Bank of England lays ground for negative rates

Morning Note

The Bank of England is laying the groundwork for a descent into negative interest rates. This should worry us all. In a letter to banks today, deputy governor Sam Woods asked firms to detail their “current readiness to deal with a zero Bank Rate, a negative Bank Rate, or a tiered system of reserves remuneration – and the steps that you would need to take to prepare for the implementation of these”.

The letter notes that “the financial sector … would need to be operationally ready to implement it in a way that does not adversely affect the safety and soundness of firms”, and explains that “the MPC may see fit to choose various options based on the situation at the time”.

It comes after details from the last policy meeting showed that the BoE is actively considering negative rates, whilst Andrew Bailey has been at pains to stress that this does not necessarily mean they will take that route.

Indeed there is clearly a debate within the MPC going on right now that we are seeing play out in public. Last month deputy governor Dave Ramsden issued a note of caution only a day after Silvana Tenreyro pointedly backed negative rates.

It looks as though there are some clear ideological disputes among rate setters that needs to be worked out over the autumn, implying as Andrew Bailey suggested last week that negative rates are not likely on the near horizon, albeit they are being considered actively.

The problem for the Bank would be an unemployment crisis into Christmas that could put pressure on the MPC to act.

Sterling doesn’t mind too much, with GBPUSD making its highest in almost 5 weeks before paring gains a little. Bank shares also didn’t take fright, with Natwest and Lloyds higher at the open.

Money markets have already priced in negative rates next year – today’s update does not materially alter the perception that the Bank is thinking seriously about negative rates but is in no rush to wheel them out. US bond and money markets are closed today for the Columbus Day holiday.

The idea that negative rates boost lending doesn’t wash – banks are not worried about the marginal impact on net interest margins as they are about whether the principal is repaid or not. And this in the current economic downturn and threat of rising unemployment, this will weigh on banks’ willingness to lend.

Indeed, I refer you again to the San Francisco Fed study from last month that shows the ECB made a big mistake by going negative.

This noted “banks expand lending only temporarily under negative rates” and “as negative rates persist, they drag on bank profitability even more”. It concluded that while lending initially increases under negative rates. “…gains are more than reversed as negative rates persist”. And under extended periods of negative rates, the evidence shows that “both bank profitability and bank lending activity decline”.

Negative rates are meant to increase loan growth, not depress it.

Chart showing how negative interest rates will affect UK monetary policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equities were mildly higher in European trade early on Monday. The FTSE 100 enjoyed a solid week and managed to close on Friday above the 6,000 level that has proved so tricky to hold onto.

The FTSE weakened a little in early trade back to this round number support, with energy and consumer cyclicals dragging.

The S&P 500 rose Friday and closed at its best level since the start of September when it made the all-time high. Stimulus hopes remain in the forefront but the market, as a result, remains on the hook to rumours and headlines.

Donald Trump upped his offer to $1.8tn but Nancy Pelosi said it wasn’t enough. A stimulus package is coming sooner or later, although as stressed last week, there is a risk that a disputed election result delays this until 2021.

On the slate this week: IMF and World Bank meetings kick off today, whilst we have three days until the UK’s self-imposed Brexit deadline.

Nevertheless, even if there no breakthrough comprehensive trade deal agreed this week, the two sides are pledged to continue talking right up to the last moment.

Emmanuel Macron, who faces elections in the not-too-distant future, may seek too many concessions over fishing rights, which may scupper a deal. However, with the coronavirus causing havoc with the economy, neither side has a particularly strong hand and both sides need a deal.

Wall Street banks kick off earnings season across pond – read our preview here.

Election Watch

Biden leads by 9.8pts nationally and by 4.5pts in the battlegrounds. The Democrats lead by 4.9pts in the battleground states four years ago – Trump has been over this ground before and won against the odds – don’t write him off just yet. Trump has pulled ads in Ohio and Iowa leaving him off air in those states for a third week in a row. According to our friends over at BlondeMoney are the two most winnable swing states for Trump.

They say: “Either Trump is supremely confident he’s got these in the bag, despite polling neck-and-neck with Biden. Or he realises that he’s got to double down and go for the tougher states, and hope to sweep up those that are easier to win in the process. If he doesn’t get Florida or Wisconsin, Ohio or Iowa barely matter.”

My sense is that there is do-or-die attitude in the White House and he needs to shore up support elsewhere, such as Florida as his campaign finances, rather like his business empire, are not all they appear to be.

The dollar appeared to roll over last week. On DXY we had a MACD bearish crossover and 14-day RSI trendline break that indicated (as we flagged) that there could be downside.

What’s harder to say is whether this is yet more of a chop sideways for the dollar or renewal of the downtrend.

The close under the 50-day SMA could be taken as bearish signal and we may yet see the 91 handle tested again. The near-term support at the mid-Sep swing low sits around 92.70.

 

The Dollar index on the morning of12.10.2020

Trump returns, big tech faces antitrust concerns

Morning Note

Don’t be afraid: President Trump returned to the White House, but it might not be for much longer. Whilst Trump almost revelled in his victory over the virus, telling Americans not to fear it, Joe Biden’s lead in the polls is rising. Trump has work to do in the battlegrounds to swing back in his favour.

Wall Street climbs on stimulus hopes

Wall Street rallied as we saw decent bid come through for risk that left the dollar lower and benchmark Treasury yields higher amid hopes that policymakers in Washington are close to doing a deal on stimulus. House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke yesterday but failed to reach agreement on a fresh stimulus package.

Negotiations are due to resume today and whilst the mood seems to be better, getting agreement so close to the election will be tough but not impossible.

The S&P 500 rose 1.8% to close at the high of the day above the  3,400 level but the intra-day high at 3,428 from Sep 16th remains the top of the channel that bulls will look to take out – failure here may call for a retreat towards the middle of the range again.

Stimulus hopes will drive sentiment, but election risk is also a factor. Vix futures for Oct at $30.86 compared with November’s $32.23.

European markets turned lower in early trade on Tuesday as bulls failed to follow through on the relief rally on Monday – still very much range bound.

As noted last week the key is the 3300 level on the Stoxx 50 and 6,000 on the FTSE 100 to signal the market has broken the range. The S&P 500 is closer to doing it.

Benchmark yields rose firmly with 10-year Treasuries breaking out of the recent dull range towards 0.80%, settling at 0.77% near 4-month highs. The 30-year yield also hit its highest since Jun 9th.

With polling and odds improving for a Democrat clean sweep, the market is starting to price in more aggressive stimulus, greater issuance and bigger deficits. Fed chair Jay Powell speaks later today about the US economic outlook at the National Association of Business Economics annual meeting.

Cable eyes Brexit latest Brexit headlines

Brexit talks rumble on – are we closer to a deal? Deadlines are fast approaching and on the whole it seems more likely than not that we at least see a skinny deal or sorts.

EC vice president Maros Sefcovic has been on the wires this morning underlining that ‘full and timely’ implementation of the withdrawal agreement is not up for debate. The British Parliament and government say otherwise.

Meanwhile the European Parliament is not budging on its demands over the EU budget – whilst the recovery fund was announced to much fanfare, it needs to be delivered for Europe’s economy to recover more quickly than it is.

Democrats to target tech giants

Big tech stocks need monitoring after reports that a Democrat-led House panel will call for an effective breakup of giants like Apple, Amazon and Alphabet. It comes after a long anti-trust investigation by the panel led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline.

If approved and legislation is enacted, it would be the most significant reform in this area since Teddy Roosevelt. Certainly, the concentration of capital in a handful of big tech stocks is worrisome for lots of reason. Even if approved, getting from draft to legislation will not be easy. However, if there were a Democrat clean sweep, it could open the door to some aggressive reforms.

As I noted over a year ago, given that the FAANGs have been at the front of the market expansion in recent years, any breakup or threat of it may act as a drag on broader market sentiment. Calls have been growing louder and louder for the authorities to at least look at antitrust issues for the tech giants.

Political pressure is building – lawmakers sniff votes in tackling big tech. The shift really happened two years ago with the Facebook scandals, which really broke the illusion that Silicon Valley is in it for the little guy.

AUDUSD sinks on dovish RBA meeting

The Reserve Bank of Australia left interest rates on hold, refraining from a cut below 0.25% but maintaining a decidedly dovish bias that still indicates a further cut may occur this year.

The RBA said it will keep monetary policy easy “as long as is required” and will not increase the cash rate target until progress is being made towards full employment and it is confident that inflation will be sustainably within the 2–3% target band. It kept its options open and stressed that it will continue to consider additional monetary easing.

After a decent run since the Sep 25th low AUDUSD was smacked down from its 50-day SMA at 0.7210 to trade around 0.7150. Currently contained by its 50- and 100-day SMAs.

The dollar index broke the horizontal support and the 21-day SMA, with the price action testing the trendline off the September lows. After the RSI trend breach and the MACD bearish crossover flagged yesterday was confirmed. 50-day SMA around 93.25 is the next main support.

The softer dollar gave some support to GBPUSD as it tests the top of the range and big round number and Fibonacci resistance at 1.30 this morning. Markets are also pushing back expectations for negative rates in the UK, which may be feeding through to a stronger pound.

Brexit risks remain but the odds of a deal seem to be better than evens, at least a ‘skinny’ deal that keeps dollar-parity wolves from the door.

The weaker dollar, higher inflation outlook is pushing up gold prices, which have broken above $1,900 but faces immediate resistance at the 21-day SMA on $1,916. Yesterday’s potential MACD bullish crossover has been confirmed.

Equity markets continue September slide

Morning Note

Stock markets in Europe turned lower Thursday after tough day on Wall Street left the S&P 500 close to correction territory. Six months on and with some big gains locked in, investors are starting to fret over the recovery ahead, with the Fed warning that the US economic recovery would suffer if there is no further stimulus and the UK set for a longer winter of discontent.

On Thursday morning, European equities traded lower but pared early losses after the first hour of trading. Asia was notably weaker. German business confidence improved a fraction. Donald Trump said he could overrule the FDA’s plans to introduce tougher standards for authorising a coronavirus vaccine.

The S&P 500 closed near its lows of the day, falling over 2.3% to 3,236 on broad market weakness as both tech/growth declined alongside cyclicals. The index is close to correction territory again – from its intra-day high at 3,588 the 10% corrective move sits at 3,229, Monday’s low point. On a closing basis, it’s 3,222.

What’s remarkable is that through all this selling, Treasuries are unmoved – 10s continue to print around the 0.67% region – why are bonds just not moving through all this equity market selling?

Risk sentiment deteriorating?

Whilst we can look at the rampant speculation and excessive valuations in big tech stocks unwinding over the course of September, we are seeing broader declines in other sectors that indicates deteriorating risk sentiment as we head into the autumn.

There may be several reasons behind this – less certainty over a vaccine emerging soon, second wave fears, the realisation that consumer confidence and spending in the economy will slump unless governments continue to inject stimulus and the usual volatility before the US election.

Trump continues to tease with comments around not committing to a smooth transition of power – of course there is no risk that he would somehow carry out a coup, but equally I fear there is almost no chance the election result will be confirmed on the night. Gore/Bush 2000 seems likely to be repeated but things are far nastier, far more polarised now than then.

More broadly perhaps we can put the sell-off in equities down to fading momentum in the economic recovery – PMIs are showing weakness, whilst other measures of economic activity indicate a levelling-off after the bounce back over the summer – at the same as there is no fresh stimulus emerging either on the fiscal or the monetary side.

Fed officials warn over US economic recovery, call for government support

Whilst central banks continue to stress that they will do whatever it takes, few additional concrete steps have been taken lately.  Washington appears gridlocked over fiscal support.

Fed speakers issued a series of warnings about the path of recovery in the US. Jay Powell warned Americans would burn through savings and find it harder to sell their homes. Boston Fed president Rosengren warned of a ‘credit crunch’ by the end of the year with community and regional banks likely to come under pressure from more bad loans as businesses are forced to close.

Cleveland Fed president Mester also called for more fiscal stimulus to support the fragile recovery. Goldman Sachs lowered its quarter-on-quarter GDP growth estimate for Q4 to 3% from 6%, implying the economy contracting 2.5% in the quarter. Powell and Treasury Sec Mnuchin speak later today. Also watch the weekly jobless claims numbers, with initial claims seen at 845k.

UK chancellor abandons Autumn Budget

In the UK, chancellor Rishi Sunak is abandoning his planned Budget for a short-term round of targeted measures, which he will announce later today.  This is likely to featured more targeted support for sectors like hospitality and travel. It’s clear on both sides of the pond that unless there is more fiscal support, the economic recovery will go into neutral and stall.

Only three weeks ago the government implored us to get back to the office to support city centres – what’s strange is that they did this without realising that cases would rise. Their risk tolerance for the spread is extremely low, which indicates a government operating on the fly.

Strong dollar pressures pound and precious metals lower

Dollar strength is weighing on its major peers as well as gold and silver, although the greenback’s advance just paused for a while this morning. Sterling has retreated to its weakest level for two months and is current sitting on the 38.2% retracement with the 100-day line turning into near-term resistance.

The pound remains exposed to several strong headwinds, including the risk of a no-deal Brexit, negative rates and a deeper and longer-lasting economic collapse than peers. Meanwhile gold fell below $1850 and has retreated 10% from the recent all-time high but found support at the 100-day DMA. Silver has broken the trend line after some very nasty price action over the last few days, but it too has found support around its 100-day line.

Chart: Cable holds 1.2690 for now, 100-day line becomes resistance

Chart: Dollar index advances with three white soldiers candle formation and possible gap close to 96?

Chart: Silver test 100-day line

Stocks attempt rally after selloff, sterling down on Bailey remarks, Kingfisher enjoys DIY boom

Morning Note

Stock markets firmed in early European trade but remain battered and bruised by yesterday’s sell-off as fears of a second wave of cases and new lockdown measures dealt a blow to risk sentiment. Selling pressure has been building for some time and the dam broke yesterday.

A recovery in the final hour of trade lifted the market off the lows so it wasn’t full capitulation, but there could yet be more downside as the S&P 500 approaches correction territory.

SPX, Dow tumble, tech strength stems Nasdaq losses

The S&P 500 declined by 1.2% and the Dow dropped 1.8% but tech stocks fared better with the Nasdaq flat for the day. Shares in Apple rose 3% and Microsoft was up 1% as some of the Covid winners showed more resilience to fears over second waves of the pandemic and fresh lockdown measures, which seemed to be the trigger.

Despite the heavy selling, bulls put in a strong finish – the Dow was down over 900 points at the low before ending –500pts. At its lows the S&P 500 plunged by as much as 2.7%. Nevertheless, the broad market is now already –6% for the month of September, has notched four straight daily declines for the first time since March, and is over 8% off its all-time high.

The FTSE 100 fell over 3%, breaching the 21-day simple moving average line. Despite the pressure the bulls just held the 5,800 round number and closed above the Sep 4th low of 5,799. The Stoxx 50 breached the July lows and is now close to its Jun bottom having sunk under its 200-day SMA. The move follows a clear period of congestion that was calling for a breakout, having been caught in an ever-narrower range.

The DAX fell almost 4.5% with heavy selling into the closing bell seen as bears tried but failed to crack the 12,500 round number as the 78.6% retracement of the Feb-Mar rout held. There were modest gains in early trade on Tuesday but the rally looks a little wobbly.

Fading hope for another round of stimulus in the US is another weight, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg over the weekend seen as a decisive blow against a bipartisan deal being achieved before the election, since it materially magnifies the polarisation in Washington. A deal will need to wait until after November 3rd.

In addition, a heavy ramp up in August with far too much hot money chasing too few shares, increasingly stretched valuations, the lack of a vaccine on the horizon and the rising risk of volatility around the US Presidential Election – and uncertainty over whether we will get a clean result – seems to have caught up with the markets.

UK government set to introduce new Covid curbs, Kingfisher gets DIY boost in Q2

The UK government is set to introduce fresh measures to ‘control’ the virus – curfews and working from home if possible. What a difference a month makes – only a few weeks ago we were being implored to get out and about to help out. It’s almost like they don’t know what they are doing.

While pub shares fell on curfew news, several earnings reports today highlight the uneven nature of the recovery so far, and the uncertain path ahead.

Tui – uncertainty over the course of lockdowns and quarantine rules is leaving holidaymakers unsure about booking in the coming months. The winter 20/21 programme has been further reduced by 20% since the Q3 update, to around 40% adjusted capacity, reflecting ‘the current uncertainty relating to travel restrictions’. TUI says it is currently 30% sold for the adjusted winter capacity.

Compared to the normal levels of prior year, bookings are currently down 59%, in line with adjusted capacity. Consumers are much happier to assume things will be ‘back to normal’ by summer 2021. Tui says bookings are up 84% but at 80% adjusted capacity, however we should caution that much of this will be pushback demand from this summer as consumers changed travel dates to next year.

Cost-cutting has helped TUI weather the storm – that and some whopping bailouts from the German government, but it and the entire travel industry needs governments across Europe to give far greater clarity over restrictions and quarantines. Shares rose a touch but the rest of the travel sector was weaker with Carnival off another –4% and IAG down –3% after a drubbing yesterday.

Kingfisher enjoyed a strong recovery in Q2 as DIYers tackled their jobs lists. This recovery has continued into Q3 to date, management say, with growth across all banners and categories. Q3 20/21 group LFL sales to Sep 19th are up 16.6%.

DIYers are driving the recovery – sales at B&Q rose 28% in Q2 on a like-for-like basis. Trade less so – Screwfix LFL sales were up just 2.4%, though they are +9.9% in Q3 so far – as the construction industry struggles to get going again. Overall UK & Ireland sales rose 2.4% in the first half despite lockdown as people rediscovered their homes and their desire for improving them. French bounced back strongly, with Q2 sales +27% vs the –41.5% decline in Q1.

First half sales were –5.9% lower. Overall H1 sales were a tad lighter but cost reductions meant adjusted pre-tax profit rose 23% to £415m, with retail margins +140bps to 9%. Shares rose 6% in early trade and have more than doubled off the March low.

Dollar climbs on Fed jawboning, BoE’s Bailey to speak today

In FX, the rollover in risk sentiment and some interesting Fed jawboning played into the dollar bulls, with DXY sustaining a breach of the channel on the upside and clearing its 50–day SMA, which had been a key point of resistance last week. Gold retreated under $1,900 at one point with the stronger dollar weighing.

The Fed’s Bullard said the US has done enough on the fiscal front, whilst Dallas Fed president Kaplan stressed that the Fed should not keep its hands tied by committing to ZIRP forever even if the economy bounces back. Powell stressed that the Fed will use all its tools to do whatever it takes.

More Powell today plus Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, who said in remarks this morning that the recovery in Q3 has been ahead of expectations but stressed that the hard yards are ahead.

All the market wants to know is whether negative rates are coming or not – he said the Bank has looked ‘very hard’ at the scope to cut rates further, including negative rates. So this was not the attempt to distance the MPC from the negative rate comments in last week’s release to give the central bank more flexibility. As the MPC indicated last week, Bailey wants to leave negative rates on the table.

GBPUSD was under fresh pressure under 1.28 and could be set up for a bear flag continuation with a possible dive back to 1.22. If this holds, bulls need to clear 1.30 to be encouraged. The key test is the 200-day EMA around 1.2760 which was tested last week and held, encouraging a rally back to 1.30. Cable shed this support in the early European session as Bailey got on the airwaves – one to watch today with the 100-day the last line of defence.

BoE quick take: negative rates on the table hit cable

Forex

Sterling dropped sharply along with gilt yields, with GBPUSD down one big figure to take a 1.28 handle and 2-year gilt yields dropping to -0.1% after the Bank of England delivered a dovish statement which included overt references to introducing negative rates.

It looks like Bailey is prepared to go big and fast if there is an unemployment crisis once the furlough scheme ends. For the time being he is keeping his powder dry.

Whilst the MPC kept rates on hold at 0.1% and the stock of asset purchases at £745bn, it looks like it is on the cusp of delivery further accommodation. The Bank ‘stands ready’ to do more, it said, adding that will not tighten monetary policy until there is ‘clear evidence’ of achieving its 2% inflation target in a sustainable way.

But it was the mention of negative rates that seems to led to sterling being offered.

Bank of England puts negative rates on the table

The bit that did the damage was included right at the bottom (underlines my own):

The Committee had discussed its policy toolkit, and the effectiveness of negative policy rates in particular, in the August Monetary Policy Report, in light of the decline in global equilibrium interest rates over a number of years. Subsequently, the MPC had been briefed on the Bank of England’s plans to explore how a negative Bank Rate could be implemented effectively, should the outlook for inflation and output warrant it at some point during this period of low equilibrium rates. The Bank of England and the Prudential Regulation Authority will begin structured engagement on the operational considerations in 2020 Q4.

It also set the stage for more QE, with the MPC noting that the Bank ‘stood ready to increase the pace of purchases to ensure the effective transmission of monetary policy’. With the current QE ammo due to run out by the end of the year, the Bank looks likely to expand the asset purchase programme by around £100bn in November.

We can now also start to worry about negative rates being implemented – a lot will depend on the unemployment rate as we head towards Dec with the furlough scheme ending.

On the economy, the Bank thinks the UK economy in Q3 will be 7% below Q4 2019 levels, which is not as bad as previously forecast. Inflation is forecast to remain below 1% until next year.

Chart: Cable breaches near-term trend but tries to find support at 1.29.

Looking to see whether this move reasserts the longer-term downtrend – lots depends on the Brexit chatter taking place in the background.

Ocado rides high on M&S promise, G4S knocks back approach

Morning Note

The question every Ocado shareholder has is whether the M&S tie-up will deliver. The answer so far, just a couple of weeks into the partnership, seems to be positive. Forward demand is strong, and management say adding M&S products has increased the average basket by around 5 items.

We should question though whether the novelty of getting Percy Pigs in your online shop will last.

Retail revenues – pre-M&S – accelerated from +27% in H1 to +52% in Q3 as the shift to online grocery continues apace, with the number of orders on a weekly basis up almost 10%. UK grocery sales rose 10.8% in the 12 weeks to September 6th, according to Kantar, which indicates Ocado is significantly outperforming. Shares in Ocado jumped over 6%, whilst MKS rose over 5% to 110p.

Of course, Ocado shares don’t trade on such lofty multiples because it runs a successful UK grocery business, but on expected recurring revenue streams from international partners. These have been slow to materialise and there was no further communication in today’s update.

Earnings from international partners remain slow to emerge and in July management cautioned that EBITDA from International Solutions would decline due to ‘continued investment in improving the platform and building the business, and from increased support costs with launch of initial CFC sites’.

Despite this jump in retail revenues, management can only promise full-year EBITDA of £40m. The problem for Ocado is it takes a long time to get a return from building costly fulfilment centres, while Marks will find out that it’s very hard to translate online grocery sales into profits.

On those Kantar numbers, it is worth noting that growth in supermarket sales decelerated in August because of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, with sales down £155m compared with the July period. Shares in Tesco rose, while those in Sainsbury’s and Morrison fell.

UK unemployment rises, UK Internal Market Bill moves forward

UK unemployment rose to 4.1%, in a clear signal that the labour market is coming under increasing strain. According to the ONS, the number of employees in the UK on payrolls was down around 695,000 compared with March 2020. The claimant count rose to 2.7m, which is an increase of 120% from March levels. Over 5m people remained in furlough in July – how many are coming back?

Boris’s internal market bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons but 30 Tory MPs abstained, hoping to water it down. The EU retaliated by delaying its decision on allowing  the City to continue clearing billions of euros every day in derivatives. London dominates the market but Paris and Frankfurt would both like a larger slice – of course you cannot strip it out of London very easily so this looks more like the European Commission flexing its muscles.

GBPUSD was steady in the middle of its range around 1.2860 having struck a high at 1.2920 in afternoon trading yesterday. Support to be found on the recent lows put in around the 200-day EMA at 1.2750.

Europe struggles on the open despite strong session in New York

European stocks faltered a bit after opening in the green, indicative really of the whole summer. The Euro Stoxx 50 neatly shows how European blue chips have drifted since June.

US stocks pushed up yesterday, with the S&P 500 pushing higher by 1.27% and every sector in the green. The Nasdaq was up almost 2%. Tesla shares rocketed 12%, while Nikola was up 11% before plunging 8% in after-hours trade.

Nikola responded to the Hindenburg research note but it seemed to me to be a rather weak defence with the company’s own promo videos on YouTube served up as ‘evidence’.

G4S rejects Garda World bid

Elsewhere, G4S shares were a little weaker this morning but largely held yesterday’s gains after the unsolicited approach from Garda World. A lengthy statement this morning rejects the offer in no uncertain terms, with management saying that the ‘highly opportunistic’ bid significantly undervalues the business. They go on to outline a detailed financial case on why they should not be bought.

Whilst the 190p offer represents a 31% premium to the undisturbed 145p the stock was trading at before the news broke, this only really recovers pandemic-related depreciation and G4S is probably right to demand a lot more for solid business that generates about £7bn in sales annually.

Always interesting to see how a company deleveraging  (G4S reduced net debt to EBITDA from 3.27x in 2015 to 2.58x today) makes you more appealing to a leveraged buyout, in which GW is a specialist.

Nikola shares tumble (again)

Equities

Volume leaders today include Apple as normal, as well as Peloton after a blow-out earnings report – EPS of $0.27 almost treble the street consensus of $0.10 indicating the stay-at-home Covid trend is playing out well for the brand. A new cheaper version of its bike should help, too. Apple shares were flat, with Peloton up just +1%, well below its highs.

Hidenburg Research slams Nikola, shares tumble

Nikola shares fell about 15% on high volumes after the Hindenburg Research article. Whilst shares had fallen yesterday following publication, it seems investors have taken fright at the lack of any detailed refutation by Nikola.

A statement today from the company only said the allegations are not accurate and described the report as a ‘hit job’. If it is a hit job, it’s been a very well timed one with the stock having jumped only a couple of days prior on the tie-up with GM. But the lack of detail from the company so far has left investors unimpressed.

Without being able to comment on the details of the report, short attacks can and do happen, and more often than often there is rarely smoke without fire.

Equities move higher into the weekend

Elsewhere, the S&P 500 ticked higher after testing yesterday’s cash close at 3,339, with the 50-day line offering further support untested at 3,321.90. Yesterday’s tap on the 21-day SMA at 3,425 looks a long way off. Nasdaq also higher as risk is catching some bid into the weekend.

European equity markets are closing the day out with some decent weekly gains in the bag. Overall we have seen a real divergence between the US and Europe this week with equity markets this side of the pond doing better. Partly that is down to the rotation out of tech, but also we need to be aware of election risk that will play an increasing role in driving sentiment over the next month and a half.

Crude oil found some bid as the risk sentiment improved as the US session progressed.

Listening to the usual talking heads it seems there is more appetite for value after the three-day tech rout saw the penny drop for many that valuations had gotten out of hand. Let’s see how that goes with Ocado and Next on stage next week.

Brexit headline risk keeps pressure on GBPUSD

In FX, DXY ran out of gas at 93.38 as it tries to make another stab at the top of the descending wedge. GBPUSD tried three times to break below 1.2770 today but the level has just about held for now – sterling remains exposed to Brexit headline risks and bulls may be thin on the ground.

Post fix it looks pretty meek and liable to further downside into the weekend with UK-EU trade talks next week in focus. The current consolidation range looks pretty bearish and flaggy but we should always caution that sellers can get exhausted into the weekend just much as buyers can and there may be some profits being taken.

Sterling stabilises after Brexit furore, equities steady

Morning Note

Sterling stabilised after testing new six-week lows yesterday following the testy exchanges around the internal market bill, but the pound remains highly exposed to negative news around Brexit talks.

The EU Commission said the bill has damaged trust and would, if adopted, represent a serious breach of the withdrawal agreement and of international law. The British position remains resolute. The UK government legal opinion is that it remains a sovereign matter of UK domestic law.

This is serious brinkmanship, and trade talks appear close to collapse. Moreover, it is opposed by the devolved regimes in Scotland and Wales – if it passes and there is no deal, the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood will be close to breaking point and it could accelerate and heighten demands for Scottish independence.

The EU wants the offending bill pulled by the end of the month or they may launch legal action – but stopped short of saying they will walk away from the trade talks. The EU doesn’t want to be the first to walk away. Nevertheless, there has been a material escalation of no-deal risks, which was reflected in the pound’s price action yesterday.

The clock is ticking and whilst we continue to stress that a deal will always look further away than it is due to the nature of the posturing and public statements, the move on the internal market bill comes somewhat out of left-field (although it was actually reported back in Feb that the govt was working on it) and it does not pertain to the talks themselves.

We should also note that it is not guaranteed to pass both British chambers in its current form. Europe’s finance ministers are gathering today so expect a lot of headlines criticising the British – plus ca change. The good news is there is UK-Japan trade deal ‘in principle’ – hopefully that means cheaper wagu steak.

Euro up after ECB meeting, UK GDP disappoints

GBPUSD dropped under 1.28 but has found some support at this level and pared back losses a touch. Against the euro, the pound plunged to its weakest since March, as the single currency also found bid after the European Central Bank sounded a bit more optimistic on the economy and a little less dovish than the market had thought.

The ECB indicated it would not overreact to the appreciation of the euro, which was a green light for the currency to rally. ECB sources suggested they don’t think the euro is overvalued and don’t want to start a currency war – let’s wait and see what happens when 1.20 gets tested again.

Meanwhile, Britain’s economy faces even greater uncertainty from Brexit as it tries to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic. GDP rose 6.6% in July, but this was short of expectations and still well below pre-pandemic levels. All areas of manufacturing, particularly distillers and car makers, saw improvements, the ONS said without a hint of irony.

In July, monthly GDP was 11.7% lower than the pre-pandemic levels seen in February 2020.

The good news is that because of the way the UK measures education in GDP numbers, means things should pick up as the number of pupils returning to school rises. It also means the decline in GDP might not be so bad compared with peers as it looks.

Among the service sector, accommodation & food services remain worst hit, but we know it got a big – albeit temporary – boost in August from the Eat Out scheme.

Impasse over US stimulus continues

European markets were flat on Friday after US markets pulled back on Thursday, declining for the fourth day in five, with the Nasdaq down another 2% and the and the S&P 500 falling 1.75% on the back of the previous session’s rally.

The resumption of the downtrend came as Senate Republicans failed to pass their $500bn stimulus package, with Democrats complaining it does not go far enough. The impasse has doused hopes Congress can agree a package in the near-term and could give a tailwind to bears who have the bit between their teeth.  US futures are higher.

Concerns about the US economy remain. US jobless claims just aren’t heading in the right direction. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 22 was 29,605,064, an increase of 380,379 from the previous week. In the week to Sept 5th initial claims hit 884,000, unchanged from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 881,000 to 884,000. US CPI numbers out later today are the main eco event to watch, but the furore over the internal market bill is not going away.

Moody music around Brexit sends sterling lower

Forex

Sterling took  a bit of a kicking as the mood music around this week’s Brexit talks took a decided turn for the worse. The EU came out with some pretty stern words for the British government over its internal markets bill. Less Ode to Joy and more Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March.

The EU Commission has come out fighting, saying the bill would, if adopted, represent a serious breach of the withdrawal agreement (perhaps) and of international law (more dubious, since the EU cannot hold any sway or sovereignty over UK domestic markets, laws or affairs after the exit from the EU).

Anyway, the British position (on paper at least) remains resolute. The UK government legal opinion is that it remains a sovereign matter of UK domestic law, which of course, it is, regardless of what the EU may think.

Brexit talks under threat as EU warns UK has ‘seriously damaged trust’

The EC called on Britain to ditch the problem elements of the bill by the end of the month and warned that the UK has ‘seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK’, adding that ‘it is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust’.

This is real brinkmanship. It is one of three things: it is either a cynical masterstroke in negotiating a deal. Two, it is a cynical move but a miscalculation on the British side, as it may fatally undermine the good faith basis discussions. Or three, it is simply a genuine good faith step based on the British desire to main the integrity of its own internal market, just as much as the EU insists on maintaining its own single market.

Either way the language and tone coming out of everything today would suggest a material increase in no deal risks – more no doubt to follow later this afternoon.

Pound sinks on heightened no-deal risks

GBPUSD sank to fresh six-week lows under 1.2860 with the road to 1.280 clear after breaching the 50-day line, which had offered the support yesterday. EURGBP surged to its strongest in 6 months above 0.92, boosted as a hawkish-sounding ECB put a firm under the EUR.

The euro was sent spiking against the dollar before easing back a touch after the ECB left rates unchanged and indicate it was all very pleased with itself and doesn’t think it needs to do a lot more. Christine Lagarde seemed far too relaxed about the appreciation in the euro, which helped send the currency back up to 1.19.

All in all she did beat a dovish drum and seems to have got her communication rather muddled, again. But after this spike, a bit of dollar bid came back as risk assets soured following the US open.

FTSE lags as dollar continues to drop

Morning Note

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.

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