Stocks weaker post-Fed, Bank of England, OPEC+ meetings ahead

Wall Street fell and Asian equities followed the weak handover even as the Fed stayed very much on script with a dovish lower-for-longer message, whilst also presenting a more upbeat take on the economy in the near term.

The Fed put some meat on the new average inflation targeting skeleton that was sketched out by Jay Powell at Jackson Hole, saying it will aim to achieve inflation ‘moderately above 2% for some time so that inflation averages 2% over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2%’. But the rub is that it doesn’t see this inflation coming through until 2023 at the soonest.

There were no explicit easing measures to get there sooner, so the FOMC has only really filled in some blanks as to what we already knew, and seems content for now to wait for Congress to sort the fiscal side out before it does anything more. The lack of any real determination to get inflation up sooner seemed to disappoint for risk.

Equities lower after FOMC, dollar catches bid

Equities peaked after the statement and then progressed lower during the presser with Powell right into the close, with the S&P 500 finishing down half of one percent at 3,385, led by a decline in tech, which is about a quarter of the index, whilst energy – now a tiny c2% weighting of the index – rallied 4% as oil climbed.

The 21-day SMA offered resistance and now we are looking again to the 50-day line at 3,335, with futures pointing lower. Meanwhile the Nasdaq finished –1.25% lower with Tesla, Apple, Amazon et al falling, and is likewise trapped between its 21-day and 50-day lines, with big trend line support close. European equity markets took the cue and fell over 1% at the open as the FTSE 100 again tested the 6,000 level.

USD caught a bid as well, with the dollar index lifting from a post-statement low of 92.85 to clear 93.50 overnight, before coming off a touch to 93.30 in early European trade. GBPUSD retreated to 1.2950 having earlier hit the 1.30 level. Gold came off its highs at $1970 to test the $1940 support area.

The Fed sees unemployment at a lower level and a larger economy by the end of the year than it did in June. Real GDP forecast for 2020 was revised down to –3.7% from –6.5% in June. Unemployment is seen at 7.6% compared with the 9.3% anticipated in June. Inflation is seen picking up more than it was in June albeit the rise in breakevens has levelled off at about 1.7%.

The key takeaway from the economic projections is that both core and headline PCE inflation are not seen returning to 2% until 2023 – the Fed even had to add a year to the forecast horizon just to get this in. Given it didn’t manage to get to 2% with unemployment under 4%, there is a lack of credibility around this, even though I for one believe inflation will come through.

The Fed is in the dark and there is no more it can really do without spiralling into the abyss of negative rates. The Fed is in the dark not just because it has no control over inflation, but also because the political situation remains very unclear with regards to fiscal stimulus and the presidential election in November.

So, there is a lot of uncertainty and all the Fed can really do is continue to stress its willingness to do whatever it takes and its willingness to overlook overshoots on inflation should they emerge. I’m in the camp that does expect inflation to feed through due to the massive increase in the money supply combined with supply chain disruption and the fiscal largesse.

The Fed’s policy shift also raises the prospect of inflation expectations becoming unanchored. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic has had a chilling effect on confidence and spending may be slow to reappear, pushing down on inflation for a while longer.

US data softens, focus switches to jobless claims and Bank of England

US retail sales lost momentum last month, with sales rising just 0.6% versus the 1.1% expected, signalling the effect of the expiration of $600 stimulus cheques that made many at the lower end of the income scale better off out of work than in.

US jobless claims later today will be closely watched for signs of any improvement after last week’s disappointment. Last week’s print of 884,000, which was flat on the previous week, signalled a slow down the recovery in the labour market and worried economists.

The Bank of England delivers its monetary policy statement at midday – will it surprise by going ‘big and fast’ with more QE – as governor Andrew Bailey suggested is the best approach for central banks in times of crisis last month?

There is also speculation that the Old Lady of Threadneedle St will turn to negative interest rates to stimulate the economy. Speaking to MPs recently, Bailey refused to rule out negative rates – a policy that has systematically failed to deliver the required inflation in the Eurozone – saying that it remains in the box of tools.

I’d expect the Bank to tee-up an increase in QE in November and not further rate cuts, but it may choose to fire first and ask questions later.

Snowflake surges on IPO

Snowflake (SNOW) shares made an astonishing stock market debut. After pricing the IPO at $120, the stock flew to almost $280 in the first few hours of trading before settling at $253. The price to sales multiple of about 360 is simply astounding – a lot of future growth was priced into the stock on its first day.  It’s the biggest software IPO ever and demand was exceptionally high, and the multiples being paid even loftier.

It seems to be a story of the scarcity value of growth. It also shows just how much wild, free-flowing money there is in the market right now chasing whatever’s seen as hot and whatever offers the most growth.

We’re almost into the territory of describing these tech stocks as Veblen goods, where demand rises with the price. The IPO market is getting very frothy. We can blame/thank the Fed for this situation with ultra-low rates assured for a very long time and massive liquidity needing to find a home at whatever price that is. It’s like 1999 all over again.

London sees biggest listing in years as The Hut Group IPOs

Even London is getting in on the action with The Hut Group getting its IPO off with a swagger and a close at more than £6 after listing at £5. As noted when the listing was announced at the end of August, the valuation it deserves depends very much on your point of view.

In 2019 THG achieved year-on-year revenue growth of 24.5% to reach £1.1 billion with adjusted EBITDA of £111.3 million. The float aimed to raise £920m at £4.5bn market cap, which at c40x last year’s EBITDA and x4 sales doesn’t seem like too much to pay for this kind of growth….or does it?! The answer rests surely on whether it deserves a techy or a retail multiple.

Management forecast overall revenue growth of 20-25% over the medium term, with its tech platform Ingenuity (the capital-light growth lever) forecast to grow at 40% primarily as a result of increasing mix of e-commerce revenues as global brand owners accelerate their adoption of D2C strategies.

But revenues from Ingenuity remain relatively small – £61m in the first half of 2020, which was flat on last year and less than 10% of total group revenues. As a percentage of group revenues, the contribution from Ingenuity is going down. Again it’s the promise of growth that is appealing to investors right now.

Oil softens after FOMC statement

Elsewhere, oil was a little softer overnight as risk sentiment came off the boil after the Fed, but this came after a couple of very solid days. WTI for Oct breached $40 on the upside before paring gains but the $39.50 area has held for the time being and offered a springboard in early European trade.

EIA data showed inventories fell 4.4m barrels, contrasting with forecasts for a build. Gasoline stocks were drawn down at twice the rate expected. However, we remain concerned about the demand pick-up through the rest of the year – as all the main agencies have recently revised their demand forecasts lower.

We note also a report suggesting that OPEC is not about to panic by further cutting production – however that would depend on prices; WTI at $30 again might induce action. OPEC+ members are holding an online meeting today to assess compliance and whether additional cuts may be necessary – I would think for now they will stand pat, with the focus chiefly on compliance with current targets, which currently stands at 101%, according to sources reported yesterday.

But if prices come a lot more pressure there would likely be an OPEC+ response.

US EIA Crude Oil Inventories preview: Oil eases back with OPEC+ in focus today

Oil prices were a tad softer Wednesday having struck 5-month highs in the previous session with traders looking ahead to today’s EIA inventories, which are complicated by the OPEC+ meeting also taking place. Prices remain supported by ongoing optimism about the economic recovery with equity markets striking fresh record highs on Wall Street.  

API draw  

The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a draw in crude oil inventories of 4.264 million barrels last week, which beat expectations for a fall of 2.67m barrels. Market participants today expect the EIA to show a draw of –2.9m barrels, a smaller drop than last week’s -4.5m. 

OPEC+ meeting 

Today’s inventory figures come on the same day as the OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which is set to reaffirm the 7.7m bpd cuts.  

It follows OPEC’s latest monthly report, published last week, which indicated the cartel will continue with production cuts for longer. OPEC lowered its 2020 world oil demand forecast, forecasting a drop of 9.06m bpd compared to a drop of 8.95m bpd in the previous monthly report. But the report also sought to calm fears that OPEC+ will be too quick to ramp up production again. Specifically, OPEC said its H2 2020 outlook points to the need for continued efforts to support the market. 

Ex-divis hit FTSE, US stocks near record high, trade comes back in focus

US stocks rallied to close near its all-time highs yesterday amid what some are saying are signs of greater confidence in the economic recovery in the US. Or perhaps it’s just even speedier decoupling between Wall St and Main St. Nevertheless, bond yields pushed higher amid a faster-than-expected rise in US inflation, whilst the market is starting to focus again on trade and tariffs.

The fact that the broad stock market is at all-time highs is a testament to unbelievable amounts of monetary and fiscal stimulus – the patient is hooked, and only more drugs will do. The disconnect between the stock market and the real economy is too stark, too unjust and too indicative of a system that continues to favour capital over labour that, sooner or later, a change is gonna come.

Europe soft despite strong close on Wall Street, TUI posts earnings wipe-out

Never mind all that for now though, stonks keep going up. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% to end at 3,380, just six points under its record closing high at 3,386.15, with the record intraday peak at 3,393.52. Asian stocks broadly followed through, with shares in Tokyo up almost 2%.

European stocks failed to take the cue and were a little soft on the open, with the FTSE 100 the laggard at -1%, though 22.3pts are due to BP, Shell, Diageo, AstraZeneca, GSK and Legal & General among others going ex-dividend.

For a taste of the real economy, we can look at TUI, which said group revenues in the June quarter were down 98% to €75m. It’s a total wipe-out of earnings, but it’s not a surprise – the business was at a virtual standstill for most of the period and was only able to resume some limited operations from mid-May. Just 15% of hotels reopened in the quarter, whilst all three cruise lines remain suspended.

TUI posted an EBIT loss of €1.1bn for the quarter, taking total losses over the last nine months to €2bn, with €1.3bn due to the pandemic forcing the business to be suspended. Summer bookings are down over 80% but it has got another €1.2bn lifeline from the German government. Shares fell over 6% in early trade.

Trade in focus as US-China weekend talks approach

US-China tensions are rearing their head again. Officials meet this Saturday to review progress of the phase one deal. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow the deal was ‘fine right now’. Sticking with trade, the US is maintaining 15% tariffs on Airbus aircraft and 25% tariffs on an array of European goods, including food and wine, despite moves by the EU to end the trade dispute.

Crucially it did not follow through with a threat to hike tariffs, however it still leaves the risk of further escalation when the EU is likely to win WTO approval to strike back with its own tariffs.

Strong US CPI raises stagflation fears

Yesterday, despite the optimism in the market, there was – for me at least – some potential signs of bad news for the real economy (not the stock market, remember) with US inflation picking up faster than expected. You can read this as the economy doing better than fared as consumers return, but you can equally take a glass half empty view and see this as a major worry that prices of essentials are going to rise whilst economic growth stagnates – which can be a cocktail for a period of stagflation.

Given the enormous amount of money being pumped into the system, there is a better than evens chance we get an inflation surge even if the pandemic was initially very disinflationary. Unlike in the wake of the financial crisis, the cash is not being gobbled up in the banking system as increased capital buffers etc, but is going into the (real) economy. Moreover, it’s being done in tandem with a massive fiscal loosening.

Short-lived pullback for USD?

Year-over-year, headline inflation rose from 0.6% to 1%, whilst core CPI was up 1.6% in July vs the 1.2% expected. Food prices rose 4.6%, whilst the cost of a suit is down a lot. The risk is that inflation expectations can start to become unanchored as they did in the 1970s when the Fed had lost credibility, this led to a period of stagflation and was only tamed by Volcker’s aggressive hiking cycle.

Investor optimism is keeping the dollar in check. The dollar index moved back to the 93 mark, whilst the euro broke above 1.18 against the greenback for a fresh assault on 1.19, twice rejected lately. Sterling is making more steady progress but is well supported for now above 1.30, however the dollar’s pullback may be short-lived. Gold held onto gains to trade above $1930 after testing the near-term trend support around $1865 yesterday.

US EIA data, OPEC report boost oil

Oil prices held gains after bullish inventory data and OPEC’s latest monthly report. WTI (Sep) moved beyond $42 after the latest EIA report showed a draw of 4.5m barrels last week. Meanwhile, as noted yesterday, OPEC’s new report indicated the cartel will continue with production cuts for longer.

In its monthly report, OPEC lowered its 2020 world oil demand forecast, forecasting a drop of 9.06m bpd compared to a drop of 8.95m bpd in the previous monthly report. But the report also sought to calm fears that OPEC+ will be too quick to ramp up production again. Specifically, OPEC said its H2 2020 outlook points to the need for continued efforts to support market rebalancing. Compliance was down but broadly the message seems to be that OPEC is not about to walk away from the market.

US inflation hot, stocks keep higher as bonds slip

US inflation was a little hot and certainly has a stagflation feel about it, but this won’t be a concern for the Federal Reserve in the slightest. CPI rose 0.6% month-on-month in July, unchanged from a month before and ahead of the 0.3% expected. Year-over-year, headline inflation rose from 0.6% to 1%, whilst core CPI was up 1.6% in July vs the 1.2% expected. Food prices were +4.6% YOY, with beef +14.2%.

Fed unlikely to worry if inflation heads higher

The Fed is going to become more relaxed about letting inflation run above its 2% target. Despite the indicators in the market like TIPs and gold prices suggesting that the massive dose of fiscal and monetary stimulus we have just had, combined with a supply constraint, the output gap is still huge and the economy will run well short of its potential for many years.

So that means the Fed should and could be relaxed about headline inflation running above 2% for a time, instead prioritising the employment level, but it also means inflation expectations can start to become unanchored as they did in the 1970s, which may have longer-term implications for the path of prices and relative values for gold and stocks.

In a nutshell, if inflation expectations lose their anchors then we are faced with a stagflationary environment like nothing we have seen for 50 years. High inflation, low growth for years to come is the unwanted child of a global pandemic meeting massive government intervention.

Treasury yields nudged up with the 5yr up to 0.307% from 0.269% and 10s up to 0.69%. Gold has largely held onto gains after a sharp turnaround this morning with spot trading around $1,935 after touching $1,949 this morning. Higher yields are bad for gold, but higher inflation is so good so the CPI numbers seem to be netting out for now.

EUR/USD moves off lows, SPX eyes all-time high

Earlier in the session, Eurozone industrial production rose over 9% in June but remains down 12% from pre-pandemic levels. EURUSD has moved up off its lows despite the print falling short of the 10% expected.

Stocks were well bid heading into the US session with Europe enjoying broad gains and the FTSE 100 leading the way at +1.5%. The S&P 500 is eyeing a fresh run at the all-time highs with the index only about 1.5% short; the scores on the doors are: record intraday 3,393.52, with the record close at 3,386.15.

The market came up a little short yesterday but you just sense bulls will push it over the line sooner or later. After yesterday’s reversal traders may be a little gun shy but the bulls have the momentum. The Nasdaq remains on the back foot pointing to the kind of rotation out of tech.

Oil heads higher after OPEC report

Crude oil rose with WTI (Sep) north of $42.50 after OPEC’s monthly report indicated the cartel will continue with production cuts for longer. In its monthly report, OPEC lowered its 2020 world oil demand forecast, forecasting a drop of 9.06m bpd compared to a drop of 8.95m bpd in the previous monthly report.

This report seemed to be quelling fears that OPEC+ will be too quick to ramp up production again. Specifically, OPEC said its H2 2020 outlook points to the need for continued efforts to support market rebalancing. Compliance was down but broadly the message seems to be that OPEC is not about to walk away from the market.

US EIA Crude Oil Inventories preview: Oil erases losses on broad inventory drawdown

Crude oil has erased yesterday’s losses and Brent is close to doing so as well after private oil inventories data yesterday showed a large draw.

WTI (SEP) has gained $0.40 (1%), although remains near the middle of its recent trading range at $42.14. Brent is $0.33 (0.7%) higher to trend just above $45.00. Both benchmarks had spiked to their second-highest levels since March yesterday in the wake of the latest data from the American Petroleum Institute.

Private data shows larger-than-expected oil, gasoline draws

API data released yesterday showed a drop in crude inventories of 4.4 million barrels during the week ending August 7th. Analysts had expected a drop of 2.875 million barrels.

The figures continue to point to strong demand recovery in the US, helping to counterbalance some of the downside pressure on crude as OPEC members begin scaling up production after cutting by record levels between May and July.

Further improving sentiment was a larger-than-expected draw from gasoline inventories. Stocks fell by 1.748 million barrels against expectations of a 674,000 decline.

US EIA Crude Oil Inventories forecasts

Forecasts for the US EIA Crude Oil Inventories report suggest a drop, but as we’ve seen previously both the direction and magnitude of the change often takes analysts by surprise. Predictions for the past four weeks’ worth of US EIA data have been way off the mark in terms of the size of the change, and wrong about the direction twice.

After the API data many traders will be expecting to see a similar decline in inventories when the EIA publishes its official figures.

As well as the latest inventories data, traders can also expect fundamental updates from today’s Monthly Oil Market Report published by OPEC, and tomorrow’s Oil Market Report from the International Energy Agency.

Wochenausblick: UK-BIP im Fokus, werden Arbeitsmarktzahlen helfen, Zweifel zur wirtschaftlichen Erholung auszuräumen?

Diese Woche werden eine Vielzahl von Wachstums- und Arbeitsmarktzahlen erwartet, die das Bild zur Lage der Weltwirtschaft weiter verbessern sollten, während Sentiment-Daten Klarheit zur weiteren Aussicht schaffen könnten. Die RBNZ wird die jüngsten Entscheidungen zur Geldmarktpolitik bekannt geben und die Ölmärkte könnten eine größere Volatilität sehen, durch Berichte der Internationalen Energie-Agentur und OPEC.

Englisches Q2-BIP, geringerer Rückgang aber längere Erholung?

Die ersten Schätzungen zu den englischen BIP-Zahlen für das zweite Quartal werden am Mittwoch erwartet. Analysten haben einen Rückgang in Höhe von 20,4% in diesem Quartal vorhergesagt. Letzte Woche gab die Bank of England bekannt, dass sie davon ausgehen, dass der Q2-Fall „weniger schlimm“ als ursprünglich angenommen werden wird, obwohl die Zeitspanne für die Erholung ausgeweitet wurde.

Eine zweite Lesung des BIP der Eurozone ist ebenfalls für diese Woche geplant – die Wirtschaft fiel nach vorläufigen Schätzungen zwischen April und Juni um einen Rekordwert von -12,1%, und diesmal werden keine Änderungen erwartet.

Arbeitsmarktzahlen der Schlüsse, da Fragen zur Geschwindigkeit der Erholung wachsen

Die Beschäftigungsdaten sind nach wie vor eine der wichtigsten Messgrößen für die wirtschaftliche Erholung von Covid-19. Die Zahlen werden allerdings durch neue Einschränkungen in Großstädten und Regionen der größten Volkswirtschaften der Welt bedroht.

Die Arbeitslosenquote lieft derzeit bei 3,9%, aber einige Analysten erwarten, dass die Zahlen für Juni einen Sprung auf 6% offenbaren werden. Nach jüngsten Vorhersagen der Bank of England könnte die Arbeitslosenquote zum Ende des Jahres bei 7,5% liegen. Wir werden ebenfalls die Zahlen für die Anträge auf Arbeitslosengeld für Juli erhalten.

Auch für Australien werden die monatlichen Zahlen zum Arbeitsmarkt erwartet, während die wöchentlichen US-Arbeitslosenzahlen weiter im Fokus stehen bleiben.

Haben neue Corona-Einschränkungen Verbraucher- und Geschäftsklima getroffen?

Zahlen zum Konsumenten- und Geschäftsklima diese Woche enthalten das australisches NAB Business Confidence und Westpac Consumer Confidence, die ZEW Economic Sentiment Indizes für die Eurozone und Deutschland und den neuesten University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index aus den USA. Die Stimmung könnte durch neue Einschränkungen, die zur Kontrolle der Verbreitung des Virus eingeführt wurden, geschädigt sein.

Außerdem wichtig diese Woche, sind chinesische und amerikanische Inflationsraten sowie Einzelhandelsabsätze.

RBNZ Zinssatz-Entscheidung

Jüngste Wirtschaftsdaten deuten darauf hin, dass die Reserve Bank of New Zealand derzeit möglicherweise keine weiteren politischen Anpassungen vornehmen muss, obwohl ein Anstieg der Hedge-Fonds-Wetten gegen die Kiwi darauf hindeutet, dass das Smart Money in naher Zukunft weitere Impulse erwartet.

Q2-Arbeitsmarktzahlen zeigten einen kleinere Abnahme der Beschäftigtenzahlen als erwartet und, dank einer Korrektur der Zahlen für das erste Quartal nach oben, liegt die Arbeitslosenrate unerwartet konstant bei 4%.

Die Inflationserwartungen der Unternehmen sind ebenfalls von 1,2% auf 1,4% gestiegen, was bedeutet, dass sich die Aussichten für beide Bereiche, die die RBNZ berücksichtigen soll, verbessert haben.

IEA & OPEC Ölmarktberichte

Neben den wöchentlichen US-UVP-Rohölbestandsdaten sollten Rohstoffhändler auch auf die neuesten Ölmarktberichte der Internationalen Energieagentur und der OPEC achten.

Die jüngsten Öl-Inventurzahlen für die USA waren bullisch und zeigten in den letzten zwei Wochen eine große Nachfrage. Händler werden sich wünschen, dass die IEA und OPEC einen weiteren Anstieg der Nachfrage erwarten werden.

Highlights auf XRay diese Woche

Lesen Sie den gesamten Zeitplan der Finanzmarkt-Analyse und des Trainings.

07.15 UTC Daily European Morning Call
17.00 UTC 10-⁠Aug Blonde Markets
From 15.30 UTC 11⁠-⁠Aug Weekly Gold, Silver, and Oil Forecasts
17.00 UTC 13-⁠Aug Election2020 Weekly
12.00 UTC 14⁠-⁠Aug Marketsx Platform Walkthrough

Die wichtigsten Wirtschafts-Ereignisse

Behalten Sie die wichtigsten Ereignisse des wirtschaftlichen Kalenders dieser Woche im Auge:

01.30 GMT 10-Aug China Inflation Rate
After-Market 10-Aug Occidental Petroleum
01.30 GMT 11-Aug Australia NAB Business Confidence
06.00 GMT 11-Aug UK Claimant / Employment Change & Unemployment Rate
09.00 GMT 11-Aug Eurozone / Germany ZEW Economic Sentiment
02.00 GMT 12-Aug RBNZ Interest Rate Decision
06.00 GMT 12-Aug UK Preliminary Q2 GDP
09.00 GMT 12-Aug Eurozone Industrial Production
Pre-Market 12-Aug Tencent Holdings – Q2 2020
12.30 GMT 12-Aug US Inflation Rate
14.30 GMT 12-Aug US EIA Crude Oil Inventories
12-Aug OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report
After-Market 12-Aug Cisco Inc – Q4 2020
01.30 GMT 13-Aug Australia Employment Change / Unemployment Rate
06.00 GMT 13-Aug Germany Finalised Inflation
08.00 GMT 13-Aug International Energy Agency Oil Market Report
12.30 GMT 13-Aug Initial Jobless Claims
14.30 GMT 13-Aug US EIA Natural Gas Storage
02.00 GMT 14-Aug China Industrial Production and Retail Sales
09.00 GMT 14-Aug Eurozone Q2 GDP 2nd Estimate
12.30 GMT 14-Aug US Retail Sales
14.00 GMT 14-Aug University of Michigan Sentiment Index

Stocks firm, earnings unmask weakness, OPEC+ decision eyed

European markets moved up again this morning after stocks rallied on Wall Street and futures indicate further gains for US equity markets despite big bank earnings underlining the problems on Main Street. Sentiment recovered somewhat after Moderna’s vaccine candidate showed ‘promising’ results from phase 1 trials. It is too early to call a significant breakthrough, but it’s certainly encouraging.

Cyclical components led the way for the Dow with top performers the likes of Caterpillar and Boeing, as well as energy names Exxon and Chevron up over 3% as the index rose over 500pts, or 2.1%, its best day in over two weeks. Apple shares regained some ground to $388 ahead of an EU court ruling today on whether the company should repay €13bn in unpaid taxes.

Asian markets were mixed, with China and Hong Kong lower as US-China tensions rose, but shares in Japan and Australia were higher. European shares advanced around 0.75% in early trade, with the FTSE reclaiming 6,200 and the DAX near 12,800.

However, Tuesday’s reversal off the June peak may still be important – lots of things need to go right to extend the rally and you must believe this reporting season will not be full of good news, albeit EPS estimates – such as they are – may be relatively easy to beat.

My sense is what while the stock market does not reflect the real economy, this does not mean we are about to see a major drawdown again like we saw in March. The vast amount of liquidity that has been injected into the financial system by central banks and the fiscal splurge will keep stocks supported – the cash needs to find a home somewhere and bonds offer nothing. It will likely take a significant escalation in cases – a major second wave in the winter perhaps – to see us look again at the lows.

For the time being major indices are still chopping around the Jun-Jul ranges, albeit the S&P 500 and DAX are near their tops. Failure to breakout for a second time will raise the risk of a bigger near-term pullback, at least back to the 50% retracement of June’s top-to-bottom move in the second week of that month.

Trading revenues, loan loss provisions surge at US banks

US bank earning highlighted the divergence between the stock market and the real economy. JPMorgan and Citigroup posted strong trading revenues from their investment bank divisions but had to significantly increase loan loss provisions at their consumer banks. Wells Fargo – which does have the investment banking arm to lean on – increased credit loss provisions in the quarter to $9.5bn from $4bn in Q1, vs expectations of about $5bn.

This begs the question of when the credit losses from bad corporate and personal debt starts to catch up with the broader market. Moreover, investors need to ask whether the exceptional trading revenues are all that sustainable. Shares in Citigroup and Wells Fargo fell around 4%, whilst JPMorgan edged out a small gain. Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon and US Bancorp report today along with Dow component UnitedHealth.

UK retail earnings

In the UK, retail earnings continue to look exceptionally bleak. Burberry reported a drop in sales of 45% in the first quarter, with demand down 20% in June. Asia is doing OK, but the loss of tourist euros in Europe left EMEIA revenues down 75% as rich tourists stayed clear of stores because of lockdown. Sales in the Americas were down 70% but there is a slight pickup being seen. Encouragingly, mainland China grew mid-teens in Q1 but grew ahead of the January pre COVID level of 30% in June, Burberry said. Shares opened down 5%.

Dixons Carphone reported a sharp fall in adjusted profit to £166m from £339m a year before, with a statutory loss of £140m reflecting the cost of closing Carphone stores. Electricals is solid and online sales are performing well, with the +22% rise in this sector including +166% in April. Whilst Dixons appears to have done well in mitigating the Covid damage by a good online presence, the Mobile division, which was already impaired, continues to drag.

Looking ahead, Dixons says total positive cashflow from Mobile will be lower than the previous guidance of about £200m, in the range of £125m-£175m. Shares fell 6% in early trade.

White House ends Hong Kong special status, US to impose sanctions

US-China tensions are not getting any better – Donald Trump signed a law that will allow the US to impose sanctions on Chinese officials in retaliation for the Hong Kong security law. The White House has also ended the territory’s special trade status – it is now in the eyes of the US and much of the west, no different to rest of China. This is a sad reflection of where things have gone in the 20+ years since the handover.  Britain’s decision to strip Huawei from its telecoms networks reflects a simple realpolitik choice and underscores the years of globalisation are over as east and west cleave in two.

The Bank of Japan left policy on hold but lowered its growth outlook. The forecast range by BoJ board members ranged from -4.5% to -5.7%, worse than the April range of -3% and –5%. It signals the pace of recovery in Japan and elsewhere is slower than anticipated.

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard talked up more stimulus and suggested stricter forward guidance would be effective – even indicating that the central bank could look at yield curve control – setting targets for short- and medium-term yields in order to underpin their forward guidance.

EUR, GBP push higher ahead of US data; BOC decision on tap

In FX, we are seeing the dollar offered. EURUSD has pushed up to 1.1430, moving clear of the early Jun peak, suggesting a possible extension of this rally through to the March high at 1.15. GBPUSD pushed off yesterday’s lows at 1.2480 to reclaim the 1.26 handle, calling for a move back to the 1.2670 resistance struck on the 9-13 July.

Data today is focused on the US industrial production report, seen +4.3% month on month, and the Empire State manufacturing index, forecast at +10 vs -0.2 last month. The Bank of Canada is expected to leave interest rates on hold at 0.25% today, so we’ll be looking to get an update on how the central bank views the path of economic recovery.  Fed’s Beige Book later this evening will offer an anecdotal view of the US economy which may tell us much more than any backward-looking data can.

Oil remains uncertain ahead of OPEC+ decision

Oil continues to chop sideways ahead of the OPEC+ decision on extending cuts. WTI (Aug) keeps bouncing in and off the area around $40 and price action seems to reflect the uncertainty on OPEC and its allies will decide. The cartel is expected to taper the level of cuts by about 2 million barrels per day from August, down from the current record 9.7 million bpd. Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo had said on Monday that the gradual easing of lockdown measures across the globe, in tandem with the supply cuts, was bringing the oil market closer to balance.

However, an unwinding of the cuts just as some economies put the brakes on activity again threatens to send oil prices lower. OPEC yesterday said it expects a bullish recovery in demand in the second half, revising its 2020 oil demand drop to 8.9m bpd, vs the 9m forecast in June. The cartel cited better data in developed nations offsetting worse-than-expected performance in emerging markets. EIA inventories are seen showing a draw of 1.3m barrels after last week produced an unexpected gain of 5.7m barrels.

US Election, Recession, Brexit: What’s in store for markets in 2020 H2?

The first half of 2020 has been a wild ride. We’ve seen unprecedented moves in markets, historic stimulus efforts by both central banks and governments, and record-breaking data that grabbed headlines across the globe.

H1 has already brought plenty of drama, but what should we expect from the next two quarters? Join us for a recap of some of the biggest events in market history and a look at the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.

Coronavirus pandemic prompts worst quarter in decades for stocks

At the start of 2020 the main themes of the year looked to be the US Presidential Election, the trade war with China, and Brexit.

It seems like years ago that markets began to get jittery on fears that the handful of novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, could become something ‘as bad as SARS’. It quickly became apparent that we were dealing with something much worse, and the market was quick to realise the full, brutal, reality of a global pandemic.

The panic reached its zenith towards the end of March. As the sell-off ran out of momentum global stock markets were left -21.3% lower. The S&P 500 had its worst quarter since 2008; the Dow dropped the most since 1987 and set a new record for the biggest single-day gain (2,117 points) and single-day loss (2,997 points). European stocks had their worst quarter since 2002, with a -23% drop in Q1.

Oil turns negative for first time in history after Saudi Arabia sparks price war

Things became even more chaotic in the oil markets when, after OPEC and its allies failed to agree a pandemic response, Saudi Arabia opened the floodgates and slashed prices of its crude oil exports. Oil prices endured the biggest single-day collapse since the Gulf War – over -24%.

It was further strain for a market now seriously considering the risk that shuttered economies across the globe would hit demand so hard that global storage would hit capacity. The May contract for West Texas Intermediate went negative – a first for oil futures – changing hands for almost -$40 ahead of expiry.

Meanwhile US 10-year treasury yields hit record lows of 0.318%, and gold climbed to its highest levels in seven years, pushing even higher in Q2.

Economies locked down, central banks crank up stimulus

Nations across the globe ordered their citizens to remain at home, taking the unprecedented step to voluntarily put huge swathes of their economies on ice for weeks. Even when lockdown measures were eased, the new normal of social distancing, face masks, and plastic screens left many businesses operating at a fraction of their normal capacity.

The world’s central banks were quick to step in during the height of market volatility and continued to do so as the forecasts for the economic impact of the pandemic grew even more grim. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand all dropped rates to close to zero. Along with the European Central Bank, they unleashed enormous quantitative easing programmes, as well as other lending measures to help support businesses.

Unprecedented stimulus as unemployment spikes

Governments stepped in to pay the wages of furloughed employees as unemployment spiked – the US nonfarm payrolls report for April showed a jaw-dropping 20.5 million Americans had become unemployed in a single month. In the space of just six weeks America had erased all the job gains made since the financial crisis. The bill for US stimulus measures is currently $2 trillion, and is set to go higher when further measures are approved.

While most of the data may be improving, we’re still yet to see just how bad the GDP figures for Q2 are going to be. These, which will be released in the coming weeks, will show just how big a pit we have to dig ourselves out of.

H2: Recovery, US election, trade wars, Brexit

Markets may have recovered much of the coronavirus sell-off – US and European stocks posted their best quarter in decades in Q2 – but the world is still walking a fine line between reopening its economies and fending off the pandemic. Second wave fears abound. In the US in particular, economic data is largely pointing to a sharp rebound in activity, but at the same time Covid-19 case numbers are consistently smashing daily records.

These key competing bullish and bearish factors threaten to keep markets walking a tightrope in the quarters to come. Because of this, progress in the race to find a vaccine is closely watched. Risk is still highly sensitive to news of positive drug trials. The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner life can return to normal, even if the world economy still has a long way to go before it returns to pre-crisis levels.

US Presidential Election: Trump lags in polls, Biden threatens to reverse tax cuts

The biggest talking point on the market in the coming months, aside from coronavirus, will undoubtedly be the US Presidential Election. The stakes are incredibly high, especially for the US stock market, and Democrat nominee Joe Biden intends to reverse the bulk of the sweeping tax cuts implemented by president Donald Trump.

Trump is currently lagging in the polls, with voters unimpressed by his response to the pandemic and also to the protests against police brutality that swept the nation. The president has long taken credit for the performance of the stock market and the economy, so for the latter to be facing a deep recession robs him of one of his key topics on the campaign trail.

Joe Biden may currently have a significant lead, but there is a long time to go until the polls, and anything could happen yet.

China trade war in focus, Hong Kong law adds fresh complications

The trade war with China would be a focus for the market anyway, but will come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the election. Thanks to Covid-19, anti-China sentiment is running high in the United States. This means Biden will also have to talk tough on China, which could mean that the damaging trade war is set to continue regardless of who wins the White House this time around.

Tensions have already risen on the back of China’s passing of a new Hong Kong security law, and coronavirus makes it virtually impossible that the terms of the Phase One trade agreement hashed out by Washington and Beijing will be carried out. Trump may be forced to stick with the deal, because abandoning it would leave him unable to flaunt his ability to make China toe the line during the presidential race. This would be positive for risk – markets were already rattled by fears that the president’s response to the Hong Kong law would include abandoning the deal.

How, when, and if: Unwinding stimulus

Even if we get a vaccine before the end of the year and global economies do rebound sharply, the vast levels of government and central bank stimulus will need to be addressed. Governments are running wartime levels of debt.

We’re looking at an even longer slog back to normalised monetary policy – something that banks like the Bank of England and the European Central Bank were struggling to reach even before Covid. There will be huge quantitative easing programmes to unwind and interest rates to lift away from zero, or potentially even out of negative territory.

Markets have been able to recover thanks to a steady cocktail of government and central bank stimulus. The years since the financial crisis have proven that it is incredibly difficult to wean markets and the economy off stimulus. There could be some tough decisions ahead, especially as governments begin to consider how they plan to repair their finances in the years to come.

Brexit deadline approaches, impasse remains

There is also Brexit to consider. While the coronavirus forced officials to move their negotiations online, little else seems to have happened so far. Both sides are refusing to budge and both sides are claiming that the other is being unreasonable. The UK does not want an extension to the transition period, and the two sides are running out of time to agree a trade deal.

We’ve seen before that both Downing Street and Brussels like to wait until the last possible moment to soften their stance. However, the risks here are higher because before there was always the prospect of another extension.

The last time negotiations were extended the battle in Westminster shocked the UK to its constitutional core. The Conservative landslide victory of 2019 gave Boris Johnson a much stronger hand this time around – the UK will leave in December, regardless of the situation.

Stay on top of the biggest events in H2

Whatever happens in the coming months, we’ll be here to bring you the latest news and analysis of the top developments and market events via the blog and XRay.

Stocks, shopping and borrowing all rise

Stocks are firmer on Friday though major indices continue to show indecision as they rotate around the 50-60% retracement of the recent pullback through the second week of June. Economic data remains challenging and in the US at least there are fears about rising case numbers.

US jobless claims were disappointingly high, missing expectations for both initial and continuing claims. Following the surprisingly good nonfarm payrolls report, the weekly numbers didn’t follow through with conviction – initial claims were down just 58k to 1.5m, whilst continuing claims only fell by 62k to 20.5m.

The slowing in the rate of change is a concern – hiring is not really outpacing firing at a fast-enough pace to be confident of a decent recovery. You would prefer to see a greater improvement given the reopening of businesses, and it suggests more permanent scarring to the labour market.

US Covid-19 cases climb, UK retail sales jump in May

Worries about the spread of the disease persist, though second wave fears are not exerting too much pressure as investors start to get used to rising case numbers – remember it’s not cases that count, it’s the lockdown and people’s fear of going out that hurts the economy and corporate earnings. California and Florida both registered their biggest one-day rise in cases. As previously stated, I don’t believe there is the will to enforce blanket lockdowns again.

UK retail sales rose 12% in May, bouncing back from the 18% decline in April as we rushed to DIY stores but are still 13% down on February levels before the pandemic struck these shores.  Australia also posted a strong bounce in retail sales of more than 16%.

Will US quadruple witching boost volatility for range bound stocks?

Stocks were broadly weaker yesterday in Europe and the US. Shares across Europe have opened higher on Friday and remain set to end the week up. As per yesterday’s note, the major indices remain in consolidation mode around the middle of the range from the Jun 8/9th peaks to the Jun 15th lows. The S&P 500 finished at 3115, on the 61.8% retracement of the move.

Trading around the 6240 level this morning the FTSE 100 is similarly placed but also flirting with the 50% retracement of the Jan-Mar drawdown. Remember it’s quadruple witching in US when options and futures on indices and equities expire, so there can be a lot more volume and volatility.

UK public debt is now higher than GDP, official data this morning shows. That’s not happened since the 1960s as the nation recovered from the second world war and highlights the damage being wrought on the public finances by the pandemic response. Picking up from the Bank of England yesterday, which increased QE by £100bn, the amount of issuance may require additional asset purchases from the central bank.

Sterling bears eye 1.22 in the wake of BoE decision

Sterling broke to almost three-week lows yesterday, with GBPUSD testing the 1.24 round number support in the wake of the BoE decision. This morning the 50-day simple moving average at 1.2430 is acting as support but having already broken down through the key support levels the path to 1.22 is open again. The euro was also making fresh lows for June, with the 1.12 round number holding for the time being after a breach of the 1.1230 area at the 23.6% of the 2014-2017 top-to-bottom move.

OPEC compliance promises lift oil

Oil is higher, with WTI (Aug) progressing back towards the top of the recent consolidation range close to the $40 level, which may act as an important psychological level. Iraq and Kazakhstan have set out how they will not only comply with OPEC cuts but also compensate for overproduction in May. Other ‘underperforming participants’ have until Jun 22nd to outline how they will compensate for overproduction following Thursday’s Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC). OPEC conformity stood at 87% in May and the JMMC did not recommend extending the maximum level of cuts into August.

Hopes that non-compliant nations will make up for cuts helped raise sentiment around crude and sent Brent into backwardation for the first time since the beginning of March, with August now trading a few cents above September and October contracts.

Stocks come off highs but optimism reigns, OPEC agrees cut

German and Chinese data is taking the gloss a little off Friday’s US jobs report, but the overriding sense in stock markets remains one of remarkable optimism. Speaking of which, pubs in England could reopen by Jun 22nd.

Stock markets surged last week and completed Friday by breaking through more important levels after a very strong jobs report from the US. The nonfarm payrolls report showed the US economy added 2.5m jobs in May, after more than 20m were lost the previous.

This was taken as a reason to buy stocks as it handsomely beat forecasts of 8m jobs being lost. The S&P 500 is now down just 1% for the year and trades with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of more than 23.

The report was of course hailed as a signal of American greatness – the biggest comeback in history, according to Donald Trump – and the White House even suggested it meant less support may be needed for the economy: ‘There’s no reason to have a major spending bill. The sense of urgent crisis is very greatly dissipated by the report,’ said the president’s economic advisor Stephen Moore.

Cue the Federal Reserve this week which needs to keep up the ‘whatever it takes’ mantra – does it see concern in the recent rise in Treasury yields that it needs to lean on, or will it take their recovery as a sign of optimism?

NFP boosts stocks, but recovery will still take a long time

I would like to make three points on this jobs report.

One, an unemployment rate of 13.3% is still very, very bad – 18m jobs lost over two months and a continuing weekly claims count on the rise.

Two, this was the easy bit as furloughed workers came back to their jobs as soon as they could – this seemed to happen a little quicker than had been expected but was, in itself, not the surprise. The tough part is not the immediate snap back in activity once restrictions lift, but recovery to 2019 levels of employment and productivity, which will take much, much longer.

Three, the data itself is flawed. There have been classification errors, so the real rate of unemployment may be much higher, whilst the response rate to the survey was a lot lower than usual.

Treasury yields and stocks surged – the S&P 500 went above 3200 before closing at 3193, whilst 10-year yields drove to 0.94%. Gold pulled back to its weakest level in a month.

China trade data, German industry output weigh on European stock markets

European stock markets opened lower on Monday, pulling back marginally from Friday’s peaks as Chinese trade data and German industrial production numbers weighed. China’s exports fell 3.3% year-on-year in May, whilst imports declined 16.7%.

German industrial plunged 18% last month, the biggest-ever decline.  But there is little sign risk appetite has really slackened. The FTSE 100 looks well supported now above 6400, having closed the all-important March 6th-9th gap. The DAX looks well supported at 12,700.

Crude oil gaps higher after OPEC meeting

Crude prices gapped higher at the open after OPEC+ agreed to extend the deepest level of production cuts by another month and Saudi Arabia followed this by hiking its July official selling prices by around $6, more than had been expected.

A deal among OPEC and allies, confirmed on Saturday, had already been all but announced last week. WTI (Aug) pushed up above $40 but gains have been capped with this agreement being all but fully priced.

The question will be whether there is appetite among members to extend cuts again. Those countries that have not complied with quotas in May and June will need to make up the difference in July, August and September.

Higher oil prices will encourage US shale producers to reopen taps, whilst it is unclear how well demand is coming back despite lockdown restrictions being lifted around the world.

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