Futures Jump As Coordinated Central Bankers Push Back On Inflation Fears

US equity futures rose on Wednesday, rebounding from a modest dip  the day before as more central-bank officials joined the chorus predicting that inflationary pressures are transitory, while a recent dip in bond yields supported Nasdaq futures climb for a third straight session. At 7:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 82 points, or 0.24%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 14 points, or 0.33%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 51.25 points, or 0.38%. Treasuries and the dollar were roughly flat, recovering from an earlier drop. Bitcoin soared back over $40,000, rising as much as 8.6%, before paring gains.

Among the notable premarket moves were retail trader favorites GameStop and AMC which surged in U.S. premarket trading, adding to Tuesday’s rally as investors touted the stocks on social media platforms including Twitter, Stocktwits and trader WallStreetBets. The gains will add to losses for short-sellers of the stocks who have already seen $6.8 billion in mark-to-market losses this year, according to S3 Partners. GameStop climbed 4.3% to $218.40, while AMC added 3.8% to $17.04 at 7:10am in New York.

Here are some other notable premarket movers:

  • Larimar Therapeutics slumps in premarket trading after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a clinical hold on its CTI-1601 drug.
  • Nabriva Therapeutics jumps after the company, alongside Sinovant Sciences, said Tuesday that lefamulin was shown to be non-inferior to moxifloxacin.
  • Urban Outfitters jumped 9.3% after reporting 1Q results after market Tuesday that beat profit and sales estimates. Analysts see the apparel maker as a retail recovery play, with Jefferies saying the strong results will “bring bulls back,” while JPMorgan upgraded the retailer to neutral from underweight.
  • Oil heavyweight Exxon Mobil Corp gained 0.7% ahead of its first major boardroom contest where climate change is a central issue.
  • Crypto- exposed stocks like Riot Blockchain, Marathon Patent Group and Coinbase Global rose between 2% and 4.6% in premarket trading as bitcoin climbed back above $40,000 for the first time this week with other cryptocurrencies recovering some of the ground lost this month.
  • Nordstrom dropped 6% in thin trading after reporting a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss, hurt by price markdowns.

Futures rose after a downbeat Tuesday, where the S&P closed down 8 points, despite Fed vice chair Richard Clarida downplaying the effects of higher price pressures, voicing faith in the central bank’s ability to engineer a “soft landing” if prices continue to escalate beyond what is expected. All the same, Clarida’s comments reflect a shifting tone at the Fed. A month ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said it was “not yet” time to even contemplate discussion of policy tapering, but more recently policymakers have acknowledged they are closer to debating when to pull back some of their crisis support for the U.S. economy. This is why, as we noted overnight, the narrative on Wall Street is starting to shift, portraying the taper as a positive or bullish catalyst.

“The messages were not necessarily new but they reinforced the prevailing consensus still that the bulk of the surprise in April (CPI) can be traced to transitory elements,” said Stefan Hofer, chief investment strategist at LGT in Hong Kong. “The proof is in the pudding so to speak over the coming months, how much of the CPI increase is structural and how much of it is transitory. And the jury is I would say still out on that, but the Fed is sticking to its guns and markets seem to be by and large still comfortable with that.”

Fears of soaring inflation have weighed on Wall Street’s main indexes this month, with most analysts expecting a jump in borrowing costs in the short term as the economy reopens, even though a recent Chinese crackdown on commodity prices coupled with a plunge in China’s credit impulse suggests a deflationary wave is coming. Furthermore, central bankers around the globe are playing down the risk of rising prices. The question, as Bloomberg notes, is how long the Fed and other central banks can keep stimulative monetary policy in place if economic data continue to show price pressures.

“What we keep hearing from the Fed is that they’re going to take a very different approach to inflation this time around,” Kristina Hooper, Invesco chief global market strategist, said on Bloomberg TV. “The Fed is likely to let the punchbowl stay out a lot longer. The big fear about inflation is that the Fed would act.”

Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index erased earlier gains of as much as 0.4% as the rally lost steam after the region’s stocks approached record levels. Banks pulled the index lower with the banks subgroup index down 1.5%, after a report on Sweden’s lenders facing new tax. The travel & leisure subgroup index trim gains to 0.9%. Here are some of the biggest European movers today:

  • Marks & Spencer shares rose as much as 6.3% to highest intraday since March 2020. The U.K. retailer’s FY results showed continued improvement in its balance sheet as well as “constructive” comments for the year ahead, according to Morgan Stanley.
  • Softcat shares jumped as much as 6%, the most since March 24, after the IT services firm says it sees its full-year earnings ahead of expectations.
  • Norwegian Air shares rose as much as 31% as a restructuring proposal is expected to take effect after close of trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange on May 26.
  • Vectura Group shares gained as much as 34% to a price above the level of an agreed offer from Carlyle Group that values the U.K. drug maker at GBP958m. Stifel said the offer represents a fair premium to their price target.
  • Solutions 30 shares jumped as much as 26%, rebounding from a slump in the previous two sessions, after CEO Gianbeppi Fortis sought to reassure investors worried about pressures from short sellers and its auditor’s decision not to certify the company’s 2020 accounts.
  • Spire Healthcare shares rose as much as 29% after agreeing to a takeover by Ramsay Health Care. RBC said “it may not have taken much for Spire’s share price to reach this” without a bid, “given the pent-up demand in the market”
  • De La Rue shares fell as much as 8.3% before trimming the decline after the banknote and authentication document-maker’s full-year results. Company has been speculated upon as a potential producer of Covid-19 “vaccine passports.”

Similar to Clarida, Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau talked down stimulus adjustments anytime soon, while European Central Bank Executive Board member Fabio Panetta said he sees no signs of sustained inflation that would allow for a reduction in bond purchases.

In Asia, stocks rose for a fifth day as the soothing Fed comments helped boost sentiment with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rising 0.28% near more than two-week highs, while Tokyo’s Nikkei added 0.27%. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed above its 50-day moving average on Wednesday, a sign that the region’s stocks have steadily recovered from a slump in early May.

“The weaker U.S. dollar has helped non-USD assets,” said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. However, the sustainability of market gains remains uncertain as “we haven’t seen a significant change in Asia economies. And the pandemic hasn’t been controlled in India and Taiwan,” he said. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell as much as 0.2% in its third day of declines before paring some losses. The gauge is hovering near its year-to-date low. A weaker greenback tends to be beneficial for Asian shares if it signals higher risk appetite and is seen as a positive for growth in the region’s emerging economies, many of which rely on imports priced in dollars. Stocks in India were on track for a record close. Chinese equities ended little changed after the CSI 300 Index jumped 3.2% on Tuesday, the most since July. Hong Kong stocks rose to the highest level in almost a month. Communication services and industrial shares led the gains in Asia, while materials stocks posted declines. China’s internet giant Tencent and Taiwan’s TSMC contributed the most to the regional benchmark’s advance. Markets in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia were shut for holidays.

Japanese equities overcame early turbulence to post their fifth-straight day of gains, as investors were encouraged by signs of calm in external financial markets. Electronics makers were the biggest boost to the Topix, which has eked out a gain of 1.3% over the past five sessions, helped also by optimism over a ramp-up of Japan’s coronavirus vaccination program. Fast Retailing and Recruit contributed most to gains in the Nikkei 225. A measure of volatility on the blue-chip gauge fell to its lowest since May 10. Stocks fluctuated in early Tokyo trading after U.S. shares fell overnight. “U.S. long-term yields have retreated quite a bit, and that is probably quite a big factor leading to the calm in markets,” along with smaller moves in Bitcoin, said Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank. “We have U.S. jobs data coming up next week, but for now, we’re in an environment that’s extremely good for equity markets, with U.S. economic conditions being good while inflation is contained.”

Analysts at Jefferies said Asian regional equity markets could benefit, especially given a weak dollar could help boost global trade and emerging markets by lowering global prices of goods and services. “A weak dollar should underwrite emerging market performance despite very mixed vaccine roll-outs to date,” they said in a note. “Until the U.S. government declares the pandemic is over and job growth is running at one million plus per month, tapering is unlikely to happen…In the meantime, real rates will be heavily negative. Moreover, based on the dollar’s Real Effective Exchange Rate, the greenback cannot be described as being ‘cheap’.”

In rates, Treasuries little changed across the curve after paring losses amid bund rally. US Treasuries fell to multi-week lows on Tuesday on easing inflation concerns and a strong auction of 2-year notes. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note stood at 1.5638 after scaling a more than one-month high earlier in May. Higher yields pressured valuations for tech and other growth stocks, whose future cash flows are discounted at higher rates after the ECB’s Panetta said only sustained inflation could warrant slowing PEPP. European price action dominated the rates market, with German 10-year almost 4bp richer vs U.S. as markets pare taper expectations. Treasury auction cycle continues with 5-year note sale, following strong demand for Tuesday’s 2-year.

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell a third day and the greenback traded mixed versus its Group-of-10 peers, with Antipodean currencies leading gains; The euro fluctuated at around $1.2250; the euro erased a modest gain at the beginning of the European session, and the region’s government bonds advanced, as ECB Executive Board member Fabio Panetta said he sees no signs of sustained inflation pressures that would allow for a reduction in bond purchases yet. On the other end of the spectrum, New Zealand’s dollar led G-10 gains to touch a three-month high and swap rates surged after RBNZ published official cash rate forecasts for the first time in more than a year that show the rate beginning to rise in mid-2022.

The onshore yuan rose for a fourth day to its highest in three years after the PBOC set the yuan’s daily midpoint fixing at its strongest level since June 2018, signaling its comfort with a recent rally after the currency tested a key level against the dollar a day earlier, prompting state banks to step into curb the rally.

In commodities, oil was little changed as traders weighed expectations of improving demand in the U.S. against the possibility of new supply from Iran. Global benchmark Brent crude was up 3 cents at $68.68 and U.S. crude fell 7 cents to $66 per barrel. Bitcoin traded around $40,000, earlier crossing above the key barrier, despite China’s northern region of Inner Mongolia escalating a campaign against cryptocurrency mining on Tuesday, days after Beijing vowed to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading. Gold extended its advance after Federal Reserve official Clarida talked down prospects for inflation, piling pressure on Treasury yields.

It’s a fairly quiet day ahead now on the calendar, with the data highlights including French consumer confidence for May, and central bank speakers including Fed Vice Chair Quarles and the ECB’s Villeroy. Earnings releases include Nvidia, and the CEOs of a number of Wall Street firms will be testifying before the Senate Banking Committee.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures up 0.3% to 4,197.50
  • STOXX Europe 600 rose 0.23% to 446.25
  • MXAP up 0.3% to 207.32
  • MXAPJ up 0.4% to 695.72
  • Nikkei up 0.3% to 28,642.19
  • Topix little changed at 1,920.67
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.9% to 29,166.01
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.3% to 3,593.36
  • Sensex up 0.6% to 50,965.37
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% to 7,092.53
  • Kospi little changed at 3,168.43
  • Brent Futures up 0.2% to $68.78/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,907.81
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 89.73
  • German 10Y yield fell 2.2 bps to -0.189%
  • Euro little changed at $1.2245

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • U.S. three-month 10-year implied swaption volatility — a closely watched gauge of how much prices may move over the period — has been steadily declining, and hit the lowest levels since early March, as officials repeat the line that inflation will be transitory
  • Bitcoin rallied back above the $40,000 level as cryptocurrencies recover some of the ground lost in this month’s volatile rout. Bitcoin’s explosive moves are stoking the volatility of U.S. stock futures in haywire trading days, according to Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd
  • The U.K. government was forced to backtrack over its attempt to restrict travel to coronavirus hotspots in England where the so-called Indian variant is spreading. The U-turn came after ministers were accused of introducing “local lockdowns by the back door” with the new guidance against travel to eight areas in England, which was published without fanfare online late last week but didn’t reach the attention of local leaders for several days
  • China’s banking regulator has asked lenders to stop selling investment products linked to commodities futures to retail buyers, Reuters reports, citing three unidentified people
  • Europe’s labor market may recover more slowly from the pandemic than its economy, according to a study by Accenture. The region lost 3.5 million jobs in 2020 that will take until 2023 to be recreated, the consultancy said, citing a survey of 700 company executives. That’s as much as one year after the last European Union economy will have seen output returning to pre-crisis levels

A quick look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pac stocks were mostly positive in what was a modest improvement from the subdued performance on Wall Street where most major indices posted marginal losses following mixed data releases, although the Nasdaq 100 bucked the trend amid resilience in tech and as softer yields helped stem downside in duration sensitive stocks. ASX 200 (-0.3%) was kept afloat for most of the session amid notable strength in tech and outperformance in gold miners after the precious metal reclaimed the USD 1900/oz level. Furthermore, the top-weighted financials were also higher as shares in big-4 leader CBA briefly topped AUD 100 for the first time, although gains in the broader marker were limited amid snap lockdown concerns in Victoria state which reported 10 new locally transmitted cases and after a COVID-positive person was confirmed to have attended a match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Nikkei 225 (+0.9%) traded positively amid reports that Japan’s government is considering another cash handout program of up to JPY 100k for households in need, but with upside restricted amid expectations of state of emergency extensions and further calls for the cancellation of the Olympics, this time coming from an editorial by Asahi Shimbun press, which is an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics. Hang Seng (+0.6%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.3%) held on to the spoils from the prior day’s outperformance where northbound flows into the Chinese mainland through the stock connect reached record levels. Focus was also on Xiaomi after it received the final US District Court ruling which removed its designation as a Communist Chinese Military Company and lifted all restrictions on the Co.’s shares, although this failed to boost its share price with participants awaiting its earnings results. Finally, 10yr JGBs were rangebound with upside restricted amid the mild positive risk tone and with the BoJ only in the market for treasury bills, while New Zealand 10yr yields gained around 8bps following the RBNZ rate hike projections.

Top Asian News

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Major bourses in Europe kicked off the day with mild gains but have since drifted off best levels (Euro Stoxx 50 -0.2%) with the region now seeing a mild downside bias amid a light European morning in terms of data and news flow, and as month-end looms. US equity futures meanwhile hold onto modest gains, but the breadth of the price action remains narrow with no clear stand-out performers. Analysts at Barclays note that fatigue and inflation woes have seen investors trimming bullish bets over the last month. “Cyclical exposure has moderated, but Value has recovered its 2020 outflows, with buying of Financials, Energy and Materials outpacing Tech. Value is thus more consensus and prone to profit-taking but can still benefit from higher rates and momentum rebalancing, in our view.”, the bank says. Barclays also suggests that the correlations between the broader equity market vs cryptos and SPACs have been relatively lower, meaning little contagion in the bank’s view. “Overall, less complacency reduces correction risk, and investors have dry powder to keep buying on dips, which should support a further grind higher in equities.”, the analysts note. Back to Europe, cash bourses are trading either side of neutral while sectors have been tilting more towards a defensive bias as Personal Household Goods, Food & Beverages and Healthcare reside among the better performers. Travel & Leisure is the clear outperformer as sector heavyweight Flutter Entertainment (+2%) is underpinned by an upgrade at HSBC – note, Flutter accounts for over 1/5th of the sector. Banks and Basic resources meanwhile reside at the bottom of the pile amid the recent pullback in yields and as some base metal prices in Asia slumped. Tech also resides as laggards following its recent outperformance. In terms of individual movers, Marks & Spencer (+4.8%) is among the top gainers post-earnings as the group notes that its balance sheet has emerged stronger than expected and online sales doubled in the period. Meanwhile, Spire Healthcare (+24%) was bolstered as Ramsay Healthcare offered to purchase 100% of Spire for GBP 2.40/shr in a deal valued at around GBP 2bln. On the downside, Nordea (-0.6%) sees losses as its largest shareholder Sampo (-1.0%) offloaded 162mln shares to institutional investors.