Asian equity markets climbed to the levels close to all-time highs on Monday amid expectations that growth in Asian economies will continue to outpace recovery of Western peers. Interestingly enough, the rally in Asian equity markets have notably accelerated compared to US stocks since the start of November 2020:
Comparison of returns of US and Asian stocks via performance of two large ETFs
Optimism in the Asian market was also fueled by the UN report which showed that China surpassed the United States in 2020 in terms of foreign direct investments (FDI). The rationale behind this is that the United States was doing worse and longer in coping with the sanitary crisis, and would therefore underperform compared to China in terms of the pace of post-crisis recovery. Investments in the United States fell 49% year-on-year, while in China they not only escaped a drop, but also grew by 4%, despite a general collapse of direct investment by 42%.
For East Asia as a whole (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan) FDI decreased by 4% in 2020, while in developed economies - by 69%.
China's recovery in the fourth quarter accelerated and GDP growth exceeded expectations. The Chinese economy ended 2020 in extremely good shape and despite the continuation of the pandemic is likely to accelerate this year.
Foreign direct investment is an indicator of investor expectations regarding the rate of return that can be expected in an economy over a 5-10 years horizon of investment.
The UN report also supported commodity currencies - AUD and NZD, which through the trading channel are sensitive to changes in Asian economic outlook. They gained 0.3 and 0.5% against the US dollar. In general, trading in the foreign exchange markets occurs today without pronounced trends, since markets are waiting for more information on the stance of the Fed, which will hold a meeting on Wednesday. Investors' focus is on the way how the US central bank will comment on the government plans to once again seek help from the debt market (to fund the next stimulus package). By the way, despite the absence of announcements of monetary easing, Fed’s balance sheet continues to expand and renew all-time highs:
which supports the stock market and keeps the trend towards compression of credit spreads (markets’ “fear” gauge):
In such situation, it is difficult to imagine what could cause a reversal in risk assets in the near future, where, among the positive catalysts, a new fiscal stimulus in the United States is expected by almost $2 trillion.
The dollar index has every chance of diving below 90 points today, if the vote in Congress on the appointment of Janet Yellen to the post of the head of the Treasury shows strong support from the Republicans. The fact is that in her last speech, Yellen basically said that “while there is an opportunity to borrow (due to low interest rates), we need to borrow”. Therefore, the level of support of Yellen from Republicans will actually reveal the number of headwinds the new stimulus package will meet in the Congress during the voting.
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