May 8, 2023

Daily Market Commentary

Canadian Headlines

  • Brookfield Infrastructure Partners is considering the sale of a minority stake in its telecommunications tower business in India, according to people familiar with the matter. The Canadian investment firm is working with an adviser to sell a stake of more than 10% in the infrastructure investment trust that holds Summit DigiTel, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. A deal would satisfy regulatory requirements around the so-called InvIT structure, the people added. Investors including pension funds have shown preliminary interest in acquiring the stake, as they seek stable returns and a chance to increase their exposure to the South Asian economy, the people said. Brookfield and its institutional partners completed their acquisition of the telecom tower unit of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. for about $3.4 billion in 2020.
  • Wildfires burning across the Canadian province of Alberta have prompted the evacuation of almost 30,000 residents and the shutdown of oil and natural gas wells and pipeline systems. A total of 109 blazes were burning as of late Sunday, 30 of which were classified as out of control, and a provincial state of emergency has been declared. Evacuation orders have been issued for communities, including some less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the provincial capital, Edmonton. The fires are affecting energy production in the region, which accounts for most of Canada’s hydrocarbon exports. One community under evacuation order as of Sunday was Fox Creek, a major center for light oil and gas drillers. Energy facilities were also being evacuated in Grande Prairie along with local residents, provincial officials said.

World Headlines

  • European stocks edged higher on Monday, with trading volumes reduced by a holiday in the UK, while investors turned their attention to the publication later this week of US inflation data that should give some insight on the outlook for interest rates. The Stoxx 600 Index gained 0.3% by 10:50 a.m. in London, after rising 1.1% on Friday. Trading volumes in the European gauge were roughly half the average for the time of day. Energy stocks led gains as crude oil prices recovered. Novo Nordisk A/S led an advance in health care after Citigroup Inc. analysts flagged “stellar” prescription growth. Real estate shares were the biggest laggards.  The Stoxx 600 traded near a one-month low last week amid concerns over the direction of interest rates and renewed worries about US regional banks. The benchmark index rallied on Friday, as robust US jobs data reassured investors about the health of the economy.
  • US equity futures struggled for direction on Monday, pointing to a subdued open on Wall Street as traders assess the outlook for monetary policy ahead of key inflation data later this week. Contracts on the S&P 500 fluctuated after the gauge jumped 1.9% Friday to halt its longest losing streak since February. Nasdaq 100 futures were flat. PacWest Bancorp rose as much as 16% in premarket trading, extending Friday’s brisk rally and leading gains in US regional banks as they recover from a selloff fueled by worries over the health of the financial system and the recent collapse of several lenders. A gauge of the dollar slipped for a fifth straight day. US stocks have tracked sideways since the beginning of April as as better-than-feared corporate earnings offset concerns around an economic slowdown and the health of regional banks. Resilient jobs data Friday supported bets the Federal Reserve will hold rates high for longer, straining consumer spending, corporate profits and bank balance sheets.
  • Asian stocks gained as easing banking concerns helped revive risk appetite, while Chinese financial shares saw frenzied trading amid a hunt for the next market catalyst. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose as much as 0.5% on Monday, led by energy and finance shares. China and South Korea were among the best performers, while Japanese stocks retreated as trading resumed after the Golden Week holidays. Asian shares started the week on a strong note as sentiment stabilized following a rebound in US regional bank shares. An unexpected pickup in US hiring and wages tempered worries about a recession, with inflation data due this week expected to provide clues on the Federal Reserve’s next move. Chinese banking shares surged to a one-year high after more lenders cut deposit rates and further progress on state-owned enterprise reform boosted sentiment.
  • Oil advanced as investors assessed conflicting signals for crude demand after a period of volatile trading. West Texas Intermediate rose as much as 2.3% on Monday, adding to a 4% gain on Friday when futures pared a steep weekly loss. Better-than-expected US employment data on Friday eased economic concerns and raised expectations for oil demand in the world’s biggest consuming nation. Traders will get a brace of outlooks this week on how the second half of the year may shape up. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries issues its monthly snapshot on Thursday and, ahead of that, the US Energy Information Administration delivers its short-term outlook on Tuesday. The world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Aramco, will also disclose earnings.
  • Gold edged higher as the dollar weakened, paring some of Friday’s losses that came as traders wound back bets the Federal Reserve would cut rates later this year. Bullion gained 1.4% last week to remain above the $2,000-an-ounce benchmark and within striking distance of its record high. Investors will scrutinize US consumer inflation data later this week for further clues on the Fed’s monetary policy trajectory. Spot gold inched 0.3% higher to $2,023.01 an ounce as of 10:51 a.m. in London. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index slipped 0.1%. Silver was little changed, while platinum and palladium climbed.
  • Wheat futures hovered near the highest level in two weeks on concerns over the United Nations-mediated agreement that allows Ukraine to export crops through the Black Sea. The food staple traded at $6.6275 a bushel Monday after climbing 4.2% last week, the biggest weekly increase since the middle of March. Russia has threatened repeatedly to pull out of the pact, which provides a safe corridor for Ukrainian cargoes, unless demands to boost its own food and fertilizer exports are met. The Joint Coordination Centre didn’t reach an agreement Friday to authorize new vessels to participate in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general. However, several outbound grain-laden vessels did clear inspection on May 6 and 7, according to center data. Traffic through the corridor has suffered repeated disruptions recently.
  • Investors withdrew money from exchange-traded funds that buy emerging market stocks and bonds last week, ending four weeks of inflow that reached $1.05 billion. Outflows from U.S.-listed emerging market ETFs that invest across developing nations as well as those that target specific countries totaled $28.3 million in the week ended May 5, compared with gains of $85.4 million in the previous week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. So far this year, inflows have totalled $9.19 billion.
  • PacWest Bancorp rose as much as 42% in premarket trading Monday, leading gains in US regional banks after saying its business remains “sound” and that it was cutting its quarterly dividend to one cent to accelerate capital build plans. Other regional lenders Western Alliance Bancorp and Zions Bancorp also rallied as they recovered from a selloff fueled by worries over the health of the financial system and the recent collapse of several peers. The bounces follow a tumultuous week for regional lenders that ended with a sharp rally higher on Friday, led by PacWest. “The potential for a meaningful dividend cut shouldn’t come as a surprise to investors,” Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Christopher McGratty wrote, especially given the stock’s current valuation and that the firm is “in the midst of a strategy shift that prioritizes capital build.”
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said there are “simply no good options” for solving the debt limit stalemate in Washington other than Congress lifting the cap and cautioned that resorting to the 14th Amendment would provoke a constitutional crisis. “We should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt” without Congress lifting the debt ceiling, Yellen said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Constitutional scholars and economists have been split on the idea that the administration continue issuing debt by citing a provision of the US Constitution that says the validity of public debts “shall not be questioned.”
  • President Joe Biden plans to announce that the federal government is drafting new rules that could require airlines to provide meals, hotels and additional compensation to travelers on canceled or severely delayed flights ahead of an expected crush of summer travel. The president will announce the effort — which will also seek to force airlines to improve the availability of customer service during periods of widespread flight delays or cancellations — at an event Monday at the White House alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The administration will also roll out a new version of a Department of Transportation website – – that shows which airlines already offer compensation to travelers experiencing delays and cancellations, according to a White House official who requested anonymity to describe the effort before it was announced.
  • The European Union’s top court will rule next month in a much-anticipated case over Swiss-franc mortgages that threatens to increase legacy lending costs for Polish banks. The decision on whether the banks can pass on extra fees to customers whose foreign-currency loans were deemed unfair will be announced on June 15, Arkadiusz Szczesniak, the head of the Stop Banking Lawlessness lobby told Bloomberg, citing a letter his legal team received from the court on Friday. The set date “may come as a surprise as the verdict was expected closer to the autumn,” according to analysts at MBank SA. Warsaw’s WIG-Bank index climbed 0.6% early on Monday, while the benchmark WIG20 gauge was up 0.2%.
  • Volkswagen AG is expected to replace the leadership of its troubled software unit later Monday, with the German carmaker’s new chief executive officer installing a range of trusted managers. Peter Bosch, a former Oliver Wyman consultant who heads production at VW luxury brand Bentley, is set to lead Cariad, three people familiar with the plans said. Two former Porsche managers will also join the unit’s board: current Cariad motion and energy vice president Thomas Günther and Porsche software chief Sajjad Khan, one of the people said, declining to be named discussing non-public information. For VW CEO Oliver Blume, who has led Europe’s biggest carmaker since September as well as retaining leadership of Porsche, turning around Cariad is a central issue. Internal discord and overloading the unit with tasks led to delays with software platforms, pushing back several EV models at Porsche and Audi, as well as causing significant software glitches for the ID electric model range.
  • NATO allies need to spell out the concrete steps for Ukraine to become a member of the military alliance and move beyond repeating the standing position that it’s welcome to join the bloc, according to an Estonia’s top diplomat. “It’s not enough anymore just to repeat the already existing position that Ukraine is welcomed to NATO,” Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in an interview. “We must move forward to give a strong message” about Ukraine’s next steps when leaders gather in Vilnius this summer, he said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for clear signals in support of his country’s membership at the upcoming NATO summit. Kyiv has also demanded effective security guarantees before it becomes a full member, a complex request given they could pull an ally and NATO more broadly into war with Russia due to collective defense commitments.
  • Companies from automakers to hoteliers keep on sacrificing sales volume – sometimes by design, sometimes by necessity – in favor of higher prices, a dynamic that will test the Federal Reserve’s efforts to rein in inflation.  The latest set of earnings showed that businesses aren’t likely to walk away from a strategy Corbu LLC’s Samuel Rines calls “price over volume” adopted by certain industries at the height of the pandemic, when supplies and labor were both hard to come by. Ford Motor Co. said this month it is aiming to maintain robust sticker prices, even if that means rolling fewer cars off its assembly lines. Lodging giant Marriott International Inc. has focused on increasing room rates, especially for corporate accounts. Southwest Airlines Co. is among US carriers that are pulling in record revenue as tight flying capacity is helping to keep fares higher.
  • Softer US macroeconomic data suggest that earnings trends will weaken in coming months, contrary to the expectations of most analysts, according to Morgan Stanley’s Michael Wilson, a staunch Wall Street bear. “Many of the leading macro data points that we focus on have fallen in recent weeks and are not pointing to a similar run rate in terms of strength looking forward over the next several months,” said Wilson. He was ranked No. 1 in last year’s Institutional Investor survey after correctly predicting the selloff in stocks in 2022, although his prediction of an equity slump in 2023 is yet to materialize. Nearly 86% of S&P 500 constituents have reported earnings so far this quarter, with 79% of those companies beating estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Wilson said stronger economic figures in January and February as well as reduced expectations going into the season have led to the strong beat.
  • South Africa will likely miss its primary budget surplus target for the 2023 fiscal year by 8.2 billion rand ($448 million), after revenue collections narrowly undershot estimates due to higher-than-anticipated value-added tax refunds.  Africa’s most industrialized economy recorded a primary budget deficit of 1.5 billion rand, or 0.02% of gross domestic product, in the fiscal year through March 2023, the National Treasury said in an emailed response to questions, citing preliminary data. That compares to a forecast for a surplus of 6.7 billion rand, or 0.1% of GDP, which would have been the country’s first positive primary budget balance — where revenue exceeds non-interest expenditure — since the global financial crisis. The Treasury made the primary budget balance the nation’s most critical fiscal anchor in 2021, instead of a spending ceiling. It previously said achieving a primary surplus will bring its multiyear fiscal consolidation efforts to a close and allow the government to “reconsider the funding of South Africa’s priorities” in a more stable environment. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s February budget showed the Treasury already lived up to that commitment by not proposing expenditure reductions over the next three years.