MORNING BID-Keeping counsel ’til CPI

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

No news from the Fed appears to be good news these days.

Markets breathed a collective sigh of relief that Tuesday’s
first 2023 outing from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell
sidestepped any signal on policy rates and that he didn’t double
down on more hawkish messages from his colleagues the day
before.

Powell instead riffed on central bank independence from
political influence and how the Fed should stay out of issues
like climate change that are beyond its congressionally
established mandate.

Perhaps wisely, the Fed chair held his counsel ahead of
Thursday’s critical U.S. consumer price inflation report for
December – now the main focus of the week for world markets.

Stocks around the world were higher on Wednesday, with Wall
St futures marginally positive ahead of the open there. Ten-year
Treasury yields ticked lower ahead of an auction of new paper
later on Wednesday and the dollar was flat.

Fed runes aside, the economic picture for the year ahead
improved little overnight with some trepidation about the
unfolding corporate earnings season also a factor this week.

The World Bank almost halved its 2023 growth forecasts on
Tuesday to the brink of recession for many countries – citing
the impact of rising interest rates and inflation and energy
problems related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It now sees global GDP growing 1.7% next year, the third
worst outcome in 30 years and only eclipsed over that period by
the slump in 2009 after the global banking crash and the
pandemic shock in 2020. Its previous forecast from June had put
2023 growth at 3.0%.

While Thursday’s U.S. CPI release is expected to reinforce a
picture of disinflation, there were signs of how sticky price
rises can be elsewhere in the world.

Australian consumer prices showed annual inflation
re-accelerated to 7.3% in November, after a surprise dip to 6.9%
the previous month as the cost of holiday travel and
accommodation picked up.

While U.S. investors await fourth quarter corporate readouts
from the big banks this Friday, some of the early European
earnings reports were eye-catching.

Shares in British insurer Direct Line crashed
almost 30% after it scrapped its final dividend for 2022
following a surge in claims. Its peer Admiral also
dropped 15%.

The UK Christmas retail picture was better, however. JD
Sports stock climbed 4.8% after the clothes and footwear
retailer reported total revenue growth of more than 20% for six
weeks in the run-up to Christmas. Grocer Sainsbury also raised
it profit outlook due to holiday sales.

Although easier energy prices and a mild winter have
improved the economic picture in the euro zone somewhat, the
problems remain clear. German engineering companies’ orders
posted a double-digit fall for a second month in a row in
November, with demand from the eurozone taking a particularly
sharp dive, the VDMA engineering association said on Wednesday.

In corporate news, Bayer rose 2% after Bloomberg
reported that activist investor Bluebell is pushing for a
breakup of the giant pharmaceutical company.

Hong Kong stocks rose to another six-month high on hopes of
a strong economic rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and
discounted values.

Copper prices hit another 6-1/2-month high, helped by hopes
of better Chinese demand for the metal and the recent dollar
decline. Gold prices hit their highest since May.

China introduced transit curbs for South Korean and Japanese
nationals on Wednesday, in an escalating diplomatic spat over
COVID-19 curbs that is marring the grand re-opening of the
world’s second-largest economy after three years of isolation.

In banking, staff at Goldman Sachs are bracing for
news on whether they will keep their jobs on Wednesday, as the
U.S. investment bank begins a sweeping cost-cutting drive that
could see its 49,000-strong global workforce shrink by
thousands.

Diaried events and data releases that may provide direction
to U.S. and world markets later on Wednesday:
* U.S. Treasury auctions 10-year notes

(By Mike Dolan, editing by Tomasz Janowski
mike.dolan@thomsonreuters.com. Twitter: @reutersMikeD)

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