8@eight: Wall Street, energy set to boost ASX

  • Chris Weston

The US economy has capped off what has been a strong round of global manufacturing data, with animal spirits roaring ahead. A reading of 59.7 in the US manufacturing index is consistent with fourth-quarter GDP above 4 per cent, although it's more likely closer to 3-3.5 per cent.

The long and short of it

  1. Manufacturing: Digging into the report, we can see the new orders sub-index printing 69.4 (up from 64.4 in November) and growing at an incredible clip - it's the strongest read in new orders since 2004. The new orders-to-inventory ratio is also fairly inspiring. Perhaps a small blemish in the report was the employment sub-index, which fell to 57.0 (from 59.7), although employment in the manufacturing space is still growing. Outside of the ISM manufacturing read, we saw US December construction spending increasing at an above-consensus 0.8 per cent in December (month-on-month). Again, this should support the Q4 GDP read when released in late January.
  2. Feel-good factor: The net effect of this data was a 30-pip upside move in USD/JPY into ¥112.50, backed by a modest sell-off in the US bond market, although traders were quick to sell into the USD move ahead of the December federal Open Market Committee minutes. We saw a nice bid running through the US equity markets and this was given extra legs by European equity markets, with the German DAX gaining 0.8 per cent and reclaiming the 13,000 level. The S&P 500 traded to a new high of 2713 by 04.50 AEDT before dropping back a touch into 2707. The buyers have supported into 2707 and with 30 minutes left (at the time of writing) the index is threatening a break of 2713 again. Decent upside moves have been seen in the materials, energy, tech and financial space, with defensive sectors underperforming once again. The world is a happy place right now and investors still want growth, but that may change and there is a growing view that value stocks, specifically in the US equity market, should outperform this year.
  3. FOMC: In the back end of the session, the US Federal Reserve released in December meeting minutes and the net effect has been a slight bid in the USD and some selling across the fixed income curve. Of course, this has resonated in commodity land, where gold traded into $US1307 before buyers stepped back in and again the words "gold" and "resilience" can be put together. Copper lost a bit of ground too, although it is supported by the stronger economic growth thematic that is playing through financial markets.
  4. US crude has found buyers easy to come by, showing no interest in USD moves, and currently sits up 2.1 per cent, so it's no surprise that energy stocks are outperforming. The minutes themselves are subjective and can be interpreted as dovish or hawkish, but the subdued moves in the front-end of the US bond suggest the market took them as less dovish than they could have been, but nothing has really changed. Here the pace of rate hikes is expected to remain gradual, with the committee still firmly in agreement that inflation developments need to be monitored closely, with a "few" participants seeing inflation skewed to the downside and a "few" skewed to the upside.
  5. Rates: There was a more intense debate around the flatter yield curve, something Fed president James Bullard has been outspoken about of late and as we heard, was one of the key reasons Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari dissented against rate hikes in December. So one to watch, especially as the US Treasury 2' vs 10's curve is eyeing a break of 50bp and this could garner increased attention. However, as the bulk of the Fed agreed, "the current degree of flatness of the yield curve was not unusual by historical standards" and the equity and credit markets are not in any way concerned about moves in the Treasury curve. We can also see the fed funds future pricing in a greater degree of certainty around a March hike, with interest rate markets pushing up from a 70 per cent chance of a hike in the March, to now stand at 81 per cent. There should also be focus on the longer-term neutral fed fund rate, where the markets pricing is still far below that is the Fed's own estimate of 2.75 per cent.
  6. ASX: So we have seen signs of covering of USD shorts and this has led to some modest downside in select commodities, but our ASX 200 call at this stage sits up at 6098 (+0.5 per cent) and it suggests that the bulls are back in town, dominating proceedings in the local market. BHP's ADR suggests the miner should open closer to $30.45 (+0.8 per cent), so BHP should put a few points into the index alone. CBA's ADR is also fairly upbeat and sitting up 0.7 per cent, so with the strong moves expected in energy, the question needed to be asked is whether we can not only close above 6100, but can the uptrend seen in the index re-establish itself?
  7. Nikkei: We should also pay attention not just to the Nikkei 225, where the index looks like it want to smash through 23,050, which has been a ceiling on the market since early November and where a closing break could start the ball rolling on a fairly powerful move higher. But I also feel we should focus on USD/CNY, as the correlations of late between CNY strength and AUD/USD and commodity moves has been strong. A weaker CNY, or a stronger USD/CNY could become a headwind, even for the ASX 200 materials sector.
  8. Market highlights

    SPI futures up 20 points or 0.3% to 6051

    AUD+0.1% to 78.37 US cents

    On Wall St: Dow +0.2%, S&P 500 +0.5%, Nasdaq +0.8%

    In New York, BHP +0.3% Rio flat

    In Europe: Stoxx 50 +0.6%, FTSE +0.3%, CAC +0.8%, DAX +0.8%

    Spot gold -0.1% to $US1316.61 an ounce

    Brent crude +1.6% to $US67.62 a barrel

    US oil +1.8% to $US61.46 a barrel

    Iron ore +0.3% to $US74.97 a tonne

    Dalian iron ore -0.7% to 537.5 yuan

    LME aluminium -1.6% to $US2228 a tonne

    LME copper -0.8% to $US7147 a tonne

    10-year bond yield: US 2.45%, Germany 0.43%, Australia 2.72%

The financial market outlook for 2018

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