Barclays shares pop, SPX faces big hurdle with Fed, GDP ahead

Morning Note

Barclays CEO Jes Staley reckons that after Covid-19 the idea of sticking thousands of people in a building may be a thing of the past. I heartily agree. Working from home is clearly working rather well. Also, banks are no doubt looking at this and thinking they can cut costs by closing offices, call centres and branches. Nevertheless, it highlights how bosses and government have a very hard task in exiting lockdown. Moreover, what about the Pret or the pub that depends on lunch trade from the City workers filling up these offices every day? The impact on the economy will be permanent.

Shares in Barclays popped over 5% despite the lender taking a £2.1bn credit impairment charge, five times the level of a year before. Like its US peers, trading revenues soared by 77% but this offset may be a one-off for banks as volatility returns to more normal levels. Shares were due a rally – they’ve been beaten down so much and haven’t really participated in the upturn. Investors may need to wait for dividends but UK banks could be in much better shape their share prices indicate.

The S&P 500 failed a major test yesterday as bulls stumbled amidst a blitz of earnings releases and doubts about oil prices. The broad index rallied on the open to trade above 2900 but closed lower and crucially below the key 2885 resistance at 2,863, forming a dark cloud cover bearish signal.

Futures though are higher again today, but we will need to see these levels broken decisively on a close before we consider a push to the 61.8% retracement of the drawdown at 2934. For that we will look to earnings and the US advanced GDP print – seen at -4% – but more importantly the messaging from the Fed today will be crucial for sentiment in equity markets.

Asian markets were broadly firmer overnight with traders expecting the Fed to make clear it will not remove any accommodation until the threat from Covid-19 has passed.

European indices opened strongly, building a very solid session on Tuesday that saw the FTSE 100 rally almost 2% and close above the Apr 14th swing high, but then we saw weakness creep in after half an hour’s trading outside of the UK market, which looks pretty solid as it taps on 6,000.

Italian bonds have softened after Fitch cut the country’s debt to one notch above junk. This unscheduled move followed S&P affirming Italy’s status but with a negative outlook. The yield on Italian 10-year BTPs spiked to 1.83%, the highest since Friday, and it just causes a little added worry for the ECB ahead of its meeting tomorrow. BTP-Bund spreads widened.

Alphabet dealt with a sharp decline in ad revenue growth in the first quarter as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown measures that are stifling consumer spending, but management pointed to a rebound in April and outline spending cuts that sent shares up 8% after hours.

The fact that Alphabet sees ‘some signs users are returning to normal behaviour’ does not in itself mean the global economy is anywhere near to normal. Alphabet is one of the best placed companies to grow out of the crisis and should benefit from consumers increasing screen time in lockdown and no doubt growing digital ad spend as economies recover in the latter part of 2020 and through 2021. Structural shifts boosting digital ad growth that Covid-19 is accelerating will also be factor.  Facebook and Microsoft report today.

Elsewhere, front month WTI bounced off the lows after testing $10 to move up through $14 by the European session open. API data showed inventories rising almost 10m barrels in the week to Apr 24th, but this was lower than estimates. As ever we are looking at the EIA figures with more interest. A slowing in inventory builds from the +15M we’ve seen in the last three weeks can be expected as we reach tank tops at Cushing. Expect volatility in the front month WTI to be very high until expiry.

Charts

S&P 500 looks to clear key resistance again, still worried about rolling over

FTSE 100 looks to breakout of recent range, taking out the horizontal resistance and looking to breach 6,000 but first it’s got the 50-SMA to deal with.

Week Ahead: Bumper week with FOMC, ECB, FAANGS & GDP

Week Ahead

Welcome to your guide to the week ahead in the markets. Remember you can now find all the key events affecting the markets in our new Events Calendar in the platform.

European Central Bank rate decision

Last week ECB president Christine Lagarde allegedly told EU leaders during a private video summit that the bloc could be facing a drop in GDP of up to 15%, and that their efforts to contain the outbreak have been both too little and too late. Monetary policy can only go so far, but the ECB does still have room to manoeuvre. Expansion of QE will likely be the first port of call if policymakers decide more needs to be done, but minutes from the March 18th meeting show that cutting rates was floated, too.

FOMC decision – has the Fed got any ammunition left?

What’s left for the Federal Reserve to do? Rates have been slashed to zero, and that’s where futures markets see them staying well into 2021 at least. And it’s hard to announce more QE when you’ve already committed to unlimited asset purchases. The key question is what the FOMC has left in reserve in case its vast stimulus measures aren’t enough. Will policymakers set negative rates? Will they buy corporate stocks? Will they explicitly target yields on government bonds? Markets will be looking for reassurance that policymakers still have plenty of ammunition left. 

Bumper week of earnings with Apple, Alphabet, Facebook reporting 

Netflix has already reported earnings, but this week sees the rest of the FAANG group offering up their quarterly figures. Tesla and Microsoft are also amongst the heavy hitters providing updates this week. 

US, Eurozone GDP 

We’ve seen piecemeal evidence of the impact COVID-19 has had on the US and Eurozone economies thanks to industrial data, PMIs, and business sentiment figures. But now it’s time to get the full picture, as the US and Eurozone will both publish estimates of Q1 growth. It was initially believed that moderate growth in January and February would have softened the blow from social distancing and widespread lockdowns that went into effect in March. Now the consensus is that the recession expected in Q2 arrived much earlier. Estimates vary wildly, but no matter how dire the results, the figures for Q2 are likely to be way worse.

Heads-Up on Earnings

After-Market   28-Apr   Alphabet – Q1 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Microsoft – Q3 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Facebook – Q1 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Tesla – Q1 2020  
After-Market   30-Apr   Apple – Q2 2020  
After-Market   30-Apr   Amazon – Q1 2020 

Key Events

03.00 UTC   28-Apr   BOJ Rate Decision & Outlook Report  
07.00 UTC  28-Apr  Spanish Unemployment Rate Q1 
14.00 UTC   28-Apr   US CB Consumer Confidence  
01.30 UTC   29-Apr   Australia Quarterly CPI  
12.00 UTC   29-Apr   Germany Preliminary CPI  
12.30 UTC   29-Apr   US Advance GDP QoQ  
14.30 UTC   29-Apr   US EIA Crude Oil Inventories  
18.00 UTC   29-Apr   FOMC Rate Decision  
09.00 UTC   30-Apr   Eurozone Flash GDP  
11.45 UTC   30-Apr   ECB Rate Decision and Statement  
12.30 UTC   30-Apr   US Initial Jobless Claims  
14.30 UTC   30-Apr   US EIA Natural Gas Storage 

Tech stocks under pressure

Morning Note

Markets remain on the hook to the trade war rumblings, but a new war has opened up that threatens equity investors – a war on tech. What the Fed threatens to give, the DoJ takes away.

Yesterday we saw a soft start in the US before the ISM print missed and investors raised bets the Fed will cut rates this year. But the Fed put was not enough to fight the tide off tech woes. 

Fangs are under severe pressure amid fears they are in the crosshairs of trust busters. The DoJ and FTC are marking targets and loading up. Whilst it’s far too early to say if any would, or could, be ripe to be broken up, there’s a real threat this will depress multiples and mean we need to reset expectations. Given the Fangs have been at the front of the market expansion in recent years, this will act as a drag on sentiment as well.

A couple of very big moves yesterday in Alphabet and Facebook. 

Alphabet –6% – support now seen around $968, before $895 comes into play. 

Facebook –7.5% – key support seen at $159, below that we look to the $145 level. 

Calls have been growing louder and louder for the authorities to at least look at antitrust issues for the tech giants. Political pressure is building – lawmakers sniff votes in tackling big tech. The shift really happened last year with Facebook’s scandals, which broken the illusion of Silicon Valley being in it for the little guy. They’re just big corporations out to make money like any other – the politicians can smell blood. As I noted a year or two ago, I always thought Trump had the hallmarks of a Teddy Roosevelt trust-buster.  

So now we have the Nasdaq in correction territory – down 1.6% yesterday to take it more than 10% off its all-time highs. The Dow was flat, while the S&P 500 notched a decline of 0.3%. The FTSE 100 ended the day in the green, up 0.3% at 7184 with the key 7150 level holding.

Asian shares followed Wall Street’s lead overnight, and futures show European shares are under the cosh again today.

Rates

US Treasury yields continue their slide with the 10yr slipping to 2.085% and threatening to find the 2.05% level now. EURUSD has broken out of technical resistance due to the slide in yields as markets bet on a Fed rate cut. EURUSD faces resistance at 1.126/7 but having broken out of the long-term descending wedge we could now look for more gains. Has the dollar rally ended? Well it all depends on the Fed. 

Today’s Jay Powell speech is now key to market sentiment after dovish comments from James Bullard yesterday. 

St. Louis Fed boss James Bullard – a voting member of the FOMC – says a rate cut may be warranted soon. He talked about a sharper than expected slowdown. He also discussed a cut as insurance – some sense the Fed is seeking to get ahead of the curve – too late! Over to Powell later today.

Bullard has always been one of the most dovish members of the FOMC – the market may have massively miscalculated the US central bank’s view of the economy, inflation and risks to its forecasts. I rather think the Fed will be a lot less ready to ease than the market thinks, and this suggests a significant decoupling between the Fed and market expectations.

EZ inflation

Ahead of this we have the Eurozone CPI print. The last reading showed inflation rose to a 6-month high in April at 1.7%, whilst core price growth rose to 1.3%. However, this uptick seems to be down to one-offs and the core read is expected to revert to trend around 1% in May, with the headline print at 1.4%. 
 

Woodford shut – worse to come? 

Neil Woodford has suspended trading in the Woodford Equity Income. Woodford has clearly made a series of poor investment decisions. Out of love UK stocks with entirely domestic may have been ultra-cheap, but they’re still unloved and still cheap. Provident has been a disaster. Kier, whose shares tumbled 40% yesterday, also disaster. It’s been a tough few years for Woodford and things look like they will get worse still. 

RBA cut 

No surprise the RBA cut rates, it had been fully priced in. The question now is how many more? The statement didn’t tell us anything new. No indication there will be more this year. Worth noting the RBA’s own forecasts are predicated on 50bps of cuts so we’re only half way there. Watch the data. AUDUSD has gained a few pips post the statement, with little detail on future cuts likely to give the bulls some hope. Resistance at 0.6990, the 38.2% Fib level, tested and rejected.

Retail sales

UK retail sales fell off a cliff in May – down 2.7%. This is the worst ever decline in retail sales and will hit the sector today.

Morning note: SPX record intra-day high, China data soft, Alphabet miss

Equities
Forex
Morning Note

The S&P 500 notched up a fresh record high as spending and inflation data showed lots of the former and not much of the latter. Stand down on the stagflation klaxon, prints like yesterday’s are good for risk and keep the Fed on the leash. Meanwhile corporates are beating on earnings and we now may be set to avoid the earnings recession which was expected.

PCE inflation, the Fed’s preferred gauge, came in at 1.6%. Spending was much stronger with consumer spending +0.9%, the fastest growth since 2009. FOMC meeting decision tomorrow will likely not offer too many surprises. Without inflation really coming through there is not the pressure on the Fed to raise rates. Markets though are still – in my view – underestimating likelihood of a hike this year. Policymakers will have to acknowledge the risks to financial stability and the impressive Q1 GDP print. 

The S&P notched up a fresh intra-day record high

Data from China overnight is bad for risk. China manufacturing activity was weaker than expected overnight, with the April purchasing managers indices disappointing. The official PMI came in at 50.1, whilst the Caixin number was 50.2. The gauges are barely in expansion territory and having jumped in March, the figures are a bit of a disappointment. Export orders were weak and it all rather suggests there could be a bit more softness to come.

Eyes now on flash data from the Eurozone for any clues about a rebound in the global economy. Don’t hold your breath.

Alphabet earnings miss forecasts

Alphabet earnings were a big disappointment as revenue growth missed expectations. More competition for sure is a factor as the likes of Amazon and Facebook March forwards. Google will have to get used to competition more – last quarter’s report was a bit of heads up on that front and this quarter’s numbers confirm it.

A tough comparison to last year was also a factor as changes to YouTube a year ago delivering a boost then that was not repeated this year. FX headwinds were also a big factor in the slower revenue growth and should not be ignored. Sales of the Google Pixel have also proved disappointing.

Overall, revenues rose 17% yoy, to $36.3bn, the slowest pace in three years and well short of the 20% expected. Income beat, though, with EPS at $11.90 versus the $10.53 expected, excluding a EU fine of €1.7bn, which brought earnings down to $9.50 a share. Shares in Alphabet were down 7% in after-market trading having hit a record high earlier. The market may be punishing Alphabet just a little harshly when you consider the impact of FX headwinds in these numbers.

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