Trader thoughts - the long and short of it

The ASX 200 really couldn’t catch a bid yesterday. Most concerningly, it happened within a back drop of slightly higher volumes, showing that the sellers truly washed out the bulls throughout the day’s trade.

Market data
Source: Bloomberg

Dead cat bounce in Asia? The Asian region kicked-off the week sluggishly in general, unable and unwilling to run with the lead provided by Wall Street on Friday evening. The action in Asia prompted calls of a dead-cat bounce across global equities, something that has since been proven premature, based on the mixed day witnesses overnight in the European and US session. There just appears such a general reluctance for investors to search for value in the Asian region, despite the cold-hard numbers implying that pockets of it exists. Of course, P/E ratios and yields never tell the full story, and often lag actual changes in earning’s forecasts. Yet still, it does feel surprising, if not concerning, that the pockets of value that exist aren’t being seized by investors.

Where are the buyers? It’s none-truer than on the ASX 200, ahead of a day in which SPI futures are implying a 1-point jump at the open. The Australian share-market is presenting as a trifle oversold, with the daily-RSI stuck at multi-year lows, but downside momentum slowing-down only gradually. An absence of growth investors has stripped the Aussie shares of much of their bid, in-line with investor behaviour across most equity markets in the face of rising global rates, but again, the curious point – one that sets the ASX 200 somewhat apart at present – is the missing search for underling value. In principle, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find: the sell-off across the local market has pushed yields just-shy of 4.50%, while the project 1-year P/E ratio for the overall index is just above 14:1. It could be that a VIX above 20 is too higher to attract buyers at this stage – it will be an important litmus test for the market as to whether the ASX 200 catches a bid when this unwinds.

ASX Downside: To be fair, there are some considerable headwinds for Australian investors that may preclude them from behaving in the same fashion as their US or even European counterparts. The banks look ugly now – less so the hard numbers, but more from the superficial perspective that their brands have been (justifiably) diminished by the effects of the Financial Services Royal Commission. The best-yielders on the Australian share market are comprised in a big-way by the banks, so a lack of yield chasers in the market could come based on a sizeable reluctance to buy banks, even at apparently cheap prices. Following a day for the ASX 200 that only saw the energy space catch-a-lift, entirely due to a since faded bounce in oil prices, buying impetus could be difficult to come by in the day ahead for the index, as support around 5800 returns to trader’s sights.

RBA Minutes: It won’t change much the trading dynamic for Australian shares, but some useful insights regarding the Aussie-macro backdrop will be handed to us in the form of RBA Monetary Policy Minutes today. The interest generally will be directed towards any idea into the confluence of factors stifling the Australian households: financial stability will be one, a lack of wage growth another, so will high levels of private debt amid falling property prices, along with increasing retail interest rates, and (to a lesser extent) how global risks will affect the local economy. Despite the abundance of information, for traders, the dial probably won’t shift in rates market expectations that an RBA hike won’t come until 2020; nor in the AUD/USD, which will probably find support at 0.7100 even in the event of the most dovish tone to the minutes.

China: Zooming out the microscopic lens for a moment: Australian financial markets are being served no favours by what is transpiring in Chinese markets. It was another rough day for China-bulls, who were legged by a fresh bout of selling after news broke that US President Trump – while riffing in an interview with CBS – may consider a fresh round of tariffs on the Middle Kingdom’s economy. Counter-arguments based on fundamentals aside, there seems to few willing to bet on a strong Chinese growth story at presetn. The comprehensive Shanghai Composite hit lows not registered since November 2014, while the narrower, blue-chip laden CSI300 languished around 2015 lows. This week will be illuminating for investors regarding whether the growth-outlook is indeed this poor for China, with CPI data day (for one) kicking-off a slew of Chinese fundamental data releases.

Chinese growth, global growth: Perhaps it is so that the actions of Chinese policy makers are raising concerns about the country’s dubious growth prospects. Markets seem to interpret any policy intervention from the government or PBOC as a minor concession that things in the economy aren’t so great. The logic makes sense: there is the view that China’s economy is a touch opaque, and that Chinese data is prone to some level of manipulation. The offshore Yuan is manifesting signs of this scepticism, as the PBOC apparently conforms to the markets desire to devalue the Yuan, to potentially the key psychological barrier of 7.00. How far Chinese, and broader Asian indices, may fall before bottoming out is becoming an increasingly interesting question, as sentiment overrides the highly attractive valuations to keep the bears in control.

Overnight: The underwhelming display in the Asian session translated into mixed European and US trade overnight. There was little depth of fundamental data, and though Brexit negotiations and fears of deteriorating ties between the global community and Saudi Arabia persisted, it wasn’t enough to incite panic in market participants. US Retail Sales disappointed slightly, but trade was defined more by a general lack of confidence in US investors: US Treasuries ticked higher and the USD dropped – benefitting gold again, driving its price temporarily above $US1230. A rotation away from growth stocks – that is, the tech-giants – continued by way of virtue of fears surround trade-wars and higher global rates, driving the Nasdaq lower, and the Dow Jones and S&P 500 weren’t able to catch and hold onto their early-bid, selling-off in late trade as investors struggled to grasp whether generally higher growth-risks will manifest in the upcoming earnings season.

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