Trader thoughts - Markets bounce back on slow day's trade

A bounce in equities has finally arrived, unwinding some of the week’s heavy losses.

bg_VIX trading stock shares equities 5
Source: Bloomberg

Overnight bounce:

As it currently stands, the NASDAQ – ground zero for much of the recent market correction – is leading the pack, up 1-and-a-half per cent for the day, followed by the S&P, which is up 0.8 per cent, and the Dow Jones, which is up 0.65 per cent. Volumes are down generally speaking, so the recovery today lacks bite – though the Thanksgiving holiday in the US may somewhat be behind this, meaning an apparent lack of conviction in this relief rally could be explained away. Meaningful price action in other areas of the market that gives a solid read on the current psychology of traders is absent: US Treasuries have been comparatively inactive, with yields remaining contained across the curve, and the US Dollar is slightly lower, without demonstrating remarkable activity itself.

Risk assets:

Certain assets have benefitted from the lull in panic-selling. To preface: the VIX has receded to a reading of 20, from highs around 23 yesterday. In currency land, the Australian Dollar and New Zealand Dollar, as risk proxies, have ticked higher to 0.7265 and 0.6795. Obviously, the reduced anxiety amongst traders has meant the converse is true for haven currencies like the Japanese Yen, which is trading above 113 today. The Euro and Pound remain in the 1.13 and 1.27 handle respectively, most unmoved by the day’s sentiment. While credit spreads, which have blown out recently as risk-sentiment evaporated, have finally come-in. To counter the notion of complete risk-off: Gold has caught a bid, to trade at $US1227, or thereabouts, with its rally attributable largely to a modestly weaker greenback.

Global indices:

But overall, risk appetite has been ever so slightly whetted, even if it is only temporary. European equity indices were well into the green, aided by a skerrick of positivity generated by good news relating to the Italian budget crisis. The DAX was up 1.61 per cent and the FTSE 100 added1.47 per cent, shaking-off the mixed lead from Asia, which saw the Hang Seng up 0.51 per cent and the CSI300 up 0.25 per cent, but the Nikkei down 0.35 per cent and the ASX 200 down 0.51 per cent. A bounce in commodity prices has fed into and supported the solid sentiment in equities, especially as it relates to oil, which rallied off its lows to trade just below $US54 in WTI terms and hold within the mid-$US63 handle in Brent Crude terms.

Slow news day:

If this all sounds dry, it’s because that in the context of the volatility experienced in the past week – if not almost 2-months – it very much is. Little has catalysed the overnight bounce. The major themes are still hovering about, and the questions implied by them have barely been answered. The big data release overnight – in fact, it’s probably the biggest for the week – was US Core Durable Goods numbers, and they disappointed. That release, very marginally, added to the chorus of pundits suggesting that the US Federal Reserve’s hiking path may be a little flatter than recently thought. As far as what can be inferred from the data, the US economy is cooling off, implying the “data dependent” Fed will lack the reason to aggressively hike interest rates.

Fed-watch:

A lot of these matters relating to the Fed will be clarified when a slew of board members speak next week. The markets attitude though is simpler to read: Fed Funds futures have reduced their bets on the number of rate hikes from that central bank to 2 and a bit from here. December’s telegraphed hike is being priced again at a 75 per cent chance, but after, if traders are a good barometer, rates in 2019 are looking very flat. A more dovish Fed, in the absence of developments in other issues like the Trade War or Brexit, is what is aiding the staunching of risk-off sentiment. It opens the risk now that markets could be all too wrong, and a spike in volatility will arrive if traders were to once again adjust expectations.

A softer outlook:

But with the volatility we’ve seen in markets, corporate earnings petering out, and economic growth cooling, the assumption of a more reserved Fed isn’t outlandish. It perhaps reflects the broader risks in the markets and economy too: the Trade War is ongoing, Brexit is falling apart, China is slowing, oil is tumbling, and Italy’s fiscal situation could blow up any day. Given such a landscape, an inevitable pull back by the Fed, timed with lower activity in financial markets, is very understandable – the game of chicken being played by markets and the Fed may have been won by the former. It could all turn on a dime very quickly of course, but as it stands now, the current environment is leading market participants to the conclusion that a period of soft growth, lower earnings growth and a more neutral Fed is upon us.

ASX200:

So: as it all related to the Australian share market in the here and now: our bounce today, according to SPI futures, will begin with an approximately 25 point jump at the open. Yesterday’s performance was naturally poor, but some solace can be taken in the fact the market bounced off the 5600-support level. The edging higher throughout the day’s trade was helped by a solid run from CSL, which rallied after Morningstar upgraded that company’s stock to “buy”. The banks also experienced some buying; however, breadth was very low, revealing the lack of conviction in yesterday’s modest upward swing. Today ought to see a broad pick-up, in sympathy with Wall Street’s trade: meaningful technical levels within reach on the daily chart are hard to find, but maybe the barometer is how closely a track towards the 5700 can be established.

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