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Bank of England wheels for fresh charge
Central banks need to be marshalled like cavalry and stimulus like charges. If your stimulus doesn’t rout the enemy immediately, you can easily get bogged down in a melee in which you lose your advantage. The Federal Reserve keeps wheeling around and managing to rally troops for fresh charges – the corporate bond buying announcement this week was a fine example.
But increasingly the cavalry is wearying and the more this drags on the less impact the Fed’s repeated charges will have against the twin enemies of deflation and unemployment. Investors are clinging on to central bank stimulus like the Gordon Highlanders gripped the stirrups of the Scots Greys, as they rode down the French columns at Waterloo.
BoE preview: more QE on the way
The Bank of England will mount a fresh charge at the enemy formations today. Coordination is the name of the game: it needs to keep on top of the huge amount of issuance – borrowing – by the UK government. Wartime levels of debt means the BoE must expand the envelope to hoover it up or risk yields starting to rise and spreads widening.
So, the BoE is expected to increase QE by at least £100bn, but I think it may well opt for £200bn, or even more, given that even £100bn would only last it until the end of the summer and the real long-term economic problems are going to emerge later in the autumn. Interest rates will stay at 0.1% and expectations firmly anchored for the near future with forward guidance repeating that the Bank will do whatever it takes.
In order to achieve this, the government and central bank will need to coordinate throwing more money at the problem. Indications suggest furlough has been costly but only delayed a lot of the pain – a looming unemployment crisis will require further central bank support, which means more QE is likely. And don’t talk about negative interest rates – Andrew Bailey mentioned it once, but I think he got away with it. Once you go negative, it’s very hard to get back to normal.
Whilst fresh forecasts are not due until August, the Bank will likely set a more defensive tone in terms of its expectations for the recovery. As noted here on May 7th (BoE: for illustrative purposes only) the Bank’s assumptions on economic recovery seem rather optimistic.
Sterling was steady ahead of the decision. GBPUSD held around the middle of its trading range, sitting on the 38.2% retracement of the bottom-to-top rally from the May low to the Jun high. Monday’s test of the 1.2450 (50% level) remains the support whilst the upside seems well guarded by the 200-day moving average just above 1.2690 that sparked the run lower since Tuesday.
Stocks on the back foot on fears of second Covid-19 wave
Wall Street stocks fell yesterday, except for tech, whilst European markets are on the back foot this morning as investors parse new cases in the US and China. The bulls lost energy as new hospitalisations in Texas due to Covid-19 rose 11% in the space of 24hrs. Several other US states are seeing rising cases that are a worry, albeit the kind of mass lockdown seen earlier this year appears an unlikely course of action. The economic damage is too high, and we are generally better equipped to handle it.
Worries about China are also important – markets had largely not bet on a second lockdown in the world’s second largest economy.
Overall, the market swings now suggest investors are reacting to various headlines about recovery, stimulus and new cases without much clear direction as to what it all means as a bigger picture. The major indices are right in the middle of recent trading ranges, sitting around the 50-60% retracements of the move from the multi-month highs at the start of last week to the swing lows this week.
Elsewhere, the US pulled out of talks with Europe over a global digital services tax, which raises the risk of individual countries taking their own steps, in turn sparking a fresh wave of US-EU tensions. An escalation of dormant trade wars is not out of the question if EU nations and the UK decide to tax US tech giants aggressively.
This comes of course after the EU launched an anti-trust probe into Amazon. In Europe, Germany passed additional fiscal stimulus to combat the pandemic costs. This morning Angela Merkel called on the EU to agree to the Covid fund before the summer break.
Crude steady on EIA inventories data
Crude prices were steady as they hold within the consolidation pattern printed since the start of June. WTI for August was holding around the $38 marker after the EIA inventories rose 1.2m barrels, vs expectations for a draw.
This matched the API data (+3.9m) and suggests there are more supply-side pressures at present, but OPEC data indicated demand not falling as much as previously expected in the second half of the year. Meanwhile it seems Iraq is working its way towards complying with OPEC+ cuts.
Amazon stock is at record highs, and hedge funds have never been more bullish
Tech companies surged to record highs yesterday, with Amazon stock closing 2% higher at just below $2,498.00 per share. The move helped fuel another 2% gain for the NASDAQ, which is now trading within 3% of February’s all-time high.
Amazon stock has rallied over 50% from the lows struck in mid-March and is up 32% since the start of the year. Gains have been fuelled by expectations that the company is well positioned to benefit from shifts in consumer behaviour due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hedge funds bullish on AMZN stock
Hedge funds in particular have never been more bullish on AMZN stock.
Holdings increased by 8 million shares in Q1, with the number of bullish positions on AMZN amongst hedge funds rising 25% to 251. Amazon was the number one stock amongst hedge fund managers at the end of December and March.
Amongst those opening new positions in the first quarter were Jorge Lemann of 3G Capital Partners, Brad Gerstner of Altimeter Capital Management, and David Tepper of Appaloosa Management.
Amazon to benefit from shifts in consumer behaviour and company culture
Social distancing, lockdown measures, and supply shortages in bricks-and-mortar retailers drove consumers online during the first quarter, helping push Amazon sales up 18% internationally and 29% for North America. Q1 earnings, released at the end of April, showed revenue of $75.5 billion and earnings per share of $5.01 for the first three months of 2020; revenue was higher than estimates, while EPS fell short.
Amazon’s Web Services cloud computing business saw sales grow 33% during the period, surpassing the $10 billion mark for the first time. Sales growth continues to slow, but the shift to homeworking could see many more businesses needing to harness the power of the cloud to keep operations running, and this could be a long-term shift in business culture rather than a temporary measure.
Subscriptions to Amazon Prime were up as well; the combination of expedited shipping and video and music streaming proving an offer that is hard to resist while stuck at home. Advertising revenues also climbed, growing 33% to over $3.9 billion. Here, again, Amazon is set to benefit as businesses adapt to the pandemic; more marketing spend is being directed online as other channels, such as event sponsorship, dry up.
However, Amazon is known to spend big, and it looks like Q2 will be no exception. On the Q1 conference call, Jeff Bezos told investors that he expected to spend the $4 billion or more in estimated operating profit from Q2 on “Covid-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe”. The stock had fallen after hours, but fund managers are betting that the costs will help Amazon to operate more effectively under “new normal” conditions going forward.
What do Wall Street analysts say about Amazon stock?
Amazon holds a “Strong Buy” rating amongst Wall Street analysts, with a price target of $2,673.17 representing a 7% upside. Only one of 41 analysts covered by our Analyst Recommendations tool has a “Sell” rating on the stock.
FTSE 100 completes 400pt round trip this week
Stocks turned broadly weaker yesterday as investors reacted to some stinky data from Europe and the US. Overnight Asian data has also had the whiff of soft cheese that’s been left out too long. Stocks are softer once more, though most of Europe is on holiday so the focus is on London until New York opens.
The S&P 500 eased back almost 1% to relinquish the 61.8% retracement at 2934 but closing at 2912 it finished well off the lows. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 recorded their best months since 1987 as equity markets rebounded on central bank largesse, government bailouts and the outperformance of US tech over just about anything else. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 19% for the month and is nearly flat for the year. It’s shame we don’t really have any tech firms left, as nothing else is growing.
The FTSE 100 endured a terrible session, finishing 3.5% weaker as Shell tumbled, just holding onto 5900 and the 38.2% retracement of the drawdown. At Friday’s open the index shipped another 2% to break under 5800 and move back to where it opened on Monday at 5,752, completing a 400-pt round trip this week. This will be a level bulls will seek to defend. RBS shares rallied 3%, whilst Lloyds fell 4%. RBS said profits fell 59% to £288m as it set aside £800 for loan losses. But revenues were down just 1.6% at £3.2bn – Lloyds reported an 11% decline in revenues. Something doesn’t look right.
South Korean exports declined 24.3%, the worst slump in 11 years. Japanese factory activity fell to its lowest since 2009. The AIG Australian PMI dropped by 17.9 points to 35.8 in April, its largest month-to-month fall in the 28 years since it began. New Zealand consumer confidence fell 21 points in April to 84.8, where it troughed in 2008. Today’s main event will be the US ISM manufacturing PMI, which is seen declining to 36.7 from 49.1 a month ago.
Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs on China in retaliation for the coronavirus – trade tensions back on the agenda won’t be terribly positive for risk appetite but for now remains something on the margins. But the US and Europe will demand China steps up – if we talk about what permanent changes are taking place or what trends have accelerated sharply, then deglobalisation has to be at the forefront.
Apple shares declined in extended trading after it reported a slowdown in revenue growth and declined to offer guidance for the June quarter. It will however continue to buy back stock and increased its share repurchase programme by $50bn. Revenues from iPhones declined 7% to $29bn, but Services revenues rose 16% to $13.3bn. Overall revenue growth was down to +0.5% vs 9% in the previous quarter.
Amazon shares also dipped after hours as it warned massive costs incurred because of Covid-19 could lead it to a first quarterly loss in 5 years. Amazon always spends big when required and is prepared to make the investment at the expense of short-term earnings per share metrics.
Despite these results, both Apple and Amazon are in the camp where you think they will be thriving under the new world order. More smartphone time – yes, more home delivery – yes, more cloud servers required – yes.
Crude oil continues to find bid with front month WTI running to $20 before dropping back to $19. Crude prices are stabilising as OPEC+ cuts begin to take effect this month, potentially easing the supply-demand imbalance. Markets are also more confident about US states reopening for business, which will fuel demand for crude products like gasoline. Texas oil regulators don’t seem prepared to mandate production cuts, with chairman Wayne Christian against plans for 1m bpd reduction.
In FX, yesterday saw a pretty aggressive 4pm fix as we approached the month end. GBPUSD made a big-figure move and rallied through 1.25 and beyond 1.26 but turned back as it approached the Apr 14th swing high at 1.2650 and the 200-day SMA. It looked an easy fade but the euro also spiked but has held its gains, with EURUSD trading at 1.0960, having briefly dipped to 1.0830 after the ECB decision.
GBPUSD fades after hitting near-term resistance
EURUSD – clears 50-day SMA, looking to scale Apr 14th high
Week Ahead: Bumper week with FOMC, ECB, FAANGS & GDP
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|
|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|
Week Ahead: Covid-19 earnings season, Amazon & Netflix to report
Amazon surged to a record high last week as markets bet that the company is well positioned to weather the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown has forced even more consumers to switch to online shopping, and the surge in demand has seen Amazon go on a huge hiring spree, adding 100,000 new workers in March and announcing plans for another 75,000 hires. Cowen Analyst John Blackledge believes Amazon may have witnessed a surge in demand during March equivalent to its annual Prime Day members sale.
The tedium of lockdown is likely to have driven up subscription rates for its video and music streaming services and its Kindle library as well. Guidance will show how sticky Amazon expects these new customers to be once lockdown measures are lifted.
Remember, you can follow the biggest earnings season stories with our daily coverage on XRay.
Streaming service Netflix is expected to reveal a huge surge in subscriber numbers when it reports earnings this week. Expectations that Netflix will continue to see its popularity surge over the coming months drove the stock to a new record high last week. Even after lockdown is over, the consumer shift towards streaming services is likely to remain, as social distancing and fear over a resurgence in COVID-19 cases keeps people away from cinemas – and going outdoors in general.
UK and US jobless data
There are plenty of predictions for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic upon the world’s leading economies, but markets continue to be hounded by fears that these might not be pessimistic enough. More labour market data from the UK and US this week could heighten or assuage those concerns.
In the UK, thanks to the government’s pledge to pay the wages of furloughed workers, the unemployment rate isn’t expected to climb more than a percentage point during 2020. In the US, economists believe 20 million Americans will file new jobless claims during April. A sharper or softer rise than expected in either of these metrics will cause markets to reprice their expectations that these forecasts will be met or exceeded.
Will markets focus on shape of recovery as PMIs slump?
Business activity across the Eurozone and the UK plunged to record lows last month, and we know there’s more bad news to come. The Eurozone composite could drop as low as 20 during April, with the UK reading predicted to slump to 21. The real question is whether markets believe the recovery from this downturn will be a rapid one – confidence in a sharp pullback could soften any negative reaction to another round of gloomy PMIs, assuming markets are in an optimistic mood.