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Futures Rebound Ahead Of Critical CPI Print

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Friday, Dec 10, 2021 - 12:50 PM

US futures rebounded on Friday from Thursday's selloff as traders waited with bated breath for an inflation report that could strengthen the case for an aggressive policy tightening by the Federal Reserve, while Oracle Corp jumped on an upbeat third-quarter outlook. At 730 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 109 points, or 0.30%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 16.25 points, or 0.35%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 53.50 points, or 0.4%. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index pared an earlier decline, while a Bloomberg gauge of Asian airlines fell. In China, Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan sold just over a 2% stake in the company, in the same week the property developer was officially labeled a defaulter for the first time. The dollar, Treasury yields and oil advanced.

Shares of Oracle gained 11.2% in premarket trading after posting forecast-beating results for the second quarter, helped by higher technology spending from businesses looking to support hybrid work.  Broadcom Inc rose 7.0% as the semiconductor firm sees first-quarter revenue above Wall Street expectations and announced a $10 billion share buyback plan.

So far this week, the Nasdaq and the S&P advanced over 2.8% each and the Dow rallied 3.4%. The S&P is now down 1.6% from its all-time peak. The S&P 500 dropped 5.2% from a record high hit on Nov. 22 as investors digested Jerome Powell's renomination as the Fed's chair, his hawkish commentary to tackle. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed and sent to President Joe Biden the first of two bills needed to raise the federal government's $28.9 trillion debt limit and avert an unprecedented default. In other news, the U.S. government moved a step closer to prosecuting Julian Assange on espionage charges, after London judges accepted that the WikiLeaks chief can be safely sent to America.

With headline CPI expected to print at 6.8% Y/Y this morning - in what would be its highest level since 1982 - with whisper numbers are high as the low 8% after Biden said that this month's number won't show the drop in gasoline prices (which is certainly transitory now that oil price are on track for the biggest weekly gain since August), it is very likely that the CPI number will miss and we will see a major relief rally. On the other hand, any upside surprise on the reading will likely bolster the case for a faster tapering of bond purchases and bring forward expectations for interest rate hikes ahead of the U.S. central bank's policy meeting next week.

“Various FOMC participants, including Chair Powell, have signaled a hawkish shift in their policy stance, catalyzed by increasing discomfort with elevated inflation against a backdrop of robust growth and ongoing strengthening in labor markets conditions,” Morgan Stanley economists and strategists including Ellen Zentner, wrote in a note Thursday. “We revise our Fed call and now expect the FOMC to begin raising rates in Sept. 2022 -- two quarters earlier than our prior forecast.”

Discussing today's key event, the CPI print, DB's Jim Reid writes that "our US economists are anticipating that headline CPI will rise to +6.9%, which would be the fastest annual pace since 1982. And they see core inflation heading up to +5.1%, which would be the highest since 1990. Bear in mind as well that this is the last big release ahead of next Wednesday’s Federal Reserve decision, where our economists are expecting they’ll double the pace of tapering. Chair Powell himself reinforced those expectations in recent testimony, stopping just shy of unilaterally announcing the faster taper. Crucially, he noted this CPI print and the evolution of the virus were potential roadblocks to a faster taper next week. That said, the bar is extremely high for today’s data print to alter their course, especially with the Covid outlook having not deteriorated markedly since his testimony. By the close last night, Fed funds futures were fully pricing in a rate hike by the June meeting, alongside more than 70% chance of one by the May meeting."

A reminder that last month saw another bumper print, with the monthly price gain actually at its fastest pace since July 2008, which sent the annual gain up to its highest since 1990, at +6.2%. It also marked the 6th time in the last 8 months that the monthly headline print had been above the consensus estimate on Bloomberg, and in another blow for team transitory, the drivers of inflation were increasingly broad-based, rather than just in a few categories affected by the pandemic. It may have been the death knell for team transitory, with Chair Powell taking pains to retire the term in the aforementioned testimony before Congress.

In Europe, stocks fell slightly as a rise in coronavirus infections, with the Stoxx 600 dropping 0.3%, weighed down the most by tech, health care and utilities. DAX -0.2%, and FTSE 100 little changed, both off worst levels. Meanwhile, an epidemiologist has said that the omicron strain may be spreading faster in England than in South Africa, with U.K. cases possibly exceeding 60,000 a day by Christmas. Banks in the U.K. have already started telling staff to work from home in response to the government’s guidance.  Daimler AG’s trucks division gained in its first trading day as the storied German manufacturer completed a historic spinoff to better face sweeping changes in the auto industry. Polish retailer LPP rose to a record.

Asian stocks fell on worries over the global spread of the omicron virus strain and after China Evergrande and Kaisa Group officially defaulted on their dollar debt. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost as much as 0.9%, with healthcare, technology and consumer discretionary sectors being the worst performers. Benchmarks slid in China and Hong Kong after Fitch Ratings cut Evergrande and Kaisa to “restricted default,” with the Hang Seng Index being the region’s biggest loser. Investors remain concerned that the omicron virus strain may crimp the economic rebound. South Korea brought forward the timing for Covid-19 booster shots to just three months after the second dose, as one of Asia’s most-vaccinated countries grapples with its worst ever virus surge. The Kospi snapped a seven-day winning run. Meanwhile, the U.S. appears to be headed for a holiday crisis as virus cases and hospital admissions climb, while London firms started telling thousands of staff to work from home.

“In Europe, restrictions are being put in place, not just in the U.K. but also in other countries, due to the spread of the omicron variant, spurring worry over the impact on the economy,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a market strategist at Mizuho Securities. “If work-from-home practices are prolonged, consumption will become lackluster, delaying any recovery.” Still, the Asian benchmark is up 1.2% from Dec. 3, poised for its best weekly advance in about two months. That’s owing to gains earlier in the week after China’s move to boost liquidity helped restore investor confidence. Traders are now turning focus to U.S. inflation data due later in the day for clues on the pace of anticipated tapering.

China’s central bank took further steps to limit the yuan’s strength -- setting the weakest reference rate relative to estimates compiled by Bloomberg since 2018 -- a day after policy makers raised the foreign currency reserve requirement ratio for banks a second time this year.

In rates, the Treasury curve bear flattened with 5s30s printing sub-60bps ahead of today’s November CPI data. Bunds and gilts are quiet; Italy leads a broader tightening of peripheral spreads.

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rises 0.2%, building on modest strength during the Asian session. AUD leads G-10 peers; NZD and SEK are weakest, although ranges are narrow. Demand for euro downside exposure waned this week as investors now focus on the upcoming decisions by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. China’s central bank took further steps to limit the yuan’s strength

In commodities, brent crude is slightly higher on the day, hovering around the $74-level, while WTI climbs 0.6% to $71-a-barrel. Base metals are mixed. LME aluminum and copper rise, while zinc and lead declines. Spot gold drops $4 to $1,771/oz.

Looking at the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the aforementioned US CPI reading for November. In addition, there’s the University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index for December, UK GDP for October and Italian industrial production for October. Central bank speakers include ECB President Lagarde, along with the ECB’s Weidmann, Villeroy, Panetta and Elderson.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 4,677.75
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.4% to 474.88
  • MXAP down 0.8% to 193.90
  • MXAPJ down 0.8% to 632.63
  • Nikkei down 1.0% to 28,437.77
  • Topix down 0.8% to 1,975.48
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.1% to 23,995.72
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,666.35
  • Sensex little changed at 58,799.05
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.4% to 7,353.51
  • Kospi down 0.6% to 3,010.23
  • Brent Futures up 0.4% to $74.69/bbl
  • Gold spot down 0.3% to $1,770.81
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 96.32
  • German 10Y yield little changed at -0.34%
  • Euro down 0.1% to $1.1281

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Already fighting economic fires on a number of fronts, China is rushing to clamp down on speculation in its strengthening currency before it gets out of control
  • The arrival of the omicron variant has triggered a global rush for booster shots, but questions remain over whether it is the right strategy against omicron
  • The Biden administration aims to sign what could prove a “very powerful” economic framework agreement with Asian nations -- focusing on areas including coordination on supply chains, export controls and standards for artificial intelligence -- next year, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said
  • A mouse bite is at the center of an investigation into a possible new Covid-19 outbreak in Taiwan, after a worker at a high-security laboratory was confirmed as the island’s first local case in more than a month

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pac stocks were on the back foot as the region took its cue from the weak performance in the US, where the major indices reversed recent upside in the run-up to today’s US CPI metric. The ASX 200 (-0.4%) was led lower by the underperformance in energy and tech after a retreat in oil prices and similar weakness of their counterpart sectors in US. The Nikkei 225 (-1.0%) remained lacklustre as it succumbed to the recent inflows into the currency, although the downside was stemmed as participants digested a record increase in wholesale prices. The Hang Seng (-1.0%) and Shanghai Comp. (-0.2%) were hindered by several headwinds including lower-than-expected lending and aggregate financing data, as well as China’s latest internet crackdown in which it removed 106 apps from app stores. However, losses were contained by a softer currency after China’s efforts to curb RMB strength including the PBoC’s 200bps FX RRR hike yesterday and its overnight weakening of the reference rate by the widest margin against estimates on record. Finally, 10yr JGBs were quiet after the mixed performance in US fixed income markets and with the risk-averse mood counterbalanced by the lack of BoJ purchases in the market today, although later saw a bout of selling on a breakdown of support at the key 152.00 level.

Top Asian News

  • Evergrande’s Hui Forced to Sell Part of Stake in Defaulted Firm
  • Hui Has 277.8m Evergrande Shares Sold Under Enforced Disposal
  • Asia Stocks Fall on Renewed Concerns Over Evergrande and Omicron
  • Gold Heads for Worst Weekly Run Since 2019 Before Inflation Data

Cash bourses in Europe kicked off the session with modest losses across the board, but the region has been clambering off worst levels since (Euro Stoxx 50 -0.3%; Stoxx 600 -0.3%) as traders gear up for the US CPI release (full preview available on the Newsquawk headline feed). US equity futures meanwhile post modest broad-based gains across the ES (+0.3%), NQ (+0.3%), RTY (+0.4) and YM (+0.2%). Back to Europe, cash markets see broad but contained downside. Sectors are mixed with no overarching theme or bias. Tech resides at the foot of the bunch with heavyweight SAP (-0.2%) failing to garner impetus from Oracle’s (+11% pre-market) blockbuster earnings after beating expectations on the top and bottom lines and announcing a new USD 10bln stock-repurchase authorisation. The upside meanwhile sees some of the more inflation-related sectors, including Oil & Gas, auto, Goods, Foods, and Beverages. In terms of individual movers, Bayer (+1.8%) is firmer after the Co. won a second consecutive trial in California regarding its Roundup weed killer. Daimler (-15%) sits at the foot of the Stoxx 600 after spinning off its Daimler Trucks unit (+4%) - considered to be a market listing rather than a full initial public offering.

Top European News

  • Heathrow Offers Bleak Outlook as Omicron Halts Long-Haul Rebound
  • HSBC, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank Tell London Staff to Stay Home
  • SocGen CEO Takes Over Compliance After $2.6 Billion Fines
  • Santander AM Names Utrera as Head of Equities as Montero Exits

In FX, not a lot of deviation from recent ranges, but the Greenback is grinding higher ahead of US inflation data and Treasuries are bear-steepening to suggest hedging or positioning for an upside surprise following pointers from President Biden and NEC Director Deese to that effect (both advising that recent declines in prices, including energy, will not be reflected in November’s metrics). The index is back above the 96.000 level that has been very pivotal so far this week and hovering near the upper end of a 96.429-157 range, while the benchmark 10 year T-note yield is holding above 1.50% after a so-so long bond auction to wrap up the latest refunding remit.

  • NZD/JPY/GBP - It’s marginal, but the Kiwi, Yen and Pound are lagging behind in the G10 stakes, with Nzd/Usd back below 0.6800 and perhaps taking note of a marked slowdown in the manufacturing PMI to 50.6 in November from 54.3, while Usd/Jpy is straddling 113.50 and eyeing DMAs either side of the half round number and Cable remains choppy around 1.3200 in wake of UK GDP, ip and output all missing consensus.
  • AUD/CAD/EUR/CHF - All a tad more narrowly divergent vs the Buck, and the Aussie managing to keep tabs on 0.7150 after outperformance post-RBA on mainly external and technical impulses. Elsewhere, the Loonie has limited losses through 1.2700 with some assistance from hawkish sounding commentary from BoC Deputy Governor Gravelle rather than choppy crude prices as WTI swings around Usd 71/brl. To recap, he said that concerns over inflation are heightened on the upside much more than usual and the BoC is likely to react a little bit more readily to the upside risk given that inflation is already above the control range. Elsewhere, the Euro continues to fade on advances beyond 1.1300 and hit resistance at or near the 21 DMA and the Franc is more attuned to yields than risk sentiment at present, like the Yen, though is outpacing the Euro, as Eur/Chf veers towards 1.0400 again and Usd/Chf sits closer to 0.9250 vs 0.9200.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front-month futures have been edging higher in early European trade following a choppy APAC session and in the run-up today’s main event, the US inflation data. Currently, WTI Jan trades just under USD 71.50/bbl (vs low USD 70.32/bbl) while Brent Feb resides north of USD 74.50/bbl (vs low USD 73.80/bbl), with news flow also on the lighter side ahead of the tier 1 data. In terms of other macro events, sources suggested Iran is willing to work from the basis of texts created in June on nuclear discussions, which will now be put to the test in upcoming days, via a European diplomatic source. This would mark somewhat of a shift from reports last week which suggested that Iran took a tougher stance than it had back in June. Western diplomats last week suggested that Tehran ramped up their conditions, which resulted in talks stalling last Friday. Aside from that, relevant news flow has been light for the complex. Elsewhere, spot gold and silver are drifting lower in tandem gains in the Dollar – spot gold has dipped under USD 1,770/oz, with the current YTD low at 1,676/oz. LME copper holds its head above USD 9,500/t but within a tight range amid the overall indecisive mood across the markets.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Nov. CPI YoY, est. 6.8%, prior 6.2%; MoM, est. 0.7%, prior 0.9%
  • 8:30am: Nov. CPI Ex Food and Energy YoY, est. 4.9%, prior 4.6%; MoM, est. 0.5%, prior 0.6%
  • 8:30am: Nov. Real Avg Hourly Earning YoY, prior -1.2%, revised -1.3%
    • Real Avg Weekly Earnings YoY, prior -1.6%
  • 10am: Dec. U. of Mich. 1 Yr Inflation, est. 5.0%, prior 4.9%; 5-10 Yr Inflation, prior 3.0%
    • Sentiment, est. 68.0, prior 67.4
    • Expectations, est. 62.5, prior 63.5
  • Current Conditions, est. 73.5, prior 73.6

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

I’m sure if anyone had said to you at the start of 2021 that US CPI would end the year around 7% YoY then there may have been some sleepless nights about how to position your portfolio. The reality is that as inflation has risen, the market has managed to go through denial, transitory, elongated transitory, and now the retirement of transitory, all without much fuss. I’ve said this before but I doubt there is anyone in the world that predicted we’d end the year at near 7% whilst at the same time having 10yr UST yields still at around 1.5%.

Today our US economists are anticipating that headline CPI will rise to +6.9%, which would be the fastest annual pace since 1982. And they see core inflation heading up to +5.1%, which would be the highest since 1990. Bear in mind as well that this is the last big release ahead of next Wednesday’s Federal Reserve decision, where our economists are expecting they’ll double the pace of tapering. Chair Powell himself reinforced those expectations in recent testimony, stopping just shy of unilaterally announcing the faster taper. Crucially, he noted this CPI print and the evolution of the virus were potential roadblocks to a faster taper next week. That said, the bar is extremely high for today’s data print to alter their course, especially with the Covid outlook having not deteriorated markedly since his testimony. By the close last night, Fed funds futures were fully pricing in a rate hike by the June meeting, alongside more than 70% chance of one by the May meeting.

A reminder that last month saw another bumper print, with the monthly price gain actually at its fastest pace since July 2008, which sent the annual gain up to its highest since 1990, at +6.2%. It also marked the 6th time in the last 8 months that the monthly headline print had been above the consensus estimate on Bloomberg, and in another blow for team transitory, the drivers of inflation were increasingly broad-based, rather than just in a few categories affected by the pandemic. It may have been the death knell for team transitory, with Chair Powell taking pains to retire the term in the aforementioned testimony before Congress.

Ahead of this, markets were in slightly subdued mood yesterday as the reality of the new Omicron restrictions in various places soured the mood. Even as the news on Omicron’s severity has remained positive, concern is still elevated that this good news on severity could be outweighed by a rise in transmissibility, which ultimately would lead to a higher absolute number of both infections and hospitalisations. Even if it doesn’t, it seems restrictions are mounting while we wait and see.

In response, US equities and oil prices fell back for the first time this week, as did 10yr Treasury yields. The S&P 500 (-0.72%) and the STOXX 600 (-0.08%) fell, whilst the VIX index of volatility ticked back up +1.73pts to move above the 20 mark again. Tech stocks underperformed in a reversal of the previous session, with the NASDAQ down -1.71%, and the small-cap Russell 2000 seeing a hefty -2.27% decline, as it moved lower throughout the day. Other risk assets saw similar declines too, with Brent crude (-1.85%) and WTI (-1.96%) oil prices both paring back their gains of the week so far.

The move out of risk benefited safe havens, with sovereign bond yields moving lower across the curve, with those on 10yr Treasuries down -2.2bps to 1.50%. Those moves were echoed in Europe, where yields on 10yr bunds (-4.3bps), OATs (-4.5bps) and BTPs (-2.9bps) fell back as well. That came against the backdrop of a Reuters report saying ECB governors would discuss a temporary increase in the Asset Purchase Programme at their meeting next week, albeit one that would still leave bond purchases significantly beneath their current levels once the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme ends in March.

Bitcoin fell -5.21% to $47,997 and is now more than -29% below its all-time highs reached a month ago. Marion Laboure from my team published a piece analysing the interaction between Bitcoin and the environment given its huge energy consumption. You can find the piece here.

Ahead of today’s US CPI, there was another round of robust labour market data, with the US weekly initial jobless claims down to 184k (vs. 220k expected) in the week through December 4, marking their lowest level since 1969. The 4-week moving average was also down to a fresh post-pandemic low of 218.75k, having fallen for 9 consecutive weeks now. So with the labour market becoming increasingly tight and price pressures continuing to remain strong, it’s no surprise that markets have moved over the last year from pricing no hikes at all in 2022 to almost 3.

Overnight in Asia, equities are all trading in the red with the Shanghai Composite (-0.32%), Hang Seng (-0.50%), Nikkei (-0.58%), CSI (-0.62%) and KOSPI (-0.67%) tracking the weaker US close last night after a three day rally. This comes after Chinese real-estate firms Evergrande Group and Kaisa Group were downgraded to restricted default by Fitch Ratings. Elsewhere in Japan, November's PPI reading came in at the highest level since 1980 at +9.0% year-on-year against +8.5% consensus due largely to rising energy prices. Our Japan economist expects CPI rising above 1% next year to be one of the ten key events to watch in 2022. You can read more here. Staying on Japan, the ruling party today will unveil a set of tax policy measures aimed at incentivising businesses to raise wages as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to deliver on campaigning promises. Futures are pointing to a slightly more positive start in the US with S&P 500 futures (+0.10%) trading higher but with DAX futures (-0.24%) catching down to the weaker US close.

Out of DC, the Senate approved a one-time procedural measure that will allow them to raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote, ostensibly in the coming days, and hopefully for a longer period than the last six-week suspension. Yields on potentially at-risk Treasury bills are at similar levels to neighboring maturities.

In terms of the latest on the pandemic, yesterday didn’t see any news of major significance, with the indicators mainly confirming what we already knew. In particular, the EU’s ECDC continued to say that among the 402 confirmed Omicron cases in the EU/EEA, all the cases with known severity were either asymptomatic or mild, with no deaths reported. So positive news for now, although it’ll be very important to keep an eye with what happens with hospitalisations in South Africa, which are continuing to rise, and the country also reported another 22,391 cases yesterday, which is once again the highest number since the Omicron variant was first reported. Separately, the US FDA moved yesterday to expand the eligibility of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster to 16 and 17 year olds.

To the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the aforementioned US CPI reading for November. In addition, there’s the University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index for December, UK GDP for October and Italian industrial production for October. Central bank speakers include ECB President Lagarde, along with the ECB’s Weidmann, Villeroy, Panetta and Elderson.

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