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Stock markets: Global shares largely fall ahead of Federal Reserve’s likely interest rate hike

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares mostly declined Wednesday as investors looked ahead to a widely expected interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve to try to tamp down the highest inflation in decades.

France’s CAC 40 fell nearly 0.1% in early trading to 5,974.93, while Germany’s DAX lost 0.2% to 12,648.87. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.6% to 7,235.02. The future for the Dow industrials was up 0.1% at 30,828.00. The S&P 500 future rose 0.1% to 3,875.75.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dipped 1.4% to finish at 27,313.13. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.6% to 6,700.20. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.9% to 2,347.21. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.8% to 18,444.62, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2% to 3,117.18.

Global tensions are adding to uncertainties. Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine have announced plans to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia.

The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war against Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently blasted what he described as U.S. efforts to preserve its global domination and ordered officials to boost weapons production.

“Asian equities traded in a defensive mode on Wednesday. There were some geopolitical tensions concerning Russia and Ukraine, where the separatists are to hold a referendum in some regions, and traders were expecting an update from Putin,” Anderson Alves at ActivTrades said in a commentary.

Traders are focused on how high the Fed will raise interest rates at its meeting that ends Wednesday, not on whether it will happen.

Bond yields mostly edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 3.56% from 3.52% from late Monday and is trading at its highest levels since 2011.

The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to follow expectations for Fed action, held steady at 3.95%, hovering around its highest levels since 2007.

Stocks have been slumping and Treasury yields rising as the Fed raises the cost of borrowing money in hopes of slowing down the hottest inflation in four decades.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell bluntly warned in a speech last month that the rate hikes would “bring some pain.”

The Fed is expected to raise its key short-term rate by three-quarters of a point for the third time. That would lift its benchmark rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level in 14 years, and up from zero at the start of the year.

Beyond that, investors will be focused on what Powell has to say, both in the Fed’s latest interest rate policy statement and during an afternoon press conference, for clues as to whether the central bank remains primarily focused on lowering inflation, or if there’s a hint the Fed is giving more consideration to the impact of higher rates on the economy.

Wall Street is worried that the rate hikes could go too far in slowing economic growth and push the economy into a recession.

The U.S. isn’t alone in suffering from hot inflation or dealing with the impact of efforts to fight high prices.

The Bank of Japan began a two-day monetary policy meeting Wednesday, although analysts expect the central bank to stick to its easy monetary policy. Rate decisions from Norway, Switzerland and the Bank of England are next.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.22 to $86.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 1.5% Tuesday, weighing down energy stocks. Brent crude, the international standard, added $2.34 to $92.96 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 143.81 Japanese yen from 143.74 yen. The euro fell to 99.01 cents from 99.73 cents.

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Federal Reserve gets serious about ending the party in Q3, asset valuations fall

JimVallee

During the third quarter of 2022, the Federal Reserve jacked up its key policy rate by 150 points across two meetings, accounting for half of its rate hikes since it started tightening policy in March. That, and Fed officials’ insistence that they’ll keep rates higher for longer to beat down inflation, put a damper on asset prices.

Also not to be ignored, the Fed’s actions to shrink its balance ramped up during the quarter, reaching its full reduction rate in September. At its full pace, the central bank is letting $60B of Treasury securities and $35B of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities roll off its balance sheet, an action that reduces liquidity to the financial markets.

In response, investors realized during the quarter that the central bank is serious about removing the punch bowl to ratchet down the economy in an effort to reign in prices.

“Markets welcome the arrival of monetary injections from central banks very warmly; the departure of those injections and the reintroduction of liquidity withdrawals, however, are not warmly welcomed and are accompanied by volatility as market participants sweat while discovering true prices in less distorted markets,” said Interactive Brokers economist José Torres, in a note.

During that three-month period, the 10-year Treasury yield has increased by 93 basis points to 3.829% on the last session of the quarter. Last Wednesday it touched as high as 4.0%, its highest level since the global financial crisis of 2008. Remember, as bond yields rise, bond prices fall.

The bear rallies: Hopes earlier in the quarter that the bear market may have run its course were quashed, with the S&P 500 falling 6.3%, the Nasdaq composite slipping falling 5.0%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average off 7.6%.

Bitcoin (BTC-USD), which has been generally tracking risk assets, only edged down ~0.2% for the quarter, and is still below the $20K mark at $19.4K, and less than a third of its $68.9K all-time high in November 2021. Ethereum (ETH-USD), which achieved its Merge event in mid-September, jumped 25% during Q3.

Commodities: The phenomenon of investors turning to gold during uncertain times didn’t hold in Q3. The continuous gold contract fell 7.7% during the quarter.

Copper contracts, which generally tracks investors’ expectations for the economy, also fell, dropping 7.9% during the quarter.

Crude oil, more tied to geopolitical events than the Fed’s policy, fell 25%, ending the quarter at ~$79.74 per barrel.

Real estate cooldown: After experiencing super-charged growth during the height of the pandemic, the real estate market cooled some in Q3 as tighter financial conditions pushed mortgage rates higher and forced some homebuyers to the sidelines. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.70% for the week ended Sept. 29, up a full percentage point from 5.70% for the week ended June 30.

In August, the most recent data available, the median sale price of a new home fell to $436.8K from $439.4K in July. The median existing home sales price fell to $389.5K vs. $403.8K in July. The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLRE) sank 12% during the quarter.

But consumers are still spending as inflation rises, even on discretionary items. The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLY) managed a 3.6% increase during Q3.

Technology stocks stayed weak during the quarter, as the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLK) slipped 6.6% during the quarter.

The mighty dollar: With the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes, the U.S. dollar surged as higher interest rates made investing in the U.S. more attractive. The U.S. Dollar Index climbed 6.7% to 112.17 during the quarter. While the strong dollar makes it less expensive for Americans to travel abroad, it makes U.S. export more expensive and increases the debt burden for emerging economies with U.S. dollar-denominated debt.

Looking ahead: Going into Q4, Interactive Brokers’ Torres expects inflation to stay hot, the U.S. labor market remains strong, and the Fed to hang tough. “This will cause economic conditions to continue slowing, bond yields to rise further, albeit they’re probably close to the top, and equities to reach new lows, although they’re probably close to the bottom,” he said.

Traders tilt toward the Fed raising its key rate by 125 basis points over the next two meetings, though many expect a 100 bp increase. CME FedWatch tool puts a 44.1% probability on the rate rising to 4.00%-4.25% and a 51.9% probability on a 4.25%-4.50%.

SA contributor John M. Mason says the Federal Reserve is doing what it promised to do, but be on the lookout for how long it stays on track.

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Toyota’s CEO cautions against electric vehicles hype, views them as just one option in his ‘department store’ of powertrains

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to keep gas-powered cars as a key part of its lineup, rejecting efforts by rivals to go fully electric amid concerns over how quickly consumers will embrace new technologies.

While the world’s largest automaker will introduce more electric vehicles in the coming years, it will also offer a range of other options, including gasoline-electric hybrids, hydrogen- and traditional fossil fuel-powered models, according to Chief Executive Officer Akio Toyoda, who met with reporters Thursday.

Battery-electric vehicles “are just going to take longer than the media would like us to believe,” Toyoda, grandson of the automaker’s founder, told dealers gathered in Las Vegas. He pledged to offer the “widest possible” array of powertrains to propel cars cleanly.

“That’s our strategy and we’re sticking to it,” he said.

Toyota’s stance reflects the numerous and sometimes conflicting considerations for automakers, which are seeking to boost sales, serve diverse customer bases and meet increasingly strict environmental standards in many countries. The decision contrasts with that of competitors such as General Motors Co., which has pledged to go all electric by 2035.

Environmentalists and shareholders have criticized Toyota for dragging its feet in embracing EVs, with Greenpeace putting the brand at the bottom of its ranking of global automakers’ decarbonization efforts. Critics have accused Toyota of clinging to its 25-year history with the gasoline-electric Prius hybrid, which once earned Toyota plaudits.

“The fact is: a hybrid today is not green technology,” Katherine Garcia, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation For All campaign, wrote in a blog post last month. “The Prius hybrid runs on a pollution-emitting combustion engine found in any gas-powered car.”

Toyota’s electric vehicle pledge

The company last year pledged to spend 4 trillion yen, or $28 billion, to roll out 30 EVs by 2030. Still, that’s less than the $50 billion that Ford Motor Co. is spending to build EVs through 2026.

Despite the apparent disparity, Toyoda said his company already has been investing in battery-powered hybrids for more than two decades. He contends that makes Toyota the “top runner” in reducing carbon emissions from vehicles worldwide.

“Our investments may appear smaller than others’, but when you look at what Toyota has been doing over the last 20 years, the total amount might not necessarily be small,” Toyoda said.

The CEO said a lack of sufficient infrastructure will hold back EV adoption rates, which is a factor in its decision not to go all in on electricity.

“Toyota is a department store of all sorts of powertrains,” he said. “It’s not right for the department store to say, ‘This is the product you should buy.’”

Toyoda expressed skepticism that automakers will be able to achieve the California mandate that will effectively ban gasoline-fueled vehicles by 2035 and require a substantial portion of sales be EVs by 2030. New York said Thursday it would institute similar regulations.

“We have to look at the current price range and infrastructure availability and at what pace they’re going to be upgrading,” he said. “Realistically speaking, it seems rather difficult to achieve.”

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Tesla deliveries set a new record but missed forecasts in the third quarter

Tesla Inc. worldwide deliveries missed forecasts in the third quarter and the company warned of challenges in getting its cars to customers, suggesting that supply-chain snarls remain a blight.

It delivered a record 343,830 cars worldwide in the third quarter. Analysts had expected that nearly 358,000 vehicles would be shipped, based on the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“Historically, our delivery volumes have skewed towards the end of each quarter due to regional batch building of cars,” Austin, Texas-based Tesla said in a statement. “As our production volumes continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly challenging to secure vehicle transportation capacity and at a reasonable cost during these peak logistics weeks.”

Quarterly deliveries are among the most closely watched indicators for Tesla since they underpin the carmaker’s financial results. Though legacy automakers and new entrants alike are bringing more EVs to market, Tesla has led the charge for battery-powered cars since the first Model S sedans were delivered to customers a decade ago. 

Tesla had said that its delivery count is conservative and that final numbers could vary by 0.5% or more. The company produced 365,923 vehicles for the quarter. 

Tesla began shifting to a “more even regional mix” of vehicle production, leading to an increase of cars in transit during the end of the quarter. “These cars have been ordered and will be delivered to customers upon arrival at their destination,” the company said. 

The carmaker doesn’t break out sales by geography, but the U.S. and China are its largest markets and the overwhelming number of sales were of the Model 3 sedan and Y crossover. 

Tesla makes the Model S, X, 3 and Y models at its factory in Fremont, California. It makes the newer Model 3 and Y at the factory near Shanghai. Tesla recently began delivering Model Ys from its latest plants in Berlin and Austin. 

The delivery figures come on the heels of Tesla’s “AI Day” late Friday night, which was largely a recruiting event. Chief Executive Office Elon Musk showed off a prototype humanoid robot walking and waving its hand, seeking to demonstrate Tesla’s advances in artificial intelligence.

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