Week Ahead: Central banks galore but fiscal response is the key

Week Ahead

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.

FOMC

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.  

Earnings

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
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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
After-Market 15-Sep FedEx
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

Ocado and Next teasers: Why do investors pay so much for growth?

Equities

Why do investors continue to pay such a premium for growth? Let’s take two FTSE 100 retailers – Ocado and Next, both of which report their latest trading numbers next week. Ocado delivers Q3 numbers on September 15th, with Next following with its half-year results on September 17th. The two companies offer rather different entry points into the UK retail space. Ocado carries tech-level valuations, and has been touted as the Microsoft of retail, whilst Next is relatively unloved despite its very respectable omnichannel mix and successful switch to online that has not been mirrored by all its peers. The respective CEOs – Lord Wolfson at Next and Ocado’s Tim Steiner are also rather different characters.

Ocado – Where is the Cash?

Ocado (LON: OCDO) shareholders will be keen to hear how management think the Marks & Spencer tie-up has gone so far. Investors will also want the answer to the perennial question – where is the cash? It likes to raise fresh funds to pay for its global expansion – raising another £1bn in debt and equity in June this year – but is less keen on actually generating it.

Ocado’s share price has rocketed this year thanks to the boom in online retail. Its +77% rally in 2020 puts it behind only Fresnillo in terms of YTD gains on the blue-chip index. However, it’s yet to really deliver any returns to investors by way of free cash.

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’.

Booming retail sales in the UK (+27% H1) are priced in, as are sustainable fees from international partners. The latter carries considerable execution risk.

Next – Retail bellwether

Meanwhile, retail bellwether Next (LON: NXT) (-16% YTD) is a cash cow that even with a collapse in the high street consistently manages to deliver free cash flow. The pandemic has proved more challenging – suspending buybacks and dividends, and selling off assets have been required to shore up the balance sheet this year. But it remains a resilient company able to generate pre-tax profit. 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 based on its central scenario.

If we know anything about Simon Wolfson, it’s that he likes to under promise and over deliver – albeit there are risks, as Dunelm stressed today, that a second lockdown could damage demand going into Christmas. In the more optimistic scenario laid out in July, pre-tax profits would be £330m – we are yet to see if high street footfall has made a genuine difference.

After peaking in February at £1.15bn, under the central scenario Next expects net debt to close the year at £648m, which would be a reduction of £464m in the year.

Despite generating cash every year, Next’s share price has lagged Ocado’s significantly over the last 5 years.

And taking this simple peer analysis, on both return on equity and price to cash flow metrics, Ocado looks very richly valued.

(charts and data from Markets.com, Reuters Eikon)

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