LIVE MARKETS European autos shares poking the bears

  • Summary
  • Companies
  • STOXX 600 edging lower
  • Autos test bear markets
  • Oil & Gas and miners jump
  • Euro under pressure, dollar gains
  • Euro zone gvt bonds yields tick up

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EUROPEAN AUTOS POKING THE BEARS (0920 GMT)

European automotive stocks have quickly become one of the proxies to trade the risks linked to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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The sector is now down over 20% from its January highs and testing bear market territory.

autis

While auto makers are clearly seen as cyclical stocks set to lose big if the COVID-19 economic recovery stalls due to the conflict, the sector is also seen as vulnerable given its large exposure to Russia.

Shares in Finland's Nokian Tyres, which produces approximately 80% of its annual capacity of 20 million tyres in Russia, have just sunk to their lowest level since 2009.

A useful factbox about companies cutting Russian operations can be found here but here are the main bullets for the European sector:

* Germany's Daimler Truck said it would freeze its business activities in Russia with immediate effect, including its cooperation with Russian truck maker Kamaz.

* Its unite Mercedes-Benz is looking into legal options to divest its 15% stake in Kamaz as quickly as possible.

* Germany's BMW has halted the export of cars to Russia and said it would stop production there.

* Sweden's Volvo Cars said it would suspend car shipments to the Russian market until further notice.

* French carmaker Renault will suspend some operations at its car assembly plants in Russia, where it makes 8% of its core earnings, due to logistics bottlenecks.

* British luxury carmakers Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Aston Martin (AML.L) paused vehicle shipments to Russia.

(Julien Ponthus)

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STOXX 600 OPENS CLOSE TO MAY 2021 LOWS (0815 GMT)

European bourses opened about 0.9% down as sentiment soured in the last hour with Wall Street futures tipping in the red.

At about 438 points, the STOXX 600 was at this stage only 1% away from its May 2021 lows.

In about 20 minutes though the trend turned and the pan-European index was fluctuating above and below the floatation mark.

One thing is for sure: the autos and parts sector is yet again the worst performer with tyre maker Nokian Renkaat losing a whopping 17% at the open.

The pressure was also relentless on European banks shedding 1.5% and well into bear territory.

Not all market price action was linked to the war in Ukraine and France's pharma group Biomerieux is plunging 12% after it published a disappointing guidance for the year.

Sweden's Ericsson was also a top loser, -9.5%, after it emerged it had been informed that disclosures it made to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) about an internal investigation into conduct in Iraq were insufficient.

Through all the gloom this morning, London's FTSE 100 (.FTSE) is in positive territory thanks to miners and energy being in high demand again this morning.

open

(Julien Ponthus)

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A TURNING POINT FOR MARKETS (0745 GMT)

When the yield on Germany's benchmark Bund, considered one of thea safest assets in the world, posts its biggest one-day fall since 2011 (as it did on Tuesday), something has changed.

The slide in borrowing costs in Germany, with 10-year yields back in negative territory where they remain this morning, echoes similar moves in other major bond markets and is symptomatic of a big shift in investor thinking.

German Bund yield, absolute change in bps

Russia's invasion of Ukraine almost a week ago changes the landscape for investors, stick with safety (read sovereign debt, U.S. dollar), stay away from risk assets.

Perhaps more notable is growing doubt over that overriding theme that central banks would step up their exit from post-pandemic stimulus.

This is more complicated since inflation is high but the renewed surge in oil prices will likely slow growth and hurt consumption.

So yes, the Bank of Canada will likely hike rates later on Wednesday, with the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England still tipped to follow later in March. But markets increasingly price a more cautious path ahead - especially in the euro area where market pricing took a dramatic turn on Tuesday.

Money markets now price in just 14 basis points worth of ECB rate hikes by year-end, down from 50 bps last month.

Flash euro zone inflation data due out later in the session therefore will unlikely change this view, even if it does show the headline inflation rate rising to new record highs -- as analysts forecast.

And with Russia bombarding Ukrainian cities and the United States banning Russian flights from its airspace, the mood in world markets remain sombre.

Japan's Nikkei closed almost 1.7% lower, U.S. and European stock futures are in the red, and oil prices have surged to a fresh 7-year higher above £110.

A meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies, together known as OPEC+, later on could prove interesting.

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Wednesday:

- OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial meeting via video conference.

German employment

- Euro zone flash HICP

- Bank of Canada policy meeting

- Fed speakers: Chicago President Charles Evans

- Fed issues Beige Book of economic conditions

- European earnings: Telekom Italia, Just Eat, Polymetal, Entain, Aviva, Persimmon,

- US earnings: Abercrombie and Fitch, Dollar Tree, American Eagle

(Dhara Ranasinghe)

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UKRAINE: A LOW CONTAGION RISK FOR EUROPEAN BANKS? (0740 GMT)

Euro zone banks are down about 25% from their February 10 highs and there's a good chance their share price could dive even further as the sanctions against Russia continue to shake financial markets.

For Berenberg economist Kallum Pickering though, the risk posed to the sector is manageable and does not at this stage warrant fears of a banking crisis in Europe.

Pickering said that his firm's banking team sees a low contagion risk as direct and indirect exposure to Russia's economy is limited and that "generally, the most exposed firms are relatively small".

"In addition, the biggest banks are unlikely to fall below regulators' capital requirements even in the event that they were forced to write-down or sell all Russian exposures", Pickering writes in a note today.

UK and EU banking regulators are also expected to have the means necessary to handle pressure on the banking system.

"This could include meeting any increase in demand for reserves, allowing banks to spread losses over several years, and providing some leeway for firms that are required to raise capital", the Berenberg economist argued.

"It seems unlikely, in our view, that potential problems for a handful of banks could threaten to disrupt the normal flow of credit to such an extent that policymakers could not, with relative ease, remedy such problems", he concluded.

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(Julien Ponthus)

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WHEN DEFENCE STOCKS BECOME AN UNLIKELY ESG PLAY (0720 GMT)

Missiles, tanks and fighter jets don't spontaneously come to mind when one thinks of stocks likely to benefit from the trend towards ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing.

Yet, as much as Russia's invasion of Ukraine is quickly changing these last decades' geopolitical paradigm, so it could it be for this style of investing.

"We believe defence is likely to be increasingly seen as a necessity that facilitates ESG as an enterprise, as well as maintaining peace, stability and other social goods", Citi analysts wrote in a note this morning.

"Recent events in Europe, we think, will significantly increase the likelihood of defense's inclusion in the EU's Social Taxonomy", they also said.

Germany this weekend announced a sharp increase of its spending on defence to more than 2% of its economic output to face the challenges posed by Russia invading Ukraine which has boosted European defence stocks even further.

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(Julien Ponthus)

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NO WORSE, NO BETTER (0653 GMT)

There is no reason this morning for European stocks to rebound from yesterday's fall but by the same token, there's no sense the situation has worsened significantly overnight when it comes to the continent's equity markets.

Futures are trading about 0.3% in the red for European blue chips and up 0.4% for the FTSE 100.

Contracts for Wall Street stabilised after sharp losses yesterday.

Asian bourses are ending on an orderly retreat of about 0.6% but oil prices are surging amid supply disruption fears from the heavy fighting in Ukraine.

If FX markets are to be taken as a risk gauge, then markets seem to be on risk-off with the dollar index up 0.26% and the euro losing 0.2%.

(Julien Ponthus)

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