S&P Futures Slide Ahead Of Bank Earnings

S&P futures extended their Wednesday decline, dropping in the overnight session with banking shares in focus ahead of results from JPMorgan and Citigroup. European stocks likewise retreated along with the dollar, while Asian shares were mixed.

The dollar continued to face headwinds in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s denouncement of the greenback’s strength and championing of lower interest rates.  U.S. Treasury yields also dropped a fourth day as European bonds gained across the board, compounding a retreat in yields which battered banking stocks. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six trade-weighted peers, fell 0.6 percent to 100.07. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield slid to a five-month low of 2.22 percent.

Bloomberg’s Dollar Spot Index headed for a fourth day of declines after falling below its 200-day moving average on Wednesday. Lenders led the retreat as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid, and futures of the S&P 500 also pointed lower.

Crude oil was little changed after yesterday's EIA report showed record Cushing inventories and another rise in US crude production. Thursday's economic data include initial jobless claims and University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment. Citigroup, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are among companies scheduled to publish results.

"The dollar slid after Trump commented that the currency had risen too high ... (and) saying that he was in favor of low interest rates policy," Mizuho strategists wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

"The U.S. president also appeared to move away from a more confrontational tone against China by acknowledging the country has not intervened to weaken its currency. Following his comments, Treasury yields fell to their lowest this year."

Escalating fears of a new weapons test by North Korea kept investors on edge too, as a U.S. carrier group sails toward the area. Concern over the situation in the area has sent the cost to protect South Korean government debt against default soaring to 9-1/2 month highs.

Taking another look at Trump's jarring Wednesday flipflop, the day's main event, SocGen's Kit Juckes summarizes it as follows: "President Trump doesn't like a strong dollar, does like low interest rates, may yet offer Janet Yellen a second term, recognises that China isn't a currency manipulator, and is struggling to enact policies that will boost US growth. Looked at in that light, perhaps it's only to be expected that the dollar is drifting lower. The medium-term case for the euro to usurp it as strongest of the major currencies grows steadily even if European political uncertainty holds it back in the short term."

10-year Treasury yields are now 22bp lower than they were at the start of 2017. The failure of the healthcare bill and mixed economic data have done most of the damage, though geopolitical uncertainty has played a part and the weight of positioning was a major factor too. Federal Reserve economists publishing a paper arguing we may see rates at the zero bound more frequently in the future, and Ben Bernanke writing an article wondering why inflation expectations haven't fallen as a result (since the Fed will struggle to keep inflation up at 2%) helps the case for ‘normal' yield normalisation, either. With JGB yields down just 4bp and Bund yields down only 1bp, relative yields have been a major driver of dollar weakness against the yen, and a reason for it to fail to make gains against the politically-anchored euro. Even more importantly, lower US yields have provided support for emerging and higher-yielding currencies, despite a series of political risks shaking several EM currencies. The Mexican peso is 2017's strongest currency and the dollar is only up against a handful of stragglers

Big moves in the aftermath of Trump’s remarks, which also signaled a softening stance on China’s currency practices and took in the future of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, added momentum to a jump in volatility across global stock markets. After weeks of relative calm, traders are attempting to get a handle on the president’s unpredictable interventions, rising geopolitical risks, the end of easy central bank cash and key elections in Europe. According to Bloomberg, lower volumes in the shorter trading week before Easter may have compounded the swings.

“Markets look distracted by a whole bunch of contradictory bluster,” Bill Blain, a strategist of Mint Partners in London, wrote in a note. “Let’s not forget we’re facing four days of closed markets. Most institutional investors and the banks have already bedded down their positions ahead of the holidays.”

Surprisingly strong Chinese trade figures, which showed exports surging the most in two years, and Trump's remarks that the United States will not name China a currency manipulator helped boost Asian stocks. A quick recap of Chinese trade data:

Chinese Trade Balance (USD)(Mar) 23.9B vs. Exp. 12.5B (Prey. -9.15B).

  • Exports (USD)(Mar) Y/Y 16.4% vs. Exp. 4.3% (Prey. -1.3%)
  • Imports (USD)(Mar) Y/Y 20.3% vs. Exp. 15.5% (Prey. 38.1%)

China Trade Balance (CNY)(Q1) 455b1n.

  • Exports (CNY)(Q1) Y/Y 14.80%.
  • Imports (CNY)(Q1) Y/Y 31.10%.

Asia MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up about 0.5 percent, while the yen's earlier strength helped push Japan's Nikkei down 0.7 percent. Japanese shares fell for a third day, though they pared the day’s steepest losses as the yen erased an earlier gain. The Australian dollar jumped as employment surged more than expected in March, while South Korean stocks and the won continued a recovery.  Hong Kong stocks fluctuated after China’s overseas shipments last month jumped the most in two years as global demand held up.

European stocks were lower on Thursday. The pan-European index of leading 300 stocks fell 0.5 percent to 1,496 points, Germany's DAX was down 0.4 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.6 percent. European bank stocks were among the hardest hit, down more than 1 percent as the fall in longer-dated bond yields flattened the yield curve. The shrinking premium of long-dated yields over shorter-dated ones hurts banks' profitability.

As European trading got underway, the dollar clawed back some of its earlier losses. It was down 0.1 percent against the yen at 108.90 yen, after touching a five-month low of 108.70. The euro was a touch weaker at $1.0650, after rising as high as $1.0677.

S&P 500 contracts expiring in June were down 0.3 percent at 06:15 a.m. in New York. The benchmark slipped 0.4% on Wednesday, closing below its 50-day moving average for the first time since November.

The euro and euro zone bond yields were also vulnerable to investor unease around the first round of the French presidential election on April 23. Markets are uneasy about the victory chances of both far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has pledged to seek to take France out of the euro, and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has seen his support climb in the polls.

"I think the price action in core yields is mainly shaped by the rising geopolitical concerns but also French election nerves increasing safe-haven flows," said ING strategist Martin Van Vliet.

In commodities, oil prices fell on concerns about rising U.S. output. U.S. crude CLc1 slipped 0.3 percent to $52.95 a barrel, extending Wednesday's 0.5 percent loss that saw it break a six-session winning streak. Brent was also down 0.3 percent at $55.70, failing to make up any of Wednesday's 0.7 percent loss.

Gold pared earlier gains but hovered near a five-month high hit earlier in the session. The precious metal was up around 0.1 percent at $1,287 an ounce.

Today investors will be watching earnings from JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, kicking off an earnings season for big banks. Analysts will listen carefully to what they have to say about the slowdown in commercial loan growth as well as the state of consumer lending amid worries over high levels of student and auto loan. Many markets will be closed tomorrow for the Easter holiday weekend.

Bulletin Headline Summary from RanSquawk

  • European equities looking to close the week on the back with the Eurostoxx down a modest 0.6%, taking the lead from US and Asian bourses
  • Once again, we see the major volatility outside of European hours, with last night's Trump comment on the USD sending USD/JPY below 109.00 in NY
  • Looking ahead, highlights include weekly jobs data, PPI, Uni. Of Michigan

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.2% to 2,336.50
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.4% to 380.25
  • MXAP up 0.1% to 146.98
  • MXAPJ up 0.5% to 481.83
  • Nikkei down 0.7% to 18,426.84
  • Topix down 0.8% to 1,468.31
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.2% to 24,261.66
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.07% to 3,275.96
  • Sensex down 0.3% to 29,544.35
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.7% to 5,889.95
  • Kospi up 0.9% to 2,148.61
  • German 10Y yield fell 2.0 bps to 0.178%
  • Euro down 0.2% to 1.0644 per US$
  • Brent Futures down 0.07% to $55.82/bbl
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 1.9 bps to 2.005%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 3.0 bps to 1.64%
  • Gold spot down 0.06% to $1,286.02
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.5% to 100.27

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Aetna Is Said to Explore Sale of $2 Billion Benefits Unit
  • Texas Drafts Order Blocking NextEra’s $18 Billion Oncor Takeover
  • Broadcom Said to Win Japan Banks’ Backing for Toshiba Chip Bid
  • Oil Stocks Rose in First Quarter Despite OPEC Cut, IEA Says
  • Japan Atomic, Exelon Form JV to Advise on U.K. Nuclear Plant
  • Berkshire Hathaway Sells 7.13m Wells Fargo Shares; To Sell More
  • Infosys Boosts Investor Payout as Sales Forecast Disappoints
  • HSBC Says Companies Already Re-Routing Business Due to Brexit
  • Abbott Gets FDA Warning Letter Over Faulty Device Batteries
  • Loews May be Cut by S&P on Acquisition Announcement
  • Aerie Pharma Says New Safety Data Consistent With Prior Results
  • Amplify Snack Files Trademark Action Against Competitor

Asian markets continued with the week's theme, as geopolitical fears and commentary continued to lead to a risk off tone. The sentiment once again weighed on both the Nikkei 225 (-0.8%) and ASX 200 (-0.8%), with the latter also dampened by poor performance in the materials sector. Hang Seng (-0.1%) and Shanghai Comp (+0.1%) were mixed as the mainland found some mild support after the PBoC's resumed liquidity injections and as participants digested better than expected trade data. 10yr JGBs remained supported amid safe-haven flows with the 10yr Jun'17 JGB trading above the 151.00 level, while today's 30yr auction also spurred upside with average yield falling and average prices increasing from prior. PBOC resumed open market operations and injected CNY 70bIn via 7-day reverse repos, CNY 20bIn via 14-day reverse repos and CNY 20bIn via 28-day reverse repos. The PBoC also injected CNY 83.9bIn through its pledged lending supply facility. PBoC set the CNY mid-point at 6.8651 vs. Prey. 6.8940.

Top Asian News

  • China Exports Jump the Most in Two Years as Imports Moderate
  • PBOC Official Calls for Raising Tolerance on Yuan Fluctuations
  • Singapore Sticks to Neutral Monetary Policy as GDP Contracts
  • China Says It’s Normal to Have Economic Exchanges With N. Korea
  • Malaysia to Let Fund Managers Fully Hedge Currency Exposure
  • Minecraft for Nintendo Switch to Go On Sale May 11
  • Japan to Allow Automatic Car Tests on Public Roads, Nikkei Says

European bourses looked to close the week on the back foot with the Eurostoxx down a modest 0.6%, taking the lead from US and Asian bourses. This comes amid the lingering geopolitical concerns alongside President Trumps comments on a strong USD and interest rates. In terms of worst performing sectors, financial and energy names are leading the losses with the latter weighed by weaker oil prices. Although given the light volumes ahead of the Easter weekend it is likely that moves will be somewhat exacerbated. Across fixed income markets, eurozone bonds are trading higher this morning amid the risk off tone with bunds trading some 25-30 ticks higher, albeit in particularly thin trading conditions ahead of the long weekend. Elsewhere, peripheral markets have regained some ground against their core counterparts but still sit lower for the week.

Top European News

  • Singer’s Zinger: How Elliott Showed Its Hand in Akzo Battle
  • London Housing in Its Deepest Slump Since the Financial Crisis
  • SCA Shares Surge on Report of Bid for Hygiene From Buyout Firms
  • Bund Downside May Increase as Risk Coils; OATs Extend Advance
  • Turkey’s Gezici Sees Yes Vote Slipping to 51.3% in Referendum
  • Apollo, Expobank Among Bidders for Gorenjska Banka, Delo Says

In currencies, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped 0.1 percent to the lowest since March 28 as of 9:49 a.m. in London. The yen was little changed at 109.08 per dollar, after gaining 0.3 percent earlier.  The euro was 0.2 percent lower at 1.0639, falling for the first time in four days. Once again, we see the major volatility outside of European hours, with last night's Trump comment on the USD sending USD/JPY below 109.00 in NY, while EUR/USD pushed back through 1.0650. Losses have since been tempered, but to varying degrees, as the risk mood is still very much to the downside given the events this week. The JPY continues to find a bid across the board, and we would suspect it would be the same for the CHF were the market left to its own devices. USD/CHF has tested back to parity but this has been a mere function of the EUR/USD move higher. EUR/CHF maintains a tight range below 1.0700. For GBP, the market maintains a bid tone, with loose talk of corporate related flow going through. The EUR cross rate looks to be driving trade at present, and despite repatriation/trade real money demand from the mid to upper 0.8400's, intra day players have pounced on the move above 0.8500. Cable is still eyeing 1.2600 higher up, having maintained a firm uptrend since dipping to 1.2370 earlier in the week. The lack of Brexit related headlines have been GBP supportive also.

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate dropped 0.1 percent to $53.06 a barrel, as a government report showed U.S. output expanded to the highest level in more than a year, countering a decline in stockpiles from a record. Gold slipped 0.1 percent to $1,285.91 an ounce after climbing for the past four days to the highest level in five months. Iron ore futures declined 1.1 percent. That’s after the benchmark spot price tumbled 8.5 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day slump since March 2016.  Precious metals are where all the major action lies at present, and as we have spoken of in previous month, the safe-haven factor as now kicked in, with events in Syria and tensions with North Korea prompting a flight to safety and all things tangible. Gold is now staring at a move back through USD1300.00, allied with gains in Silver above USD18.50, with yesterday's comments by president Trump hitting the USD to add to the more familiar correlation seen of late. Oil prices remain buoyed by recent comments from Saudi Arabia that they favour an extension to production cuts, with WTI camped back in the USD50-55 range again. Not too much of note in metals, but Copper prices have found a base amid fresh bearish calls on Iron Ore.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: PPI Final Demand MoM, est. 0.0%, prior 0.3%
    • PPI Ex Food and Energy MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.3%
    • PPI Ex Food, Energy, Trade MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.3%
    • PPI Final Demand YoY, est. 2.4%, prior 2.2%
    • PPI Ex Food and Energy YoY, est. 1.8%, prior 1.5%
    • PPI Ex Food, Energy, Trade YoY, prior 1.8%
  • 8:30am: Initial Jobless Claims, est. 245,000, prior 234,000
    • Continuing Claims, est. 2.02m, prior 2.03m
  • 9:45am: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort, prior 50.2
  • 10am: U. of Mich. Sentiment, est. 96.5, prior 96.9; Current Conditions, est. 112.5, prior 113.2; Expectations, est. 86.5, prior 86.5
    • U. of Mich. 1 Yr Inflation, prior 2.5%
    • U. of Mich. 5-10 Yr Inflation, prior 2.4%

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

The market is struggling to clear the bar this week as we approach the Easter break but much of the overnight headlines concern Mr Trump's comments to the media. In an interview with the WSJ, Trump said that the US Dollar “is getting too strong” and attributed that partially to because “people have confidence in me”. Trump also added that “it’s very hard, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency”. Interestingly though the President then also said that China are not currency manipulators. Remember that in the past Trump had routinely criticized President Obama for not labelling China a currency manipulator. In addition to these comments, in the same interview the President also said that “I do like a low-interest rate policy” despite previously criticising Yellen for not raising rates during his campaign.

Indeed Trump also said in the interview that, while still very early in the process, he’d consider re-nominating Yellen for another term as Chair of the Fed, saying that he likes and respects her. Away from this there were similar u-turns made on NATO which Trump now no longer calls obsolete in a separate press conference with the NATO Secretary General, while Trump also lent his support behind the Export-Import Bank.

The Greenback had been trading sideways for much of the session however Trump’s comments sent the Dollar sharply lower into the close last night with the Dollar index finishing down about -0.60%. EM currencies were the biggest beneficiaries of that with the likes of the Turkish Lira (+1.36%), Mexican Peso (+1.26%) and Argentine Peso (+0.62%) all sharply higher although G-10 currencies also rose meaningfully with the Euro (+0.56%) and Yen (+0.54%) standing out. Meanwhile Treasury yields continued to march lower on the low rate comment. Indeed 10y yields are hovering around 2.221% this morning which is 8bps lower versus the level prior to the headlines hitting our screens. That means 10y yields are now down over 16bps this week alone and about 40bps from the March highs. Last night’s closing level was also the lowest since November 16th President Trump’s turnaround on China is notable and it’s clear that the North Korea situation has taken over as the immediate concern and more important issue for now compared to the currency debate. The President said in that press conference with the NATO Secretary General last night that “President Xi wants to do the right thing” and that “I think he wants to help us with North Korea”.

This follows a tweet earlier in the day from the President in which he labelled North Korea a “menace”. On the subject of North Korea, a Reuters article last night suggested that foreign journalists visiting North Korea have been told to prepare for a “big and important event” today, without any further suggestion about what this could mean.

Away from Trump, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow yesterday. Based on the comments which came out of the press conference it would suggest that it was a fairly tense and difficult discussion. Tillerson said that “there is a low level of trust between our two countries” and that “the world’s two foremost nuclear powers can’t have this kind of relationship”. With geopolitical tensions clearly still high, volatility  continues to inch higher with the VIX yesterday up another 4.64% to 15.77 and extending the 5-month high. The S&P 500 (-0.38%) retreated for its biggest decline in over 3 weeks while the Dow (-0.29%) also edged lower. In Europe the Stoxx 600 (+0.19%) did actually manage to eke out a small gain although a number of regional benchmarks closed down and the VSTOXX stabilised around the YTD highs.

This morning in Asia the focus has again turned to China where this time the March trade data has been released. In USD terms, exports were reported as rising +16.4% yoy in March (vs. +4.3% expected) and up from -1.3% the month prior. It’s a similar story in Yuan terms also with exports surging to +22.3% yoy (vs. +8.0% expected) from +4.2%. A moderation in USD imports (+20.3% yoy from +38.1%) has helped to support a larger than expected trade surplus. China equity markets have recovered from early losses at the open but are only back to unchanged on the day. Elsewhere a strong last 24 hours for  Asia FX has put pressure on the likes of the Nikkei (-1.14%) and ASX (-0.78%) while the Kospi (+0.33%) is actually a shade firmer. It is worth noting that volumes are unsurprisingly thin this morning as we approach the long weekend and with that in mind it’s worth highlighting that all major European bond and stock markets will be closed tomorrow along with US equity markets, while the Treasury market will shut at noon tomorrow. European bond and equity markets are also closed on Monday but US markets will be open.

Moving on. As the clock ticks down to the first round French presidential election in 10 days, we are keeping a much closer eye on the moves in the polls and it’s worth highlighting the Ifop-Fiducial poll released yesterday (and covering 9-12th April). It revealed a small 0.5% drop in support for Macron to 22.5% in the first round, while Le Pen’s support also showed a small decline to 23.5%. At the same time support for Melenchon was stable at 18.5% and support for Fillon also stable at 19%. While Melenchon’s support being stable, as opposed to rising, is supportive for risk the decline for Macron and tightening in the spread between the leading 3 candidates to Le Pen in the first round is clearly less so. Indeed the spread between Macron and Melenchon is now just 4%. If you use the same pollster and go back to April 7th then that spread was 6.5% and if you go back further to April 3rd then the spread was 11%. French assets have remained relatively resilient all things considered but should the momentum in the polls continue over the next week then it wouldn’t take much for this story to become the dominant focus for the market again. It’s worth also noting the Le Monde article yesterday in which outgoing President Francois Hollande said that he fears the possibility of a Le Pen-Melenchon second round race.

Elsewhere, yesterday’s macro data was again a bit of an afterthought. In the US the March monthly budget statement revealed a larger deficit compared to a year ago of $176bn. Meanwhile the import price index reading for March declined -0.2% mom as expected. Over in Europe the significant data was again reserved for the UK where the latest employment indicators were released. Employment rose a fairly modest 39k in February (vs. 70k expected) while the ILO unemployment rate held steady at 4.7% as expected. Meanwhile weekly earnings ex bonuses rose +2.2% yoy in the 3 months to February which, while down twotenths from the prior reading, was marginally higher than expected. Away from that there was some Fedspeak although it didn’t really move the dial. The Dallas Fed’s Kaplan confirmed that “the objective and the initiative to let the balance sheet run off does not alter my views as to what the path of rates should be”.

Looking at the day ahead, this morning in Europe the significant data of note will be the final March CPI revisions in Germany, France and Italy. Away from that we will also get the BoE credit conditions and bank liabilities surveys. This afternoon in the US we’ll get March PPI, initial jobless claims and a first look at the April University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey. Away from the data we’ve got some important earnings releases in the US with Citigroup, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo all reporting prior to or at the US open.