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US Election Risk: Corporate Tax Rates
The passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) in December 2017 lowered the US federal corporate income tax rate to 21% from 35%.
This recent decline in tax rate has been a major contributing factor to profit growth for US companies. For example, S&P Global found that, since the TCJA was enacted, the median effective tax rates for information technology companies in the S&P500 dropped from 21.1% in the first quarter of 2017 to 15.5% in the same period of 2019.
However, Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a partial reversal of the TCJA. The Tax Foundation sees the plan as raising the corporate income tax rate to 28%, reversing half of the TCJA cut.
With the 2020 US Presidential Election just five months away and prediction markets starting to price in an increased likelihood of Democratic victories in the House, Senate and Presidential races, it may be worthwhile considering if the market is pricing in the risk of an increase in tax rates.
Data source: Predictit.org “Yes Price”
In a note earlier this week, Goldman Sachs strategists saw the plan put forward by Democratic nominee Biden as reducing S&P 500 EPS by as much 12% in 2021, while this week has also seen the index trading with a forward PE multiple above 23, levels last seen around the time of the dotcom bubble.
Of course, much uncertainty remains about the specifics of any potential tax reform, as well as five more months of uncertainty before the election race is completed, which could ultimately remove the likelihood of any tax reform.
Equity indices clear big hurdles even as Hong Kong tensions simmer
Tensions between the US and China are worsening, with the two sides clashing at the UN over Hong Kong. China rejected a US proposal for the Security Council to meet over the issue, whilst US secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from Beijing. China’s ‘parliament’ this morning approved the controversial national security legislation for the territory.
We also note reports this morning that China escorted a US navy ship out of its waters. Meanwhile Taiwan is to buy Harpoon anti-ship missiles from the US, which is likely to further rile Beijing. Tensions are showing signs they could boil over – we cannot play down the importance of an embattled US president facing a national crisis at home in an election year – one he can blame on his chief geopolitical adversary. Expect more sabre rattling.
Shares in Hong Kong and Taiwan fell, whilst Japanese equities rose by more than 2% in a mixed session overnight in Asia. The FTSE 100 rallied towards 6200 on the open, but shares in Standard Chartered and HSBC fell, signalling investor concern about what’s going on in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, equity markets continue to strengthen and move out of recent ranges and clear important technical resistance. Confidence in equity markets is strong thanks more stimulus and signs economies are reopening quicker. A resurgence in cases in South Korea is a worry.
Yesterday, US stocks surged with the S&P 500 closing above 3,000 for its best finish since March 2nd, whilst the Dow added over 500 points to clear 25k at stumps. The S&P 500 cleared the 200-day moving average and is now trading with a forward PE multiple of about 24x – making it look decidedly pricey.
European followed Wall Street higher with broad-based gains. The DAX yesterday closed above the 61.8% retracement around 11,581 and extended gains through the 11,700 level. The FTSE 100 thrust towards 6200 this morning, hitting its highest intra-day level since March 10th. The 50% retracement around 6250 is the next target before bulls can seek to clear the gap to the March 6th close at 6,462.
EasyJet is planning to reduce its fleet by 51 and cut up to 30% of staff. This is the big fear playing out – temporary furlough becomes permanent firing once businesses figure out that demand has vanished. Whilst airlines will feel this more than just about any other sector, this trend will be seen in a wide range of industries, albeit to a lesser extent.
Shares in EZJ rose 8% – cost cuts are welcome of course for investors, but also the indication of running at 30% of capacity over the summer is better than had been feared. Efforts by the likes of Greece and Spain to salvage the summer season will help a lot. IAG and Ryanair shares rose 2-3%.
Twitter shares fell and were down more in after-hours trading after Donald Trump threatened to shut down social media sites that stifle conservative voices. Having been sanctioned by Twitter with fact-check warnings, the president is very unhappy. It hurts his ego and it blunts his most effective tool.
The White House said the president will sign an executive order on social media today. Facebook shares were also lower yesterday and extended losses in after-hours trade. Will Trump try to silence Twitter and Facebook? No, but he can put more of a regulatory squeeze on them and raise their costs.
Europe’s bailout proposals were greeted with optimism, but the frugal four countries of Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands did not seem terribly impressed at plans that will raise their budget contributions. They will need to be brought round. Estonia has also said it won’t vote for the proposals. Work to be done – getting all countries on board with a complex budget takes a long time in the best of circumstances, let alone amid a dreadful recession.
The euro has largely held gains after rising on the EU’s budget plans. EURUSD firmed above 1.10 but is struggling to clear the 200-day moving average around 1.1010. Bulls need to see a confirmed push above this to unlock the path back to 1.1150, the March swing high. Failure calls for retest of recent swing lows at 1.0880.
Sterling was steady with GBPUSD around 1.2270 after yesterday giving up the 1.23 handle and testing support at 1.220 following Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator gave a pretty downbeat assessment of trade talks to MPs.
Today’s data focuses on the US weekly unemployment claims, which are forecast at +2.1m. As we enter the summer and states reopen, the hiring will gradually overtake the firing but we are not yet there. Durable goods orders – an important leading indicator of activity – are seen at –19% month-on-month with the core reading seen at –14.8%. A second print of the US Q1 GDP is seen steady at –4.8%.
Oil dived and took a look at last week’s lows as API figures showed a surprise build in crude inventories in the US. Stocks rose by 8.7m in the week ending May 22nd, vs expectations for a draw of 2.5m barrels. The build in stocks means the EIA data today will be more closely monitored than usual, given that expected drawing down of inventories has underpinned the resurgence in crude pricing. WTI (Aug) slipped back to $31.60, just a little short of the May 22nd swing low.
Stocks stage fightback, Trump raises China stakes
US stocks staged a mighty comeback and closed at the highs as beaten-up financials managed to recover ground. The S&P 500 traded under the 50% retracement level at 2790, dipping as low as 2766 as US jobless claims rose by another 3m, before rallying to close up 1% at 2852. Financials, which have failed to really take part in the rally since March, led the way as Wells Fargo rose 6.8% and Bank of America and JPMorgan both rallied 4%. Energy stocks also firmed as oil prices rallied.
European indices were softer on Thursday but managed to recover a little ground in early trade on Friday. The FTSE 100 rose over 1% to clear 5,800, with the DAX up a similar amount and trying gamely to recover 10,500. Asian shares have largely drifted into the weekend with no clear direction.
The rally for Wall Street snapped a 3-day losing streak but the indices are still on for the worst weekly performance since mid-March. We’re still in this tug-of-war phase as the real-world impacts of Covid-19 run up against the stimulus and central bank support. Markets are still trying to figure it all out. SPX needs to rally to 2915 today to finish the week flat, while the FTSE 100 requires 5,935.
The deterioration in US-China relations is another worry for investors, with Donald Trump saying he doesn’t even want to speak to President Xi and threated to ‘cut off’ China ties. He’s not angry, he just ‘very disappointed’. As I’ve pointed out in a past note, in an election year with the economy suffering from the worst recession in memory, Trump is likely to go very hard against China, particularly as this has bi-partisan support and polls indicate anti-China feeling running high. This will be partly a political game, partly what the US ought to be doing anyway, but either way it will likely provide yet another downside risk for investors.
Neckline support of the head and shoulders pattern is feeling pressure but yesterday’s rally is positive for bulls. Expect further push-and-pull around this region.
Overnight data showed Chinese factory output rise while consumer demand slowed. Retail sales declined 7.5% vs 7% expected in April. US retail sales today are forecast at -12%, or -8.6% for the core reading.
Oil put on a good show with front month WTI rising above $28. The August WTI crude oil contract trades a little higher than $29, meaning the contango spread has narrowed by two-thirds in the last week. Price action suggests traders are far less worried about the underlying demand and storage constraints that have dogged prices for the last couple of months.
In FX, as flagged sterling tested the Apr 6th low, which has held for the time being and GBPUSD has recovered the 1.22 handle. Risks look to the downside, but short-term momentum looks like we could see a nudge up.
Gold has driven off the support and was last up a $1736. Whilst Covid-19 is initially a deflationary shock (negative for gold), the extent to which governments have fired up the printing presses and the fact that monetization of this debt seems the only way out, a significant period of inflation could be around the corner. Gold is still the best hedge against inflation. The Apr 23rd high at $1738 is first test before a retest of the previous top at $1747 and then $1750 to call for a breakout to $1800.
Three reasons why the next move in the S&P 500 may be lower
Following a March 23 move to lows around 2180, the S&P 500 recovered to trade at highs near 2973 at the end of April. With the market 160 points lower than this swing high at time of writing, we wanted to outline several reasons why the next leg for the index may be lower.
It may not be a single event that leads to a pullback, but rather a combination of many, including:
1. The reopening process may take time
The index fell sharply in the final hour of trading Tuesday, on the news that Los Angeles County’s stay home order would be extended “with all certainty” for another three months, while Dr Fauci warned of the risks of reopening businesses too early.
This saw the S&P 500 fall 2% and close at the session low at 2870, a move that was continued yesterday, testing the 2790 level at the lows.
2. A resurgence of US-China tensions
A leading cause for investor concern in 2019 was the US-China trade relationship, which is again showing signs of increasing tensions. There have been recent comments from both sides, with Chinese media reporting on calls rising in China to rework the deal with the US and US media reporting that the White House has directed the federal pension fund to halt investments in Chinese stocks.
Ratcheting up the rhetoric from here could lead to this issue once again coming to the forefront of investor minds.
3. Dividends and share buybacks at risk
Share buybacks, reducing the number of shares outstanding and increasing the value of those that remain, have been the only net demand for shares in the past decade. However, many firms have now stopped their buyback programs to preserve liquidity. Similarly, to preserve cash, many firms have suspended or reduced their dividend payments.
Both developments could negatively impact the demand for shares and prices.
Equity markets track lower after Wall St falls
Public Health England has approved an antibody test from Roche, which could mean easing lockdown restrictions sooner. A junior health minister described it as a ‘game changer’. We shall see – the record on testing so far has been sketchy but it’s a step in the right direction. Russia has also announced positive trials of a treatment drug favipiravi, which was first developed under the name Avigan in Japan. Despite some good news around these drugs however, it seems markets are waking up to the economic reality at last.
Fed chair Jay Powell painted a pretty gloomy picture, He warned that additional policy measures may be needed to avoid an extended period of low productivity. He is erring towards doing more not less. Nothing explicit on negative rates, just repeating the preference for not using them.
As we near the end of earnings season, the recent gains look like over exuberance. David Tepper, a billionaire hedge fund guy, said it’s the second-most overvalued market ever – only ‘99 was worse. Certainly at 20 times forward earnings, it looks pricey – the priciest in 18 years. Earnings in Q1 for S&P 500 companies are down 14% and are seen weaker all year, with Q2 especially hard hit. Already this is the 4th quarter in 5 of year-over-year earnings declines. Valuations are starting to look exceedingly optimistic at these levels – 2600 on SPX is a lot more realistic than 3000. We may not retest the lows, but a significant pullback from the post-trough highs around the 61.8% level seems likely.
At the lows SPX tested the 2790 level, the 50% retracement. MACD crossover confirmed.
Asian markets tracked the fall on Wall Street and European bourses traded broadly weaker on Thursday.
WTI and Brent futures spiked after a surprise draw on US oil stocks but have pared gains. EIA figures showed a 745k barrel drawdown vs an expected build of more than 4m barrels. Stocks at the key Cushing, Oklahoma hub fell by 3m barrels, the first such draw since February.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission warned brokers and clearing houses “to prepare for the possibility that certain contracts may continue to experience extreme market volatility, low liquidity and possibly negative pricing”. The June WTI contract expires on May 19th.
In FX, the pound weakened further as the risk-off trade hit currency markets. Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor, said markets’ basic assumption was that there would more QE.
GBPUSD breached the 1.2250 support and headed for the bottom of the range and is now on track to knock on the Apr 6th low around 1.2160.
BoE: for illustrative purposes only
The Bank of England left rates at 0.1% and, to the surprise of some, did not increase the size of its asset purchase programme. Sterling bounced back a bit after a week of losses following the decision. GBPUSD tested support at 1.23 overnight but spiked north of 1.2380 on the Bank of England’s announcement.
The assessment of the economy from the Bank is grim. The BoE said indicators of UK demand have generally stabilised at “very low levels” with a reduction in the level of household consumption of around 30%. “Consumer confidence has declined markedly, and housing market activity has practically ceased,” the MPC statement noted. Company sales are seen –45% in Q2, with business investment –50%.
In a ‘plausible illustrative economic scenario’, the BoE forecasts a fall in UK-weighted world growth from 2% in 2019 to -13% in 2020, before bouncing back 14% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. Andrew Bailey, the new governor, said there will be some long-term damage to the capacity of the economy, but in the illustrative scenario, these are judged to be relatively small. The Bank seems to be in the –V-shaped reovery camp.
Two things stand out, Firstly, more QE is coming, even if it’s not today. Two members of the MPC voted to increase the stock of asset purchases by £100bn at this meeting.
Secondly, the Bank’s assumptions on economic recovery seem rather optimistic – let’s hope the plausible scenario is right. I have a nasty feeling it won’t be as there will be deep and lasting changes to the way people shop, work, travel and simply move around. The deep central bank and government support, especially furlough schemes, will make a huge difference, but things won’t be the same. IAG today says the level of demand in 2019 won’t recover properly until 2023.
After a decent start to the trading session yesterday the S&P 500 failed to break above 2890 again and bears took hold later to drive the index down 20pts. Europe was dragged lower into the close with the DAX finishing down 1%. European markets rallied a bit at the open on Thursday but the move lacks much conviction – the US will be the driver today and there futures indicate a bounce.
US 10-year bond yields rose to their highest in three weeks, pressuring gold, which has relinquished the $1700 handle to test the $1682 support area. US real yields rose to –0.38% from –0.44% as 10yr Treasuries drove to 0.7%.
Oil is in a holding pattern after the EIA said crude inventories rose less than expected. Crude oil stocks rose 4.6m barrels in the week to May 1st, whilst gasoline inventories fell on a pick-up in driving as states reopen. Domestic oil output in the US fell 200k bpd to 11.9m bpd. Inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma rose a little over 2m barrels, the smallest increase since late March. Having rallied to $26, WTI retreated but has found near-term support at $23 and is bound by resistance at $24.50. The Brent futures curve indicates a narrowing in contango spreads that indicates markets are less fearful of oversupply in the physical market.
European stocks mixed, oil rally runs out of gas
Germany’s top court laid down a challenge to the European Union: who is the final arbiter in European law? Apparently, they don’t think it is the ECJ. German judges think the ECB needs to show buying bonds under QE was proportionate – by what yardstick? They have 3 months to comply or the Bundesbank won’t be allowed to play.
The ECB is clearly not amused. In a very brief update, the central bank said it ‘takes note’ of the judgement by the German Federal Constitutional Court but remains ‘fully committed’ to its price stability mandate.
Finally, it added simple: “The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in December 2018 that the ECB is acting within its price stability mandate.” Quite clearly the German court cannot overrule the ECJ – that’s the whole point, it’s why we wanted out. Italy’s PM Conte agrees, noting that ECB independence is at the heart of European treaties.
The euro has held onto losses to test the 1.0820 level this morning, as German factory orders declined 15.6%, more than the 10% expected. As I noted yesterday, anything that casts doubt on the ability of the ECB to provide the backstop to the bond market is a concern and is euro-negative.
It also seems this decision will likely kill of any hope of collective debt issuance to tackle the current crisis. And a challenge to the PEPP bond buying by the ECB from the same German actors looks likely. There is yet a tail risk that the Bundesbank is forced not to take part in ECB bond buying in three months’ time – this would cause chaos.
The S&P 500 rose yesterday but closed where it opened at 2868, some 30 points off the highs of the day. The lack of any real conviction has led to a mixed start to trading for European markets, where Monday’s rebound looks to be under threat.
Oil rallied strongly but pulled back from the highs as traders realised once again that storage is still a problem. Whilst clearly there are signs of supply and demand rebalancing because lockdown measures are being lifted, but it’s going to be a slow process and it’s hard to see it righting itself before the Jun WTI contract is up.
Crude oil inventories rose 8.4m barrels, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) late on Tuesday. The more closely watched EIA inventory data is released at 15:30 London time and is forecast showing a similar kind of build around 8m barrels. Front month WTI bounced off resistance at $26 to pull back to under $24.50 in early European trade.
Today’s ADP payrolls print will be an amuse-bouche for the weekly jobless claims starter on Thursday followed by Friday’s nonfarm payrolls main course.
FTSE 100 completes 400pt round trip this week
Stocks turned broadly weaker yesterday as investors reacted to some stinky data from Europe and the US. Overnight Asian data has also had the whiff of soft cheese that’s been left out too long. Stocks are softer once more, though most of Europe is on holiday so the focus is on London until New York opens.
The S&P 500 eased back almost 1% to relinquish the 61.8% retracement at 2934 but closing at 2912 it finished well off the lows. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 recorded their best months since 1987 as equity markets rebounded on central bank largesse, government bailouts and the outperformance of US tech over just about anything else. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 19% for the month and is nearly flat for the year. It’s shame we don’t really have any tech firms left, as nothing else is growing.
The FTSE 100 endured a terrible session, finishing 3.5% weaker as Shell tumbled, just holding onto 5900 and the 38.2% retracement of the drawdown. At Friday’s open the index shipped another 2% to break under 5800 and move back to where it opened on Monday at 5,752, completing a 400-pt round trip this week. This will be a level bulls will seek to defend. RBS shares rallied 3%, whilst Lloyds fell 4%. RBS said profits fell 59% to £288m as it set aside £800 for loan losses. But revenues were down just 1.6% at £3.2bn – Lloyds reported an 11% decline in revenues. Something doesn’t look right.
South Korean exports declined 24.3%, the worst slump in 11 years. Japanese factory activity fell to its lowest since 2009. The AIG Australian PMI dropped by 17.9 points to 35.8 in April, its largest month-to-month fall in the 28 years since it began. New Zealand consumer confidence fell 21 points in April to 84.8, where it troughed in 2008. Today’s main event will be the US ISM manufacturing PMI, which is seen declining to 36.7 from 49.1 a month ago.
Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs on China in retaliation for the coronavirus – trade tensions back on the agenda won’t be terribly positive for risk appetite but for now remains something on the margins. But the US and Europe will demand China steps up – if we talk about what permanent changes are taking place or what trends have accelerated sharply, then deglobalisation has to be at the forefront.
Apple shares declined in extended trading after it reported a slowdown in revenue growth and declined to offer guidance for the June quarter. It will however continue to buy back stock and increased its share repurchase programme by $50bn. Revenues from iPhones declined 7% to $29bn, but Services revenues rose 16% to $13.3bn. Overall revenue growth was down to +0.5% vs 9% in the previous quarter.
Amazon shares also dipped after hours as it warned massive costs incurred because of Covid-19 could lead it to a first quarterly loss in 5 years. Amazon always spends big when required and is prepared to make the investment at the expense of short-term earnings per share metrics.
Despite these results, both Apple and Amazon are in the camp where you think they will be thriving under the new world order. More smartphone time – yes, more home delivery – yes, more cloud servers required – yes.
Crude oil continues to find bid with front month WTI running to $20 before dropping back to $19. Crude prices are stabilising as OPEC+ cuts begin to take effect this month, potentially easing the supply-demand imbalance. Markets are also more confident about US states reopening for business, which will fuel demand for crude products like gasoline. Texas oil regulators don’t seem prepared to mandate production cuts, with chairman Wayne Christian against plans for 1m bpd reduction.
In FX, yesterday saw a pretty aggressive 4pm fix as we approached the month end. GBPUSD made a big-figure move and rallied through 1.25 and beyond 1.26 but turned back as it approached the Apr 14th swing high at 1.2650 and the 200-day SMA. It looked an easy fade but the euro also spiked but has held its gains, with EURUSD trading at 1.0960, having briefly dipped to 1.0830 after the ECB decision.
GBPUSD fades after hitting near-term resistance
EURUSD – clears 50-day SMA, looking to scale Apr 14th high
Shell sold, Lloyds crumples, markets look to future post Covid
Shares in Shell slumped 7% as it cut its dividend and reported net income in the first quarter almost halved. Whilst BP chose to absorb a $6bn rise in net debt to $51bn and gearing above 36x in order to preserve its precious dividend, Shell seems to be taking a more prudent approach in cutting its dividend for the first time since the 1940s. Arguably BP is better placed to weather the storm, but Shell is taking the more sensible course of action. Shell’s gearing ratio is down to around 28x, a more comfortable level for Ben van Beurden than it is for Bernard Looney. This poses a simple question for investors – can BP keep it up?
Shares in Lloyds sank 4% after profits collapsed in the first quarter and it significantly raised impairment charges. Profits before tax fell by 95% to £74m, as it raised credit losses provisions to £1.4bn. More worryingly for Lloyds is the 11% fall in revenues – if the housing market remains sluggish it’s got a lot of exposure to worry about and doesn’t have the investment banking arm to fall back on that Barclays does. The read across hit RBS, which is similarly exposed to credit impairments in the UK, with shares almost 4% lower.
The US economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter, declining by 4.8% and signalling the slowdown in Q2 could be well beyond estimates. Spain’s economy declined by 5.2% in the first quarter, marking the steepest contraction since records began in 1995. It was also worse than the ~4% decline expected.
But the extent of economic destruction matters less to the market than the speed at which recovery will happen, so news from Gilead that its remdesivir drug can probably treat Covid-19 sent stocks into a strong rally. White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci gave it a cautious thumbs up, too. Global stock markets are looking to a world post-Covid-19, although the wider macro trade is less optimistic.
The S&P 500 rallied over 2.6%, closing 5 points above the important 61.8% retracement found at 2934, after the Gilead news. The Dow also rallied and is on pace for its best month since 1987. The broader S&P 500 is tracking its best month since Oct 1974. These are strange times for markets, but you have to look at the way in which tech is driving gains and how large caps can lean on central bank support.
European markets jumped yesterday and are skirting around the flat line after almost an hour of trading as traders try to figure out whether there is any more left in this rally. I don’t think markets are going to want to retest the highs any time soon and profit-taking and renewed risk-aversion will likely see a pullback before long.
Last night the Federal Reserve warned of medium-term risks to the economy and signalled there is not going to be a V-shape recovery. Jay Powell did nothing to upset markets and suggested it was likely the Fed would need to do more. The European Central Bank will need to communicate a similar message of support today.
Microsoft and Facebook earnings were very strong, beating estimates, but this does nothing but underline the relative safety to be found in high quality technology companies with strong balance sheets and resilience to lockdown measures. Facebook jumped 10% in after-hours trading as it said April showed some stability in ad revenues, echoing the statement from Alphabet.
Oil continues to notch gains as the risk rally reflects hopes of the global economy opening up sooner, and after a smaller-than-feared build in US crude inventories. Front-month WTI rose above $17 in early European trade. US crude oil inventories rose by 9m barrels from the previous week less than the 11-12m expected and giving some flicker of hope to beleaguered oil traders. Domestic US production slipped, but not by a lot, falling to 12.1m bpd from 12.2m bpd a week before.
Russia’s energy minister Novak said the country’s producers would cut output by 20% from February levels in May, while Norway is playing ball with the OPEC+ arrangement by reducing production by 13%. But demand falls still seem to exceed the capacity of the market to reduce supply. The International Energy Agency said Thursday that global energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020, and will be down 9% in the US and 11% in the EU.
Barclays shares pop, SPX faces big hurdle with Fed, GDP ahead
Barclays CEO Jes Staley reckons that after Covid-19 the idea of sticking thousands of people in a building may be a thing of the past. I heartily agree. Working from home is clearly working rather well. Also, banks are no doubt looking at this and thinking they can cut costs by closing offices, call centres and branches. Nevertheless, it highlights how bosses and government have a very hard task in exiting lockdown. Moreover, what about the Pret or the pub that depends on lunch trade from the City workers filling up these offices every day? The impact on the economy will be permanent.
Shares in Barclays popped over 5% despite the lender taking a £2.1bn credit impairment charge, five times the level of a year before. Like its US peers, trading revenues soared by 77% but this offset may be a one-off for banks as volatility returns to more normal levels. Shares were due a rally – they’ve been beaten down so much and haven’t really participated in the upturn. Investors may need to wait for dividends but UK banks could be in much better shape their share prices indicate.
The S&P 500 failed a major test yesterday as bulls stumbled amidst a blitz of earnings releases and doubts about oil prices. The broad index rallied on the open to trade above 2900 but closed lower and crucially below the key 2885 resistance at 2,863, forming a dark cloud cover bearish signal.
Futures though are higher again today, but we will need to see these levels broken decisively on a close before we consider a push to the 61.8% retracement of the drawdown at 2934. For that we will look to earnings and the US advanced GDP print – seen at -4% – but more importantly the messaging from the Fed today will be crucial for sentiment in equity markets.
Asian markets were broadly firmer overnight with traders expecting the Fed to make clear it will not remove any accommodation until the threat from Covid-19 has passed.
European indices opened strongly, building a very solid session on Tuesday that saw the FTSE 100 rally almost 2% and close above the Apr 14th swing high, but then we saw weakness creep in after half an hour’s trading outside of the UK market, which looks pretty solid as it taps on 6,000.
Italian bonds have softened after Fitch cut the country’s debt to one notch above junk. This unscheduled move followed S&P affirming Italy’s status but with a negative outlook. The yield on Italian 10-year BTPs spiked to 1.83%, the highest since Friday, and it just causes a little added worry for the ECB ahead of its meeting tomorrow. BTP-Bund spreads widened.
Alphabet dealt with a sharp decline in ad revenue growth in the first quarter as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown measures that are stifling consumer spending, but management pointed to a rebound in April and outline spending cuts that sent shares up 8% after hours.
The fact that Alphabet sees ‘some signs users are returning to normal behaviour’ does not in itself mean the global economy is anywhere near to normal. Alphabet is one of the best placed companies to grow out of the crisis and should benefit from consumers increasing screen time in lockdown and no doubt growing digital ad spend as economies recover in the latter part of 2020 and through 2021. Structural shifts boosting digital ad growth that Covid-19 is accelerating will also be factor. Facebook and Microsoft report today.
Elsewhere, front month WTI bounced off the lows after testing $10 to move up through $14 by the European session open. API data showed inventories rising almost 10m barrels in the week to Apr 24th, but this was lower than estimates. As ever we are looking at the EIA figures with more interest. A slowing in inventory builds from the +15M we’ve seen in the last three weeks can be expected as we reach tank tops at Cushing. Expect volatility in the front month WTI to be very high until expiry.
S&P 500 looks to clear key resistance again, still worried about rolling over
FTSE 100 looks to breakout of recent range, taking out the horizontal resistance and looking to breach 6,000 but first it’s got the 50-SMA to deal with.