Risk rolls over in early US trade

Commodities
Equities
Forex

Risk appetite has well and truly rolled over. US stocks moved lower in the first hour of trade and continued to leg it south, while oil prices swan dived amid a very messy picture for global markets on Thursday afternoon.  Walgreens Boots Alliance shares dragged on the Dow as the stock fell 9% after reporting weaker-than-forecast earnings amid some serious weakness in the UK. The dollar found bid as risk appetite turned south, hurting FX majors like GBPUSD and EURUSD.

Supreme Court rules on Trump tax records

Risk sentiment was a bit shaky anyway but it seemed to take a hit as Donald Trump suffered a defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court – not his favourite institution of late. The Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump’s finances and tax returns are fair game and should be seen by the Grand Jury, but it threw out rulings that allowed 3 Democrat-led Congressional committees to obtain Trump’s financial records.

This ruling relates to alleged hush money to women who have claimed to have had sexual relations with the president – a story Mr Trump said was irrelevant. That may be so, but his tax returns may interest voters. Whilst US legal proceedings are far from my area of expertise, I understand that if only the Grand Jury sees the documents it is very unlikely that they would become public records, which could have had serious repercussions for the election. Meanwhile Treasury Sec Steve Mnuchin was also on the wires, saying the Federal government would not bail out states that had been ‘mis-managed’.

Stocks, commodities lower despite solid US jobs figures

The move lower came despite some decent jobs numbers. Weekly initial jobless claims fell to 1.314m, better than the 1.375m expected and representing a decline of 99k from a week ago. Continuing claims fell to 18.06m, a drop of almost 700k and much better than the 18.9m expected. The previous week’s number was also revised down over half a million.

So, the picture in the US labour market is maybe not quite as bad as feared, but still horrendous. There is clearly a long way to go before getting back to pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, as the number of covid-19 cases rises across most US states, the numbers may well start to improve a slower rate.

At send time indices were at session lows, making new lows for the week – we could see further declines as risk appetite appears to have rolled over today. As of send time the Dow was down over 1.8% to 25,559 at the session low, whilst S&P 500 was down 1.5% at a low of 3,120, making it down for the week.

The dip on Wall Street added to pressure on European equities with the FTSE 100 down over 1.7% to a low at 6,046, taking it negative for the week. Having been bid up on Monday towards the higher end of the recent ranges for little reason we are seeing indices pull back closer to the middle of the June ranges – no conviction trade yet.

Dollar firms against pound, euro in risk-off trade

Meanwhile, sterling eased back as risk appetite soured and Michel Barnier said talks this week confirm that significant divergences remain between the EU and the UK. Sterling pulled back from its highs at the top of the new bullish channel on the news as well as the general risk-off tone but remains in a solid uptrend with GBPUSD ably supported above 1.26. Elsewhere in FX the risk rollover boosted the USD so EURUSD pulled back under 1.13.

WTI (Aug) fell sharply from around $40.50 a low under $39.30 in a very swift and long-awaited reversal – albeit probably a day late given yesterday’s inventory build. Expectations of a slower reopening in a number of US states is a worry for near-term sentiment and I have been calling for a reversal based on the technical set-up, which could see a return to the neckline at $35.

Stocks tread water, US jobs numbers on tap

Morning Note

Caution is the order of the day. European stocks are mixed after falling for the second session in a row on Wednesday. Asian share ticked up overnight, with China continuing to charge. Wall Street rose on Wednesday but overall the major indices are still well within their June trading ranges.

Nine-year high for gold, Fed cautious on economic outlook

Gold broke out to its highest level in nine years, breaking free from the $1,800 psychological resistance to clear $1818 at one point. The path is open to further gains, albeit we have just seen real interest rates come back in a touch. Nevertheless, the outlook for gold remains constructive – lower real yields, worries about inflation emerging down the line, and broader economic uncertainty all combine for a perfect environment for gold bugs.

Fed officials are increasingly sounding cautious. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said whilst businesses might have had decent order books and pipelines of work to keep them going, new orders are not coming on stream fast enough. Fiscal payments are coming to an end and it is not clear what will replace them. The US may well need to extend and pretend.

Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren said: ‘I do expect unfortunately that the economy is going to remain weaker than many had hoped through the summer and fall.’ US cases continue to soar, with the country again reporting its biggest one-day jump in cases, choking the reopening and recovery process at birth.

US jobless claims on tap

The US weekly unemployment claims data will be closely watched following the big nonfarm payrolls report last week. Initial claims are seen at 1.375m, with key continuing claims down to 1.875m. Whilst these numbers have been coming down, they haven’t been contracting at a rate fast enough to warrant great optimism.

Data from Japan at first looked encouraging but masked some nasty surprises. Core machinery orders, a volatile leading indicator of activity, rose 1.7% in May after a 12% drop in April, and ahead of the 5% decline expected. However, the 17.7% rise in orders for non-manufacturers was offset by a 15.5% decline in manufacturers’ orders and 18.5% drop in overseas orders.

Dollar weakens, WTI oil eases back after breaching $41

In FX, the dollar is being offered. GBPUSD cleared resistance and moved above 1.26. Resistance 1.2690, the Jun 16th swing high, is the next target for bulls. EURUSD has cleared 1.13 but pulled back sharply after running into resistance at 1.1370. Eurogroup members to vote on a new president today ahead of the key summit next week at which the EU needs to hammer out agreement on the €750bn rescue fund.

Crude oil pushed higher before pulling back. WTI (Aug) moved above $41 but pared gains and traded around $40.70 at send time. The EIA said US crude inventories rose by 5.7m barrels vs expectations for a draw of around 3m barrels. But the data was not as bearish as it appeared at first glance – stockpiles were up largely on higher imports, whilst gasoline inventories fell by almost 5m barrels, a good sign Americans are back on the road. Refining activity rose to a 14-week high.

Natural gas update – EIA sees rising prices

Commodities

Warren Buffet just made a $10bn bet on natural gas after prices hit a 25-year low. In the long term, he seems to think gas will play a key part in the energy mix. But where will natural gas prices head in the medium-term?

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, the US Energy Information Administration argued that prices could rise further over the coming months.

The EIA expects US natural gas consumption will decline by 3% in 2020, largely due to lower consumption in the industrial sector because of lockdown efforts and ensuing reductions in economic activity, which will mean working natural gas in storage could hit record levels by October.

“Forecast US natural gas consumption declines by 5% in 2021 as a result of expected rising natural gas prices. The rising prices will reduce the use of natural gas in the electric power sector, which will more than offset increases in natural gas consumption in the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors,” the EIA said.

Whilst the spot price briefly hit a 25-year low before the last contract expired, average prices also very weak on an historic basis. The Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $1.63 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in June, which the EIA notes was the lowest inflation-adjusted price since at least 1989. The EIA said it expects falling production to put upward pressure on natural gas prices through the end of 2021, forecasting Henry Hub spot prices to average $1.93/MMBtu in 2020 and $3.10/MMBtu in 2021.

US Election, Recession, Brexit: What’s in store for markets in 2020 H2?

Equities
Forex

The first half of 2020 has been a wild ride. We’ve seen unprecedented moves in markets, historic stimulus efforts by both central banks and governments, and record-breaking data that grabbed headlines across the globe.

H1 has already brought plenty of drama, but what should we expect from the next two quarters? Join us for a recap of some of the biggest events in market history and a look at the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.

Coronavirus pandemic prompts worst quarter in decades for stocks

At the start of 2020 the main themes of the year looked to be the US Presidential Election, the trade war with China, and Brexit.

It seems like years ago that markets began to get jittery on fears that the handful of novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, could become something ‘as bad as SARS’. It quickly became apparent that we were dealing with something much worse, and the market was quick to realise the full, brutal, reality of a global pandemic.

The panic reached its zenith towards the end of March. As the sell-off ran out of momentum global stock markets were left -21.3% lower. The S&P 500 had its worst quarter since 2008; the Dow dropped the most since 1987 and set a new record for the biggest single-day gain (2,117 points) and single-day loss (2,997 points). European stocks had their worst quarter since 2002, with a -23% drop in Q1.

Oil turns negative for first time in history after Saudi Arabia sparks price war

Things became even more chaotic in the oil markets when, after OPEC and its allies failed to agree a pandemic response, Saudi Arabia opened the floodgates and slashed prices of its crude oil exports. Oil prices endured the biggest single-day collapse since the Gulf War – over -24%.

It was further strain for a market now seriously considering the risk that shuttered economies across the globe would hit demand so hard that global storage would hit capacity. The May contract for West Texas Intermediate went negative – a first for oil futures – changing hands for almost -$40 ahead of expiry.

Meanwhile US 10-year treasury yields hit record lows of 0.318%, and gold climbed to its highest levels in seven years, pushing even higher in Q2.

Economies locked down, central banks crank up stimulus

Nations across the globe ordered their citizens to remain at home, taking the unprecedented step to voluntarily put huge swathes of their economies on ice for weeks. Even when lockdown measures were eased, the new normal of social distancing, face masks, and plastic screens left many businesses operating at a fraction of their normal capacity.

The world’s central banks were quick to step in during the height of market volatility and continued to do so as the forecasts for the economic impact of the pandemic grew even more grim. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand all dropped rates to close to zero. Along with the European Central Bank, they unleashed enormous quantitative easing programmes, as well as other lending measures to help support businesses.

Unprecedented stimulus as unemployment spikes

Governments stepped in to pay the wages of furloughed employees as unemployment spiked – the US nonfarm payrolls report for April showed a jaw-dropping 20.5 million Americans had become unemployed in a single month. In the space of just six weeks America had erased all the job gains made since the financial crisis. The bill for US stimulus measures is currently $2 trillion, and is set to go higher when further measures are approved.

While most of the data may be improving, we’re still yet to see just how bad the GDP figures for Q2 are going to be. These, which will be released in the coming weeks, will show just how big a pit we have to dig ourselves out of.

H2: Recovery, US election, trade wars, Brexit

Markets may have recovered much of the coronavirus sell-off – US and European stocks posted their best quarter in decades in Q2 – but the world is still walking a fine line between reopening its economies and fending off the pandemic. Second wave fears abound. In the US in particular, economic data is largely pointing to a sharp rebound in activity, but at the same time Covid-19 case numbers are consistently smashing daily records.

These key competing bullish and bearish factors threaten to keep markets walking a tightrope in the quarters to come. Because of this, progress in the race to find a vaccine is closely watched. Risk is still highly sensitive to news of positive drug trials. The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner life can return to normal, even if the world economy still has a long way to go before it returns to pre-crisis levels.

US Presidential Election: Trump lags in polls, Biden threatens to reverse tax cuts

The biggest talking point on the market in the coming months, aside from coronavirus, will undoubtedly be the US Presidential Election. The stakes are incredibly high, especially for the US stock market, and Democrat nominee Joe Biden intends to reverse the bulk of the sweeping tax cuts implemented by president Donald Trump.

Trump is currently lagging in the polls, with voters unimpressed by his response to the pandemic and also to the protests against police brutality that swept the nation. The president has long taken credit for the performance of the stock market and the economy, so for the latter to be facing a deep recession robs him of one of his key topics on the campaign trail.

Joe Biden may currently have a significant lead, but there is a long time to go until the polls, and anything could happen yet.

China trade war in focus, Hong Kong law adds fresh complications

The trade war with China would be a focus for the market anyway, but will come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the election. Thanks to Covid-19, anti-China sentiment is running high in the United States. This means Biden will also have to talk tough on China, which could mean that the damaging trade war is set to continue regardless of who wins the White House this time around.

Tensions have already risen on the back of China’s passing of a new Hong Kong security law, and coronavirus makes it virtually impossible that the terms of the Phase One trade agreement hashed out by Washington and Beijing will be carried out. Trump may be forced to stick with the deal, because abandoning it would leave him unable to flaunt his ability to make China toe the line during the presidential race. This would be positive for risk – markets were already rattled by fears that the president’s response to the Hong Kong law would include abandoning the deal.

How, when, and if: Unwinding stimulus

Even if we get a vaccine before the end of the year and global economies do rebound sharply, the vast levels of government and central bank stimulus will need to be addressed. Governments are running wartime levels of debt.

We’re looking at an even longer slog back to normalised monetary policy – something that banks like the Bank of England and the European Central Bank were struggling to reach even before Covid. There will be huge quantitative easing programmes to unwind and interest rates to lift away from zero, or potentially even out of negative territory.

Markets have been able to recover thanks to a steady cocktail of government and central bank stimulus. The years since the financial crisis have proven that it is incredibly difficult to wean markets and the economy off stimulus. There could be some tough decisions ahead, especially as governments begin to consider how they plan to repair their finances in the years to come.

Brexit deadline approaches, impasse remains

There is also Brexit to consider. While the coronavirus forced officials to move their negotiations online, little else seems to have happened so far. Both sides are refusing to budge and both sides are claiming that the other is being unreasonable. The UK does not want an extension to the transition period, and the two sides are running out of time to agree a trade deal.

We’ve seen before that both Downing Street and Brussels like to wait until the last possible moment to soften their stance. However, the risks here are higher because before there was always the prospect of another extension.

The last time negotiations were extended the battle in Westminster shocked the UK to its constitutional core. The Conservative landslide victory of 2019 gave Boris Johnson a much stronger hand this time around – the UK will leave in December, regardless of the situation.

Stay on top of the biggest events in H2

Whatever happens in the coming months, we’ll be here to bring you the latest news and analysis of the top developments and market events via the blog and XRay.

Coronavirus outbreaks leave stocks stuck in their ranges

Morning Note

Virus outbreaks in the US continue to weigh on the mood, as it suggests the run-up in stocks on hopes of a V-shaped economic recovery may be overly optimistic. Several states, mainly in the south, have been forced to re-impose lockdown restrictions after being the first to reopen. Dr Fauci described it as a ‘serious problem’. The dangers of reopening too quickly seem all too apparent, but investors are also keeping an eye on outbreaks in Tokyo, Australia and China.

European equities were a touch softer but trading near the flatline on Monday morning, with a general lack of direction about today’s trade. Major indices tracking around the middle of their June ranges after Asian equities fell. US equities were lower Friday and finished down for the week but, as the month ends, stocks have enjoyed a very strong quarter.

The FTSE 100 is up over 8% quarter-to-date, while the S&P 500 has rallied over 16% in Q2 and the DAX has surged 21%. Valuations remain the concern as we head into earnings season with the S&P 500 still trading at more than 22x on a forward basis.

Coming up this week – Powell testimony, US nonfarm payrolls

Of course stocks haven’t only rallied because of reopening economies – enormous liquidity thanks to the coordinated action of central banks has been key. Central bankers have been striking similar notes in terms of the response to the crisis and Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, will testify in Congress again this week. The Fed’s rather downbeat assessment of the economic recovery helped to stop the rally in its tracks and since then indices have been trading ranges.

The US jobs report – on Thursday this week due to the July 4th holiday – will provide an important view on the pace of recovery, but we should note that the weekly unemployment claims numbers are proving a more sensitive and up-to-date barometer, not least since there are problems with the data gathering for the monthly nonfarms report.

Facebook shares tumble on ad boycott, but how long can brands stay away?

Facebook shares tumbled more than 8% on Friday as a growing number of companies join a boycott of the platform over hate speech. We saw how a boycott of Facebook by users failed to move the needle on earnings, but this time it’s different – it’s the big brands that pay the big bucks and the loss of Unilever, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Diageo among others will create a headwind to revenue growth in the coming quarter.

I would think Facebook can and will do a lot more and will be able to take steps to assuage brands’ concerns, allowing the stock to recover. Moreover, will brands be able to avoid Facebook for very long? Virtue signalling is one thing, but they also need to shift product.

Crude oil was steady with WTI (Aug) around $38 after rallying off the medium-term support around $37.50. OPEC+ compliance in June is expected to be higher than in May, mainly because Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE are cutting above their quotas. In FX, cable continues to track its channel lower with a new low put in at 1.2315, with the previous support in the 1.2390 region now acting as resistance.

Equity markets whipsaw on US-China trade uncertainty

Morning Note

It’s over, it’s not over: The White House looked to be as dysfunctional as ever as Peter Navarro, trade adviser to President Trump, said the US-China trade deal was over, prompting a sharp fall in risk assets in trading during the Asian session. He was forced to retract the statement, saying it was taken out of context, before Donald Trump himself quickly tweeted:

The reality is of course the US-China relations are exceptionally poor, but on paper at least, the trade deal lives. The market wouldn’t like fresh open conflict on trade between the two world’s largest economies, as it would make recovery from the pandemic even slower. Navarro may speak the truth, but it’s an inconvenient truth that the White House would prefer to avoid right now. Markets are happy to nod along as long as the Fed has their back.

Overnight, equity markets were whipsawed by the comments from Mr Navarro, but Asian stocks eventually rallied. US stocks edged higher on Monday but stayed well within the recent ranges; futures were all over the place overnight.

Europe opens higher, but second-wave risks cloud outlook

European stocks opened firmer having slipped yesterday, again though sticking to the near-term ranges. Whilst the FTSE is trading in the range and favouring the 61.8% level over the 38.2%, the market has made a series of success lower highs that may indicate bulls are not feeling very confident about recovering the post-pandemic highs any time soon. Rallies are still lacking conviction, but dips are still being bought.

Further increases in cases across big economies make the outlook uncertain. US cases continue to surge, while South Korea says it is in the midst of a second wave that arrived sooner than previously thought. Meanwhile England is set for reopening of pubs, restaurants and more on July 4th.

Pound hits resistance at 1.25, BoE governor Bailey due to speak later

In FX, the pound is higher having apparently found a near-term trough around the 1.2340 area. GBPUSD pushed up to 1.25 but hit resistance here and has retraced a little to the 1.2450 support area on the 50% retracement of the May-Jun rally. Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, speaks today after giving some policy hints yesterday in an article in which he said the Old Lady was more likely to reduce its balance sheet before raising rates.

He also was widely reported to have said the Government could have run out of cash had it not been for the central bank, which is patently untrue, since governments which borrow and print their own currency cannot run out of money – what the Bank did was smooth out the functioning of bond and currency markets.  Indeed what Mr Bailey said was not that the government would run out of money – he knows it cannot; his comments were widely misreported and misinterpreted in the press.

Euro spikes on French PMI strength

The euro took off higher after French PMI data went over 50, signalling expansion. The PMIs are a bit of a wonky indicator right now given they are entirely sentiment-based and ask only a narrow question – whether things are better, worse or the same as the prior month.

Given the reopening of the economy in the last few weeks, it would be very strange indeed if the PMIs were not improving – it does mean the economy is out of the woods. EURUSD drove up to 1.13 but hit resistance here and turned back.

Gold eased a little off its highs above $1760 but looks well support around $1750. US benchmark real rates – 10yr Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) – fell again, slipping to –0.63%, the lowest level in 7 years. Crude oil was firmer above $40 and managed to make a fresh post-negative-pricing high.

Equities hold ranges, gold jumps as US real yields sink

Morning Note

Equity markets are still looking for direction as they flit about the middle of recent ranges. Fear of a second wave of cases is denting the mood today, as the so-called R-number in Germany jumps to 2.88, US cases hit the highest level since early May, and Apple closes more stores in the US.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the US is preparing for a second wave in the autumn – it’s debatable whether the current spike in cases in some states is still part of the first wave. Equity markets remain sensitive to headline risk around virus numbers, stimulus and economic data, but we are still awaiting signs of whether the strong uptrend reasserts itself or whether we see a more serious pullback.

Looking at the pullback over the second week of June, the major indices are still hovering either side of the 50% retracement of the move. Momentum may start to build to the downside should cases rise, and restrictions are re-imposed. For now, the indices are simply bouncing around these ranges. The question is whether markets finally catch up with the real economy – the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street is a worry for those who think the market has rallied too far, too fast.

Economic data will continue to show a rebound, glossing over the fact that the numbers on the whole still indicate a severe recession. However, to make the bull case – the Fed and central bank peers are on hand and the old maxim still stands: don’t fight the Fed. Meanwhile there are record amounts of cash sitting on the side lines and bond yields on the floor – and will be for a long while – making equities (FTSE 100 dividend yield at 4% for example), more appealing.

The FTSE 100 opened down 1% and tested the 50% line at 6,223, whilst the DAX pulled away from its 50% level around 12,250 ahead of the open to fall through 12,200 before paring the losses. Asian markets were softer, whilst US futures indicated a lower open after falling on Friday – ex-tech.

Oil (WTI – Aug) ran out of gas as it tried to clear the Jun peak at $40.66 but remains reasonably well supported around the $39-40 level. We look at a potential double top formation that could suggest a pullback to the neckline support at $35. Imposing fresh restrictions on movement may affect sentiment ahead of any impact on demand itself, but OPEC+ cuts are starting to feed through to the market and we could be in a state of undersupply before long.

The risk-off tone helped lift gold to break free of the $1745 resistance, before pulling back to test this level again. The rally fizzled before the top of the recent range and recent multi-year highs were achieved at $1764. Whilst benchmark yields have not moved aggressively lower, with US 10s at 0.7%, real yields as indicated by the Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) are weaker. 10yr TIPS moved sharply lower over the last two US sessions, from –0.52% to –0.6%, marking a new low for the year and taking these ‘real yields’ the lowest they’ve been since 2013.

Real yields are currently negative all the way out to 30 years.

In FX, GBPUSD started the week lower but has pulled away off the bottom a little. The momentum however remains to the downside after the failure to recover 1.2450. Bulls will need to clear the last swing high at this level to end the downtrend, though this morning the 1.24 round number is the first hurdle and is offering resistance.

CFTC data shows speculative positioning remains net short on GBP. Meanwhile net long positioning on the euro has jumped to over 117k contracts, from a steady 70-80k through May. Nevertheless, the current trend remains south though the 1.12 round number is acting support – the question is having seen the 1.1230 long-term Fib level broken, do we now and perhaps test the late March high at 1.1150.

Fed braces for long haul, second wave worries hit equities

Morning Note

Time to dig in for the fight. Usually, at least for the last decade, a dovish Federal Reserve would help boost risk sentiment. But we are in different times and however accommodative monetary policy remains, the market needs a lot more, like a patient hooked on painkillers. Whilst the Fed last night committed to keeping rates at zero all the way through 2022, stocks (excluding the Covid-immune tech sector) are selling off.

The Fed’s extremely downbeat assessment of the US economy and jobs market, combined with expectations for a slow recovery, left risk assets looking very exposed after a big run up last week. Stocks in Europe slipped up ahead of the meeting and have extended losses today with the major bourses down more than 2% again.

Asian shares fell and Wall Street closed in the red, although the Nasdaq managed to secure another record closing high above 10,000. US Treasury yields sank partly on the commitment on keeping rates down but also because investors see a slower recovery taking place and lasting damage to the economy. Gold rallied to $1740.

FOMC economic projections dash hopes of V-shaped recovery

Assessments for the economy are grim. The Fed forecast the US economy to contract by 6.5% this year and for the unemployment rate to be above 9% by the end of the year. This would be an improvement from the current rate of 13.3%, but it points towards a very slow recovery.

Indeed, unemployment is still seen at 6.5% through 2021. Faced with this, Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, said he is “not even thinking about thinking about raising rates”. And as many have warned, some of the damage will be permanent, meaning significant lost productivity. Powell said: “My assumption is there will be a significant chunk…millions…who don’t go back to their old jobs.” The V-shaped recovery theory died last night with the Fed.

Gloomy forecasts from the Fed chime with the OECD’s downbeat outlook. It said the UK economy will contract 11.5% this year even without a second wave. And second wave worries are another factor dragging down on stocks, particularly as we see rising numbers of Covid cases in several US states like Texas, Florida and California, where hospitalisations are at their highest since May 13th after rising for nine of the last ten days.

Really the market got too far ahead of itself and is reacting to the Fed’s gloomy outlook and fears of a second wave of infections. We will get more indications about the pace of hiring vs firing today with the US initial and continuing jobless claims number.

European equities slump on the back of FOMC meeting

Today’s market moves show the reopening trade unwinding in the wake of the Fed. Carnival and IAG led the losers on the FTSE 100 whilst only Polymetal, Fresnillo and Unilever were higher. European travel & leisure shares fell 5%, with automakers and banks down 4%.

The S&P 500 is likely to open weaker after sliding 0.5% yesterday to close under 3200 at 3190. Ocado shares fell 6% after announcing a £657m share placing and that it would raise a further £350m by way of a convertible bond. Whilst shares are lower, this is about raising cash to grow, possibly transformational growth. This is what Amazon would do.

Tesla led the tech sector and Nasdaq higher, as shares rose 9% yesterday to close above $1,025. The leg up came after Elon Musk said the company would ramp production of the Tesla Semi, its electric freight truck.

In FX, the dollar is finding bid as risk sentiment sours. GBPUSD has moved back to test 1.2650, having spiked as high as 1.28 yesterday. The pound is now very much a RoRo currency – risk-on, risk-off.

Copper prices fell having rallied for the last few sessions on fears of a slow economic recovery. Oil was holding losses as it hit around $38 for WTI after a surprise rise in US crude stocks combined with the hit to risk sentiment.  EIA figures showed crude oil inventories rose 5.7m barrels vs expectations for a 1.45m drawdown.

Sellers return: S&P 500 in retreat, next leg lower to 2975? 

Candlestick price chart of the S&P 500 index

EIA crude oil inventories preview: Can we trust the forecasts?

Commodities

Yesterday’s API oil inventories report showed a massive build, even though a draw had been expected. Forecasts for today’s US EIA crude oil inventories also predict a drop – how accurate are these predictions?

Crude oil, Brent oil drop after API data shows huge build

Yesterday’s crude oil stock change report from the American Petroleum Institute was expected to show that inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels in the week ending June 5th. Instead, stocks rose nearly 8.5 million barrels.

Oil fell further from the three-month highs hit on Monday on the back of the data. Today crude oil is currently down -$0.38 to trade around $38.12, while Brent oil is trending at $40.46 after falling -$0.29. This is partly due to the API data, but also because of expectations OPEC will not extend the record level of production cuts beyond July.

Candlestick price charts of spot crude oil and spot Brent oil

Will EIA data confirm huge stockpile build?

The Energy Information Administration releases its official crude oil inventories report later today. Forecasts were for a draw of over two million barrels, although in light of the API data this seems unlikely.

In fact, over the past five weeks forecasts for EIA data have been significantly wrong. On average, the forecast has been out by around 5 million barrels. In the past four weeks, forecasters have got the direction of inventory stocks wrong, predicting a build when in fact stocks fell, or vice versa.

Table: EIA crude oil inventories forecasts vs actual

Release Date

Actual

Forecast

Difference

Jun 03, 2020

-2.077M 3.038M

5.115M

May 28, 2020

7.928M -1.944M

9.872M

May 20, 2020

-4.983M 1.151M

6.134M

May 13, 2020

-0.745M 4.147M

4.892M

May 06, 2020

4.590M

7.759M

3.169M

 

Meanwhile, for the past three weeks, the API data and the EIA crude oil inventories report have both shown stockpiles moving in the same direction.

For the week commencing May 25th, the API data showed a build of 8.7 million barrels – under a million barrels above the EIA print.

For the week beginning May 18th, the API numbers were just 183,000 barrels below the EIA’s reported draw of -4.983 million.

Oil prices spike on surprise draw

Commodities

WTI futures and Brent futures spiked to highs of the day after a surprise draw on US oil stocks. EIA figures showed a 745k barrel drawdown vs an expected build of more than 4m barrels. Stocks at the key Cushing, Oklahoma hub feel by 3m barrels, the first such draw since February. Gasoline inventories fell 3.5m barrels vs 2.2m expected. Distillates continued to build at 3.5m. Refinery inputs averaged 12.4m bpd, which was 0.6m bpd less than the previous week’s average.

WTI (Aug) rallied above $27.80 before paring gains to trade roughly in the middle of today’s range around $27.30. Front month (Jun) oil was up at $26.30. The draw on inventories, particularly at Cushing, will spur hopes demand is coming back as economies reopen and that we are not approaching ‘tank tops’ as swiftly as feared. However there are still risks that at least for the Jun and Jul contracts we see high levels of volatility as we approach expiry.

OPEC updates demand forecast, sources suggest further production cuts

Earlier, OPEC said crude oil demand in 2020 would fall even further than previously thought. In 2020, world oil demand growth is forecast to drop by 9.07m bpd, an adjustment lower of more than 2m bpd from the prior report.

In its monthly report it said the contraction is concentrated in the second quarter and mostly in OECD Americas and Europe, with transportation and industrial fuels affected the most.  As such, OECD oil demand is now revised lower by 1.20m bpd while non-OECD oil demand growth was adjusted down by 1.03m bpd.

Demand contraction in 2020 can be mitigated with sooner than expected easing of government COVID-19 related measures, and faster response of economic growth to the implemented extraordinary stimulus packages,” OPEC said.

In terms of supply, a raft of announcements from OPEC members has pointed to greater cuts than previously estimated. In addition, sources have talked about extending the 9.7m bpd cuts beyond June. I think this mainly reflects huge demand destruction and nowhere to put the crude more than increased willingness to ‘take one for the team’. Meanwhile the cartel believes the collapse in prices will further affect non-OPEC supply. Non-OPEC oil supply in 2020 is revised down further by almost 2m bpd from the previous projection, and is now forecast to decline by 3.5m bpd.

The main revisions of the month are based on production shut-ins or curtailment plans announced by oil companies – including the majors – particularly in North America. Globally, excluding the OPEC++ 9.7m bpd cut, around 3.6m bpd of production cuts have been announced, so far, in response to the lack of demand, low oil prices, excess supply and limited storage capacity. And yet in April, OPEC crude oil production increased by 1.8m bpd from March.

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