Optimism is on the menu ahead of today’s much-awaited US inflation report. The US 10-year yield tipped a toe below the 4% level, the S&P500 came at a spitting distance to the December peak level as technology stocks led gains. Nvidia hit a fresh record, MAMA stocks advanced to an ATH as well, as Meta jumped more than 3.50%.
Optimism in the stock markets will likely continue if today’s US inflation report comes in sufficiently soft. A consensus of analyst estimates on Bloomberg hints that US headline inflation may have gently increased from 3.1% to 3.2% in December, while core inflation has certainly eased from 4% to 3.8% – the slowest pace since May 2021. Data in line, or ideally softer than expected, will keep the Federal Reserve (Fed) doves in charge of the market and could further boost appetite in stocks and bonds. The ongoing tensions in the Red Sea region and the rising cost of moving goods – and their potential impact on consumer prices – will remain on the back of our minds, but disinflation remains the base case scenario for 2024 due to weakening demand, and until there is stronger data-based evidence that the geopolitical situation is bad for inflation, investors won’t let go of the beautiful upside swing that the market caught into last year’s end.
In summary, if inflation data from the US turns out to be suitably mild, it could serve as the final element needed to propel the S&P500 to a new record.
The US dollar is softer across the board this morning. The EURUSD could find a suitable reason to surpass the 1.10 mark, with weak potential to extend gains above this level, however, given the morose economic outlook in the eurozone and the sputtering German growth. The USDJPY rallied past the 145 level as a former Bank of Japan (BoJ) board member said that the BoJ is completely ready to exit the negative rates but that the normalization won’t be like the aggressive ones that we saw in the rest of the developed world; it will likely be very slow instead. Regardless, the upside potential in the USDJPY is seen limited and the long Japanese yen is pointed at as the most obvious trade of the year. But when everyone is looking somewhere, action tends to happen elsewhere.
Exploding debt issuance
Appetite for newly issued bonds is very strong at the start of this year as investors continue to rush into the bond markets in expectation of interest rate cuts. In this context, Spain received a record EUR 130bn of bids for its 10-year bond earlier this week, this Tuesday was also a record day of bond issuance in the primary market across Europe and the US’ $52bn auction for 3-year notes also setlled at 4.10% – some 100bp below the October peak.
Furthermore, the global debt supply will increase in the next few months, with the US, the UK, the Eurozone and Japan due to sell a net $2.1 trillion worth of new bonds to finance their 2024 spending plans. That’s a 7% increase compared to last year. The problem is, the central banks are no longer buying the new government debt – on the contrary, they reduce their massive balance sheets. Therefore, the over-supply of bonds could soon overweigh the rate cut bets – which are already more than fully priced in – and the latter could throw a floor under the bond yields, shift focus to the exploding debt levels and oblige stock investors to look elsewhere to extend the equity rally – like earnings.
Big US banks will be going to the earnings confessional today. They are expected to annouce an increase in bad loans, and results will likely be mixed. But overall, earnings expectations are encouraging for the S&P500 stocks, and first results from the semi conductors look encouragin for today’s most hyped AI and chip stocks. Samsung posted its smallest proft decline in the last five quarters and TSM’s Q4 revenue beat estimates of a decline. Yes, it’s not excellent, but it’s encouraging, because at the same time, the global chip sales rose for the first time in more than a year as the chip glut eased, investors expect demand for high performance, AI chips to pick up momentum as every company from L’Oreal to Walmart are now rushing to AI to propose new and more efficient services to their clients, and high estimates point that Nvidia’s sales could go up to $20bn in the latest quarter. So yes, Nvidia keeps climbing like my fave free solo climber Alex Honnold.
Crude oil gains remained limited yesterday as the EIA data posted a surprise 1.3-mio-barrel build in US oil inventories last week – a report that was not in line with the API – and it happens. Oil traders look to sell the tops in an effort to push the price of barrel below the $70pb mark.