Global Equities Hit New All Time High Ahead Of The Fed; VIX < 10; Japan Stocks Surge

S&P futures are little changed as the Fed begins its two-day FOMC meeting pushing the VIX below 10, down 1.3% and falling for the 7th day; European shares are lower as is the dollar while Japanese stocks soar on the back of a tumbling yen as a snap election in Japan now appears imminent. Despite the cautious action ahead of the Fed, the The MSCI All-Country World Index rose 0.1% to a new record high.

Among the notable overnight moves, the USDCNH climbed to highest since late August ahead of this week’s FOMC decision. Ten-year Treasury yields fell 1 bp; Australia’s 10-year gained 1 bp. Japanese equities rose 1.5% ahead of an expected snap election to be called by PM Abe this week; China and Hong Kong shares declined. WTI crude holds just below $50; Dalian iron ore contract dropped. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed before tomorrow’s Fed’s policy decision, when interest-rate projections are seen drawing more attention than any balance-sheet announcement as tapering is seen as a given. The euro was supported by unwinding of shorts against the pound and by yen selling amid improved risk appetite and reports of Japan PM Abe calling for snap elections. Treasuries were underpinned in Asian hours as Japanese investors returned after Monday’s holiday, while price action was muted in London trading.

Meanwhile, nobody appeared concerned about tomorrow's Fed announcement, where the balance sheet unwind is expected while attention will focus on any revision to the Fed's dots. “We are not overly concerned about” the Fed’s quantitative-tightening plans, Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust head of fixed-income strategy Matthew Diczok told Bloomberg TV. “If you model it out, over about the next three years they’ll take out about $1.3 trillion or so. That’s only a third of what they put into the market. So it’s going to be very slow, very gradual, very deliberate and it shouldn’t lead to any near-term fireworks into the market at all.”

Following the recent improvement in data, December rate hike odds once again rose back to 50%, suggesting another rate hike may be possible this year.

JP Morgan Asset Management portfolio manager Iain Stealey said markets were now fully set for the Fed to officially announce it will cut, or taper, the amount it re-invests from the profits of its $4.2 trillion crisis-era bond portfolio. “They have already announced the amounts they are going to start with, $10 billion on a monthly basis and probably starting over the next month or so,” Stealey said. “What may be more important to keep an eye on is the dot-plot. We still think they will have the dots set up to expect one more hike this year, which will obviously be in December, and three next year.”

With little in terms of overnight newsflow, the highlight was Japanese shares which surged to their highest level in more than two years as the yen weakened for a third day, bolstering appetite for electronics makers, autos and banks. Japanese equities gained on expectations Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call a snap election. As reported on Sunday, Prime Minister Abe is considering calling a poll for as early as next month to take advantage of his improved approval ratings in the wake of the North Korea crisis, and disarray in the main opposition party, according to sources. The benchmark Topix index extended gains after capping its best week since April on Friday, as investor focus shifted to economic fundamentals from concerns over North Korea. The yen dropped to an almost two-month low against the dollar Tuesday.

Abe said Monday he’ll decide on calling a snap election after he returns from a trip to the U.S., confirming our previous report that he’s considering calling a vote a vote more than a year early, prompting speculation for more fiscal stimulus while keeping the BOJ on hold. “The weaker yen is providing tail wind to export-related stocks” after the market shrugged off the North Korea’s missile launch last week, Hiroaki Hiwada, a strategist at Toyo Securities told Bloomberg. “The equity market is taking the news about a possible snap election positively as it boosts expectations Abe’s coalition parties will retain power.” As a result, "Japanese shares generally gain around calls to hold new elections", Nomura Securities wrote in a report.

Stefan Worrall, director of Japan equity sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo said there has been concern growing for a while among foreign investors about the future of Abe’s stimulus-focused Abenomics program. “If Abe is cemented in power for another few years, that would be a market-positive event,” he said. “Certainty is preferred to uncertainty, when it comes to market confidence.”

The Nikkei’s 2 percent jump overnight took its gain to almost 30 percent since Abe took power in late 2012.

Another notable overnight move was the sudden drop in the yuan, where the CNH tumbled to a two-and-a-half week low as a state-run firm was said to be buying dollars to make dividend payments. The onshore yuan dropped as much as 0.34% to 6.5987 per dollar and was down 0.12% at 6.5838 as of this morning. In addition to the currency move, the PBOC pumps in net 150b yuan ($23b) via reverse- repurchase agreements, after adding 300b yuan Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia the mood had been more subdued. South Korean shares dipped 0.1 percent, against a backdrop of caution ahead of the Fed meeting as well as continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula. The MSCI Emerging Market Index decreased 0.3 percent, the largest dip in more than two weeks. Asian stock traded cautiously ahead of the FOMC and as the region failed to maintain the early impetus from US where financials led the S&P 500 and DJIA to fresh record closes. Australia's ASX 200 (-0.1%) and Nikkei 225 (+2.0%) were positive in which the latter surged as it played catch up to the gains on return from holiday, while weakness in defensive stocks restricted upside in Australia. Shanghai Comp. (-0.2%) and Hang Seng (-0.4%) were dampened despite another firm PBoC liquidity operation, with the underperformance in China the rest of the region attributed to profit taking. The PBOC injected net 150b yuan in open-market operations on Tuesday, bringing the additions since last Thursday to 750b yuan. 10yr JGBs lacked demand amid the positive risk tone in Japan and although the BoJ were present in the bond market, this was for a relatively reserved JPY 535bln total.

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index was fractionally in the red, amid mixed regional benchmarks. Gauges from Hong Kong to South Korea had retreated earlier, even as Japan soared following a holiday on Monday. Germany’s DAX Index decreased 0.1 percent while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.2%. The pound reversed an advance as investors weighed the latest political disarray over Brexit strategy, and the euro headed for a fourth daily advance.  Elevated risk appetite in Europe meanwhile saw the gap between Portuguese and Italian 10-year government bond yields narrow to levels not seen since the start of the euro zone debt crisis of 2010-2012. That followed a strong rally in Portuguese debt over the last two sessions, after S&P became the first major ratings agency to give the country back an investment grade rating, more than five years after it first sank into junk territory.

In currencies, Britain's sterling also started to retreat again having been pushed off post Brexit highs on Monday by Bank of England governor Mark Carney who said any upcoming UK rate hikes would be gradual and limited. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell less than 0.05 percent. The euro increased 0.2 percent to $1.1978, the strongest in more than a week. The British pound decreased 0.1 percent to $1.3477.

In commodity markets, metals shifted lower and oil prices steadied near last week’s multi-month highs. Traders braced for a potential stockpile build-up expected later this week, limiting the prospect for further gains. U.S. crude futures were up 19 cents at just above $50 per barrel, within sight of Thursday’s nearly four-month high of $50.50. Brent crude hovered at $55.50, not far from an almost five-month high of $55.99 it had marked that day.

In rates, the yield on 10-year Treasuries fell one basis point to 2.22 percent, the largest fall in more than a week. Germany’s 10-year yield declined one basis point to 0.45 percent, the biggest fall in more than a week. Britain’s 10-year yield declined two basis points to 1.281 percent, the largest fall in more than a week.

On the news front, President Trump is scheduled to address the United Nations on Tuesday for the first time as world leaders continue to seek a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear provocations. Data include August housing starts and 2Q current account. Adobe, AutoZone, Copart, FedEx are among companies reporting earnings. The Iraq Oil Minister said he does not think now that there is a need for more output reductions, but if there was a need for more cuts in the future, Iraq will support consensus within OPEC, Adding, that there are proposals for more cuts, but he does not think it will be implemented, but will be studied.

Bulletin Headline Summary

  • European bourses trade with little in the way of firm direction ahead of upcoming risk events this week
  • GBP/USD saw some selling pressure early doors with initial gains in USD/JPY trimmed throughout the session
  • Looking ahead, highlights include NZ Dairy Auction and US APIs

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures little changed at 2,503.20
  • VIX Index down 1.3%, falling for the 7th day
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.1% to 381.66
  • MSCI Asia up 0.5% to 164.03
  • MSCIA Asia ex Japan down 0.3% to 543.02
  • Nikkei up 2% to 20,299.38
  • Topix up 1.8% to 1,667.88
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.4% to 28,051.41
  • Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,356.84
  • Sensex up 0.09% to 32,453.75
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1% to 5,713.58
  • Kospi down 0.09% to 2,416.05
  • German 10Y yield fell 0.6 bps to 0.449%
  • Euro up 0.3% to $1.1984
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 0.6 bps to 1.78%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 1.4 bps to 1.573%
  • Brent futures up 0.3% to $55.67/bbl
  • Gold spot little changed at $1,308.52
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.2% to 91.87

Top Overnight News

  • EU wants the Paris-based regulator European Securities and Markets Authority to get a bigger role in reviewing fund managers’ activities, Financial Times reports, citing plans seen
  • Japanese Prime Minister said he is considering dissolving parliament to hold a snap general election, ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters in Tokyo; Abe to express his intention to dissolve the Lower House at a press conference on Sept. 25, FNN reports, without attribution
  • French President Macron is planning to provide details on his proposals for euro-zone reforms in a speech on the future of EU on Sept. 26, FT reports, citing unidentified aides; proposal includes a separate budget, a finance ministry and a European Monetary Fund
  • Norway’s sovereign wealth fund hit $1 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, driven higher by climbing stock markets and a weaker U.S. dollar
  • Germany ZEW Sept. survey expectations 17 vs est. +12
  • Toys ‘R’ Us Seeks Bankruptcy, Crushed by Debt and Online Rivals
  • BNP Among Firms Said to Be Eyeing Axa Asset- Management Tie-Up
  • Mexico’s Femsa Sells $3 Billion Stake in Brewer Heineken
  • Park Hotels Is Said to Seek Over $500 Million for 15 Properties
  • Bayer Sees Monsanto Transaction Closing Delayed to Early 2018
  • Wall Street’s Bond Gurus Have It All Wrong as QE Unwind Looms
  • Trump at UN to Urge Action on North Korea, Iran Threat; U.S. to Act on North Korea Rockets That Pose Threat, Mattis Says
  • Maria Weakens as Storm Passes Dominica on Way to Puerto Rico
  • Brexit Rift Widens as Johnson Talks of Life After Government

Asia equity markets traded with a cautious tone as the FOMC draws closer and after the region failed to maintain the early impetus from US where financials led the S&P 500 and DJIA to fresh record closes. ASX 200 (-0.1%) and Nikkei 225 (+2.0%) were initially positive in which the latter surged as it played catch up to the gains on return from holiday, while weakness in defensive stocks restricted upside in Australia. Shanghai Comp. (-0.2%) and Hang Seng (-0.4%) were dampened despite another firm PBoC liquidity operation, with the underperformance in China the rest of the region attributed to profit taking. 10yr JGBs lacked demand amid the positive risk tone in Japan and although the BoJ were present in the bond market, this was for a relatively reserved JPY 535bln total. PBoC injected CNY 130bln via 7-day reverse repos and CNY 20bln via 28-day reverse repos. PBoC set CNY mid-point at 6.5530 (Prev. 6.5419). Japanese PM Abe is told hold a press conference on Monday 25th September; comes in the context of recent speculation that he could call a snap election.

Top Asian News

  • Hong Kong Dollar Surges With Hibor Rates as HKMA Mops Up Cash
  • Goldman Sachs Names Hitchner Chairman, CEO Asia-Pacific Ex- Japan
  • Markets Are Betting That Japan’s Abe Would Win a Snap Election
  • Alibaba Is Said to Buy $100 Million in Best Inc.’s Downsized IPO
  • Tata Is Said to Be Boosting Carmaker Stake for $312 Million

European equity markets trade in subdued fashion, as much anticipation remains on the FOMC tomorrow. EU bourses are mixed for the session, failing to gather any bullish impetus from another record close on Wall Street, not helped by a morning bullish grind in the Euro. Equity specific stories have also dragged down markets, noticeably, Heineken is a leading faller, down close to 4%, after bottler and retailer Femsa has sold a 5.24% stake in the firm. Kantar and Nielsen released their 12-week supermarket sales, helped lead to Sainsbury’s and Morrisons to be two of the out-performers in the FTSE. The grocer optimism has not spread however, with despite what appeared to be strong results for Ocado, the concerns of rising costs have seen the Co. down over 4%. Bond markets have traded in a consolidated range through the European morning. Spreads have seen some marginal volatility, the 10y Spain/Germany has been tightening on the back of Portuguese bonds. PGBs continue to stand out, being down as much as 2-4.0bps along the curve, with the 10y trading through -2.40%. Supply has come from the DMO this morning who came to market with a 30yr auction which drew a smaller b/c than previous (albeit still healthy at 1.97) and a wider tail than previous but did little to cause traction in longer duration paper.

Top European News

  • Merkel Eyes BMW Homeland for Final Election Boost After Spat
  • Carney Says U.K. Rate Increase Looms in Brexit-Hobbled Economy

In currencies, the pound has seen some marginal selling this morning, as cable looks to attempt a break through yesterday’s low. Position unwinding in cable is evident as the Fed is due tomorrow, with buyers potentially not convinced by Carney’s 'gradual and limited’ comments. Elsewhere, an upbeat ZEW report from Germany failed to inspire any noteworthy price action in the EUR. USD/JPY caught a bid heading into European trade after breaking above the prior session’s highs before dissipating throughout the EU session. AUD was largely unreactive to an unsurprising minutes release where the RBA stuck to its usual rhetoric.

In commodities, oil markets have been relatively unfazed by the speech from the Iraq Oil Minister who said there are proposals for more OPEC cuts, yet with no clear clarity the OPEC extension comments seem disconcerting to markets. WTI crude futures has seemed to consolidate above 49.50, above 50/bbl and looking to break through 50.50, where stops are likely to be triggered. Price action in metals has been subdued overnight with copper also relatively subdued.

Looking at the day ahead, there are housing starts, building permits, current account balance and the import / export price index. President Trump is scheduled to address the United Nations on Tuesday for the first time as world leaders continue to seek a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Housing Starts, est. 1.17m, prior 1.16m; Housing Starts MoM, est. 1.65%, prior -4.8%
    • Building Permits, est. 1.22m, prior 1.22m; Building Permits MoM, est. -0.81%, prior -4.1%
  • 8:30am: Current Account Balance, est. $116.0b deficit, prior $116.8b deficit
  • 8:30am: Import Price Index MoM, est. 0.4%, prior 0.1%; Import Price Index YoY, est. 2.2%, prior 1.5%
    • Export Price Index MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.4%; Export Price Index YoY, prior 0.8%

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

It's been a quiet start to the week ahead of the important Fed meeting today and tomorrow, but no news is good news as risk continues to recover from a few difficulties in recent weeks. In fact the VIX briefly fell below 10 yesterday for the first time since the 7th of August (closed 10.15). Elsewhere, the S&P edged up 0.15% to consolidate around its record high.

There was a bit more action in sovereign bond yields yesterday, in particular for Portugal where its 10y yields fell 37bp, mainly reflecting S&P’s upgrade of its credit rating back to investment grade (BBB-) - the first main agency to do so since 2012. The spread to Bunds has now narrowed to 196bp, which is the lowest since January 2016. Other peripherals slightly outperformed too, with Italian BTPs (2Y: -1bp; 10Y: -1bp) and Spanish (2Y: +0.5bp; 10Y: -1.6bp) yields down c1bp, with Ireland’s 10y yields unchanged after Moody’s upgraded its rating from A3 to A2-. Core bond yields underperformed, but changes were modest, with Bunds (2Y: +1bp; 10Y: +2bp) and Gilts (2Y: +3bp; 10Y: unch) up slightly, while UST 10yr also rose 2.6bp.

Turning to the UK, BOE’s governor Carney spoke at IMF’s headquarters and reiterated the need for some withdrawal of stimulus if the UK economy evolves as expected. On rates, he noted that there are global factors that could justify UK’s potential move to hike rates, in part as UK’s monetary policy “has to move in order to stand still” and that Brexit undermines UK’s supply capacity and makes it harder for the economy to grow without generating inflationary pressures. However, relative to the hawkish BOE tone set last week, some interpreted his rate hike comments of “gradual and to a limited extent” as a bit dovish, partly contributing to a softening in Sterling yesterday (-0.73%). On Brexit, he said there remains “considerable risks to the UK outlook” and that the Brexit process would weigh on the economy’s potential growth for a period.

Elsewhere, at a Reuter’s interview, ECB’s governing council member Ardo Hansson reiterated that solid Eurozone growth will allow the ECB to dial back stimulus but normalisation will be gradual. Notably, he called out that ECB’s “forward guidance could be more precise about interest rates”.

This morning in Asia, markets are paring back initial gains and are now trading broadly unchanged ahead of the FOMC meeting. As we type, the Nikkei is up 1.47%, partly playing catch up as the market was closed yesterday for holiday. Elsewhere, the Hang Seng (-0.07%), Kospi (-0.05%) and ASX 200 (+0.05%) are fairly flat. The UST 10y is also trading a bit firmer (-1bp) this morning. In his first visit to the UN, President Trump has said that a decision on Iran’s nuclear deal will be seen “very soon” and that the UN has not reached its full potential. Trump's first official address will occur later today so eyes will be on that.

Turning back to markets yesterday. Equities strengthened further in both the US and Europe, but changes were modest, in part as investors await for the FOMC meeting. The S&P edged 0.15% higher, while the Nasdaq and the Dow rose 0.10% and 0.28% respectively. Within the S&P, gains were led by the financials (+1.02%) and materials sector, partly offset by losses from utilities. European markets were all higher, with the Stoxx and DAX both up c0.3%, while the FTSE firmed 0.52% following four consecutive days of losses.

Currency markets were fairly quiet excluding the changes for Sterling, where it weakened 0.73% and 0.77% versus the Greenback and Euro respectively. Elsewhere, the US dollar index gained 0.19% and EURUSD rose 0.08%. In commodities, WTI oil was broadly flat again while precious metals fell (Gold -0.97%; Silver -2.15%) given the bias away from safe haven assets. Elsewhere, base metals as per LME prices have broadly increased, with Copper (+0.31%), Aluminium (+0.17%) and Zinc (+2.21%) all slightly higher.

Away from the markets and onto the topic of elections. In Spain, the Catalan government has passed a law organising an independence referendum on 1 October, although the move has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts and government. The Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos warned yesterday that Catalonia’s independence would result in an automatic exit from the EU and that the hit to Catalonia’s economy would be “brutal”, with GDP falling 25%-30% and unemployment to double. The Catalonia region accounts for c20% of Spain’s GDP. Moody’s noted earlier the vote was negative for credit, but it expects the Catalonia region to remain part of Spain.

Over in Germany, according to ARD Deutschland-trend, the winner of the upcoming election seems to be clearly Merkel’s CDU/CSU party, but the composition of the next coalition is not so clear. DB’s Stefan Schneider takes a look at the coalition scenarios and their possible implications for Germany’s economic and EU policies as well as financial markets. For more details Turning to Japan, there were weekend reports that PM Shinzo Abe is considering an earlier Lower House election sometime in October 2017. Our Japanese team notes the move appears to be motivated by a rebound in Abe’s approval ratings and his potential intent to lengthen his time in power. Our team thinks that a key economic focus in this election (if it takes place),could be whether the consumption tax should be raised as planned in October 2019 from 8% to 10% and a transformation of the social security system from one orientated towards the elderly to one focused on all generations.

Before we move to today’s calendar a few things to wrap up. First the latest ECB CSPP holdings were released yesterday. They bought €2.12bn last week which equates to €423mn/dayvs. €348mn/day since CSPP started. After the summer lull and with more primary issuance, the ECB have made up for the low levels of summer buying with the CSPP/PSPP ratio of net purchases at 19.2% last week (vs. 13.6%, 12%, 10.3%, 9.6%, 11.4% in previous weeks). The CSPP/PSPP ratio since the taper in April has been c.12.9% which is higher than the pre-taper ratio of 11.6%. So still suggesting the ECB has tapered credit purchases less than Government bonds.

Circling back to Brexit, Oliver Robbins has left his post as the official in charge of the Brexit department to focus full time on the Brexit negotiations. This coupled with PM Theresa May’s big speech later this week could add momentum back to the stalled negotiation talks with the EU.

Finally, turning to a fairly quiet day for key macro data, in the US, the NAHB Housing market index was slightly lower than expected at 64 (vs. 67), with both the current sales and sales expectations indices returning to their July readings. In Europe, the final reading of Eurozone’s August inflation was unchanged, with headline inflation at 1.5% yoy (0.3% mom) and core at 1.2% yoy. Italy’s total trade balance for July increased to $6.6bln (vs. $4.5bln previous). In the UK, the Rightmove index pointed to a further softening of the housing market in September, with nationwide asking prices falling 1.2% mom, leaving annual growth at 1.1% yoy – the slowest pace since February 2012.

Looking at the day ahead, the Eurozone’s current account and construction output stats are due. There is the ZEW survey on economic growth for Germany and the Eurozone. Over in the US, there are housing starts, building permits, current account balance and the import / export price index. Onto other events, Germany’s Merkel will give a pre-election interview to RTL television.