Futures Tread Water As Geopolitical Fears Added To Momentum Collapse Concerns

Tyler Durden's picture

Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.

The trading week has gotten off to a subdued start in Asia today, but this morning’s falls in equities have been smaller than what one would expect following last Friday’s 0.95% fall in the S&P500. Nonetheless, negative headlines in Ukraine are keeping a lid on risk sentiment today. The Nikkei - 0.4%) and HSCEI (-0.3%) are a touch lower, as are S&P 500 futures (-0.1%). A Chinese media outlet is suggesting that a number of Chinese banks including the country’s largest bank may issue around CNY80bn (US$13bn) in preference shares each as they look to build capital buffers amid rising credit quality concerns. Banks are weighing on Chinese bourses today. Elsewhere, Asian credit is trading a few bps wider but the strength of US rates is capping any EM widening.

Taking a look at some other weekend headlines, the conflict between the Ukraine and Russia reaches an inflection point today after the Ukrainian government gave pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine a Monday morning deadline to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" by its armed forces. Over the weekend Ukraine had sent in forces to regain control of government buildings in a number eastern Ukrainian cities but some anti-Kiev blockades remain across the east. Russia’s UN ambassador warned that in a few hours time, things in the Ukraine could take “an irreversible turn for the worse” and requested that Ukraine drop its Monday ultimatum. The UN Security Council is meeting as we type. This is something to watch out for today. Palladium futures are up 0.7% overnight while Wheat futures are up 1.5%.

Elsewhere in the week ahead, the key data releases include Eurozone’s  industrial production today, the German ZEW survey tomorrow and Spanish/Italian trade on Wednesday. Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, EU and the US will hold a summit on Thursday where the weekend’s clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine will be discussed. Credit Suisse reports 1Q 14 numbers on Wednesday. In EM, it will be an important week for China-watchers with China reporting a range of data including industrial production, Q1 GDP and retail sales on Wednesday. DB expects China’s first quarter growth to be 7.4% which puts it above consensus at 7.3%. Elsewhere in EM, there is IP data for Russia (Tuesday) and inflation readings in India (Tuesday) and Brazil (Thurs).

Bulletin Headline Summary From Bloomberg And RanSquawk

  • Treasuries steady, 2Y-7Y yields lowest since mid-March; 10Y after rallying 10bps last week on declines in stocks and bund yields, strength in JPY amid Ukraine and global growth concern.
  • The U.S. and EU have reached “crunch time” to halt further destabilization in Ukraine and curb any further Russian expansion in the region
  • Russia and the U.S. traded barbs at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as a deadline passed for pro-Russian separatists to leave buildings they occupied amid escalating violence in eastern Ukraine
  • Draghi said a further appreciation of the euro would trigger more monetary stimulus in his strongest warning yet about the region’s rising currency
  • Republican odds of U.S. Senate takeover is rising amid fall- off in turnout in 2014 midterms when the electorate will trend older and whiter and as Obama’s public approval lags
  • The lopsided bond market has caught the attention of the SEC, which is examining whether the biggest players, such as Pimco and BlackRock, get preferential prices and access because of their influence
  • China’s banking regulator ordered owners of the nation’s 68 trust companies to be prepared to provide funding or sell their stakes as the risk of defaults rises in the $1.9t industry for high-yield investment
  • Sovereign yields mostly lower. Asian stocks mixed, Nikkei -0.4%, Shanghai little changed. European equity markets U.S. stock futures fall. WTI crude and copper lower, gold gains

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Retail Sales Advance m/m, March, est. 0.9% (prior 0.3%)
    • Retail Sales Ex Auto m/m, March, est. 0.5% (prior 0.3%)
    • Retail Sales Ex Auto and Gas, March, est. 0.4% (prior 0.3%)
    • Retail Sales Control Group, March, est. 0.6% (prior 0.3%)
  • 10:00am: Business Inventories, Feb., est. 0.5% (prior 0.4%) Central Banks
  • 9:30pm: Reserve Bank of Australia releases minutes of April meeting
  • 12:45pm: Fed’s Tarullo, ECB’s Noyer speak in New York Supply
  • POMO 11:00am: Fed to purchase $900m-$1.15b in 2036-2044 sector

 

EU & UK Headlines

Comments by ECB’s Draghi failed to prop up the sentiment towards riskier assets, with stocks lower across the board as combination of concerns surrounding Ukraine and the ongoing equity correction in the US dominated the price action. Nevertheless, despite the risk averse sentiment, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened on the prospect of potential buying of assets by the ECB. On that note, strategists at RBS believe that odds of ECB QE in coming years is 100%, next action by the ECB is likely to involve rate cut and an extension of full-allotment regime (MRO/ LTRO) from to June 2015 to June 2016.

Regarding the latest developments in Ukraine, Russian domestic stock market (MICEX) fell over 1% and spot RUB rose to its highest level since late March following reports that Ukraine's armed forces plan to launch a "fullscale anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Russian separatists. It was also reported this morning, citing Ukraine President, that Kiev leadership is 'not against' referendum being held in Eastern Ukraine at the same time as Presidential election.

US Headlines

Little in terms of US specific commentary, however the apparent weakness in European equities seemingly filtered through into US equity futures, down between 0.2-0.4% at last check ahead of the cash open. Focus now turns to earnings release by Citigroup at 1300BST/0700CDT and the release of the latest Retail Sales report at 1330BST/0730CDT.

Equities

Risk averse sentiment dominated the price action since the open this morning, with technology leading the move lower in a continuation of the sector weakness seen across the pond in the US. As a reminder, the NASDAQ biotech index entered a bear market on Friday as as real money continued to rotate out of biotech and momentum names. Going forward, Citigroup will report earnings at 1300BST/0700CDT, with EPS exp. USD 1.14 and revenue exp. USD 19.39bln.

FX

Comments by ECB’s Draghi over the weekend who said that any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing resulted in broad based EUR weakness. This in turn saw EUR/GBP fall below the 50DMA line and the spot EUR rate fell to within 10pips shy of the 21DMA line.

Commodities

Soft commodities and palladium benefited the most amid the renewed fears that tensions between Russia and Ukraine will escalate further. However WTI and Brent crude futures were little impacted and instead traded lower amid broad based risk off sentiment. Of note, analysts at Goldman Sachs said that gold is seen declining on tapering and US recovery and that Gold losses this year are to be data dependent.

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Jim Reid concludes the overnight recap

The key event over the weekend was the IMF meetings. As expected the focus was around future policy action (or inaction) of the G3  central banks. Mario Draghi was central to that debate, suggesting that “the strengthening of the exchange rate would require – to make our monetary stance equally accommodative – further monetary policy accommodation”. Exactly what was meant by further accommodation was not elaborated on, though the FT conjectured that Draghi was leaning towards negative deposit rates. The ECB president steered clear of mentioning specific FX levels with which it would trigger ECB action. ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure stoked the flames further by outlining the contours of a potential QE program. Coeure said any program would be focused more on price levels rather than quantity. Purchases would be linked to the interest rate maturities that are most important for firms' and households' investment and consumption decisions which he said was the “intermediate to longer part of the yield curve”. Coeure also said that "segmentation would have to be taken into consideration in our strategy" which meant that purchases of a single asset class, such as government bonds or ABS, could not be assumed to affect interest rates across all asset classes (Reuters). Less dovish members of the ECB including Austria’s Ewald Nowotny said that any discussion on further easing is likely to come at the June meeting when the ECB will be able to better determine the permanence or not of current disinflation. This June timeframe seems to be also favoured by the Bundesbank who reportedly prefers waiting until June when a fresh forecast for inflation will be unveiled (FT).

For all the talk over the weekend, euro-dollar is trading only about 0.25% lower in Asian trading today (1.385 as we type) and despite all the QE-related talk over the last few weeks, the EURUSD cross is still not too far from 2.5 year  highs. Outside of the ECB, the policy direction of the Fed still appears to be at odds with those of its G3 counterparts. The St Louis Fed’s Bullard remarked that a commitment to keep rates low even as the economy was “normalising” could be a policy error. Bullard repeated that his dot forecast is 4 or 4.25% in 2016. Outgoing Fed official Jeremy Stein reiterated his concerns about broader financial stability but said that the Fed doesn’t need to expand its current dual mandate in order to take financial stability into account. Stein reiterated that the Fed should monitor the term structure of interest rates, credit spreads and asset prices as part of its current mandate. In Japan, the WSJ reported late  on Friday that Japanese PM Shinzo is planning to see BoJ Governor Kuroda this month to discuss monetary policy, before the next BoJ policy meeting on April 30th. This meeting comes as Japan’s finance minister acknowledged over the weekend that the country’s investment climate hasn’t improved because firms are not sure that deflation has been overcome (Nikkei). In a somewhat contradictory report, Bloomberg says that the Japanese government risks loses  public support for its economic policies by spurring too much inflation too quickly, particularly when wages have yet to materially improve (Bloomberg).

The trading week has gotten off to a subdued start in Asia today, but this morning’s falls in equities have been smaller than what one would expect following last Friday’s 0.95% fall in the S&P500. Nonetheless, negative headlines in Ukraine are keeping a lid on risk sentiment today. The Nikkei - 0.4%) and HSCEI (-0.3%) are a touch lower, as are S&P 500 futures (-0.1%). A Chinese media outlet is suggesting that a number of Chinese banks including the country’s largest bank may issue around CNY80bn (US$13bn) in preference shares each as they look to build capital buffers amid rising credit quality concerns. Banks are weighing on Chinese bourses today. Elsewhere, Asian credit is trading a few bps wider but the strength of US rates is capping any EM widening.

Taking a look at some other weekend headlines, the conflict between the Ukraine and Russia reaches an inflection point today after the Ukrainian government gave pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine a Monday morning deadline to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" by its armed forces. Over the weekend Ukraine had sent in forces to regain control of government buildings in a number eastern Ukrainian cities but some anti-Kiev blockades remain across the east. Russia’s UN ambassador warned that in a few hours time, things in the Ukraine could take “an irreversible turn for the worse” and requested that Ukraine drop its Monday ultimatum. The UN Security Council is meeting as we type. This is something to watch out for today. Palladium futures are up 0.7% overnight while Wheat futures are up 1.5%.

Turning to the week ahead, though it’s a holiday-shortened week with Easter approaching on Friday there’s still plenty on the macro calendar ahead of us over the next four days. Starting in the US, there is a pretty full data docket starting with today’s retail sales where consensus is expecting a pickup in activity (0.9% vs 0.3% previous), driven by the recent rebound in auto sales. On Tuesday, the latest Empire Fed and NAHB homebuilder surveys will be released. On Wednesday, there are housing permits, housing starts and industrial production. Thursday’s Philly Fed rounds out the data docket. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be making a speech at the Economic Club of NY on Wednesday. The day before that, she will be making some opening remarks at the Atlanta Fed’s Financial Market conference.

On the micro side, this will be a pivotal week for the US earnings season with a number of large cap financials and tech heavy-weights reporting. Indeed, though only around 10% of the S&P500 constituents are reporting this week, they together account for around one-fifth of the index’s market cap.  Following the rout in tech stocks over the last week or so, the quarterly filings and management commentary from Intel, Yahoo (Tuesday), Google (Wednesday) will give us a good guide as to how earnings in that sector are faring. Following JPM and Wells Fargo who reported on Friday, a number of large US bank holding companies are on the earnings docket this week including Citi (Monday), BofA (Wednesday), Goldman and Morgan Stanley (Thursday). JPMorgan gave the bank reporting season a soft start after they missed EPS and revenue estimates on Friday with some concern over the revenue declines in FICC (-21% yoy) and equities (-3% yoy). Citigroup’s earnings (before the opening bell today) will be interesting with the WSJ reporting over the weekend that the group has cut back some headcount in its global markets business in response to a slump in its trading businesses, particularly in fixed income. Taken together with JPM’s results on Friday, it seems struggling FICC revenues are a theme for the banking sector at this early stage in the reporting cycle. Though the focus on Friday was the continued decline in tech stocks, it was actually the banking sector (-1.37%) which weighed on the US stock markets the most as investors re-calibrated their earnings expectations for the rest of the US banks. The overall view from our US equity strategists is that final Q1 EPS growth for the S&P500 will be weak at 4% with sales growth at just 3%, which would be the 8th quarter of anaemic sales growth.

Elsewhere in the week ahead, the key data releases include Eurozone’s  industrial production today, the German ZEW survey tomorrow and Spanish/Italian trade on Wednesday. Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, EU and the US will hold a summit on Thursday where the weekend’s clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine will be discussed. Credit Suisse reports 1Q 14 numbers on Wednesday. In EM, it will be an important week for China-watchers with China reporting a range of data including industrial production, Q1 GDP and retail sales on Wednesday. DB expects China’s first quarter growth to be 7.4% which puts it above consensus at 7.3%. Elsewhere in EM, there is IP data for Russia (Tuesday) and inflation readings in India (Tuesday) and Brazil (Thurs).