Mixed start for European equities, dollar retreats

A mixed start for European stock markets this morning with equities failing to struggling out of bed after yesterday’s session left indices in the red. The FTSE is really struggling to peel away from the 5,800 level, while the DAX either side of the flatline in early trade as investors try to make up their minds.

US stocks finished higher amid a choppy session on Wall Street. Ten out of 11 S&P 500 sectors rose as the broad market closed up 0.3% at 3,246 having tested the lows at 3.209, its weakest intra-day level since the end of July. When the selling at the open didn’t force further selling, there was an opportunity for dip buyers to come in. Nevertheless, the index is down 2.2% for the week still.

The Dow rose 0.2% but is –3% for the week. The Nasdaq also rose but is down –1% on the week and is on course for its fourth straight weekly decline, which would be the first such run of losses since August 2019. European markets are on course for 3-4% losses on the week.

Can stimulus and vaccine headlines prop up risk appetite?

Some positive headlines around a US stimulus deal and vaccine news may be supportive of risk today but sentiment is fragile, and it’s been a turbulent week – I think we need to see how it shakes out at the close for a better read on where the next move goes.

Whilst the market finished a tad higher yesterday, the S&P 500 keeps making new lows and sentiment seems to hinge around several downside risks. Right now, the up days are not as strong as the down days, which tells me momentum is with the bears for now. Any bounce we get needs to be seen in the context of a very sharp pullback on Monday and on Wednesday.

Until we clear last week’s levels – 3400 on SPX, around 3300 on Stoxx 50 and 6,000 on the FTSE, the bias looks to the downside for me.

UK facing jobs crunch despite new government scheme

For the UK, there is looming unemployment crisis, despite the government’s new jobs scheme. Whilst extending support for another 6 months, the chancellor’s plan will only help those in viable jobs – the crunch comes in November. Just how many are viable longer term? How many of the roughly 3m on furlough won’t have a job at Christmas?

Needless to say with all this support, UK public borrowing is soaring. This raises concerns about tax rises down the line to ‘pay for it’. But as previously discussed, deficits shouldn’t matter: rather than taxing the recovery and stifling it, the government ought to consider outright debt monetization, given the extraordinary circumstances we are in.

House Democrats prepare stimulus bill, Senate leader promises orderly transition after election

House Democrats are working on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package – we’ve been before, so I wouldn’t assume it will pass. Indeed, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy immediately dismissed the package, but we cannot rule it out entirely. Is this too much of a temptation for bulls?

Meanwhile, the nonsense worries about Trump refusing to leave the White House have thankfully been largely put to rest after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed there will be an orderly transition just as there has been after every election since 1792. However, I still believe the election will be contested and we are unlikely to know the final result on November 4th.

On the vaccine front, there more and more clinical trials happening. Sanofi says it is ready to produce 1bn doses of its vaccine with partner GSK from early next year. Dr Fauci sounded optimistic this week, telling Congress there is “growing optimism” there will be one or more safe and effective vaccines ready either by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

King dollar takes a breather, pressure off precious metals

The re-emergence of king dollar has been a big weight on stocks in the US – it’s no coincidence that the dollar reversed its slide at the start of September just as stocks rolled over. This in can turn can breed defensiveness in other regional equity markets.

The dollar index retreated from resistance around 94.60 – this is an important level with an upside breach calling for a return to 95. However, with the 14-day RSI rolling over this may be a time for a pullback and consolidation around the 94 region with a test of 93.70 on the cards.

With the dollar coming off its highs there has been some relief for precious metals. Both gold and silver seem to put in a near-term bottom after some nasty price action in recent days. Gold found support at $1,850 and rose to $1,870. Silver has rallied back above $23 after the $22 level held.

Sterling is finding bid with GBPUSD making solid progress towards 1.28 as the dollar comes off. Trend resistance above with the confluence of moving average and Fib support offering decent base.

Looking for clearance of 46 on the RSI for bullish signal. Look also at the bearish 21-day SMA crossover with the 50-day at the 1.30 pivot. The 38.2% retracement at 1.2690 is the major support after the 200-day EMA around 1.27650.

Futures drop on US Jobless claims

Long and slow: the road to recovery is a winding one. US initial jobless claims rose to 870k last week, indicating ongoing weakness in the labour market as the country struggles out of recession. This was a small increase on the week before and was ahead of market expectations.

Continuing claims declined only a fraction, to 12.58m. The previous week’s level was revised up 119,000 from 12,628,000 to 12,747,000. Unemployment fell marginally to 8.6% after the previous week’s number was revised up to 8.7%.

On a more encouraging note, the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending September 5th was 26,044,952, a decrease of 3,723,513 from the previous week.

Nevertheless, the more recent rise in initial claims is a worry that the momentum in the labour market has faded, which would chime with the kind of warnings that Fed officials have been laying on thick this week.

Futures dropped sharply with the Dow called down ~120 pts around 26,640 and the S&P 500 down ~20pts around 3,214 which would take out the week’s low at 3,229, a two-month trough that sits neatly on the 10% correction level from the recent all-time intra-day high at 3,588. Immediate support emerged at 3212.

Sentiment appears very weak with the downside bias in favour. With economic indicators failing to deliver lift-off and stimulus apparently off the table before the election, there needs to be a positive catalyst to get the bulls back in the game.

Otherwise with election risks and a worsening outlook for the recovery, we need to consider further losses as we approach the election.

Equity markets continue September slide

Stock markets in Europe turned lower Thursday after tough day on Wall Street left the S&P 500 close to correction territory. Six months on and with some big gains locked in, investors are starting to fret over the recovery ahead, with the Fed warning that the US economic recovery would suffer if there is no further stimulus and the UK set for a longer winter of discontent.

On Thursday morning, European equities traded lower but pared early losses after the first hour of trading. Asia was notably weaker. German business confidence improved a fraction. Donald Trump said he could overrule the FDA’s plans to introduce tougher standards for authorising a coronavirus vaccine.

The S&P 500 closed near its lows of the day, falling over 2.3% to 3,236 on broad market weakness as both tech/growth declined alongside cyclicals. The index is close to correction territory again – from its intra-day high at 3,588 the 10% corrective move sits at 3,229, Monday’s low point. On a closing basis, it’s 3,222.

What’s remarkable is that through all this selling, Treasuries are unmoved – 10s continue to print around the 0.67% region – why are bonds just not moving through all this equity market selling?

Risk sentiment deteriorating?

Whilst we can look at the rampant speculation and excessive valuations in big tech stocks unwinding over the course of September, we are seeing broader declines in other sectors that indicates deteriorating risk sentiment as we head into the autumn.

There may be several reasons behind this – less certainty over a vaccine emerging soon, second wave fears, the realisation that consumer confidence and spending in the economy will slump unless governments continue to inject stimulus and the usual volatility before the US election.

Trump continues to tease with comments around not committing to a smooth transition of power – of course there is no risk that he would somehow carry out a coup, but equally I fear there is almost no chance the election result will be confirmed on the night. Gore/Bush 2000 seems likely to be repeated but things are far nastier, far more polarised now than then.

More broadly perhaps we can put the sell-off in equities down to fading momentum in the economic recovery – PMIs are showing weakness, whilst other measures of economic activity indicate a levelling-off after the bounce back over the summer – at the same as there is no fresh stimulus emerging either on the fiscal or the monetary side.

Fed officials warn over US economic recovery, call for government support

Whilst central banks continue to stress that they will do whatever it takes, few additional concrete steps have been taken lately.  Washington appears gridlocked over fiscal support.

Fed speakers issued a series of warnings about the path of recovery in the US. Jay Powell warned Americans would burn through savings and find it harder to sell their homes. Boston Fed president Rosengren warned of a ‘credit crunch’ by the end of the year with community and regional banks likely to come under pressure from more bad loans as businesses are forced to close.

Cleveland Fed president Mester also called for more fiscal stimulus to support the fragile recovery. Goldman Sachs lowered its quarter-on-quarter GDP growth estimate for Q4 to 3% from 6%, implying the economy contracting 2.5% in the quarter. Powell and Treasury Sec Mnuchin speak later today. Also watch the weekly jobless claims numbers, with initial claims seen at 845k.

UK chancellor abandons Autumn Budget

In the UK, chancellor Rishi Sunak is abandoning his planned Budget for a short-term round of targeted measures, which he will announce later today.  This is likely to featured more targeted support for sectors like hospitality and travel. It’s clear on both sides of the pond that unless there is more fiscal support, the economic recovery will go into neutral and stall.

Only three weeks ago the government implored us to get back to the office to support city centres – what’s strange is that they did this without realising that cases would rise. Their risk tolerance for the spread is extremely low, which indicates a government operating on the fly.

Strong dollar pressures pound and precious metals lower

Dollar strength is weighing on its major peers as well as gold and silver, although the greenback’s advance just paused for a while this morning. Sterling has retreated to its weakest level for two months and is current sitting on the 38.2% retracement with the 100-day line turning into near-term resistance.

The pound remains exposed to several strong headwinds, including the risk of a no-deal Brexit, negative rates and a deeper and longer-lasting economic collapse than peers. Meanwhile gold fell below $1850 and has retreated 10% from the recent all-time high but found support at the 100-day DMA. Silver has broken the trend line after some very nasty price action over the last few days, but it too has found support around its 100-day line.

Chart: Cable holds 1.2690 for now, 100-day line becomes resistance

Chart: Dollar index advances with three white soldiers candle formation and possible gap close to 96?

Chart: Silver test 100-day line

Broad rally for equities as UK goes for lockdown-lite, Tesla fails to spark, precious metals under pressure

European markets rose 1% in early trade on Wednesday, extending mild gains from the previous sessions following the steep selling on Monday. Yesterday, the S&P 500 rose 1%, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.7%, whilst markets across Europe were a little more mixed with London and Frankfurt higher but Paris lower.

Today sees solid bid across sectors and bourses with a slate of manufacturing and services PMIs in focus. The FTSE 100 recovered the 5,900 level, with even IAG and easyJet getting in on the action, rising 6% each. Safe-haven play Fresnillo was off by a similar margin as silver and gold prices come under a good deal of pressure again today.

There is no clear evidence for the airlines to rally except that perhaps there was an overreaction earlier in the week.

PMIs underline the fragility of the recovery

I will issue the usual caveat about extrapolating too much from these diffusion indices, but they do highlight an interesting trend. The manufacturing sector can sustain a recovery as firms can work out how to function in the new environment, but it’s harder for many service sector businesses to operate at all, which drags on the number.

Service sector companies are also much more exposed to the caprice of lockdowns. Both German and French services PMIs came in under 50, indicating contraction (survey respondents think things are worse than the month before), while both countries’ manufacturing PMIs pointed to expansion.

The UK is heading for a second lockdown-lite

This will dent the recovery and hit some sectors especially hard, but perhaps more importantly this is spurring the chancellor into action. With the furlough scheme slated to end in October, there is a risk of a jobs calamity even without further lockdown restrictions, which are a possibility.

Rishi Sunak is reported to be working on new plans to support jobs, which may ease worries among investors that the UK economy could fall off a cliff for a second time just as the Brexit process reaches its finale.

Individual stocks are putting some very big moves daily which only indicates the kind of dislocation in market pricing, uncertainty about the path of the pandemic and the fact that no one really knows where a lot of these securities ought to be trading.

Whether it’s value or growth, tech or travel, the unevenness of both the recovery and government policy means it’s hard to know what a fair value is. Trying to extrapolate a narrative to fit all of this is often a fool’s errand.

Tesla stock tumbles after Battery Day reveals fall flat

A case in point: Tesla shares fell over 5% and extended their decline by a further 7% in after-hours trading, despite Elon Musk outlining the company’s plans to halve the cost of battery manufacturing and market an electric car at $25,000. The new battery tech would deliver 16% more range and x6 more power, but the company said production in volume is three years away.

There is some debate about whether Tesla’s Battery Day announcements amount to incremental or revolutionary changes to battery technology, but two things are clear: Tesla has not suddenly acquired warp speed capability, but clearly the company has a roadmap to cheaper, longer life battery technology that it will make itself and will allow it to lead the EV field for a while longer.

Panasonic and other suppliers were hit with Tesla planning to make its own battery. Nevertheless, given all the anticipation around a potential game-changer in battery technology, investors were a little underwhelmed by the news. Tesla’s Frankfurt-listed shares declined 7% at the open, before paring losses a touch.

Nike climbs as online sales surge, Ant Group takes another IPO step

Nike shares shot higher after-market following an 82% rise in online sales, with the company expecting to benefit from a permanent shift to direct online sales. EPS of $0.95 beat the $0.47 expected, on revenues of $10.6bn vs the $9bn expected. Nike continues to benefit from its strong brand presence that is akin to Apple in the smartphone space, as well as large investments in its web and mobile platforms. Shares in Adidas and Puma rose about 4% on the read-across.

Ant Group took a step closer to its mega-IPO after it submitted documents for registrations of the Shanghai side of the listing. The company plans to list both on Shanghai’s STAR Market and in Hong Kong, with valuation estimates in the region of $250bn-$300bn.

Cable softens, BoE Baily fails to quell negative rate fears

In FX, GBPUSD traded under 1.27 in early European trade after the downside breach of the 200-day EMA presented bears with an obvious momentum play. Yesterday’s move under the 1.2760 level has opened up the path to further losses and today the pair is trading through the 100-day line and testing the 38.,2% retracement at 1.2690.

Whilst Andrew Bailey attempted some push back on negative rates, saying they are not imminent, the takeaway from his comments was that this unorthodox and dangerous tool is very much being actively considered by the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee.

Chart: GBPUSD downside exposed

The USD continues to find bid, which is weighing on gold. DXY extended its push out of the channel, forcing gold to trade under $1,900 and test the 50% retracement around $1875, corresponding with the horizontal support of the descending triangle formed by the August lows. Silver has a bearish bias after breaching the August low.

Chart: Dollar continues breakout

 

Chart: Gold tests 50% retracement

Chart: Silver breaks August lows

Palantir IPO: Direct listing moved to September 29th

One of the most hotly-anticipated public offerings of the year is happening next week. Palantir, the secretive data analytics company backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will list on the NYSE under the symbol PLTR via a direct listing on September 29th.

The company originally planned to go public on September 23rd, but recently changed the date. Registered stockholders are expecting to sell up to 257 million Class A shares.

During 2020 Q3 around 36 million shares were sold privately at a volume-weighted average of $6.45. So far this year the company has privately raised $900 million at $4.65 per share. The company’s estimated value is between $18 billion and $26 billion.

Spotify and Slack are the only two other tech companies in recent years to have gone public via a direct listing. Palantir is using the same bank – Citadel Securities – that worked with them to help advise it during the process.

How to trade Palantir

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You can get started right now with our exclusive Palantir grey market – buy or sell to speculate on the eventual market capitalisation after the stock hits the market.

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You can also trade the performance of the biggest IPOs in the last two years with CFDs on the Renaissance Capital IPO ETF. This ETF covers only new companies and is updated regularly. The most significant IPO stocks are added as soon as they list, and the ETF is updated quarterly to make sure it includes all the newest US stocks on the market.

Stocks attempt rally after selloff, sterling down on Bailey remarks, Kingfisher enjoys DIY boom

Stock markets firmed in early European trade but remain battered and bruised by yesterday’s sell-off as fears of a second wave of cases and new lockdown measures dealt a blow to risk sentiment. Selling pressure has been building for some time and the dam broke yesterday.

A recovery in the final hour of trade lifted the market off the lows so it wasn’t full capitulation, but there could yet be more downside as the S&P 500 approaches correction territory.

SPX, Dow tumble, tech strength stems Nasdaq losses

The S&P 500 declined by 1.2% and the Dow dropped 1.8% but tech stocks fared better with the Nasdaq flat for the day. Shares in Apple rose 3% and Microsoft was up 1% as some of the Covid winners showed more resilience to fears over second waves of the pandemic and fresh lockdown measures, which seemed to be the trigger.

Despite the heavy selling, bulls put in a strong finish – the Dow was down over 900 points at the low before ending –500pts. At its lows the S&P 500 plunged by as much as 2.7%. Nevertheless, the broad market is now already –6% for the month of September, has notched four straight daily declines for the first time since March, and is over 8% off its all-time high.

The FTSE 100 fell over 3%, breaching the 21-day simple moving average line. Despite the pressure the bulls just held the 5,800 round number and closed above the Sep 4th low of 5,799. The Stoxx 50 breached the July lows and is now close to its Jun bottom having sunk under its 200-day SMA. The move follows a clear period of congestion that was calling for a breakout, having been caught in an ever-narrower range.

The DAX fell almost 4.5% with heavy selling into the closing bell seen as bears tried but failed to crack the 12,500 round number as the 78.6% retracement of the Feb-Mar rout held. There were modest gains in early trade on Tuesday but the rally looks a little wobbly.

Fading hope for another round of stimulus in the US is another weight, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg over the weekend seen as a decisive blow against a bipartisan deal being achieved before the election, since it materially magnifies the polarisation in Washington. A deal will need to wait until after November 3rd.

In addition, a heavy ramp up in August with far too much hot money chasing too few shares, increasingly stretched valuations, the lack of a vaccine on the horizon and the rising risk of volatility around the US Presidential Election – and uncertainty over whether we will get a clean result – seems to have caught up with the markets.

UK government set to introduce new Covid curbs, Kingfisher gets DIY boost in Q2

The UK government is set to introduce fresh measures to ‘control’ the virus – curfews and working from home if possible. What a difference a month makes – only a few weeks ago we were being implored to get out and about to help out. It’s almost like they don’t know what they are doing.

While pub shares fell on curfew news, several earnings reports today highlight the uneven nature of the recovery so far, and the uncertain path ahead.

Tui – uncertainty over the course of lockdowns and quarantine rules is leaving holidaymakers unsure about booking in the coming months. The winter 20/21 programme has been further reduced by 20% since the Q3 update, to around 40% adjusted capacity, reflecting ‘the current uncertainty relating to travel restrictions’. TUI says it is currently 30% sold for the adjusted winter capacity.

Compared to the normal levels of prior year, bookings are currently down 59%, in line with adjusted capacity. Consumers are much happier to assume things will be ‘back to normal’ by summer 2021. Tui says bookings are up 84% but at 80% adjusted capacity, however we should caution that much of this will be pushback demand from this summer as consumers changed travel dates to next year.

Cost-cutting has helped TUI weather the storm – that and some whopping bailouts from the German government, but it and the entire travel industry needs governments across Europe to give far greater clarity over restrictions and quarantines. Shares rose a touch but the rest of the travel sector was weaker with Carnival off another –4% and IAG down –3% after a drubbing yesterday.

Kingfisher enjoyed a strong recovery in Q2 as DIYers tackled their jobs lists. This recovery has continued into Q3 to date, management say, with growth across all banners and categories. Q3 20/21 group LFL sales to Sep 19th are up 16.6%.

DIYers are driving the recovery – sales at B&Q rose 28% in Q2 on a like-for-like basis. Trade less so – Screwfix LFL sales were up just 2.4%, though they are +9.9% in Q3 so far – as the construction industry struggles to get going again. Overall UK & Ireland sales rose 2.4% in the first half despite lockdown as people rediscovered their homes and their desire for improving them. French bounced back strongly, with Q2 sales +27% vs the –41.5% decline in Q1.

First half sales were –5.9% lower. Overall H1 sales were a tad lighter but cost reductions meant adjusted pre-tax profit rose 23% to £415m, with retail margins +140bps to 9%. Shares rose 6% in early trade and have more than doubled off the March low.

Dollar climbs on Fed jawboning, BoE’s Bailey to speak today

In FX, the rollover in risk sentiment and some interesting Fed jawboning played into the dollar bulls, with DXY sustaining a breach of the channel on the upside and clearing its 50–day SMA, which had been a key point of resistance last week. Gold retreated under $1,900 at one point with the stronger dollar weighing.

The Fed’s Bullard said the US has done enough on the fiscal front, whilst Dallas Fed president Kaplan stressed that the Fed should not keep its hands tied by committing to ZIRP forever even if the economy bounces back. Powell stressed that the Fed will use all its tools to do whatever it takes.

More Powell today plus Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, who said in remarks this morning that the recovery in Q3 has been ahead of expectations but stressed that the hard yards are ahead.

All the market wants to know is whether negative rates are coming or not – he said the Bank has looked ‘very hard’ at the scope to cut rates further, including negative rates. So this was not the attempt to distance the MPC from the negative rate comments in last week’s release to give the central bank more flexibility. As the MPC indicated last week, Bailey wants to leave negative rates on the table.

GBPUSD was under fresh pressure under 1.28 and could be set up for a bear flag continuation with a possible dive back to 1.22. If this holds, bulls need to clear 1.30 to be encouraged. The key test is the 200-day EMA around 1.2760 which was tested last week and held, encouraging a rally back to 1.30. Cable shed this support in the early European session as Bailey got on the airwaves – one to watch today with the 100-day the last line of defence.

Week Ahead: Tesla Battery Day to spark investor interest

Tesla hosts its long-awaited and much-hyped Battery Day on Tuesday, with investors eyeing a possible game-changing technology announcement. Meanwhile the economic data stream flows with flash PMIs for the Eurozone, a Reserve of Bank of New Zealand interest rate decision and the weekly US jobs report.

Fed chair Jay Powell and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey are both due to speak in the coming days after last week’s FOMC and MPC meetings. 

Tesla Battery Day

Tesla’s 2020 annual meeting of stockholders will be held on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 13:30 Pacific Time. Immediately after this meeting, Tesla will hold the Battery Day event, which has been generating equal amounts of speculation in the shares as in what CEO Elon Musk may be about to reveal. 

Our full guide to the event can be found here.

How is the economic recovery going?

Is the global economic recovery losing momentum? Whilst the snapback after lockdowns was the easy bit, it’s going to be much harder to get back to 2019 levels. Marginal gains are becoming harder to come by and some high frequency economic indicators are starting to level off. Eurozone PMIs for instance, have started to soften.

The latest round of flash manufacturing and services surveys for the Eurozone, UK and US are due on Wednesday. Meanwhile traders will be watching the weekly US jobless claims numbers as closely as ever on Thursday, while US durable goods orders on Friday offer a useful leading indicator of business demand.

How are central banks responding?

Last week the Federal Reserve and Bank of England signalled they are ready to do more as required and interest rates are set to stay low for a long time. This week sees the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in action after the country posted its worst recession in decades.

The country’s economy shrank by 12.2% between April and June, the steepest decline since the current system of measurement began in 1987 as strict national lockdown measures crippled activity.

The RBNZ has been looking at negative rates with assistant governor Christian Hawkesby saying last month that the central bank is “preparing the groundwork” for additional policy tools, which include negative rates. Will they make the leap now, or will they gauge that the economy will bounce back thanks to the very low number of cases? 

Highlights on XRay this Week 

Read the full schedule of financial market analysis and training.

15.00 UTC 21-Sep Tesla Battery Day Preview
17.00 UTC 21-Sep Blonde Markets
17.00 UTC 22⁠⁠⁠-⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Sep Webinar: Identify Trends and Choose Technical Indicators
14.45 UTC 24⁠⁠-⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Sep Master the Markets
17.00 UTC 24⁠-⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Sep Election2020 Weekly

Key Events this Week

Watch out for the biggest events on the economic calendar this week. A full economic and corporate events calendar is available in the platform.

06:00 UTC 

22-Sep  Kingfisher – Half-Year Results 
14.00 UTC  22-Sep  Eurozone Consumer Confidence 
02.00 UTC  23-Sep  Reserve Bank of New Zealand Rate Decision 
07.15 – 08.00 UTC  23-Sep  Eurozone Flash Services / Manufacturing PMIs 
Pre-Market  23-Sep  General Mills – Q1 2021 
08.30 UTC 23-Sep  UK Flash Services / Manufacturing PMIs 
14.30 UTC 23-Sep  US EIA Crude Oil Inventories 
23.50 UTC  23-Sep  Bank of Japan Meeting Minutes 
08.00 UTC  24-Sep  German Ifo Business Climate 
Pre-Market  24-Sep  Accenture – Q4 2020 
12.30 UTC 24-Sep  US Weekly Jobless Claims 
14.30 UTC  24-Sep  US EIA Natural Gas Storage 
After-Market  24-Sep  Costco Wholesale Corp – Q4 2020 
11.00 UTC  25-Sep  Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin 
12.30 UTC 25-Sep  US Durable Goods Orders 

 

Stocks softer as UK mulls second lockdown

Boris Johnson says a national lockdown would be disastrous, but his scientific advisers are proposing a two-week lock-up in October. A new risk-averse religion with devotees kneeling to the great NHS deity has been born.

The question is whether the government decides to ‘follow the science’ or not. Cases are certainly up, but the number of tests being carried out daily is exponentially higher than it was in March and April. The worry, of course, is that there is a lag of a couple of weeks and the rise in cases we have seen translates into a spike in hospital admissions in a fortnight.

British shoppers are a robust lot. UK retail sales rose 0.8% and are now 4% ahead of February’s pre-pandemic levels. When you can’t do things like go on holiday you can buy stuff, like DIY materials.

Home improvement spending drove sales of household goods to rise by 9.9%. We will see just how this translates into companies when Kingfisher reports half-year results next week.

Consumer spending is a big driver of the economy, but unfortunately a V-shaped recovery in retail sales is only part of the picture and we are yet to see what happens as the furlough scheme ends and real permanent unemployment rises.

Equity markets fell, with chatter about a vaccine more conservative and hopes of any delivery in volume really focused on next year and not by the end of October, despite what Donald Trump says. What we might have by the end of October is some really compelling results from clinical trials, which might be enough for markets.

Donald Trump is pressing House Republicans to up their offer for another round of stimulus.

European stocks were broadly lower on Friday, with the FTSE 100 again looking around the 6,000 level. The S&P 500 down almost one per cent and again testing its 50-day line. The Nasdaq dropped over 1% to close under its 50-day moving average.

Snowflake fell, with the stock declining 10% after the frenzied first day of trade led to some profit-taking. Tesla was down 4% ahead, but remains up this week ahead of the Battery Day event next Tuesday.

Jobless claims in the US improved slightly, the picture remains troubled and one of a slower recovery. Initial claims fell marginally to 860,000, but this is still very high. Unemployment remains high at 8.6%, albeit this was a drop from 9.3% the previous week.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 29 was 29,768,326, an increase of 98,456 from the previous week.

Bank of England edges towards further easing, ponders negative rates

Yesterday, the Bank of England kept rates on hold at 0.1% and the stock of asset purchases at £745bn, but it looks like on the cusp of delivering further accommodation. The Bank ‘stands ready’ to do more, it said, adding that will not tighten monetary policy until there is ‘clear evidence’ of achieving its 2% inflation target in a sustainable way.

With the current QE ammo due to run out by the end of the year, the Bank looks likely to expand the asset purchase programme by around £100bn in November. There were also overt references to the Bank actively considering negative rates, which hit sterling and sank gilt yields and saw money markets pricing in negative rates this year.

Cable recovered some ground after the BoE-inspired drop as the dollar reversed course, with GBPUSD rising back to its 50-day SMA at 1.30. DXY hit resistance at the 50-day and the longer-term downtrend reasserted itself, although for now the dollar remains in a non-trending sideways pattern. We await to see whether this is the bottom or a pause (bear flag) before the next leg lower.

Oil prices climbed again after the OPEC+ meeting revealed Saudi Arabia’s determination to keep the alliance together and conforming with the production cuts. WTI (Oct) rose above $41, the highest in two weeks.

There were words of warning for traders from Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi energy minister, who said anyone gambling on the market would be ‘ouching like hell’, in reference to a question over whether OPEC+ would taper cuts in December.

OPEC+ won’t say whether it will take further action to boost prices, but as mentioned yesterday, this will depend on the price, which largely will be a factor of sentiment based around demand.

Tesla Battery Day primer: Can Musk deliver as TSLA rallies on event hype?

Tesla Battery Day primer

  • Battery Day event scheduled for Sep 22nd
  • Signs of speculative buying ahead of event
  • Elon Musk hints at more energy dense batteries

Investors are charged up with excitement ahead of Tesla’s Battery Day event. Shares have rallied about 25% in the last week after the stock tapped on the 50-day simple moving average following some heavy selling in the middle of the Nasdaq’s early September pullback.

This of course followed disappointment at missing out on S&P 500 inclusion, and some very aggressive bid that took place in and around the stock split. So is Battery Day all hype, or is there something to it?

Tesla’s 2020 annual meeting of stockholders will be held on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 13:30 Pacific Time. Immediately after this meeting, Tesla will hold the Battery Day event.

CEO Elon Musk, in his usual caution, said in January that the event will ‘blow your mind’. Recently he toned it down a bit, teasing ‘many exciting things’. Whilst we should always take his pronouncements on Twitter with a pinch of salt, clearly there is a high degree of expectation and speculation – and speculative buying of TSLA stock – taking place in the run-up to the event.

Batteries matter

To deliver on its EV promise, Tesla needs to own the battery space. Without this, it’s not so different to an OEM. Musk commented on this at Tesla’s Q4 2019 earnings call in January, explaining that in order to ramp up Model Y production, introduce the Cybertruck and launch the Semi electric truck, a lot more batteries would be needed.

“So, the thing we’re going to be really focused on is increasing battery production capacity because that’s very fundamental because if you don’t improve battery production capacity, then you end up just shifting unit volume from one product to another and you haven’t actually produced more electric vehicles,” Musk said.

And whilst Tesla has a lead in the powertrain stakes, traditional players may catch up. “It’s worth noting that the Model S has like a 100 kWh pack, the [Porsche] Taycan has like a 95 kWh pack. The Model S is steadily approaching 400 miles of range. The Taycan has 200 miles of range. So we must be using that energy pretty efficiently, and the powertrain is a big part of that,” Musk added in January.

Whilst battery production is one thing, making the batteries more efficient is quite something else. Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell, an ultra-capacitor manufacturer and battery technology business based in San Diego, is a considerable factor.

What to expect from Tesla’s Battery Day

My expectation is that Musk is about to announce if not a leap then a progression in battery technology that brings EV costs down to, or close to, traditional automobiles. It would be a surprise if Tesla were not able to say it has made further progress on batteries that are more energy dense and have a longer life.

We note for example, that on August 24th this year Musk said battery cells of 400 Watt hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) with a high cycle would be possible in volume within 3 to 4 years, way beyond the current 260 Wh/kg in the Model 3, which could indicate knowledge of some improvement coming in the Tesla batteries.

There has also been speculation that Tesla may unveil “silicon nanowire anode” technology that can greatly increase battery density and cell life. All of this remains speculation, of course.

If Tesla can both lower costs and increase battery energy density and life, it would be a significant step forward for the company and further cement its lead in the EV space. However, given the recent rampant speculation on the stock and Musk’s capacity to somewhat overstate his case, there is a considerable risk of a buy-the-rumour, sell-the-fact trade.

Tesla Stock Signals

Whilst client flows remain positive (87% bullish), analysts remain downbeat – the average price target of $300 vs the current $450 for the stock implies a 34% downside. We also note that hedge funds have been decreasing their holdings.

Baillie Gifford, one of the top shareholders, recently reduced its stake as the holding approached fund limits, but also because of fears that valuations had just got silly. Our insider signals tool also delivers a sell signal on the stock.

Markets steady before Fed meeting, Hut Group pops as IPO market shines

It’s Fed day: risk sentiment remains broadly positive but the big-ticket event is the Fed policy meeting. US stocks rose Tuesday as the two-day Fed policy meeting kicked off.

Whilst there is relative calm in markets again after the tech-led sell-off produced a correction in the Nasdaq and a 7% decline in the S&P 500, the expectation on the Fed to be very dovish may lead to volatility should the market think the FOMC isn’t offering enough detail on the future path of monetary policy.

The S&P 500 added 0.52% and managed to close above the psychologically significant 3,400 level after running into resistance at the 38.2% retracement of the early September pullback, with the 21-day SMA sitting around 3,426, which may offer a further test for bulls. The Nasdaq added 1.2% as Tesla shares rose a further 7%, extending the rally from Monday’s 12% gain.

Overnight, Tokyo was flat as Yoshihide Suga was elected as Japan’s new prime minister, replacing Shinzo Abe. European equity markets were slightly higher in early trade, though the FTSE 100 dropped.

FOMC preview: what to look for from today’s Fed announcements

There are several things to look out for from the Federal Reserve today, not least some firming up of the details around the new average inflation targeting regime.  After Jackson Hole, there were some unanswered questions for the FOMC.

There was not much in the way of detail of how the Fed plans to deliver the new AIT framework, for instance. And Powell’s speech lacked in any real specifics on the nature of forward guidance that the FOMC is clearly leaning towards – this will be an important lever of the AIT approach, so it needs to be clarified at this meeting.

Should forward guidance be based on a time horizon or specific economic data? Yield curve control has been shelved as an idea by the FOMC but remains an option should it desire. Today’s statement and press conference with Powell will be of great importance to iron out how AIT will be delivered.

Powell stressed that if ‘excessive inflationary pressures’ were to build, or inflation expectations were to rise above levels consistent with its mandate, the Fed ‘would not hesitate to act’. This gives it a degree of latitude down the line should there be a major inflation overshoot, which as noted on several occasions, is a very real possibly if expectations become unanchored.

So far, after rising sharply post the March trough in financial markets, US 10-year breakevens have levelled off, whilst benchmark bond yields have barely budged.

Fiscal stimulus in focus ahead of Fed statement

The Fed is also likely to lean heavily on the need for Congress to come up with fresh stimulus – it cannot do all the lifting here. Whilst a fifth package remains elusive, Nancy Pelosi has signalled that Democrats could delay the October recess in order to get a deal done, with the White House saying the $1.5tn package floated by the ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’ was worthy of discussion.

The Fed has not quite exhausted all its ammunition, but it’s very much in a position where it needs to wait for the fiscal support. Several Fed officials have been talking up the need for fiscal support.

There will also be updated economic projections to watch out for along with the tone the Fed strikes on the economic outlook  – we know the Fed has taken a pretty cautious view of the economy and the loss of momentum in initial jobless claims may be a concern.

Looking ahead to today’s session, US retail sales will also be closely watched and may well show a sharp slowdown after Americans’ $600 stimulus cheques stopped. UK inflation figures earlier this morning showed a sharp drop in CPI inflation to 0.5% in August from 1.1% in July, as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the VAT cut on the hospitality industry bit into prices.

Hut Group IPO

Elsewhere, Hut Group shares got off to a lively start on their stock market debut, rising to 650p in what is the biggest IPO in London this year and for several years. As noted when the filing was lodged, after a considerable ramp in tech valuations this year – eg, Ocado +100% in the last 12 months – this IPO looked like a well-timed move, at least on the part of the founder who is due a bumper £700m pay-out should all go well, whilst still remaining very much in control of the business.

The question is whether this 10% margin business deserves a tech rating. A standard listing makes it ineligible for inclusion on the FTSE index although its mooted market cap would be enough just to make the FTSE 100. Any standard listing raises eyebrows as it means no index inclusion and lower governance standards. Arcane incentive schemes and a founder share model are also suspect.

Founder Matt Moulding is also selling £54m of stock despite previously indicating he would retain all his shares. Heavy demand indicates what a tech multiple, zero per cent interest rates and a premium on growth can do for your stock.

Indeed, the IPO market continues to show considerable strength, which does not indicate significant signs of stress in capital markets. Snowflake, a cloud software business backed by Warren Buffett, got its IPO off cleanly at a price of $120, valuing the company at $33bn.

Apple unveiled new products, but investors were underwhelmed by products like the new iPad Air and new watches, with the shares flat on the day and ticking lower by 0.67% in after-hours trading. All investors really care about is the 5G iPhone launch, when it comes.

Oil climbs on back of large inventory draw

Crude oil prices rose after a surprisingly large draw on inventories and have now bounced over 8% from last week’s lows. API figures showed stocks fell 9.5m barrels in the week ending September 11th, much more than the narrow 1.27m barrel draw expected.

EIA figures today are expected to show a build of 2m barrels, which seems rather unlikely in light of the API report. Oil prices firmed despite OPEC and IEA reports this week indicating a slower recovery in demand in 2020 than previously forecast.

Nevertheless, prices look vulnerable to a further pullback as the near-term uptrend runs out of steam and the longer-term downtrend re-asserts itself.

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