7 May 2021 / WEEKLY GLOBAL MARKETS UPDATE
Global Markets Weekly Update
Rotation resumes out of tech as stocks end mixed
The major indexes produced mixed returns across a wide range as a Friday rally erased some losses from early in the week. The narrowly focused Dow Jones Industrial Average fared best, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index recorded its worst weekly loss in two months. Technology shares underperformed within the S&P 500 Index, along with consumer discretionary, utilities, and real estate stocks. Value stocks outperformed their growth counterparts for the third week in a row, and T. Rowe Price traders noted a continued rotation out of momentum stocks—or those that have seen significant recent appreciation.
Earnings season continued to wind down over the week, with 442 of the S&P 500 companies expected to have reported first-quarter results by the end of the week, according to data from Refinitiv. Earnings over the quarter have generally surpassed analysts’ estimates by a wide margin, with analysts polled by FactSet currently expecting overall profits for the S&P 500 to have grown by over 49% relative to the year before. T. Rowe Price traders observe that the season has been relatively “quiet” in the sense that earnings beats or misses do not appear to have had dramatic effects on stock prices, however.
Jobs numbers calm overheating worries
Indeed, inflation seemed to be a major driver of sentiment during the week, according to the firm’s traders. Warren Buffett commented over the previous weekend that the economy was running “red hot,” and Treasury Secretary and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen acknowledged on Tuesday that rates may have to rise somewhat to prevent the economy from overheating. (Yellen later clarified that her remarks were not intended to be a prediction or a recommendation for the central bank to raise rates.) Investors seemed to remain on the lookout for supply chain constraints and input cost inflation, and Wednesday brought word that copper and lumber prices hit new all-time highs.
Friday’s rally appeared to be due in large part to an important piece of data suggesting the economy was not growing as fast as some expected. The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls expanded by only 266,000 in April, a fraction of the nearly 1 million jobs widely expected. While restaurants and leisure companies added 331,000 jobs, manufacturing and retail payrolls fell slightly. The unemployment rate rose a bit, from 6.0% to 6.1%, and March job gains were also revised lower. Some observers pointed to a shortage of available workers in the slowdown in hiring, and increased competition for employees may have been reflected in a surprise 0.7% jump in average hourly earnings over the month. In a contrasting view of labor market health, weekly jobless claims reached a pandemic-era low of 498,000.
Some of the rest of the week’s data surprised on the downside, if to a more modest extent. The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM’s) gauge of April manufacturing activity came in at 60.1, the lowest since January and well below consensus estimates around 65 (readings over 50 indicate expansion). March construction spending also rose less than expected. The ISM’s gauge of April services activity also missed expectations, but IHS Markit’s rival gauge surprised modestly on the upside.
10-year Treasury yield briefly touches two-month low
The disappointing jobs data sparked a sharp but temporary decrease in Treasury yields on Friday morning, helping temporarily push the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to a two-month low before finishing lower for the week. (Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.) T. Rowe Price traders reported that dovish remarks from several Federal Reserve officials also contributed to the decline. The tax-exempt municipal debt market logged modestly positive returns through most of the week but underperformed Treasuries. Demand for new issuance was strong, according to our traders, powered by an extended streak of cash flows into municipal bond funds industrywide. Smaller, higher-yielding deals were particularly oversubscribed.
Investment-grade corporate bond spreads—the extra yield offered over Treasuries and an inverse measure of the sector’s relative appeal—moved wider alongside weakness in equities early in the week. However, spreads later tightened amid balanced flows and an uptick in overnight demand from Asia. Primary issuance was in line with weekly expectations, and the new deals were met with adequate demand.
|Index||Friday's Close||Week’s Change||% Change YTD|
|S&P MidCap 400||2,770.29||45.14||20.10%|
This chart is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific security. Past performance cannot guarantee future results.
Source of data: Reuters, obtained through Yahoo! Finance and Bloomberg. Closing data as of 4 p.m. ET. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index of blue chip stocks, the Standard & Poor’s MidCap 400 Index, and the Russell 2000 Index are unmanaged indexes representing various segments of the U.S. equity markets by market capitalization. The Nasdaq Composite is an unmanaged index representing the companies traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange and the National Market System. Frank Russell Company (Russell) is the source and owner of the Russell index data contained or reflected in these materials and all trademarks and copyrights related thereto. Russell® is a registered trademark of Russell. Russell is not responsible for the formatting or configuration of these materials or for any inaccuracy in T. Rowe Price Associates’ presentation thereof.
Shares in Europe climbed on stronger-than-expected earnings results and growing confidence in an economic recovery. In local currency terms, the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index ended the week 1.72% higher. The German and French stock indexes rose by more than 1.5%. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index added 1.95%. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index gained 2.29%.
Core eurozone bond yields fell at the start of the week on underwhelming U.S. manufacturing data. Yields steadied after a European Central Bank policymaker hinted that the institution’s bond purchases could slow in June. The yields on peripheral eurozone government bonds largely rose. They initially tracked core markets lower, but Italian government bonds then sold off after reports emerged that the country would issue debt with a 30-year maturity. Uncertainty over the timing of Italy’s recovery package also pushed peripheral yields higher. UK gilt yields fell, tracking early moves in core markets. However, the Bank of England then revised its forecast for 2021 UK economic growth to 7.25% from 5% and said it planned to slow bond purchases, causing a momentary rise in yields.
Netherlands, Belgium ease lockdowns; vaccination programs progress
The Netherlands and Belgium began easing coronavirus lockdowns, allowing outdoor hospitality to recommence. Most European countries have given at least a quarter of their populations a single dose of vaccine, The Guardian newspaper reported, citing figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. In Germany, where the number of people vaccinated has increased significantly, Health Minister Jens Spahn said that all adults would be offered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The UK plans to offer a third jab to all those over 50 years of age in the fall, with the more aggressive aim of eradicating the threat of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, by Christmas, The Times newspaper reported.
The European Commission also announced plans to reopen the European Union’s borders again to holidaymakers from outside the bloc by June.
Eurozone retail sales volumes increased; German factory orders and exports expand
Economic data continued to point to a broad-based pickup in eurozone activity in March. The volume of eurozone retail sales climbed 2.7% sequentially, beating a consensus forecast, after rising 4.2% in February. Increases in retail sales volumes were particularly strong in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Lithuania. German manufacturing orders in March rose 3.0% sequentially, beating a consensus estimate for 1.7% and accelerating from a 1.2% expansion in February. Exports from Germany continued to recover in March despite the continuation of lockdown restrictions, rising 1.2% sequentially in adjusted terms.
In a holiday-shortened week, Japanese equities at least momentarily shrugged off concerns about the coronavirus and associated containment measures to register a gain: The Nikkei 225 rose 1.89%, while the broader TOPIX Index finished 1.83% higher. (The market was closed for Golden Week for the first three trading days.) Investor optimism was supported by the prospects of a global economic recovery following better-than-expected U.S. data in recent weeks. The yen was broadly unchanged at just above JPY 109 against the U.S. dollar, while the yield on the 10-year Japanese government bond fell to 0.08%.
COVID-19 state of emergency extended
Japan’s government extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures until May 31 to curb a surge in coronavirus cases and give the government time to accelerate its vaccination program. Authorities had hoped that a “short and powerful” state of emergency would contain a fourth wave of infection, but cases remain at high levels, particularly in Tokyo and Osaka, leading to shortages of hospital beds. Health officials reported an all-time high level of severe coronavirus cases nationwide on Friday. The government also announced an easing in some measures—with a view to mitigating economic damage—such as allowing department stores, movie theaters, and other large commercial facilities to reopen with shorter hours.
Monthly department store sales higher than a year ago
April preliminary same-store sales volumes announced by four major department stores were about three to four times higher than in the same month the previous year, when stores were forced to close due to the pandemic. However, compared with the pre-coronavirus April 2019 period, sales have decreased by around 20% to 30%.
Japan and UK agree to strengthen partnership
Japan and the UK agreed to deepen their trade and security cooperation, following bilateral talks ahead of a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting. The two countries’ foreign ministers explored opportunities for increased collaboration in areas of joint interest and where expertise can be shared, such as economic security, advanced technologies, health, and science.
Chinese stocks fell in a holiday-shortened week. The large-cap CSI 300 Index fell 2.5% from the previous Friday, while the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index shed 0.8%. Mainland markets reopened Thursday after being closed Monday through Wednesday for the Labor Day holiday. Consumer stocks were among the best performers as preliminary holiday sales and travel data were positively received by investors, though a 40% surge in tourism in Macau was seen as disappointing. Select pharmaceutical names fell after the U.S. announced that it might waive COVID-19 vaccine-related intellectual property rights, a move that would increase competition for many vaccine makers.
The yield on China’s 10-year sovereign bond declined three basis points to 3.17%. China’s economy has peaked in momentum terms, according to some analysts, a view that has supported those who think that bond yields in China may also be near a peak. However, rising producer price inflation and commodity prices, as well as pressure from increasing yields in the U.S. and globally, are other factors expected to influence Chinese bond yields in the near term.
Calm returns to bond markets after Huarong
Calm returned to credit markets a week after Beijing offered financial support to troubled state-owned China Huarong Asset Management. Given the government’s recent focus on deleveraging, many investors have braced themselves for an uptick in corporate defaults in the coming months. In foreign exchange trading, few analysts appeared concerned over China’s recent currency depreciation. On the other hand, many analysts expect continued capital inflows into China and see a stronger currency as a greater risk. For the week, the renminbi strengthened slightly against the U.S. dollar and closed at 6.454 per dollar.
On the economic front, the Caixin services Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 56.3 in April, the fastest growth pace this year for the private survey. Domestic tourism surged over the five-day Labor Day holiday and surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to the government, though revenue over the period fell short of forecasts. However, box office and cinema admissions set new records, reflecting strong pent-up demand among Chinese consumers for entertainment and other services. Among other economic readings, China reported that April exports surged a stronger-than-expected 32.3% in dollar terms from a year earlier, when the pandemic disrupted the economy, while imports increased roughly 43%. Stripping out the base effect, the two-year growth rate rose to 16.8% in April, much stronger than pre-pandemic levels.
Stocks in Turkey, as measured by the BIST-100 Index, returned about 3.1%. Early in the week, the government reported that the consumer price index (CPI) for April rose 1.7% month over month, and that 12-month inflation through the end of April was 17.1% versus a 16.2% year-over-year increase through the end of March. T. Rowe Price sovereign analyst Peter Botoucharov says that these figures were in line with his expectations, and he currently believes that the CPI will remain in the 16.5% to 17.5% range through late summer—assuming that the lira remains relatively stable in the currency markets. While he expects some drop in the inflation rate by the end of the year, he believes that the Turkish central bank’s latest year-end estimate of 12.2% versus a previous projection of 9.4% is overly optimistic.
On Thursday, the central bank held its regularly scheduled policy meeting and, as expected, kept the one-week repo auction rate at 19%. In their post-meeting statement, policymakers reiterated their commitment to a tight monetary policy by keeping the repo rate above the headline CPI “to maintain a strong disinflationary effect…” Botoucharov believes that the central bank will keep the repo rate at 19% until policymakers see the first signs of inflation turning lower, perhaps in June or July. At that time, he believes that the central bank will initiate a new rate-cutting cycle.
Colombian assets were pressured by President Iván Duque Márquez’s decision—following several days of protests that ended up turning violent—to scrap the tax reform proposal that his administration introduced to the legislature in April, as well as the resignation of the country’s finance minister and deputy finance minister. The bill would have increased the collection of value-added taxes (VAT) by including some goods and services while gradually increasing personal income tax rates, among other things.
Colombia’s new finance minister indicated that he would work on a new, albeit much slimmer, tax reform proposal in partnership with members of Congress. Even if a revised tax reform bill becomes law, Gifford believes it would be unlikely to bring in a meaningful amount of net new revenue given promises to keep social expenditures intact. In the meantime, social and political risks are rising, with labor unions calling for additional strikes, protestors making new demands even through the tax reform proposal was tossed out, and a left-wing candidate showing an early lead in polls ahead of the May 2022 presidential election.
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