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Why Are the VIX and S&P 500 Possibly Diverging?

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Why Are the VIX and S&P 500 Possibly Diverging?
  • Is Selling Becoming Mechanical?
  • CPI Takeaways (It Won’t Make the Fed More Hawkish)

Futures are moderately lower mostly on momentum from Wednesday’s afternoon selloff.

Economically, UK economic data disappointed (GDP and Industrial Production both missed estimates) while BOE officials warned of more rate hikes reminding markets there’s a real stagflation threat in the UK.

Geo-politically, Finland formally applied to join NATO (and Sweden is expected to follow), keeping NATO/Russia tensions high for the foreseeable future (meaning quarters and years).

Today, we get Jobless Claims (E: 190K) and PPI (0.5% m/m, 10.7% y/y) and one Fed speaker, Daly (4:00 p.m. ET), but barring a big spike in claims, a big move in PPI or incrementally hawkish commentary from Daly (all of which are unlikely) these events won’t move markets.  So, short-term technical will continue to be the main driver of stocks, and markets need to show some stabilization, otherwise, the declines themselves will invite more selling.

Yield Curve Update

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Yield Curve Update (Are Recession Risks Rising?)
  • Why European Energy Companies Buying Gas in Rubles Matters to Stocks
  • Q1 GDP – Not as Bad as It Looks

Futures are moderately lower following underwhelming earnings and guidance from AMZN and AAPL.

AMZN results underwhelmed the street (especially margins) while APPL beat earnings but had cautious guidance for Q2 based on supply chain issues.

Economically, inflation pressures remained high as core EU HICP (their CPI) rose 3.5% yoy vs. (E) 3.1%.

Today focus will be on inflation as we get two important readings: Core PCE Price Index (E: 0.3%, 5.3%) and the Employment Cost Index (E: 1.1%).  Markets will want to see the actual numbers miss estimates, and in doing so further hint at a peak of inflation.  If the opposite happens (the numbers are hotter than estimates) that will further pressure stocks.  We also get Consumer Sentiment (E: 65.6) and the Inflation Expectations sub-index will be watched closely.

On the earnings front, some important results today include:  XOM ( $2.25), CVX ($3.44), CL ($0.74).

The Yield Curve Is Hitting Resistance

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • 10s-2s Into Resistance (Chart)
  • U.S. Consumer Price Index Takeaways
  • Chart – WTI Crude Oil Hits Technical Resistance

Stock futures are attempting to stabilize this morning while global shares were mixed overnight as traders assess the latest economic data ahead of today’s unofficial start to Q1 earnings season and another important U.S. inflation print.

Economic data was negative and again pointed to stagflation overnight as Japanese Machine Orders plunged -9.8% vs. (E) -1.5% while U.K. CPI jumped to 7.0% vs. (E) 6.7%.

Today is lining up to be a very busy session from a news flow and catalyst standpoint as we kick off Q1 earnings season with reports from: JPM ($2.73), BLK ($8.92), and DAL (-$1.33) ahead of the bell. Investors will be looking for solid results to confirm the strength and resilience of corporate America.

Then we will get the March PPI report at 8:30 a.m. ET (E: 1.1%, 10.6%), but as long as the headlines are not materially hotter than expected, and the “core figures” are in line with estimates, stocks could mount a relief rally as the market has become near-term oversold.

 

In the afternoon, there is one Fed speaker: Barkin (12:30 p.m. ET) as well as a 30-Yr Treasury Bond auction at 1:00 p.m. ET. And if bond yields hold below the highs from earlier this week, that should be an additional tailwind for stocks today, especially the beaten-down tech sector.

FOMC Minutes Preview

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • FOMC Minutes Preview
  • PPI Remains Hot (Chart)
  • Empire State Manufacturing Index Takeaways

Stock futures are slightly lower while most global markets rallied overnight as traders continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine and look ahead to the Fed minutes release.

Geopolitically, there were no major developments regarding Ukraine o/n but U.S. officials continue to warn that an invasion is possible at anytime, leaving markets on edge.

Economically, Chinese inflation data came in below estimates while U.K. PPI ran hot but neither release materially moved markets overnight.

Today is lining up to be a fairly busy day from a catalyst standpoint as there are several notable economic reports due out including: Retail Sales (E: 2.0%), Import & Export Prices (E: 1.3%, 0.7%), Industrial Production (E: 0.4%), and Housing Market Index (E: 83).

From there, focus will shift to a 20-Yr Treasury Bond auction at 1:00 p.m. ET and then likely the most important catalyst of the day, the FOMC Minutes will be released at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The market has been very indecisive in recent sessions and that is likely to continue today, however, if the geopolitical backdrop remains largely calm, economic data is favorable, and the FOMC minutes are not interpreted as overly hawkish, we may finally see the market break back to test the February highs.

Will Politics Force a Fed Policy Error?

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Will Politics Force a Fed Policy Error?
  • PPI Takeaways: Inflation Still Rising

U.S. equity futures are flat and global markets were mixed overnight as investors digest another hotter-than-expected inflation print and soft growth data ahead of the Fed.

U.K. CPI rose 5.1% vs. (E) 4.7% in November while Chinese growth data missed expectations across the board, rekindling stagflation fears ahead of the slew of central bank meetings in the back half of the week.

There are multiple economic reports due out this morning including: Retail Sales (E: 0.8%), Empire State Manufacturing Index (E: 25.5), Import & Export Prices (E: 0.7%, 0.7%) and the Housing Market Index (E: 84). But once again, unless there are any material surprises, the market impact should be limited ahead of the Fed this afternoon.

The FOMC Announcement will hit at 2:00 p.m. ET and Fed Chair Powell’s Press Conference begins at 2:30 p.m. ET. Bottom line, the biggest risk to equities remains a more hawkish shift in tone with a faster than anticipated acceleration in tapering of QE and any hints at more than two rate hikes next year.

Fed Meeting Preview

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • FOMC Preview

U.S. futures are trading lower with most global equity markets after some negative Omicron headlines while investor focus shifts ahead to this week’s central bank meetings.

Initial studies in South Africa show the PFE vaccine has a lower efficacy rate against Omicron, rekindling concerns about the strain potentially leading to new restrictions or lockdown measures around the globe.

Economically, EU Industrial Production grew 1.1% vs. (E) 1.2% in October and the U.S. NFIB Small Business Optimism Index came in at 98.4 vs. (E) 98.3 but neither release materially changed the outlook for central bank policy.

Looking into today’s session, there is one inflation data point due ahead of the bell: PPI (E: 0.5%) but unless it is a material surprise against expectations, it should not move markets with the December FOMC meeting getting underway.

Bottom line, the focus has largely turned to this week’s central bank meetings, most importantly the FOMC, so it is likely that we see a form of “Fed paralysis” grip the markets between now and tomorrow afternoon’s meeting announcement, barring any unforeseen surprises regarding Omicron.

Why Did Cyclicals Collapse Yesterday?

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Why Did Cyclicals Collapse Yesterday? (Reflation vs. No-Flation)

Futures are slightly lower following a generally quiet night of news.

Economic data was mixed overnight as UK Retail Sales missed estimates (-1.4% vs. (E) 1.8%) while both Japanese and German inflation metrics (CPI and PPI) slightly beat estimates.

The Bank of Japan made no change to policy and extended its COVID lending programs by 6 months (as expected).

Today there are no Fed speakers and no notable economic reports so focus will be on the “micro-economic” and whether we see a continuation of the large tech outperformance from yesterday. Also, there is a quadruple witching options expiration today which will cause large volumes (and possibly volatility) into the close.

Fed Day

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • PPI – Where Will Inflation Settle?
  • Empire State Manufacturing Survey Misses Estimates
  • Retail Sales – Spending Shift from Goods to Services
  • A Warning Sign from Dr. Copper

Stock futures are flat this morning as a sense of Fed paralysis grips global markets ahead of the FOMC announcement while economic data disappointed overnight.

Chinese Fixed Asset Investment, Industrial Production and Retail Sales data all missed estimates for the month of May which resulted in Asian markets underperforming overnight.

Looking into this morning’s trading session, there are two lesser followed economic reports due to be released: Housing Starts (E: 1.630M) and Import & Export Prices (E: 0.7%, 0.7%) but neither release should move markets with the Fed looming.

The Biden-Putin meeting in Geneva will also get media attention but it is very unlikely to actually impact markets. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s testimony before Congress regarding Biden’s budget (10:00 a.m. ET), however, could move markets as she will likely be discussing taxes and any hint of a material hike in capital gains rates or corporate tax rates could weigh on markets even ahead of the Fed.

Today’s main event for the markets will of course be the conclusion of the June Fed meeting with the FOMC Meeting Announcement at 2:00 p.m. ET and then Fed Chair Powell’s Press Conference at 2:30 p.m. ET. If anything causes tapering expectations to be pulled forward towards September or evidence emerges of plans to raise rates in 2022, that will be viewed as hawkish and cause significant volatility across assets classes. Otherwise, an “as expected” or dovish meeting outcome will likely result in equities continuing to trade at or near all-time highs.

Weekly Market Cheat Sheet, August 14, 2017

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Last Week in Review

There was more underwhelming economic data last week, especially on the inflation front, as the prospects for an economic reflation in 2017 continued to dim.

From a Fed standpoint, the disappointing CPI and PPI reports further reduce the chances of a rate hike in December, although importantly the Fed is still expected to begin to reduce its balance sheet in September.

Starting with the headline numbers, CPI and PPI, they were both disappointing. The Producer Price Index declined to -0.1% vs. (E) 0.1% while the core figure was flat vs. (E) 0.2%. Meanwhile, the CPI report was slightly less underwhelming at 0.1% vs. 0.2% on the headline, and the same for the core.

While these aren’t horrible numbers, they aren’t good either, and the bottom line is that statistical inflation
remains stubbornly low, and it is appearing to continue to lose momentum. Again, for context, that’s a problem because in this environment, with (supposedly) strong economic growth and low unemployment, inflation should not be going down. Period. And the longer it goes on, the more it sparks worries that eventual deflation or disinflation will rise, and that’s not good for an economy with still-slow growth and extended asset markets.

Bottom line, even before the uptick in North Korea jitters this was a market in need of a positive catalyst to spur further gains. Unfortunately, the economic data (ex-jobs and sentiment surveys) has been consistently underwhelming, so the chances of a rising tide driven by an economic reflation continue to dim. And while a “dovish” number may be good for a mild pop in the S&P 500, soft data and a lower dollar/bond yields aren’t going to drive the market to material new highs.

This Week’s Preview

This week is busy, with mostly anecdotal data that will give us a better overall picture of the economy and inflation—and the main risk to stocks now is that the data comes in light, and along with low inflation that spurs fears of an economic loss of momentum. If that happens, stocks will take out last week’s lows.

The most important report this week will be tomorrow’s Retail Sales report. Consumer spending has been lackluster for most of 2017, but around now we see a typical seasonal uptick. That will be welcomed by markets if that appears again this year. If the number is soft, it’s going to spur worries about the pace of economic growth (remember, hard economic data hasn’t been great all year, it’s been the PMI surveys that have been strong).

Beyond retail sales, we also get a first look at August economic data via the Empire and Philly manufacturing indices. Both numbers haven’t been highly correlated to the national PMIs lately, but it’s still our most-recent economic data and it could move markets, especially if we see any weakening in the data. Empire comes tomorrow and Philly comes Thursday.

Turning to central banks, we get the Fed minutes from the July meeting on Wednesday, and the ECB minutes from the July meeting on Thursday. The Fed minutes are important because we will be looking for clues as to how eager or committed the Fed is to September balance sheet reduction. With the ECB, the key will be seeing how committed or eager the ECB is to announce tapering of QE in September. As is usually the case, there shouldn’t be any big surprises in these minutes, but they could slightly shift expectations for those two events (balance sheet reduction/announcement of tapering), and as such also move Treasury yields and Bund yields.

Finally, July Industrial Production and Housing Starts also come this week (Thursday and Wednesday,
respectively). Again, these are an opportunity for the hard data to rise and meet strong soft data surveys, and in doing so reassure investors that the economy’s accelerating.

Bottom line, none of the numbers this week are “major,” but in aggregate they will give us a lot more insight into the pace of economic growth and the outlook for the Fed and ECB. And, this market needs some economic reassurance to help bolster sentiment after last week. Better data and steady Fed/ECB are a needed boost markets this week.

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Weekly Market Cheat Sheet, August 7, 2017

Weekly market cheat sheet

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Last Week in Review

Friday’s jobs report caused a mild reversal of the week’s long downtrend in yields and the dollar, but that was more a function of “covering shorts” on the news rather than it was a function of the jobs report being materially hawkish (it met our “Just Right” scenario).

In total, while unemployment dipped further and wages were steady, in aggregate the economic data from last week largely reinforces the “stagnation” outlook for markets (slow-but-steady growth, low inflation).

Starting with the jobs report, as mentioned, it hit the upper end of our “Just Right” scenario. The headline job adds was stronger than expected (209k vs. 178k) while the June revisions were positive (up 9k to 231k).

Meanwhile, unemployment and wages met expectations: 4.3% unemployment and 0.3% wage gains, with a 2.5% yoy increase. In all, it’s a pretty Goldilocks jobs report, as job adds remain strong and the downtrend in wage inflation appears, at least in July, to have stopped.

That’s why we saw the rally in the 10-year Treasury yield and dollar. It wasn’t that the report was hawkish, but it did stop the trend in lower inflation stats. And, with a market as stretched to the downside as the Dollar Index and 10-year yield both are, it caused a snap-back rally.

Importantly, other than potentially making a December rate hike slightly more expected, Friday’s jobs report did nothing to alter the outlook for the Fed (still balance sheet reduction in September).

Looking at the economic data the rest of last week, it was more of the same: Not particularly impressive, but not implying a slowdown, either.

The ISM Manufacturing PMI slightly beat estimates at 56.3 vs. (E) 56.2, and that remained well above the important 50 mark. So, while there was a decline from June, it remains indicative of a manufacturing sector that is seeing growth accelerate.

The one disappointing economic data point last week was the ISM Non-Manufacturing (or service sector) PMI. It declined to 53.9 vs. (E) 56.9, and was the weakest reading since August 2016. However, the private sector Markit Services PMI rose to 54.7 from 54.2, so there is a conflicting message there (ISM is one firm that produces PMIs, and Markit is a competitor. Usually, their PMIs are generally in agreement, but not this month… and it has to do with the survey questions each use and the makeup of the final indices. It’s an oddity that there was a discrepancy, but it’s not an economic red flag (at least not at this point).

Bigger picture, economic growth through June and July appears consistent with the slow-but-steady growth we’ve become accustomed to over the past several years. It’s certainly not a negative for stocks, but it’s not going to create a rising tide that propels us to new highs.

This Week’s Preview

As is usually the case for the week following the jobs report and the PMIs, this week will be quieter from an economic data standpoint, although there is a very important report coming this Friday… CPI.

As we’ve said consistently, inflation is much more important right now (because it’s declining) than economic growth (which remains steady), so inflation numbers will have the potential to move markets more than growth numbers, as we saw on Friday with the jobs report.

To that end, Friday’s CPI has the potential to send bond yields and the dollar higher, if it confirms Friday’s wage number that implies inflation steadied in July. Conversely, if the CPI report is soft we’ll see Friday’s rally in bond yields and the dollar undone, quickly.

Outside of CPI Friday (and PPI on Thursday) the next most-important data point this week will be the Productivity and Costs report Wednesday. In Friday’s Report, I listed a number of events that could push stocks higher if earnings growth has peaked near term. Increased productivity was one of those events, so a strong productivity number will be positive for markets.

Beyond those two numbers, the domestic calendar is quiet this week, and none of the reports coming (NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, jobless claims) should move markets too much.

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