Friday, June 5, 2015

Market Week Wrap-up Weekly Market Update: Greece and Looming Fed Action Spur More Volatility
Fri, 05 Jun 2015 16:04 PM EST

Choppy trading in stocks, bonds, and currency whipped the markets around this week. At his post rate-decision press conference, ECB President Draghi warned that people need to get used to heightened volatility, adding more instability to an already unpredictable market. Greece crept closer to the edge, as leaders in Athens held out from agreeing to their creditors' "final offer" and pushed back repayments of IMF debt until the end of June. The US May jobs data was very strong, keeping alive the prospect of a September Fed hike, rekindling jitters that higher rates are in sight. The Atlanta Fed raised its tracking estimate for Q2 GDP by three-tenths to 1.1% after the trade deficit narrowed to $40.9 billion in April from March's six-year high of $51.4 billion, a steeper decline than expected. More breathtaking volatility on the Shanghai Composite ended in a nearly 9% rally on the week after official PMI numbers missed expectations and sustained hopes for more PBoC easing. In the same timeframe, US stocks mostly lost ground: the DJIA slipped 0.9%, the S&P500 fell 0.7%, while the Nasdaq was flat on the week.

Bond volatility was extremely pronounced this week as traders juggled monetary policy divergence between the US and the rest of the world against the threat of a Greek default. The yield on the German 10-year bond soared from 0.50% last Friday to an eight-month high of 0.99% on Thursday before easing slightly on Friday. The 10-year US yield hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.44% on Thursday and matched that level again after the jobs report, up from 2.12% last Friday. EUR/USD was similarly volatile, rising more than four and a half big figures from 1.0900 as high as 1.1380 on Thursday before the strong jobs report sent the pair back as low as 1.1050. USD/JPY was less choppy as the pair tested the key level of 124.50 all week before breaking higher on Friday, to 125.80, after the jobs report.

The May US jobs report was the best yet in 2015: non-farm payrolls gained 280K from a revised 221K total in April, and the number of discouraged workers fell to the lowest level since 2008. The unemployment rate rose one-tenth to 5.5%, but that was largely attributable to a rise in the workforce participation rate. After wage growth data missed expectations in two of the last three months, the May report was better than forecast, with hourly earnings rising 0.3% in the month and taking the y/y growth rate to a five year high of 2.3%. The jobs data solidified market expectations of a rate hike in September, as reflected by fed funds futures.

Ahead of the jobs report, the IMF had cut its 2015 US growth forecast to +2.5% from +3.1% and called on the Fed to delay its first rate hike until 2016. The IMF said it does not expect inflation to reach the Fed's 2% inflation forecast until mid-2017 and warned rate hikes could trigger abrupt rebalancing in global markets. Dovish Fed governors Brainard and Tarullo seconded some of the IMF's critiques. Brainard cautioned that if Fed policy diverges from other central banks, US financial conditions would tighten and slow the normalization process. Tarullo said the US economy had lost momentum and asserted that sluggishness in Q1 could not be blamed entirely on transitory issues like the weather and the West Coast ports slowdown.

There was no letup in the Greece rollercoaster this week. On Monday, Greece's major creditors presented Athens with a "final offer" and warned rejection could put the nation in default. Meanwhile, the Greeks offered a counterproposal which offered no new concessions on pension and labor issues. The creditors continue to ask for pension cuts, VAT tax reform and sustained privatization. Athens is disputing the pension and VAT reforms, and wants lower primary budget surplus targets. According to reports, creditors want a budget surplus of 1% of GDP this year and 2% next, while Greece has proposed 0.8% for 2015 and 1.5% for 2016. Snap elections are looking like a possibility as Syriza's left wing makes more complaints about the negotiations. Negotiations between Athens and its creditors are to continue this weekend.

At the ECB's post rate-decision press conference, Draghi reaffirmed the council's commitment to following through with its full slate of QE bond purchases through 2016 and crowed that all is going exactly according to plan. The ECB staff raised its forecast for 2015 inflation to +0.3% from flat prior, after lowering it to that level from +0.7% back in March due to the oil price collapse. Responding to recent gains in inflation, Draghi said inflation is nowhere near the ECB's target and that the total amount of purchases under QE should be adequate, and suggested if anything the ECB could even expand purchases if necessary.

As expected, OPEC maintained its current production ceiling unchanged at 30M bbl per day at its spring meeting in Vienna. Saudi Oil Minister al Naimi claimed the meeting was amicable, however other sources suggested that many non-Gulf OPEC members had lobbied hard for a production cut to help support prices. Russian representatives were in Vienna, and Russia Energy Minister Novak seemed to support the organization's decision to hold steady, saying that any coordinated oil production cut would be detrimental in the longer run. The Iranians meanwhile promised to hike output 1.0M bpd as soon as sanctions are lifted, but delegates said they would address any Iran production increase only after it was a reality.

May auto sales rose to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 17.8M units, the highest sales rate since the summer of 2005. General Motors and Fiat Chrysler sales were better than expected, up 3% and 4% y/y, respectively. Ford's sales also beat expectations, but fell 1.3% y/y, including a 9.7% y/y decline in the company's F-series trucks. Toyota and Nissan saw slight y/y declines, with sales in line with expectations.

The big merger news of the week was Altera, which agreed to be acquired by Intel for $16.7 billion in stock and cash, in a deal valued at $54 a share. Opko Health agreed to buy Bio-Reference Laboratories in an all-stock deal valued at about $1.5 billion. Opko said it would pay 2.75 shares for each Bio-Reference share, or about $52.58 per share. Investors do not seem enthusiastic about either deal: shares of OPK are down 8% on the week, while INTC is off 7%. Shares of Dish Network pointed skyward on reports T-Mobile was pursuing the company, although CNBC's Faber cautioned that while talks between the two firms have momentum, there are plenty of issues to work out. Friday afternoon, global beverage firms bubbled higher on a report that Brazilian foods magnate Lemann is mulling a bid for Diageo, sending shares of the alcoholic beverages company up more than 5%.

The Shanghai Composite bounced nicely after the steep selloff late last week, and by Friday it reached new 7-year highs above the 5,000 mark for a rather lucky 8.888% weekly gain. May PMI data continued to favor the official figures gauging performance of state-owned enterprises over the smaller firms measured by HSBC. The official manufacturing PMI was in expansion for the 3rd straight month, rising fractionally to 50.2, while the HSBC version marked its 3rd straight contraction. China's official non-manufacturing PMI slid to 53.2 from 53.4, a 3-year low. Economists with HSBC as well as Goldman Sachs were generally unimpressed with the results, anticipating continued steady easing by the PBoC. Next week will see the release of China's other mainstay metrics for May, including inflation, trade, lending and industrial output.

In contrast to China, the stock market in Australia has rolled over, with S&P/ASX falling some 5% for a 4-month low below 5,500. Investors had anticipated the RBA to recommit to an easing bias at its decision this week, but the policy board took a more neutral and data-dependent view in light of a slightly better than expected Q1 GDP report. Later in the week, incoming data only justified more caution, with retail sales growth slowing to a 1-year low and trade balance posting its biggest deficit on record going back to the early 1970s.