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Week starts soft:
The stories driving the overnight moves are slightly different, but the themes remain the same: the dual risks of higher global interest rates and the prospect of slower global growth has put the bears (at least momentarily) back in control. It can feel repetitive to keep having to reel-off this story. Slower growth, higher rates, slower growth, higher rates – the message keeps echoing throughout markets, giving market participants a sensation of vertigo. Although it must feel trite, the inescapability of the slower growth and higher rates mantra speaks of the gravity of each concern. The fact is, markets are a smidgeon away from being half-way through November, and for most major-global stock indices, the recent ructions in equity marks means that the year has delivered nothing in return.
Fears of peak growth:
Now of course, to reduce the return on equities to the gains and losses delivered from January 1 to now is far too simplistic. For the many who have been in the market longer than that, or for those who have timed their run well, the year has provided ample opportunities to attain a fruitful profit. The point is however that whatever the market has been able to bequeath to the individual trader or investor, overall, equities are looking increasingly like they have hit their peak for this cycle. This is far from assured naturally and speaks only of a developing consensus – mere perception, quite possibly -- amongst market participants. However, considering how long investors had to wait for these condition, the many distractions that have enervated market activity in the second half of this year has led many to the belief that an opportunity has been squandered.
It’s this frustration that underpinned market sentiment overnight. Big tech was once again the biggest loser on global stock markets, with the NASDAQ down by over 2 per cent, and the broader S&P 500 down 1.13 per cent, at time of writing. The sell-off in the tech giants has pushed the P/E ratio across the NASDAQ, below 40/1 once again. Volumes have picked up throughout the day in US trade, but they have been hindered by the absence of bond-traders in the market due to the US Veteran’s Day holiday. That has deprived traders of the ability to assess the information contained within US Treasury yields – likely adding to the negative tone of US trade. Despite activity in rates and bond markets being subdued (if not totally missing), the US Dollar has flexed its muscles, touching a near-18 month high and looking primed to burst higher from here.
Much of the strength of the US Dollar, it must be said, is emanating from a much weaker Euro and Pound. Geopolitics and its economic ramifications (typically) dictated trade in European markets yesterday, pushing the DAX down 1.77 per cent, and dragging the FTSE (which did find some very limited support from a weaker currency and a bounce in oil prices) 0.74 per cent lower. The state -of -affairs of the European economy still appears ugly: there was a flaring of anxieties regarding the Italian fiscal crisis yesterday, which lead to a widening of bond spreads across the region; while the hope that a Brexit deal will be delivered by the end of the month is waning. It was these two narratives that drove EUR/USD below support at 1.1310, to presently trade just below 1.1250; and dragged the GBP/USD deep into the 1.28 handle, once more.
The stronger US Dollar coupled with the “weaker global growth” narrative has seen the Aussie Dollar shed about half-a-per-cent, likely in sympathy with the offshore-yuan, which has plunged back into the 6.96-handle. This comes despite a solid day’s trade throughout the Asian region: although far from the strongest day we’ve seen from Asia’s equity indices lately, the CSI300 managed to add 1.19 per cent for the day, the ASX 200 managed to close 0.33 per cent higher and above key-resistance at 5930, and the Nikkei and Hang Seng finished the day up 0.1 per cent on very thin volumes. Sentiment was probably given a boost by the massive “Single’s Day” in China – that generated approximately $US31b worth of sales in the space of 24 hours yesterday – however, the benefit was short-lived, with European and US traders from the far greater fundamental challenges facing the Asian region.
SPI futures are indicating a 57-point plunge for the ASX 200 this morning, weighed-down by the weak lead from Wall Street, combined with the jump in implied volatility courtesy of the concerns surrounding global growth. The materials and health care sectors led the market higher yesterday, offsetting the fall in the financial sector caused by ANZ trading ex-dividend, in a day that saw breadth at a solid 60 per cent. Softer commodity prices and potential bearishness in Chinese equities present as the challenges for Australian shares in the day ahead. Copper prices have been dumped 1.6 per cent overnight, gold has fallen victim to the stronger greenback to challenge support at $US1200 per ounce, and oil has dipped by 1.4 per cent in Oil - Brent crude terms – boding all in all poorly for the materials and energy sector in the day ahead.
Another oil update is certainly required this morning, after the sensitive politics of the black-stuff became inflamed overnight. It didn’t take long for it to happen: with all this talk coming out of OPEC of supply and production cuts in 2019 over the weekend – the result of which was enough to break oil’s 10 day losing streak yesterday – US President Trump waded into the issue via Twitter last night, tweeting “ Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!” The comments from the US President – made only a matter of hours ago – has dumped the price of Brent Crude to a new 7-month low, and the price of WTI to a 10-month low, as traders seemingly increase bets that the US may boost oil production to offset reduced supply from OPEC+ if they were to occur.