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EMEA Morning Briefing: Stocks Seen Mixed; Focus on Earnings

MARKET WRAPS

Watch For:

EU ECB Governing Council non-monetary policy meeting; U.K. PPI, monthly automotive manufacturing figures; Germany Ifo Business Climate Index; France Pole emploi unemployment; trading updates from Alstom, ASML Holding, Tullow Oil, Tod's, Fresnillo, easyJet, Lonza Group, Givaudan

Opening Call:

Shares in Europe may open mixed on a weak lead from Wall Street; Asian stock benchmarks broadly higher with some markets still closed for the Lunar New Year; Treasury yields gain; the dollar weakened; oil rose and gold fell.

Equities:

European stocks could be mixed at the open early Wednesday, as investor continue to focus on corporate earnings and economic data.

"The biggest thing this week would be earnings," said John Roe, head of multiasset funds at Legal & General Investment Management.

So far, this earnings season hasn't seen major downgrades to corporate outlooks, or to consensus forecasts for the coming year, Mr. Roe said.

"Everyone was worried that it could be an earnings season where we get revisions down, so when you get a season where nothing happens, you also get the idea that this pushes out the timing of a U.S. recession," he said.

"The market is looking for confirmation that this rally at the start of the year is sustainable. Every number counts," said Antonio Cavarero, head of investments at Generali Insurance Asset Management.

"The economy still might dodge a recession," said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas, Texas.

"The first half of the winter has passed without energy shortages, China's economy is reopening and set to accelerate, and mortgage rates have pulled back a bit from their peaks last fall. But the many financial and economic indicators economists use to forecast business cycle turning points suggest that a recession is more likely near-term."

Forex:

The dollar was weaker early Wednesday. FX markets are in a wait-and-see mood as the Fed goes into a blackout period ahead of the next FOMC meeting, Silicon Valley Bank's Ivan Asensio said.

"This week is more about earnings releases," scrutinizing them for clues about a potential recession, he said.

During the last few recessions the dollar tended to sell off before a recession, recover during the recession and then sell off again, he said.

Regarding the dollar now, he said "we milked the benefit of rate hikes and differentials" and now it's a matter of seeing what rate increases did and how deep slowdowns or a recession may be.

Bonds:

U.S. Treasury bond yields were higher early Wednesday. Yields have been floating with a narrow range for the past few weeks as investors try to guess how much tightening the Fed still has in the pipeline.

"No FOMC member has said explicitly that they expect to pause after the February meeting. But markets are now pricing-in a 20bp tightening in March; one-fifth of investors, therefore are choosing to ignore the public statements of policymakers," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

"That has been a losing proposition over the past year, but what's happening now, in our view, is that investors have flipped from hanging on every word of Fed officials to trusting instead the evidence in front of their own eyes."

"Specifically, three straight good CPI reports, slowing wage growth, back-to-back grim retail sales and manufacturing output reports, the sudden drop in the ISM services index, and the recession-level NFIB index have convinced many investors that the Fed cannot keep raising rates until core inflation is almost back to 2%. We agree," Shepherdson said.

However, Prudent Management's Daniel Berkowitz said, "the Fed has yet to pivot, and a target rate north of 5% in the first half of 2023 remains likely in our view."

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U.K. gilts are favorably priced at the current high yield levels and corporate bond yields are near a decade high, making them attractive to buy, says HSBC head of U.K. rates strategy Daniela Russell.

"In gilts, we see value in the long-end forwards, with the secular re-allocation into fixed income at attractive levels," she said.

While Russell expects increased volatility in the 30-year asset swap spreads, there is a likelihood for the products to richen in the near term.

Energy:

Oil futures gained early Wednesday, as expectations for a pickup in crude demand from China continue to lend support.

"With the latest PMI numbers in Europe and the U.K. showing signs of weakness despite lower energy prices, some doubt is creeping in around any sort of rebound in economic activity," Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets U.K. said.

On Feb. 5, the European Union will impose a ban on imports of Russia-refined petroleum products, and a price cap on Russian oil products will also take effect.

"A key question is whether these measures are already lowering or will further lower Russian oil production," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

Uncertainty around Chinese demand and a lack of clarity of the impact of sanctions on Russian crude oil supplies could remain the key issues in focus for the OPEC+ alliance, ANZ analysts said.

The OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), which reviews the oil market, is expected to meet on Feb. 1.

The JMMC is expected to "endorse the producer's group's current output policy and hope that Chinese demand will balance out worries over inflation and global economic slowdown," the Kansas City energy at StoneX said.

Metals:

Gold prices were lower in Asia, paring Tuesday gains that were boosted by expectations for smaller U.S. interest-rate hikes.

"A weaker dollar and soft U.S. economic data could further sweeten appetite for gold over the next few days," said Lukman Otunuga at FXTM.

"With the U.S. dollar on the backfoot, inflation rates around the world coming down and the Fed more likely to tone down its hawkish rhetoric rather than ratchet it up, gold has been enjoying a strong revival over the past three months," said Raffi Boyadjian, lead investment analyst at XM.

"As long as inflation continues to come down and not prove sticky, gold's uptrend should continue."

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Copper prices rose in Asia, bolstered by supply-shortage issues amid Chinese demand hopes, analysts said.

In recent weeks, social unrest has hampered production in Peru, ANZ Research analysts said, noting MMG has said its Las Bambas copper complex is mining at a lower rate owing to blockade-related supply challenges.

The industrial metal has posted robust gains this year as China's reopening has boosted expectations of a strong rebound in demand, the analysts added.

Base metals should enjoy another leg higher as Chinese authorities "become more pragmatic" in managing the world's second-largest economy, although that next step up may happen closer to summer, Bank of America analysts said.

China's refocusing on growth has helped give some metals prices their strongest January-to-date in years, defying a gloomy macroeconomic backdrop, they added.

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While some analysts and investors expect Chinese iron-ore demand to pick up materially after the Lunar New Year break, UBS analysts remained cautious.

They expect "the demand impulse on reopening to be modest due to the ongoing weakness in China property (more than 25% of demand) and that iron-ore prices will fall as inventories build."

Steel ingredient iron ore has been recently trading above $120/metric ton--an "elevated" level, the UBS analysts said--although market activity is currently subdued due to the holiday in China.

Demand looks weak, with China's pig-iron production falling again in the first 10 days of January and China rebar spreads still depressed, they added.

   
 
 

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January 25, 2023 00:16 ET (05:16 GMT)

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