Weekly Market Review – April 10, 2021

Stock Markets

While the small-cap Russell 2000 Index registered a minor loss, most of the benchmark indexes surged to record highs. Although the broad-market S&P 500 Index gained 2% over last week’s close, it was outperformed by the Nasdaq, which tracks mostly technology counters. Despite its strong showing, the Nasdaq fell short of its February peak. Within the S&P 500, technology shares led the rest of the stocks due to stellar performances by Apple and Microsoft accounting for about 40% of the sector’s market capitalization. Coming second are casino and cruise line shares which also registered strong gains. Lagging the market are energy stocks due to the oil price pullback earlier in the week. Value shares were outperformed by growth stocks, which narrowed the year-to-date performance gap.

U.S. Economy

Investor optimism about the recovering economy continued to move the markets this week. The bull market is quite young, however, therefore, there is substantial speculation about what developments in the economy will continue to push the indexes upward.

  • One reason for the bull market to advance is the improving labor-market situation during a post-covid scenario. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has already fallen by 9%, higher than the 6.5% record unemployment decline within the period October 2009 to February 2020. Looking at the larger picture, however, the deep slide comes after the extraordinary pandemic situation that put a record number of people out of work within a short time. The current unemployment figure of 6% is still historically high, and the weekly initial jobless claims increased in the past week, indicating the need to maintain caution in forecasting the future trend.
  • The earnings yield on stocks relative to the benchmark 10-year Treasury rate still stands at slightly below 3%, the lowest level since 2018. This is due to two continuing trends – the increase in interest rates and rising stock prices. The receding trend in earnings compared to bond yields is an indication that investors are being compensated less for assuming the risk of investing in equities compared to investing in the much safer Treasury yields. The bull market remains intact, but equities will likely see more moderate returns in the future.
  • Although the economic recovery will proceed unhampered, it may face challenges in the fiscal and monetary policies proposed by the current administration. The proposed $2 trillion infrastructure bill will raise the pandemic stimulus higher than 30% of GDP, with accompanying tax hikes as revenue-raising measures to fund the federal deficit. This may undermine the earnings growth rate next year while leaving this year intact. There may also be occasions for Fed rate hikes in attempts at monetary policy tightening, in response to possible inflation rate hikes, although the Fed reiterated in the past week that it will maintain an accommodative policy to further drive the present economic expansion.

Metals and Mining

In the past week, gold reached $1,757 per ounce, its peak over the last four weeks and a welcome development over a dismal March performance. The rally is a reaction to the weaker US dollar and falling 10-year Treasury yields. The metal opened the week by descending to a six-month low of $1.721 on Monday, then rising sharply to breach the $1.750 threshold on Thursday. Gold prices corrected to $1,745 when the dollar and yields began to recover. It traded Friday at $1,747.23. Silver, on the other hand, sold at $25.23 per ounce on Friday.

Platinum traded with some volatility over the week, opening on Tuesday at $1,194 per ounce then soaring to $1,239 at the end of the trading day. By Friday, platinum slid to $1,191, then traded at $1,194 by midday. Palladium climbed to $2,600 per ounce, a year-to-date high, during the week before it later corrected to $2,548 by midday on Friday.

Mirroring the upward movement of precious metals, base metals also rose earlier in the week before corrected towards the week’s end. Copper rose above $9,000 per tonne, rallying from $8.768 at the start of the week. The price swing was reflective of the metal’s stores in London’s warehouses. It reached $9,104, its peak in two weeks. But steady deliveries of copper into LME warehouses brought prices lower by Friday to trade at $8.947.50.

Zinc rose 2.2% during the week and surged to $2,813 per tonne on Tuesday, later on to $2,825. The furtherance of the rally sent it to trade Friday at $2,827.50. Nickel gained 5%, climbing from $16,001 per tonne on Monday to trade at $16,828 on Thursday, only to slide back to $16,595 on Friday. Lead increased by $20 and held at $1,969 per tonne at the end of trading.

Energy and Oil

Oil prices are expected to register a loss for the week following significant trading volatility. Speculation was fueled by concerns between tightness in the market and the expectations of increasing demand, confounded by lockdown measures to arrest the continued spread of covid cases. Continued uncertainty dogged the ultimate fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline as the Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled to appear in court to continue to litigate the matter on Friday. The pipeline remains open pending a more thorough environmental assessment.

In the meantime, the industry appears to make a move towards more sustainable energy. Oil majors are making bids for offshore wind auctions in the North Sea, crowding out big developers by pushing auction prices upward. The EPA likewise announced its proposal for new car and light0duty truck fuel economy standards by the end of July. The EIA also lowered its 2022 forecast for U.S. oil output by 100,000 barrels per day, estimating an average of 11.04 million bpd compared to last month’s estimate of 11.15 million bpd after the Texas grid crisis.

Natural Gas

As temperatures climbed to more moderate levels across the nation, natural gas spot prices dropped at most locations from March 31 to April 7. The Henry Hub spot price dropped to $2.38 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on April 7 from $2.49/MMBtu one week earlier.

The price of the May 2021 contract at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) slid by $0.09 to $2.520/MMBtu from $2.608/MMBtu for the week. The 12-month strip averaging May 2021 through April 2022 futures contracts price fell $0.03/MMBtu to $2.750 /MMBtu.

World Markets

Growing optimism that a global economic recovery will be brought about by the infusion of fresh fiscal stimulus and supportive central bank policies was the catalyst of price increases in European stocks in the past week. The pan European STOXX Europe 600 Index closed the week’s trading with a gain of 1.16% in local currency terms. The major stock indexes were mixed, with France’s CAC 40 gaining 1.09% and Germany’s Xetra DAX Index also rising 0.84%. Italy’s FTSE MIB, on the other hand, lost 1.14%. UK’s FTSE 100 Index grew by 2.65% due to the weaker currency. The UK pound lost ground on the back of worries concerning vaccine supply, coinciding with technical profit-taking after a strong first quarter. When the pound falls, the UK’s equities rise since many of the FTSE 100 listed companies generate their revenues abroad.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average broker through the 30,000-resistance level early in the week. The strong opening was followed by more moderate trading as the Nikkei 225 corrected slightly by the week’s end. The broader TOPIX also closed slightly lower. The yen rose against the U.S. dollar to end the week at the high JPY 109 bracket. The benchmark 10-year government bond yields lost some ground to close just above 0.10%. Meanwhile, in China, stocks fell for the week in a continuation of the bourse’s underperformance against the world markets. The large-cap CSI 300 dipped by 2.4% and the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gave back 1.0%. Despite positive corporate earnings, rising inflation and increased U.S.-Sino tensions caused investor sentiment to weigh heavily on the market. Conversely, the fixed income market was buoyed as the yield on China’s 10-year bond rose marginally to close at 3.21% in light of the optimistic prospect of continued economic recovery.

The Week Ahead

The important economic data scheduled for release in the coming week include manufacturing production, retail sales growth, and an inflation update.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Federal budget
  • NFIB small-business index
  • Consumer price index
  • Core CPI
  • Import price index
  • Beige Book
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Retail sales
  • Retail sales ex-autos
  • Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index
  • Empire state manufacturing index
  • Industrial production
  • Capacity utilization
  • Business inventories
  • National Association of Home Builders index
  • Building permits
  • Housing starts
  • Consumer sentiment index (preliminary)

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – April 3, 2021

Stock Markets

The strong first-quarter performance for equities ended with the holiday-shortened trading week. Markets were closed for trading on Friday in observance of Good Friday. On Thursday, the large-cap S&P 500 index traded above the 4,000-point resistance level for the first time in history. The S&P MidCap 400 Index likewise set a new record for intraday trading. The Nasdaq Composite index, which tracks mostly technology counters, led the advance due to gains in a broad range of hardware and semiconductor stocks and was helped by a rally in Facebook shares. Consumer confidence reached its highest level since the pandemic broke out, and there was an expansion in manufacturing activity for March, recording the fastest growth rate in the last four decades. Lagging the market were the consumer staples and materials sectors within the S&P 500. Also, for the first time since January, growth stocks significantly outperformed value shares.

U.S. Economy

Driving the stock trades in the past week were worries about contagion in the financial markets, particularly regarding hedge funds, being superseded by optimism about the upcoming infrastructure spending. Investors turned their attention to the increase in bond yields and the anticipation of accelerated economic growth. The infrastructure plan unveiled by the administration on Wednesday indicated that spending will be dramatically increased on internet and transportation infrastructure. Research and development projects will also benefit greatly from the spending plan estimated at $2.25 trillion. While experts believe that the proposed spending package is at the low end of the range of estimates, it was clarified that a second package is likely to be announced this month. The additional expenditure targets health care, child care, and education.

  • The plan does not yet provide for an increase in taxes on wealthy individuals, although it does include a tax hike for the top corporate tax rate to 28% from the current 21% to offset the cost of the spending bill in the next decade and a half. The measure also provides an increase in the global minimum tax rate from 13% to 21% with a mandate for multinational firms to pay the U.S. tax rate. The proposal likewise ends federal subsidies on fossil-fuel firms.
  • The administration indicated its openness regarding how the infrastructure plan is to be funded, to woo bipartisan support for the bill. The chances are low, however, that Republicans will support suggestions for a tax hike. In light of the negotiations that will follow prior to the bill being passed, significant changes may be made to the bill
  • An increase in the corporate tax rate may result in a sudden drop in corporate earnings, although this is expected to be a one-time occurrence and eventually will have little impact on investors’ stock valuations. Once discounted, the tax hikes may be accompanied by higher consumer spending and therefore higher revenues for listed corporations, for as long as the economic environment remains positive.

Metals and Mining

The trading week for metals ended on Thursday, April 1, as markets were closed for the Good Friday holiday. On Thursday, gold rose by slightly more than 1% spurred mainly by a retreat in U.S. bond yields. Simultaneously, a negative U.S. jobless report showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged above expectations. This tempered the optimistic outlook of an eventual economic recovery, further enhancing the appeal of the yellow metal as a safe-haven investment particularly in light of the administration’s $2 trillion spending plan that has sparked inflationary concerns. Spot gold prices rose 1.2% to $1,727.86 per ounce at about 1:39 p,m. EDT, while gold futures settled at $1,728.30, 0.7% up. Silver rose to $24.89 per ounce, up 2.1%. Platinum ended at $1,208.42, up by 1.8%, while palladium climbed to $2,651.79, up by 1.3%

Energy and Oil

OPEC+ decided to increase production by more than 2 mb/d in the coming months. There is a projected 350,000-bpd increase each in May and June and a 450,000 bpd in July. Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia announced that it will ease its voluntary 1 mb/d cut, implying that it will likely keep production at current levels. Rather than push prices downward on the prospect of increased supply, investors interpreted the bearish move as an indicator that demand is expected to grow. This pushed prices up as investors felt confident that the rise in demand will be met by added supply without the probability that a surplus will develop.

Despite Biden’s declaration that the new infrastructure plan will favor clean energy over fossil fuels, it appears that the plan will also call for higher demand for asphalt, which is likely to prop up demand for heavy crude blends. On the other hand, the demand for oil may likely take a hit from a new round of lockdowns in Europe and the slowdown of the vaccination roll-out. Furthermore, California is poised to add 1.7 GW of energy storage in 2021, which will be sufficient to power 13 million homes. The batteries are expected to help reduce blackouts in the summer.

Natural Gas

During the report week (March 24 to March 31), natural gas spot prices moved upward at most locations. The Henry Hub spot price climbed from $2.45 per million Brutish thermal units (MMBtu) to close the week at $2.49/MMBtu. The April 2021 contract expired Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at $2.586/MMBtu which is $0.07/MMBtu higher than Wednesday the week before. During the same period, the May 2021 contract rose by $0.04/MMBtu to $2.608/MMBtu. The 12-month strip averaging May 20201 through April 2022 futures contract price rose to $2.782/MMBtu, an increase of $0.04/MMBtu. There is a depletion of European gas storage, which could create shocks in the global gas market later in the year.

World Markets

During the holiday-shortened trading week, European shares climbed to a near-record high on continued positive news of a speedy and robust economic recovery. The announcement of a massive U.S. infrastructure spending bill has calmed worries of the probability that lockdowns will prevail in Europe over a longer-than-expected period. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index closed 2% higher for the week. France’s CAC 40 and Italy’s FTSE MIB mirrored Europe 600’s rise, and Germany’s Xetra DAX Index outperformed them by rising about 3%. The FTSE 100 Index of the UK moved sideways with little change.

Core eurozone government bond yields finished higher across the board, They initially rose in tandem with U,S, Treasuries early in anticipation of more U.S. fiscal stimulus and the progress of the vaccination roll-out. Inflation quickened in the eurozone’s 19 countries, registering at 1.3% in March from 0.9% in February. Higher prices of energy and non-processed food prices led to the increase based on official flash estimates. The European Central Bank acknowledges the likelihood of a temporary spike in inflation, after which it will then slow to below the 2% target rate in the long term.

Turning to the Asian stock markets, the Japanese equities began the week’s trading on a high note on the back of bargain hunting by investors after the market declined sharply last week. Investor sentiments also rose due to expectations of the $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending bill announced by the U.S. on Wednesday. The market retraced its gains by midweek, however, due to the release of disappointing economic results and the announcement that Japan’s new coronavirus cases surpassed 10,000 for the first time. A rebound was seen on Thursday, however, prior to the market’s close, in pace with the heavy gains in the Nasdaq index. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average ended up by 0.7% for the week while the broader TOPIX closed about 1% lower.

Ahead of the long weekend, Chinese stocks ended strong as investors were heartened by the announcement of an additional tax reduction of RMB 550 billion aimed at consolidating the economic recovery. Also among the positive news is the strong March purchasing managers’ index data and the more robust performance of the U.S. and other world markets. From Friday last week to the close on Thursday, the CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite both climbed by 1.4%. Reports of new covid cases remain small at 16 on Wednesday, ten of which were imported and six local. If China’s aim to vaccinate 40% of its population by the end of June is achieved, this may signal a strong recovery in the business and consumer services sector, particularly food and entertainment.  

The Week Ahead

The important economic data to be released in the coming week include the trade balance, durable good orders, an inflation update, and the PMI composite.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Markit service PMI (final)
  • ISM services index
  • Factory orders
  • Job openings
  • Trade deficit
  • FOMS minutes
  • Consumer credit
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Producer price index
  • Wholesale inventories

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – March 27, 2021

Stock Markets

The major stock indexes were mixed in the past week’s trading. Investors appear to be caught between the optimism of the continued reopening of the economy and ongoing concerns about the possible increase in inflation and interest rates. Small-cap stocks slowed for the second week in a row, while the S&P 500 managed a slight gain despite communication services stocks faring worse. Several traditional media companies met with sharp declines after their past strong performance. The rising covid infection rates in several states and news of repeated lockdowns in Europe also dampened investor optimism early in the week. The market rebounded on Thursday, however, on news of expanded vaccination targets and announcement by the states that vaccination will be opened to all residents over 16.

U.S. Economy

There was a sizable decline last week in weekly jobless claims by as much as 100,000 to 684,000. This is the first recorded jobless claims report below 700,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. The figure remains higher than the jobless claims of 665,000 during the worse of the 2009 financial crisis. However, this points to the upside still to be traversed as the economy opens up and businesses continue to provide jobs for many of those still dislocated by the pandemic.

  • Another driver that has still to be factored in is the latest round of stimulus checks which will hopefully boost consumer spending and release the pent-up demand for goods and services expected to flood the market. As consumer spending improves, attention is likely to shift to the infrastructure bill currently being considered. Whether this bill will find its way through Congress as easily as the pandemic relief bill is something still to be seen. The price tag is going to be hefty but long-term in nature, therefore it is likely that the infrastructure build-up will provide a sustained fiscal boost to the economy in the years to come.
  • The underlying optimism among investors will continue to be buoyed by faster economic growth and increasing corporate profits. However, the post-pandemic stock market will be defined by more modest corporate gains and increased volatility. Worries about the direction of inflation and interest rates will create challenges to investor confidence, although there is no strong indication at present that fiscal policy constraints will seriously threaten the prospects of continued economic expansion and bull market.

Metals and Mining

Gold was down in the past week’s trading and is now at its lowest levels in six months. It last peaked in August 2020 when it broke out of the $2,000 per ounce level, and its decline since then mirrors the decrease in holdings for exchange-traded funds that gave up 84.7 tonnes in February. The metal descended to $1,722 this week before rebounding slightly to Friday’s $1,728.98. Demand may be lower this year than in 2020, as investors are not seen to chase the metal higher, and instead tempering their actions with more savvy buying. Silver tread the same path as gold in the face of rising values for the US currency and Treasury yields. It succumbed to downward pressure to test its year-to-date low of $24,53 per ounce. It recovered quickly to close Thursday’s trading at $25 per ounce. It slipped back on Friday’s opening to $24.90 and traded at $24.93 later in the day.

Platinum and palladium prices continue to be benefitted from supply issues in Russia. Platinum gained 1.9% from its open on Monday at $1.158 per ounce to its Friday value at $1,167. Palladium gained by a modest 0.8% for the week to end Friday at $2.562. It is experiencing some resistance as it inches closer to its all-time high of $2,614, attained in February 2020.

Base metals suffered declines across the board during the trading weak, which was largely attributed to the continued spread of covid variants and its likely negative impact on economic recovery. Copper fell by 3.4% by Thursday from its week’s opening at $9,097 per tonne. Nickel ended the week at $15,984 from its monthly high at $16.526. Zinc opened at $2,860 on Monday and ended Friday down by $101 at $2,759. Lead also ended the week lower at $1,907 per tonne. Noticeable during the dips, however, are signs of value buying that suggest an underlying bullish sentiment. Despite the current market softness, the sector continues to remain higher in its year-to-date performance, indicating the presence of robust support.

Energy and Oil

Oil prices were extremely volatile this week. Downward pressure was exerted by lockdowns and the slowdown in vaccination, but buying was buoyed due to news of the Suez Canal bottlenecks. Analysts remained positive despite the recent decline in prices, convinced that they were oversold on the fundamentals and that demand was set to ramp up during the summer. At about the same time, retail gasoline prices in the U.S. are expected to hit $3 per gallon, according to analysts. This week the price of gasoline inched up to $2.88 per gallon. Also noted by a Bloomberg report is the increasing frequency of talk about ESG (environmental, social, and governmental) issues, having noted that it was mentioned hundreds of times in the industry throughout the first quarter of 2021.

Shale costs are gradually inching up as the average cost to drill a new well in the U.S., as noted by a recent Dallas Fed survey, rising by 5% to $52 per barrel from last year’s figures. The increase in cost was mainly due to fewer service providers accounting for cost inflation. The same survey nevertheless sparked some optimism that the shale industry will see higher growth for the first quarter of this year. The business activity index of the survey, which gave a reading of only 18.5 for the fourth quarter of 2020, soared to 53.6 for the first three months of 2021.

Natural Gas

For this report week (March 17 to March 24), natural gas spot prices fell across most locations due to reduced demands as heating requirements continued to decline. Furthermore, dry natural gas production reached its highest level since the year began. The Henry Hub spot price fell to $2.45 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from last week’s $2.51/MMBtu. The price of the April 2021 contract decreased at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX); down by $0.01 from $2.528/MMBtu to $2.518/MMBtu for the week. The price of the 12-month strip averaging April 2021 through March 2022 futures contracts rose by $0.02, to $2.750/MMBtu.

World Markets

European share prices went up in anticipation of a post-pandemic economic recovery, making up for earlier losses in the preceding weeks. The losses were weighed by concerns over the resumption of covid restrictions in response to the accelerating spread of the virus throughout Europe and the possibility that the European Commission (EC) may halt further vaccine exports. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index gained 0.85% while major stock indexes were mostly mixed.  Germany’s Xetra DAX Index, the UK’s FTSE 100 Index, and Italy’s FTSE MIB posted gains while France’s CAC 40 dropped lower for the week.  

Overall, the core and peripheral eurozone government bonds fell over concerns of the slow vaccine rollout in Europe. A new wave of coronavirus infections also worked to drive demand for high-quality government bonds. An increase of EUR 7.1 billion in the weekly bond purchases of the European Central Bank exerted downward pressure on yields. Fears that the EC may block vaccine exports to the UK caused a decline in gilt yields. Furthermore, weaker-than-expected inflation data pulled yields lower as it became unlikely that the Bank of England may resort to tightening its monetary policy.

In Japan, equities dropped precipitously on Monday as the Nikkei fell below the 29,200 level amid ongoing concerns of the tenuousness of a global economic recovery. The optimism caused by the lifting of the state of emergency in the Tokyo region was offset by the renewed pessimism brought about by the renewed coronavirus lockdowns in Europe. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average slid 2.1% for the week, even as the TOPIX declined 1.4%. The yen weakened to just below JPY 110 against the U.S. dollar, and the yield on the 10-year Japanese government bond also dropped to 0.08%.

In China, it was the reverse as stocks exhibited weekly gains. Shares rallied on Friday on news that the central bank was not going to adopt a monetary tightening policy. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite (SSEC) Index climbed by 0.4% to close the week at 3418.3, and large-cap CSI 300 Index also strengthened by 0.6% to end trading at 5038.0, signaling the bourses’ first weekly at the end of five weeks of successive losses. China’s sovereign 10-year bond closed down four basis points from the previous week at 3.22%, in response to expectations that the country’s monetary policy will remain supportive in the short term.

The Week Ahead

Major economic data scheduled for release in the coming week are the Unemployment Rate, the Consumer Confidence Index, and the PMI Manufacturing Index.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Case-Shiller national home price index (year-over-year change)
  • Consumer confidence index
  • ADP employment report
  • Chicago PMI
  • Pending home sales index
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Markit manufacturing PMI (final)
  • ISM manufacturing index
  • Construction spending
  • Motor vehicle sales (SAAR)
  • Nonfarm payrolls
  • Unemployment rate
  • Average hourly earnings

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – March 20, 2021

Stock Markets

The bottoming out of the stock market due to the pandemic shutdown marked its first anniversary on March 23. The plunge marked the shortest bear market in history; ever since, the markets including stocks, long-term bond yields, and commodities have rebounded decisively. Driving its continued uptrend are the prospects of a successful vaccine deployment program and the impending return to normalcy. The Dow briefly traded above the 33,000-level last week as a result of three major forces: the graduate reopening of the economy, fiscal spending at historic levels, and broad accommodation by the central bank. The bull market is likely to continue onto its second year, as policymakers affirmed that they foresee no interest rate hikes until 2023 and that the upward trend of the inflation rate will be short-lived. A disciplined strategy and investing for the long-term is bound to be rewarded during the bull run’s second year.

U.S. Economy

The economy faces a bright future as full recovery is anticipated following the successful roll-out of the covid vaccine. Until the present, however, recovery has impacted only selected sectors while others continue to lag. At the current pace and with the prospect of an accelerated vaccine distribution scenario, the economy’s reopening may bring it to exceed its 2019 peak at the second quarter’s end. By the middle of 2022, the country would have returned to its pre-pandemic status and be poised to resume its interrupted expansion before the pandemic.

  • Unemployment is expected to decline as the economy gradually reopens, but there will remain significant slack in the labor market resulting from the exodus of people from the labor force. The services sector of the economy, which accounts for 70% of employment, will remain soft as this will be the last sector of the economy to fully reopen. Eventually, consumer spending in services will drive employment in this sector, further fueling the next leg of the economic recovery.
  • The easing of pandemic restrictions and pick-up in job openings are expected to result in the improvement of the level of consumer confidence. Also, there is more than $2 trillion of excess savings households have currently accumulated after multiple government check issuances, indicative of a pent-up demand that may be released with the eventual return to normalcy. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of the U.S. GDP which is poised to accelerate at its fastest pace since 1984.

Metals and Mining

Gold rose during the week’s trading, touching a monthly high of $1,764 per ounce and reversing three weeks of steady losses that brought the price down to slightly above $1,700. Furthering the metal’s rise was the slight decline in the US dollar and treasury yields, encouraging a flight to value. On March 19, Friday, the US central bank declared that it was unlikely to extend last year’s alteration to the supplementary leverage ratio. This change was adopted in April 2020 to address the pandemic’s impact by allowing banks their holding capital against treasuries and receipts.  This dovish stance signaled that it was unlikely that the Feds would take aggressive action in monetary policy, giving enough impetus for gold to move up from the $1,722 price range. Aside from this, the anticipation for stimulus spending and economic growth have spurred the price of gold higher. Gold ended the week trading at $1,735,69.

Silver also rallied after two weeks of market softness, reaching an intraweek high of $26,60 per ounce as of Wednesday. It then corrected to just below $26 per ounce on Thursday. By week’s end, the Fed’s announcement spurred silver to rise to $26.20. It traded at P26.17 by Friday. Platinum, on the other hand, shed 3.7% for the week, with prices descending to their early February levels, a breakdown from its month-long support of $1,200 per ounce. Palladium reversed course to rally to $2,644 from its price of $2,292 per ounce on Monday. The 15% increase resulted from supply challenges following the flooding of two mines under Nornickel. As of Friday, Platinum was selling at $1,179 while Palladium was trading at $2,539 per ounce.

Base metal prices descended for the week, with copper dropping below $9,000 by midweek after starting Monday at $9,147.50 per tonne. This is a steep drop from its price of $9,614 earlier this month. By week’s end, copper returned to just above $9,000. Zinc declined slightly to $2,801 from $2,815 per tonne, while lead closed the week at $1,896, declining 2% from its Monday trade at $1,936 per tonne.

Energy and Oil

Crude oil ended weeks of steady increase with the largest single-day loss since April of last year. It plunged 7% on Thursday, largely due to several bearish factors among which are a stronger dollar, profit-taking by long speculators, and the dashed hopes that the vaccines will quickly end the lockdowns in Europe. Distribution delays and increased hesitancy about the vaccines’ acceptability leading to a longer European vaccine campaign may set back oil demand for this year by 1 million barrels per day (m/bd).

China is increasingly relying on Iran and Venezuela for its oil supply. It is expected to import 918,000 bpd of oil from Iran in March, the greatest volume since the U.S. applied sanctions two years ago. The result served as a disincentive for Iran to negotiate with the U.S. As for the latter, the refining capacity of the U.S. has not yet been fully restored, holding at about 80%, a level last seen before February’s Texas grid crisis. It is estimated that 1.2 mb/d of refining capacity remains offline due to ongoing repairs and spring maintenance.

Natural Gas

For the report week March 19 to March 17, natural gas spot prices were mixed, with the Hendry Hub sport price falling from $2.60 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). It ended the week at $2.51/MMBtu. The price of the April 2021 contract decreased at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), losing $0.16/MMBtu to end at $2.528/MMBtu from $2.692/MMBtu.  For the week ending March 12, the net withdrawals from working gas summed up to 11 Bcf. Working natural gas stocks amounted to 1.782 Bcf. This represents a 12% reduction year-on-year. It is also 5% below the five-year (2016-2021) average for this week.

World Markets

European shares were little changed from last week, due to concerns surrounding the resurgence of coronavirus infections in certain European countries. Central bank dovish policies intended to support the recovering economy did little to encourage investor buying, thus limiting the bourse’s upside. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index closed the week mostly unchanged while major indexes were mixed. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index rose 0.36% and Germany’s Xetra DAX Index advanced 0,82%. At the other end, France’s CAC 40 Index dropped 0.80% while the UK’s FTSE 100 Index fell 0,61%.

Correspondingly, Core eurozone bond yields climbed slightly as Germany’s 10-year bond yield rose midweek in line with U.S. Treasuries, mostly due to an anticipated higher inflation rate. Yields gave way slightly on Friday, weighed by concerns about Europe’s rising coronavirus infections. The core markets set the pace for peripheral eurozone yields. UK gilt yields climbed on the back of the optimism set by the Bank of England’s economic outlook and its decision to maintain interest rates unchanged.  Policymakers at the BOE voted unanimously to retain the benchmark interest rate at its all-time low of 0.1% as well as to proceed with the bond-buying program.

In Japan, stock markets were also mixed over the week as the Bank of Japan announced that it will limit purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to those linked to the TOPIX. This drove a 3.13% gain in that index while the Nikkei 225 Stock Average underperformed, sliding by 0.25%. The yen rose slightly to close just below JPY109 to the dollar, and the 10-year Japanese government bond yield ended at 0.11% for the week. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga formally announced the end of the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and three other prefectures on March 21, citing the significant decline in infections and the drop in hospital bed occupancy.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.4% while the large-cap CSI 300 Index slipped 2.7%. Negative headlines concerning the first day of diplomatic talks between China and the U.S. caused stocks to underperform the rest of Asia. Following the release of strong economic data for January and February, the yield on China’s sovereign 10-year bond rose, but the gains were given back on Friday, ending the week unchanged from last week at 3.26%. On the economy, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that retail sales for January and February rose 33.8% year-on-year. The strong performance was attributed to last year’s pandemic lockdowns.    

The Week Ahead

Among the important economic data expected this week are the Final GDP growth figure, the PMI composite, and PCE deflator.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Existing home sales (SAAR)
  • Current account deficit
  • New home sales (SAAR)
  • Durable goods orders
  • Core capital goods orders
  • Markit manufacturing PMI (preliminary)
  • Markit services PMI (preliminary)
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Gross domestic product (SAAR)
  • Personal income
  • Consumer spending
  • Core inflation
  • Trade in goods, advance report
  • Consumer sentiment index (final)

Markets Index Wrap Up

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Weekly Market Review – March 13, 2021

Stock Markets

The market ascended to a record high in the past week on the back of renewed optimism over an impending economic recovery. The week’s developments did much to calm investor fears. A moderate inflation report and a slowdown of the upward movement in interest rates fueled the market rally, but the big news was the President’s signing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), also known as the covid stimulus bill.  The passage of the long-awaited fiscal stimulus lifted most benchmark indices to new highs, even as investors digest the volatile longer-term bond yields and factor in their discounts on future earnings. As a result, the Nasdaq Composite fluctuated due to speculation on the technology-oriented counters that comprise it. Within the S&P 500 the small real estate sector performed above average, while the health care and energy shares underperformed.

U.S. Economy

The fiscal stimulus package had been anticipated as the trigger for the continued economic recovery. Now that it has been passed there are varied speculations about the future implications it may have on the economy and financial markets. While the recovery has already taken off during the second semester of 2020, there are areas of the economy and the labor force that have lagged behind which the new stimulus may support. The state of the economy has been greatly helped by the preceding fiscal policy responses throughout the past year. Whilst in a typical recession, the plunge in employment would have been accompanied by a significant drop in aggregate income, the strategy of sending out stimulus checks directly to those whose livelihoods have been curtailed has sufficiently bridged the wage gap resulting from the shutdowns. Current personal income has surpassed pre-pandemic levels even before the most recent $1,400 checks have been sent out.

  • The U.S. household net worth is presently at its record high level because in addition to personal income, home and asset values have arisen as well as stock prices being at their peak. With income levels receiving another boost from the new stimulus, consumer spending will find an additional impetus, as well as the U.S. GDP of which 70% is comprised by consumer spending. Economic growth may further ascend in the coming quarters, with GDP growth likely increasing to above-average levels in the current year.
  • The ARP includes $400 billion in direct check payments to consumers amounting to $1,400, with distribution to commence over the weekend. This component alone amounts to 2% of the annual GDP, although it is expected to be spent over an extended period. The personal savings rate climbed from 13% to 20% during the last round of stimulus checks released in December, suggesting that people are depositing rather than spending their pandemic payments. This is not surprising, given the simultaneous lockdowns of retail businesses from which consumers would have purchased the goods and services they needed.
  • While a strong recovery that may lead to a boom-type scenario may be seen for this year, it is pre-emptive to say that this trend will be sustained beyond 2021. There have been sectors of the economy that experienced accelerated growth during the pandemic, such as cloud computing, remote working, automation, and machine learning. It is premature to speculate, however, that this new trend may continue to push booming productivity enough to push the economy beyond the present year. The possible downside to the ARP remains in the form of the risk of an overheating economy, massive government debt, and the expectation that similar future downturns will prompt the same stimulus response from the Federal government.

Metals and Mining

Gold broke out from its week-long slump below the $1,700 level, beginning the week at $1,681 per ounce and rallying midweek to $1,739,10, 3.46% up for the week but still far below the $1,804 high it reached in later February. The metal corrected from its midweek rally to trade at $1,702.24 on Friday. The four weeks preceding saw a steady decline in the price of gold due to the strengthening bond yields simultaneous with the rising US dollar. The fundamentals for the metal remain sound, however, and a bull market is possible in its future.

Silver performed better than gold for the week, climbing 4.8% on Thursday from Monday’s prices, although it retraced slightly to trade at $25.58 per ounce on Friday. Platinum reversed two weeks of losses to peak at $1,218 per ounce and ended trading on Friday at $1,177. Palladium traded at $2,268 per ounce on Friday. Platinum is expected to outperform palladium and gold for the rest of the year due to positive fundamentals, although precious metals, on the whole, are expected to do benefit from quantitative easing and economic recovery.

The values of base metals are coming down from their strong performance at the beginning of the year. The recent pullbacks have been more consistent with a consolidation rather than a breakdown, however. Copper was priced at $9,062 per tonne on Friday, still below the eight-year high of $9,614.50 that it achieved in late February. Demand and economic growth may push the metal higher within the year. Nickel came down from its seven-year high of close to $20,000 per tonne in February to trade below $16,000 shortly thereafter on news that lower-grade nickel ore will be used to make battery-grade nickel sulfate. Nickel traded at $16,434 on Friday. Zinc made a modest gain rising from $2,742.50 per tonne on Monday to close at $2,784 for the week. Lead adjusted downward slightly, giving back $48.50 to close at $1,934.50 per tonne on Friday.

Energy and Oil

Tight supplies caused a drain in global inventories to push oil prices upward towards the week’s end. The success of vaccine deployment and the resumption of robust economic activity are bound to increase demand for oil in the coming weeks and months. OPEC had taken the contrarian view and downgraded its demand forecast, however, due to what it foresees as ongoing lockdown measures and other pandemic restrictions. Short-cycle shale drillers, on the other hand, are tempted by the increase in prices that they may be contemplating a ramp-up in production. Analysts point to the decision of OPEC+ to continue withholding production as a possible enticement to shale producers to take advantage of the tight supply and strengthening demand.

In further developments on the US side, the Biden administration’s Interior Department has approved 200 drilling permits in the last two weeks, mostly in Dakota and Wyoming. Although the government has temporarily suspended leases on federal lands, the recent approval of drilling permits appears to signal a rethinking of this position.  Analysts also note that over the next five years, fewer investments will be poured into the oil and gas companies as the largest institutional investors in the world appear to be scrutinizing more intensely the environmental credentials of the companies that compose their portfolios.

Natural Gas

At most locations during the report week (March 3 to March 10), natural gas spot prices declined as a result of warmer-than-normal climate throughout the lower 48 states. The Henry Hub spot prices slid to $2.60 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from the previous week’s $2.84/ MMBtu. The price of the April 2021 contract at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) fell to $2.692/MMBtu, a reduction of $0.12 from the previous $2.896/MMBtu. The price of the 12-month strip averaging April 2021 through March 2022 futures contracts fell to $2.890/MMBtu, a difference of $0.10/MMBtu.

World Markets

In Europe, share prices trended upward on the prospect that pandemic restrictions may soon be relaxed due to the ongoing vaccine distribution. Also, there is widespread expectation that supportive fiscal and monetary policies may be soon implemented to further spur the economy on the road to recovery. The stock market gains were somewhat muted by the apprehension that central banks may take measures to address the rising inflation rate. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index gained 0.91%, in tandem with the major stock indexes. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index rose 2.27% for the week on the possibility of more fiscal stimulus in the annual budget and the expectation of an earlier-than-projected economic recovery. In response to long-term inflation expectations, core and peripheral eurozone bond yields increased. Yields were further boosted by uncertainty concerning possible European Central Bank action to address possible overheating.

Lockdown restrictions were extended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the regional chief ministers until March 28, dampening somewhat the expectation of a speedy recovery. Italy blocked 250,000 doses of the Oxford- AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that were scheduled to be transported to Australia, a decision condoned by Brussels. The shipment was supposed to have been the first intervention since the European Union (EU) introduced the rules governing vaccine shipment outside of the EU. It is also likely that France might block vaccine shipments abroad.

In Asia, Japan’s stock markets ended mixed for the trading week. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average ended 0.35% lower while the broader benchmark TOPIX Index closed higher by 1.70%. The yen lost ground against the dollar by JPY108 to USD. The 10-year Japanese bond ended the week at 0.09%, the lowest yield from the middle of February. The Japanese government continued to implement its state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures due to the persistent coronavirus spread. Volatility in China’s stock markets sent shares falling on concerns of contagion from rising US yields and inflation growth. The large-cap CSI 300 Index slid 1.4% whilst local currency A shares gave back 0.2%. Remarks from China’s banking and insurance regulators on the need to deleverage and avoid financial bubbles sent technology shares falling, including counters in the consumers, electric vehicles, property management, and financial sectors. The yield on China’s sovereign 10-year bond climbed 3.36% while the renminbi closed unchanged against the US dollar.     

The Week Ahead

In the coming week, among the reports expected to be released are the Fed Funds target rate, retail sales growth, and housing starts.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Empire state index
  • Retail sales
  • Retail sales ex-autos
  • Import price index
  • Industrial production
  • Capacity utilization
  • National Association of Home Builders index
  • Business inventories
  • Building permits (SAAR)
  • Housing starts (SAAR)
  • Federal Reserve announcement
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell press conference
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey
  • Index of leading economic indicators

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – March 6, 2021

Stock Markets

Stocks pulled back as yields moved up, continuing the cycle of volatility of preceding weeks. During the week two emerging perceptions appear to prevail among investors. One is the view that high interest rates and high stock prices are simply incompatible and one must prevail. Second is the view that the decline in stocks has been significant enough to signal that the market is taking off in a new direction. Both views have merit but are somewhat overstated. Regarding the first perspective, although rates are higher, they are not high in retrospect. Ten-year rates have merely returned to their levels one year ago. The 20-year average of the ten-year interest rates is 3.1%, double the current 1.6%, thus the present level is nowhere near historical highs. The second view, that the market is entering a “sell-off” or “turmoil” as headlines predict, can hardly be substantiated given that the S&P 500 slid by only 3.4% from Monday’s closing high to Thursday’s closing low.

U.S. Economy

The recent market sentiment does appear to be changing from the sharp and steady climb it experienced over the past year. Concerns of rising interest rates and inflationary pressures have largely replaced talk of stimulus and reopening. That being said, it does not appear that the market has already peaked at the present. Broader economic measures, however, do not appear to support this position.

  • The Fed is far from adopting a monetary policy that may lead to overtightening in the economy. The stimulus measures are still in effect and the policy rate has not yet undergone any upward adjustment. Any increase in inflation is taken as a sign of a recovering economy, particularly in light of the deep recession it has just been through. Eventually, rates will have to increase to more restrictive levels, but this may be years in the future. What is currently taking place is a recalibration process that has long influenced the interaction between the Fed and the stock market.
  • The labor market is still on the road to recovery. The February employment report released last Friday shows that 379,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy, more than double the gains in January, with the best payroll growth in the last four months. It is heartening to observe that of the new jobs added, 355,000 were in hospitality and leisure, indicating a comeback in this most depressed segment of the economy. It could only portend stronger performance particularly for small businesses and the services sector as vaccinations are deployed and restrictions are lifted.
  • There is still significant upside in the labor market. Although 12.9 million jobs have been added since May, the employment level is still 9.5 million short of pre-pandemic employment figures. This points to further job recovery and more job creation, a leading driver in the economic recovery. It will further boost consumer confidence and aggregate income which, combined with the already increased level of personal savings, may just fuel average household spending and GDP growth for the year.

Metals and Mining

For the first time since June 2020, gold slid below $1,700 per ounce, continuing its decline after beginning the month at $1,735. Global gold ETFs fell 84.7 tonnes in February, historically the seventh-worst month for losses. Some upside is expected in the future, however, as the movement appears to form part of a correction that may soon see the bottom before recovering lost territory. As of Friday, gold was trading at $1,698.44. Silver also saw a pullback in the first week of March following a month of slow but steady gains. Part of the price drop was due to the metal’s correlation to gold, although it was buoyed by robust industrial demand and strong investor interest. The price held above $25 per ounce, trading at $25.02 on Friday.

Platinum peaked at a six-year high, breaking out at $1,212 per ounce at the start of the week’s trading, but subsequently dropping to $1,108 on Thursday. It recovered to trade at $1,113.30 on Friday. Palladium is the only precious metal to buck to trend downwards. It realized a modest 0.05% gain, rising from $2,261 to $2,274 per ounce over the week, and trading at $2.257 on Friday. It will continue to be sustained by demand in the automotive sector.

Base metals ended up mixed for the week. Copper continues to consolidate at the $8,700 range after hitting a 10-year high in February when it traded above $9,000 per tonne for the first time since 2011. Further demand may still boost the red metal as its antiviral properties are highlighted and supply remains tight. Nickel, on the other hand, plunged 13.4%. It faces a price recovery, however, as supply faces some constraints due to the suspension of operations in Guatemala’s Fenix nickel mine in light of environmental concerns. Nickel was trading at $16,144 per tonne on Friday. Prices for zinc and lead also saw a correction from their gains in February. Zinc closed the week at $2,734.50 per tonne, lead at $2,014 per tonne.

Energy and Oil

The price of oil continues on its steep uptrend as OPEC+ decided to suspend plans to ease production cuts for one more month. This caught the oil market off-guard as expectations for an easing in the oil supply situation were dashed. Even Saudi Arabia announced that it would continue to keep in place its 1 mb/d of voluntary oil cuts. The market reacted to the unexpected news with a sudden surge in prices.

As oil prices continue to rise and drillers are tempted to return from the sidelines, the shale business may likely return to aggressive production levels. As the markets get to the $70-$75 per barrel oil range, the prospects for strong growth are enhanced even with returns to investors becoming increasingly lucrative. This only entices shale producers to take advantage of the bullish market conditions. Further providing an incentive for the continued oil price increase is Biden’s moratorium on new drilling in federal lands. While this does not have an immediate impact, it is likely to curb production by anywhere between 230,000 to 490,000 bpd by the end of 2025.

Natural Gas

At most locations this week, natural gas prices remained relatively steady, rising only less than $0.10 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) at most hubs. The Henry Hub spot prices rose from $2.75/MMBtu on the Wednesday of the previous week to $2.85/MMBtu last Wednesday. The March 2021 contract expired last Wednesday at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at $2.854/MMBtu, while the April 2021 contract price increased by $0.02/MMBtu to $2.816/MMBtu. The price of the 12-month strip averaging April 2021 through March 2022 futures contracts rose to $2.988/MMBtu, up by $0.02/MMBtu.

World Markets

European shares rose on investor optimism that vaccine deployment will lead to an easing of restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread and that monetary and fiscal policies will be adopted to support the economy’s reopening efforts. The rise was tempered by sentiments that central banks will likely adopt measures to contain the possible increase in inflation rates. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index climbed 0.91%, in tandem with major stock indexes. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index rose 2.27% this week, prompted by the release of finance minister Rishi Sunak’s annual budget calling for more fiscal stimulus. A further incentive was provided by projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility that the economy is likely to recover to pre-pandemic levels earlier than first projected.

In Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended lockdown restrictions until March 28, but at the same time eased containment measures in areas with reduced infection rates. Bookshops, some stores, garden centers, florists, museums, and art galleries were allowed to resume business. Italy blocked the shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca coronavirus vaccine originally scheduled to be shipped to Australia. This is the first intervention of any country in the EU since rules were adopted regarding the shipment of vaccines outside the bloc. France may also block vaccine shipments outside the EU. The EU may likely impose export controls on vaccines until the end of June.

In Japan, the stock markets ended mixed for the week. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.35% while the broader TOPIX Index rose 1.70%. The yen softened to close above JPY 108 against the U.S. dollar, and the yield of the 10-year Japanese government bond closed the week at 0.09%, its lowest level since the middle of February. Some positive news helped sustain the market as it was reported that the Japanese manufacturing sector expanded in February for the first time in nearly two years. However, the services sector saw a further slump in light of the continued coronavirus restrictions. In the meantime, Chinese shares fell in volatile trading as nervous sentiments concerning the U.S. rising yields and inflation expectations spilled over onto the country’s bourses. The large-cap CSI 300 Index slid 1.4% while local currency A shares declined 0.2%. Technology shares fell on the back of weakness in prominent companies in the consumer, electric vehicles, and property management sectors. The yield on China’s sovereign 10-year bond rose to end the week at 3.36%, while the renminbi remained unchanged against the U.S. dollar.

The Week Ahead

Important reports scheduled for release in the coming week include consumer sentiment, inflation data, and initial claims.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Wholesale inventories
  • NFIB small-business index
  • Consumer price index
  • Core CPI
  • Federal budget
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Job openings
  • Prudence price index final demand
  • UMich consumer sentiment index (preliminary)

Markets Index Wrap Up

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Weekly Market Review – February 27, 2021

Stock Markets

In the past week, sector leadership shifted to economically sensitive sectors that have lagged due to the pandemic. The catalyst for this shift was the sharp rise in government bond yields that unsettled both equity and fixed-income markets. The acceleration in bond volatility brought it to its highest level since April 2020, affecting other asset classes. In equities, the Nasdaq pulled back 7% from its peak indicating enhanced pressure on technology shares. Growth investments charted their worst month over value investments since the beginning of the millennium. Long-term uncertainties account for the softness in high-growth technology stocks which derive much of their value further into the future. High interest rates have also begun to weigh on valuations.

Overall, last week’s pullback on domestic indexes was due to weakness in the tech sector, since the energy sector comprises 27% of the S&P 500. This does not indicate a long-term breakdown in the sector, because its dominant companies continue to report strong profitability and fast growth. The pressure on rising yields will eventually abate as the market eventually discounts the effect on asset valuation.

U.S. Economy

Projections for continued growth are firming up as the V-shaped recovery continues to hold and pent-up demand is released. The approval of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package is anticipated to coincide with the accelerated roll-out of Covid vaccines and the reopening of the economy, providing a strong boost to economic growth. As a result of these developments, 2021 GDP growth is estimated to exceed 5%, surging to its strongest level in the past 35 years and supporting a rise in interest rates. However, the economy is still recovering from a deep recession, therefore even if the economy returns to its 2019 peak level by the second half of this year, it is unlikely that it will exceed the trend set before the pandemic until sometime in 2022. For this reason, fears of an overheating economy that might reverse Fed policy are somewhat unfounded.

  • Due to strong market gains in the past year, equity valuations have already discounted much of the anticipated positive news. The sudden uptick in government-bond yields edged out some of the excess returns in equities and deflated investor expectations of an enhanced risk premium. While the spread still favors equities, it is now at its lowest level in a decade.
  • Valuations may likely start to normalize with continued corporate earnings recovery. With only 5% of the S&P listed companies still to report results for fourth-quarter earnings, those that have already reported have trended towards the upside and now show positive growth after year-on-year declines for three consecutive quarters. Estimates for the current year have been revised roughly 4% higher from beginning-of-year forecasts, and there appears to be further room for strong growth given the government’s aggressive spending policy.
  • The income and spending report for January that was released last Friday indicate that personal income climbed 10% month-on-month, and despite the increase in consumer spending, personal savings rate also jumped to 20.5% from 13.4%. The increased savings may be regarded as pent-up consumer demand that could eventually drive growth and enhance corporate revenue, should consumer confidence catch up with personal income.

Metals and Mining

In the closing week of February, gold prices remain vulnerable to a strengthening economic outlook in response to the global vaccine distribution. Gold descended to its lowest level in six months, dropping 9.4% year-to-date and 12% since August of last year. Other precious metals saw a correction, contrary to the rising base metals prices. Worries over a possible increase in inflation due to the reopening economy would have triggered buying in gold, but contrary to expectations, Treasury bills appear to be the beneficiary of this recent trend. Gold and precious metals appear further headed for a slump if yields continue to rise. The World Gold Council (WGC) remains optimistic, however, that inflationary pressures may at some point drive prices higher consistent with historical correlations.

Gold was priced at $1,719.46 per ounce as of 11.26 a.m. Friday, while silver sold for $26.67 per ounce as of 11.50 a.m. Earlier in the week, silver appeared to test the $30 resistance level but lost 6.6% by mid-Friday. Eventually, buying interest in silver is expected to pull prices upward since a resurgence in industrial demand is forecasted in the near future. On the other hand, the price of platinum surged to a five-year high during the week although it corrected slightly by the week’s end. Prices dipped from $1,291 to $1,169 per ounce due to investors reconsidering further demand for the automotive metal. Palladium also reached a four-week high to $2,344 on Thursday. However, the metal dove to a two-month low of $2,186 per ounce during Friday’s open. By 11:59 a.m. Friday, platinum was selling at $1,172 while palladium was valued at $2,180 per ounce.

Base metals saw a surge with copper soaring to $9,614 per tonne, its highest level in a decade and 21% higher since the start of 2021. The rising copper price is driven by supply constraints and rising demand. The metal gave back some of its gains to trade at $9,201on Friday morning. Zinc recovered from its two-month low in early February to rise above $2,800 per tonne, Lead also climbed higher from $2,103 to $2,158.50 per tonne. The deep decline in output for both metals in 2020 may have been the catalyst for their recent price positivity. The world mine production of zinc declined by 5.9% year-on-year to 12.14 million tonnes, while global lead mine output fell by 5% to 4.48 million tonnes. Nickel also traded higher due to production shortfalls. On the last trading day, Zinc was priced at $2,894.50, lead at $2,158.50, and Nickel at $19.568 per tonne.  

Energy and Oil

The recent rise in oil prices took a respite as consolidation set in after rent traded only slightly higher than $67 on Thursday. Talk of the possibility that prices may reach $100 has been circulating among banks, although OPEC+ still has the option of raising production levels and potentially lower prices. Few analysts, though, will likely stake a bearish position. Since the onset of volatility in the Texas energy markets, the open interest on $100 strike December 2022 has surged higher. For traders, $100 oil is still a risky proposition, but interest has risen in the likelihood of triple-digit oil prices now than there had been in previous years.

OPEC+ is expected to consider a modest increase in oil production during next month’s meeting. The most likely estimate is an increase of 500,000 bpd starting April. Coinciding with that increase is the expiration of a voluntary 1 mb/d cut by Saudi Arabia. It is also expected that US shale production will no longer be a threat to OPEC and OPEC+.

Overseas, China’s prospective shale boom has failed to take off despite the country’s rich natural resources and best efforts. Recent analysis shows that the progress made by China so far in advancing its shale revolution is likely to be obsolete by 2025. The reasons cited were failure to attract more investors and the country’s complex geology. This year, China’s oil imports are expected to slow by the second quarter due to higher prices and refinery maintenance.

The cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline means that more oil will be moved by rail, further exacerbating Canada’s oil=by-rail shipments which have already tripled since July. Without Keystone XL, transport of oil by rail will rise throughout the 2020s for heavy Canadian crude to be transported to Gulf Coast refiners.  

Natural Gas

Natural gas spot prices dipped as temperature returned to normal or above normal across most of the lower 48 states. This brought most demand for heating and electricity down from record-setting levels. The Henry Hub spot price declined from $23.61 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on February 17 to $2.75/MMBtu on February 24.

Regarding futures at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the March 2021 contract expired on February 24 at $2.854/MMBtu, down $0.37 for the week. The April 2021 contract price decreased by $0.24/MMBtu to $2.795/MMBtu. The price of the 12-month strip averaging April 2021 through March 2022 futures contracts dropped to $2.964/MMBtu, a decline of $0.18/MMBtu.

The production of natural gas fell by half in Texas during the freeze. Natural gas-supply shortages have been blamed in part by executives of energy corporations operating in Texas. In the long term, global LNG demand is expected to double by the year 2040. 75% of the forecasted growth in demand will likely be concentrated in Asia.

World Markets

The European bourses fell in sync with global markets, and volatility increased during the week on fears that rising inflation due to economic recovery may force Central Banks to preemptively adopt contractionary measures. The STOXX Europe 600 Index fell 2.38% for the week. The Major Continental stock indexes likewise slid. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index descended in response to a stronger British pound as the currency reached its highest level in nearly three years, peaking at $1.42 per pound before correcting. Investors were encouraged by the rapid rollout of COVID vaccines which raised hopes for a recovery. They also factored in a possible interest rate increase over the next two to three years. Peripheral eurozone government bond yields rose in step with U.S. Treasury yields. A plan for the gradual and irreversible lifting of lockdown restrictions was also announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to take place within the period March 8 to June 21.

In Asian markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slid by 3.5% or 1,052 points to close at 28,966.01. This benchmark remains 5.5% higher year-to-date. The broader equity indices similarly registered sharp losses, with the large-cap TOPIX Index and the TOPIX Small Index mirroring the Nikkei. Prices were generally down due to the shortened holiday trading week. The ye weakened against the dollar to close at JPY106. Chinese equities likewise lost ground, with the Shanghai Composite Index declining 5.1% while the large-cap CSI 300 Index losing 7.7%, the bourse’s worst weekly performance since October 12, 2018. Highflying counters in semiconductors, electric vehicles, and automaking succumbed to profit-taking; the same was seen for recent initial public offerings (IPOs). With the resurgence of travel and relaxation of quarantine restrictions, buying interest was focused on shares of Macau gaming companies and airline companies.

The Week Ahead

Among the important reports to be released next week are the PMI composite, jobs data, and consumer credit levels.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Market manufacturing PMI (final)
  • ISM manufacturing index
  • Construction spending
  • Motor vehicle sales (SAAR)
  • ADP employment report
  • Markit services PMI (final)
  • ISM services index
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Productivity revision
  • Unit labor costs revision
  • Factory orders
  • Nonfarm payrolls
  • Unemployment rate
  • Average hourly earnings
  • Trade deficit
  • Consumer credit

Markets Index Wrap Up

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Weekly Market Review – February 20, 2021

Stock Markets

Over the week, stocks set new highs on the back of the Congressional hearings looking into the GameStop trading spree and the better-than-foreseen economic data. Indices dipped slightly week-on-week, however, when optimism was tempered by concerns about the inflationary trend and rising bond yields. The ongoing negotiations of the details of the fiscal-aid package and growing anticipation of the accelerating vaccine roll-out continue to provide buying incentive for investors. The cyclical sectors outperformed the market, led by financials, industrials and energy and technology trailing behind. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield advanced to 1.35%, its peak so far since November. The quick rise in yields may create some volatility in stocks, but in the longer term it might be a confirmation of the continued bull market rather than a threat.     

U.S. Economy

Retail sales jumped 5.3% over the past month with gains registering across all major retail sectors. The main reason for the surge appears to be the stimulus checks and the gradual loosening of restrictions in several states, thus boosting consumer spending. Overall, the fundamental outlook remains positive despite the rising interest rates which would normally dampen interest in stocks.

  • Higher inflation expectations signal the likely rebound in economic activity. The present inflation growth takes into account the sudden drop in prices one year ago at the beginning of the pandemic when demand dropped due to the lockdown. The rising inflation can be viewed in light of the 5.8% spending increase in January detailed in the retail-sales report released last week. The trend will likely continue in February due release of pent-up demand and savings resulting in higher-than-average future GDP growth.
  • Ten-year interest rates advanced almost 0.2% week-on-week, in effect doubling since September levels. Viewed in perspective, this brings the ten-year benchmark back to its level in February. Historically, the yield in 10-year Treasuries is still at its lowest level. For this reason, a pragmatic assessment indicates that interest rates are far from being at the point that would begin to stifle economic growth.
  • While the longer-term rates have increased, the Federal policy rate remains unchanged, and neither is the Fed expected to raise short-term rates in the foreseeable future. This pattern is indicative of a yield-curve steepening that is typically associated with the early and middle stages of economic expansion. The impact of the vaccine-deployment and pent-up demand may result in the subsequent phase of labor-market improvement, further fueling the economic expansion. Occasional volatility may be expected as the market consolidates its gains before resuming its bullish trend.

Metals and Mining

Gold surged to a four-week high before giving way to pressure brought about by the rising currency. The late-week rebound by the dollar arrested the continued rise in precious metal prices. Gold opened at $1,829 and peaked at its five-day trading session at $1,851 before settling at $1,825.03 per ounce. Silver also tested its four-week high when trading reached $27.66 per ounce on Tuesday. It subsequently corrected but remain above the $27 support level for the rest of the week, ending at $27.31. Platinum registered a six-year high at $1,262 per ounce on Thursday, thus adding 18.9% to its value since January. Palladium also benefitted from some buying interest to tread near its four-week high. Bu the week’s end, platinum settled at $1,242 and palladium at $2,305 per ounce.

Base metals also performed strongly, bolstered primarily by nickel and copper which realized the most gains. Concerns surrounding the shortage of semiconductors prevailed in the market due to the impact of automotive manufacturers, slowing their production and possibly dragging back most of the supply chain. Copper began trading the week at $8,007 per tonne, and by Friday it had gained 3.5% to end the week at $8.292. Zinc rallied from its year-to-date low of $2,539 per tonne to be valued at $2,726 on Friday, representing a gain of 7.3%. Nickel added 2.9% to end Friday at $18,599 per tonne, on news that demand for the metal will rise in tandem with the electric vehicle sector. Lead made a modest gain, opening at $2,052 and ending the week at $2,082.50 per tonne.

Energy and Oil

The major story this week was the Texas electricity crisis. Approximately 45 gigawatts of electricity generation from renewables, coal and natural gas went offline on Tuesday, interrupting power to 4 million people. Much of the power was restored by Friday, and as repair works continued, attention was drawn to issues impacting the state’s grid policy. These include the lack of weatherization of Texas power generation assets, the isolation of the state grid from the rest of the country, and the lack of a capacity market. The power outages, wellhead freeze overs, and other equipment failures sidelined around 4 mb/d of U.S. oil production. The restoration process could take weeks as restarting frozen or shuttered wells may be necessarily straightforward.

The supply situation is expected to ease up in the coming weeks as Saudi Arabia is poised to reverse its 1-mb/d voluntary production cut. The returned barrels are expected to hit the market in April, a favorable development for the industry.  In the U.S., the shale industry could be in a better financial position with WTI surging to $60 per barrel. Drillers are likely to focus on cash generation rather than aggressively pursue spending plans. Concerning its neighbor to the north, Canadian shale gas drilling increased rapidly for the year consistent with the increase in the country’s gas exports to the U.S. As U.S. drillers cut back, Canadian drillers are looking forward to capturing a larger share of the U.S. market.

Natural Gas

Natural gas spot prices surged at most locations over the past week in response to the record-setting low temperature across the lower 48 states and losses in production as far south as the Gulf Coast. The Henry Hub spot price climbed to $23.61per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from $3.68/MMBtu. In nominal terms, this week’s close was the highest price since 1993; in real terms, it was the highest since February 2003. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the March 2021 contract rose by $0.31/MMBtu from $2.911/MMBtu to $3.219/MMBtu. The price of the 12-month strip averaging March 2021 through February 2022 futures contracts rose to $3.158/MMBtu, an increase of $0.12/MMBtu.

World Markets

Sideways consolidation saw European shares slightly increase on the back of companies’ quarterly earnings reports, coupled with concerns about the rising inflation and higher bond yields. The STOXX Europe 600 Index rose 0.21%, as France’s CAC 40 and UK’s FTSE 100 Indexes gaining ground. The German and Italian bourses sustained moderate losses as the core eurozone bond yields rose. In some welcome development, the UK and Switzerland are set to ease lockdowns. In England, PM Boris Johnson announced that the country would adopt “a cautious and prudent approach” by opening up in stages beginning with the commencement of face-to-face learning in early March. This is in response to the coronavirus levels in England, Wales and Northern Island falling to their lowest levels since early October. Switzerland also announced the gradual lifting of restrictions in March, starting with the reopening of shops and sports facilities, libraries, gardens and zoos. The EU signed a contract for another 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer and BioNTech, bringing business expectations for the year ahead to the highest level since April 2018.

Japan’s indexes were mixed for the week, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average closing at 30,017.92, the first time in three decades that it closed higher than the 30,000 resistance level. It nevertheless remains well below its all-time high of 38,597, established in 1989. The positive gains were due to encouraging economic reports regarding better-than-expected GDP figures, as well as an increase in the manufacturing Purchasing managers’ Index. Year-to-date, the Nikkei is up by 9.38%. The broader equity market benchmarks, the large-cap TOPIX Index and the TOPIX small index sustained modest losses for the week. The yen was slightly weaker, trading above JPY 105 against the dollar by week’s end. The yield of the 10-year government bond ended at 0.11% for the week, its highest level since November 2018. In China, shares also ended mixed in light of the holiday-shortened trading week. The large-cap CSI 300 Index dipped by 0.5% while the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed by 1.1%. The yield on China’s 10-year government bond closed the week five basis points above the pre-holiday close, at 3.31%. Over the Lunar New Year, economic data reflected efforts to discourage travel due to the coronavirus infections that flared up in northern China.

The Week Ahead

The January leading indicator index, durable goods orders, and personal income and spending are among the economic data to be released in the coming week.

Key Topics to Watch

  • Leading economic indicators
  • S&P CoreLogic Case Shiller home price index (year-over-year)
  • FHFA home price index (year-over-year)
  • Consumer confidence index
  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell testifies
  • New home sales (SAAR)
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Gross domestic product revision (SAAR)
  • Durable goods orders
  • Core capital goods orders
  • Pending home sales index
  • Personal income
  • Consumer spending
  • Core inflation
  • Trade in goods advance report
  • Chicago PMI
  • UMich consumer sentiment index (final)

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – February 13, 2021

Stock Markets

Amid strong earnings reports and the likelihood of additional fiscal stimulus, stock indices ended up slightly positive for the second week of February. Plans have been announced for the purchase of an additional 200 million vaccine doses as the rollout continues to accelerate. In pace with equities, bonds likewise edged further up but slowed tentatively midweek as fresh inflation data was weighed and discounted by investors. The 30-year Treasury bond yield rose to 2% for the first time in a year as expectations of an increasing inflation rate appeared to gain validation for the first time since 2014. Inflation and jobs data releases show a slowdown in recovery and the entertainment and restaurant industries remain lethargic, providing little incentive for stock indices to rise. Expectations about the improved vaccine distribution continue to provide hope for a further push in the job market and resumption of the bullish stock market trend.

U.S. Economy

Fears of rising inflation appear to gain ground in a high-liquidity, low-productivity scenario with lockdowns still in place and the stimulus package about to be released. The following suggest that inflation may indeed inch upward from the current low-inflation regime.

  • Prices in April, May and June of 2020 dropped steeply at the height of the pandemic lockdown, setting the stage for annual inflation to jump for the same months this year on a year-on-year basis. The reduction in prices was partly impacted by gasoline prices falling 34% and airfare by 28% during the second quarter of the past year. These depressed the consumer price index (CPI) for the same months in 2020, causing the base for computation of this year’s inflation to drop and this year’s rates to seemingly spike. The markets are not likely to react adversely since Fed officials are aware of the likelihood of this mathematical aberration. Since Fed Chair Powell announced that U.S. employment is significantly behind where it needs to be, it is unlikely that the Fed will start to lift its accommodating monetary policy anytime soon.
  • Demand patterns have shifted due to the pandemic, redirecting consumption spending towards goods rather than services. This tendency has created bottlenecks and disrupted global supply chains. An example is the recent drop in automotive production that was caused by a shortage in semiconductor chips has caused car manufacturers significant revenue losses. Simultaneously, rising shipping and raw-materials costs are pushing commodity prices to their highest levels than they have been for more than a year. A survey of purchasing managers in the manufacturing industry confirms increasing production costs that will likely translate to higher-end prices for the consumers.

Notwithstanding the inflationary pressures, a persistent rise in prices is not expected due to structural forces that work to hold inflation down. Prices have remained lower and more stable since the mid-nineties; furthermore, the link between stimulus, labor-market conditions, and inflation appear to have been realigned since after the 2008 global financial crisis. Over the last ten years, the inflation rate has averaged a consistent 1.7% and moved slightly upward to 2.3%in 2019 as unemployment fell to 3.5%, the lowest it has been for half a century. Another contributor to deflationary forces is the “Amazon” effect, wherein disruptive technologies and a fully transparent market work to keep prices at their lowest levels. Gains in productivity in the post-pandemic period and the increased adoption of technology are likely to exert downward pressures on prices that will continue to keep inflation in check.

Metals and Mining

Gold prices rallied to a four-week high during trading in the past week before downward pressure exerted by the rising US dollar. An increase in the dollar’s valuation arrested the spike in the precious metals sector which saw breakthrough prices in most counters. Gold continued to test the $2,000 per ounce resistance level, opening the session at $1,829 and hitting its five-day peak at $1,851 before holding at $1,825.03 on Friday afternoon. The inverse correlation between gold and the dollar appears to prevail and will persist in the near future. Silver also tested its ceiling, trading at a four-week high of $27.66 per ounce on Tuesday and trading Friday afternoon at $27.31. Silver is expected to remain strong throughout the year, according to forecasts by the Silver Institute. Platinum traded as high as $1,262 for the week and slid to $ 1,242 per ounce on Friday. Palladium also rallied to settle at $2,305 per ounce on Friday.

Base metals also traded higher for the week with copper starting at $8,007 per tonne and closing Friday at $8,292. Zinc likewise rallied 7.3 percent from its year-to-date low of $2,539 per tonne to close $2,726 by week’s end. Nickel prices increased by 2.9 percent to trade at $18,599 per tonne by Friday. Lead likewise realized slight gains for the week, beginning trading at $2,052 and increasing to $2,082.50 per tonne where it held until the end of trading.

Energy and Oil

In Friday’s early trading, Brent held at $61 per barrel despite a slightly stronger dollar. Analysts are divided concerning prospects for the rally’s continuation or a possible slowdown in upward price momentum. The OPEC cartel announced on Thursday that they expected oil demand to increase by 5.8 million barrels per day (bpd) which is a 100,000 bpd downward adjustment from projects made last month. The adjustment is attributed to the continuing lockdowns in the major developed economies.

In the meantime, U.S. shale is expected to grow later this year with WTI over $50, according to the EIA. Supply forecasts for 2022 by the agency were increased to 11.53 mb/d, an increase from last month’s 11.49 mb/d. With regards to oil, a broad commodity supercycle is taking place that could create an upside risk to $65, as per Goldman Sachs. A macro-repricing is foreseen by analysts which will likely lead to repricing for everything. Libya’s oil port has reopened after a month-long strike during which time output was reduced by more than half from 320,000 to 120,000 bpd. Finally, some good news as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) of the U.S. Department of Energy announced the availability of $100 million in funding for high-risk high-reward early-stage low-carbon technologies.

Natural Gas

Responding to an extended cold-weather trend that continues to sweep most of the lower 48 states, natural gas spot prices increased for most of the week from February 3 to 10, and below-freezing temperatures being forecasted until the Gulf coast. The Henry Hub spot prices rose to $3.68 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) by week’s end after beginning the week at $2.91 per MMBtu. Price likewise increased at the Chicago Citygate by $1.14 from $2.85 per MMBtu to hit a weekly high of $3.99 per MMBtu on Wednesday as temperatures in the city dropped more than 18˚F lower than normal since Friday. Throughout the West, natural gas prices also reached new daily highs. The PG&E Citygate price at Northern California reached $4.11 per MMBtu on Wednesday from $3.55 the week prior, and at the SoCal Citygate in Southern California, it increased from $3.18 per MMBtu to $4.97.

The average total supply of natural gas, as per data from HIS Markit, dropped by 0.6% week-on-week. During the same period, dry natural gas production fell by 0.2 percent, while average net imports from Canada likewise decreased by 4.8 percent. Flows on the pipe were reduced due to an outage on Compressor Station 2 of the Enbridge West Coast Transmission in British Columbia, thus affecting the supply of natural gas into Washington State. The total U.S. consumption of natural gas increased by 3.6 percent from the previous week, although natural gas consumed for power generation fell by 2.5 percent. Consumption in the residential and commercial sectors increased by 7.9 percent, and in the industrial sector consumption increased by 3.5 percent. Exports of natural gas to Mexico increased by 3.5 percent.

World Markets

Volatility continued to dominate in the European markets although prices ended higher overall. The equity markets were generally propped up by improved vaccination rollouts, improving coronavirus infection rates, and optimism of a forthcoming U.S. stimulus package, although worries about extended valuations resulted in some profit taking by skittish investors. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index rose 1.09 percent as major indexes were mixed. Italy’s FTSE MIB climbed 1.42 percent while France’s CAC 40 gained 0.78 percent and Germany’s Xetra DAX Index moved sideways. Showing the largest gains was the UK’s FTSE 100 Index which increased a modest 1.55 percent. Yields generally came under downward pressure on a lower-than-expected U.S. inflation report and a gloomy European Commission (EC) economic outlook. The EC forecasted a 3.8 percent growth in the eurozone economy for 2021-22. The projection is lower for 2021 than previously expected, although slightly more optimistic for 2022.

The Japanese bourses showed a continuation of the robust gains it exhibited the week before, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average rising 2.6 percent to close at 29.520.07, ahead by 7.56 percent year-to-date. Weekly gains were also recorded by the broader equity market benchmarks, the large-cap TOPIX Index and the TOPIX Small Index. The yen closed stronger against the dollar to close Friday at JPY 105 per USD. Despite the strong showing, sentiment remained week due to concerns about the continued effects of coronavirus on the economy. The latest data showed a decrease in household spending, and much of Japan remained under a state of emergency due to the pandemic. In China, stocks rallied in advance of the Lunar New Year holiday. In the shortened trading week that ended Wednesday, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 4.5 percent while the large-cap CSI 300 Index shot up by 5.9 percent. Holidays throughout Asia are expected to last the week beginning February 12, prompting Hong Kong’s stock index to increase by 18% to date in 2021 as a result of record inflows from mainland investors. Stock, bond, and currency markets across China will resume trading on February 18.

The Week Ahead

Reports detailing important data expected in the coming week include the February preliminary Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index, producer inflation, and retail sales growth

Key Topics to Watch

  • Empire State manufacturing index
  • Retail sales
  • Retail sales ex-autos
  • Producer price index final demand
  • Industrial production
  • Capacity utilization
  • Business inventories
  • National Association of Home Builders index
  • FOMC minutes
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Housing starts (SAAR)
  • Building permits (SAAR)
  • Import price index
  • Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index
  • Market manufacturing PMI (flash)
  • Markit services PMI (flash)
  • Existing home sales (SAAR)

Markets Index Wrap Up

Weekly Market Review – February 6, 2021

Stock Markets

Major indexes closed at new record highs as U.S. stocks registered their best weekly gain since November. Optimistic outlook for a fiscal stimulus bill and the progress in vaccine distribution continue to provide impetus for the bourse. Crude oil traded at 10% gains for the week, its highest level in more than a year. The week’s activity was dominated by the GameStop play which initially sparked a pullback, and thereafter a strong rally to breakout levels. Speculative volatility, as observed last week, does not show signs of a broader market bubble. The underlying fundamental strength of the economy remains intact as evident in the economic and earnings growth reports. Investors are urged to avoid the risk of being enticed to bet on the fast-moving counters with little fundamentals at the risk of being caught holding the bag in a whipsaw. Instead, they should balance out their portfolio to reduce the distorted view of risk in a fast-moving market. Choose stock for value and not for play.

U.S. Economy

The January jobs report fell below expectations, registering only 49,000 new jobs out of an anticipated 100,000. The outlook for the rest of the year might be brighter, however, with the prospects of an opening economy as a result of the wider vaccine distribution. Also, the initial jobless claims, which is viewed as a more reliable labor market trend metric, fell for the third straight week.

  • Additional fiscal stimulus from Washington and monetary stimulus from the Feds, supportive central bank policies, and the vaccine roll-out may further increase economic spending and, therefore, economic recovery. Over time, it is fundamentals that set the trend and pace, and it appears that momentum may build towards the year’s end. The housing market and manufacturing are particularly strong,
  • The release of the January employment report showed that the economy gained 49,000 new jobs and unemployment dropped from 6.7% to 6.3%. The improved employment situation is expected to impact household spending that comprises 70% of U.S. GDP. Further improvement in the labor market was partly stalled by renewed lockdowns as monthly job gains averaged only 29,000 for the last three months.  This pales in comparison to the average monthly gains from July through October which registered 1.18 million. The second half of the year may see an escalation in jobs growth due to the vaccine rollout and a more open economy.
  • Expectations of a 20% hike in corporate profits for 2021 are foreseen to contribute to the positive fundamentals outlook. Earnings rose by 15% or more in only 12 years since 1980, averaging a return of 12%.

Metals and Mining

Gold and silver ended the week at a loss; silver dropped 13.9% from its high of $30.03 on February 1. Silver’s rise was attributed to the WallStreetBets play, with retail investor sentiment dampening after the opening bell. The following day saw silver back to the previous $26 range. Gold felt the downward pressure exerted by a stronger US dollar and rising Treasury yields. The yellow metal traded below the $1,800 per ounce support level set in late November. The first week of February proved to be volatile for gold, dipping as low as $1,784 as safe-haven demand slackened. Despite the possibility of a correction from oversold levels, gold will continue to remain bearish due to the improving currency situation. Gold was priced at $1,808.73 at 11:25 a.m. EST, while silver was trading at $26.42 an ounce.

Platinum rose to $1,125 per ounce, a four-year high, days after the Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats) announced a fourth-quarter production decrease of 49%. The dip in production was caused by the closure of AMPLATS’ convertor plant coupled with COVID-19 fears. The announcement likewise benefitted palladium which remained on an uptrend during the five-day trading week, chalking a 3.7% increase from its Monday open at $2.189 per ounce. Palladium was valued at $2,264,50 per ounce at 11.27 a.m. Friday, while platinum was $1.118.  

Base metal prices remained soft for most of the week, moving sideways-to-lower in a consolidation. The absence of a downward momentum suggests that the market merely lacks buying incentive as investors seek to avoid increased exposure. Copper commenced the week’s trading at $7,827 a tonne, and slid lower to $7,800 by Tuesday. It recovered to trade at $7,864 by Friday. Increased demand from China as economies recover post-COVID vaccine deployment is seen to keep copper demand up. Other metals continued to move sideways, with Zinc priced at $2,600, nickel at $17,915, and lead at $2,010 per tonne in Friday’s trading.

Energy and Oil

For the first time in 2021, Brent is closing in on $60 per barrel as crude inventories in both the U.S. and China fell for the week, signaling tightening market supply. Oil price is seen to continue its surge on the back of unchanged OPEC+ shipments in the face of narrowing world supply. As prices continue to rise, however, division may increase between OPEC+ members. In the meantime, legal challenges by the PennEast Pipeline Col. LLC will be taken up by the Supreme Court to condemn private land through eminent domain, to build a project that could carry shale gas to east coast refineries. The result of the case could have broad repercussions for energy companies’ use of eminent domain.

The Biden administration announced that it would restart the issuance of permits for the first major U.S. offshore wind farm, a project mothballed in the preceding administration. Jennifer Granholm, the nominee to lead the Department of Energy, has cleared the committee vote and heads towards confirmation. She expressed support for U.S. liquid national gas exports coupled with efforts to combat climate change. Meanwhile, the Global Energy Monitor issued a new report that approximately 212,000 kilometers of pipeline, roughly equivalent to the entire length of the U.S. highway system, is under construction or at the drawing board stage. As the country’s energy transition picks up momentum, this could result in $1 trillion worth of pipeline projects getting shelved.

Natural Gas

At most locations, natural gas spot prices increased for the week ending February 3. The Henry Hub spot price rose from $2,71 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) at the start of the week to $2.91 by week’s end. The February 2021 contract at the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) expired on February 3 at $2.760/MMBtu, while the March 2021 contract price rose by $0.09 to $2.789/MMBtu. For the week ending January 29, the net withdrawal from working gas totaled 192 billion cubic feet (Bcf). This is higher than the year-ago level by 2% and higher by 8% than the five-year average for the week.

For the week ending February 3, the natural gas plant liquids composite price at Mont Belvieu, Texas increased by $0.38/MMBtu. The price averaged $7.51/MMBtu over the week, with prices rising by 3% for natural gasoline and propane, 5% for butane, 8% for isobutane, and 11% for ethane. Baker Hughes reported that the natural gas rig count remained flat at 88 for the week ending January 26. The number of oil-directed rigs increased by 6 to 295, bringing the total rig count to 384, an increase of 6.

World Markets

Hopes of a U.S. fiscal stimulus and accelerated economic recovery due to improved coronavirus vaccination distribution spurred European bourses upward. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index closed the week 3.46% higher. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index rallied 7% in response to the fresh mandate given to Mario Draghi, former European Central Bank president, to form a new government. Germany’s Xetra DAX Index and France’s CAC 40 also posted solid gains but not as high as Italy’s. UK’s FTSE 100 Index likewise rose by 1.28% despite disappointing earnings reports and a strengthening currency. The UK pound surged after traders abandoned hope for a possible interest rate cut, and data underscored the rapid rollout of the country’s coronavirus vaccination program.

Demand for core bonds slackened due to expectations of improved economic growth, driving yields higher. The release of better-than-expected eurozone GDP data pushed expectations of a long-term inflation increase, further adding to the increase in yields. Peripheral bond yields fell across the markets, however. Gilt yields kept pace with core markets as the Bank of England kept monetary policy steady and announced that at least six weeks are needed for lenders to prepare for negative interest rates, stifling investors’ bets for an interest rate cut for the rest of the year.

In Asia, Japan’s stock markets rose for the week, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average advancing by 1,116 points (4%) to close the week at 28,779.19. This brings the bourse to 4.9% ahead of its year-to-date figure. The strong weekly gains covered the broader equity market benchmarks, the large-cap TOPIX Index and the TOPIX Small Index. The yen closed slightly down at a shade above JPY 105 against the U.S. dollar. China’s stocks also rose over the week, with the large-cap CSI 300 Index advancing 2.5% to outperform the Shanghai Composite Index. Behind the improved sentiment is the agreement reached by Alibaba Group with regulators over the restructuring of Ant Group, its fintech affiliate. An impending IPO offering of Ant Group, amounting to $34.44 billion, was canceled in November.

The Week Ahead

Economic data expected to be published this week include the small-business optimism report on Tuesday, the inflation report on Wednesday, and the consumer confidence report on Friday.

Key Topics to Watch

  • NFIB small-business index
  • Job openings
  • Consumer price index
  • Core CPI
  • Wholesale inventories
  • Federal budget
  • Initial jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Continuing jobless claims (regular state program)
  • Consumer sentiment index (preliminary)

Markets Index Wrap Up

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