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|03 January, 2019

Thursday outlook: Oil prices, stocks fall over global slowdown concerns, rare Apple revenue warning

Apple blamed fewer iPhone upgrades and slowing sales in China for its first revenue warning since 2007. The news weighed on tech shares across Asia. More commentary on global markets, oil prices, currencies and gold.

Customers walk past an Apple logo inside of an Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York, U.S., August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Customers walk past an Apple logo inside of an Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York, U.S., August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

  • U.S. stock futures fell on Thursday, amid worries over slowing global growth
  • Apple issued its first revenue warning since 2007, sending its shares tumbling 8 percent
  • News sparked a 'flash crash' as investors fled to safe-haven assets
  • Yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to 2.6328 percent
  • Oil prices fell by more than one percent
  • Egypt's blue-chip stock index rose sharply, while all major Gulf markets were weak
  • Dubai courier firm Aramex had its biggest one-day loss since December 2017
  • Gold was higher as the dollar weakened


Oil prices continued to slide further and United States stock futures fell on Thursday after a rare revenue warning from Apple added to worries about slowing global growth, but a move by China's central bank to help struggling smaller firms lifted shares there, cushioning losses for Asian markets.

The American tech giant blamed fewer iPhone upgrades and slowing sales in China in warning about revenues in its most recent quarter. The warning, its first since 2007, sent its shares tumbling 8 percent in after-hours trade and sparked a 'flash crash' in holiday-thinned currency markets as investors rushed to less risky assets.

Global markets
MSCI's broadest gauge of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped in early trade but later steadied as Chinese shares climbed. Japanese markets were closed for holidays but Nikkei futures dropped 1.8 percent.

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China's blue-chip CSI300 index was 0.8 percent higher, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent after a bruising Wednesday session.

Apple's surprise announcement weighed on tech shares across Asia, most notably in Taiwan and South Korea.

The mixed performance in Asia comes after shares on Wall Street slid in early trade Wednesday on growth worries but later clawed back losses.

U.S. stock futures were still pointing lower on Thursday, with Nasdaq E-mini futures down 1.9 percent and S&P 500 E-mini futures off 1.1 percent following Apple's warning.

Apple specifically highlighted slowing Chinese growth and Sino-U.S. trade tensions, exacerbating investors' concerns about the state of the global economy.

"The fall in the EM manufacturing PMI last month was fairly broad-based and supports our view that growth in the emerging world as a whole will slow this year," Gabriella Dickens, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note, Reuters reported.

News out of Washington on Wednesday added to the grim mood, as a meeting between President Donald Trump and U.S. congressional leaders produced no agreement to end a partial government shutdown.


Oil
Prices fell by more than one percent on Thursday amid volatile currency and stock markets, as analysts warned of an economic slowdown for 2019.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $45.83 per barrel at 0120 GMT, down 71 cents, or 1.5 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude futures were down 51 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $54.40 per barrel.

Markets were roiled by a more than 3 percent crash of the U.S. dollar against Japan's yen overnight, and after Apple's sales forecast warning.

The slowdown in China and turmoil in stock and currency markets is making investors nervous, including in oil markets.


Middle East markets
Egypt's blue-chip stock index rose sharply on Wednesday, boosted by its biggest bank, while all major Gulf markets were weak, with many investors still away on year-end holidays.

The Egyptian index rose 1.3 percent as Commercial International Bank gained 1.9 percent.

Real estate firm Talaat Mostafa rose 3.2 percent after saying its sales last year reached 21.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.2 billion), up from 13.1 billion pounds a year earlier.

Orascom Development climbed 4.4 percent. Its shares have been perfoming well since announcing at the end of last week that it had sold some hotels, which would help reduce its debt.

In Dubai - which fell 25 percent in 2018, the world's worst-performing major stock market in local currency terms - the index was down 0.4 percent.

Courier firm Aramex dropped 4.4 percent in its biggest one-day loss since December 2017. Dubai's largest listed developer, Emaar Properties, shed 1.2 percent.

The Saudi Arabian index edged down 0.1 percent with Samba Financial slipping 0.8 percent and Saudi International Petrochemical Co (Sipchem) dropping 2.7 percent.

Qatar's index - one of the world's best-performing markets last year, with a 21 percent gain - dropped 0.2 percent with Industries Qatar falling 1.6 percent and Qatar National Bank slipping 1.1 percent.

However, Mesaieed Petrochemical jumped by its 10 percent daily limit. It said major shareholder Qatar Petroleum had finished distributing a tranche of free incentive shares to investors, which may improve liquidity in the stock.

Real estate firm United Development Co gained 1.7 percent after saying it had sold its stake in Seef Ltd to Qatar Petroleum for 214.4 million riyals ($59 million).

Elsewhere, Abu Dhabi fell 1 percent to 4,867 points, Kuwait was up 0.7 percent to 5,305 points, Oman was down 0.7 percent to 4,302 points and Bahrain slipped 0.6 percent to 1,329 points


Currencies
Amid concerns over the global economy and Apple’s dire earnings warnings, the Japanese yen surged on Thursday through key technical levels as investors fled to safe-haven assets.

Market participants fled to the safety of the highly liquid Japanese yen, which rose 1 percent versus the dollar on Thursday. In early Asian trade, the dollar tumbled to an intra-day low of 104.96 yen, its lowest since March 2018. Longer-term, however, analysts see other reasons for the yen to rise.

"The yen is undervalued and can strengthen both if the dollar weakens across the board, but also if our broadly positive view that the global economy will stabilise at potential growth this year proves to be wrong, the Fed pauses and/or we get a risk-off market correction - as we saw at the end of 2018," Athanasios Vamvakidis, FX strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

The dollar index was at 96.77, relatively unchanged from its previous close.

However, analysts expect the dollar to come under pressure in coming months with diminishing prospects for U.S. central bank rate hikes in 2019, which has driven Treasury yields lower.

The yield on U.S. 10-year treasuries fell to 2.63 percent, the lowest in nearly a year on Wednesday.

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell speaks in Atlanta on Jan. 4. Any acknowledgement that growth risks are building and financial conditions tightening is likely to be read by traders as a dovish policy signal.

Elsewhere, sterling fell 0.7 percent to $1.2516 on Thursday, while the euro was down marginally at $1.1340. On Wednesday.

Precious metals
Gold prices inched up on Thursday, benefiting from a rush to safe-haven assets.

Spot gold gained about 0.2 percent to $1,286.62 per ounce at 0107 GMT, having earlier touched its highest since June 15 at $1,290.09. U.S. gold futures were up 0.4 percent at $1,288.80 per ounce.

(Compiled by Shane McGinley; Editing by Michael Fahy)
(shane.mcginley@refinitiv.com)

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