Stocks Plunge, Commodities Tumble, Dollar Soars On Global Risk-Off Wave

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Aug 19, 2021 - 12:04 PM

In a perfect storm of adverse developments suddenly sweeping the complacent and calm sea of manipulated global markets, overnight futures plunged, global stocks slumped, commodities tumbled, as investors rushed to the safety of Treasurys, sending yields sharply lower and pushing the dollar to the highest level since November,  amid concern the Federal Reserve may start tapering stimulus this year even as the delta virus variant undermines global growth. At 730 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 0.92%, S&P 500 e-minis lower by 0.80% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis off 0.63%.

Suddenly dismal investor sentiment echoed in premarket trading where China-linked stocks including Alibaba Group plunged, sliding to a record low in Hong Kong trading. Luxury shares in Europe fell as China seemed to put its wealthiest on notice in favor of a “common prosperity.” Emerging-market equities plunged to this year’s low. All that meant a gauge of world stocks was poised for the worst week since February.  US equity futures took a sharp leg lower after the Nikkei reported that Toyota was set to slash output by 40% as a result of the escalating chip shortage...

... while dragged the Nikkei225 to the lowest level since January.

Rising stagflation concerns, culminating with Goldman cutting its GDP forecast while hiking its inflation projections, sent energy stocks sliding as oil prices plunged to their lowest level in about three months. Chevron and Exxon Mobil fell 1.6% as oil sank to its lowest since May 21, pressured partly by a stronger U.S. dollar and a surprise increase in U.S. gasoline inventories.

Robinhood shares tumbled 12% after the owner of the retail frontrunning app warned the trading frenzy among small-time investors that boosted its second-quarter revenue would slow down in the coming months; the company also revealed that there is barely any growth in its core options and stocks business and the only revenue bump was due to a Dogecoin trading frenzy.

Elsewhere, travel-related stocks including cruiseliners and airlines fell nearly 3% on fears the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus could spark more travel restrictions.  Here are some of the other notable pre-movers today:

  • Chinese stocks listed in the U.S. slump following a selloff of Chinese technology giants in Asia after Beijing hit the industry with a fresh round of regulations. Alibaba (BABA) falls 3%.
  • Eros STX (ESGC) jumps 19% in second day of gains after a report Wednesday saying the television content firm entered an output pact with Amazon Prime Video in South Africa.
  • Macy’s (M) gains 3% as its forecast for full-year net sales beat the average analyst estimate.
  • Joyy (YY) shares dip about 5% after the China-based video-social media company reported second-quarter results and gave an outlook that disappointed.
  • PharmaCyte Biotech (PMCB) drops 58% after announcing a registered direct offering via HC Wainwright.
  • Protagenic Therapeutics (PTIX) rises 7% and is poised to extend gains for a third session after providing an update on therapies to treat stress-related neurologic disorders earlier in the week.
  • Shares of U.S. banks tumble as the 10-year Treasury yield retreats back below 1.23% amid concerns that the delta variant of the coronavirus could threaten the global economic recovery. Bank of America (BAC) falls 1.7%.
  • Victoria’s Secret (VSCO) falls 8.6% after the lingerie maker disappointed Wall Street with second-quarter sales and forecasts for third- quarter EPS and sales that missed estimates.
  • Vipshop Holdings ADRs (VIPS) drop 3% after the company was downgraded to neutral at Credit Suisse, which cites a challenging outlook for the online retailer amid slower e-commerce growth.

Sentiment deteriorated rapidly at the close of trading on Wednesday when the FOMC's latest minutes showed officials felt the employment benchmark for decreasing support for the economy “could be reached this year”, sending the S&P 500 sliding 1% in its worst day in a month.

“I don’t think anybody will be surprised if tapering starts at the end of this year,” Dana D’Auria, Envestnet co-chief investment officer, said on Bloomberg Television. She added that the pace of reopenings is a concern for investors amid the spread of the delta strain.

Concerns about the sudden tapering at a time when macroeconomic data was signaling a slowdown in U.S. economic growth have knocked Wall Street’s main indexes off record highs this week. Overnight, Goldman slashed its Q3 GDP forecast from 8.5% to 5.5% while hiking its inflation forecast, effectively warning of stagflation.

European stocks slid the most in a month, with the Stoxx 600 Index falling 1.8%, as luxury stocks slumped again, among the worst performers in Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index, after Chinese state media this week said President Xi Jinping offered an outline for “common prosperity” that includes income regulation and redistribution, putting China’s wealthiest citizens on notice. Notable movers included Richemont -6.6%, Kering -7.8%, LVMH -5.6%, Swatch -5.1%, Burberry -4.2%, and Hermes -3.8%.

The Stoxx 600 Basic Resources index extends its fall, down as much as 5%, with miners under pressure from slumping metal prices. Iron ore plunges and copper hits four-month low amid worries about Chinese steel production levels, risks to global growth and the prospect of reduced U.S. stimulus. Here are some of the biggest European movers today:

  • Nibe shares rise as much as 10% in their steepest intraday advance since May after 2Q operating profit beat the highest analyst estimate.
  • Coloplast gains as much as 3.9%, the most since June 30 and enough to erase Wednesday’s 2.7% drop that followed 3Q earnings.
  • Adyen rises as much as 3.8% to a record high, after results which Jefferies says were better than expected.
  • GN Store Nord slumps as much as 11% after 2Q results that Handelsbanken (buy) says showed the first disappointment for its audio business, which had until now been the key positive for the stock.
  • Nel falls as much as 11% after 2Q earnings.
  • Siegfried slides as much as 10%, the steepest intraday drop since March 2015, after 1H sales missed estimates. Vontobel notes “high” expectations in the market that aren’t being met.

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks slumped, led by tech and commodity names, after minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting signaled that it could start paring stimulus from later this year. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid as much as 1.8%, with Alibaba, Taiwan Semiconductor and BHP Group among the biggest drags. Copper and iron ore prices slipped while oil dropped to the lowest level since May. Equity benchmarks in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia were the biggest losers in Asia as the dollar rose to its strongest level in nearly five months. “Stock investors are probably worried that easy monetary policies will likely become less easy soon as specter of reduced bond purchases is upon us,” said Chetan Seth, Asia-Pacific equity strategist at Nomura Holdings. Ongoing concerns around China growth slowdown/regulatory crackdown and the delta variant are other reasons for the selloff, he said. Asia’s stock benchmark has lost more than 3% this week, widening its underperformance versus global peers in 2021, as the spread of the delta variant casts a pall on the outlook for growth. A deepening selloff in Chinese tech shares amid Beijing’s regulatory onslaught is making matters worse for Asia.

Japanese equities fell, pushing the Nikkei 225 Stock Average to its lowest close in seven months, weighed down by heavyweight Toyota, which slid 4.4%. The automaker is cutting its global production for September by 40% from initial plans, the Nikkei reported without attribution. Stocks opened the day lower after the Fed’s meeting minutes signaled that a decision on a reduction of its bond-buying program could happen in 2021. Declines gained momentum in late afternoon trading following a Nikkei report that semiconductor shortages will force Toyota to cut global output for September by 40% from its initial plans. Toyota was the single biggest drag on the Topix, which closed 1.4% lower. Electronics and auto makers weighed the most among industry groups. Chip equipment makers Tokyo Electron Ltd and Advantest Corp. were the largest contributors to a 1.1% loss in the Nikkei 225

Taiwan’s benchmark slumped the most in more than three months, dragged down by losses in chipmakers. Gauges in Hong Kong, South Korea and Indonesia lost about 2% each. “The bottom fishing across Asia we saw yesterday has vanished today,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda Asia Pacific Pte, wrote in a note. “Next week’s Jackson Hole Symposium may give markets more visibility on the Fed’s current thinking, and if not, the September FOMC meeting certainly will.”

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5% lower at 7,464.60, falling for a fourth straight day. The benchmark finished at its lowest since July 30. Miners were the biggest drag as a rout in iron ore accelerated as China pushed forward with a pledge to curb steel production. Sentiment took a hit as Australia suffered its worst day since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with total daily cases surpassing the previous record posted more than a year ago. Australia’s labor market softened in July.  Redbubble was the best performer after reporting earnings. Codan was the biggest laggard after flagging Covid-19 uncertainties around its supply chain. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.9% to 12,956.98.

In FX, the dollar rose to its strongest level since November after Federal Reserve minutes signaled policy normalization will likely start this year and investors sought safe havens amid risk instability. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index advanced with the greenback higher against its Group-of-10 peers except the franc and yen.

“Although yesterday’s Fed minutes did not provide any more strong hawkish signals, the dollar’s role as the ultimate safe haven is continuing to underpin its strong momentum amid more risk instability,” said ING analysts including Francesco Pesole.

Norway’s krone touched almost a one-month low versus the dollar, even after Norges Bank reiterated that the policy rate will most likely be raised in September; oil prices slumped. The Australian and New Zealand dollars fell a fourth straight day against the greenback. The Aussie dipped under 72 U.S. cents for the first time since November as investors ignored the strong headline beats in July employment data and focused instead on the stronger U.S. dollar and a fresh record in Covid-19 numbers in New South Wales. RBNZ Governor Adrian Orr said it was “highly likely” the policy committee would have raised rates yesterday if it were not for the local lockdown.

China's yuan advanced to its highest level since 2016 against a basket of currencies by China’s trading partners. Bonds gain for a third day as traders await the unveiling of China’s benchmark loan rates on Friday. USD/CNY rose above its 200-DMA for the first time since July 2020, up 0.2% to 6.495

In rates, treasuries were higher in early U.S. trading led by the 30-year, whose yield dipped as much as 4.7bp to the lowest level since Aug. 5 amid broad declines for stocks and commodities. The 10Y yield traded sharply lower at 1.225%m while 30-year yield was down ~4.4bp at 1.854%, flattening 5s30s toward 110bp, the low end of its range over the past year; According to Bloomberg, gains for long end appear to have been aided by a block trade in bond futures during Asia session. Japanese bonds traded in a narrow range, with investors scooping up super-long maturities after yields rose on a weak auction

A selloff in commodities deepened, Iron ore plunged more than 10% and copper sank to a four- month low as worries over Chinese steel production, global growth risks and the prospect of reduced U.S. stimulus roiled metals markets. Oil headed for the longest slump since the early days of the pandemic. 

Bitcoin, too, succumbed to the risk-off shift and fell for a fourth day, trading around $44,400 apiece.

Focus on Thursday will be on the Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report, before turning to the Fed’s annual research conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next week for any read about the central bank’s next steps. Many analysts expect the Fed to announce its plan to taper asset purchases as early as the Sept. 21-22 policy meeting. Minutes from the central bank’s July meetingshowed that most policy makers agreed the tapering could start later this year.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.9% to 4,353.75
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 2.0% to 465.06
  • MXAP down 1.7% to 193.21
  • MXAPJ down 1.9% to 632.58
  • Nikkei down 1.1% to 27,281.17
  • Topix down 1.4% to 1,897.19
  • Hang Seng Index down 2.1% to 25,316.33
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.6% to 3,465.56
  • Sensex down 0.3% to 55,629.49
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.5% to 7,464.64
  • Kospi down 1.9% to 3,097.83
  • Brent Futures down 2.8% to $66.32/bbl
  • Gold spot down 0.5% to $1,779.65
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.22% to 93.34
  • German 10Y yield down 1.3 bps to -0.494%
  • Euro down 0.1% to $1.1694

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • The European Central Bank’s recent revamp of plans for interest rates is only a first step in implementing the institution’s new strategy, according to chief economist Philip Lane
  • U.S. corporate bonds haven’t looked this attractive for European and Japanese investors since April, which could keep foreign demand for the securities high in the coming weeks
  • Covid-19 vaccines are less effective against the delta variant, according to results in the U.K. from one of the largest real-world studies into the efficacy of the shots
  • Most Federal Reserve officials agreed last month they could start slowing the pace of bond purchases later this year, judging that enough progress had been made toward their inflation goal, while gains had been made toward their employment objective
  • Australia’s unemployment rate unexpectedly fell further as a decline in hours worked and fewer people seeking jobs cushioned the blow from Sydney’s lockdown in response to an outbreak of the delta variant of coronavirus.
  • Australia suffered its worst day since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with cases surpassing the record posted more than a year ago as an outbreak of the delta variant spreads. In the U.S., President Joe Biden’s administration will start offering booster shots in late September. The president said authorities need to ensure children wear masks in schools and criticized governors who are fighting mandates on face coverings.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reported positive developments in efforts to contain the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, saying officials are confident they have discovered how the delta strain of the virus entered the country.
  • Government-backed investors will recapitalize China Huarong Asset Management Co. after the bad-debt manager posted a record $15.9 billion loss, ending months of speculation over whether Beijing would deem the troubled financial giant too big to fail.
  • Oil slumped below $65 a barrel as the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled that it was set to start tapering asset purchases within months, hurting commodities and supporting the dollar.
  • The International Monetary Fund said that the new government in Afghanistan is cut off from using fund reserve assets days before the nation was set to receive almost $500 million, depriving the Taliban of key resources.

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Stocks across Asia succumbed to the weakness seen across US peers with global risk sentiment pressured after the dust settled from the FOMC Minutes release which despite being perceived as dovish, noted that most participants judged it could be appropriate to start tapering this year, with the losses heading into the Wall St close also exacerbated as the DJIA broke below 35k and the S&P 500 breached its 20DMA to test the 4,400 level to the downside. ASX 200 (-0.5%) was dragged lower by underperformance in the mining and energy sectors after continued losses in underlying commodity prices and with Australia suffering from its worst day of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, while better-than-expected employment data was dismissed after ABS attributed the surprise decline in unemployment to people dropping out of the labour force. Nikkei 225 (-1.1%) failed to benefit from the headway made in USD/JPY as the index was pressured due to the broad risk aversion with Japan also including rare earths to its restrictions for foreign investment and the KOSPI (-2.0%) declined as North Korea effectively put the region on alert for a potential future missile launch. Hang Seng (-2.1%) and Shanghai Comp. (-0.6%) suffered from a collapse in Chinese commodity prices and ongoing regulatory concerns after China's MIIT found 43 apps that violated data transfer rules and ordered the companies involved to make changes or face punishment. The mood was also not helped by the Hang Seng Tech Index declining to its lowest since its launch last year and Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares falling to record lows, as well as the tit-for-tat passenger capacity restrictions imposed on US and Chinese airlines. Finally, 10yr JGBs were flat were subdued after failing to benefit from the negative risk appetite and the BoJ announcement to purchase corporate bonds with 3yr-5yr remaining maturities, while the enhanced liquidity auction results for longer-dated JGBs were relatively inline with the prior.

Top Asian News

  • Luxury Stocks Emerge as Pain Point for China Fears: Markets Live
  • China’s Yuan Survives Dollar Strength to March to Five-Year High
  • China to Halt Metal Sales From State Reserve in August: SHMET
  • Great Wall to Buy Daimler’s Iracemapolis Plant in Brazil

European equities (Stoxx 600 -1.6%) have seen a notably softer start to the session following on from the weak Wall St. finish and downside in Asia-Pac stocks. In terms of drivers for the downside, the selling in the US appeared to be of a more technical nature, and seemingly unrelated to the FOMC minutes which were deemed dovish if anything. Nonetheless, sentiment has remained subdued with focus during the overnight session on the Hang Seng Tech Index which declined to its lowest level since its launch last year whilst Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares falling to record lows. Other bearish impulses include the recent Oxford study on vaccine efficacy, geopolitical concerns surrounding Afghanistan and North Korea and concerns over the passage process for the US’ spending plans. That said, it is questionable how much of a direct effect, if any these factors are having on today’s price action. Futures in the US are weaker with the RTY (-1.2%) lagging the ES (-0.5%). Sectors in Europe are particularly weak with the “best performing” sector (Real Estate) lower to the tune of 1.1%. Basic Resources (-3.4%) names sit at the bottom of the pile, in-fitting with price action in the metals complex and following earnings from Antofagasta (-4.1%) who subsequently lowered their copper output guidance for the year. Luxury names are getting hit particularly hard with losses seen in the likes of Kering (-7.2%), Richemont (-4.3%), LVMH (-5.0%), Christian Dior (-4.2%) and Burberry (-4.1%). Some have ascribed the softness to concerns surrounding wealth redistribution plans in China. These reports were initially noted during yesterday’s hours, however, a further circulation today has led some to connect today’s losses with these concerns as participants digest what the impact could be on the Chinese luxury market. The latest Swiss watch export metrics were released in the pre-market but it’s hard to ascribe the magnitude of the losses to this with watch exports +7.6% on 2019 levels. Auto names have been pressured in the wake of reports in the Nikkei stating that Toyota Motors will reduce its global production for September by 40% from its initial plans amid the chip shortage. Elsewhere, Oil & Gas names are also suffering amid developments in the crude complex with WTI now sub-USD 63/bbl

Top European News

  • Norway’s First Rate Hike Since Crisis Is Flagged for September
  • Nel Plunges 11%; DNB Says Soft Report on Downside
  • Lloyds Targets U.K. Rental Market With Goal to Buy 50,000 Homes
  • Citi Recommends Taking Profit on Peripheral Spread Tighteners

In FX, the broader Dollar and index have extended on its post-FOMC gains during the APAC session, whereby it eclipsed the 93.500 mark (vs 93.214 intraday low) before waning off best levels. The index remains underpinned during early European trade as risk aversion further solidifies. The FOMC minutes were perceived as dovish by market participants, but it is worth noting that the release was from the July meeting – before the blockbuster jobs report, which provided additional fuel to the taper fire and prompted a string of hawkish Fed commentary since. From a Fed standpoint, participants also look ahead to the Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium – with US July PCE overlapping the event on the Friday. Meanwhile, today’s docket sees the US Philly Fed Index for August alongside the weekly jobless claims.

  • AUD, NZD - The high-beta antipodeans are dealt a double-whammy from the firmer Buck and the downfall in base metals, with the Aussie bearing the brunt of slumping copper and iron ore prices. The Aussie also saw its labour force report overnight, which at first glance seems supportive. However, the Aussie Bureau of Statistics poured cold water on the optimism by suggesting that fall in the national unemployment rate in July should not necessarily be viewed as strengthening of the labour market, while it noted that it is an indication of the extent of reduced capacity for people to be active in the labour market and that unemployed people are dropping out of the labour force due to limited ability to look for work. AUD/USD resides just north of 0.7150 at the time of writing vs its 0.7243 intraday best – with the next potential support point at 0.7143 (5th Nov 2020 low). The Kiwi, meanwhile, is lower to a lesser extent as the AUD/NZD cross dips back below 1.0500, whilst Governor Orr’s commentary failed to spur the Kiwi at the time. NZD/USD resides around 0.6825 at the time of writing (vs high 0.6896), with 0.6808 the next potential point of support (13th Nov 2020 low)
  • CAD, NOK - The Petro-G10s meanwhile remain under the influence of the slide in crude prices. USD/CAD has topped 1.2700 from a 1.2648 base to a current peak at 1.2741. In terms of upside levels, the pair eyes the 20th July high at 1.2748 ahead of the 19th July peak at 1.2807. The NOK was unfazed by the uneventful Norges Bank decision – which kept the rate unchanged and reiterated its forward guidance. EUR/NOK hit a current high of 10.5226 vs a 10.4150 base – with potential resistance seen at 10.5240 (10th Aug high)
  • JPY, CHF - Conversely to all the others, the traditional safe havens have gained due to haven demand. USD/JPY declined from its 110.22 peak through its 50 DMA (110.17), 21 DMA (109.85) and 100 DMA (109.65) before finding some support at 109.50. USD/CHF dipped below 0.9150 (vs 0.9206 high) as it eyes its 21 DMA (0.9138) and 100 DMA (0.9124) for near-term support.
  • EUR, GBP - The EUR and GBP initially moved at the whim of the Buck, but losses in GBP picked up after GBP/USD dipped below recent support at 1.3724 (18th/17th Aug lows), and as EUR/GBP topped its 21 DMA (0.8513) as it looks forward to its 50 DMA (0.8548) and 100 DMA (0.8590) ahead of the psychological 0.8600. Meanwhile, EUR/USD was unreactive to commentary from ECB’s lane, who provided little in the way of new substance, whilst a widening in the EZ current account balance was also shrugged off. EUR/USD trades around the middle of its current 1.1667-1.1715 band ahead of 1.1650 and 1.1603 (4th Nov 2020 low).

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures plumb the depths in early European trade as risk sentiment, a firmer Buck, COVID fears and peak growth concerns all take their toll on prices. One possible (and notable) source of the downside could be emanating from the Oxford study which showed AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines efficacy dropping in 90 days compared to two weeks after a 2nd dose with the AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy at 61% and Pfizer vaccine at 75% at 90 days after 2nd dose – intimating a rising threat from the Delta variant. In terms of the supply side – Iranian nuclear talks remain in the balance whilst OPEC members have also been somewhat quiet in the run-up to the decision-making confab at the start of next month. As a reminder, producers agreed to bring back 400k BPD into the market per month – with higher baseline levels seen after April 2022, contingent on the developments that will be reviewed by the JTC/JMMC beforehand. WTI Oct’21 briefly declined to levels sub-63/bbl, while its Brent counterpart lost its USD 66/bbl status from a USD 70/bbl+ high during yesterday’s session. Meanwhile, spot gold remains buoyed amid its inverse relationship with real yields, whilst haven flows also support the yellow metal and negate the opposing Dollar force. Elsewhere, base metals have been under the spotlight with hefty losses seen across the board. LME copper tumbled under USD 9,000/t for the first time since mid-April to a current low of USD 8,738/t (vs high 9,057/t) as peak growth concerns materialise. Elsewhere, iron ore contracts slumped across Asia with Shanghai and Dalian posting losses over some 7% at one point amid China’s continued crackdown on base metals due to the follow-through from factory-gate prices to consumer prices as flagged by State Media and backed by the Caixin reports. China's Iron and Steel Association (CISA) called on steel companies to correctly understand policies and jointly maintain export order in a self-discipline proposal, via a notice on CISA. Note, last week, China cut its steel output target which some have been suggesting is a vehicle to lower iron ore prices, with some traders noting steel producers re-selling iron ore bought under longer-term contracts to miners after China cut its steel output target.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Aug. Initial Jobless Claims, est. 364,000, prior 375,000; Aug. Continuing Claims, est. 2.8m, prior 2.87m
  • 8:30am: Aug. Philadelphia Fed Business Outl, est. 23.1, prior 21.9

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

I can’t tell if it’s supply-chain disruption or just the way things are, but my apartment move last month made me realise just how long it can take for new sofas to get delivered. We fortunately managed to get one for the living room to arrive on move-in day, but the new study currently just has a desk and chair in it for now as we await the arrival of another sofa bed. So it was music to my ears to discover yesterday that it’s finally getting delivered next week. Some may think it’s for guests to stay over, but given the get-up time to send this out, I really think it could work wonders as a post-EMR crash pad. If Jim’s reading this, I will of course be available via email.

It wasn’t quite a crash for financial markets yesterday, but lingering concerns about the delta variant meant that the risk-off tone continued, with investors contemplating a sharp rise in cases across a number of key economies that’s increasingly clouding the outlook for the rest of the year. By the close of trade, the S&P 500 (-1.07%) had posted its largest one day loss in nearly a month after the July FOMC minutes showed that most officials were in favour of tapering bond purchases by the end of 2021. Fed Chair Powell’s speech next week at Jackson Hole will now be all the more in focus, as investors await fresh clues on a potential strategy for tapering.

Prior to the release of the Fed minutes, markets had been in a holding pattern with the S&P 500 down just over -0.1% whilst 10yr Treasury yields were +3bps higher. However the minutes from the July FOMC meeting changed that, stating that most FOMC participants thought “that, provided that the economy were to evolve broadly as they anticipated, they judged that it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.” The committee also discussed the method by which to taper asset purchases, with most participants wanting to “taper Treasuries and MBS proportionally and end them at the same time.” Outside of the taper talk, the minutes showed members wanted to emphasise the decision between tapering and rate hiking would be separate and not dependent on each other. This dovetailed with comments earlier in the day, when we heard from St Louis Fed President Bullard, who said that he preferred that tapering were finished by Q1 2022, and that Q4 2022 was a “logical place” for rate hikes to commence.

Looking at the moves in more depth, the selloff in equities was a pretty broad-based one, with 450 members of the S&P 500 ending the day lower. Cyclicals and growth shares fell in equal measures, with energy (-2.40%), tech hardware (-2.19%) and biotech (-1.57%) all among the worst performers. Treasury yields also dropped after the release, going from a +3bp increase to ending trading just under unchanged (-0.3bps). Separately, the dollar strengthened against other currencies for much of the US trading session, and that strength in turn saw the euro trading beneath $1.17 yesterday for the first time since November last year. However a late selloff following the FOMC minutes and then a bounce back rally left the dollar index just better than unchanged (+0.01%) to close at its highest level since March.

Echoing the decline in risk appetite elsewhere, commodities struggled yet again, with industrial metals such as copper (-2.04%) underperforming in particular in light of the growth in concerns about the delta variant. And in spite of hopes earlier in the session that they’d finally break their run of declines, oil prices couldn’t sustain their morning gains after an EIA report showed US gasoline stockpiles were up +696k barrels in the week ending August 13, marking the first rise in over a month. In response and in accordance with the drop in risk assets, both Brent Crude (-1.16%) and WTI (-1.70%) lost ground for a 5th successive session, which leaves WTI prices down by -14.2% since their closing high just over a month ago.

Overnight Asian markets are following Wall Street’s lead with the Nikkei (-0.73%), Hang Seng (-1.71%), Shanghai Comp (-0.71%) and Kospi (-1.69%) all lower this morning. Outside of Asia, futures on the S&P 500 are also pointing a touch lower at -0.07%. Indeed a number of this week’s patterns are continuing to assert themselves this morning, with Brent crude prices down a further -1.04% overnight, and WTI down -1.34% to trade beneath $65/bbl. Finally, the dollar index (+0.32%) has taken another leg up to move above its closing high for the year back in March, and as it stands is on track to close at its highest level since November 2020.

Turning to the latest on the pandemic, New Zealand reported 11 more cases in the community overnight, which brings the total confirmed in this current outbreak to 21, though Prime Minister Ardern said that they’d identified the source of the cases and believed it came from a person returning from Sydney. Meanwhile in Australia, a further 754 cases were reported yesterday, which is the highest of the entire pandemic so far, with 681 of those in New South Wales. The New Zealand Dollar has suffered significantly in response, and was down -0.47% against the US Dollar yesterday as it became the worst-performing G10 currency for a second day running, and is down a further -0.49% this morning as it’s on track to be the worst performer for a third day.

Staying on the pandemic, we got confirmation yesterday from US public health officials that booster shots would commence from next month, with a plan to begin offering them from the week of September 20, subject to an FDA evaluation and a CDC recommendation. Those who had the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would get a third dose, and the statement also said that booster shots would likely be needed for those who’d received the J&J shot, but administration of that vaccine didn’t begin until March, and they expected more data in the “next few weeks”. The move to rollout booster shots come amidst growing concern that vaccine efficacy could be waning over time, and in their joint statement, the US health officials acknowledged that the available data indicated that protection against infection “begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination”. President Biden also announced that his administration would be requiring nursing homes to fully vaccinate their staffs in order to receive federal funds. With schools either already opened or set to open shortly, President Biden said authorities should ensure that kids wear masks in school where able in order to protect those ineligible for vaccines.

Back in Europe, the newsflow was fairly subdued yesterday as the STOXX 600 (+0.14%) managed to post a modest gain. Defensive sectors led the gains, but there were once again serious divergences by country, with France’s CAC 40 down -0.73%, whereas Spain’s IBEX 35 rose +1.18%. Sovereign bonds told a more consistent story however, with yields on 10yr bunds (-1.0bps), OATs (-1.1bps) and BTPs (-2.2bps) all falling back.

One European story that will increasingly come into focus over the next month is the German federal election on September 26, which has the potential to have a big impact on Europe’s leadership and economic policy in the coming years, particularly with Chancellor Merkel standing down. In recent days the race has shown signs of tightening up again, with another poll released from Forsa yesterday showing that the centre-left SPD had edged ahead of the Greens into second place. That specific poll put Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc on 23%, ahead of the SPD on 21% and the Greens on 19%, which just demonstrates how small shifts in public opinion could have a major impact on the party’s relative positions in the next Bundestag, as well as in any coalition negotiations.

Looking at yesterday’s data, US housing starts hit a 3-month low in July as they fell to an annualised rate of 1.534m (vs. 1.6m expected). However, though building permits rose after 3 successive declines to an annualised 1.635m (vs. 1.61m expected). On the inflation front, we got a downside surprise here in the UK from the July CPI reading, which came in beneath every forecast on Bloomberg at +2.0% (vs. +2.3% expected), and also a tenth beneath the BoE’s staff projection in their August monetary policy report. Core CPI similarly underwhelmed with a +1.8% reading (vs. +2.0% expected), though one area of buoyancy were house prices, which advanced +13.2% year-on-year in June, their fastest annual rise since 2004. Meanwhile in Canada, the July CPI release surprised on the upside, coming in at +3.7% (vs. +3.4% expected), which is the fastest in over a decade.

To the day ahead now, and the data highlights include the weekly initial jobless claims from the US, the Philadelphia Fed’s business outlook for August and the Conference Board’s leading index for July. There’ll also be monetary policy decisions from the Norges Bank and Bank Indonesia, whilst earnings releases include Applied Materials, Estee Lauder and Ross Stores.