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New York Stock Exchange

By Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA

Overnight, more data from South Africa suggesting omicron symptoms were mild gave a green light for the fast-money gnomes of Wall Street to pile back into the buy every-thing global recovery trade. Helping proceedings was news that a deal had been struck in the US Congress to raise the US debt ceiling, avoiding a potential December default.

US equity markets had a mighty session, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq enjoying their best days since March. The US yield curve steepened once again while oil prices jumped, and the US Dollar maintained its gains. Once again, buy-the-dip has triumphed and in the case of oil, last week was probably the lows for potentially the next 12 months.

I have stated that V for Volatility would be the winner in December, rather than directional momentum, and I believe that still holds true. While the buy everything trade will have its day in the sun for the rest of this week, some serious non-virus risk points are looming. Friday sees US CPI and a print at or above 7.0% is going to raise the heat at next weeks FOMC. We have a central bank policy frenzy next week, but all roads lead to the FOMC. And the odds of faster Fed taper and a signal of earlier rate hikes is rising. Markets continue ignoring this reality at their peril, and if reality bites next Wednesday (US time), the “growth” trade on equities could be in for some tough love.

Another “grey swan” is Russia and Ukraine. The Putin/Biden meeting appeared to be constructive, but the West continues to underestimate the Russian psyche regarding border security, as it does with China. A quick look at the history books will give readers all the answers they need. I will deal with the consequences of an invasion in later newsletters but think $150 oil, the mother of all dips to buy in US equities, and Europe paying the price for the strategic ineptitude of tying their energy security to Russia.

Apart from Japan, which slavishly follows the US equity market direction these days, Asia is once again, painting a more cautious picture. China’s property sector is the primary reason, with Evergrande failing to pay its Monday offshore obligations, Kaisa suspending its stock on the HKEX and another developer, China Aoyuan Group stating it cannot guarantee to be able to meet commitments due to liquidity constraints. As the saying goes, “there’s never just one cockroach,” and the list of distressed China developers seems to be growing daily.

Nerves over constrained China growth in 2022 due to an orderly, or disorderly, restructuring of the property developer sector are weighing on Asian markets. Nor has the China technology sector crackdown run its course either, despite plenty of press time that stocks in the sector look like a “bargain.” The light at the end of the tunnel continues to be the train coming the other way and the Financial Times lead story today is that China is preparing a blacklist to tighten restrictions on China tech companies seeking overseas listings.

It is increasingly clear that China is giving the option of Hong Kong or bust with regards to pseudo overseas listings, with the riches of US valuations being closed off. China tech may be trading at a “discount,” a situation I believe will become structurally embedded in their pricing under President Xi’s shared prosperity regime.  As the saying goes, “the market can remain irrational, longer than you can stay solvent.” In the history of investing, never a truer word has been spoken. Thank you, Mr Keynes.

Today’s other risk point in Asia is this afternoon’s Reserve Bank of India policy decision. Despite stagflationary pressures rising once again, the RBI should stay unchanged on policy rates. However, it is the RBI Governor’s statement afterwards that will have markets on tenterhooks as there may be a signal that rate hikes are coming in 2022. That would temporarily boost the Rupee, but India equities, bloated with hot money from offshore flooding into the tech-IPO space, may start running for the exit. Another choice saying is that “an emerging market is a market you can’t emerge from in an emergency.” Hints of hawkishness from the RBI could open unveil that reality to offshore investors.

Tonight sees the US Jolts Job Openings data released, expected to show some 10.4 million unfilled jobs in America. That will be another reason for next week’s FOMC to consider the t-word we can’t use to describe inflation now, as even less t-word than previously. US API Crude Inventories posted a surprise 3.1 million barrel drop overnight, and official US Inventory data tonight is expected to show a rise of 2.0 million barrels. A similar fall like the API data overnight will throw more fire on oil’s rally.

China caution weighs on Asian equities.

Wall Street enjoyed an outsized session of gains overnight as hot money flocked back into the global recovery trade on diminishing omicron fears. The S&P 500 rose 2.07% with the Nasdaq leaping 3.03% higher, while the Dow Jones added 1.42%. Futures on all three indexes have continued to rally in Asia, climbing by around 0.35%.

Asian markets are having an uneven day, with gains being lesser in scope or non-existent. The chief driver of caution is the deepening woes surrounding the China property sector and its potential impact on 2022 growth. That said, hopes of more stimulus measures from China and falling Covid-19 cases has seen Mainland equities post solid gains.

The Nikkei 225 has jumped 1.50% higher today, with the Kospi adding 0.90%. In Mainland China, the Shanghai Composite is also 0.90% higher and the CSI 300, more emerging and technology company facing, has added only 0.10%. The same theme is playing out in Hong Kong, home to many of the China tech and property developer heavyweights. The Hang Seng has eased lower by 0.10%. With the negative headlines streaming in still from those sectors, the Hang Seng will remain challenged even as Mainland equities rise on stimulus hopes.

Singapore has fallen by 0.25% with Kuala Lumpur down by 0.10% and Jakarta rising just 0.25% today on China concerns. Bangkok has risen by 0.50% as easing omicron concerns boost sentiment in the tourism sector. Manila is 0.25% higher, while Taipei has climbed by 0.45%. Australian markets are all-in on the Wall Street rally, much like Tokyo. The ASX 200 has rallied by 1.45%, with the All Ordinaries leaping higher by 1.65%.

With the Putin/Biden meeting passing without incident, and with European equities ignoring the China property sector concerns, Eurozone equities should continue rallying this afternoon as omicron fears fade. The US Jolts data this evening is unlikely to derail the pent-up bullish momentum on Wall Street, which may have to wait until Friday’s US CPI data.

US Dollar fades on resurgent growth trade.

The US Dollar faded overnight as fading omicron concerns saw hot money flooding back into the global recovery trade. The gains were mostly seen in the EM space, however, where even the Turkish Lira managed to rally last night. In the major currency space, the US Dollar held steady, likely due to the US yield curve modestly steepening overnight.

EUR/USD, GBP/USD and USD/JPY are holding steady at 1.1290,1.3255 and 113.50 in Asia, barely changed for the last 24 hours. The lack of strength versus the US Dollar, even as the greenback fell elsewhere, suggests that all EUR, GBP and Yen remain highly correlated to the Fed taper-trade and that the balance of risks is still tilted towards the downside for all three.

AUD/USD, NZD/USD both rallied overnight as global investor sentiment sharply rebounded.  AUD/USD has risen to 0.7130 and NZD/USD has risen to 0.6790. The 0.7000 and 0.6700 areas remain key support zones for both and although the sun is shining Downunder today, both are highly vulnerable to a swing in sentiment once again, or the reality of tighter US monetary policy next week. The rallies could extend into the end of the week but should be approached with a high degree of caution.

The same can be said about the strength in Asian currencies being seen overnight and today versus the US Dollar. The swing in sentiment back to the global recovery has seen decent strength across the board in the Asia FX space, but once again, is subject to the whims of investor sentiment. It is clear that a lot of fast money rushed into the space overnight, but if anything, Asian currencies, even without China nerves, are more vulnerable than most to the reality of potentially tighter US monetary policy.

Oil surges on lower omicron concerns.

Oil prices rose overnight as omicron concerns continued to fade, and US API Crude Inventories showed a surprise draw of 3.1 million barrels. Assuming momentum remains positive in global markets, a fall in official US Crude Inventories (-1.7 mio exp), will probably be an excuse for oil prices to rally once again. Base metals are also rallying in Asia today, as is natural gas, ostensibly on expectations of much higher infrastructure spending in 2022. If that is so, then oil prices have also found another reason to be bullish in 2022.

Brent crude rose by 2.0% to $75.10 overnight where it remains in Asian trading. WTI leapt 2.45% higher to $71.70 a barrel, where it remains in Asia. Both contracts have recovered above their respective 100-day moving averages with initial resistance at $76.00 and WTI $73.00 respectively. I continue to believe that the lows of last week will be the lows for possibly all of next year.

Gold creeps higher.

The wave of omicron inspired growth optimism sweeping financial markets overnight appears to be tempting a few gold bulls back into the market in search of a bargain. Gold rose 0.30% to $1784.00 an ounce overnight, adding another 0.35% to $1790.00 an ounce in Asia today. Gold could well continue staging a modest recovery this week, as long as sentiment remains positive.

In the bigger picture, gold still looks confined to a $1770.00 to $1800.00 range this week, unable to sustain momentum above or below those levels. The 50,100 and 200-day moving averages (DMAs), clustered between $1790.60 and $1795.00 provides immediate resistance, followed by $1800.00, and then $1810.00. Support lies at $1770.00 and $1760.00.

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Markets

Markets Today – Inflation, Jobless Claims, Boris Blunder, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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

It’s been a rollercoaster start to the year and as we head into earnings season, it’s hard to say exactly where investors stand.

Blocking out the January noise is one thing but it’s made far more complicated by omicron, inflation, and the rapid evolution of monetary policy. Yesterday’s reaction to the inflation data was a case in point. The data mostly exceeded expectations, albeit marginally, while headline inflation was a near 40-year high of 7%. And yet the response was broadly positive.

I get that traders were perhaps fearing the worst and, as I’ve referenced before, it does feel like markets are at peak fear on US monetary policy which could make relief rallies more likely. But there is also underlying anxiety in the markets that could make for some volatile price action for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps earnings season will bring some welcome normality to the markets after a period of fear, relief, and speculation. The fourth quarter is expected to have been another strong quarter, although the emergence of omicron will likely have had an impact during the critical holiday period for many companies. Of course, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, that will likely have been to the benefit of others.

And while earnings season will provide a distraction, it is happening against an uncertain backdrop for interest rates and inflation which will keep investors on their toes. It does seem that investors are on the edge of what they will tolerate and it won’t take much to push them over the edge. Which will be fine if we are near the peak of inflation, as many expect.

The data today looks a mixed bag on the face of it, with jobless claims coming in a little higher than expected, which may be down to seasonal adjustments. The overall trend remains positive and continues to point to a tight labor market. The PPI data on the other hand will be welcomed, with the headline number slipping to 0.2% month on month. Perhaps a sign of supply-side pressures finally starting to abate which will come as a relief after inflation hit a near-40 year high last month.

Sterling solid as pressure mounts on Boris

It seems impossible to ignore the political soap opera currently taking place in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again in the public firing line after finally admitting to attending an office party in May 2020.

In other circumstances, uncertainty around the top job in the country could bring pressure in the markets but the pound is performing very well. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the controversy that forever surrounds Boris, and we’re all therefore numb to it, or a sign of the environment we’re in that the PM being a resignation risk is further down the list when compared with inflation, interest rates, omicron, energy prices etc.

Oil remains bullish near highs

Oil prices are easing again today after moving back towards seven-year highs in recent weeks. It was given an additional bump yesterday following the release of the EIA data which showed a larger draw than expected. But with crude already trading near its peak, it maybe didn’t carry the same momentum it otherwise would.

The fundamentals continue to look bullish for gold. Temporary disruptions in Kazakhstan and Libya are close to being resolved, with the latter taking a little longer to get fully back online. But OPEC being unable to hit output targets at a time when demand remains strong is ultimately keeping prices elevated and will continue to do so.

A big test for gold

Gold is off a little today but the price remains elevated with key resistance in sight. The yellow metal has remained well supported in recent weeks even as yields around the world continue to rise in anticipation of aggressive tightening from central banks.

It could be argued that the bullish case for gold is its reputation as an inflation hedge, especially given central banks’ recent record for recognizing how severe the situation is. But with inflation likely nearing its peak, that may not last. That said, fear around Fed tightening may also be peaking which could support gold in the short-term and a break through $1,833 could signal further upside to come.

Can bitcoin break key resistance?

Bitcoin is enjoying some relief along with other risk assets and has recaptured $44,000, only a few days after briefly dipping below $40,000. That swift 10% rebound is nothing by bitcoin standards and if it can break $45,500, we could see another sharp move higher as belief starts to grow that the worst of the rout is behind it. It looks like a fragile rebound at the moment but a break of that resistance could change that.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Trading at $84.53 a Barrel

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Crude Oil - Investors King

The increase in Omicron variant cases has cast doubt on demand for crude oil in the near-term and trimmed gains recorded earlier in the week on Thursday during the Asian trading session.

The brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, pulled back from $85.16 per barrel on Wednesday to $84.53 per barrel at 9:50 am Nigerian time on Thursday.

The uncertainty surrounding the highly contagious Omicron variant and its impact on fuel demand has shown by the U.S Energy Information Administration on Wednesday dragged on the global crude oil outlook.

The data released on Wednesday revealed that gasoline stockpiles rose by 8 million barrels last week, way higher than the 2.4 million barrel increase projected by experts. Suggesting that demand for the commodity is gradually waning in response to omicron.

“Gasoline demand was weaker-than-expected and still below pre-pandemic levels, and if this becomes a trend, oil won’t be able to continue to push higher,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya stated.

However, in a note to Investors King, Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA, expected the impact of omicron to be short-lived. Libya’s inability to ramp up production after outage and OPEC plus continuous failure to meet production target are expected to support crude oil in the main term even with Kazakhstan expected to get back to pre-disruption levels in a few days.

“With omicron seen being less of a drag on growth and demand than feared. Combine this with short supply and there may be some room to run in the rally as restrictions are removed. Of course, Covid brings unpredictability and zero-covid policies of China and some others bring plenty of downside risk for prices,” he said.

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Commodities

Soybean Oil Prices to Rise by 4% in 2022 Over Increase in Demand for Biofuels

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Soybean Oil

In 2022, global soybean oil prices, driven by an increase in the demand for biofuels, have been projected to rise by about 4 percent, to $1,425 per tonne; a market report from IndexBox reveals.

According to the IndexBox report, the growing demand for biofuels, especially in Asia, will increase the prices of soybean oil globally.

The platform put it that in 2021, the average annual soybean oil price rose by 65 percent year-on-year to $1,385 per tonne, from $838 per tonne. Strong demand and high freight rates in China, which is the world’s second-largest importer of soybean oil, resulted in the most rapid price growth of the commodity in the third quarter (Q3) of the same year. Weather-related disruptions to production in South America also caused soybean oil prices to rise fast.

In 2020, IndexBox estimates that soybean oil purchases in the foreign markets rose by 7.5% to 13 million tonnes, increasing for the second year in a row after three years of decline. In value terms, soybean oil imports have grown notably to $10.3 billion.

India was the highest importing country with a purchase volume of around 3.7 million tonnes, accounting for 28% of global supplies. China ranked second with a purchase volume of 963 thousand tonnes.  Algeria (670 thousand tonnes) and Bangladesh (666 thousand tonnes) were ranked as the third and fourth major importing country.

The four countries altogether accounted for about 17% of total soybean oil imports. Coming behind as the fifth-highest importer is Morocco (547 thousand tonnes), followed by Mauritania (537 thousand tonnes), Peru (521 thousand tonnes), South Korea (390 thousand tonnes), Colombia (378 thousand tonnes), Venezuela (373 thousand tonnes), Egypt (243 thousand tonnes), Poland (229 thousand tonnes) and Nepal (215 thousand tonnes).

India in value terms ($3 billion) being the largest market for soybean oil imports in the world, accounted for 29 percent of global imports. The second position in the ranking was taken by China ($725 million) with a 7 percent share. North African country, Algeria came third with a share of 4.6 percent of the total value.

Top Soybean oil exporters

In 2020, Argentina was the major exporter of soybean oil (5.3 million tonnes), constituting 42% of total exports. The United States (1238 thousand tonnes), Brazil (1110 thousand tonnes), Paraguay (631 thousand tonnes), the Netherlands (615 thousand tonnes) and Russia (611 thousand tonnes) follow, altogether accounting for 33% of global supplies. Meanwhile, Spain (387 thousand tonnes), Bolivia (377 thousand tonnes), Ukraine (302 thousand tonnes), Turkey (208 thousand tonnes) and Germany (192 thousand tonnes) had relatively small shares in the total volume.

In value terms, Argentina remains the largest supplier of soybean oil in the world ($ 3.7 billion), which accounts for 39% of global exports. The United States ($ 979 million), with a share of 10% of the total supply is ranked second. Both countries are followed by Brazil with an 8% share.

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