Last week global equities advanced amidst lower-than-expected inflation data, which helped fuel the narrative interest rates in the United States are at a peak. In addition, relations between the United States and China took a more constructive tone, as President Xi Jinping visited the United States and met President Joe Biden and US business leaders. Bond yields fell and equity markets pushed ahead, with The MSCI World Index up 2.9%, the STOXX Europe 600 Index up 2.8%, the S&P 500 Index up 2.2%, and the MSCI Asia Pacific Index up 3.2%.1
Softer-than-expected US and UK inflation data
United States: Last Tuesday the October US Consumer Price Index (CPI) reading decelerated at a faster-than-expected rate, fuelling hopes for a dovish pivot from the Federal Reserve (Fed). The US CPI decelerated to +3.2% year-on-year from the previous month’s reading of +3.7%. Core CPI also saw a modest decline to +4.0%, down from +4.1% last month. The following day, the October Producer Price Index (PPI) data came out, with the month-on-month reading at -0.5%, indicating deflation.
Market expectations are now pricing in a Fed rate cut by May or June 2024, with all eyes on the next Fed meeting (13 December) to see if the wording “additional policy firming that may be appropriate” is dropped. The market is now pricing in 92.5 basis points (bps) worth of cuts by the end of 2024, up from 70.2 bps at the end of last week.2 However, some market observers were not getting too excited yet—whether the Fed is done raising rates is still up for debate.
United Kingdom: The United Kingdom also saw softer-than-expected October CPI inflation data, coming in at +4.6%, versus the prior month’s reading of +6.7%. The core reading stood at +5.7%, down from the previous month’s +6.1%. UK wage growth also slowed to +7.9% (compared to +8.2% in the prior month), with the ex-bonus reading at +7.7% (compared to +7.8%). These figures contribute to the notion that inflation seems to be easing.
The market is currently pricing in two 25 bps cuts from the Bank of England by September 2024, reflecting 51.1 bps of cuts. The UK 10-year yield declined by 23.1 bps last week, settling at around 4.10%.
Week in review
The S&P 500 Index saw a third consecutive week of gains, trading up 2.2% the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.9%, The Nasdaq Index was up 2% and the Russell 2000 Index surged 5.5%.
A decline in Treasury yields supported equities. The US 10-year yield decreased by 21.6 bps to around 4.44%, marking its lowest level since September, while the two-year yield dropped to 4.80% at one point in the week.
Sector-wise, it was unsurprising to see gains across the board. Falling yields drove rate-sensitive real estate investment trusts (REITs), materials and consumer discretionary stocks higher. The defensive consumer staples lagged a bit but were still higher overall.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell 1.7% last week, entering bear market territory (down 20% from the September highs). Inventory data continues to reveal builds amidst concerns over demand in a weakening macro environment.
Turning to geopolitics, Xi and Biden met in the United States for the first time in six years, and the tone was seen as positive. They reached an agreement to better manage tensions and convey to Americans that China seeks friendship, not war. In discussions with US business leaders, Xi pledged additional “heartwarming” measures to enhance China’s appeal to companies.
Elsewhere, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to avoid a government shutdown.
Investor sentiment picked up sharply last week, with the CNN Fear & Greed Index swinging from “Fear” to “Greed.”3
The latest weekly fund flow data saw the second-largest inflow of the year into global equities and the largest inflow into US large cap stocks since February 22.4
Last week was similarly strong for European equities. Rate-sensitive cyclicals and technology companies outperformed as bond yields declined on the latest US and UK inflation data.
Positive sentiment around China also helped drive market optimism in light of the Biden/Xi meeting as well as some positive Chinese macro data.
Another interesting market dynamic last week was the outperformance of small-cap stocks with the EStoxx SC Index (SCXP) up 4.1% last week. Likewise, the FTSE 250 Index outperformed the FTSE 100 Index.
In terms of fund flows, global equity funds attracted US$23.5 billion of inflows in the latest week; US equities saw US$25.8 billion of inflows, but European equities saw a 36th consecutive week of outflows.5
Despite comments from a few European Central Bank (ECB) officials suggesting that rate cuts were not imminent—including ECB President Christine Lagarde—money markets have priced in a full percentage point of interest rate cuts in 2024.
Last week good week for Asian equities, with all major indices in the green. The MSCI Asia Pacific index was up 3.21% last week, with Japanese equities once again outperforming in the region.
Looking ahead to this holiday-impacted week (with markets closed in the United States and Japan on Thursday), all eyes will be on the Fed, ECB and Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meeting minutes, the US Treasury bill auction, and some Japanese inflation data.
in Japan, stocks shrugged off earlier losses earlier in the week to close higher on Friday. Despite a softer-than-expected third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) number and yen weakness, the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ’s) decision the prior week to maintain a loose monetary policy for now kept market sentiment afloat.
Looking ahead, Japanese markets will be closed on 23 November for Labour Thanksgiving Day.
The Shanghai Composite Index closed last week up 0.51%, as some mixed economic data dampened sentiment.
October Industrial Production and Retail Sales figures were better than expected, while Property Investment data was a bit disappointing. October home prices saw the largest decline since 2015, while the overall sales value stayed low, indicating a worsening situation. Unemployment remained steady in September.
Last week, the Peoples Bank of China injected CNY1.45 trillion into the banking system via its medium-term lending facility (MTLF) vs. CNY850 billion in maturing loans, its largest net injection since December 2016. The MTLF rate was left unchanged, as expected. Liquidity injections are seen as a part of the bank’s ongoing efforts to counter economic headwinds.
The feedback from the Biden/Xi meeting at the APEC Summit last week seems to be overall positive, with the tone from both sides conciliatory. The Chinese media gave quite positive comments regarding Xi’s visit, hinting at progress in chip exports curbs, investment restriction and tariffs.
Worth noting, the upcoming Central Economic Work Conference, usually held in mid-December, sets the policy tone for the next year. Stronger fiscal measures are expected to be adopted for 2024, while a higher deficit ratio and more direct funding from the central government to help support property sector and local governments are possible.
Hong Kong’s benchmark equity index rose 1.46% last week on the back of the softer US inflation data, as well as hopes for the Chinese economy after strong data on consumption and new government stimulus.
Chinese developer stocks rose after China’s government announced plans to provide at least CNY1 trillion (US$137 billion) of low-cost financing to the nation’s urban village renovation and affordable housing programs. However, data showing that China home prices fell the most in eight years in October caused stocks to retreat somewhat.
Internet stocks in China traded mixed amid a busy earnings week.
The week ahead
News that Javier Milei won the Argentine presidential election kicks off this week. He took 56% of the votes. Milei has advocated some unconventional reforms, including replacing the peso with the dollar and getting rid of the central bank.
It will be quieter week, with US markets closed on Thursday and Friday afternoon for Thanksgiving. In addition, Japan is also closed on Thursday. That said, we have a few events to keep things interesting. The Fed October meeting minutes will be released this week, and will no doubt garner some interest. Global Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data will also be worth watching. In the United Kingdom, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will give the Autumn Statement. Asia looks quieter in terms of macro data, but Japanese CPI is worth watching this week.
Monday 20 November
- Germany PPI
- Eurozone Construction Output
- US Leading Economic Indicators
Tuesday 21 November
- UK Public Finances (PSNCR)
- Switzerland Swiss Watch Exports
- US Existing Home Sales
Wednesday 22 November
- UK Autumn Statement
- Eurozone Consumer Confidence
- US Durable Goods & Continuing Claims; US FOMC minutes
Thursday 23 November
- Riksbank Policy Rate Decision
- Euro-area Flash Composite PMI
- UK Flash Composite PMI
- ECB Monetary Policy Account
- France Manufacturing Confidence & Production Outlook
- US Thanksgiving (market closed)
- Japanese CPI
Friday 24 November
- UK GfK Consumer Confidence
- Germany Ifo Expectations Survey; Q3 GDP
- Sweden PPI
- Spain PPI
- US S&P/Markit Manufacturing & Services PMI; US November PMI survey; US early close for equity market
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1. Indices are unmanaged and one cannot directly invest in them. They do not include fees, expenses or sales charges. Past performance is not an indicator or a guarantee of future results.
2. Source: Bloomberg, based on the federal funds futures market. There is no assurance that any estimate, forecast or projection will be realised.
3. CNN’s Fear & Greed Index tracks seven indicators of investor sentiment. Indices are unmanaged and one cannot directly invest in them. They do not include fees, expenses or sales charges. Past performance is not an indicator or a guarantee of future results.
4. Source: BofA Global Investment Strategy, EPFR.
5. Source: BofA European Equity Quant Strategy, EPFR Global.