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Notes from the Trading Desk – Franklin Templeton

Franklin Templeton’s Notes from the Trading Desk offers a weekly overview of what our professional traders and analysts are watching in the markets. As part of Templeton Global Investments Group, the European equity desk is manned by a team of professionals based in Edinburgh, Scotland, whose job it is to monitor the markets around the world. Their views are theirs alone and are not intended to be construed as investment advice.

The digest

Global equities finished last week broadly lower as risk-off sentiment gripped markets. The MSCI World Index closed the week down 2.5%, whilst the S&P closed down 2.4%, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index was down 3.4%, and the MSCI Asia Pacific closed down 2.7%. Heightened geopolitical tensions, higher oil prices and little relief for credit markets kept risk assets under pressure. Markets are closely watching events unfolding in Israel and Palestine, fearful that the war will engulf the broader Middle East. As a result, oil prices moved higher last week. Bond yields remain high, with the US 10-year Treasury nearly breaking through the 5% mark (which it has broken through this morning), whilst the German 10-year bund inched back towards the 3% level.

Market volatility was back last week, as the VIX was up 15%, trading up towards the 22 level for the first time since March.

Third-quarter earnings season is in full swing, with 55 companies in the S&P 500 reporting last week and 36 companies in the Stoxx 600 reporting. Fund flows were interesting last week. Money market funds saw their largest weekly outflow ever last week, shedding US$108.9 billion, with the cash now seemingly sitting on the sidelines.

In terms of sentiment indicators, the Bank of America Bull & Bear Indicator sunk into “Extreme Bearish” territory last week. Historically this would trigger a contrarian buy signal for risk assets.

Week in review

Europe

On a quiet week for newsflow and with risk appetite largely missing last week, European equities retreated. Every sector finished in the red.  Focus remains on the Middle East. US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak both visited Israel last week, which appeared to have little effect in terms of broader de-escalation.

The rise in bond yields continues to provide a strong headwind for equity markets. Across Europe, government bond yields rose again as concerns of sticky inflation and the impact on the economic outlook continue to grip investors. Nonetheless, the closely watched German ZEW Survey rose to -1.1 in October from -11.4 in September.

All equity market sectors were weak. Defensives outperformed overall but still finished lower.

Third-quarter earnings continue to pick up pace in Europe and concerns are beginning to mount. Data shows that earnings for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index companies is forecast to drop by 11.4% year-on-year, which would be on top of a 5.9% drop in the second quarter. Earnings growth is now expected to return until the second quarter of 2024, as high interest rates weigh on earnings in the region. So far, there have been more companies missing expectations than beating them, and the average one-day move for the reporting day of companies in the Stoxx 600 is -1.6%.

United States

A difficult geopolitical backdrop with events in the Middle East front and centre saw a risk-off tone to financial markets last week Bond yields moved higher and equity markets sold off. The S&P 500 Index closed down -2.4% testing support at its 200-day moving average.

Given the war in the Middle East, it was unsurprising to see West Texas Intermediate crude oil rise last week, and energy was the best-performing equity sector. Consumer staples stocks also held up well, thanks to their defensive qualities. On the downside, real estate investment trusts slumped, with higher yields weighing on stocks in the sector. Technology names also lagged last week, as tensions between the United States and China escalated further amidst a new ban on US chip exports to China.

It was a bit quieter in terms of Federal Reserve (Fed) speakers last week. The Fed’s “Beige Book” noted the US economic outlook is stable or may exhibit a milder expansion, as most districts reported little to no change since September. Separately, Fed Chair Jerome Powell stressed that the Federal Open Market Committee is proceeding cautiously, but evidence does not suggest that current policy is too restrictive.

With the higher-for-longer interest rate narrative, it is worth watching credit markets closely, and last week gave us a concerning indicator. Data from Fitch revealed that the percentage of subprime car borrowers at least 60 days late on their loans reached 6.11% in September, the highest level recorded since 1994. In addition, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s data showed delinquencies on auto loans rising.

As you would expect in the current climate, the CNN Fear & Greed Index does not paint a great picture, with investor sentiment hovering just above “Extreme Fear” territory.

Finally, over the weekend, Argentina held its second round of elections. There was no one outright winner, so Economy Minister Sergio Massa and libertarian outsider Javier Milei will face a presidential runoff. With the votes nearly all counted, Massa secured 37% whilst Milei received 30%. Patricia Bullrich, the establishment pro-business candidate, came third with 24% of votes.

Asia

Asian equity markets were weaker last week, as concerns around China’s economic strength continued. The MSCI Asia Pacific closed the week down 2.7%.

Focus last week appeared to be on weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data, rather than the more optimistic reports. Home prices fell 0.3% in September, whilst steel production fell, leading to broader weakness in commodity markets (iron ore prices fell 1.5%). Meanwhile, there was a slight improvement in third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), coming in at +4.9% year-over-year. Industrial production for the month of August also came in marginally ahead of expectations at +4.5%. Also, reports that US/China trade tensions threaten to escalate further weighed on risk sentiment in Asia.

In Japan, the September Consumer Price Index (CPI) excluding food and energy  stood at 4.2%, remaining well above the BoJ 2% target.

Week ahead

Macro week ahead highlights

Monetary policy will be in focus in the week ahead. The European Central Bank looks set to keep interest rates on hold. The US, Euro-area and UK flash Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) surveys for October will provide further insights on growth amidst tighter monetary conditions.

Monday 23 October

  • Netherlands Consumer Confidence Index
  • Eurozone Govt Debt/GDP Ratio; Eurozone Consumer Confidence

Tuesday 24 October                     

  • UK Claimant Count & ILO Unemployment Rate
  • Germany GfK Consumer Confidence
  • France HCOB Manufacturing & Services PMI
  • Germany HCOB Manufacturing & Services PMI
  • Eurozone HCOB Manufacturing & Services PMI
  • UK Output Per Hour
  • UK S&P/Markit Manufacturing & Services PMI
  • UK CBI Trends Total Orders
  • US S&P/Markit Manufacturing & Services PMI

Wednesday 25 October

  • Euro area M3 Money Supply
  • Sweden Producer Price Index (PPI)
  • Spain PPI
  • Germany IFO Business Climate
  • France Total Jobseekers
  • US New home sales

Thursday 26 October    

  • Sweden Trade Balance; Sweden Manufacturing & Consumer Confidence
  • Spain Unemployment Rate
  • UK CBI Retailing Reported sales
  • Eurozone ECB Main Refinancing Rate
  • US Durable goods & GDP & Core PCE prices; US Pending Home Sales Index; US KC Fed manufacturing survey

Friday 27 October

  • Sweden Retail sales
  • France Consumer Confidence
  • Eurozone ECB Survey of Professional Forecasters
  • Spain GDP and Retail sales
  • Italy Manufacturing and Consumer Confidence Index; Italy Industrial sales
  • US Personal spending and Personal Consumption Expenditures prices

 


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What Are the Risks?

All investments involve risks, including the possible loss of principal. The value of investments can go down as well as up, and investors may not get back the full amount invested.  Stock prices fluctuate, sometimes rapidly and dramatically, due to factors affecting individual companies, particular industries or sectors, or general market conditions. Bond prices generally move in the opposite direction of interest rates. Thus, as prices of bonds in an investment portfolio adjust to a rise in interest rates, the value of the portfolio may decline. Investments in foreign securities involve special risks including currency fluctuations, economic instability and political developments. Investments in developing markets involve heightened risks related to the same factors, in addition to those associated with their relatively small size and lesser liquidity.

Any companies and/or case studies referenced herein are used solely for illustrative purposes; any investment may or may not be currently held by any portfolio advised by Franklin Templeton. The information provided is not a recommendation or individual investment advice for any particular security, strategy, or investment product and is not an indication of the trading intent of any Franklin Templeton managed portfolio.

Past performance is not an indicator or guarantee of future performance. There is no assurance that any estimate, forecast or projection will be realised.

This article reflects the analysis and opinions of Franklin Templeton’s European Trading Desk as of 22nd October 2023, and may vary from the analysis and opinions of other investment teams, platforms, portfolio managers or strategies at Franklin Templeton. Because market and economic conditions are often subject to rapid change, the analysis and opinions provided may change without notice. An assessment of a particular country, market, region, security, investment or strategy is not intended as an investment recommendation, nor does it constitute investment advice. Statements of fact are from sources considered reliable, but no representation or warranty is made as to their completeness or accuracy. This article does not provide a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region, market, industry or security. Nothing in this document may be relied upon as investment advice or an investment recommendation. The companies named herein are used solely for illustrative purposes; any investment may or may not be currently held by any portfolio advised by Franklin Templeton. Data from third-party sources may have been used in the preparation of this material and Franklin Templeton (“FT”) has not independently verified, validated or audited such data. FT accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss arising from use of this information and reliance upon the comments, opinions and analyses in the material is at the sole discretion of the user. Products, services and information may not be available in all jurisdictions and are offered by FT affiliates and/or their distributors as local laws and regulations permit. Please consult your own professional adviser for further information on availability of products and services in your jurisdiction.

Issued by Franklin Templeton Investment Management Limited (FTIML) Registered office: Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, London EC4N 6HL. FTIML is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

 

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