Asian equities retreat as investors shift to cautious mode

January 10, 2017

After a strong start for the year, equity markets started to cool down in the second trading week of 2017. Most Asian major indices are in red today, as Wall Street failed to make new highs and the Dow retreated further from the key psychological 20,000 mark, while oil suffered a steep selloff on Monday. 

Investors who built their positions based on Trump’s victory are likely to start cashing out for the time being and shift their focus on fundamentals with the earning season kicking off later this week when U.S. big banks release their fourth quarter results. I’m not confident to call a correction yet, but certainly many investors got ahead of themselves betting on fiscal stimulus, and while business usually tends to under promise and over deliver, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the U.S. new President.   

Although Kuwait’s Oil Minister Essam Al-Marzouk who is chairing the committee to oversee compliance of OPEC’s output assured the markets that OPEC and non-OPEC members will abide to the planned cuts, still both oil benchmarks dropped 4% on Monday.  This clearly indicates that it’s not just an OPEC game, and the expected increase in U.S. and Canadian supplies are likely to threaten the oil rally. Data from the U.S. on Friday showed rig counts rose for ten consecutive weeks and it’s just about some time for this to translate into additional production, suggesting that downside risk may remain in play, and rather than just focusing on implementations of OPEC production cuts, investors should be looking at the bigger picture on whether supply will meet demand in the second half of 2017.

The U.S. dollar fell for a second day, extending its slide from the 14-year high hit on January 3. The pull back in the dollar came despite hawkish speeches from Fed officials suggesting that the central bank is getting closer to achieving its dual mandate. Both Fed presidents, Charles Evans and Patrick Harker aren’t ruling out three rate hikes in 2017, while Eric Rosengren called for stepping up the pace of interest rates hikes to prevent inflation from overshooting. However, traders are still not yet completely convinced and pricing in only two hikes for 2017 according to CME’s Fed Watch. With no tier one economic data on the calendar until Friday, U.S. bond yields will remain to be the key driver for the greenback.

The Pound remained under pressure after Monday’s steep selloff on comments from UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May which intensified fears of “Hard Brexit”. Although the pound looks undervalued, the risk of further selloff may remain in play as we get closer to triggering article 50. Meanwhile comments from Scotland’s First Minister on BBC that she’s not bluffing about her vow to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence if Britain leaves the single market is another factor to worry about on the medium-term.   

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