US Thanksgiving holiday week is traditionally a quiet one for equity markets globally, and last week proved to be just that. There were very little in terms of market catalysts, and equities slowly grinded higher. The MSCI World Index closed up 1.0%, the STOXX Europe 600 Index closed up 0.9%, the S&P 500 Index was up 1.0%, and the MSCI Asia Pacific was up 0.4%.1
US stock markets were closed on Thursday and volumes were very quiet again in a shortened session on Friday. The release of the latest Federal Open Market Committee Meeting (FOMC) minutes was largely a non-event; however, there was a suggestion that disinflation could reverse if the conflict in the Middle East were to escalate.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Chinese government advisors would recommend a gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 2024 of 4.5%-5.5%, which would require further stimulus.2
In the United Kingdom, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement garnered some interest, with some tax and pension changes, but nothing particularly market-moving. Oil prices fell after the OPEC+ meeting. It had been postponed a week, implying a lack of consensus amongst members.
Last week was largely uneventful for European equity markets, with trading volumes in Europe slumping into the US market holiday. The path of least resistance in this quiet environment was higher, with the STOXX 600 Index up 0.9% on the week. With that, European equities are now up 6.1% so far in November, on track for their best monthly performance this year.
Spain’s equity market outperformed last week, up 1.8%, as the new government was formed. Swedish equities also did well, up 1.4%, as the Riksbank kept interest rates on hold (the market had been expecting a hike). Meanwhile, Italy’s FTSE MIB lagged, down 0.6%.
European equities overall remained out of favour, with US$32 million worth of outflows in the week ended 21 November—the 37th week in a row of outflows.3
European Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data remain in contraction territory (below 50), although the November reading was ahead of estimates at 47.1 vs. 46.5 previously. The pace of decline in New Orders also slowed, coming in at 45.1 in November.
In the United Kingdom, Thursday’s PMI data garnered some interest during the week’s doldrums. The Composite PMI came in ahead of expectations at 50.1, in expansion for the first time since July. UK Consumer Confidence also rose, coming in at -24 in November vs. -30 in October. On Wednesday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement, where he announced cuts to personal and business taxes in order to stimulate growth. However, in conjunction with the Statement, the Office of Budget Responsibility published its economic and fiscal outlook which slashed its projection for 2024 GDP to +0.7% from +1.8%.
On Friday morning, Germany’s GDP report came out, falling 0.1% quarter-over-quarter. The German IFO Business Climate survey showed the business outlook improved for a third month in November, which is encouraging given fears about the German economy and the ongoing budget issues for the government. On that subject, the German government announced it will suspend a constitutional limit on net new borrowing for a fourth consecutive year, after Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government was forced into a radical budget overhaul by a ruling last week from the nation’s top court.
Turning to politics elsewhere, the Dutch election last week gave the market a bit of a shock, with far-right Geert Wilders and his PVV party winning, picking up 37 seats. Now, he needs to find coalition partners to get to the 76-seat majority required to form a government, and he has spoken about moderating his stance in order to do so. Watch this space.
In a holiday-shortened week in the United States, market volumes were poor. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indices both managed to log a fourth straight week of gains All sectors finished the week in the green, with health care and consumer staples outperforming. Energy stocks were higher, but a dip in oil prices weighed on the market.
Market volatility was lower again, with the CBOE VIX Index dropping to levels last seen in 2020, pre-COVID.4
There were very few market catalysts last week. The FOMC meeting minutes didn’t provide much new for equity markets—revealing all participants voted to keep the federal funds funds rate unchanged at the last meeting. Members noted that rates would need to remain restrictive at current levels “for some time”, which didn’t represent anything particularly new. They did note the risk of an escalation in the Israel-Palestine conflict and what that would mean for inflation in the United States through rising global oil prices.
In terms of data, the latest US Composite PMI data came in unchanged overall at 50.7 in November. Manufacturing dropped to 49.4 in November vs. 49.4 in October, but this was offset by an upturn for the services sector, up to 50.8 vs. 50.6 previous.
Asian markets were somewhat muted last week after a couple of good weeks prior. The MSCI Asia Pacific closed the week up 0.37%, with South Korea’s market the outperformer, up 1.08%, and Thailand’s equity market the underperformer, down 1.27% last week.
Looking ahead, most markets in Asia started this week off on relatively low volumes after the US Thanksgiving holiday and a slow half-day session in US markets on Friday; markets in India and the Philippines are closed for holidays on 27 November.
Central banks in South Korea, Thailand and New Zealand are expected to keep interest rates on hold at their policy meetings this week. China will release its official PMI data, which is expected to point to a continued recovery in economic activity, but the Caixin manufacturing number due later this week may paint a more subdued picture. Markets will also be watching for news about a Chinese government rescue package for the beleaguered property market.
The Nikkei closed last week just in the green, up 0.12% in a holiday-shortened week (Japan’s market was closed Thursday), with volumes unsurprisingly light. On Monday, the Nikkei hit 33853.46, its highest level since 1990, helped by recent earnings and better sentiment toward the US interest rate outlook. Japan’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) accelerated for the first time in four months in October, rising 2.9% year-over-year, further underlining speculation that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will likely start to tighten soon. There was also a Nikkei article last week highlighting that dividend reinvestment was supporting the market, as September dividend payments started peaking around the end of November to the beginning of December.
Semiconductor stocks were in focus last week, with Nvidia posting strong results. Sector-wise, shipping, insurance and services were the best performers, while autos, trading houses and refiners slumped.
The Shanghai Composite Index closed down 0.44% last week despite a slew of somewhat bullish property sector-related headlines and government initiatives, which include:
- Chinese regulators are drafting a whitelist of 50 developers eligible for a range of financing, and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private developers will be treated equally.
- Shenzhen rolled out two new homebuying measures, including lowering the down-payment ratio for second homes to 40% from as much as 80% and relaxing the definition of so-called “ordinary housing”, or non-luxury homes, that qualify for lower down payments.
- China may allow banks to offer unsecured short-term loans to qualified developers for the first time.
Not surprisingly, property developers were strong last week, whilst bank stocks were lower. Renewables, including solar and lithium names, sold off in a week of broad renewables “risk off”. Notably, BYD shares fell, dragging the electric vehicles sector lower amidst price cut reports.
On the economic front, Chinese banks left their one and five-year loan prime rates unchanged, as expected, after the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) kept its medium-term lending rate on hold.
Looking ahead, PMI and industrial profits numbers will be closely watched, as a gauge of China’s industrial recovery.
The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.6% last week after China stepped up its support for the distressed real estate sector. A slew of positive policies were announced (see above) that sent shares of Chinese developers surging. Chinese internet names traded mostly higher, after Baidu and Kuaishou reported better-than-expected margins.
Eurozone inflation figures will be closely watched this week. Also, the latest MSCI rebalance on Thursday will likely provide a liquidity shot in the arm for equity markets. Friday’s US ISM Manufacturing report will also garner some interest late in the week.
Upcoming December central bank policy meetings (all expected to hold rates steady) include the FOMC on 13 December, European Central Bank on 14 December, and Bank of England on 14 December.
Eurozone reports to watch
Tuesday 28 November: Euro-area M3 Money Supply
Wednesday 29 November: Sweden GDP; Spain HICP Inflation; UK Mortgage Approvals; Germany HICP Inflation
Thursday 30 November: France HICP Inflation; Italy HICP Inflation; Euro-area CPI Inflation Estimate
Friday 1 December: UK Nationwide House Prices
Global data calendar for the week ahead
Monday 27 November
- US New Home Sales; Dallas Fed Manufacturing Activity
Tuesday 28 November
- Euro-area Monthly Credit Data
- Germany – GfK Consumer Confidence
- France – INSEE Consumer Confidence
- US FHFA House Price Index and House Price Purchase Index; Conference Board Consumer Confidence; Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index and Dallas Fed Services Index
Wednesday 29 November
- Sweden third quarter GDP
- Spain HICP Inflation
- UK Mortgage Approvals
- Germany HICP Inflation
- Italy ISAE Business Confidence
- Eurozone Consumer Confidence
- Japan Retail Sales
- US Mortgage Applications; Wholesale Inventories; Advance Goods Trade Balance; Retail Inventories; GDP (revision); Personal Consumption (revision); GDP Price Index (revision); Beige Book
Thursday 30 November
- France HICP Inflation; third quarter GDP
- Italy HICP Inflation
- Euro-area CPI Inflation Estimate
- Germany Unemployment Rate
- Japan Unemployment Rate
- US Personal Income; Personal Spending; Initial Jobless Claims; Continuing Claims; Real Personal Spending; Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Deflator and PCE Core Deflator; MNI Chicago PMI; Pending Home Sales
Friday 1 December
- UK Nationwide House Prices
- US PMI-Manufacturing (revision); Construction Spending; ISM-Manufacturing; ISM-Prices Paid/Employment/New Orders
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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: “Exclusive: China government advisers call for steady growth target in 2024, more stimulus.” Reuters. 21 November 2023.
3. Source: Bloomberg; citing Bank of America and EPFR Global data.
4. The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) measures market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. Often called the “fear gauge”, lower readings suggest a perceived low-risk environment, while higher readings suggest a period of higher volatility.