As Covid continues to spread
The hopes for a rebound ahead
Have quickly diminished
And though, not quite finished
The data needs to, higher, head
Today, for example, we learned
That Germany’s growth trend has turned
Instead of a V
The bears, filled with glee
Are certain the bulls will be burned
The seeds of doubt that were sown last week may have started to sprout green shoots. Not only is it increasingly unlikely that any stimulus deal will be reached before the election in eight days, but we are starting to see the data reflect the much feared second wave in the number of Covid-19 cases. The latest example of this is Germany’s IFO data this morning, which disappointed on the two most important readings, Business Climate and Expectations. Both of these not only missed estimates, but they fell compared to September’s downwardly revised figures. This is in concert with last week’s Flash PMI Services data, which disappointed throughout Europe, and can be directly attributed to the resurging virus. Germany, Spain, Italy and France are all imposing further restrictions on movement and activity as the number of new cases throughout Europe continues to rise, climbing above 200K yesterday. With this data as this morning’s backdrop, it cannot be surprising that risk is under pressure.
For investors, the landscape seems to have shifted, from a strong belief in a V-shaped recovery amid additional fiscal stimulus throughout the G10 along with a change at the White House, that for many would bring a sigh of relief, to a far less certain outcome. The increase in government restrictions on activity is leading directly to more uncertainty over the economic future. Meanwhile, a tightening in the polls has started to force those same investors to reevaluate their primary thesis; a blue wave leading to significant fiscal stimulus, a weaker dollar and a much steeper yield curve. That has seemingly been the driver of 10-year and 30-year yields in the US, which last week traded to their highest levels since the position related spike in June. In fact, positioning in the long bond future (-235K contracts) is at record short levels.
With this as backdrop, it is entirely realistic to expect some position unwinding, especially if the underlying theses are being called into question. This morning, that seems like what we are watching. Risk is decidedly off this morning, with equity markets around the world broadly lower, haven government bond yields falling and the dollar on the move higher. Oil prices are under pressure, and the risk bulls’ rose-tinted glasses seem to be fogging up, at the very least.
Starting with equity markets, Asia had a mixed session, taking its lead from Friday’s US price action, as the Hang Seng (+0.5%) managed to rally a bit while both the Nikkei (-0.1%) and Shanghai (-0.8%) finished in the red. Europe, meanwhile, is floating in a red tide with Germany’s DAX (-2.3%) the laggard, but the CAC (-0.6%) and FTSE 100 (-0.4%) starting to build momentum lower. The DAX is suffering, not only from the IFO data, but also from the fact that SAP, one of the major components in the index, is lower by nearly 19% after dramatically cutting its revenue forecasts due to the virus’ impact on the economy. It seems the question should be, how many other companies are going to have the same outcome? And finally, US futures are all pointing lower by 0.8% or so, certainly not an encouraging sign.
Bond markets have shown quite a bit of volatility this morning, with 10-year Treasury prices climbing and yields down 3 basis points from Friday. However, the European session is quite different. The first thing to note is Italian BTP’s have rallied sharply, with yields there falling 5.5 basis points after S&P not only failed to downgrade the country’s credit rating, but actually took it off negative watch on the basis of the idea that ECB support plus a resumption in growth would allow the country to reduce its budget deficit and hence, the trend growth in its debt/GDP ratio. German bunds, on the other hand, have sold off a bit and are higher by 1bp, but that appears to be the result of the unwinding of Bund-BTP spread wideners, as the market was definitely convinced a downgrade was coming. The S&P news also has helped the rest of the PIGS, which have all seen yields decline about 2 basis points this morning. Caution, though, is required, as an ongoing risk-off performance by equity markets will almost certainly result in Bunds finding significant bids.
As to the dollar, it is broadly stronger this morning, although not universally so. In the G10, the euro (-0.3%) is under pressure as Germany suffers, and we are also seeing weakness in CAD (-0.4%) with oil prices making a strong move lower, and WTI now sitting well below $40/bbl. On the plus side, the pound (+0.15%) seems to be benefitting from a bit of Brexit hope as talks between the two sides have resumed, while SEK (+0.15%) is the beneficiary of the fact that Sweden will not be locking down the country as the growth in Covid cases there remains miniscule, especially compared to the rest of Europe.
EMG currencies, though, are having a tougher time this morning with TRY (-1.25%) leading the way, but MXN (-0.8%) and ZAR (-0.6%) also significantly underperforming. The latter two here are directly related to weakness in commodity prices across the board, while Turkey remains in its own private nightmare of an impotent central bank trying to overcome the threat of further economic sanctions driven by President Erdogan’s aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the CE4 are all softer (CZK -0.6%, PLN -0.4%) as they feel the pain of further government restrictions on social activities amid a growing caseload of new covid infections. In fact, there was really only one gainer of note in this bloc, KRW (+0.45%) which responded to growing expectations that South Korea’s economy would rebound more quickly than the G7 amid growing exports and the so-far absent second wave.
As it is the last week of the month, we have a bunch of data to which to look forward, including the first reading of Q3 GDP, and we also hear from the ECB on Thursday.
|Today||New Home Sales||1025K|
|Case Shiller Home Prices||4.20%|
|Thursday||ECB Deposit Rate||-0.50%|
|Core PCE Deflator||0.2% (1.7% Y/Y)|
Now, the GDP number, which will almost certainly be the largest ever, is forecast to mirror the percentage gain of Q2’s percentage loss, but remember, the way the math works is that a 30% decline requires a 42% gain to make up the difference, so the economy is still well below the activity levels seen pre-covid. As to the ECB, there are no expectations for policy changes, but most analysts are looking for strong indications of what will come in December. To me, the risk is they act sooner rather than later, so perhaps a little more opportunity for the euro to decline on that.
As for today, unless we see positive stimulus bill headlines from the US, my sense is that the dollar will drift a bit lower from here as further position adjustments are the order of the day.
Good luck and stay safe