Treasury yields dive as oil craters, economy softens By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly before the closing bell as the market takes a significant dip in New York, U.S., February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

A look at the day ahead in U.S. and global markets from Mike Dolan

A cratering of oil prices and more signs of a cooling economy have seen Treasury yields plumb their lowest in two months, underpinning Wall St stock indexes despite notable single stock plunges in Walmart (NYSE:), Cisco (NASDAQ:) and Alibaba (NYSE:).

U.S. two-year Treasury yields skidded below 4.80% on Friday for the first time since September 1, with 10-year yields dropping under 4.40% to September lows too.

Although they backed up a bit on Friday, oil prices have plummeted this week – hitting four-month lows on Thursday on a mix of rising U.S. inventories and global demand levels that JP Morgan estimates is running at half their standing forecasts for November so far. Crude has now lost almost 25% in just six weeks – aided by the U.S. gradually lifting oil sanctions on Venezuela.

But the demand picture stateside was clearly softening too. Signs of a loosening of the U.S. labor market came in a surprising rise in jobless claims for the latest week, while other reports showed homebuilder sentiment ebbing sharply this month and there was an outsize retreat in manufacturing in October.

It wasn’t all bad news on Thursday – with a better reading on mid-Atlantic business optimism from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve than many had forecast.

But the real cause for relief is how the whole picture spurs new-found optimism on disinflation – and how it will dissuade the Fed from hiking interest rates again and, according to futures markets at least, ease them by up to 100 basis points next year.

The Labor Department said import prices fell a whopping 0.8% in October, the most in seven months amid a broad decline in the costs of goods – deepening the annual deflation of import prices to as much as 2.0%.

Although Walmart’s own stock fell almost 8% on Thursday as it flagged more cautious consumers heading into the holiday season – despite delivering an earnings beat and upping targets – its overall readout should please the Fed.

The giant retailer said shoppers were becoming more “choiceful and using discretion” and seeking big discounts that the firm plans to deliver, especially in food.

The net result on stock markets was that the eked out yet another small gain on Thursday and stock futures – aided by the latest swoon in borrowing rates – were up again ahead of the bell today. The was lower again.

Even though the dollar is taking a hit from the plunge in U.S. Treasury yields, the drop in sovereign borrowing rates was mirrored across the world in Europe even Japan.

Mirroring the softening demand picture elsewhere, British retail sales volumes fell unexpectedly in October as stretched consumers stayed at home.

Italian yields and bond spreads also fell even as investors awaited a review of Italy’s sovereign credit ratings later in the day – although analysts see little risk that Moody’s (NYSE:) will relegate the country’s debt to junk status. Italy’s was up 0.7%.

As so often these days, Chinese stocks underperformed.

Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares slumped 10% on Friday after it scrapped plans to spin off its cloud business, citing uncertainties fuelled by U.S. curbs on exports to China of semiconductors used in artificial intelligence applications.

The drop, potentially its biggest one-day fall in more than a year, wiped about $20 billion off the Chinese tech giant’s market value. The company’s U.S.-listed securities closed down 9% on Thursday.

The day ahead is relatively quiet on the diary.

Although Fed rhetoric has not changed a great deal so far despite the recent data flow, markets will be watching another list of key central bank speakers later in the day.

Housing starts numbers for October are the main data highlight, while many will also eye an update on the Atlanta Fed’s real-time GDP estimate after such a heavy week of new inputs.

Key developments that should provide more direction to U.S. markets later on Friday:

* U.S. Oct housing starts/permits

* Boston Federal Reserve President Susan Collins, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly, Chicago Fed chief Austan Goolsbee, Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr all speak. Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden speaks

* United States hosts APEC leaders’ meeting in San Francisco

(By Mike Dolan, editing by Nick Macfie Twitter: @reutersMikeD)

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