US Dollar index has fallen to its lowest level since February 3 this morning, having benefited from the flight into haven assets over recent days.
Looking at yesterday’s data, we had US existing home sales for February, which showed an unexpectedly large increase to an annualised rate of 4.58m (vs. 4.2m expected), marking their highest level in 5 months. Otherwise, the German ZEW survey for March was a bit weaker than expected, with the expectations component falling to 13.0 (vs. 15.0 expected). That’s the first decline in the expectations component after 5 consecutive monthly gains. Finally, Canada’s CPI fell to +5.2% in February (vs. +5.4% expected), which is the slowest year-on-year growth in the headline rate since January 2022.
To the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the Federal Reserve’s policy decision along with Chair Powell’s press conference. Other central bank speakers include ECB President Lagarde, and the ECB’s Villeroy, Lane, Rehn, Wunsch, Panetta and Nagel. Otherwise, data releases include the UK CPI release for February.
US Job Openings Unexpectedly Soar Above Highest Estimate Even As Number Of Quits Tumble
US Job Openings Unexpectedly Soar Above Highest Estimate Even As Number Of Quits Tumble
For those following the recent sharp drop in job openings,…
For those following the recent sharp drop in job openings, or perhaps merely fascinated by the narrative that AI will cause a margin-busting corporate revolution as millions of mid-level employees are replaced by a cheap "bullshitting" AI algorithm, then today's latest bizarro JOLTS report will come as a shock. That's because after three months of sharp declines, the BLS reported that in April the number of job openings soared by 358K from an upward revised 9.7 million to 10.1 million, the biggest increase since Dec 2022...
.... and printing not only above the median consensus which expected the trend to continue with 9.4 million job openings this month, but came higher than the highest Wall Street estimate! As shown in the chart below, the delta to median consensus print was a whopping 703K.
According to the BLS, the biggest increase in job openings was in retail trade (+209,000); health care and social assistance (+185,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+154,000)
The sudden, bizarre reversal in the job openings trend, meant that after falling to the lowest level since Sept 2021, in April the number of job openings was 4.446 million more than the number of unemployed workers, the highest since January.
Said otherwise, after dropping to just 1.64 job openings for every unemployed worker, the lowest since Nov 2021, in April there were 1.79 openings for every worker, a sharp spike back to levels that the Fed does not want to see.
To be sure, none of the above data are credible for reasons we have discussed before but the simplest one is because the response rate of the JOLTS survey is stuck at a record low 31%. Which means that only those who actually have job openings to report do so, while two-thirds of employers are either non-responsive or their mail is quietly lost in the mail.
Another reason why today's data is meaningless is that even as employers allegedly put up many more job wanted signs, the number of workers actually quitting their jobs - a proxy for those who believe they can get a better-paying job elsewhere, and thus strength of the overall job market - tumbled by 129K to 3.8 million, the lowest number since May 2021.
Even the Fed's WSJ mouthpiece Nick Timiraos ignored the stellar headline print, and instead focused on the plunge in quits, writing that the "rate of workers who are voluntarily leaving their jobs (including leisure and hospitality) is returning closer to pre-pandemic levels, a possible sign of less tight labor markets. Quits tend to rise when workers think they can receive better pay by changing jobs."
The rate of workers who are voluntarily leaving their jobs (including leisure and hospitality) is returning closer to pre-pandemic levels, a possible sign of less tight labor markets— Nick Timiraos (@NickTimiraos) May 31, 2023
Quits tend to rise when workers think they can receive better pay by changing jobs. pic.twitter.com/hAEAMy1I81
And the biggest paradox: as pointed out by Peter Tchir of Academy Securities, the seasonally adjusted JOLTS quits rate was 2.4 (we reached a "peak" of 2.4 in July 2019), while the Hires rate (also seasonally adjusted) was 3.9% just like it was 3.9 in July 2019. So allegedly there are 3,000,000 more jobs available now than then.
So what to make of this bizarro, conflicting report?
Well, after three months of drops in job openings, at a time when it is especially critical for Biden to still maintain the illusion that at least the labor market remains strong when everything else in the senile president's economy is crashing and burning, it appears that the BLS got a tap on the shoulder once again, especially when considering that the one category that will be most impacted by ChatGPT and which according to Indeed is seeing a collapse in job postings was also the one category that had the highest number of job openings.
The U.S. Office Sector: Further Disruption and Rightsizing May Give Way to a Golden Age
The NAIOP Research Foundation, as part of its Industry Trends meeting, recently hosted a panel discussion on what’s next for the office sector. The panelists…
The NAIOP Research Foundation, as part of its Industry Trends meeting, recently hosted a panel discussion on what’s next for the office sector. Analysts from leading service firms joined NAIOP Research Foundation Governors and office developers Greg Fuller, president and COO, Granite Properties and Paul Ciminelli, president and CEO, Ciminelli Development, to discuss problems and potential opportunities. The panelists agreed that the sector will undergo a shakeout that will include transformation, streamlining, new approaches to work and holistic solutions.
A “Broken” Market
Remote work and economic headwinds have created a negative demand shock in the office sector and a temporarily “broken” market that has not yet reached stability. Before the pandemic, office workspaces were densifying, with less square footage assigned per employee. Remote work and downsizing accelerated this trend, with tenants now needing less space per employee. Although office-using employment has rebounded from the brief pandemic-induced recession, office space demand has declined sharply. Phil Mobley, national director of office analytics at CoStar, estimated that the gap between office-using employment and previously expected demand could be as much as 400 million square feet. As supply continues to come online, vacancy rates will continue to climb over the next three years with negative absorption levels higher than during the Great Financial Recession.
According to Mobley, sublease availability is a key indicator of the market’s health, and it has more than doubled since 2019 and continues to rise. While transactions have slowed down, the ones that have taken place in the last two years have been at lower price points, but with strong fundamentals such as lower cap rates, which gives the impression of positive price growth. However, this masks some of the underlying problems that will inevitably come to light during loan maturities and price discoveries. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that over 40 percent of office loans are maturing in the next 20 months.
The Hardest-hit Buildings
Not all markets, nor all types of office buildings are experiencing dramatic setbacks. CBRE’s Global Head of Occupier Thought Leadership, Julie Whelan, and her team conducted a study to identify the buildings that saw the most significant increase in vacancies. Their research revealed that smaller buildings (between 100,000-300,000 square feet) constructed between 1980 and 2009, located primarily in downtown areas with limited surrounding amenities and/or in high crime areas, were the most affected. Furthermore, the study found that only 10% of the buildings in the 64 markets examined accounted for 80% of the vacancies from Q1 2020 to Q1 2023.
During the pandemic, the vacancy rates of buildings in downtown markets have surpassed those of suburban areas. Specifically, 41% of buildings with the highest vacancy rates are in downtown markets, mainly in the Pacific Northwest and Northeastern regions of the United States. For instance, San Francisco’s vacancy rate has surged from 4% before the pandemic to almost 30% due to its reliance on the tech sector. Additionally, buildings located in high-crime areas (usually downtowns) and those with fewer adjacent amenities (usually suburbs) are struggling to retain tenants. However, there are opportunities to reposition or reinvent these properties, but they will require innovative public-private partnerships and community-based approaches. What surrounds office buildings, such as safe and walkable mixed-use communities, is just as crucial as what is inside them, according to Whelan.
Back to the (New) Office
The shift to remote and hybrid work has had a significant impact on office space demand. However, many companies are realizing that returning to the office more often offers advantages. While some employers have opted for 100% remote, hybrid, or office-centric policies, Lauren Hasson, the vice president of workplace strategy at JLL, has noticed a growing number of companies that want their employees back in the office at least three days a week. Studies have shown that it is difficult to engage and mentor employees who are not physically present. Furthermore, there has been a decrease in innovation, as evidenced by a decline in patent applications. Remote job postings have decreased, but employee demand for remote work remains high. Remote job listings on LinkedIn reached their peak in early 2022 at around 20% before recently falling to 12%. However, over 50% of job applications submitted are for remote positions, indicating that many job seekers may need to accept hybrid or in-person jobs. Markets with higher costs of living, intense talent competition, and long commutes, such as Boston, San Francisco, and New York, tend to advertise a higher percentage of remote positions and have slower rates of return to the office.
Hasson has reported that companies that require employees to work in the office only one or two days a week have the highest turnover rates. Thus, companies that offer either full-time remote or full-time in-office work have a better chance of retaining their talent. However, tenants that require in-person work are offering more amenities, and flexibility while creating C-suite positions such as “Chief Workplace Experience Officer” to ensure employee satisfaction and engagement. Hasson believes that enhanced office workspace will become the ultimate recruiting tool, similar to how prospective students consider a university’s athletic facilities and campus environment. According to Hasson, the new experiential office environment, which will be fueled by innovation, creativity, employee diversity, and cutting-edge technology, will recalibrate the sector and ultimately usher in a “golden age” of work.
According to Ciminelli and Fuller, the office market is going through both cyclical and structural changes. While some office properties are flourishing, others lack the necessary amenities and locations to attract employees. Fuller noted that pre-pandemic, office buildings were rarely completely occupied, with a strong occupancy rate of 72%. Currently, occupancy rates vary between 40 and 65%.
Certain buildings are structurally obsolete or not ideal for conversion, particularly when considering residential use. In some cases, it may not be feasible to convert due to the property’s floorplan or location. Furthermore, the costs associated with redevelopment have risen considerably, making it necessary to acquire properties at lower costs.
Despite the challenges ahead, Fuller and Ciminelli anticipate opportunities once the dust settles. The office market will gradually reach an equilibrium as employees return to work, albeit with more flexibility and discipline in office space utilization. Like the retail sector, the office market will undergo a rightsizing process, ultimately emerging more streamlined and beneficial for both employees and employers.recession pandemic
April JOLTS report noisily shows continued deceleration
– by New Deal democratIt is always a bad idea simply to project a current trend forward, especially with data series that are noisy and heavily revised….
- by New Deal democrat
It is always a bad idea simply to project a current trend forward, especially with data series that are noisy and heavily revised. That was certainly on display with the April JOLTS report.
For the last several years, the jobs market has been a game of “reverse musical chairs,” where there are always more chairs than participants. Those employers whose chairs weren’t filled had to increase their wage and/or benefits offerings, or go without. This was good for labor, but certainly put pressure on prices as well.
Last month, there were steep declines in job openings and hires also declined significantly. This morning’s report reversed some of those dynamics, while the overall trend of deceleration remained intact.
Here is the longer term view of all 3 metrics from the series inception, better to show the current situation with the historical one before the pandemic hit:
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