LIVE MARKETS Banks party after BoE rate hike

  • Europe tracks Wall Street's post Fed rally
  • BoE raises rates, ECB dials back stimulus
  • Tech and banks lead sectoral gainers
  • Euro zone business growth slips
  • U.S. stock index futures rise

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The Bank of England delivered today a 15 basis points increase to its benchmark rate, in a surprise move that made it the first major central bank to raise rates since pandemic. read more

And markets instantly took note.

Gilt yields and the pound rallied while in equities, rate-sensitive banks just took off, setting the FTSE 350 Banks index (.FTNMX301010) for its best day in almost one year, up over 4%, while European banks (.SX7P) rose 3% in sympathy.

"After a long stretch of unmoving interest rates, banks will waste little time in implementing their own rate increases, removing many of the cheapest mortgage deals from the market," said Laura O'Sullivan, banking consultant at Accenture.

The reaction on the main FTSE 100 (.FTSE) and FTSE 250 (.FTMC) equity benchmarks was more muted with both coming slightly off earlier levels.


(Danilo Masoni)



Analysts don’t have a straight answer to the question of why the U.S. Treasury yield curve is near its flattest level in about a year despite a hawkish Federal Reserve.

Some even see an inversion of the curve on the horizon. Historically, yield curve inversions have preceded U.S. recessions.

“Should the demand for Treasuries persist into 2022 in the face of a run of rate hikes to come, then the risk remains that the curve faces an inversion threat far sooner than the Fed would like,” ING analysts say.

“The long end continues to be held down by net demand for Treasuries, but there is also an implied worry that aggressive Fed hikes can hurt the economy,” they add.

A flattening yield curve usually suggests markets see a central bank response to rising inflation as a mistake that could stifle economic growth in the medium term.

ING analysts clarify that a U.S. curve inversion is not their central view. They eventually expect to see long rates drift higher due to a combination of inflation, rate hike and liquidity reduction pressures.

But, “key questions surround how aggressive the Fed will be when it comes to taking liquidity from the system.”


(Stefano Rebaudo)


TECH 2022 ANGST (1114 GMT)

European tech and the Nasdaq have been clear winners since 2019 and broadly very good trades for the past ten years.

And as we close in to the last trading days of the year, the sector in Europe is up about 30% year-to-date and over 26% for the Wall Street index.

Moving forward to 2022, many strategists have doubts on the direction of travel as rising interest rates and yields are usually not a good omen for growth stocks.

Albert Edwards, SocGen's permabear strategist, isn't very optimistic (not that he usually is!).

"My key predictions are that equity markets will surprise and fall sharply as US tech unravels in the first half", he writes in his latest note, pointing his finger notably at unsupportive earnings growth and poor market breadth.

Vincent Deluard at StoneX came up with a list of nightmare scenarios for 2022 and among military confrontations between the West and Russia and China and resilient inflation, came a "blow-up of the Nasdaq bubble".

Among the main indicators showing some stress in that market, Deluard had these in his notes:

- "Two thirds of the Nasdaq composite stocks have fallen below their 200-day moving averages"

- "Breadth has declined steadily for nine months, which is reminiscent of the technical divergences observed in 2000 and 2007"

- "S&P 500 index insiders also sold a record $33 billion in the past six months against purchases of just $99 million", he wrote noting the big chunks of stocks sold by the likes of Musk and Bezos.

Here's his chart:


Funny to note that for some other strategists, the way forward is to be on good old value.

Analysts at Jefferies just published a Christmas list of 25 stocks and among the buys it highlights, tech is clearly not the flavour of 2022:

"Consistent with our top-down views, 75% of our Buys rank in the top three quintiles for the Value factor - names screening well on this front include Shell, Unicredit, ArcelorMittal, and BT".

(Julien Ponthus)



There's been no shortage of commentary previewing the ECB meeting today but if you had no time to prepare, here's a quick guide to navigate through the bank's last policy decision of 2021.

The guide, in the form of cheat sheet, is courtesy of Vanda Research macro strategist Viraj Patel who writes on Twitter: "Expect a lot of dovish flexibility at Dec ECB meeting with the focus now on if hikes can or can't come before APP is done..."

As you see in the snapshot, Patel outlines the consensus scenario which envisages among other things the PEPP bond buying programme to conclude by March 2022, while offering a playbook for any dovish surprise.


Here's more reading, if you have time.

ECB set to dial back stimulus one more notch read more

Life after PEPP: Five questions for the ECB read more

(Danilo Masoni)



On the surface, there is nothing much to write about the Swiss central bank's decision on Thursday.

Zurich is keeping its ultra-loose monetary policy in place even as its bigger counterparts like the Fed are pressing ahead with unwinding their pandemic-era stimulus policies.

But beneath the calm, the ground is shifting.

Chairman Thomas Jordan emphasised that policymakers are closely watching the level of the franc and it will intervene in the market if necessary.

Coming on the back of its biggest weekly intervention last week in more than six months, his comments are a warning to FX punters who are pushing the franc higher.

"There seems to be a clear desire to justify why the SNB is allowing the franc to strengthen as much as it is now and to reinforce its credibility that it will continue to act," said Charlotte de Montpellier, an economist at ING.

"The comment about the risk of negative inflation if the franc were to strengthen too much is for me a real signal about its intentions to act in the coming months."

With the franc strengthening by a further 3% in nominal and trade-weighted terms since September, investors would be keenly watching whether the strengthening currency is taking the edge off imported inflation or proving to be more of a deflationary burden. read more

CHF intervention

(Saikat Chatterjee)



Citi is out with its traditional pre-Christmas note looking at how contrarians performed during the year and concludes that following a "catastrophic" 2020, the trade paid off handsomely this year.

In fact, 2021 was the best contrarian year since 2009, according to strategists at the U.S. investment bank led by Robert Buckland, who however remind investors that being contrarian only delivered in 9 out of the last 26 years.

But what about the outlook for 2022?

"Contrarians will generally be bearish on the US which produces 7 of the 10 shorts. Semi-conductor stocks are a favourite sell, but our contrarian would also be calling against this year’s rebound in Ford and ConocoPhilips. A rapid fall in Covid concerns might help the negative call on Moderna. Another big trade is to short European luxury goods, where returns have been spectacular in 2021," they say.

In a separate note, Citi highlights that luxury shares have risen over 40% in 2021, "the 6th consecutive year of significant market outperformance for the sector despite unprecedented headwinds and high level of uncertainty".

Going back to contrarian bets, Buckland's team believes that EM contrarians "will buying anything China-related".

When it comes to asset allocation, "contrarians will be long gold, short oil. They will be sellers of the US$. They will be long EM, short DM equities".

Here below a screen of their top contrarian picks for next year:


“Reprinted with permission of Citi Research. Not to be reproduced.”

(Danilo Masoni)



All the FOMO (fear of missing out) that had been building up in Europe since Wednesday's Wall Street rally has led to quite an upbeat open, with tech stocks surging about 3%.

But while the good mood is keeping all equity sectors in positive territory, France's EDF stands out for being deeply in the red.

The energy giant is down 8% after cutting its 2021 core profit guidance, following the discovery of faults in a safety system at the Civaux nuclear power station.

On the macro front too, data just showed French business activity expanding at a slower pace in December. Still that isnt preventing the Paris bourse from cruising at the same speed as the pan-European STOXX benchmark, up about 1.4%.

Across Europe, the main bourses are all up over 1%.

But while growth-focused tech stocks are benefiting from the same tide which lifted the Nasdaq boat last night, some smaller individual stocks are shining even more.

Notably Britain's Domino's Pizza Group (DOM.L) is up over 20% after announcing a profit-sharing deal with franchisees, ending more than two years of negotiations.

Cineworld too is up 9%, bouncing off Wednesday's big falls triggered by a court ordering the chain to pay $957 million in damages to rival Cineplex for abandoning a planned takeover.

(Julien Ponthus)



The Fed is out of the way, having announced faster stimulus tapering, signalled three rate hikes for 2022 and upped inflation forecasts. And of the ten central bank meetings scheduled for Thursday, some will deliver rate hikes and most others are likely to flag some form of policy tightening ahead.

Given a hawkish Fed was already pencilled in, the dollar and U.S. yields rose modestly. But its message fired up stocks, especially lifting the tech-heavy Nasdaq more than 2%, the assumption being that long-term yields won't go too far.

That momentum has carried into Thursday, with world stocks rising, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures up as much as 0.7% and a pan-European bourse Europe tipped to open almost 2% higher.

Japan's Nikkei enjoyed its biggest gain in almost seven weeks, helped also by data showing exports up 20.5% from year-ago levels (Full Story). PMIs though showed a slowdown; the year's last set of PMI advance readings are due across the rest of the developed world today.

But back on the central banking front, policymakers in Europe may find it hard to ignore risks from the Omicron COVID variant -- a 25 basis-point Norwegian rate hike for today has gone from a dead-cert some days ago to a probably after the expansion of COVID curbs.

The Bank of England is in a worse bind, with skyrocketing Omicron cases on one hand and 5%-plus inflation on the other.

In any case, it will end its bond-buying scheme, and the European Central Bank shortly afterwards is expected to flag its pandemic-time programme will expire on schedule in March.

Emerging markets, way ahead of the pack in the rate-rise race, will see Mexico raising rates for the fifth consecutive time. Expect Russia to follow with a 100 bps move on Friday.

But there are exceptions, and Turkey is seen carrying on with rate cuts, despite 20%-plus inflation and a fast-falling currency. Anticipating a 100 bps cut on Thursday, the lira has blown past 15 per dollar, having started 2022 around 7.4 TRY=D3.

Reuters Graphics

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Thursday:

-Philippines hold rates (Full Story); Taiwan, Egypt, Indonesia decisions

- Shimao bonds benefit from news of possible support from Shanghai regulators

-Markit Dec flash PMIs

-Swiss National Bank meeting (Full Story)

-Norges Bank meeting (Full Story)

-Bank of England (Full Story)

-ECB policy meeting (Full Story)

-Turkey, Mexico policy meetings (Full Story) (Full Story)

-U.S. initial jobless claims/Philly Fed index/industrial output

-US earnings: FedEx, Accenture, Adobe

(Sujata Rao)



It's catch-up time!

European futures are rushing up this morning, trading well over 1% after Wall Street rallied and Asia ticked up thanks for to a well-received Fed policy statement last night.

Powell struck an upbeat tone about the U.S. economy and seemed ready to raise interest rates to keep inflation in check.

The upbeat mood however in Europe will be subject to how well both the BoE and ECB meetings go down today.

Juggling both inflation and the pandemic is a tricky balancing act for policy makers.

(Julien Ponthus)


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