Last week, IMF global growth forecasts for 2019 were revised lower again with notable slowdowns in Germany, Italy and China. The underestimated challenges of reaching specifics on a trade agreement between US and China were highlighted by Wilbur Ross, US Trade Secretary, perhaps trying to dampen expectations ahead of the forthcoming US visit of Vice Premier Liu He. Resolving contrasting intellectual property attitudes, for example, continues to prove infinitely more difficult: in contrast to recent progress on simpler issues that have often come with overblown press statements.
Last week the US government shutdown and the UK’s Brexit fiasco continued to get messier but US stocks extended into their fourth week of gains with the S&P 500 closing the week at 2,671 up +2.9% and the Dow up +3% closing at 24,706; meanwhile, US 10-year Treasury yields rose 8 basis points to 2.785%. Much of this return to risk and into equities continued to be driven by signs of modest progress and media statements out of the US-China trade talks with more to come as Vice Premier Liu He flies to the US at the end of the month.
Last week global equities continued their 2019 gains making the three week rally one of the strongest starts to the year in over 30 years – mostly due of course to one of the worst ends to the year in the three weeks ending 2018; the S&P 500 was up a further +2.54% on the week pushing the bounce since Christmas Eve above +10%. Also, on the back of wide-reaching optimism on the Sino-US trade negotiations and the Fed’s increasingly cautious tone and promise to be patient with further hikes, the Chinese yuan had its strongest week since 2005 with both CNH and CNY appreciating over +1.5%.
This week China built upon recent efforts to curb the escalating protectionism by reducing customs duties (on cars) and increasing imports of commodities; Trump went so far as to temper his nationalist invective for a few days and refrain from further threats on China. Nevertheless, US equities continued downwards with the S&P 500 down a further -1.26% and closing the week below 2,600 for the first time since March. This pushed returns for the year into negative territory with the price index down -2.76% for 2018. Now down 340 points since a peak in September the S&P 500 would still need to fall a further 250 points to around 2,350 to enter technical bearish territory (like the German DAX: which breached the -20% level earlier this month thanks in part to Deutsche Bank). The poor recent performance in Europe was further accompanied by a weaker growth outlook for 2019: with the ECB this week cutting forecasts for the Eurozone from 1.7% to just 1.5%.
Markets opened the week with news that China and the US had agreed to a trade war ceasefire over the weekend at the G20 meeting. But the boost in US equities lasted not even as long as the conference itself and fell back around recent lows; the S&P 500 has now tried three times, since the October equity cliff edge, to push meaningfully above the 2,800 and for a third time fell approximately -6% to around 2,630.
US Treasury yields fell 5 basis points last week, which was just enough to bring them below 3% to close out November. The November FOMC Minutes emphasised that ‘monetary policy was not on a ‘preset course’, it should be ‘guided by incoming data’ and that ‘a gradual approach’ remained appropriate. Another 25 basis point hike in the Fed Funds target range in December still looks extremely likely as ‘almost all participants expressed the view that another increase in the target range for the federal funds rate was likely to be warranted fairly soon’ assuming no drastic change in the job and inflation data.
US Treasury yields across the curve fell 1-2 basis points on the week with 10-years closing at 3.04%: ebbing back towards the 3% level for the third week in a row. The stable US Treasury markets contrasted widening spreads in emerging market and high yield debt by 14 basis points, referencing the JP Morgan EMBI+ and Bloomberg Barclays US Corp High Yield. Furthermore global equities endured another challenging week with the S&P 500 down a further -3.8%. After the painful -7% in October, the index seemed to bounce with optimism in the first half of November, but this has now been erased moving into the closing week of November.
Equities were on the back foot again last week with the S&P down -1.6% and the MSCI World down -1.5%. The US dollar also broadly declined with the DXY Index down 0.5%; but this didn’t stop sterling from weakening a further 1.1% versus the dollar as Theresa May’s Cabinet and support fell to pieces as she fought to push forward with the current negotiated deal with the EU. It seems the Cabinet agreed to the terms under duress and with the expectation it would get shot down in Parliament.
Following the October rout, US equities continued their bounce into a second week of >2% gains while US Treasuries also rose with 10-year yields falling 3 basis points to 3.18% and 30-year yields falling 7 basis points to 3.38%. European and Japanese equity markets were comparatively flat on the week while the Chinese CSI 300 and Hang Seng sold-off -3.7% and -3.3% respectively. The dollar strengthened towards the end of the week following the results of the US midterms with the DXY Index up 0.4%; also the Fed maintained rates as expected.
Last week US equities broadly retraced over half of the previous week’s losses with the S&P 500 closing up 2.4% at 2,723; US 10-year Treasury yields rose nearly 14 basis points to 3.21; but Emerging Markets were the most obvious winners with the MSCI EM Index up 6.1% on the week, breaking the run of five consecutive negative weeks’ of performance.
Last week began with results from elections in Brazil where far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was voted in as the next Brazilian President securing 55.1% of the vote.
It was another volatile market for equities with the VIX jumping to 27.5, after having remained steadily around 13 for all of September. US Treasuries did what they were supposed to, 10-year yields rallying 12 basis points to 3.076%. Even with 3.5% Q3 GDP beating forecasts, US equities led on the downside. The S&P 500 fell 109 points to 2658 on the week and the MSCI World Index absorbed similar losses of -3.9%. By Friday morning the -4% fall in the S&P 500 brought the Index into correction territory: when downside exceeded -10% from highs on the 21st September.
Although quite volatile again, the S&P 500 ended last week unchanged from the week before at 2767, US 10-year Treasury yields closed the week at 3.19% (+3bps) and Italian 10-year bonds were slightly stronger by week-end but only after yields touched fresh highs of 3.8% earlier on Friday. The FOMC minutes showed some small changes in terms of overall stance. From a more hawkish tone a wording change from “accommodative” to “restrictive” and speaking of the possibility of raising interest rates above the anticipated “normalization” rate pushed-up average estimates for where the upper bound might be for short-medium-term interest rates.
A shorter week in US markets with Columbus Day along with a light economic calendar didn’t stop a sharp sell off in equities: that began in the US but spread through global markets with little warning or a clear primary cause. The S&P 500 fell 5.4% with technology, industrials and commodities bearing the brunt of the sell-off. Consumer staples and other defensive stocks faring better points more to trade tension and macroeconomic fears rather than interest rate concerns. US 10-year Treasury yields retraced downwards 22bps on the week to 3.16%. Brent crude topped $85 a barrel earlier in the week but dipped back below $80 on Friday before being pushed-up again over the weekend as disputes resurfaced between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Also on the last day of Golden Week in China, the PBoC cut the reserve requirement ratio by 100bp.
The Italian government and their proposed budget continued to be punished by the bond market pushing ten-year yields up through 3.50%, levels not seen since early 2014. Moreover Italian banks, with their €260bln in non-performing loans of the reported €2trln of loans held, own €102bln of outstanding loans and guarantees in the construction industry. Broadly, three of the largest builders are either insolvent or negotiating with creditors, with the construction sector already accounting for the highest default rates in the Italian economy. The problem in construction stems from years of tightening public spending that has ensured the once extremely lucrative government infrastructure contracts have dried up in the weakening economy. In fact, infrastructure spending has fallen 70% over the last ten years according to the University of Turin. Combine the construction industry financial problems with rising government bond yields of which the banks reportedly have holdings of around €375bln, and it is clear to see bank balance sheets are being severely pressured with very little available to help alleviate the strains.
Also last week the IMF published its Global Financial Stability Report which marked 10 years since the Global Financial Crisis. The report, titled “Are We Safer?”, highlighted how “short-term risks to the financial system have increased somewhat over the past six months” but also “new standards that have contributed to a more resilient financial system—less leveraged, more liquid, and better and more intensively supervised”. This tension between improvements in policy but much less-so in fundamentals support the reports view that “asset valuations remain stretched across several sectors and regions” and that “risks could rise sharply” across fragile economies through the likes of: escalating trade tensions, no-deal Brexit, renewed concerns over-indebted euro area fiscal policy and a faster-than-expected normalisation of monetary policy.
Looking ahead, on Monday we get data on US retail sales whilst the Italian government look to approve their latest budget, China CPI and UK employment data Tuesday, UK and EU CPI followed by Fed minutes on Wednesday, with China GDP and Japan CPI being published on Friday. Also it continues to be another busy week of earnings reports ahead as well as Brexit negotiations (or at least news about lack of negotiations).
Last week, in spite and because of broadly stronger macro data, central-bank-speak and the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), both bonds and equities retreated in unison; developed markets also fell alongside emerging markets as risk aversion rose. S&P 500 Index was down a percent while US 10-year Treasury yields rose 5.6bps to 3.23% with the curve steepening: the 5/30-year term spread rose 8bps from 25bps to 33bps.
Last week began with markets digesting further growth downgrades from the OECD alongside a report from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) warning about the growing risks of high-risk lending and leveraged loans. The week ended (also closing out the third quarter) with escalating US-China trade disputes contrasting news of the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, to supersede the eschewed NAFTA. US equities mostly maintained a tight (10 point) range over the week apart from a temporary dip following Thursday’s anticipated quarter-point hike of the Fed Funds Target Rate to 2% (lower bound), whilst US 10-year Treasury yields closed the week where they started at 3.06%.
US 10-year Treasury yields rose 6 basis points over the course of last week testing the 3% level again as it did back at the beginning of August; it followed a busy week from central banks outside the US broadly moving in a positive direction, and perhaps being seen to be on track for slowly closing the chasm between interest rate policies on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The S&P 500 Index gained 1.16% recovering the previous week’s losses and the US dollar weakened slightly from 95.37 to 94.93 according to the DXY Index.
The focus of the economic calendar last week was US employment data with a (seasonally adjusted) growth in nonfarm payrolls of 201k, beating forecasts of 190k, but with prior month’s data revised down from 157k to 147k. A concurrent uptick in wages of 2.9% year-on-year (above forecasts of 2.7% and previously lacklustre) gave support to the positive US employment picture; US Treasuries rose 8 basis points over the week to yield 2.94%. Robust PMIs reinforced this narrative with manufacturing PMI hitting a 14 year high of 61.3 and non-manufacturing PMI rising to 58.5. Contrasting this however are the ongoing US trade disputes with data showing a July trade deficit of over $50bn: as its trade deficit with China and the EU hit records of $36.8bn and $17.6bn respectively.
Last week emerging markets continued on edge as the Argentinian peso dropped 7% following President Mauricio Marci’s botched attempt to reassure markets whilst requesting accelerated disbursements from the IMF. Turkey added to the sense of ‘what next’ after a string of unconventional thinking and poor decisions from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his retinue has helped pushed inflation to around 18%, four-times their official target; their central bank is expected to raise rates next week. Both the Argentinian peso and Turkish lira are down more than 40% versus the dollar so far this year with the peso close to losing half its value.
Last week maintained the trend of the previous fortnight in developed markets with US 10-year Treasury yields again marginally down a further 1.3bps from 2.874% to 2.861% and the dollar DXY Index holding around the 96-something range. The US Treasury curve was only marginally flatter after the US achieved a successful sale of nearly $100bn of short term paper. After falling most of 2018 gold may have found a floor after plummeting almost 4% in the first half of the week before recovering half of this to finish the week down -2.2% at 1184.
The US Treasury curve flattened last week despite the record $26bn 10-year issuance; yields fell 7.6bps from 2.950% to 2.874% and 30-year yields moved 5.8bps lower from 3.089% to 3.031%. The Turkish lira continued to set record lows against major currencies as the country wrestles with a crisis that is beginning to rattle other markets. The euro is also facing headwinds because of the crisis with growing concerns from the European Central Bank (ECB) about banks in France, Spain and Italy and their exposure to Turkey's troubles.