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Stocks weaker post-Fed, Bank of England, OPEC+ meetings ahead
Wall Street fell and Asian equities followed the weak handover even as the Fed stayed very much on script with a dovish lower-for-longer message, whilst also presenting a more upbeat take on the economy in the near term.
The Fed put some meat on the new average inflation targeting skeleton that was sketched out by Jay Powell at Jackson Hole, saying it will aim to achieve inflation ‘moderately above 2% for some time so that inflation averages 2% over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2%’. But the rub is that it doesn’t see this inflation coming through until 2023 at the soonest.
There were no explicit easing measures to get there sooner, so the FOMC has only really filled in some blanks as to what we already knew, and seems content for now to wait for Congress to sort the fiscal side out before it does anything more. The lack of any real determination to get inflation up sooner seemed to disappoint for risk.
Equities lower after FOMC, dollar catches bid
Equities peaked after the statement and then progressed lower during the presser with Powell right into the close, with the S&P 500 finishing down half of one percent at 3,385, led by a decline in tech, which is about a quarter of the index, whilst energy – now a tiny c2% weighting of the index – rallied 4% as oil climbed.
The 21-day SMA offered resistance and now we are looking again to the 50-day line at 3,335, with futures pointing lower. Meanwhile the Nasdaq finished –1.25% lower with Tesla, Apple, Amazon et al falling, and is likewise trapped between its 21-day and 50-day lines, with big trend line support close. European equity markets took the cue and fell over 1% at the open as the FTSE 100 again tested the 6,000 level.
USD caught a bid as well, with the dollar index lifting from a post-statement low of 92.85 to clear 93.50 overnight, before coming off a touch to 93.30 in early European trade. GBPUSD retreated to 1.2950 having earlier hit the 1.30 level. Gold came off its highs at $1970 to test the $1940 support area.
The Fed sees unemployment at a lower level and a larger economy by the end of the year than it did in June. Real GDP forecast for 2020 was revised down to –3.7% from –6.5% in June. Unemployment is seen at 7.6% compared with the 9.3% anticipated in June. Inflation is seen picking up more than it was in June albeit the rise in breakevens has levelled off at about 1.7%.
The key takeaway from the economic projections is that both core and headline PCE inflation are not seen returning to 2% until 2023 – the Fed even had to add a year to the forecast horizon just to get this in. Given it didn’t manage to get to 2% with unemployment under 4%, there is a lack of credibility around this, even though I for one believe inflation will come through.
The Fed is in the dark and there is no more it can really do without spiralling into the abyss of negative rates. The Fed is in the dark not just because it has no control over inflation, but also because the political situation remains very unclear with regards to fiscal stimulus and the presidential election in November.
So, there is a lot of uncertainty and all the Fed can really do is continue to stress its willingness to do whatever it takes and its willingness to overlook overshoots on inflation should they emerge. I’m in the camp that does expect inflation to feed through due to the massive increase in the money supply combined with supply chain disruption and the fiscal largesse.
The Fed’s policy shift also raises the prospect of inflation expectations becoming unanchored. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic has had a chilling effect on confidence and spending may be slow to reappear, pushing down on inflation for a while longer.
US data softens, focus switches to jobless claims and Bank of England
US retail sales lost momentum last month, with sales rising just 0.6% versus the 1.1% expected, signalling the effect of the expiration of $600 stimulus cheques that made many at the lower end of the income scale better off out of work than in.
US jobless claims later today will be closely watched for signs of any improvement after last week’s disappointment. Last week’s print of 884,000, which was flat on the previous week, signalled a slow down the recovery in the labour market and worried economists.
The Bank of England delivers its monetary policy statement at midday – will it surprise by going ‘big and fast’ with more QE – as governor Andrew Bailey suggested is the best approach for central banks in times of crisis last month?
There is also speculation that the Old Lady of Threadneedle St will turn to negative interest rates to stimulate the economy. Speaking to MPs recently, Bailey refused to rule out negative rates – a policy that has systematically failed to deliver the required inflation in the Eurozone – saying that it remains in the box of tools.
I’d expect the Bank to tee-up an increase in QE in November and not further rate cuts, but it may choose to fire first and ask questions later.
Snowflake surges on IPO
Snowflake (SNOW) shares made an astonishing stock market debut. After pricing the IPO at $120, the stock flew to almost $280 in the first few hours of trading before settling at $253. The price to sales multiple of about 360 is simply astounding – a lot of future growth was priced into the stock on its first day. It’s the biggest software IPO ever and demand was exceptionally high, and the multiples being paid even loftier.
It seems to be a story of the scarcity value of growth. It also shows just how much wild, free-flowing money there is in the market right now chasing whatever’s seen as hot and whatever offers the most growth.
We’re almost into the territory of describing these tech stocks as Veblen goods, where demand rises with the price. The IPO market is getting very frothy. We can blame/thank the Fed for this situation with ultra-low rates assured for a very long time and massive liquidity needing to find a home at whatever price that is. It’s like 1999 all over again.
London sees biggest listing in years as The Hut Group IPOs
Even London is getting in on the action with The Hut Group getting its IPO off with a swagger and a close at more than £6 after listing at £5. As noted when the listing was announced at the end of August, the valuation it deserves depends very much on your point of view.
In 2019 THG achieved year-on-year revenue growth of 24.5% to reach £1.1 billion with adjusted EBITDA of £111.3 million. The float aimed to raise £920m at £4.5bn market cap, which at c40x last year’s EBITDA and x4 sales doesn’t seem like too much to pay for this kind of growth….or does it?! The answer rests surely on whether it deserves a techy or a retail multiple.
Management forecast overall revenue growth of 20-25% over the medium term, with its tech platform Ingenuity (the capital-light growth lever) forecast to grow at 40% primarily as a result of increasing mix of e-commerce revenues as global brand owners accelerate their adoption of D2C strategies.
But revenues from Ingenuity remain relatively small – £61m in the first half of 2020, which was flat on last year and less than 10% of total group revenues. As a percentage of group revenues, the contribution from Ingenuity is going down. Again it’s the promise of growth that is appealing to investors right now.
Oil softens after FOMC statement
Elsewhere, oil was a little softer overnight as risk sentiment came off the boil after the Fed, but this came after a couple of very solid days. WTI for Oct breached $40 on the upside before paring gains but the $39.50 area has held for the time being and offered a springboard in early European trade.
EIA data showed inventories fell 4.4m barrels, contrasting with forecasts for a build. Gasoline stocks were drawn down at twice the rate expected. However, we remain concerned about the demand pick-up through the rest of the year – as all the main agencies have recently revised their demand forecasts lower.
We note also a report suggesting that OPEC is not about to panic by further cutting production – however that would depend on prices; WTI at $30 again might induce action. OPEC+ members are holding an online meeting today to assess compliance and whether additional cuts may be necessary – I would think for now they will stand pat, with the focus chiefly on compliance with current targets, which currently stands at 101%, according to sources reported yesterday.
But if prices come a lot more pressure there would likely be an OPEC+ response.
Markets steady before Fed meeting, Hut Group pops as IPO market shines
It’s Fed day: risk sentiment remains broadly positive but the big-ticket event is the Fed policy meeting. US stocks rose Tuesday as the two-day Fed policy meeting kicked off.
Whilst there is relative calm in markets again after the tech-led sell-off produced a correction in the Nasdaq and a 7% decline in the S&P 500, the expectation on the Fed to be very dovish may lead to volatility should the market think the FOMC isn’t offering enough detail on the future path of monetary policy.
The S&P 500 added 0.52% and managed to close above the psychologically significant 3,400 level after running into resistance at the 38.2% retracement of the early September pullback, with the 21-day SMA sitting around 3,426, which may offer a further test for bulls. The Nasdaq added 1.2% as Tesla shares rose a further 7%, extending the rally from Monday’s 12% gain.
Overnight, Tokyo was flat as Yoshihide Suga was elected as Japan’s new prime minister, replacing Shinzo Abe. European equity markets were slightly higher in early trade, though the FTSE 100 dropped.
FOMC preview: what to look for from today’s Fed announcements
There are several things to look out for from the Federal Reserve today, not least some firming up of the details around the new average inflation targeting regime. After Jackson Hole, there were some unanswered questions for the FOMC.
There was not much in the way of detail of how the Fed plans to deliver the new AIT framework, for instance. And Powell’s speech lacked in any real specifics on the nature of forward guidance that the FOMC is clearly leaning towards – this will be an important lever of the AIT approach, so it needs to be clarified at this meeting.
Should forward guidance be based on a time horizon or specific economic data? Yield curve control has been shelved as an idea by the FOMC but remains an option should it desire. Today’s statement and press conference with Powell will be of great importance to iron out how AIT will be delivered.
Powell stressed that if ‘excessive inflationary pressures’ were to build, or inflation expectations were to rise above levels consistent with its mandate, the Fed ‘would not hesitate to act’. This gives it a degree of latitude down the line should there be a major inflation overshoot, which as noted on several occasions, is a very real possibly if expectations become unanchored.
So far, after rising sharply post the March trough in financial markets, US 10-year breakevens have levelled off, whilst benchmark bond yields have barely budged.
Fiscal stimulus in focus ahead of Fed statement
The Fed is also likely to lean heavily on the need for Congress to come up with fresh stimulus – it cannot do all the lifting here. Whilst a fifth package remains elusive, Nancy Pelosi has signalled that Democrats could delay the October recess in order to get a deal done, with the White House saying the $1.5tn package floated by the ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’ was worthy of discussion.
The Fed has not quite exhausted all its ammunition, but it’s very much in a position where it needs to wait for the fiscal support. Several Fed officials have been talking up the need for fiscal support.
There will also be updated economic projections to watch out for along with the tone the Fed strikes on the economic outlook – we know the Fed has taken a pretty cautious view of the economy and the loss of momentum in initial jobless claims may be a concern.
Looking ahead to today’s session, US retail sales will also be closely watched and may well show a sharp slowdown after Americans’ $600 stimulus cheques stopped. UK inflation figures earlier this morning showed a sharp drop in CPI inflation to 0.5% in August from 1.1% in July, as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the VAT cut on the hospitality industry bit into prices.
Hut Group IPO
Elsewhere, Hut Group shares got off to a lively start on their stock market debut, rising to 650p in what is the biggest IPO in London this year and for several years. As noted when the filing was lodged, after a considerable ramp in tech valuations this year – eg, Ocado +100% in the last 12 months – this IPO looked like a well-timed move, at least on the part of the founder who is due a bumper £700m pay-out should all go well, whilst still remaining very much in control of the business.
The question is whether this 10% margin business deserves a tech rating. A standard listing makes it ineligible for inclusion on the FTSE index although its mooted market cap would be enough just to make the FTSE 100. Any standard listing raises eyebrows as it means no index inclusion and lower governance standards. Arcane incentive schemes and a founder share model are also suspect.
Founder Matt Moulding is also selling £54m of stock despite previously indicating he would retain all his shares. Heavy demand indicates what a tech multiple, zero per cent interest rates and a premium on growth can do for your stock.
Indeed, the IPO market continues to show considerable strength, which does not indicate significant signs of stress in capital markets. Snowflake, a cloud software business backed by Warren Buffett, got its IPO off cleanly at a price of $120, valuing the company at $33bn.
Apple unveiled new products, but investors were underwhelmed by products like the new iPad Air and new watches, with the shares flat on the day and ticking lower by 0.67% in after-hours trading. All investors really care about is the 5G iPhone launch, when it comes.
Oil climbs on back of large inventory draw
Crude oil prices rose after a surprisingly large draw on inventories and have now bounced over 8% from last week’s lows. API figures showed stocks fell 9.5m barrels in the week ending September 11th, much more than the narrow 1.27m barrel draw expected.
EIA figures today are expected to show a build of 2m barrels, which seems rather unlikely in light of the API report. Oil prices firmed despite OPEC and IEA reports this week indicating a slower recovery in demand in 2020 than previously forecast.
Nevertheless, prices look vulnerable to a further pullback as the near-term uptrend runs out of steam and the longer-term downtrend re-asserts itself.
Stocks open higher ahead of busy central bank week
It looks like a second wave, but not as we know it. Even if cases are starting to rise in Britain and elsewhere, deaths are not picking up in the same way as before – younger, less vulnerable people are getting the virus this time it seems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recorded a record one-day rise in cases globally. France recorded a record number of new infections – some 10k over the weekend. There is not the appetite for blanket shutdowns of the economy again – this is good, but the ongoing fear factor will keep a lid on animal spirits.
And governments could be spooked into heavy-handed responses, even if they don’t want to kneecap the economy.
AstraZeneca resumes vaccine trial
Fear can be vanquished with a vaccine, so it’s good news that AstraZeneca and Oxford University are resuming trial of their vaccine candidate, after it was paused a week ago. News on a vaccine – good or bad- is set to emerge in October, it seems.
Pfizer says there is a good chance it will deliver data from its late stage trials of its candidate vaccine, developed with German drug maker BioNTech. If approved, it could be available to Americans by the end of the year. The question is whether this may be needed – Sweden seems to be showing the way towards herd immunity.
With vaccines and herd immunity, unemployment becomes a much bigger problem. The end of the furlough scheme raises the prospect of employment rates reaching a cliff-edge. Unemployment could spiral and redundancies are taking place at twice the rate of the last recession. US initial jobless claims last week indicated the recovery is slow, even if job openings are more encouraging.
BoE to signal more stimulus this week?
This could make this week’s Bank of England meeting interesting. It has enough ammo in the quantitative easing quiver to last until the end of the year, but with only two more scheduled before 2020 is over, the Bank will need to lay the ground for more stimulus. Governor Andrew Bailey said central banks should go “big and fast” with QE and other stimulus at times of crisis.
If there an explosion in unemployment, this line will be tested. I’d expect the Bank to sound more dovish this week, although it is unlikely to alter policy so far in advance of the November Budget, in which the government show its fiscal hand.
Of course, there is still time for Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to extend furlough, as many are urging him to do. UK 2-year gilt yields hit fresh record lows this morning with the market seemingly convinced the BoE will give a very strong signal it is preparing to deliver additional stimulus – most likely in the form of increased asset purchases rather than a descent into a vortex of negative rates.
The problem of furlough schemes and extending them is of course one of productivity and the opportunity cost of maintaining people in a kind of output stasis. Zombie workers and zombie companies are a growing problem. Indeed, new research shows the number of zombie companies in the US is near the 2000 record.
European stocks build on decent week
European markets opened higher on Monday, with the FTSE 100 solidifying above 6,000 and the DAX ticked up to 13,300. This comes after a decent week for European markets that contrasted with Wall Street weakness.
The Nasdaq finished last week down –4%, with the S&P 500 dropping –2.5% over the five days. The Nasdaq broke under its 50-day simple moving average, whilst the S&P 500 traded through it at the lows but held it at the close.
European markets fared better as they were much less exposed to the sell-off in tech – some rotation taking place as investors look to ‘reopening’ stocks over the Covid-19 winners, but it was far from anything significant.
Indeed, in dollar terms, the moves in the FTSE 100 for example were far less impressive. Investors in the US may also be paying attention to the presidential race – Biden’s tax plans would knock earnings, although it’s far tighter race than the national polls indicate. US futures are higher and have cleared the Friday peak struck during the London morning session.
Abenomics safe as Suga elected new leader?
Suga-high for Japanese equities? In Japan, Yoshihide Suga, the former chief cabinet secretary, looks set to replace Shinzo Abe as prime minister after being elected to the lead the country’s ruling Liberal Democrat Party. Suga has pledged to maintain Abenomics and seems to be causing few ripples in the market.
He will only have a year to make an impact though before the next elections are scheduled – he could choose to call a snap election to shore up his support, but the coronavirus might get in the way.
The Nikkei 225 edged up 0.65%, while the yen was steady against the dollar at 106.
Meanwhile Gilead, whose remdesivir antiviral is treating Covid-19 patients, is buying Immunomedics for $21bn. With vast sums of private equity to be deployed, there may be a slew of deals and takeovers as we head into the autumn.
Brexit and Federal Reserve to weigh on cable, gold rangebound
In FX, ongoing talks between the UK and EU look set to be the chief driver for GBP crosses. However, a Federal Reserve meeting this week will impact the USD side of cable. There is not a new to say about the Brexit talks after last week – we await to see whether the discussions can get any further.
Usual headline risks to cable, but GBPUSD could get squeezed higher absent of any negative news. GBPUSD traded at 1.2840 in early trade having made a firm near-term base at the 200-day EMA at 1.2750. Downtrend still in force until the 1.30 handle is recovered.
Elsewhere, gold is still trading in a very narrow range around the $1940 level. US breakevens have come down a bit, US 10s are hunkered in around 0.66% and real rates (10-year TIPS) have just come down a touch.
Remember it’s Fed week. The Federal Reserve convenes on September 15th and 16th for the first time since Jerome Powell signalled that the central bank would be prepared to tolerate higher inflation as a trade-off for a swifter economic recovery and jobs growth.
Unemployment has fallen since the pandemic peak but is not improving quickly enough. The Fed is not expected to announce any fresh policy change but will reinforce Powell’s message from Jackson Hole on the policy shift.
Indeed the main focus for the Fed right now is actually not monetary policy but fiscal as members await any move in Washington to deliver a fresh stimulus package.
Week Ahead: Central banks galore but fiscal response is the key
It’s a veritable cornucopia of central bank delights this week with the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all in action, following the ECB and Bank of Canada last week. The Bank of Japan decision may well be overshadowed by Japanese politics as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) elects a new leader days before the national diet elects a new prime minister.
Meanwhile we continue to keep our eyes on the high frequency economic data, with jobless claims and retail sales numbers on tap as well.
The Federal Reserve convenes on September 15th and 16th for the first time since Jerome Powell signalled that the central bank would be prepared to tolerate higher inflation as a trade-off for a swifter economic recovery and jobs growth. Unemployment has fallen since the pandemic peak but is not improving quickly enough.
The Fed is not expected to announce any fresh policy change but will reinforce Powell’s message from Jackson Hole on the policy shift. Indeed the main focus for the Fed right now is actually not monetary policy but fiscal as members await any move in Washington to deliver a fresh stimulus package.
Bank of England
The Bank of England also meets this week, amid mounting speculation that the Old Lady of Threadneedle St will turn to negative interest rates to stimulate the economy.
Speaking to MPs recently, governor Andrew Bailey refused to rule out negative rates – a policy that has systematically failed to deliver the required inflation in the Eurozone. “It’s in the box of tools,” he said. “We’re not planning it at the moment, we’ve got no plans to use it imminently, but it is in the box.”
Meanwhile, again it is the fiscal response that seems to matter more right now – central banks have already shot most of their ammunition. Andy Haldane, the BoE’s chief economist, warned last week that the UK’s furlough scheme should not be extended – but will the chancellor cave to demands to prolong it in order to protect jobs? As the furlough scheme approaches its end in October, the government may be forced to extend in order to avoid a cliff-edge in job losses.
Japanese yen in focus
There is a fair chance Japanese equity markets and the yen will see heightened volatility this week with two big risk events. On Monday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) elects a new leader days before the national diet elects a new prime minister.
Following the resignation of Shinzo Abe on health grounds, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga is the favourite to replace him. Whilst he is the continuity candidate and has pledged to carry on with Abenomics, there is a risk that he may call an election, which could introduce political risk to the JPY and Nikkei 225. The Bank of Japan statement the day after the Diet vote is not anticipated to rock the boat.
On the FTSE, keep an eye out for Ocado Q3 earnings on Tuesday, with investors keen to get a read on how the Marks & Spencer partnership has started. Investors will also want to know the perennial question – where is the cash? Ocado’s share price has rocketed this year on the boom in online retail. Its +80% rally in 2020 puts it behind only Fresnillo in terms of YTD gains.
However, it’s yet to really deliver any returns to investors by way of free profit.
Meanwhile retail bellwether Next (-16% YTD) is a cash cow that even with a collapse in the high street consistently manages to deliver free cash flow. Its half year results follow on Thursday. In July the company reported that while full price sales in the second quarter were down -28% against last year, this was far better than expected and an improvement on the best-case scenario given in the April trading statement. Management guided full year profit before tax at £195m.
Highlights on XRay this Week
Read the full schedule of financial market analysis and training.
|17.00 UTC||14-Sep||Blonde Markets|
|From 15.30 UTC||15-Sep||Weekly Gold, Silver, and Oil Forecasts|
|13.00 UTC||16-Sep||Indices Insights|
|14.45 UTC||17-Sep||Master the Markets|
|17.00 UTC||17-Sep||Election2020 Weekly|
Key Events this Week
Watch out for the biggest events on the economic calendar this week. A full economic and corporate events calendar is available in the platform.
|09.00 UTC||14-Sep||Eurozone Industrial Production|
|01.30 UTC||15-Sep||RBA Monetary Policy Meeting Minutes|
|02.00 UTC||15-Sep||China Industrial Production & Retail Sales|
|06.00 UTC||15-Sep||UK Unemployment Rate, Claimant Count Change|
|09.00 UTC||15-Sep||Germany, Eurozone ZEW Economic Sentiment|
|After-Market||15-Sep||Adobe – Q3 2020|
|06.00 UTC||16-Sep||UK Consumer Price Index|
|12.30 UTC||16-Sep||US Retail Sales|
|14.30 UTC||16-Sep||US EIA Crude Oil Inventories|
|18.00 UTC||16-Sep||FOMC Interest Rate Decision, Economic Projections|
|18.30 UTC||16-Sep||FOMC Press Conference|
|22.45 UTC||16-Sep||New Zealand Quarterly GDP|
|01.30 UTC||17-Sep||Australia Employment Change, Jobless Rate|
|04.00 UTC||17-Sep||Bank of Japan Rate Decision & Statement|
|11.00 UTC||17-Sep||Bank of England Interest Rate Decision|
|12.30 UTC||17-Sep||US Weekly Jobless Claims|
|14.30 UTC||17-Sep||US EIA Natural Gas Storage|
|23.30 UTC||17-Sep||Japan Inflation Rate|
|06.00 UTC||18-Sep||UK Retail Sales|
|12.30 UTC||18-Sep||Canada Retail Sales|
|14.00 UTC||18-Sep||US Preliminary University of Michigan Sentiment Index|
Week Ahead: Brexit talks resume, ECB zones in on exchange rate
Brexit talks resume this week for another round of horse trading that has so far resulted in very little progress. Will the two sides break the deadlock or will headlines weigh on sterling? Meanwhile the European Central Bank meeting comes after a significant rally for the euro that has got policymakers worried.
The next formal round of talks between the EU and UK are due to take place in London this week and introduce event risk for GBP crosses and the FTSE by implication. The underlying mood is not very positive. The last round of discussions in August produced very little progress.
Afterwards Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said an agreement seems ‘unlikely’ and is concerned about the state of play. David Frost, his British counterpart, said talks were useful but little progress had been made.
Informal talks last week delivered nothing more, with Barnier saying he was “worried and disappointed” over the UK’s approach to the talks.
Grappling with the competing concerns of sovereignty (UK) and integrity of the single market (EU) goes to the very heart of the talks. Both sides need to make philosophical compromises before the practical compromises can follow. This is where I start to become concerned about a big, comprehensive deal being done.
The European Central Bank (ECB) meets amid a sharp rally for the euro that has left policymakers concerned. It looks like 1.20 was the line in the sand for the central bank – a level that prompted chief economist Philip Lane to comment that while the ECB does not look at the exchange rate “the euro-dollar rate does matter”.
This was the ECB attempting to intervene in the rally – a stronger euro will make it harder to stoke inflation and will hurt growth. Lane simply let the market know the exchange rate does matter. The last thing we need right now is a currency war, but the ECB may be about to start one. We await to see what Christine Lagarde has to say on the matter.
Meanwhile we should also look to see whether the ECB follows the lead of the Federal Reserve and signals its intention to not let inflation (should it ever materialise) get in the way of recovery.
The big question is whether the ECB strives for a dual mandate like the Fed has. In actual fact, it already has a wider mandate. In addition to its primary objective to support price stability, it has a mandate to support the EU’s ‘general economic policies’. If this is not a green light to support employment, then what is?
At Jackson Hole the Fed announced a policy shift that has a material impact on expectations around rates and inflation. The Fed has taken a more rational approach. Instead of saying that the economic outcomes need to fit its models – which have always been nothing more than a best guess – it will let the outcomes drive the policy.
Some would say this is a step towards fully embracing MMT, even if Powell has been against this approach in the past. The fact is that the crisis has thrown MMT from the hinterland of economic theory to practice without any real debate. Powell has embraced a central tenet of MMT – why should millions of people be thrown on the economic scrapheap and left unemployed as the price to pay for low inflation.
I think the ECB will be following this direction and this meeting will prove very interesting.
Economic data to watch
Besides the above, watch out first for the US Labor Day holiday on Monday which will keep cash equity markets closed. The UK house price index from Halifax is published the same day just before the Eurozone Sentix investor confidence report.
On Tuesday look for the NAB Business Confidence report for Australia as well as spending and GDP data for Japan. Wednesday sees the Bank of Canada interest rate decision and Japanese preliminary machine tool orders, an interesting leading indicator of demand. Aside from the ECB meeting on Thursday there is the US PPI inflation numbers and weekly crude oil inventories. Friday ends the week with UK GDP figures, US CPI inflation numbers and the start of Eurogroup meetings of European finance ministers.
Earnings to watch
Among the major companies reporting earnings this week are Lululemon, Oracle, Richemont and Slack. But perhaps the main focus should be on Covid-winner Peloton, whose shares have surged in recent weeks to all-time highs.
JPMorgan last week raised its price target to $105 from $58 and added the stock to its top picks list.
“Peloton’s biggest near-term challenge in our view is keeping up with elevated demand, with Bike order-to-delivery times of ~6-7 weeks on average across the top 20 US DMAs as of our checks on 9/1,” said analyst Doug Anmuth.
A full economic and corporate events calendar is available in the platform.
Highlights on XRay this Week
Read the full schedule of financial market analysis and training.
European equities bounce, dollar fights back
What is the right multiple when the Fed is stoking inflation and says it will not withdraw accommodation? What price should stocks carry in a world of ZIRP and QE-4-ever? It’s very hard to say: the usual model for forming a judgment on how richly or poorly valued stocks should be – using interest rates and earnings – is becoming out of step with the reality of unlimited central bank support. How do you derive the right discount rate?
We have always assumed that central banks will withdraw accommodation as the economy gets hot and inflation picks up. Or in other words, it’s always been there to take away the punch bowl whenever the party got a little rowdy. Indeed, often it was too quick to turn the music off just as people started to dance.
Now the Fed says it won’t do that and the ECB and others are set to follow – where the Fed goes usually the rest of the world needs to follow. If it’s unlimited Fed support, who cares if the forward multiple on the S&P 500 is x25? If there is no hiking cycle on the horizon, then stocks could continue to rally from these already very stretched levels.
Vix points to uncertainty as US Presidential Election nears
Of course, as repeated nearly every day, near term I worry that this extended rally is ripe for a pullback as the US election approaches, and I am not alone. Whilst retail investors rich on stimulus cheques still think ‘stonks only go up’, there are signs investors are worried about how far this has gone.
Vix futures keep moving in an upwards trajectory that suggests investors are paying more for downside protection on the S&P 500. Vix futures settled above 28 and contracts expiring in Oct are north of 33, signalling a lot of uncertainty around the election. The race will be far closer than polls show. Our election tracker shows Trump narrowing the gap.
FTSE lags global stocks
Such concerns about stretched valuations and ever-higher multiples are not a concern for UK investors. The FTSE 100 has rather majestically shrugged off the rally in global stocks and serenely plunged to its weakest since May. A stronger pound undoubtedly took the wind out of the sails and a bit of a catchup trade was in play after the market was closed for the bank holiday on Monday, meaning it didn’t take part in the mild sell-off across Europe yesterday.
But the FTSE’s troubles are not a new phenomenon – a complete absence of tech and growth is a major problem. Dividend cuts have also vanquished income investors, albeit the yield of almost 4% doesn’t seem too bad today. Last night the FTSE 100 settled on the 38.2% retracement of the March to June rally which has offered near-term support for today’s bounce – dollar strength this morning is helping too.
Record closes for SPX and Nasdaq fuel rally in Europe
European stocks rallied in early trade on Wednesday, including the FTSE 100, after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both hit fresh records. Apple rallied another 4%, seemingly unstoppable. Tesla declined 5% after it announced a $5bn stock sale, which though a bit of a surprise is not a complete shock given Tesla’s vast capex requirements and share price accretion – as it did in February, Tesla is taking advantage of favourable market conditions to raise fresh cash early on in the cycle.
Meanwhile, we are not getting much further on stimulus – US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected the Democrats’ latest $2.2tn coronavirus relief package, but we are set for more spending, more printing until inflation becomes a problem.
The dollar came back fighting with DXY back above 92.50 as both GBP and EUR retreated off key resistance levels. Could be a dead cat bounce for USD. GBPUSD made a run to 1.35 but failed this test and backed off further this morning to take a 1.33 handle.
Watch for the Bank of England’s Andrew Bailey, who will be giving oral evidence to the Treasury Committee in Parliament on the economic impact of coronavirus. Obviously it’s bad, but house prices have hit a record high so that is good if you own one, not so good if you don’t. Messrs Haldane (he of the V) and Broadbent are speaking later, too.
Euro struggles after strong US manufacturing data, US ADP jobs report in focus
The euro – has a line in the sand been drawn? EURUSD pushed up to have a run at 1.20 but got knocked back as the US ISM manufacturing came in better than expected at 56. This could be a line in the sand for the euro bears defending the roaring 20s? Eurozone inflation turned negative in August – a clear signal of the disinflationary pressures wrought by the pandemic.
Inflation fell to –0.2% from +0.4% in July. It lays bare the mountain the ECB needs to climb and simply tells us that the central bank will need to keep monetary policy exceptionally loose for a very long time. It’s worth noting that the much-hyped EU rescue deal has yet to be delivered. EURUSD pulled back under 1.19 in early trade on Wednesday as the dollar caught a bid.
Today, we are looking ahead to the ADP nonfarm employment report ahead of Thursday’s weekly claims count and Friday’s main nonfarm payrolls print. The ADP number is expected to show a gain of 1m jobs from a paltry 167k in July.
US factory orders and crude oil inventories on tap this afternoon, expected to show a draw of –2m barrels. Later we also have the Fed’s Beige Book, while the Fed’s Williams and Mester are speaking.
FTSE lags as dollar continues to drop
Back to school: the unruly mob are back. But that is enough about MPs going back to work – children start the autumn term this week and the furlough scheme starts to unwind with the government reducing its contribution to employees’ wages to 70% in September.
Furlough forever is simply not an option – zombie staff, zombie businesses. But it means unemployment is surely set to rise – and consumer confidence always follows. The chancellor is floating a tax raid – better to monetize the debt surely?
Stocks soft after strong August
Stocks were a tad weaker on Monday, but August was a great month. The MSCI World index rose 6.6% and the S&P rallied over 7% to record their best August since 1986. The Nasdaq rose 10%. August is usually a poor month for stocks.
Tuesday morning saw a firm bounce for the major European bourses, though the FTSE 100 lagged as it played catchup following the bank holiday. A stronger sterling is also dragging on the big dollar earners. AstraZeneca has started large-scale human trials of its coronavirus candidate vaccine in the US.
The Federal Reserve has put a floor under markets and a ceiling on rates, delivering conditions where stocks can only float higher. We call this TINA – There Is No Alternative. It’s not sustainable of course, but it won’t stop the Fed and other central banks continuing to inflate the bubble. The Fed’s policy shift on inflation has marked a important change for the central bank and it may be followed by the ECB and others.
Vix futures – the so-called ‘fear gauge’ are telling another story. These have started to grind higher despite stocks rallying, which raises a warning about the future path of the market. As previously mentioned, volatility should rise as the election approaches and the races proves far tighter than it currently looks. In summary, the options market is sending a signal that the stock market is not.
Strong China manufacturing PMI lifts sentiment, despite soft readings from France, Spain
Sentiment this morning is helped by data showing Chinese factory activity rose at the fastest pace since 2011. French and Spanish manufacturing PMIs softened, dropping under 50 to signal contraction, while Italy’s was a little better than expected at 53.1.
Some of the moves in US shares are striking. Apple rose over 3% to $129 after splitting, whilst Tesla shares rocketed 13% on its busiest day ever. Stock splits shouldn’t make a difference, except this time they have. Tesla is up 74% for the month.
Zoom races higher after smashing earnings forecasts
Zoom rose almost 23% in after-hours trade after it reported a 355% rise in revenues to $663.5m for the July quarter, smashing forecasts for around $500m. Zoom has proved to be a Covid winner of epic proportions – but shouldn’t we all be going back to the office by now? The UK significantly lags Europe and others in ‘getting back to work’ statistics – this has a huge implication for productivity and for the wider economy.
The dollar continues to soften and trying to guess the bottom is akin to catching a falling knife. The dollar index sank to fresh two-year lows in the wake of the Fed’s inflation shift. Perennial dollar bulls have been caught off guard with the unwind, however the Fed’s recent shift on inflation targeting only underlines that bears called this early.
More inflation and a central bank prepared to let it happen should reduce the purchasing power of the dollar and therefore it ought to weaken. However, with the buck usually a safe harbour, it shouldn’t soften too much more.
The pound was up, with GBPUSD pressing on the post-election euphoria high of last December a little above 1.34. There are Brexit risks ahead – talks recommence next week – but for the moment the major driver of this is the dollar’s weakness. Gold futures rose to $2,000/oz as the weaker dollar lifted commodity markets and US real rates – 10-year TIPS – have sunk again as inflation expectations rise.
Risk gains as Powell signals lower for longer on rates
Fed chair Jay Powell announced a new monetary policy framework based on average inflation targeting (AIT), as had been anticipated. I read this as admission by the Fed that the monetary and fiscal response to the pandemic will ultimately prove inflationary (M1 increase, deglobalisation etc), but that the Fed does not want to pull the handbrake on a long and slow recovery by being constrained with a mandate to keep inflation level. It’s also increasingly politically tuned into recent events in prioritising jobs over price stability.
Essentially the Fed is taking a step back from price stability, it is not going to worry about inflation overshooting; the focus is on employment not stable money. It’s about supporting the economy not prices – this is an important shift, albeit one that we have largely assumed unofficially to be the case for some time. The Fed today made it clear it won’t take the punch bowl away as quickly as it would have done in the past.
Fed AIT framework leaves unanswered questions
But the Fed is keeping its hands relatively free by not sticking to any specific formula relating to AIT – this poses some unanswered questions for the FOMC. There was not much in the way of detail of how the Fed plans to deliver the new framework. For instance, if inflation runs at 1% for 5 years, does that mean it allows it to run at 3% for the next 5?
Powell’s speech lacked in specifics on the nature of forward guidance that the FOMC is clearly leaning towards – this will be an important lever of the AIT approach, so it needs to be clarified at the next meeting in September.
Should forward guidance be based on a time horizon or specific economic data? Yield curve control has been shelved as an idea by the FOMC but remains an option should it desire. The September 16th meeting will be of great importance to iron out how AIT will be delivered.
Powell stressed that if ‘excessive inflationary pressures’ were to build, or inflation expectations were to rise above levels consistent with its mandate, the Fed ‘would not hesitate to act’. This gives it a degree of latitude down the line should there be a major inflation overshoot.
Dollar offered, stocks and gold bid
Markets are trying to make sense of the changes. The dollar index sold off initially to 92.40 but pared losses and came back to 93 as US yields started to pick up with 10s back above 0.719% having dipped to 64bps. EURUSD spiked to 1.190 but quickly retreated to 1.180. GBPUSD surged to 1.3280 before coming back in to the round number support.
Stocks rose with Wall Street hitting fresh record highs at the open as AIT is fundamentally supportive of risk assets, entailing as it does lower interest rates for longer. The S&P 500 approached 3,500 for the first time, meaning it’s up 100 points for the week. Gold drove sharply higher to $1976 but retraced as quickly as it rallied to $1940 as yields climbed. The key for the market is what will AIT do to inflation expectations.
Earlier data showed just what a big task the Fed has in getting unemployment back to pre-pandemic levels (3.5%). It’s clear the US still has a very troubled jobs market – initial claims still above 1m, continuing claims only came down a small amount to 14.54m from 14.76m a week before. Q2 contraction in the US was a little less than previously estimated, with the annualised figure coming in at –31.7% vs –32.9% on the first reading.
All eyes on Powell, oil steady in face of Laura
Golf can be bad for your career. Just ask Phil Hogan, the now ex-EU trade commissioner, who’s resigned after a golf dinner in Kildare which fell foul of Ireland’s coronavirus restrictions. Maybe he was testing his eyesight – ‘ah yes, I can see that prawn. I’m safe to go to Claridge’s now’. Golf hasn’t been this newsworthy since Tiger Woods went for a joy ride.
Global stocks hit a record high as the FTSE All World Index beat its peak set in February. The only word we can use to describe this is ‘liquidity’. It’s simply a result of a huge injection of stimulus and money that has needed to find a home. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also both notched fresh record highs.
For the most part the path of least resistance is upwards – for global stocks led by the US that is probably true when there is so much liquidity and so little yield. But for the UK market, the path of least resistance seems to be sideways – the FTSE 100 remains anchored to 6,000 and it may take a move in the FX markets to drastically alter its range-bound price action.
Will Powell’s speech live up to expectations?
European indices were flat to slightly negative in early trade on Thursday ahead of Jay Powell’s speech at 14:10 London time. Investors are waiting for the substance of the speech amid expectation he will detail the outcome of the monetary policy framework review (that is the title of today’s speech).
The Fed chair is expected to tee up a new monetary policy framework based around average inflation targeting (AIT), which would let the Fed run the economy as hot as it likes for a longer period. Of course, he may skirt round the details and prefer to use the September FOMC meeting to make a formal announcement.
Expectations are rather high ahead of this speech – there is a potential to underwhelm.
WPP and Hays earnings hopeful, Rolls Royce dives towards one-year low
WPP shares rose 5% after the company reported a 15% drop in life-for-like revenues less pass-through costs in the second quarter but signalled the worst is over for the advertising market. The company also said it is on course to achieve the upper end of the £700-800m cost savings target and declared an interim dividend of 10p.
Trading is improving but lumpy. In July, the LFL revenue less pass-through costs of -9.2% was a steady improvement on Q2 but the performance across markets remains volatile.
Another good bellwether Hays said it’s seen some stabilisation in fees since May and ‘modest’ signs of improvement in permanent hiring. Net fees were down –11% for the year to the end of June, whilst pre-tax profits were –63% lower as a result of a collapse in recruitment due to the pandemic. Shares ticked up 1%.
Even worse news for Rolls Royce; shares slumped over 7% and neared the 52-week low after the engineer reported a £5.4bn loss due to the crippling of civil aviation during the pandemic. It also included a £2.6bn loss from FX hedges. Underlying revenues were down by a quarter. CFO Stepehen Daintith has resigned.
Hurricane Laura in focus for oil markets
Oil prices were steady as Hurricane Laura makes landfall in the US amid significant amount of production and refinery shut ins. The hurricane is at risk of strengthening to a category 5 storm. WTI (Oct) maintained the $43 handle but backed off from a 5-month high.
Yesterday the Energy Information Administration noted a draw of 4.7 million barrels last week, but oil inventories remain 15% above the average for this time of year.
The market reaction has been rather muted by the fact inventories are unseasonably high and demand is down compared to last year. Whilst more than 80% of Gulf of Mexico crude production has been shut in, stocks at Cushing at 25% above the five-year average, and distillates are 24% above average.
One further note on yesterday’s inventory data relating to travel and the airlines – over the four weeks to Aug 21st jet fuel product supplied was down 45.7% compared with the same four-week period last year.
FTSE comes under pressure ahead of Powell speech tomorrow
Stocks in Europe chopped sideways after fresh records were set on Wall Street and traders start to turn their attention to Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s speech tomorrow. Tuesday saw risk appetite go off the boil after a strong start to the European session – the FTSE 100 ended sharply lower while the DAX closed at the session low to end flat on the day.
The timid recovery across European bourses has left the rally in the US looking even more impressive. A pullback in Apple shares did hit the Dow – it won’t have such a big effect come Monday when its weighting will fall with the stock split (the Dow Jones is a price-weighted index). Shares in ExxonMobil, Pfizer and Raytheon all fell as they were given their marching orders from the index, while their replacements – Honeywell, Amgen and Salesforce.com – all rose sharply. The S&P 500 rose 0.36% to a new all-time high.
The FTSE 100 has endured a tough 24 hours – having hit a high yesterday morning near 6,180, this morning the blue-chip index is testing the 6,000 support. Last week’s low at 5,948 is yet to be tested again, however, and bulls will be hopeful that a base is forming and the near-term downtrend off the June highs is ending. If the dollar weakens further and sterling rallies, this support level could go.
Data today is light – US durable goods orders forecast at +4.4% and +1.9% core, which would be a sharp slowdown from last month’s +7.6% (+3.6% core). The weekly EIA crude oil inventories report is also coming later today.
Oil rises as API data reveals forecast-beating draw, Hurricane Laura approaches
WTI rose on a bigger than expected API draw as well as concerns about Hurricane Laura affecting supply. The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported crude oil inventories fell 4.5 million barrels for the week ending August 21st, after a 4.3m barrel draw the previous week. The forecast for the EIA figures today is for a draw of 3.4m. WTI (Oct) rallied for the best part of yesterday to test the $43.50 resistance where it immediately backed off.
Crude prices continue to grind higher as the economic data continues to indicate a slow recovery.
Central bank speeches in focus as markets eye virtual Jackson Hole symposium
Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist and leading V-shaped recovery proponent, will speak later. His optimistic attitude the economic recovery is at odds with many.
The real focus on the central bank front this week though is the virtual Jackson Hole Symposium and Jay Powell’s speech tomorrow as US cash equity markets open. Expectations are running high: Powell is set to use this to deliver a shift in the way the Fed approaches inflation, sending a dovish message to the market that the central bank is in this for as long as it takes. The lack of fresh fiscal stimulus only makes the Fed likely to be more dovish.
Essentially, we think the Fed will signal explicitly it is prepared to allow inflation to run hot for longer with a new average inflation target. All this means is the Fed will be lower for longer. This should support risk and could weigh on the US dollar, but there is a risk that inflation expectations can start to become unanchored as they did in the 1970s.
If inflation spikes and the Fed lets it by continuing to keep yields down, stocks and gold should be the main beneficiaries. The vast increase in the supply of money combined with major supply chain readjustments and reshoring taking place against the backdrop of US-China trade tensions, suggests a bout of inflation is around the corner when a vaccine arrives and the real recovery takes hold, despite the initial disinflationary effects from the pandemic.
Will Powell speech hit the dollar?
The US dollar has marched lower since its March blowoff. But lately there have been signs of a base forming around the 92-93 level for the dollar index. An aggressively dovish message from Powell this week could see this support tested initially, but we should also bear in mind that average inflation targeting without, for example, yield curve control, could create a much steeper yield curve (i.e. higher long end yields) in tandem with higher inflation expectations, which could support USD in the longer term. US 10 year yields have already start to move higher, rising to 0.7%.