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Global Stocks on Brink of Bear Market as Oil Slides; Ruble Sinks

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London Stock Exchange Group Plc

Turmoil returned to global markets as oil plunged and European stocks sank to the lowest levels in 13 months, fueling a rush into haven assets.

Earnings exacerbated the rout, sending MSCI Inc.’s gauge of global equities to the brink of a bear market. Russia’s ruble and Mexico’s peso fell to records, while bets mounted on an end to Hong Kong’s dollar peg. Yields on 10-year Treasuries dropped below 2 percent and the yen jumped to a one-year high.

“There are a lot of things behind” the selloff, said Steven Schwarzman, the chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP, in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker from Davos, Switzerland. “You have economic things such as the slowing of the U.S. economy which has been pretty gradual. You’ve got energy going down so quickly that you can almost get windburn. You’ve got China as an issue which is is probably overdone. So when you put those factors together you have an unattractive brew along with the concern the Federal Reserve will raise rates and slow the economy further.”

Oil’s slump to a 12-year low is ripping through markets. Just on Wednesday, Royal Dutch Shell Plc said profit may drop at least 42 percent in the fourth quarter and Saudi Arabia was said to order a halt in selling options used to bet against its currency peg. U.S. bonds now predict the slowest inflation since May 2009. A report on Thursday will probably show U.S. crude stockpiles expanded, exacerbating the global glut.

“It’s back to oil and that’s what is driving everything,” said Barra Sheridan, a rates trader at Bank of Montreal in London. “We can easily run more because it’s pure fear. I don’t know what we need to change this sentiment.”

Stocks

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index tumbled 2.5 percent at 8:35 a.m. in New York, with all industry groups declining. The MSCI All-Country World Index retreated 1.2 percent, extending its drop from a May high to 18.6 percent, nearing the 20 percent threshold for a bear market. More than $15 trillion has been erased from the value of global equities in the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Shell slid 5.5 percent and BHP Billiton Ltd. dragged commodity producers lower, falling 6.9 percent after trimming its full-year iron ore output forecast. Zurich Insurance Group AG declined 8.7 percent after forecasting a second straight quarterly loss for its biggest unit.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures slid 1.6 percent. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. slipped 1.9 percent after reporting a 65 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit as an agreement to settle a U.S. probe into its handling of mortgage-backed securities reduced earnings.
The cost of living in the U.S. dropped in December, led by a slump in commodities, and New-home construction in the U.S. unexpectedly fell, government reports showed to day.

Emerging Markets

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index dropped the most in two weeks, sinking 2.8 percent to the lowest on a closing basis since May 2009. The gauge is down more than 12.6 percent this year, the worst start since records began in 1988.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises Index tumbled 4.3 percent as oil producers plummeted and a drop in the city’s dollar spurred concern over capital outflows. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 1 percent.

Russia’s Micex Index declined 1 percent and the Bloomberg GCC 200 Index of equities in Gulf markets lost 3.6 percent. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index sank 5 percent and Dubai shares slid 4.6 percent. Egypt’s benchmark tumbled 5.3 percent.
Russia’s ruble weakened as much as 3.1 percent to a record 81.0490 against the dollar. The Mexican peso fell to a record 18.4775 per dollar and is down 6.4 percent this year, making it Latin America’s worst performing major currency.

Saudi Arabian banks are under orders to stop selling currency products that allow investors to make cheap bets on a devaluation of the riyal, according to five people with knowledge of the matter. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency told banks not to sell options contracts on riyal forwards at a meeting in Riyadh on Jan 18., the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Hong Kong’s dollar traded near its weakest level since 2007 and forwards contracts sank as China’s market turmoil fueled speculation the city’s 32-year-old currency peg will end. Contracts to buy the currency in 12 months fell as much as 0.3 percent to HK$7.8904 per dollar, beyond the HK$7.75-HK$7.85 range that it can trade within under the existing exchange-rate system. The spot rate dropped to as low as HK$7.8272, within 0.35 percent of the weak end of its band.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude lost as much as 4 percent to $27.32 a barrel before trading 3 percent lower. Inventories probably increased by 2.75 million barrels last week, according to a Bloomberg survey before a report from the Energy Information Administration Thursday.

Industrial metals dropped on prospects for slower economic growth in China and sustained low oil prices. Copper fell as much as 1.1 percent.

Gold rose as renewed losses in equities spurred demand for less risky assets, with Citigroup Inc. saying bullion’s rationale as a haven was now back in vogue and prices may be supported over the first quarter.

Soybeans in Chicago dropped from the highest in almost four weeks on bets that ample supply in South America will damp prices.

Currencies

The yen strengthened 0.8 percent to 116.68 per dollar, and touched 115.98, the strongest level since Jan. 16, 2015. Japan’s currency appreciated 0.9 percent to 127.19 per euro. The euro was little changed at $1.0908.

The Australian dollar slid 0.8 percent to 68.52 U.S. cents, extending this year’s decline to 6. percent. The kiwi touched the weakest level since Sept. 30.

The Canadian dollar, which has fallen every day this year, slipped to the lowest since 2003 amid speculation the central bank will cut its benchmark interest rate to a level last seen during the 2009 financial crisis.

The Bank of Canada decides on interest rates Wednesday, and private-sector economists are almost evenly divided on whether it will cut the policy rate to 0.25 percent.

Bonds

Treasuries climbed, pushing 10-year yields to the lowest since October, as investors sought the safety of sovereign debt. The benchmark 10-year note yield fell nine basis points to 1.97 percent, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader data. That’s the biggest drop since Dec. 11.

The difference between yields on 10-year notes and similar-maturity Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, a gauge of expectations for consumer prices, shrank as much as three basis points to 1.37 percentage points, the narrowest since May 2009.

The yield on similar-maturity German bunds sank five basis points to 0.50 percent, while that on U.K. gilts fell seven basis points to 1.63 percent.

The cost of insuring corporate debt resumed increases. The Markit iTraxx Europe Index of credit-default swaps on investment-grade companies rose for the 10th time in 11 days, climbing three basis points to 99 basis points. An index of default swaps on junk-rated companies jumped 19 basis points to 397 basis points, the highest in more than a year.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Markets Today – Earnings, Nasdaq, ECB, CBRT, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

It’s turned into a mixed session across Europe with indices giving up earlier gains initially before reversing course once more to tread water as we near the open on Wall Street.

It appeared we could have been heading for a second consecutive positive session when Europe got things underway this morning, something we haven’t been treated to much so far this year. But it wasn’t long until we were back in the red; a further sign of the angst in the markets right now that is proving hard to shake off. Perhaps there’s still hope yet but given what we’ve seen, it won’t be cause for optimism.

The Nasdaq dropping into correction territory won’t be helping lift the mood, and that will turn more downbeat again if it breaks below the 200-day simple moving average for the first time since April 2020 when the unbelievable tech rally started. It would also take it below 15,000 for the first time since the middle of October. Not a great signal for the markets just as Netflix kicks off earnings season for big tech.

The flipside of that is that earnings could be what helps tech find some form again. There’ll no doubt be some interest around these levels and we’re already seeing futures pointing more than half a percentage point higher ahead of the open. A strong report from Netflix could see dip buyers flood back in.

The key question on investors’ minds though will be whether the tech rout is already behind us after a 10% drop. That will depend on more than just a few stellar earnings reports. The key thing will be whether we see a pause in market interest rate expectations after weeks of aggressively pricing in more hikes and balance sheet reduction.

While there are calls for more than four hikes this year, even a kickstart 50 basis point increase from the Fed in March for the first time in more than 20 years, is that going to be priced in this early? Or could we see a period of relief that could benefit stock markets if earnings season takes a turn for the better? We’ll soon see as big tech dominates the next week on the earnings calendar.

ECB remains in camp transitory

Christine Lagarde launched a strong defence of the ECB’s response to higher inflation on Thursday, warning that markets should not expect a similar approach to that taken by the Fed as the situation doesn’t warrant it. Lagarde pointed to lower inflation, which was confirmed today at 5% in December, and a weaker recovery. While that may be true, markets have been pricing in the possibility of a similar u-turn to that we’ve seen in the US and UK, with a 10 basis point increase expected in October.

The minutes reflected Lagarde’s comments, as we would expect, but that’s unlikely to change investors’ minds. Central banks have repeatedly pushed back against market expectations over the last six months before eventually aligning with them. With the German 10-year moving into positive territory for the first time since mid-2019 on Wednesday, it seems a familiar pattern may be unfolding.

New year, new CBRT?

The CBRT appears to be turning over a new leaf in 2022 after resisting the urge to cut interest rates for a fifth consecutive meeting. The central bank has cut rates from 19% to 14% in that time which has come at great expense in terms of the currency, reserves, and inflation. But it would appear that the easing cycle has run its course, for now.

That said, the explanation for current levels of high inflation and the disregard for it, and in effect its impact on households and businesses, don’t offer much assurance that the CBRT won’t at some point revert back to the damaging approach of recent months. But it may wait until inflation does ease again after reaching 36% last month.

Oil rally finally losing momentum

Oil has been on a remarkable run in recent weeks driven by very bullish fundamentals as disrupted supply struggled to keep up with strong demand. OPEC and the IEA have referenced the resilience of demand since the emergence of omicron in recent weeks and the inability of OPEC+ to hit their production targets, or even come close, has led to the kind of one way price action we’ve been witnessing.

While the fundamentals haven’t changed, it does appear that we’re finally starting to see momentum wane after a more than 30% rally from the omicron lows. That’s coming around $90 where oil has peaked at a seven-year high, seemingly triggering some profit-taking. While I don’t think it’s done there, we could see a minor correction to take some of the frothiness out of the market. That said, I can’t imagine it will be too large unless we see a shift, either in OPEC+ production or slowing demand from a major consumer like China as a result of its zero-Covid policy.

Gold breaks key resistance

Gold has been pushing for a breakout above $1,833 since the start of the year and it finally achieved it on Wednesday, which could potentially help propel it higher in the coming weeks. The move has been building despite yields rising, which may be a sign that traders don’t believe enough is being priced in to counter soaring inflation.

The yellow metal has recovered earlier losses to trade higher today, just as the dollar has lost earlier gains to trade flat. It started to struggle a little shy of $1,850 which may be the next area of resistance, with the November highs around $1,875 above here being the next test. A move lower will see $1,833 tested as support after putting up such a barrier of resistance in recent months.

A big move coming in bitcoin?

Bitcoin remains in consolidation on Thursday, with ranges tighening as the cryptocurrency struggles for any direction. It doesn’t feel like we’ll have to wait long for an aggressive breakout one way or another but at this point, it’s hard to say in which direction that will come. If interest rates are its kryptonite then it could still be in for a rough ride as anxiety around monetary tightening remains heightened. But I’m not convinced that will remain the case and it may just be a case of the cryptocurrency biding its time. I’m sure we’ll soon see which way that will come but once it breaks out of that tight range, the move could be quite substantial.

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Markets Today – Mild Reprieve, UK Inflation, BoE, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Equity markets are recovering some of yesterday’s losses but anxiety and uncertainty continue to dominate after a disappointing start to earnings season.

Inflation and interest rate concerns are going nowhere soon and with traders now increasingly considering the possibility of hikes larger than 25 basis points, the possibility of more pain in stock markets is very real.

The idea that we could go from rock bottom rates and enormous bond-buying to rapid tapering, 50 basis point hikes, and earlier balance sheet reduction is quite alarming. We’re talking about markets that have become very accustomed to extensive support from central banks and very gentle unwinding when appropriate. This is quite a shock to the system.

And so far earnings season is not providing investors the comfort they were hoping for. Significant compensation increases and lower trading revenues hurt JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, and higher wage demands are likely to be a common theme throughout the next few weeks which will put a dampener on the bottom line and not alleviate concerns about persistent and widespread price pressures.

UK inflation jumps again ahead of Bailey appearance

The CPI data from the UK this morning compounded inflation concerns, hitting a 30-year high and once again surpassing expectations in the process. And it’s highly unlikely we’re seeing the peak, with that potentially coming around April when the cap on energy tariffs is lifted considerably to reflect higher wholesale prices. Other aspects will also contribute to higher levels of inflation at the start of the second quarter, at which point we may have a better idea of how fast it will then decline.

Of course, the Bank of England can’t just turn a blind eye until then. The MPC may be willing to overlook transitory inflationary pressures but the rise in CPI has proven to be neither temporary nor tolerable. Instead, it’s become more widespread and the central bank is being forced to act and may do so again next month after raising interest rates for the first time since the pandemic in December. A few more hikes after that are also priced in for this year but if pressures continue to mount, traders may begin to speculate about the possibility of larger hikes, as we’ve seen starting in the US.

All of this should make Andrew Bailey’s appearance before the Treasury Select Committee later today all the more interesting. The central bank has warned of higher inflation and possible interest rate hikes for months but delayed doing so after initial hints ahead of the November meeting. Given what’s happened since, the decision looks all the more strange. Of course, it’s easy to say that with 20/20 hindsight.

Oil gathering momentum as $100 oil looks increasingly likely

Oil prices are continuing to climb on Wednesday and find themselves only a little shy of $90 a barrel. This happened as IEA confirmed that the market looks tighter than previously anticipated as a result of stronger demand, despite omicron, and the inability of OPEC+ to hit its monthly increased production targets. This imbalance has led to surging prices which will further pressure households and businesses already fighting high inflation.

What’s more, not only does the rally not appear to be losing steam, it may have even generated fresh momentum. While $90 could have triggered some profit-taking and a minor cooling of prices, this suggests they’ll see no reprieve and we could realistically see $100 oil soon.

Can gold break higher as traders speculate about more rate hikes

Gold is marginally higher again after the easing over the course of the last week. The yellow metal is continuing to struggle around $1,833 which has been a surprisingly strong level of resistance over the last six months. But support is returning after it came close to $1,800 so a break to the upside remains a strong possibility.

Given the calls for even more rate hikes this year than markets are pricing in, not to mention larger individual increases than we’ve seen for many years, perhaps we are seeing some inflation hedging from traders that don’t think central banks are doing enough to bring price pressures down.

Consolidation continues

Bitcoin appears to have gotten lost in the noise of the last few weeks. It’s not falling too hard despite risk assets getting pummelled but it’s not recovering to any great extent either. Instead, it’s floating between support at $40,000 and resistance around $45,000 and showing no signs of breaking either at this point.

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Markets Today – Cautiously Higher, China, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

European stock markets moved cautiously higher on Monday as investors were tempted back in after a turbulent start to the year.

It’s been a relatively quiet start to the week, with the US bank holiday naturally weighing on activity. With that in mind, I don’t think we can read too much into today’s advances, especially as they’re occurring alongside rising yields which doesn’t seem particularly sustainable at a time of such anxiety in the markets.

It will be interesting to see if investors are tempted back in now that earnings season is underway. The emergence of omicron may mean that many companies don’t enjoy the kind of performance that was expected before but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of positives to take away.

Of course, there are areas that will naturally chip away at that enthusiasm. Whether that’s margins being squeezed, prices increased or staffing costs, for example, there’ll be plenty for investors to get their heads around as they contend with sky-high valuations and a tricky economy this year.

PBOC cuts rates despite strong growth in 2021

A mixed bag of data overnight from China, where GDP growth exceeded expectations but retail sales fell short and the unemployment rate ticked higher. While the economy is still performing well after far exceeding its growth targets for 2021, many challenges remain, not least the crackdown on the property market that has led to firms defaulting on coupon payments and being forced into negotiations with bondholders.

This explains the PBOC decision overnight to cut interest rates and further easing is expected to follow as the central bank looks to support the economy through a turbulent period.

Oil rally continues as output continues to fall short

Oil prices are edging higher again at the start of the week as it continues its remarkable run since bottoming in early December. It’s up more than 30% over that time and there still appears to be momentum in the move. Kazakhstan has seen its output return to pre-unrest levels but that’s done little to slow the rally in recent sessions.

Ultimately it comes down to the ability of OPEC+ to deliver the 400,000 barrel per day increase that it’s vowed to do each month. The evidence suggests it’s not that straightforward and the group is missing the targets by a large margin after a period of underinvestment and outages. That should continue to be supportive for oil and increase talk of triple-figure prices.

Can gold break key resistance?

Gold is marginally higher on the day after pulling back again late last week. The yellow metal has repeatedly struggled at $1,833 and it would appear it’s having the same struggles this time around as well. It did finally break through here in November but it didn’t last and it seems the psychological barrier is as firm as ever.

That said, it’s impossible to ignore gold at the moment as it continues to rally despite more and more rate hikes being priced in around the world and yields rising in tandem. There could be an argument that we’re seeing safe haven or inflation hedge moves due to the current environment which could become more clear over the coming weeks.

Another run at $40,000?

Bitcoin is down a little over 2% at the start of the week and continues to look vulnerable having failed to bounce back strongly off the recent lows. It appeared to be gathering some upside momentum at times last week but it quickly ran into resistance just shy of $45,000 where it had previously seen support. All eyes are now on $40,000 and whether we’re going to see another run at that major support level.

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