His death comes almost exactly two decades after Barron’s first raised questions about his operations.
Market optimism continued to be a key driver in a choppy week for the global financial markets. A marked acceleration in U.S inflation was the key stat of the week.
The "Made in America" plan, which would require passage by Congress, expands on Treasury Secretary Yellen’s call this week for a global minimum tax.
Meanwhile, WTI oil moved below the $65 level as Colonial Pipeline restarted operations.
The NZD/USD is currently trading inside yesterday’s range and a pair of 50% levels. This indicates investor indecision and impending volatility.
(Bloomberg) -- Industrial materials from copper to iron ore are feeling the pain as China steps up efforts to cool a blistering rally in commodities that’s fanning fears over a global surge in inflation.Iron ore futures plunged as much as 11% in Singapore and steel rebar slid as Chinese officials rolled out fresh measures for steelmakers to take the steam out of markets. Base metals have also come under pressure in recent days, with copper down 4.7% from a record high set on Monday.The measures targeting China’s steel sector come after surging raw-material costs sparked the biggest jump in Chinese factory-gate prices in more than three years in April. A sharp jump in U.S. consumer prices has also sparked worries across financial markets that rising inflation will hamper a global recovery and force the Federal Reserve to tighten policy sooner than thought.“Many fear that high inflation will force the Fed to take away the punch bowl,” which acted as one of the forces in propelling a rally in commodities from their nadir in March last year, TD Securities analysts led by Bart Melek said in a note. “Ongoing deleveraging in China should take some wind out of the sails for commodity demand.”Copper and iron ore have been among the biggest gainers in a yearlong rally in commodities as Covid-19 upended supply while stimulus measures supported economies and sparked a surge in demand, particularly in China. An accelerating global decarbonization drive has also transformed the long-term outlook for metals like copper.But signs of easing short-term supplies and softening demand may be emerging in physical markets. LME metal has flipped into contango, a market structure in which spot prices trade below those three months out. That indicates loose supply or falling demand in the near term. Right now, it’s gapped out to the weakest since early January.“Copper will still trade at a very good price, but I do think it will come under pressure,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, said by phone from London. “There are some headwinds coming.”Still, U.S. retail sales stalled in April following a sharp advance in the prior month when pandemic-relief checks provided millions of Americans with increased spending power. This could help the narrative by Fed officials this week that inflation numbers this week were an aberration and were transitory.Copper fell 1% to settle at $10,240.50 a ton at 5:53 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange, after peaking Monday at $10,747.50. Other base metals fared better on Friday, though aluminum still had a 3% weekly drop.In ferrous markets, iron ore fell 4.3% in Singapore on Friday, while futures in Dalian dropped the daily limit. Iron ore had surged to record highs recently amid the broad commodities boom.Prices slumped as Tangshan’s local government vowed to punish violations including price manipulation, and steelmakers were told that they may be suspended from doing business or have their licenses revoked if they break the law. The city, which accounts for 14% of China’s steel output, has been at the center of an industry overhaul as authorities unveiled a slew of output restrictions to control emissions.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
BTC remains under pressure and could find lower support near $42K as long-term momentum wanes.
(Bloomberg) -- First they struck California, then Texas. Now blackouts are threatening the entire U.S. West as nearly a dozen states head into summer with too little electricity.From New Mexico to Washington, power grids are being strained by forces years in the making — some of them fueled by climate change, others by the fight against it. If a heat wave strikes the whole region at once, the rolling outages that darkened Southern California and Silicon Valley last August will have been previews, not flukes.“It’s really the same case in different parts of the West,” said Elliot Mainzer, chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator, which runs most of the state’s grid. “It’s revealed competition for scarce resources that we haven’t seen for some time.”The specter of blackouts highlights a paradox of the clean-energy transition: Extreme weather fueled by climate change is exposing cracks in society’s move away from fossil fuels, even as that shift is supposed to rein in the worst of global warming. States shuttering coal and gas-fired power plants simply aren’t replacing them fast enough to keep pace with the vagaries of an unstable climate, and the region’s existing power infrastructure is woefully vulnerable to wildfires (which threaten transmission lines), drought (which saps once-abundant hydropower resources) and heat waves (which play havoc with demand).On Wednesday, California's grid managers warned that while they're better positioned than last summer, the risk of power shortages during extreme heat remains a clear possibility. Wildfires, already getting started after a dry winter, could compound the danger if they threaten transmission lines. “We are headed to yet another very dangerous fire year,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a briefing Thursday. “We're seeing a higher level of risk and an earlier level risk.” For many, California’s power crisis in 2020 was the first indication of how serious the regional power shortfall had become. While the blackouts highlighted the state’s reliance on solar power — a resource that ebbs in the evening just as demand picks up — an equally significant problem was California’s dependence on imported electricity. Utilities routinely source power supplies from out of state, drawing electricity across high-voltage transmission lines to wherever it’s needed. But last summer, neighboring states coping with the same heat wave as California were straining to keep their own lights on, and imports were hard to come by.This year, that dynamic is playing out on a larger scale. Across the West, states have grown dependent on importing power from one another. That works fine in temperate weather, when electricity demand is relatively low. But it's a problem when a widespread heatwave blankets the entire region. The Western Electricity Coordinating Council, which oversees electricity grids throughout the western U.S. and Canada, estimates that without imports, Nevada, Utah and Colorado could be short of power during hundreds of hours this year, or the equivalent of 34 days. Arizona and New Mexico could be short for enough hours to total 17 days, according to a report by the organization that looked at worst-case scenarios to help states develop plans to head off potential outages.“It’s no longer necessarily a California problem or a Phoenix problem,” said Jordan White, vice president of strategic engagement for the group, known as WECC. “Everyone is chasing the same number of megawatts.” While blackouts aren’t a guarantee in any region, traders are already betting on supply shortages and sending power prices soaring throughout the West. At the heavily traded Palo Verde hub in Arizona, prices have nearly quadrupled since last summer’s outages, while the Pacific Northwest’s Mid-Columbia hub has tripled.“We are already seeing record-breaking prices across the West, some of which can be attributed to a fear factor being priced in,” said JP McMahon, a market associate for Wood Mackenzie. “Last year was a bit of a wake-up call.”The reasons behind the shortfall are two-fold: Climate change is making it harder to forecast demand for electricity while the shift to clean energy is straining power supplies.Where utilities and grid managers were once able to rely on predictable consumption patterns season to season — more air conditioner use in August, less in October — they’re now reckoning with record-hot summers and historic winter storms that cause great, unexpected surges in demand.“It’s becoming challenging to take out the crystal ball to know with any level of certainty how hot it it’s going to be,” White said.At the same time, older coal and gas plants capable of providing power 24 hours a day are being pushed out by climate change regulations and their own dwindling profitability. In the West, power generation from such plants slipped 6% from 2010 through 2018, according to WECC. While wind and solar capacity have more than tripled in the region, the output from those resources varies by the hour, making them harder to rely on during an unexpected demand crunch. Massive batteries can help make up the difference, but their installation is just beginning.It’s a global phenomenon. Sweden this summer is bracing for power outages and curbing electricity exports after nuclear retirements have left the country with too little spare capacity to balance big swings in demand. In China last winter, even a surplus of coal plants couldn’t keep the lights on during a severe cold blast.At this point, no subregion in WECC’s coverage area generates enough electricity to meet its own needs during periods of high demand; they all rely on imports to avoid outages.In the aftermath of the California crisis, utilities have been signing up contracts for more emergency power supplies and are trying to make sure they aren’t relying on the same suppliers as everyone else. Some entities, including the Imperial Irrigation District of Southern California are working to curb their reliance on imports. But it’s not clear that all utilities in the highest-risk areas plan to do much differently. The situation is, if not dire, getting close. Temperatures in the West are expected to be above average through the summer, with the worst heat slamming the Southwest. More than 84% of land in the 11 Western states is gripped by drought.Following last summer’s outages, California is among the best positioned going into summer. The state is plugging roughly 1,500 megawatts of batteries into the grid, has postponed the retirement of several aging gas plants and raised the price cap on power trades to incentivize imports if outside supplies are necessary and available. Even if imports are readily available for those that need them, there’s no guarantee that transmission lines will be able to carry those electrons where they need to go. Extreme weather can take out the high-voltage conduits that stitch the Western states together, and wildfires are notorious for knocking out transmission lines. Although it received little attention at the time, a major transmission line in the Pacific Northwest that suffered damage in a storm last spring limited power flows into California throughout the summer energy crisis.Energy consultant Mike Florio, who used to sit on the board of California’s grid operator, said other states can learn from the West’s dilemma. They should keep a variety of resources as they decarbonize, learning how to balance the daily rhythms of solar and wind, and not move too quickly to shutter old gas-burning plants that can provide power in a pinch.“We forget that we’re still learning a lot about how to run a system like this,” Florio said. “We probably want to keep our existing gas capacity, at least in reserve. It may be used less, but something that’s already built is cheap insurance.”(Adds quote from U.S. agriculture secretary in sixth paragraph. )For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
“They just want to gauge how you react and how you think through a response.”
All aboard McDonald's stock following its surprising minimum wage hike?
Inflation fears are dogging Wall Street at a time when the U.S. rebound is picking up speed.
Target, one of the largest North American retailers offering customers both everyday essentials and fashionables, is expected to report its first-quarter earnings of $2.07 per share, which represents year-over-year growth of over 250% from $0.59 per share seen in the same period a year ago.
(Bloomberg) -- Buyers of newly-minted corporate bonds are already nursing losses as inflation fears send government bond yields climbing.About four fifths of high-grade non-financial corporate bonds priced in Europe this year are quoted below their issue price, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Last Friday, the share of post-issue losers stood at under 50%.This bleak statistic underscores the damaging effect on credit investors of the so-called reflation trade -- bets on rapid economic recovery and an associated pickup in inflation -- prompting many to seek shelter from further sovereign debt sell-offs.Investment grade bonds are more sensitive than high-yield debt to any threat of higher interest rates in response to inflation, a vulnerability known as ‘duration risk.’ That’s because they have longer life spans than lower-quality peers and carry lower risk premiums. This attribute is hitting investors hard this year.“Duration is already a problem when you see that rate-sensitive sectors underperform and this is going to increase,” said Vincent Benguigui, a portfolio manager at Federated Hermes, which oversees $625 billion. “Clearly everything is stretched.”The year-to-date total return of euro-denominated investment-grade bonds has slumped this week, to minus 0.96% from minus 0.56% on Monday. A month ago the return since the start of 2021 stood at minus 0.3%, according to Bloomberg Barclays indexes. By contrast, the less rate-sensitive junk bond market has gained 2.2%.While the threat of higher yields to compensate for a potential rise in inflation has been a thorn for high-grade investors throughout the year, a European Central Bank pledge to pick up the pace of its emergency pandemic QE program had helped funds recover some losses before this week’s sell-off pushed them further into the red.Rate risk is the main driver of corporate bond losses, as spreads on most of this year’s new issues are trading tighter than at launch, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average risk premium of high-grade euro bonds over safer government debt is indicated at 83 basis points, the lowest in more than three years, thanks to continued ECB purchases and bets on the economic reopening.Click here for the spread performance of all bonds issued in Europe this yearBut spreads, with little room to tighten further, seem incapable of stemming duration-driven losses.“While the extended recovery in fundamentals should provide another layer of support, higher yields in the euro government bonds space should limit euro investment grade’s ability to attract inflows and limit tightening potential once rates stabilize,” wrote Cem Keltek, a credit strategist at Commerzbank AG, in a note to clients on Thursday. “Pressure on rates and tapering prospects later in the year render long-end risk-reward unattractive.”Some hedge funds have started betting on price drops in corporate bonds amid the threat of rising interest rates and stretched valuations. Short positions in junk bonds have jumped to their highest level since 2008 and bearish bets on high-grade bonds are at their highest since early 2014.Bonds that lose value shortly after issuance could potentially discourage investors from bidding aggressively for new deals.This leaves high-grade investors with only one realistic source of return: the income made by just holding the interest-bearing bond, unless they are willing to switch to riskier parts of the credit market.“It’s more or less carry at this point,” said Martin Hasse, a portfolio manager at MM Warburg & Co., which oversees 76.2 billion euros ($92 billion). “Maybe a little tightening but not so much. High yield and subordinated notes can see more of that.”EuropeHigh yield issuers are in command of the region’s syndicated bond market on Friday, accounting for three of the day’s four deals as global credit risk sentiment improves.The financing arm of U.S. autoparts maker Dana Inc., Italian technology companies Lutech SpA and Cedacri SpA are pitching new deals that are likely to wrap up by market closeWeekly issuance is likely to reach 33.5 billion euros, according to data compiled by BloombergEuropean credit default risk fell for both investment-grade and high-yield bonds as more-tempered commodity prices helped allay investor concerns about inflation risksAsiaA rush of borrowers early in the week boosted dollar bond sales in Asia ex-Japan, with issuance doubling compared with the previous week.Bond sales rose to $8.4b from $4.2b a week earlier, the highest in three weeks, according to Bloomberg-compiled dataAt least 22 borrowers came to the market, the busiest week in 2021 since January in terms of number of issuersGLP Pte’s $850m perpetual note offering was the biggest bond sale this week, followed by a $707m offering by JSW Hydro Energy and a $650m note from Cathay Pacific AirwaysDeals slowed from mid-week, coinciding with release of data on Wednesday that showed U.S. consumer prices climbed in April by the most since 2009Yield premiums on Asia’s high-grade bonds, excluding Japan, and the cost of protection against such debt both dropped 1-2bps on Friday, credit traders saidU.S.Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s revenue beat estimates after China’s e-commerce leader rode a post-pandemic recovery and begins to move past a bruising antitrust investigationAs cash balances have risen toward $70 billion, financial flexibility may enable Alibaba to endure a prolonged period of macroeconomic uncertainty related to the coronavirus, as well as regulatory risk, better than hardware-centric technology peers, write Bloomberg Intelligence credit analysts Robert Schiffman and Suborna PanjaIt seemed almost certain that supply would at least match syndicate desks’ projections of $45 billion this week after Monday’s almost $28 billion bonanza, however, macro uncertainty fueled by inflation fears seems to have curbed issuanceLess than $3 billion priced on Thursday, bringing the week’s volume to $42 billionFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The Bank of Canada is closely monitoring recent gains in the nation’s currency, to ensure the appreciation doesn’t create headwinds for the nation’s economic outlook, according to the central bank’s head.At a press conference Thursday, Governor Tiff Macklem said the recent appreciation reflects in part higher commodity prices, which are good for the nation’s economy. Still, a continuation of the gains could begin to pose a risk to the central bank’s most recent forecasts released last month, which assumed an exchange rate of $0.8 per Canadian dollar.The Canadian dollar is up 4.9% so far this year, the best performing major currency. It weakened after Macklem’s comments, falling to C$1.2179 per U.S. dollar, or $0.8211 per Canadian dollar at 1:12 p.m. in Toronto trading.“If it moves a lot further that could have a material impact on our outlook and it’s something we’d have to take into account in our setting of monetary policy,” Macklem said Wednesday. “If the dollar were to continue to move -- particularly if its not reflecting good developments for Canada -- that could become more of a headwind on our export projection.”The Canadian dollar has been tracking resource prices higher this year. The Bank of Canada commodity price index -- a gauge that tracks movements of commodities produced in the country -- has hit the highest since 2014 after gaining 30% so far this year. Excluding energy, the index is at an all-time high.But the currency also appears to have gotten a lift from Macklem’s messaging, after the Bank of Canada last month accelerated the timetable for a possible interest-rate increase and pared back its bond purchases.“Macklem only said that if the currency were to appreciate absent fundamental reasons, then they’d be more concerned about competitiveness implications but that so far that’s not the case,” Derek Holt, an economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, said by email.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Stock sales are reaping a windfall for the world’s richest shareholders.Corporate insiders including Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Google co-founder Sergey Brin have ramped up stock sales recently, cashing in on a 14-month long bull market that’s helped boost fortunes to the tune of trillions.U.S. public company insiders offloaded shares worth $24.4 billion this year through the first week of May, with about half sold through trading plans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s almost as much as the $30 billion total they disposed of in the second half of 2020.Large shareholders frequently sell stock in planned intervals, often through pre-arranged trading programs. Yet the prolonged rally in equities markets has made the value of these disposals, whether planned or opportunistic, strikingly high.There are multiple reasons an investor of any size might be motivated to sell. After the pandemic-defying rally, valuations are increasingly under pressure from rising inflation. Investors are wary the post-Covid recovery could prompt tightening measures from the Federal Reserve. And President Joe Biden’s proposed tax hikes -- including a near doubling of the capital gains rate -- have created uncertainty.Bezos, EllisonWhatever the reason, the sales are flooding the market with yet more liquidity, the consequences of which will ripple through philanthropy, the art market, real estate and other niches.Bezos has sold $6.7 billion worth of Amazon shares this year. While a relative pittance for the world’s richest person, it’s more than two-thirds the value of shares he sold in 2020. Larry Ellison unloaded 7 million Oracle shares in the past week for total proceeds of $552.3 million. Charles Schwab has sold $192 million worth of shares of his eponymous brokerage this year.Brin, who has signaled that he intends to sell as many as 250,000 Alphabet Inc. shares, has disposed of $163 million worth of stock in recent days, his first sales in more than four years, filings show.Mark Zuckerberg and his charitable foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meanwhile, accelerated their sales of Facebook stock in the fall. Zuckerberg or his charity has divested shares at a near-daily clip since November, for a cumulative total exceeding $1.87 billion.The surging markets have exacerbated the concentration risk of the single-stock-dominated fortunes typical of many tech billionaires, said Thorne Perkin, president of Papamarkou Wellner Asset Management.“From a portfolio-management perspective, it makes sense to spread it around,” he said.Covid EconomyAlso among the biggest sellers are some noteworthy beneficiaries of the Covid economy. Zoom Video Communications founder Eric Yuan and used-car retailer Carvana Co.’s Ernest Garcia II have together received more than $1.75 billion from stock sales since March 2020, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. George Kurtz, chief executive officer of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, has sold shares worth at least $250 million over that period.Zoom founder Yuan -- the poster child, in many ways, for the coronavirus economy -- has stepped up his sales this year as the firm’s share price slumped. In 2020, he typically offloaded about 140,000 shares a month through a trading plan, which generated more than $350 million over the course of the year.Since March, he’s sold almost 200,000 shares a month on average, yielding him about $185 million. He also donated more than a third of his stake in the San Jose-based company as part of “typical estate planning practices,” according to a spokesman. Some of the cash from his share sales fund donations to unspecified “humanitarian causes.”(Updates with Charles Schwab’s sales in seventh paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
A metal coatings plant in China's manufacturing hub has been hit by price increases of up to 30% for raw materials including steel, aluminium, thinner and paint since the Chinese New Year in February. The firm has had no choice but to pass most of these higher costs on to its clients, including those in the United States, said King Lau, who helps run Dongguan-based Kam Pin Industrial Ltd, in Guangdong province. "Our customers understand, because it is happening to many different kinds of industries including home appliances, mobile phones, vehicles," Lau said, referring to price hikes by Chinese exporters.
Earlier, the three major indexes rebounded after declining sharply earlier this week.
(Bloomberg) -- Sanjeev Gupta’s plans to save his embattled industrial empire suffered a major setback as the U.K. opened a fraud investigation, prompting a potential financial partner to walk away.For two months, Gupta has been scrambling to refinance after the collapse of his group’s main lender, Greensill Capital, and recently looked close to winning a reprieve -- helped along by a surging commodity prices.But on Friday, the Serious Fraud Office announced a probe into Gupta’s GFG Alliance, including into the financing arrangements with Greensill. That prompted White Oak Global Advisors LLC -- which had recently offered a lifeline with terms for a 200 million-pound ($282 million) loan for Gupta’s U.K. steel business -- to walk away. White Oak was also behind funding for part of Gupta’s Australian assets, the Australian Financial Review has said.“As with any regulated financial institution, we are not in a position to continue discussions with any company that is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for money laundering,” White Oak said in a statement.GFG said Friday it will co-operate fully with the SFO investigation. It declined to comment on White Oak’s decision.The fraud probe also puts other efforts to replace about $5 billion Gupta had borrowed from Greensill in question.On Thursday, Gupta had conveyed a much brighter outlook, expressing confidence of a “new future” for his sprawling group of companies. On a podcast for employees, he said it had been “relatively easy to get refinancing” for the Whyalla mill in Australia. He also said that GFG had been “inundated by offers to help and to finance,” partly due to strong commodity markets.The picture is now bleaker in the wake of the SFO investigation, which follows months of scrutiny from lawmakers and the media over Gupta and Greensill’s financing practices. GFG has come under the microscope after the collapse of Greensill in March revealed it had been a recipient of financing based on expected future invoices, for sales that were merely predicted.Trading ActivitiesThe exact scope of the SFO investigation isn’t yet clear. Bloomberg has reported four banks stopped working with Gupta’s Liberty House Group trading business, starting in 2016, amid concerns about what they perceived to be problems in paperwork provided by Liberty, Bloomberg News has reported. In one example, the company had presented a bank with what seemed to be duplicate shipping receipts. A spokesman for Gupta has denied any wrongdoing.The two-month period it took from starting to covertly look into GFG and its financing by Greensill to announcing a formal probe is a quick turn-around for the SFO, which often takes years to publicly confirm it’s taking action against a company.It will now start to gather evidence, including securing devices and documents. However, it’ll likely take years for the office to make any tangible updates to the investigation, including whether it decides to charge individuals as part of the probe.The funding from Lex Greensill’s eponymous firm helped GFG expand at an astonishing rate in the past five years by targeting old, unwanted assets. His loose collection of companies now employs some 35,000 people worldwide, with steel and aluminum plants in the U.S., U.K., France, Romania and Australia.Staying afloat would enable Gupta to enjoy some of the best times his industrial businesses have seen. Steel prices are near an all-time high as demand recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and China cuts capacity to curb pollution. Aluminum, Gupta’s other major business, hit a three-year high this week amid a broad commodities boom.Still, Greensill’s collapse has already taken a major toll on Gupta’s businesses. On Thursday, his Wyelands Bank said it would be wound up if it can’t find a buyer. His steel units in France and Belgium have started creditor protection procedures, he’s approached buyers for some of his engineering assets, people familiar with the matter have said, and also sought buyers for two steel plants in France.For governments too, there is much at stake. Countries that once feted him as a savior for buying decrepit assets may have to pick up the pieces, due to the jobs at risk and some assets’ strategic importance to industry.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks are falling further behind their global peers, buffeted by a resurgence of Covid-19 cases across the region and mounting investor concern over inflation.The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 3.2% this week, and is now down 2.7% in May. That’s put the gauge on track for its worst monthly performance since March 2020 -- when markets took the biggest hit from the pandemic. The regional benchmark is also trailing MSCI’s broadest measure of global equities for a fourth straight month, and market watchers are citing several reasons why this underperformance may continue.While inflation has emerged as the most immediate concern for equity investors worldwide, confidence in Asia has also been hit due to a worsening Covid-19 outbreak from Taiwan to Singapore. Earnings upgrades are slowing and valuations still remain relatively high in some growth sectors, analysts say.“The sentiment now is definitely not positive,” said Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Inv Corp. “Asian stocks are swayed by the inflation in the U.S. People are very worried about that the U.S. will start to roll back stimulus earlier than expected.”The worst of this week’s selloff came after data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer prices climbed in April by the most since 2009. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 1.8% on Thursday.The virus remains the other major sore point for Asian investors. Singapore, one of Asia’s top-performing markets this year, saw its stock benchmark plunge as much as 3.2% on Friday, the most in the region, as the city-state said it will return to the lockdown-like conditions it last imposed a year ago to contain a rising number of untraceable infections.At the same time, India, Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia are also batting a fresh surge in cases and tightening restrictions, with relatively slow vaccine rollouts and delays in reopening borders compounding concerns for investors.“You have to have a strong vaccination program in order to open up and rejoin the rest of the world and keep the virus at bay,” said Mark Matthews, head of Asia research with Bank Julius Baer & Co. “Unfortunately, most of Asia has not had very strong vaccination program.”Having led global equity gains in 2020, Asia is sharply underperforming peers in the U.S. and Europe in 2021. While the Asian benchmark is now little changed for this year, the S&P 500 Index and the Stoxx 600 Index are both up about 11%.Seasonality also seems to have played a role in the recent selloff. May has historically been the worst month for the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, with the benchmark averaging a 2% decline over the past 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Profit, InflationWhile companies across Asia were early beneficiaries when it came to the pandemic recovery after strict lockdowns at the start of 2020, those gains have largely been priced in. Twelve-month earnings estimates for the Asia Pacific gauge have been raised 11% this year by analysts, according to Bloomberg data. That’s compared to 17% in the U.S.Inflation fears may pick up over the next few months as U.S. demand for services accelerates over the summer, according to Tomo Kinoshita, a global market strategist at Invesco Asset Management in Tokyo. “Once the inflation pickup slows pace, markets could calm down,” he said.U.S. Producer Prices Top Forecasts, Adding to Inflation PressureChina FactorAs new Covid-19 outbreaks across Asia add uncertainty to the pace of the demand recovery, Tai Hui, chief Asia market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, points to the low correlation between Chinese and global stocks.U.S., Europe Likely Preferred Markets in 2021: JPMorgan’s Hui (Video)“The Chinese onshore market’s low correlation with international equities could be a blessing in disguise in this choppy environment,” Hui wrote in an email.China’s local stocks have been showing early signs of relative strength against their Asian peers after spending much of the year under pressure. The CSI 300 Index rallied 2.3% this week, outperforming the region.A gauge of 30-day correlation between the CSI 300 Index and the MSCI ACWI Index has turned negative for the first time since October 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Analysts See Local Opportunities in China Weakness: Taking StockFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Oil prices rebounded on Friday morning as inflation fears fade and the global supply glut slowly drains, although the IEA did revise its demand projection downward
(Bloomberg) -- With the global inflation debate intensifying, equity investors are fine tuning their portfolios to guard against the impact of price pressures.A preference for companies with the greatest pricing power is one approach adopted by investors from JPMorgan Asset Management to Pictet Wealth Management. While cyclical stocks remain in favor, fund managers are becoming more selective, as pockets of the economically-sensitive asset class may have run too far, too fast.“You hide in pricing power companies -- those companies that will be able to pass higher raw material costs and wages to the end customer,” said Cesar Perez Ruiz, chief investment officer at Pictet Wealth Management in Geneva. “Luxury, concessions companies linked to inflation are some of the sectors that will benefit, but even some cyclical or commodity companies have now more pricing power than several years ago too.”A jump in U.S. consumer prices in April by the most in a decade has intensified an already-heated debate about how long inflationary pressures can last. Higher-than-expected factory prices in China last month and the surge in commodity prices, have added to the concerns.The worries have begun to weigh on stocks. MSCI Inc.’s global equity benchmark slipped 1.6% this week, its biggest drop since February. Technology shares bore the brunt of the weakness as investors bet the return of inflation will bring with it higher interest rates that could hurt stocks with elevated valuations.Wall Street Can’t Agree If Inflation Is Good or Bad for StocksPrice SettersStocks like U.S. railroad companies and paint manufacturers have historically been good at passing on price pressures, though usually with a time lag, according to Richard Saldanha, a portfolio manager at Aviva Investors.Yet there are differing views about how much this applies right now.“Consensus believes that cyclical areas such as banks and industrials are the place to hide in an inflationary environment,” said Caroline Keen, a portfolio manager of JPMorgan Global Growth Fund. “We would counter that banks are generally not price setters and many industrial companies such as autos are struggling with cost increases, with an inability to pass these on to consumers.”Getting PriceyCyclical names are also getting more expensive. Banks now trade around 1.1 times their book value, above the sector’s 10-year average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The equivalent for materials stocks is even more extreme after recent surges in commodities like copper and iron ore.That has made UBS Asset Management portfolio manager Max Anderl “slightly wary” of classic inflation hedges like financials or miners after a strong rally this year. “We prefer to look at selected stocks in the IT and media sectors that continue to show exceptionally strong fundamentals but have corrected sharply in this factor rotation,” he said.Ricardo Gil, head of asset allocation at Trea Asset Management in Madrid, has chosen to exit industrial shares in favor of oil stocks and some banks.Idiosyncratic IdeasAnother approach is to sidestep the debate altogether and focus on single stock ideas or non-inflation related investment themes.With reflation bets triggering a sector rotation, equity correlations are falling, which is good news for fund managers looking to beat indexes through stock picking. If most equities are moving in different directions, it’s easier to choose one that stands out from the crowd.The S&P 500 Index’s three-month realized correlation -- a gauge of how closely the top stocks in the U.S. benchmark move relative to each other -- remains well below the average of the last 10 years.“Our way to cope is being overweight in equity alternatives such as Merger Arbitrage and CTAs and focus on idiosyncratic ideas rather than broader sectors,” said Bantleon AG portfolio manager Oliver Scharping.Transitory ShockStill, not everyone believes the world is set for a new era of higher prices and JPMorgan’s Keen isn’t making significant changes to her portfolio despite the recent inflation concerns.The portfolio manager sees inflation as transitory due to year-over-year base effects and temporary supply chain bottlenecks and is conscious of structural deflationary forces that remain in place such as technology, high debt levels and poor demographics.“Loan growth remains muted and fiscal stimulus comes with offsetting tax increases,” Keen said. “So far we have seen no evidence to suggest that we are entering a new inflationary regime.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.