APRIL 13: Before The Bell
Wall Street futures edged higher early Wednesday as investors continued to weigh the latest U.S. inflation figures and brace for the start of earnings season. Major European markets were mixed with the latest policy decision from the European Central Bank due tomorrow. TSX futures futures were positive as crude prices advanced on the situation in Ukraine and investors await an expected rate hike from the Bank of Canada.
In the early premarket period, futures tied to the key U.S. indexes were flat to modestly positive. On Tuesday, U.S. stocks gave up an early rally after U.S. March inflation data came in largely in line with forecasts to finish in the red. New U.S. CPI figures on Tuesday showed prices jumped 8.5 per cent annually in March, the biggest rise since late 1981.
The Nasdaq closed off 0.3 per cent while the S&P 500 and Dow slid 0.34 per cent and 0.26 per cent, respectively. The S&P/TSX Composite Index ended down 0.34 per cent.
For Canadian investors, the Bank of Canada’s rate decision just after the start of trading is the session’s key event. The markets have priced in another rate increase with many analysts suggesting an oversized half percentage point hike could be in the offing as the BoC looks to battle spiking inflationary pressures in the economy. Strong recent economic figures, including last Friday’s employment report which showed the jobless rate hit a record low in March, are also seen as bolstering a bigger move by the central bank.
“A 25-basis-point move is more or less a given, and in the past few days there have been growing calls for a move of 50 basis points given that the Fed is likely to move more aggressively in May,” Michael Hewson, chief market strategist with CMC Markets U.K., said in an early note.
“Today is the perfect opportunity for the Bank of Canada to act much more decisively and go for a 50-basis-point move, moving rates to 1 per cent.”
The decision is due at 10 a.m. ET and will be followed by a news conference with Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem. On the global front, the Bank of New Zealand hiked its key rate by half a percentage point early Wednesday, the biggest increase in more than two decades.
On the corporate side, U.S. earnings season kicks off with JPMorgan Chase & Co. reporting results ahead of the start of trading. Other big U.S. banks including Citigroup, Goldman Sacks and Morgan Stanley will follow, releasing quarterly earnings on Thursday morning.
JPMorgan posted a drop in first-quarter earnings, hit by a slowdown in dealmaking amid the Ukraine conflict and a decline in trading revenue. The largest U.S. bank by assets posted a profit of US$8.28-billion, or US$2.63 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, compared with US$14.3-billion, or US$4.50 per share, a year earlier.
In this country, Cogeco Inc and Cogeco Communications will report after the close of trading.
Overseas, the pan-European STOXX 600 was mostly flat in morning trading. Britain’s FTSE edged up 0.16 per cent. Germany’s DAX slid 0.29 per cent. France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.14 per cent. The European Central Bank is set to deliver its latest policy decision on Thursday morning. Some economist are predicting that the ECB will hold policy steady as it looks to balance high inflation with slowing growth.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei ended up 1.93 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.26 per cent.
Crude prices rose in early going after after peace talks between Ukraine and Moscow stalled.
The day range on Brent is US$104.06 to US$105.60. The range on West Texas Intermediate is US$99.87 to US$101.99. Both benchmarks gained more than 6 per cent on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for a deadlock in talks and said Russia had no option but to press on with its offensive. The comments added upside pressure to crude prices, again raising concerns over supply.
“Putin’s Ukraine negotiation dead-end comments…dampened hopes that a negotiated settlement could relieve tight energy markets,” OANDA senior analyst Jeffery Halley said.
Price gains, he said, were also supported by OPEC’s refusal to increase production above already agreed amounts and falling Russian production.
However, weak data out of Asia kept a lid on the morning’s action. China said crude imports fell 14 per cent from year-earlier levels amid strict COVID-19 restrictions. Japan, meanwhile, reported its biggest monthly fall in core machinery orders in nearly two years, dragged down by a steep drop in demand from IT and other service companies, according to a Reuters report.
Elsewhere, gold prices edged up on the Ukraine-Russia headlines as investors sought out safer holdings.
Spot gold was up 0.2 per cent at US$1,970.21 per ounce by early Wednesday morning, after hitting a near one-month peak of US$1,978.21 on Tuesday. U.S. gold futures were down 0.3 per cent at $1,970.80.
“Gold is benefiting from some safe-haven demand this week as inflation fears grow, China growth stumbles and the war in the Ukraine gets set for round two,” Mr. Halley said.
The Canadian dollar was flat while its U.S. counterpart edged higher against a group of world currencies.
The day range on the loonie is 79.05 US cents to 79.30 US cents.
Key for the loonie will be this morning’s Bank of Canada rate announcement.
“RBC Economics expects the Bank of Canada to hike interest rates by 50 basis points at today’s meeting,” Elsa Lignos, global head of FX strategy with Royal Bank, said.
“The move will follow up on the 25-basis-point rate hike in March and come alongside the widely-expected start of ‘quantitative tightening’ as the central bank begins to reduce asset holdings.”
However, she also said a half percentage point increase “may be a more finely balanced decision than market pricing suggests.
“The Bank could still opt for 25 basis points or a ‘neutral/dovish’ 50 basis points – both of which would disappoint for CAD,” she said.
On world markets, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a group of currencies, edged up 0.1% up to 100.52, its highest levels since April 2020, according to figures from Reuters. The index is up almost 3 per cent this month.
The yen led losers against the U.S. dollar with the Japanese currency falling 0.8 per cent to cross the 126 yen to the U.S. dollar level for the first time since May 2002.
The euro fell to US$1.0821 overnight, its lowest level against the greenback in more than a month and hovered at US$1.0837 in early London trading, Reuters reports.
In bonds, the yield on the U.S. 10-year note was higher at 2.761 per cent by early Wednesday morning.
(8:30 a.m. ET) U.S. PPI final demand for March.
(10 a.m. ET) Bank of Canada policy announcement and monetary policy repor