US equities were stronger Monday, the S&P 500 up 3.2% following similar gains through Europe. Underpinning sentiment were hopes of an effective Covid-19 vaccine; preliminary results from Moderna indicated immune responses were acknowledging in volunteers vaccinated under human trials. Remarks from the Fed also helped, with Chair Powell noting, "we are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy." US 10Y treasury yields lifted 8bps to 0.73% and better risk sentiment also helped oil, with WTI up 8.1%.
Optimism around economies reopening and a coronavirus vaccine is driving higher equities, oil prices and a weaker USD. The incomprehensible stimulus support means positive news triggers an asymmetric positive response in markets compared to a sell-off in risk via negative news. This dynamic is becoming more entrenched in market sentiment as Western Europe and the US loosen mobility restrictions.
In more general terms, the extraordinary policy support, both monetary and fiscal, is combining with greater optimism of an economic rebound and driving further declines in front-end equity volatility, which is feeding into a weaker G-10 USD narrative, supporting global risk.
Beyond extraordinary policy support, a key reason for the strong recovery in risk sentiment is how much of a game-changer a vaccine is. Compared to previous downturns that were more multi-faceted and ostensibly more difficult to unwind, the removal of a single recessionary input (the virus) via a vaccine or more effective treatment can pave the way for fast recovery in output.
Style concentration (and thus rotation) risk is something which probably concerns speculators long e-minis more than the absolute level of the market for now. With S&P 500 3000 magnetic attraction level starting to tug, you don’t want to be caught short with your pants down in case of important vaccine news.
But… (and it’s a big But)
Trade tensions remain a critical risk for markets. USDCNH is trading in a tight range and the China-sensitive AUDUSD is shrugging off these concerns and is well-supported on the rally in US equities. By contrast, TWD and MYR sensitivity are increasing. There are worries that Taiwanese companies – a crucial part of the US supply chain in North Asia – could lose out from the US-China trade spat, while the Ringgit is very dependant on Chinese trade so any falls in China's industrial and consumer-consumption engine would be bad news for the Ringgit.
Caution is warranted with financial markets increasingly decoupling from the real economy. Disinflation is still more likely than inflation, which could continue to weigh on gold unless employment levels spring back to life. Meanwhile, central bank liquidity is being used to repair balance sheets, service debt repayments and keep workers on the payroll amid a collapse in aggregate demand. Indeed, it is a recovering economy built on the Federal Reserve Boards House of Cards.
Jokingly, I said to a long time trading colleague that pretty soon the White House and the Fed will own a controlling share in 50% of the S&P 500 constituents and FANG will control 40 %, leaving 10% for the bears to speculate.
Quiet start for oil
Oil has gotten off to a neutral start in Asia as focus turns to data inputs. Besides the usual inventory data this week, traders will be keenly focused on refinery runs to see if the map to the recovery is already being seen in product demand. The fact that refinery runs are still near the lows may be a function of the inventory overhang, which will need to be consumed before traders will feel confident to take the next leg higher.
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Stocks soar, powered by first-rate earnings and a dazzling run of economic data; Gold plays catch as G10 falls flat while oil basks in the afterglow