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Market volatility is back as Covid and Fed uncertainty hit sentiment

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Traders look on as a screen shows Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s news conference after the U.S. Federal Reserve interest rates announcement on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 31, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

LONDON — Volatility is back for global stock markets, triggered by uncertainty over central banks’ plans for monetary policy and rising Covid-19 cases around the world.

The VIX volatility index, a real-time measure of volatility expectations over the next 30 days, inched fractionally lower in extended hours early Monday, but held above the 20 mark often seen as a separator between normal and high volatility.

Last week, the VIX spiked more than 16% to its highest point since May, as markets digested a surprisingly hawkish turn from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average also logged its worst week since October, and futures contracts tied to the index initially fell more than 200 points in early premarket trade on Monday before reversing course to indicate a higher open.

Monday’s choppy trade also played out in Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed 3.3% down, and Europe, where the continental Stoxx 600 index dropped 0.8% in early trade, only to recoup its losses and advance into positive territory, returning to the flatline several times.

Matteo Andreetto, head of State Street Global Advisors’ SPDR ETF business in the EMEA region, told CNBC on Monday that with Covid cases rising, the potential for monetary tightening and high equity valuations on a historical basis, a market correction could be possible.

“I think what will most likely happen is that volatility will clearly pick up. Data on the Covid side is clearly very high, and we are seeing a level of discrepancies between the development of the vaccination programs in some of the largest countries and what is going on in emerging markets,” he said.

“That could potentially cause a difference in terms of speed of the recovery on a global basis.”

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Markets have been buoyed over recent months by gradual indications of a recovery from the pandemic and consistent, unprecedentedly loose monetary conditions from central banks.

However, rising inflation has introduced speculation that central banks could look to pull back some of that stimulus sooner rather than later, a suspicion enhanced by the Fed’s announcement that it expects to hike interest rates twice in 2023.

Stephane Monier, chief investment officer at Lombard Odier, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday that the market jitters were somewhat exaggerated.

“Where we see some exaggeration is mainly that the (Federal Open Markets Committee) minutes show that the FOMC members have brought their expectations in line with what the market expectations were before the FOMC (meeting),” he said.

He added that the potential rate hikes were still two and a half years away, and as such, equity markets could continue to perform well in the coming months.

Monier also noted that so-called growth stocks, like tech, did not pull back as sharply as some value and cyclical stocks, like industrials and materials, following the Fed meeting.

So-called value stocks are viewed as undervalued and are expected to benefit from the economic recovery after the pandemic. Growth stocks, on the other hand, are expected to rise at a faster rate than the rest of the market. Cyclicals are those whose performance generally aligns to the trajectory of the global economy.

“It is related to the fact that it is very much interest rate driven. Interest rates go up, this is the reflation trade, this is more the value and cyclical stocks going up, and conversely when interest rates go down, as was the case since the FOMC, tech starts to outperform,” Monier added.

“We think there will be a lot more volatility in the weeks to come.”

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More money chases Indian tech start-ups as investors shun Chinese names

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Zomato food delivery partners is seen on a road in Kolkata , India.

Debarchan Chatterjee | NurPhoto | Getty Images

At a time when investors are selling Chinese technology stocks, more money is chasing Indian start-ups.

Shares of food delivery app Zomato soared as much as 82% in their debut Friday on the National Stock Exchange of India. The initial public offering was priced at 76 rupees per share, or a little more than $1 per share. The stock opened more than 50% higher, valuing the company at about 910 billion rupees or $12.2 billion.

Jayasankar Venkataraman, head of equity capital markets at Kotak Investment Banking, said before trading started that the IPO was oversubscribed for institutional and retail investors.

“I think Zomato’s successful IPO might open the floodgates,” said Anirudh Suri, founding partner of the India Internet Fund. Suri has invested in 20 start-ups across India.

Tech giant Uber sold its India food delivery business to Zomato last year in an all-stock transaction that gave the U.S. company a stake. Zomato’s other prominent backers include Indian internet company Info Edge, Alibaba-affiliate Ant Group and Singapore state investor Temasek.

Sources told CNBC that after listing in India, Zomato has plans to make its debut in the U.S.

As to which companies will be next to go public, Suri said he’s betting on Paytm, which claims among its backers Japan’s SoftBank, Ant Group and Berkshire Hathaway.

India payments company Paytm recently filed its IPO paperwork with a goal of raising $2.2 billion in its public debut this November.

Overall, Indian start-ups raised $12.1 billion in funding in the first six months of the year, compared with the $5.3 billion raised during the same period last year, according to Venture Intelligence.

What’s behind the recent pivot to India?

Somesh Dash, general partner at venture capital firm IVP, said that investors are waking up to the idea that China no longer has the best growth story in town.

“China doesn’t have a lot of young people. India does. What the Indian economy presents is a growing middle class and a dynamic workforce: one of the largest populations in the world. It’s very attractive from a longer-term perspective,” Dash said.

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Amit Anand, co-founder of exchange-traded fund company NextFins, expects Indian tech IPOs to price at a premium multiple compared with Chinese companies, citing growth in internet penetration.

“Investors recognize the long runway for internet penetration. E-commerce penetration in India is 7% versus 25% in China. Smartphone penetration in India is about 30%, less than half of China’s 60%,” said Anand, who formerly worked for Axial Capital.

Anand and his partners at NextFins launched the Nifty India Financials ETF on the belief that investors will want more exposure to India’s secular growth story, especially as internet and smartphone penetration continue to rise. INDF’s assets have tripled since the beginning of the year and are up 50% since June.

“Investors are betting that as these people enter the workforce, they will consume more and need financial products like credit cards, mortgages and auto loans. That’s why e-commerce and fintech companies have been the primary recipients of venture capital investment in India,” noted Anand. With more tech companies going public in India, he now has plans to launch an ETF focused on Indian tech stocks.

“The tech indices in India currently track the large outsourcing companies; there is no way for investors in either India or the U.S. to target faster-growing internet companies,” he said.

Some of the country’s unicorns, those companies worth $1 billion or more, continue to raise additional rounds, capitalizing on the strong interest in India tech. Hotel start-up Oyo, backed by SoftBank, raised an additional $660 million. E-commerce platform Flipkart raised $3.6 billion at a mega-high valuation of $37.6 billion, the largest fundraise for an Indian company. Key investors include the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Walmart.

Like China, data privacy issues do exist in India. Last week, Indian regulators banned Mastercard from issuing new credit cards to customers in the country after not complying with data privacy rules. Key question venture investors are trying to answer are whether India’s government will carve out its own path or follow China’s lead on the topics related to regulation and overseas listings.

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Asia-Pacific stocks set for mixed start after Wall Street record close

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific looked set for a mixed start after the major indexes on Wall Street sailed to record closing highs last week.

Futures pointed to a higher open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 28,230 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 27,910. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 27,548.

Australian stocks, on the other hand, looked poised to open lower. The SPI futures contract sat at 7,335.0, against the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 7,394.40.

On the economic data front, Singapore’s industrial production figures for June are set to be out at 1:00 p.m. HK/SIN.

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On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Averaged closed above 35,000 for the first time ever while the S&P 500 jumped 1.01% to 4,411.79 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.04% to 14,836.99. Friday’s moves upward saw all three major indexes stateside at new closing highs.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.885 following a recent bounce from below 92.8.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.53 per dollar, weaker than levels below 110 seen against the greenback last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7368, above levels below $0.732 seen last week.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

  • Singapore: Industrial production for June

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Stock futures hold steady ahead of a huge week of Big Tech earnings

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Traders working at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), today, Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Source: NYSE

Stock futures opened little changed after the major averages finished the previous session at record closing highs and ahead of a busy week of earnings reports from technology’s heaviest hitters.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average eased by 5 points, or 0.01%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 0.03% and 0.01%, respectively.

In the previous session, the Dow jumped 238.20 points, or 0.68%, to 35,061.55. The S&P 500 gained 1.01% to 4,411.79 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.04% to 14,836.99.

All three of the major averages finished at record closing highs last week after the markets tumbled at the start of the week on concerns about the spread of the delta variant of Covid and how it would potentially hinder the economic recovery. The uncertainty briefly sent bond yields lower, and investors jumped into tech stocks. Both bonds and equities rebounded quickly by the end of the week.

Tech stocks rose last week on better-than-expected second-quarter earnings reports, as well as the continued spread of the delta variant. Twitter and Snap each surged Thursday following better-than-expected second-quarter earnings reports. Twitter ended Friday 3% higher, while Snap shot up 24%.

One of the busiest weeks of earnings reports is on deck in the week ahead, with Tesla kicking it off after the closing bell. Last week, CEO Elon Musk said the automaker would likely start accepting bitcoin for vehicle purchases again.

Big tech giants Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft are all set to report on Tuesday, and Google, Facebook, and Amazon will also report later in the week.

Investors will be watching the Fed’s two-day policy meeting, beginning Tuesday. The Federal Open Market Committee and the Board of Governors are expected to issue a statement on the stance of monetary policy Wednesday. On Thursday the Commerce Department will report second-quarter GDP data.

On Monday morning the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will release new home sales data and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas will release its monthly business activity index for manufacturing in Texas.

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