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Nvidia Earnings Top Estimates, Markets Surge

Risk appetite is rebounding across the financial markets this morning after artificial intelligence chipmaker Nvidia’s earnings results exceeded astonishingly-high investor expectations. Sales more than tripled in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, and are projected to do so again in the first quarter of 2024, with President Jensen Huang noting that “Demand is surging worldwide across companies, industries, and nations”.

Equity markets are on a tear, with Nasdaq futures pointing to a 2-percent gap higher at the open, while the S&P 500 sets up for a 1-percent gain. Treasury yields are headed lower, and the dollar is declining, particularly against high-beta currencies like the Canadian dollar, which is outperforming after receiving a dual boost from the improvement in risk sentiment and ongoing decline in borrowing costs.

In a milestone moment, Japan’s Nikkei stock index has closed above the record closing high set just before the country’s “bubble economy” collapsed at the end of the eighties. After a 34-year slump, the index gained 2.2 percent to hit 39,098.68, topping the previous high set on December 29, 1989 as semiconductor firms saw strong investor demand, adding to strong underlying dynamics powered by corporate governance changes, rising wage gains, and a soft yen. The exchange rate is little changed however, reflecting still-wide global rate differentials.

The euro and pound are both trading on a firmer footing after a raft of surprisingly-robust purchasing manager indices hit the wires. S&P Global’s composite euro area index hit an eight-month high at 48.9 in February, with an expanding services sector offsetting manufacturing weakness in topping consensus expectations and pushing closer to the 50 threshold that separates expansion from contraction. In a similar vein, the UK manufacturing sub-index failed to meet market forecasts, but unexpected resilience on the services side pushed the composite to 53.3.

Ahead today: Statistics Canada is believed likely to confirm a 0.8-percent surge in retail spending in December, but a preliminary estimate for January could look weaker. Inflation data, released earlier this week, showed price growth decelerating far more quickly than anticipated, pointing to a softening in domestic demand. The US is expected to report a modest improvement in purchasing manager indices, while Fed Vice Chair Philip Jefferson, Philly’s Patrick Harker, and Governor Lisa Cook will add nuance (and noise) to markets still processing yesterday’s meeting minutes.

We’re not sure whether Nvidia’s results mark the beginning of a new investment cycle or if a repeat of the dotcom boom in the late nineties is playing out, but underlying market momentum looks almost unstoppable at this juncture. A sustained improvement in investor appetite carries the potential to overwhelm signs of weakness in economies outside the US, and could lead to a reinforcement of “dollar smile” dynamics, in which the greenback falls on a relative convergence in global risk profiles. Consensus expectations could be due for another upset.

Will the positive vibes last?
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Higher for (even) longer