January 31, 2020 / 9:55 AM / 24 days ago

Daily Briefing: A global emergency

(Reuters) - Even by the high standards of Januaries past, this one has been pretty tumultuous: Iran-U.S. confrontations, the Phase 1 trade agreement, bumper FAANG earnings, Brexit, efforts to impeach a U.S. president and finally the coronavirus outbreak that took a chunk out of stock markets' value this week.

Doctors help each other put on protective suits before entering an isolated section at Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam January 30, 2020

So MSCI’s world equity index is set to close more or less flat after four months of big gains. And this week is set to be the index’s biggest loss since early August.

But as the week edges towards its close, stocks appear to be trying to recover. European shares are up 0.3%, although U.S. futures still imply a weaker open and Asian shares gave up their efforts to rise and closed 0.3% lower.

Analysts attribute the steadying to perhaps some "sell the fact" short-covering after the WHO announcement, which also approved of Beijing’s containment efforts.

U.S. Treasury yields are a bit higher today, after the 30-year yield fell within sight of a record low yesterday. So are yields on German debt. The yen has inched off yesterday’s three-week highs and the offshore traded yuan has moved back below the 7 per dollar mark, rising off one-month low.

Analysts reckon that when Chinese markets reopen next week and catch up with all the overseas falls, China’s central bank will be on hand to supply liquidity in dollops and also prevent the yuan weakening beyond 7 to the dollar.

We’ve had some encouraging data in China, especially with services expanding. But the surveys date to before Jan. 20 — they don’t take the epidemic into account.

Similar picture with South Korea’s upbeat industrial output figures; they date to December. Downgrades in growth forecasts are now coming in thick and fast - Goldman the latest to cut China 2020 GDP estimates, by 0.4%.

U.S. earnings continues to support. Amazon posted blockbuster fourth-quarter results, with a 21% jump in net sales, which pushed its shares up 10% after hours. Microsoft and Tesla shares also gained, although Facebook disappointed.

Overall, U.S. earnings growth is now seen at 0.7% for the quarter compared with earlier forecasts of a 0.6% decline.

The other interesting story overnight was the dollar’s pullback after data showed 2019 growth slumped to the slowest in three years and personal consumption weakened. That also boosted expectations of a March rate cut by the Fed to almost 20% compared with 7% beforehand.

Euro zone data are due as well — fourth-quarter GDP and preliminary January inflation — but already data is out showing German retail sales fell in December.

In any case, the virus-inflicted damage has sent market expectations for euro zone inflation down to 1.26%, off the six-month highs above 1.3% hit earlier this month. Money markets are already starting to price in a rate cut later this year.

It's also Brexit day. Expect little impact on sterling, which has moved on to interest rate expectations after the Bank of England held rates at 0.75% -- markets had seen a 50% chance of a cut.

British pro-brexit Members of the European Parliament leave the EU Parliament for the last time in Brussels, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Rate cuts in March have been all but phased out and even in May, are now considered less than a 50% probability. Focus also is on the FCA, which said it was looking into a weird sterling jump just seconds before the BoE decision was announced.

European shares are up, but it’s still the worst month since October. Caixabank is seen up 2% after the bank said fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled to 439 million euros.

BBVA is also seen 2% higher after it booked a quarterly loss of 155 million euros, above expectations. Sabadell posted worse-than-expected results. In Italy, Tod's is seen higher after sales picked up in the fourth quarter.

Boeing supplier Senior will also be under the spotlight after it warned of lower aerospace revenue and margins. Aerospace and defence group Leonardo is also higher after it said it expected full-year orders and revenue to exceed its 2019 guidance, thanks to a strong performance of its main businesses.

Volkswagen's commercial truck unit Traton offered $35 a share, or $2.9 billion, for the shares of U.S. truck maker Navistar International that it does not already own. Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll will take a roughly 20% stake in the ailing carmaker Aston Martin for nearly 200 million pounds.

Emerging market shares slid 0.2% for a sixth straight day and down 4% for the month, its worst month since August. Asian shares were hardest hit with South Korea’s benchmark index down 1.4% and Hong Kong shares 0.2% down.

Most emerging-market currencies were on course to record weekly losses, with the Chinese offshore yuan and the Taiwanese dollar both set for a 0.7% slump for the week. South Africa’s rand is stable after losing 1% on Thursday.

Turkey’s lira is weaker, although data showed the country’s trade deficit fell 43.5% in 2019 and tourism revenue rose 17%. Brazil’s real is within sight of its record low.

Lebanese bonds rallied on Thursday, in particular the imminent March 2020 issue. In Argentina, holders of a 2021 Buenos Aires province bond have until 1600 GMT on Friday to agree to a proposal delaying a $250 million principal repayment until May 1. The country’s central bank on Thursday lowered the benchmark interest rate floor to 48%, the fifth cut in under two months.

-- A look at the day ahead from EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are her own —

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