Equity markets continue September slide

Morning Note

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