Stocks decline further on inflation scare

Morning Note

Another sell everything kind of day: A hot inflation print from the US has left stock markets around the world nursing losses. CPI inflation rose to 4.2% last month, the strongest reading since 2008. The month-on-month increase in the core reading of 0.9% was the raciest since 1982. All else equal, higher inflation readings are headwinds for equity markets, underscoring the broad market trend of the last month as investors unload tech/growth/momentum. The reaction can be generalised as higher yields, high volatility and stronger dollar (not that I think the last of these will last) and risk assets beaten down, although reflation plays outstripped growth/momentum, as you would expect from a rising inflationary environment. The S&P 500 declined 2% to touch its lowest level since the start of April, with only energy holding above its head above water. Futures imply another downbeat session. Asian shares declined overnight. 


As noted earlier this week, if this is a repeat of the tech bleed-out we saw in September, then a 10-15% decline from the highs could take NDX back to test the March low around 12,200, or another 5% roughly from where it closed last night. The 200-day SMA should prove a big support at 12,450 first.  Tesla shares fell over 4% to move closer to the March low, with further losses indicated in pre-mkt. ARK’s Innovation ETF fell almost 4% to notch a fresh 6-month low. Bitcoin skidded about 10% lower to $46k before steadying around $50,500 after Elon Musk said Tesla is no longer accepting Bitcoin as payment, citing environmental concerns (uh, I think it’s been well understood for a long time that bitcoin mining uses a heck of a lot of energy, but how can we expect Musk to get this straight away..?)


European markets are in the red again as we see yet more indiscriminate selling hitting even some of the most obvious reflationary plays. I would characterise this less as a rotation than a capitulation with everything being offered. The FTSE 100 dropped around 2% to trade under 6900, hitting a low of 6,843, meaning it’s trading about 300pts off Monday’s post-pandemic peak at 7,164 and at its lowest ebb since the first week of April. Stairs up, elevator down. Basic resources, energy and tech are the biggest fallers, with defensives utilities, healthcare and real estate down less, but still lower. The big miners and oil majors trade about 3-4% lower in early trade with oil easing off a two-month high.


Looking ahead, inflation risks will continue to dominate the story around growth and value. US 10-year yields trade close to 1.7% in the biggest move in a couple of months, giving a lift to the USD and weighing on gold a tad, which has retreated from the 38.2% Fib level at $1,832 to around $1,815. US weekly unemployment claims will be watched closely, but not perhaps as closely as today’s 30-year bond auction. The more inflation weighs on the outlook the more pressure we see on risk assets – but for now the Fed looks to be calm and steady.


Burberry shares fell 8% to the bottom of the FTSE 100 even as it reported an acceleration in the recovery in the fiscal fourth quarter to the end of March, driven by double-digit growth in China, and reinstated the dividend. The negative reaction to the shares seems to be on the 11% decline in full-year revenues and 9% drop in adjusted profits, whilst the company also warned on higher costs impacting margin growth.  


BT’s shares fell 3% as its full-year earnings before nasties came up a little light and guidance on free cash flow for 2022 was well below market expectations. A meatier target for rolling out fibre broadband means higher capital expenditure than previously anticipated. BT said it is aiming to rollout fibre to 25m households by 2026, 5m more than before. Capex will rise to almost £5bn next year, above estimates. For the year ahead, management are guiding Ebitda of £7.5bn-£7.7bn. Over the last year Ebitda declined 6% to £7.4bn, whilst reported profit fell 23% to £1,8bn.  Free cash was down 27% over the year to £1.5bn, though this was at the top end of guidance.