Watch For Signals On RMB After China Returns

Markets in China will be open again from tomorrow after the Chinese New Year holidays. Fundamentals still support the amid China’s steady economic recovery. Of late the People’s Bank of China has consistently set the daily fix slightly weaker than market expectations

The PBoC and State Administration of Foreign Exchange have jointly taken steps to slow down capital inflows and encourage outflows by adjusting the so-called Macro Prudential Assessment framework to manage onshore companies’ capabilities to lend to and borrow from overseas.

Both measures haven’t been aggressive enough to stop the RMB from extending its rally, which suggests that the central bank is not necessarily uncomfortable with a stronger currency. With China’s ‘dual circulation’ strategy, there’s less pressure on the currency to stay competitive against the . However, the key message from officials in China is that the pace of appreciation needs to slow down.

Still in the Sweet Spot

It seems that after our third cup of coffee and getting over the US yield shocker we slide back into the comfy sweet spot where recovery prospects are good enough to buy risk, but still too weak for policymakers to remove stimulus. The surprisingly quick end to the Trump impeachment trial at the weekend has provided another market boost as the Dems will now fully concentrate on getting the fiscal package through.

And while our official UBS view is that even at close to USD1.9 trn it might have a muted impact, I think the market will have to price in a higher probability of the tail risks materializing, which should push US yields higher still. But as long as the Fed keeps the front end anchored, that should allow equity markets to keep performing.

Central bank policy normalization will likely become the next theme of focus in sequencing events as Powell has done too well a job of lulling the market into a sense of complacency, ironically planting the seeds for a taper tantrum scenario…but just not today.

Risk is floundering this morning

It’s difficult to tell if we have reached any significant inflexion points, but it’s certainly starting to feel that the rip higher in US bond yields at least on the margins could be the match in the stimulus powder barrel.

MARKETS

US equities were little changed Tuesday,  up 0.1% heading into the close. Another big sell-off in fixed income; however, US yields up 9bps to 1.3%. up 0.8% to remain around 13-month highs. Simultaneously, the US output gap and inflation remain at the center of virtually all market debate. 

The Reopen and Reflation trade continues to outperform, and its no surprise to see banks and energy in the lead. However, the Long Growth and Momentum trade is fading. There was plenty of red on the tape as those sector investors are getting antsy about higher US yields. 

Still, for the most part, investors remain reassured by expectations of another round of US stimulus and ongoing support from the Fed. Critical in the narrative is that the House Democrats must keep pedal to the metal on the reflationary bus as the market hopes for a swift and sizeable fiscal package is equally on maximum overdrive. US Fed rhetoric has been keen to downplay tapering talk, and the from the January meeting are likely to repeat this tone.

will be this week’s US marquee data point, released later today. And It would be a considerable understatement to say there’s a concern in some corners about the US consumer. The January suggested the services sector remains mired in a recessionary wet blanket, even as and PMIs send conflicting signals. So, an upbeat US retail sales could provide the all-encompassing “proof is in the pudding” investors need to take the next massive leap of faith.

Structural Inflation 

Structural reflation remains the most likely path forward as populations are increasingly inoculated, and US fiscal stimulus expectations crescendo into March. Meanwhile, central bank policy normalization will likely become the next theme of focus in sequencing events as Powell has done too well a job of lulling the market into a sense of complacency, ironically planting the seeds for a taper tantrum scenario.

At what point will rising yields upset the apple cart?

But with 10-year yields above 1.3 % and WTI above $60 now acting as a recovery drag, the risk outlook is becoming more treacherous and could be why the S&P 500 is floundering this morning. It’s difficult to tell if we have reached any significant inflexion points but its certainly starting to feel that the rip higher in US bond yields at least on the margins could be a match in the stimulus powder barrel That being said it remains to be seen if how any real drags will hinder the raging bull driving equity market sentiment these days. 

The move in rates has been swift and ferocious as the market has rightfully shifted focus back towards improving data, progressing vaccinations, fiscal stimulus in the US, and a Fed intent on reflating the US economy. Inflation expectations can act as a positive impulse for equities but are nearing levels where they became a headwind or at minimum cause investors to pause for a more in-depth look at all the reflationary headline noise. 

While it isn’t time yet to flatten reflationary risk altogether, it does appear some investors may be reducing some stock market beta risk in the face of skyrocketing US yields. But this is not just US yields rocketing. There is a move afoot globally, suggesting that future monetary policy implications are getting priced into the curve at some level, making money flat out more expensive along the curve. 

Look at the wires and the headlines on screens, and the message is “reflation trade.” The memo gets passed accordingly, but there is a reason why is trading below $1800. US Treasuries aren’t necessarily reflecting a “reflation trade” well, and certainly not on this latest yield’s swift runner. Of the 9bp gain in the 10-year yield, only 3bp is from inflation expectations. The other 6bp is from real rates. It’s not term premium that’s rising; it’s the actual hard cost of money.

Back end and Treasuries are re-pricing the Fed. Still, nothing out to the end of 2023 can shift – unless one wants to bet against near-term Fed guidance. That’s why the Treasury yields are in check at 12bp, and the front of the Euro Dollar strip is all but unchanged. But after that point, things start to unravel quickly as its turning into OPEN season on Bond desks from Sydney to New York and everywhere between 

For the most part, stocks are shrugging this off, perhaps viewing the recent yield jump as an extension of the reflation theme, while lifting all boats tied to economic growth and stocks that look attractive to global price pressure points. At the same time, retail traders, many of whom don’t understand the difference between real and nominal yields, continue to ride the wave of speculative bliss on virtually every momentum assets spurred on by social media influencers.

Looking at the market flow and a thinly bid yield curve Treasuries are far from considered cheap at this level as no one wants to stand in the way of higher yields suggesting the move has much further to run. At some point, the markets could eventually notice that yields do not reflect a cyclical uptick but rather a central bank policy pivots. But from my seat, it looks like we are going full circle back to mid-Jan taper tantrum trade and all the while markets have seemingly” back shelved” the topic of the Biden administration tax hikes. 

Oil MARKETS

The US’s ongoing power crisis continues to support oil, with freezing weather boosting energy demand and disrupting supply in key producing regions. Kind of the perfect storm for oil bulls if you may 

Crude prices hang on to  Monday’s rally as the US cold snap continues to play havoc with domestic energy markets. By its nature, snow in Texas is a temporary thing, and it will reverse as quickly as the weather patterns change.

Today, however, oil is trading lower via a  stronger US dollar which is gaining a head of steam with  US yields ripping higher and both are stepping up to challenge the bullish reflation momentum. 

Still, this is one of the worst Mother Nature r catastrophes I can ever remember while catching the oil complex wrong-footed at the supply levels. Many of Texas’s refiners remain shut and putting things in perspective; it’s at the double the number closed during hurricane Harvey (roughly 5mbd) implying a colossal gasoline and diesel fuel loss while setting the stage for a healthy gear up for the summer driving season as refining margins have soared. 

Although the storm is turning into a human catastrophe, it provides another two or possibly three “look through” weeks as the markets continue to increasingly view the Covid northern hemisphere winter of despair through the rear window. 

OPEC sources tell Reuters that the rally in oil seen of late makes it more likely to further easing supply curbs after April. The sources said as things stand, the market might be able to cope with another 500kbpd. But it’s hard not to expect even more of the same coming.

The focus will soon shift to the OPEC+ meeting taking place in early March. It will be necessary for the group to continue to present a unified front and convey the impression that it is still enforcing supply discipline. I suspect behind-closed-door discussions will focus on adding more oil back into the market without upsetting the proverbial apple cart. Higher oil prices in themselves can be a drag in the global growth narrative, especially for the substantial consumption engines in Asia (India +China+ Korea). Right now, they are only getting a fraction of relief via the weaker US dollar. 

FOREX

Soring US yields provided the game-changer for the US dollar momentum overnight. And the US dollar certainly took kindly to Fed Bullard who on the eve of the FOMC minutes says he expects a “roaring” US economy that could even outpace China. 

soared to 106, and after the USD rally took a bit of a hiatus in the London morning, as New York walked in after the long weekend, they started selling UST’s furiously dragging the greenback to new highs of the day. There is a sharp sell-off in , accordingly. Expect the USD move to continue as rates seem to have more room to run.

Oblivious to higher US yields and Asia FX risk taking a step back after media reports saying that China is looking at ways to “hurt US defense contractors” by limiting its exports of rare earth minerals—used in components of high-tech devices. The was on full steam ahead mode on soaring oil prices while getting support from stock and bond market inflows as Malaysia capital markets start to shine again as MCO gets lifted. 

However, today I expect higher US yields to weigh on the sentiment which should encourage some MYR’s profit-taking today. 

Gold Markets

Much of the gold market current woes are attributable to rising US yields. 

With the pace of US vaccinations accelerating, continued signs of recovery are beginning to give the bond market jitters about inflation/taper and issuance profile for the rest of the year. TIPS are starting to experience selling across a vast spectrum. 

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