Stable Treasury yields continues to help rally markets, while peak earnings season continues. Inflation worries remain the main concern for markets and crypto markets see increased volatility, while geopolitical risks continue to simmer.
Stable Treasury yields continues to help rally markets, while peak earnings season continues. Inflation worries remain the main concern for markets and crypto markets see increased volatility, while geopolitical risks continue to simmer.
Summary and Price Action Rundown
Global risk assets are tentatively higher this morning as corporate earnings reporting season kicks off in earnest today with megabank results, while investors await more key US economic data tomorrow. S&P 500 futures point to slightly higher open after the index rose 0.3% yesterday, posting a new record high and upping year-to-date gains at 10.3%. EU equities are posting modest upside, while Asian equities mostly rallied overnight. Longer-dated Treasuries are holding most of their recent gains, with the 10-year yield trading at 1.63%, which is toward the bottom of its three-week trading range. Meanwhile, the broad dollar index is flat around its lowest level since mid-March. Oil prices are extending this week’s rebound, with Brent crude climbing toward $65 per barrel, amid a continued sideways trading pattern.
Treasury Market Equanimity Continues Ahead of More Key US Economic Data
Longer-dated Treasuries have evidenced encouraging stability in the face of upside inflation and labor market metrics over the past few weeks, though the tests to this newfound placidity will continue. Yesterday’s highly-anticipated data release indicated that the US Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.6% month-on-month in March, up from 0.4% in February and above consensus expectations of 0.5%. Gasoline prices were the biggest contributor to the monthly gain, surging 9.1% in March and responsible for about half the overall CPI increase. Gasoline is up 22.5% from a year ago, part of a 13.2% increase in energy prices. Food was up 0.1% overall, with food away from home the largest contributor at 3.7%. The shelter component also came in above expectations at 0.3%. This pushed the annual rate up to 2.6%, above expectations of 2.5% and well above February’s 1.7%, as the base effects of the pandemic take hold. Furthermore, Core CPI, which excludes the more volatile food and energy components, rose 0.3% m/m and 1.6% y/y, both above expectations of 0.2% and 1.5%.
Despite headline CPI growth of 0.6% marking the fastest increase in consumer prices since 2012, investors were seemingly cognizant of base-effect and other distortions in the data, which Fed officials have repeatedly flagged, as both equity and Treasuries rallied notably following the CPI numbers. Adverse headlines regarding Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine may have also added to the bid for safe haven Treasuries, with solid demand also evident in the afternoon’s auction of $24 billion in 30-year notes.
The next test for the newfound stability of the Treasury yield curve will be tomorrow’s retail sales data and, to a lesser extent, industrial production figures for March, with both expected to surge after a weather-related setback in February. Today’s import and export price figures will be noted, along with commentary from the Fed’s Beige Book report, but none of these are expected to elicit a market response. – MPP view: We still believe that the current Treasury equanimity will run into questions about a taper over the summer, amid an accelerating recovery, unless the Fed begins to message more forcefully about the continuation of QE over the coming months rather than focusing on rate hikes, as the two are inextricably linked and the taper fires the starting gun on the process of accommodation withdrawal. Some analysts are predicting an announcement of the taper as early as the June meeting, whereas we expect the Fed over the next few months to begin to ramp up its signaling of a steady path of QE to year-end.
Mega-Bank Results Mark Official Start to Earnings Reporting Season
The first quarter (Q1) is projected to feature robust earnings growth, but analysts are questioning whether the good news is already reflected in equity prices, while today’s reports from leading US banks will be scrutinized for margin improvement amid rising interest rates. Earnings reporting season kicks off in earnest today, with JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo announcing their results before the opening bell, along with Bed, Bath & Beyond and First Republic Bank also reporting today. Thus far, JPMorgan’s figures have topped estimates but its shares are trading lower in the pre-market as investors ponder the nuances of the report. Yesterday, Fastenal stock lost 1.4%, though off the lows of the morning, after the industrial fastener giant and manufacturing bellwether lagged sales expectations and cited rising production costs and the challenges of meeting a shifting demand preference for mainstream product lines at the expense of safety products in Q1. Tomorrow features a continuation of mega-bank results, including Bank of America and Citi, with other industry mainstays like BlackRock, Delta Airlines, UnitedHealth Group, PepsiCo, Rite Aid, Alcoa, and JB Hunt reporting. Overall, Q1 is estimated to feature earnings growth of 24.5% but analysts anticipate that actual results will better this rate to rival the torrid 26.1% pace in Q3 2018, with a statistical lift from the comparison to last year’s challenged start to the year amid the onset of the pandemic. But with expectations already elevated, the bar to impress investors is higher and analysts have flagged the risk of shrinking profit margins from higher production and operating costs. – MPP view: The last few earnings seasons have delivered quite nuanced price reactions during the course of reporting but have not durably altered the broad equity market trends, and we anticipate that this will pattern will repeat. More traditional economy stocks, which have outperformed in anticipation of the post-Covid recovery, will be more impacted by rising input prices than the tech sector, for instance. Overall, it may be hard for equities to establish clear directionality amid all the noise and crosstalk from these results and management guidance, but we do not think that anything will amount to a gamechanger for either the bull market or the relative advantage of value stocks as the economic recovery builds momentum.
Bitcoin Surges Ahead of Coinbase Public Trading Debut – Coinbase, the leading cryptocurrency exchange, will be listed on the Nasdaq today, with analysts noting the expected valuation of approximately $100 billion and noting the somewhat rare direct listing approach, as opposed to the typical IPO process. Meanwhile, increasing the buzz over the Coinbase debut, Bitcoin, the flagship cryptocurrency, is registering an all-time high this morning above $64K. Though anticipation of increasing mainstream acceptance and demand for digital assets is fueling interest in the Coinbase listing and optimism for further upside in cryptocurrency valuations, some analysts express wariness over the heightened regulatory scrutiny that will inevitably follow. Treasury Secretary Yellen has made broadly balanced statements on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but has been consistent in her concerns over their use for tax avoidance and illicit funding purposes. – MPP view: So far, Bitcoin has weathered the 2021 storm for momentum-driven assets admirably, displaying a lack of correlation that investors/speculators are certainly taking note of – the ARK Innovation ETF, Tesla shares, and the SPAC index all remain well off their highs from earlier this year.
Mixed EU Economic Data – Industrial production for the EU contracted 1.0% month-on-month (m/m) in February, bettering expectations of a 1.3% retrenchment but deteriorating from the 0.6% the prior month. This translates into a -1.6% year-on-year pace, highlighting the persistent challenges to the regional recovery during a period of Covid-19 resurgence and reintroduction of containment measures in various areas. This comes after yesterday’s ZEW economic expectations survey for the EU reflected deterioration in April, slipping from 74.0 the prior month to 66.3, though this remains at the high end of the survey range. Germany’s ZEW outlook reading showed a similar pattern of backsliding, though overall levels remained high. The euro has managed a roughly 2% rally versus the dollar this month as the ongoing uptrend in longer-dated Treasury yields paused, removing a key source of lift for the greenback. – MPP view: We expect the widening economic divergence between the US and EU over the coming months will rekindle dollar strength against the euro to some degree, with the Fed’s decision to taper or not to taper (that is the question) over the summer offering the most salient catalyst for renewed upside pressure on longer-dated Treasuries and the greenback.
Summary and Price Action Rundown
US equities were mostly higher today as Treasuries rallied amid today’s key inflation data and adverse Covid-19 vaccine news, while investors await tomorrow’s unofficial start to first quarter earnings reporting. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% today, posting a new record high and upping year-to-date gains at 10.3%. The Euro Stoxx Index closed slightly higher while Asian equities were mixed overnight. Longer-dated Treasuries rallied after today’s inflation print delivered only a modest upside surprise and the 30-year auction was well-received (more below), with the 10-year yield declining to 1.62%, which is on the lower side of the recent trading range. Meanwhile, the dollar extended its recent reversal from multi-month highs. Oil prices gained but remained well shy of recent highs, with Brent crude rising toward $64 per barrel after an upbeat OPEC report.
Treasuries Sail Through Today’s Challenges
With a highly-anticipated inflation data release and a 30-year note auction on the calendar, traders were wary of the potential for renewed volatility in Treasuries but the actual price reaction was encouragingly favorable. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.6% month-on-month in March, up from 0.4% in February and above consensus expectations of 0.5%. Gasoline prices were the biggest contributor to the monthly gain, surging 9.1% in March and responsible for about half the overall CPI increase. Gasoline is up 22.5% from a year ago, part of a 13.2% increase in energy prices. Food was up 0.1% overall, with food away from home the largest contributor at 3.7%. The shelter component also came in above expectations at 0.3%. This pushed the annual rate up to 2.6%, above expectations of 2.5% and well above February’s 1.7%, as the base effects of the pandemic take hold. Furthermore, Core CPI, which excludes the more volatile food and energy components, rose 0.3% m/m and 1.6% y/y, both above expectations of 0.2% and 1.5%.
Despite headline CPI growth of 0.6% marking the fastest increase in consumer prices since 2012, investors were seemingly cognizant of base-effect distortions in the data, as both equity and sovereign bond markets were notably indifferent. Traders instead focused on the announcement from US federal health officials calling for a suspension of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine amid the rare formation of blood clots in a handful of inoculated individuals. The statements rattled market confidence in the nation’s vaccination campaign, as the Dow Industrials opened lower following the announcement. Shares of J&J dropped 3% in premarket but closed only 1.3% lower in today’s trading. Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, assured the public that “this announcement will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan.” Vaccine production from Pfizer and Moderna currently comprise 95% of weekly allocated vaccines with J&J accounting for the remaining 5%. The White House stated the US expects to have enough vaccine supply to meet demand by May despite the suspension.
Meanwhile, longer-dated Treasuries yields declined this morning amid broad market circumspection, and further descended following today’s auction of $24 billion in 30-year debt. The US Treasury offered the 30-year notes at an auction high-yield of 2.32%, falling below the when-issued rate of 2.34%, and the bid-to-cover ratio of 2.47 outpaced the six-month average of 2.28. The benchmark 10-year rate headed to 1.62% after the sale, which is its lowest level since late March. – MPP view: Nice win for the Fed here, with the data very much adhering to their story of a transient boost and market participants clearly looking for an upside surprise that exceeded today’s magnitude. We still believe that the current equanimity will run into questions about a taper over the summer unless the Fed begins to message more forcefully about the continuation of QE over the coming months rather than focusing on rate hikes, as the two are inextricably linked and the taper fires the starting gun on the process of accommodation withdrawal.
OPEC Conveys Upbeat Signals
As some of the world’s wealthiest nations continue to struggle with resurgent Covid-19 rates, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries reported that a brightening outlook ahead and historic stimulus packages will boost both economic activity and oil demand this year. OPEC increased its 2021 global demand forecast by 100,000 barrels a day and raised its forecast for global economic growth by 0.3 percentage points to 5.4%. The increased demand forecast driven by a better than expected second half of the year forecast is credited to stimulus programs, ease of pandemic lockdowns, and an acceleration in the vaccination rollout mainly in wealthy nations. For context, OPEC and its allies (OPEC+) have maintained disciplined supply cuts that helped support oil prices since the crash last spring but announced a taper of the curbs at their most recent meeting earlier this month. Also, Iran, which is exempt from the cuts of the OPEC+ alliance, increased its output by 137,000 barrels a day in March. China has been importing more oil from Iran in recent months, with Tehran circumventing US sanctions. Investors have been closely monitoring indirect talks between Iran and the US as the two sides consider reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that could possibly have Washington lift those sanctions that currently prevent Tehran from exporting oil at will. Additionally, the cartel slightly reduced its forecast for the 2021 supply growth from outside of OPEC, decreasing its forecast by 30,000 barrels a day. – MPP view: Since they just announced a taper of output curbs, the cartel is certainly incentivized to put the best face on the demand outlook and it is hard to tell whether they are tapering because they can’t keep their members disciplined or whether they really see demand improving so much, we suspect that this report contains some meaningful element of wishful thinking.
US Small Businesses Grow More Confident – The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased to 98.2 in March, the highest in 4 months, from 95.8 in February. While seven of the ten components increased in a positive sign, the uncertainty index increased to 81 from 75 which was the lowest since April last year, as owners struggle if it is a good time to expand their businesses. NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg added, “Main Street is doing better as state and local restrictions are eased, but finding qualified labor is a critical issue for small businesses nationwide. Small business owners are competing with the pandemic and increased unemployment benefits that are keeping some workers out of the labor force. However, owners remain determined to hire workers and grow their business.”
SPACs in Focus– Following the SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) boom of the last few years, the SEC issued new guidance that warrants, which are issued to early investors in the deals, might not be considered equity instruments and may instead be liabilities for accounting purposes. This is likely to disrupt filings for new SPACs until the issue is resolved. The SEC has been raising concerns that investors are not being properly informed on risks related to what are often described as blank check companies. The SEC has been reaching out to accountants last week and the judgment is that it is unlikely the SEC will declare any registration statements effective until they rule on the warrant issue. More than 550 SPACs have filed to go public in 2021, seeking to raise a combined $162 billion, which exceeds the total for all of 2020, during which SPACs raised more than every prior year combined. In an April 8 statement, John Coates, the SEC’s top official for corporate filings, warned against viewing SPACs as a way to avoid securities laws.
However, deals are still getting done through existing SPACs, evidenced by Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant Grab announcement that they will go public through a SPAC merger with Alimeter Growth Corp. The deal values that company at $39.6 billion, which would be the largest blank-check merger to date. As part of the deal, SoftBank-backed Grab will receive about $4.5 billion in cash, which includes $4 billion in a private investment in public equity arrangement, managed by BlackRock, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global fund and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.
The stabilization in Treasury yields calms markets while the Biden Administration pushes the Jobs Plan. CPI data tomorrow is in focus along with the beginning of 1Q 21 earnings season. Finally, geopolitical risks continue to simmer.
Looking Ahead – Procedural Thriller
Please join us today at 2:30 PM ET for a call on the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan spending proposals and accompanying tax increases. We will be joined by our colleagues at Hamilton Place Strategies, Meghan Pennington and Bryan DeAngelis. Both have extensive experience on Capitol Hill and will have insights on the reconciliation process, as well as perspective on what elements are likely to make their way into the final bill and what may not have the votes. We will also touch on other themes, like US corporations being embroiled in politics, whether over voting rights, pay/unions, taxes, etc.
Please reply to Jeff Easter (email@example.com) if you would like to join the call.
Some of the key questions we will be pondering are as follows:
The Biden administration has split this massive legislative campaign into two main fronts – physical infrastructure (the American Jobs Plan) and social programs/caring economy (the yet-to-be unveiled American Families Plan). The total price tag of the combined proposals is estimated to be around $4 trillion. What is the reason for this bifurcated approach?
Related to question 1 above, what is the importance of this week’s ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian, which indicated that Democrats could utilize budget reconciliation an additional time to bypass Republican support with a simple Senate majority. The ruling permits Democrats to revisit the fiscal 2021 budget resolution that Congress used to approve the $1.9 trillion relief bill earlier this year, in effect creating three opportunities to use reconciliation to pass a significant portion of the administration’s economic agenda before the midterm elections in 2022.
Related to question 2 above, if the Biden administration goes for an omnibus approach to this next bill, what might they use their third and final budget reconciliation procedure for later this year?
How does this physical infrastructure bill cut across party lines? Is there any hope of a bipartisan segment, such as a smaller infrastructure package free of tax hikes that would potentially draw out some GOP support? Would that be worth doing from a political and policy standpoint?
Senator Manchin has come out with some strong statements on the current American Jobs Plan draft, pushing back on the increase in corporate taxes to 28% and expressing a preference for 25%, while indicating that he is uncomfortable with the overall size of the package and favors a more bipartisan approach. He has a lot of political capital, but does he have enough to truly steer this bill in a radically different direction if in fact that is what he wants to do?
So much of the focus is on what Senator Manchin wants, but with such a slim majority in the House, will the Blue Dog contingent have a similar power over what makes it in?
Looking ahead to next week, the macro calendar features some consequential global economic data, with US consumer price inflation figures in sharp focus, while March retail sales and industrial production for the US and EU could highlight their diverging economic fortunes. Economic sentiment gauges for the US, Germany, and Australia are also due, alongside first quarter Chinese GDP and key growth metrics for March.
Global Economic Calendar: In bloom
Eurozone’s retail trade slumped 5.9% m/m in January, the steepest decline since last April’s record slump and compared with market expectations of a 1.1% drop, as a number of member states re-imposed or extended coronavirus lockdown measures. Non-food products sales plunged 12%, despite a 7.1% increase in on-line trade, while fuel sales were down 1.1%. Meanwhile, food, drinks and tobacco trade rose 1.1%, compared with a 2.3% growth in December. On a yearly basis, retail sales shrank 6.4% , also the largest decrease since April.
The NAB business confidence index in Australia rose 4 points from the previous month to 16 in February 2021, its highest level since early 2010, with all states and industries reporting gains, except for retail. In addition, the gauge measuring business conditions climbed 6 points to 15, matching the December reading, which was the highest level since August 2018, with all three sub-components improving: trading, profitability and employment. Meantime, capacity utilization and capex continue to rise and have now exceeded pre-virus levels and their long-run averages. Forward orders also rose and are now well above average. “Business conditions and confidence are both at multi-year highs and, importantly, we’re starting to see an uptrend in business hiring and investment activity.” said Alan Oster, NAB Group Chief Economist.
Chinese Balance of Trade showed a trade surplus of $103.25 billion in January-February 2021 combined, rebounding sharply from a $7.21 billion deficit in the same period a year earlier, and easily beating market consensus of a $60 billion surplus, as the economy recovered from the disruption caused by COVID-19, with more factories resuming their production. Exports surged 60.6% y/y, the eighth straight month of increase, while imports rose at a softer 22.2%, the fifth consecutive month of growth. China’s trade surplus with the US for the first two months of the year stood at $51.26 billion, much larger than a surplus of $25.37 billion in the corresponding period a year earlier. To smooth distortions due to the Lunar New Year festival, Chinese customs combine January and February trade data.
The UK Balance of Trade showed the trade deficit fell to £1.6 billion in January, the smallest trade shortfall in five months, as both imports and exports fell at a record pace following the end of EU exit transition period and the reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions on activity. Imports declined 18.5% to £43.03 billion, with purchases of goods slipping 22.8% and services imports falling 2.4%. Meantime, exports fell at a record 11.2% to £41.40 billion, as goods shipments slumped 18.3% and services sales decreased 0.9%.
The ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment for Germany rose by 5.4 points from the previous month to 76.6 in March, not far from September’s 20-year high of 77.4 and slightly above market expectations of 74.0. Optimism surrounding the economic outlook continued to improve, with investors anticipating a broad-based recovery of the German economy and at least 70 percent of the population to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine by autumn. In addition, the survey showed inflation is seen increasing further and long-term interest rates are forecast to be higher.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4% m/m in February, slightly higher than 0.3% in January but matching market forecasts. The gasoline index continued to increase, up 6.4%, accounting for over half of CPI gain. The electricity, and natural gas indexes also increased and the energy index rose 3.9%. The food index edged up 0.2%. This pushed annual CPI up to 1.7% from 1.4% in January, and in-line with market forecasts of 1.7%. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, inched up 0.1%, less than forecast of 0.2%, with increases seen in cost of shelter, recreation, medical care, and motor vehicle insurance while falls were seen for airline fares, used cars and trucks and apparel. Annual Core CPI, rose 1.3%, the least since June 2020 and missing expectations of a 1.4% advance.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment increased by 2.6% to 111.8 in March, just 0.2 points below the December level which was a ten-year high driven by are improving economic conditions and prospects, both domestically and abroad, particularly as they relate to our labor market. Australia’s success in containing COVID-19, the promise of vaccine rollouts bringing an end to the pandemic, and support from stimulatory government policies have all contributed to the sustained lift. All components of the index were higher in March. Confidence around the economic outlook led the gains with the ‘economy, next 12 months’ sub-index up 3.7% and the ‘economy, next 5 years’ sub-index up 2.3%.
Industrial production in the Eurozone rose 0.8% m/m in January, rebounding from a downwardly revised 0.1% fall in December and compared with market expectations of a 0.2% increase. Output of durable consumer goods, such as televisions and washing machines, rose 0.8%, after a 0.9% advance in the previous month. Production also grew for non-durable consumer goods, capital goods, energy and intermediate goods. On a yearly basis, industrial production was up 0.1% in January, ending a 26-month period of contraction and compared with forecasts of a 2.4% decline.
US Import prices increased 1.3% m/m in February, easing from an upwardly revised 1.4% rise in January, which was the largest monthly advance since March 2012. Still, the reading came in above market expectations of 1.2%. Nonfuel import prices increased 0.4%, due to higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials; foods, feeds, and beverages; capital goods; consumer goods; and automotive vehicles. Meantime, prices for import fuel advanced 11.1%, the most since July 2020, mainly due to an 11.3% rise in petroleum prices and an 11.2% advance in natural gas prices. Year-on-year, import prices jumped 3%, the most since October 2018 as petroleum cost surged.
US Export Prices rose 1.6% m/m in February, after a 2.5% advance in January which was the largest increase since records began in December 1988. It also compared with market expectations of a 0.9% gain. The price index for agricultural exports rose 2.9% and nonagricultural export prices rose 1.5%. Year-on-year, export prices jumped 5.2% in February, the largest over-the-year increase since June 2018.
The Australian Employment Report showed the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.8% in February from 6.4% a month earlier and below market consensus of 6.3%. This was the lowest jobless rate since March 2020, as the economy recovered further from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 shocks. The number of unemployed declined by 69,900 to 805,200 people, as people looking for full-time work was down by 39,800 to 576,700 and those looking for only part-time work decreased by 30,100 to 228,500. Employment grew by 88,700 to a one-year high of 13,006,900, easily beating market estimates of an increase of 30,000, as full-time employment went up by 89,100 to 8,895,000, while part-time employment dropped 500 to 4,111,900. The participation rate stayed at 66.1% and below forecasts of 66.2%. The underemployment rate rose 0.4 points to 8.5%, and the underutilization rate fell 0.1 points to 14.4%. Monthly hours worked in all jobs gained 102 million hours, or 6.1% to 1,767 million hours.
US Retail sales shrank 3% m/m in February, following an upwardly revised 7.6% jump in January and much worse than market forecasts of a 0.5% fall. It is the biggest decline since a record drop in April of 2020 amid unusually cold weather and winter storms in Texas and some other parts of the South region during the month. Biggest decreases were seen in sales at department stores, sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and book stores, non-store retailers, auto dealers, furniture, miscellaneous retailers, building material and garden equipment, clothing, food services and drinking places, electronics and appliances and health and personal care. In contrast, sales at gasoline stations jumped 3.6%. Retail Sales Excluding Autos decreased 2.7% m/m, much worse than forecasts of a 0.1% fall, amid unusually cold weather in the South.
Initial and Continuing Claims will be in focus after the latest reading featured another disappointing degree of deterioration. Last week, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose for the second straight week, after a surprise drop to 658 thousand in late March, up to 744 thousand, from the previous period’s revised figure of 728 thousand, and well above market expectations of 680 thousand. The weekly report followed on the heels of news last week that that nonfarm employment rose by 916 thousand in March, the most in seven months, while the number of job openings hit their highest level in two years in February. In total, 18.164 million Americans received some sort of federal assistance, down slightly from 18.215 million.
Industrial production slumped 2.2% m/m in February, following an upwardly revised 1.1% growth in the previous month and missing market expectations of a 0.3% increase. It was the steepest contraction in industrial output since April’s record 12.7% slump, due to the severe winter weather in the south-central region of the country in mid-February. Most notably, some petroleum refineries, petrochemical facilities, and plastic resin plants suffered damage from the deep freeze and were offline for the rest of the month. Manufacturing output and mining production fell 3.1% and 5.4%, respectively, the utilities output increased 7.4%.
The NAHB housing market index fell 2 points to 82 in March compared to forecasts of 83. It is the lowest reading in 7 months amid rising interest rates and building materials costs, especially lumber. Current sales conditions for the single-family segment fell 3 points to 87 while sales expectations in the next six months increased 3 points to 83. Also, the prospective buyers’ sub-index was unchanged at 72.
Business inventories went up 0.3% m/m in January, in line with market expectations and easing from an upwardly revised 0.8% growth in December. It was the seventh consecutive month of gains in business inventories. Stocks at manufacturers edged up 0.1%, slowing from a 0.3% advance in the previous month and inventories at retailers fell 0.5%, down from a 1.7% rise. Meantime, stocks at wholesalers rose faster. Year-on-year, business inventories dropped 1.8%.
China’s fixed-asset investment (FAI) surged 35% y/y to CNY 4.52 trillion in January-February 2021, accelerating from a 2.9% advance in 2020 but below market consensus of a 40% growth, as the economy continued to recover from the pandemic crisis. Public investment jumped 32.9% and private investment soared by 36.4%. Investment in the primary industry grew 61.3%, and that in the tertiary industry expanded 34.6% boosted by transport, storage & postal industry; water conservancy, environment and public facilities management industry; education; health and social work; and culture, sports and entertainment industry. Also, investment in the secondary industry jumped 34.1%. In January-February 2020, fixed-asset investment had plunged by a record 24.5% due to the coronavirus pandemic.
China’s 1st Quarter GDP will be released. China has set its 2021 economic growth target at more than 6%, Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual work report on Friday. Chinese leaders announced that the world’s second-largest economy intends to keep consumer price inflation at around 3% and seeks a budget deficit goal of about 3.2% of GDP. The government also aims for an urban unemployment rate of approximately 5.5% and plans to create more than 11 million new urban jobs. In 2020, the country’s GDP expanded 2.3%, the slowest pace in more than four decades.
Eurozone’s trade surplus widened to €6.3 billion in January from €1.6 billion in the corresponding month of the previous year. Still, it was the smallest trade surplus since last April, linked to the reintroduction of coronavirus restrictions in several European countries. Imports declined 14.1% from a year earlier to a five-month low of €156.8 billion. China was the main partner for the EU due to an increase of exports while imports decreased. Trade with the US recorded a significant drop in both imports and exports.
The Eurozone consumer price index is expected to accelerate to 1.3% y/y in March, the highest level since January 2020 and in line with market expectations, a preliminary estimate showed. Energy prices should rebound 4.3%, compared with a 1.7% drop in February, and services inflation is seen picking up to 1.3% from 1.2%. Meanwhile, cost will probably rise at a slower pace for both non-energy industrial goods and food, alcohol & tobacco. The annual core inflation, which excludes volatile prices of energy, food, alcohol & tobacco and at which the ECB looks in its policy decisions, is expected to slow to 0.9% in March, below market forecasts of 1.1%.
US Housing starts sank 10.3% m/m to an annualized rate of 1.421 million in February, the lowest reading in six months and well below forecasts of 1.56 million. Housing starts reached the highest rate in 14 years in December as people moved away from the big cities due to the coronavirus pandemic. In February, single-family housing starts were at a rate of 1.040 million, 8.5% below January and the rate for units in buildings with five units or more dropped 14.5% to 372,000. Starts fell in the Northeast, the Midwest and the South but rose in the West.
Building permits tumbled 10.8% m/m to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.682 million in February, down from the previous month’s 15-year high of 1.886 million and below market expectations of 1.75 million. Single-family authorizations plunged 10.0% to a rate of 1.143 million while permits for the volatile multi-segment dropped 12.5% to a rate of 539 thousand. Across regions, permits went down in the South, the West, and the Northeast. Meanwhile, building permits in the Midwest rose 1.2% to 249 thousand.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment was revised higher to a one-year high of 84.9 in March of 2021, up from a preliminary estimate of 83 and above market forecasts of 83.6. It was also the largest increase in consumer morale since May 2013, as households welcomed the third disbursement of relief checks and a better than anticipated vaccination progress. Meanwhile, expectations were revised higher to 79.7 from 77.5 and compared to February’s 70.7. The current conditions gauge rose to 93, above a preliminary of 91.5 and up from February’s 86.2. Inflation expectations for the year ahead decreased to 3.1% from 3.3% in the previous month, matching initial figures; while the 5-year outlook rose to 2.8% from 2.7%, above preliminary figures of 2.7%. “The data clearly point toward robust increases in consumer spending.”
The stabilization of Treasury yield is helping risk sentiment, while the market digests the details of the Biden infrastructure proposal. Wednesday brings FOMC Minutes as inflation fears still remain. Finally, India grapples with Covid surge amid EM asset volatility.
Details of the next major spending package come this week as Treasury yields remain biased higher. The inflation outlook debate continues to percolate and supply chain dislocations are having varying impacts across the globe. Finally, Turkey market turbulence feeds into Emerging Markets.
Fluctuating Treasury yields remain the driving force behind market moves, followed by the Biden Build Back Better bill. Inflation remains a major concern, which has taken the wind out of momentum driven asset performance. Finally, China relations continue to percolate.
The Fed meeting and Stimulus plans are front and center on market participant’s minds. However, rising Treasury yields and concerns over rising inflationary pressures lurk. Finally, Chinese markets sell off due to tighter monetary and regulatory decisions.
In this week’s Five Minute Macro, elevating Treasury yields moves into the first spot, followed by accommodative central banks. The Covid relief bill moves down to third and the inflation forecast into fourth, with Bitcoin highs remaining at the fifth spot.