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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 Equity 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

Last week saw a numbers of events and challenges for investors to navigate, with some key central bank decisions and ongoing turmoil in the US regional banking system. Both the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) raised interest rates as anticipated, but there is now a view the Fed will pause its cycle of rate hikes. If all that wasn’t enough to digest, there was a lot of micro and macro economic news, with corporate earnings coming thick and fast throughout the week and April US employment data out on Friday. On the week, the MSCI World Index declined 0.5%; the Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.3%; the S&P 500 Index fell 0.8%; and MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 1%.

On Wednesday, the Fed unanimously agreed to raise rates by 25 basis points (bps), bringing the target range to 5.0%-5.25%. In the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC’s) statement, there was a key change in the wording, notably the removal of forward guidance for future hikes. It removed “the Committee anticipates that some additional policy firming may be appropriate…” from the statement. In the press conference, Chair Jerome Powell reiterated the FOMC statement language, saying that the “extent” of more monetary policy tightening now depended on incoming information, a meeting-by-meeting decision.

The market is now pricing that this move is the last rate hike in the current hiking cycle, following 10 consecutive months of rate hikes. Indeed, the market is pricing 70 bps of cuts by year-end and the probability of a cut in July increased to 40.5% from 31.1% prior to the meeting. This is something Powell pushed back on in the press conference. He said that rate cuts would not be appropriate for the Fed’s current forecast of inflation coming down very slowly.

On the recent US regional banking turmoil, Powell seemed confident in suggesting that the deposit crisis was limited to the few small banks that have failed and that it was not seeing broader stress.

ECB: Slowing down, but not done yet

On Thursday, the ECB announced its interest-rate decision and President Christine Lagarde followed with a press conference. The ECB raised rates by 25 bps as expected, from 3.0% to 3.25%, with the Governing Council stating that future decisions will remain “data dependent” (the June meeting will benefit from the latest ECB macroeconomic projections). There was some relief on the announcement, as many were worried the central bank would raise by 50 bps. However, as is often the case, the focus really was on the language around the release, with commentators looking for any hints about future hikes and the size of them. Lagarde duly delivered, as she emphasized the plural in “decisions,” suggesting that two more (25 bp) hikes may be in the pipeline, taking us to a “terminal” (peak) rate of around 3.75%.

The ECB also announced the discontinuation of its Asset Purchase Programme (APP) reinvestments in July. This was something of a surprise, as many had expected this to be announced only at the next meeting in June. It’s worth noting that Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) reinvestments will continue in full.

In the end, the release was somewhat of a compromise, trying to keep both the doves (slowing the pace of rate hikes) and the hawks (hints of multiple rate hikes going forward) happy.

Most importantly, markets—especially the bond markets—seemed happy enough with the release and press conference, and quickly moved beyond the ECB to the economic fallout of the regional bank situation in the United States.

Week in Review

United States

Although the Fed meeting was a key talking point for US equities, the ongoing turmoil surrounding the US regional banks remained a headwind and the S&P 500 Index ended the week slightly lower. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Index saw slight gains on the heels of better-than-expected earnings reports in the sector.

US regional banks were once again in focus. The week started with the news that JPMorgan acquired First Republic Bank, as US regulators sought to avoid a collapse of First Republic. The failure of First Republic is the second largest in US history (Washington Mutual in 2008 is the largest). First Republic had a market cap of US$25 billion in February and shares traded as high as US$144 earlier in the year.

Whilst some hoped that rescue would have calmed the market, attention quickly turned to other banks. Trading in the sector was extremely volatile throughout the week, with the KRE Regional Banks Index declining 10%.

The risk of the US federal government hitting its debt ceiling looms large. Over the weekend, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned there are “no good options” for solving the debt limit stalemate, other than Congress lifting the cap. Many Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell, have said they won’t support raising the ceiling without spending cuts.

In terms of macro data, the April US employment report showed headline growth of 253,000 nonfarm payroll jobs, ahead of expectations and stronger month-over-month.  However, there were a combined 149,000 in downward revisions to March and February. The unemployment rate moved down to 3.4% (the lowest since May 1969).

Europe

European market performance was muted last week, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index down 0.3% as fears over the US banking system created a “risk-off” mood amongst investors. As discussed, the ECB was a key talking point, too.

Looking at sector performance, defensive health care stocks outperformed, along with technology stocks. Meanwhile, media stocks declined, likely on fears around the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on some businesses in the space.

In terms of macro news, the Eurozone Consumer Price Index (CPI) for April accelerated to 7.0%, far above the ECB’s 2% target.

Asia

Despite a holiday-interrupted week—China’s market was closed the first three days and Japan the last three—Asian stocks had a better week overall.

Stocks in Hong Kong rebounded after the Labour Day holiday when the Fed signalled an imminent end to rate hikes. Tech heavyweights were in focus.

China’s mainland market also closed higher post the Labour Day holiday. On the macro front, Caixin PMI came in at 49.5, which was below market expectations and back to contractionary territory. The data showed slowing factory activity which raises concerns that China’s post-COVID recovery may be losing momentum. Another key barometer for China’s recovery is domestic tourism over the holiday season. There were approximately 274 million domestic trips taken from Saturday to Wednesday, marking a roughly 71% increase on the previous year. Spending activity over the holidays surged 129% versus the previous year.

Japanese equities rose 1.04% over the first two days of last week, remaining closed for the rest of the week due to the Golden Week holidays. Markets rallied on Monday, largely on a selloff in the Japanese yen, helping the exporters. This followed the Bank of Japan’s decision at its last meeting to maintain its ultra-easy monetary policy stance for the time being.

Week ahead

There is plenty to focus on this week, with some key macro data coming out (US CPI), the US debt ceiling in focus (Biden-Congress talks), and the Bank of England decision (Thursday). In addition, the concerns around the US regional banks will no doubt remain a driver for markets.

Monday 8 May

  • UK bank holiday
  • German Industrial Production
  • ECB Speak: ECB Chief Economist Philip Lane speaks at Forum New Economy conference in Berlin.

Tuesday 9 May

  • ECB Speak: Olli Rehn
  • US debt ceiling: US President Joe Biden scheduled to meet with congressional leaders on the debt limit. Yellen has said the US government risked default as soon as June 1.
  • Fed Speak: New York Fed President John Williams speaks to Economic Club of New York

Wednesday 10 May

  • German CPI
  • US CPI

Thursday 11 May

  • China CPI
  • BoE policy decision: The BoE is expected to lift interest rates to 4.5% from 4.25%.
  • US Producer Price Index

Friday 12 May

  • UK first-quarter gross domestic product
  • Fed Speak: Philip Jefferson and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard

 


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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.

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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 8th May 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.

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