Stocks tumble as bond markets sound US recession warning

People stand in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, March 25, 2019. (AP)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Stocks tumble as bond markets sound US recession warning

  • Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the US Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018

SYDNEY: Investors ditched shares on Monday and fled to the safety of bonds while the Japanese yen hovered near a six-week high as risk assets fell out of favor on growing fears about a US recession, sending global yields plunging.
US stocks futures fell, with E-minis for the S&P 500 skidding 0.5 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.4 percent to a one-week trough in a broad sell-off in equities in the region.
Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 3.2 percent to the lowest in two weeks, South Korea’s Kospi index declined 1.6 percent while Australian shares faltered 1.3 percent.
Chinese shares also declined with the blue-chip CSI 300 index down 0.8 percent.
On Friday, all three major US stock indexes clocked their biggest one-day percentage losses since Jan.3. The Dow slid 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 was off 1.9 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 2.5 percent.
Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the US Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018.
US 10-year treasury yields were last 1.9 basis points below three-month rates after yields inverted for the first time since 2007 on Friday. Historically, an inverted yield curve — where long-term rates fall below short-term — has signalled an upcoming recession.
“The bond market price action is an enormous blaring siren to anyone trying to be optimistic on stocks,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note to clients.
“Growth, and bonds/yield curves, will be the only thing stocks should be focused on going forward and it’s very hard to envision any type of rally until economic confidence stabilizes and bonds reverse.”
Compounding fears of a more widespread global downturn, manufacturing output data from Germany showed a contraction for the third straight month. And in the United States, preliminary measures of manufacturing and services activity for March showed both sectors grew at a slower pace than in February, according to data from IHS Markit.
National Australia Bank’s yield curve recession modelling is pointing to a 30-35 percent probability of a US recession occurring over the next 10-18 months.
“The risk of a US recession has risen and is flashing amber and this will keep markets pricing a high chance of the Fed cutting rates,” said London-based NAB strategist Tapas Strickland.
As bonds rallied on Monday, yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds slumped to minus 9 basis points, the weakest since September 2016. Australian 10-year year yields plunged to a record low of 1.754.
Some analysts, such as ING’s Rob Carnell, advised against rushing to place bets on the yield inversion.
“We suspect that drawing a recession conclusion from such data is not warranted until the 3M-10Y yield curve is inverted by a substantial amount,” Carnell said. “Just inverted as today’s markets indicate, doesn’t do it for me.”

POLITICAL HEADWINDS
Much of the concerns around global growth is stemming from Europe and China which are battling separate tariff wars with the United States.
Politics was also in focus in the United States and Britain.
A nearly two-year US investigation found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s election team and Russia, in a major political victory for the US President as he prepares for his 2020 re-election battle.
Political turmoil in Britain over the country’s exit from the European Union also remains a drag on risk assets.
On Sunday, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial British Prime Minister Theresa May must announce on Monday she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved.
The British pound was a shade lower at $1.3198 after three straight days of wild gyrations. The currency slipped 0.7 percent last week.
In currency markets, the Japanese yen — a perceived safe haven — held near its highest since Feb. 11. It was last 0.1 percent higher at 109.77 per dollar.
The Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for risk play, was down for its third straight session of losses at $0.7076.
In commodities, US crude fell 61 cents to $58.43 per barrel. Brent crude futures eased 60 cents to $66.43.


Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

Updated 18 April 2019
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Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

  • Moody’s believes Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks
  • The ratings agency expects energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform

CAIRO: Rating agency Moody’s has upgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating, saying ongoing economic reforms will help improve its fiscal position and boost economic growth.
Moody’s upgraded the long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings of Egypt to B2 from B3. The outlook was changed to stable from positive.
The decision was based on “Moody’s expectation that ongoing fiscal and economic reforms will support a gradual but steady improvement in Egypt’s fiscal metrics and raise real GDP growth,” the agency said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Moody’s also said it believed Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks despite the government’s very high borrowing needs and interest costs.
Moody’s said it expected a steady improvement of Egypt’s fiscal position, “albeit from very weak levels.”
Maintained primary budget surpluses combined with strong nominal GDP growth would help reduce the general government debt/GDP ratio to below 80 percent by the 2021 fiscal year from 92.6 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, it said.
Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.
Moody’s also said it expected energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform, which it believed would be completed in the 2019 fiscal year. This, along with the fiscal reforms implemented in the last few years, would allow the government to maintain the primary budget balance in surplus in the next few years, Moody’s said.
The upgraded rating was expected, but still good news for Egypt, said Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Brokerage.
“It should help its case for new international bond issuances as we move forward,” he said.
Egypt is pushing ahead with tough economic reforms as part of a three-year $12 billion IMF loan deal signed in 2016.
The reforms, aimed at attracting investors who fled during the 2011 uprising, have included new taxes, deep cuts to energy subsidies and a currency devaluation. The reforms have helped the economy recover, but have also put the budgets of tens of millions of Egyptians under strain.