Stocks steady after Q2 boom, gold breaks higher, economic data uncertain

Morning Note

The S&P rallied 1.5% to finish the quarter up 20%, its best quarter since 1998 and keeping its YTD losses at –4%. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 200pts as it continued its bounce off the 50-day simple moving average to notch its best quarter since 1987. Things were a little more mixed in Europe but again we saw the major bourses finish their best quarter in years.

Stocks rallied so sharply in Q2 for a number of reasons – chiefly stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, as well as the reopening of economies and better virus rates in most countries, though this trend has somewhat come undone in the US in the last couple of weeks. The aggressive pullback in February and March also left stocks rather oversold on a short-term basis, when considering the stimulus and relative yields to government bonds.

Meanwhile hopes of a vaccine are central if we are to see 2021 look more like 2019 than this year. For gains to be sustained in Q3 stocks require the continued support of stimulus, which remains on tap, as well as a better outlook on the virus spread and for the hard economic data to show a strong bounce from Q2, both of which could be more tricky.

Boeing declined by more than 5% as Norwegian Air cancelled an order for almost one hundred jets and competitor Airbus announced it would cut its workforce by 15,000, whilst Tesla shot 7% higher to a new record that takes its market capitalisation to $200bn for the first time. Shares in Facebook, which has come under fire lately by showboating big brands who are pulling advertising temporarily, rallied 3%.

Protests in Hong Kong signal geopolitical stress – Western powers have expressed dismay at China’s decision to pass the new national security law. The first arrests under the new law have been made – only a few hours after its imposition. The potential for this to create further unrest in Hong Kong and stoke US-China tensions will need to be monitored.

European equities traded cautiously on the first day of July and the third quarter after a mixed bag from Asia as Tokyo fell and Chinese bourses rallied. Australia was also higher as Hong Kong was shut for a holiday. The major indices remain in a broad zone between the 38.2% and 61.8% retracement of the drawdown in the second week of June.

Despite the sharp rise in cases in the US, which Dr Fauci says is out of control, Americans’ confidence is returning. The Conference Board’s index jumped by 12.2 points to 98.1, the best one-month rise in nine years. Chinese data was a little better than expected as the Caixin manufacturing PMI hit 51.2, but the Japanese Tankan survey disappointed at –34. Data points will remain mixed and noisy as we exit the crisis.

PMIs, which are diffusion indices, are particularly challenged by the speed and magnitude of the economic contraction. I would prefer to look at the hard data as it comes out over the third quarter. Economically things have rarely been this uncertain – we could be running way hotter than we think, but equally the long-term consequences could be deeper and longer-lasting than the V-shaped recovery camp would have it.

Looking ahead to today’s session, the ADP nonfarm employment report will provide a taster for Thursday’s BLS nonfarms report, while we will also be looking to the FOMC meeting minutes later for clues as to what else the Fed might be up to – there is unlikely to be anything other than ‘do whatever it takes’ mode on offer.

Gold prices rallied to fresh 8-year highs near $1790 on a technical breakout from the bullish flag formation. Real US rates remain at 7-year lows, while benchmark 3yr, 5yr and 7yr Treasury yields notched record low closes. As expressed in recent notes, gold looks to be a long-term winner from the pandemic as social and economic uncertainty favours the safe haven, whilst the vast increase in M1 and M2 money means there is a high chance – though not a certainty – of an inflation surge. Fading momentum on the CCI with a bearish divergence to the price action suggests a near-term pullback may be required – perhaps at the $1800 round number resistance – before the next significant leg higher can be made.

The rally on Wall Street upset the emerging downtrend and reasserted the range trade for the time being, with the S&P 500 finishing at 3100 in the 50% area of the June pullback.

In FX, cable bounced sharply off the 1.2250 support on the second look but remains constrained by the upper end of the channel.