Market Insights

25 July 2022

Inez Chow
Inez Chow

Chief Strategist & Co-Head of EAM
(Private Asset Management)

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Key takeaways
  • For this round of technology stocks, is this a technical rebound or a full reversal after the market has hit bottom?
  • Recession risk
  • Strong dollar doom loop
  • A pullback from a high base and slowing growth, what are the earnings prospects for U.S. stocks in the first and second quarters?
  • Oil: The results of Biden’s Saudi trip
  • China’s economy and the commentary for Chinese GDP in Q2 2022

For this round of technology stocks, is this a technical rebound or a full reversal after the market has hit bottom?

Now behind every strong economic activity data, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the recession is still a little far away, while the bad news is that the economy is still strong and inflationary pressures are greater. It will also be more difficult for the Fed to contain inflation.  There is a consensus within the Fed that it will raise interest rates by 75 basis points for the second time at the end of this month, which will raise the target range of the federal funds rate to 2.25% to 2.50%. By the end of the year, Fed officials aim to raise interest rates to a level that suppresses economic growth.

This month, U.S. technology stocks have rebounded to a certain extent from the bottom, with the NASDAQ and SOX (Philadelphia Semiconductor Index) up 10.2% and 11.4%, better than the S&P 500 (+ 7.8%) and the Dow Jones Index (+ 6.6%) over the same period. At present, the valuation level of the U.S. technology sector has returned to the 2014 to 2018 level. To consider that the end point of the current Fed rate hike (expected 3.75%) and the Fed’s continued commitment to controlling inflation by raising interest rates, it is expected that U.S. 10 Year Treasury yields are still likely to rise in the short term.  The compression of the sector’s valuation this year not only reflects the upward impact of its own interest rates, but also largely reflects the expectations of the subsequent upward interest rates and economic recession. 

So far, 13% of S&P500 have reported second-quarter results, with two-thirds better than expected (analysts continue to cut earnings after first quarter guidance), boosting sentiment.  We also need to see whether the results of big tech giants and the oil giants are in line with expectations this week. Wall Street is betting that the stock market has largely digested the downturn after a sharp decline this year.  Investors should consider to hold some cash and prepare for more losses ahead. 

Recession risk

Although high prices have eroded Americans’ disposable income in recent months, consumer spending has so far exceeded inflation, which is quite rare in history. American Express had a great second quarter, card members’ spending up 30%.  Excess savings, stimulus measures and pent-up demand for services have cushioned, helping to cope with the slowdown.  However, this may not exist forever. The gap between income and spending will narrow in the coming quarters and that this convergence could plunge the U.S. into recession if inflation does not cool. 

It’s kind of like a race against time. If inflation falls and real disposable income returns to positive, consumption will remain positive and the economy will not suffer a recession. On the contrary, if inflation does not fall rapidly, consumption is likely to converge with negative real income growth, followed by a consumption-induced recession. If there is a recession caused by consumption, the recession will be relatively mild, similar to 2001, when the economy contracted for two consecutive quarters and the unemployment rate rose by 2%. If prices continue to soar, the Fed will have to step up its fight against inflation or lead to a deeper recession.  If the Fed has to accelerate the pace of tightening, then the United States could fall into a longer and deeper recession. The Fed-induced recession to last for about a year, looking more like the recession of the early 1990s. 

Treasuries surged and yields fell sharply on Friday as composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data showed that U.S. corporate activity shrank for the first time since 2020, adding to fears that the U.S. economy would fall into recession.  At present, the biggest uncertainty in the bond market is whether inflation is stubborn, whether inflation is making a comeback, and the effect of current interest rate levels on demand.  At present, some changes can be seen in the housing market. There is also the manufacturing data of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. It should be noted that the United States is dominated by the tertiary industry.  But previous retail data showed that the economy wasn’t cooling off completely.  Initial jobless claims rose for the third week in a row, the highest since November, as more companies announced layoffs, indicating a cooling labour market.  International Monetary Fund (IMF)  expects that the growth rate of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) this year and the data next year is 2.3% and 1.0% respectively. Previously, the expected data was 2.9% and 1.7% respectively.

Strong dollar doom loop

Strong USD >Lower global manufacturing >Lower commodities prices >Lower global trade >Lower global economic growth >Strong USD

Global central banks are emphasizing the role of currency, and we are in the midst of this reverse currency war, and of course, some currencies are more obvious than others. Given the impact on the market, it makes sense for the central banks to pay full attention to the currency exchange rate.  This may be one reason why the Swiss Central Bank (SNB) unexpectedly raised interest rates for the first time in 15 years in June, reaching 50 basis points even although the Swiss franc is relatively strong, the real value of its currency is not enough to offset the inflation target, and the SNB is aware of this.  The European Central Bank raised interest rates for the first time in more than a decade, 50 basis points exceeding market expectations. Meanwhile, Bank of England points out that tighter monetary policy in the U.S. tends to push up inflation in the U.K. further as sterling continues to weaken.

The dollar’s “doom cycle” may eventually help the Fed meeting its inflation-fighting goal.  This “doom cycle” is so challenging because the Fed has always stressed that they will actively bring down inflation, but investors should be concerned that if the dollar’s “doom cycle”  works, is it necessary for the Fed to raise interest rates to above 4%?

The current round of dollar strength begins with market expectations that the pace of Fed tightening will be difficult for Europe, the U.K. and Japan to follow.In particular, the eurozone may be mired in a deep recession while there are financial risks, and the gap between economic growth in the United States and Europe will continue to widen. A stronger dollar and higher interest rates by central banks in major economies such as the Federal Reserve has pushed up financial risks in emerging economies, and there is an urgent need for markets to seek the safe-haven nature of the dollar.  Among the supportive factors of a strong dollar, the Fed’s interest rate hike cycle, market risk sentiment towards emerging economies can hardly be fundamentally repaired, and there is no room for improvement in the fundamentals and current account conditions of the eurozone.

As a result, the strong dollar still has support in the near term, and the trend after that depends on the difference in rhythm between the Fed and other major central banks, whose reversal inflection point may be triggered by these factors: 1) If the U.S. labour market data suddenly weakens, it could trigger a policy adjustment by the Fed, and the threshold to trigger the adjustment may not be high. As an untrending indicator, unemployment data may deteriorate sharply without warning, so the change of direction itself is more important than the magnitude.  2) Given a fundamental shift in the European Central Bank (ECB)’s view of medium and long term inflation in the eurozone and better labour market conditions, the ECB’s actual policy tightening is also likely to be stronger than expected.

A pullback from a high base and slowing growth, what are the earnings prospects for U.S. stocks in the first and second quarters?

U.S. stock earnings have begun to slow in the first quarter (the Earnings Per Share of S&P 500 grew 8.2% vs from a year earlier. (26.9% in the Q4 2021). Enterprises have also gradually entered the stage of passive inventory addition, especially some retail enterprises generally reflect that inventory is on the high side or even excess after the relief of the supply chain, including Walmart Inc., Target Corp., etc., which can also be reflected in the overall inventory level of the macro and the combination of inventory rebound and order decline in recent PMI data.  On the other hand, the passive addition cycle or even the active removal cycle may correspond to further pressure on subsequent profits and profit margins. 

Starting the mid of July, the U.S. stock market entered into the one-month Q2 2022 earnings report season.  The year-on-year growth of S&P500 Earnings Per Share is expected to fall to 5% (vs. 9.3% in the first quarter), and the Nasdaq Composite may turn negative in the second quarter (-2.3% vs. 15.9% in the first quarter).  At the sector level, institutions expect the growth rate of public utilities, raw materials, insurance and biopharmaceuticals to fall in the second quarter from the previous quarter, while semiconductors, technology hardware, software and services will fall by 8 to 16%. Consumer services, energy and transportation are expected to maintain high growth, with a year-on-year growth rate of more than 100%.

Historically, earnings downgrades generally lasted 3 to 4 quarters; the slowdown was affected by the degree of recession, and the negative adjustment sentiment continued for 2 to 3 quarters.  In terms of the pullback rate, if it is not a deep recession, the downward adjustment rate is generally within 10%.  For a turning point, the easing and reversal of the downward trend of earnings requires to see of 1) new growth area, and 2) the change of monetary policy.  At present, the probability of the above two kinds of occurrences is not too high, and we still need to wait for an opportunity.

Oil: The results of Biden’s Saudi trip

President Biden visited Saudi Arabia in the mid of July. He left the region without a firm commitment by Saudi, saying only that he expected “further steps in the coming weeks.”  Saudi officials stressed any decision to pump more oil would be made in the framework of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus (OPEC+), which holds its next decision-making meeting on August 3.  After meeting with Biden, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed that his country was nearly tapped out and could not produce more than 13Million barrels per day of oil in 2027.  Under the terms of the existing OPEC+ agreement, Saudi Arabia’s production is set to reach 11 million barrels per day next month, a level it has rarely maintained in the past, and further increases would test Saudi’s maximum sustainable capacity, currently at 12 million barrels per day.  Thus, any potential increases would be modest at best, as OPEC’s heavyweights including Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) preserve their remaining spare capacity in an environment of supply disruptions ranging from Libyan unrest to sanctions against Russia.

Russia’s suspension of natural gas supplies could reduce GDP of The European Union (EU) by as much as 1.5% if it gets cold next winter and Europe fails to take precautions to save energy, according to the latest EU estimates. The European Commission raised its average oil price forecast to USD108 a barrel for 2022 and USD96 a barrel for next year.  The recent increase in U.S. cushing inventories is just because of the sudden increase in the shale oil amount in the Permian Basin , but the decline of shale oil is much faster than that of conventional oil fields, and a large number of new machines are needed to continue.  Simulations by the European Commission and gas system operators show that if gas imports from Russia are cut off in July, it means that EU reserves will only fill 65 to 70% of gas storage facilities by early November, below the 80% target. There is a very high risk of inventory depletion in some member countries in April 2023.

One of Buffett’s big moves this year has been to increase his holdings in oil stocks. Berkshire’s total stake in Occidental Oil increased to 19.2% as of 13th July. Berkshire, which is by far Occidental’s largest shareholder, is now one step closer to reaching a threshold that would allow it to include Occidental in its results – something that could give its earnings a boost.  Generally accepted accounting principles recommend that investors include a proportionate share of a company’s earnings in their own results once they own at least 20% of the company’s common stock. With analysts expecting, Occidental to report about USD10 billion in earnings this year, Berkshire could increase its reported profit by about USD2 billion if it winds up acquiring 20% of Occidental’s shares. That would be a significant lift for Berkshire. At the moment, the company only includes Occidental’s dividend payments, less than USD100 million annually in its earnings.  Last year, Berkshire posted a record profit of about USD90 billion.

China's economy and the commentary for Chinese GDP in Q2 2022

China June retail sales were up 3.1% year-on-year, beating expectations of -0.5%. Overall, there was a sequential improvement vs May. Despite recent Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai and other areas, we do not expect social distancing measures to be as severe as in April or May. While the recovery theme remains intact, consumer sentiment is vulnerable with issues concerning unfinished homes.  The key retail sales drivers by category were products related to grain, oil and food (+9.0%), petrochemicals (+14.7% vs +8.3% in May), medicine (+11.9%) and automobiles (+13.9% vs -16.0% in May). Cosmetics and gold & jewelry also delivered positive growth (both at 8.1% year-on-year). “618 Shopping Festival” and pent-up demand for autos both helped. 

China’s GDP growth in Q2 2022 decelerated to 0.4%  from 4.8% year-on-year in Q1 2022 , below the Bloomberg forecast of 1.5% year-on-year. At the quarterly level, every major component decelerated. Specifically, the Q2 disappointment predominantly comes from lackluster household demand. The silver lining in the disappointing quarterly reading is that June readings suggest that a recovery is under way and that the negative effects from the most recent set of lockdown disruptions are concentrated in Q2.  Of course, this does not mean that China’s recovery in second half is immune to downside risks in light of ongoing lockdown uncertainties and real-estate concerns, but the baseline policy assumption for the remainder of the year is that authorities will do whatever is necessary on the policy front to safeguard this recovery in order to ensure a successful lead-up to the 20th National Party Progress in mid of Q4. Recently, announced fiscal stimulus policies are consistent with the baseline outlook, and we expect efforts to support the real estate sector to be announced imminently.  

A shares market also performed strongly in June, outperforming other global markets, with the CSI 300 index rising 9.6%, while most of the world’s stock markets fell on heightened concerns about recession. The outstanding performance attracts overseas investors to China. The iShares MSCI China ETF(MCHI) , the largest overseas Chinese stock, absorbed a net inflow of USD333 million, or about RMB2.2 billion in June. This is the highest inflow level of the ETF since it was established in 2011.  With the asset under management (AUM) size of USD8.56 billion, it is issued by iShares, an index owned by Blackrock, and tracks the MSCI China index.  MCHI has recently surpassed the KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF (KWEB) to become the largest overseas Chinese ETF.

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  • 證監會持牌負責人員(第1、4、9類受規管活動)
Inez Chow

Chief Strategist &

Co-Head of EAM

(Private Asset Management)
  • Responsible Officer of SFC Licenses (Type 1, 4, 9 regulated activities)
With two decades of experience in investment management, Inez is a seasoned investment professional, well-versed in global financial markets. At VSFG, Inez is responsible for thought leadership in forecasting and creating investment recommendations for institutional and high-net-worth clients to align with their individual investment profiles. She specializes in macro analysis and forming predictive thematic investment ideas in global markets, and then aligning those high conviction ideas by recommending the optimal investment vehicles aimed to capture the best risk-adjusted returns for clients.
Prior to joining VSFG, Inez was an Investment Director at a major global asset management firm, focused on developing investment strategies and managing portfolios of family offices and high-net-worth clients. She also managed a flagship fund which produced returns that consistently outperformed the market over many years.


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