FTSE and sterling wobble despite GDP bump, ITV sees improving ad revenues

Morning Note

Some payback and a bit of mean reversion: European equity markets slipped in early trade on Thursday as investors trimmed bets on the reopening trade.

The FTSE 100 declined around 1% at one stage but 6,300 held, whilst the DAX was holding onto 13,000. In the earlier session, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 rose and the Dow and Russell 2000 slipped a touch as investors switched back to some tech stocks – a pause in the rotation trade if you like with value handing back something to growth/momentum.

The dollar has firmed up this week, sending the euro and sterling off their highs, but the greenback was a touch softer in early trade today. WTI broke the 41.50 resistance to briefly touch a 2-month high at $43 but pulled back to the $41.50 region where the past resistance may form support.

The UK economy grew 15.5% in the third quarter as since stalled reopening of the economy saw spending and activity bounce back between July and September.

Nevertheless, the economy remains 9.7% smaller than it was before the pandemic and the November lockdown will smash the Q4 recovery.

Crucially it looks like we are not recovering as quickly as peers. A vaccine cannot come soon enough for the British economy – and for those cyclical components of the market that rely on broad economic activity returning. The good news is that the second wave appears to be cresting in Europe as lockdowns reduce the rate of increase in new cases.

Maybe Christmas won’t be cancelled.

Shares in Moderna, a US biotech company working on a similar MRNA vaccine to that developed by Pfizer, rose over 8% as expectations for its efficacy grew. Pfizer and Biontech’s vaccine was shown to be 90% effective in phase three trials. Dr Fauci said he would not be surprised to see “a similar degree of efficacy” for Moderna’s vaccine. In a statement on Wednesday Moderna said it has enough data accumulated to report on the vaccine by the end of the month.

Sterling is on the hook to a couple of pressures. Brexit talks rumble on with various sources indicating there won’t be anything until next week. The Irish PM says talks have intensified but I’m not really sure what that is supposed to mean given the proximity to the deadline. Anyway, looks like more of the same political grandstanding and posturing.

But don’t expect a breakthrough this week.

Meanwhile, negative rates hover over sterling like a spectre, but Bank of England governor Bailey said this morning that he does not have a date in mind for negative rates review outcome. In other words, it’s in the toolkit but he’s got no plans to go down that way for now.

GBPUSD retreated under 1.32 having touch a more than two-month high yesterday above 1.33.

We’ll be hearing from Bailey and his ECB and Fed counterparts Lagarde and Powell later on today as the three participate in a panel discussion at the ECB Forum on Central Banking. Riveting stuff. US initial and continuing claims due up this afternoon along with CPI inflation numbers.

ITV was trading lower after it reported a 16% drop in revenues for the nine months YTD with Studios –19% and Broadcast –13%.

Whilst it is seeing encouraging trends heading into Christmas, the outlook remains very tough both from a cyclical and structural perspective. Share of viewing was down 4%, which management blame on the volume of BBC news output – all those Witty-BoJo pressers gobbling up viewer attention for nothing.

Online viewing was down 6% with no Love Island. Maybe ITV could get Johnson and Witty and Valance and Sturgeon to do a Covid Island Special next year?

Advertising trends improved in Q3 with total advertising spend down 7% year on year. July was down 23%, August up 3%, September down 2% and October down 1% – heading in the right direction but ITV could do with some big sporting events to cover and these are not coming soon.

Q4 ad revenues are seen up year-on-year with +6% in Nov as brands compete for sofa-ridden viewer attention. Share have done well to move off the summer lows but remain in the value category.