UK growth cools, British Land resumes dividend

Morning Note

UK growth unexpectedly cooled  in August, signalling a slower pace of recovery into the back-end of the year. GDP rose by 2.1% in August, which was below the 4.6% expected, despite the eat out to help out scheme boosting the hospitality sector significantly. The food and beverage service activities industry grew almost 70% over July thanks to the easing of lockdown restrictions and the government support scheme. 

 

Nevertheless, the outlook is not particularly encouraging. August 2020 GDP was now 21.7% higher than its April 2020 low, but the UK economy is still 9.2% below pre-pandemic levels. Sticking plasters like eat out to help out act only as a mild salve. Moreover, as the government considers more restrictions on people’s liberties to combat the virus, it is clear the path of recovery to pre-pandemic levels of activity will be slow and difficult. The pace of recovery has peaked, and things may get worse as we head into the winter before they improve again. The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the next phase of the job support programme later today, which is set to include support for workers in industries forced to close under local lockdowns, such as bars and pubs. Sterling was unfazed by the loss of momentum in the economy with GBPUSD nudging up to 1.2970, yesterday’s high and close to the top of the range at 1.30.

 

Markets of course rather decoupled from the realities of the economy thanks to vast amounts of central bank stimulus and liquidity. The FTSE 100 rose above 6,000 for the first time in three weeks but this level continues to act as a very difficult barrier for bulls to clear. The S&P 500 closed up 0.8% at the highs of the day at 3,446. The Dow added 0.43% for its third positive session of the week and the Nasdaq added 0.5%. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would reject any standalone stimulus packages. But we know stimulus of some sort is coming either before or after the election – the problem emerges if there is a contested election. 

 

Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan underscored his more hawkish credentials, saying there is no need for additional QE on top of the Fed’s $120bn-a-month programme. A Fed paper this week suggested it could increase asset purchases by $3.5tn to boost the economy. Kaplan said that “the bond-buying needs to curtail, the Fed balance sheet growth needs to curtail”. The Fed’s position however remains that it will continue to purchase assets at least at the current clip.  

 

Election Watch 

 

With 25 days to go to the US election, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 9.7pts at a national level but his lead in the top battlegrounds has come down to 4.6pts. Trump trailed Hilary Clinton by 5.1pts in the key battleground states at this stage in 2016, but we should note there are fewer undecided voters this time. Latest betting odds imply 65% chance of a Biden win. 

 

Equities 

 

The pandemic has wrought damage on the commercial property sector as businesses have found it difficult to meet rent payments on time and the value of assets has been written down. Land Securities advised today that of £110m rent due Sep 29th, just 62% was paid within 5 working days, vs 95% for the same period a year before. Businesses renting office space (82% on time) were timelier than retailers (33% on time). For the earlier part of the year, the company has received 84% of rent due on 25 March (up from 75% at 2 July) and 81% of rent due on 24 June. Nevertheless, shares rose 3.5% in early trade as these numbers are perhaps not as bad as feared. 

 

British Land gave a very robust update though, noting all retail assets and 86% of stores are open. Footfall is 21% ahead of benchmark, retailer sales 90% of the same period last year. Collection rates for June have improved to 74%; 98% offices, 57% retail. Meanwhile 69% of September rents have been collected (91% offices, 50% retail). Management was also keen to talk up balance sheet strength – £1bn in undrawn facilities and cash, with no need to refinance until 2024. So robust in fact it’s resuming dividend payments – another little boost for the bedraggled income investor. Divis will be paid at 80% of underlying EPS. Those income investors cheered as shares rose 5%. 

 

London Stock Exchange confirmed plans to offload Borsa Italiana to Euronext. The €4.325bn is perhaps a little behind what had been touted, but it’s a necessary step to clear the decks for their Refinitiv acquisitions.  

 

Charts 

 

Gold still within the falling channel but making higher lows and now pushing up to the top of the channel – 50-day SMA above but the horizontal resistance at $1.920 needs to be cleared first.

Euro Stoxx 50 – still within the long-term range but after moving above 21-day SMA now is looking to clear a cluster of moving averages including the 50-day SMA and 200-day EMA.

Pound at 6-week low, European stocks stabilise but risk sentiment fragile

Morning Note

Tech stocks bled heavily again for a third straight day as trading resumed on Wall Street following the Labor Day weekend. Tesla slumped a whopping 21% to notch its worst day ever. The other major tech giants also dropped heavily as the Nasdaq fell 4% and entered correction territory – down 10% from its recent peak.

Whilst this began as more of a technical correction within tech following the astonishing ramp in August than a broad risk-off move, it is nonetheless bleeding into the broader market and dragged down the majority of stocks. US benchmark yields have retreated and oil prices have rolled over.

SPX not far behind after Nasdaq enters correction territory

There was some rotation going on – Disney, Nike, McDonald’s, Ford and GM rose – but the S&P 500 still declined almost 3% and is not so far off correction territory itself. On the whole there is a sense that this selloff represents that sentiment has become too exuberant and needed to correct.

We may expect the US market now to chop in W-pattern over the coming months and follow the path taken by European equities since June with the loss of momentum in the economic recovery and US election risks likely to become more visible in equity markets.

Asian equities fell with the weak US handover. European stocks opened a little bit higher in early trade but risk sentiment appears very fragile. The FTSE 100 is enjoying the pound’s distress with heavyweight dollar-earners like BP, Shell, Unilever and British American Tobacco among the best risers.

In dollar terms the market is flat. The index got a confidence boost as Barclays raised their call on UK equities to ‘market-weight’ from ‘underweight’.

Increase in coronavirus cases weighs on recovery outlook

Nevertheless, investors are becoming worried again about rising Covid cases across many developed markets which threaten the trajectory of the recovery and may well weigh on demand in a number of sectors.

The evidence is evident in a couple of markets. Oil prices have rolled over with WTI dropping under $37 to hit its weakest since the middle of June. Another tell that this tech-led selloff is more than just a simple technical correction are bond yields.

US 10-year Treasury yields logged their biggest drop in a month, sliding from 0.72% Friday to 0.682%. Despite the move in yields gold prices remain resolutely stuck to the $1930 anchor having tested $1906 and the 50-day SMA yesterday.

There is also some negative headlines around work on a vaccine which may weigh on risk a touch, or at least provide algos with a sell signal. AstraZeneca shares fell after it was forced to pause clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate after a participant in the study was taken ill.

Such are the problems with pinning hopes on a vaccine for a return to normal to be possible. The worry is that while we have all kind of assumed that one company will come up with vaccine later this year, it’s not going to be plain sailing.

Tesla tumbles after S&P 500 snub

Tesla shares got well and truly smoked after it was not added to the S&P 500, to some surprise. Tesla stock hadn’t traded below its 50 day average price since April 13 and closed the day at this level at $330 – this level needs to hold or we could see further declines for the stock.

The market was surprised by Tesla not being included in the index. At the time, we talked a lot about how possible inclusion in the S&P 500 was a big driver of the stock’s rally earlier in the year and therefore being snubbed will force some funds to rethink whether they need to hold such a high beta stock if it’s not part of the index.

Pound sinks on Brexit worries, strong dollar

In FX markets, sterling is finding the going very tough, sinking to a 6-week low with the dollar catching a bid and Brexit risks weighing. DXY has advanced to clear 93.50 and test the top of the descending wedge, while EURUSD dropped further under 1.18 ahead of the ECB meeting which might be a lot more dovish than the market thinks.

This is not a pure dollar move by any means – the pound was also at its weakest since the end of July against the euro, too. For cable this has meant the build-up of downside pressure has blown out the stops at 1.30 and GBPUSD is running south with not a lot of support until 1.28.

Brexit risks are a major factor – the UK government admitted it will break international law in order to fix the withdrawal agreement should there be no deal by October 15th. Talks continue today between the UK and the EU and there are clear headline risks as traders see a higher chance of no deal emerging.

However, we should caution that a deal will likely emerge at the last moment after considerable brinkmanship from both sides that makes it seem as though a deal is impossible. Nevertheless, with still 5 weeks to go before the deadline imposed by the British government, there may be a very rough ride ahead for the pound.

Chart: Stops are out as GBPUSD trades below 50-day SMA

Chart: Having pushed clear of the 21-day SMA the dollar tests top of the descending wedge, 50-day SMA above

US jobless claims data beats expectations – but Wall Street struggles

Equities

Global stock markets are struggling around or below opening levels today despite an improvement in US jobless data.

The Dow has crept higher, while the Nasdaq has eked out a new intraday high before trimming gains. The S&P 500, which is now under 2% away from February’s all-time high, is trading marginally lower.

Jobless claims drop, but the overall picture remains bleak

Markets are little cheered by the latest labour market data, with investors instead awaiting any news of progress as lawmakers continue to argue over a new stimulus bill. The proximity of tomorrow’s nonfarm payrolls report is also keeping markets soft.

This is despite initial weekly jobless claims printing at 1.186 million – well below the 1.415 million expected by analysts and also the lowest reading since the pandemic sent claims jumping by nearly 7 million at the end of March.

Continuing claims – which counts those claiming benefits for two or more consecutive weeks – have dropped from 16.95 million to 16.10 million, again below forecasts.

While this points to improving labour market conditions, the bigger picture remains bleak. This is the 20th straight week that the US has registered more than a million new weekly claims. 31 million Americans remain unemployed.

The figures have further complicated the outlook for the labour market, which had been showing signs of weakening again. Yesterday’s ADP private payrolls report showed jobs growth of just 167,000 compared to expectations of over 1 million.

Nonfarm payrolls in focus – is the jobs recovery under threat?

The latest numbers will put tomorrow’s nonfarm payrolls report under even greater scrutiny, as markets look for more clarity over the direction of the labour market.

Economists expect payrolls grew by 1.6 million, which represents a sharp slowdown in jobs gains after payrolls jumped 2.7 million in May and 4.8 million in June. However, payrolls returned to growth more quickly than expected.

President Donald Trump has promised “big jobs numbers are coming on Friday”.

US jobless claims cast shadow

Equities

US jobless claims cast a shadow: stocks remained under the cosh a bit as US initial jobless claims were worse than expected and show a levelling off in the week-on-week improvements we have seen over the last couple of months. The mild risk-off tone to the start of the US session is keeping stocks in the red after a softer European session, although we note a White House presser later on the session so this needs to be watched. The S&P 500 seems well controlled by the 3200 round number support and the resistance just below 3240 for now. Breaks either side of these may be chased.

In the week ending July 11th, the  seasonally adjusted initial claims hit 1.3m a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The improving trend has all but halted and may reflect the spike in coronavirus cases that has coincided with renewed lockdown measures in a number of economically-important states such as Texas and Florida. California’s decision to roll back reopening signals there may be worse could be ahead.

Continuing claims came in at 17.3m vs the 18m last week and was a little better than the 17.6m expected. Moreover, there were some more encouraging signs the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending June 27th fell to 32,003,330, a decrease of 433,005 from the previous week. However, this number may well deteriorate again as it reflects the imposition of new lockdown restrictions in California and others.

Unadjusted figures are less encouraging. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, rose 108k, or 7.8%, to 1.5m. The advance unadjusted unemployment rate was 11.9% during the week ending July 4th, an increase of 0.6 percentage points from the prior week.

Flattening the curve…

Retail sales in June bounced 7.5% vs the 5% expected and 17.7% in the prior month – the $600-a-week stimulus cheques are being spent, but these are due to come to an abrupt

The weaker-than-expected initial claims number left markets on the back foot, with no new vaccine reports to lift the mood we have to focus on the rather downbeat economic data which simply underscores the fact the recovery will be slow, hard-won and very uneven.

Meanwhile, the ECB left rates on hold as expected and Christine Lagarde appeared to push back against the tapering chatter by saying the ECB would use the full PEPP envelope of €1.35tn ‘barring surprises’. At the same time the emphasis is very much on the EU member states to agree on the recovery fund at the summit starting tomorrow, with the ECB’s assumption that a deal will be worked out.

Italian 10-yr yields sank to the lowest level since late March, while EURUSD was almost unchanged at 1.140 despite a choppy couple of hours. Lagarde also suggested the EU is in a ‘good place’ which presumably refers to historically advantageous geographic position as the Eurasian rump which has enabled it to play an outsized influence on global affairs, rather than anything relating to the current economic outlook. In that sense, the UK is in an even better place.

Will Joe Biden crash the stock market?

US Presidential Election

Will stocks go down with a Biden win and Democrat clean sweep? 

Joe Biden launched his $700bn economic plan by taking aim at Wall Street, banks, the stock market and shareholder capitalism in general. Based on polling data, the stock market will need to better reflect the chance of a Biden presidency combined with a Democrat clean sweep of the House and Senate.

Biden issued a threat to end to the era of shareholder capitalism – the idea that the only responsibility a corporation has is to its shareholderBiden, whose policies would tend to raise taxes and regulation risk for corporate America, added: During this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and the Nasdaq. Not you. Not your families.” 

The argument about taxation is central to the thesis, as explained by Goldman Sachs in a recent note. The bank noted the US used to have one of the most uncompetitive corporate tax regimes in the OECD at 37% vs the average 24%. Donald Trump changed that with Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) 2017… 

Under Trump the effective tax rate paid by median S&P 500 company fell by 8 percentage points, from 27% to 19%, which boosted EPS in 2018 by 10%. 

Since 1990, declining effective tax rates have accounted for 200bps of the 400bps increase in net profit margins and 24% of total S&P 500 earnings growth, according to GS.  

But Joe Biden could undo the cuts and lower earnings for the average S&P 500 company. Under his plans statutory federal tax rate on domestic income would go up from 21% to 28%, reversing half of the cut from 35% to 21% instituted by the TCJA, according to the Tax Foundation.

GS notes that a Biden presidency could also result in a doubling of the GILTI tax rate on certain foreign income, a minimum tax rate of 15%, and an additional payroll tax on high earners.  Biden could increase capital gains tax, which could push investors to sell down stock holdings before it is introduced. 

According to GS this would cut the S&P 500 earnings estimate for 2021 by roughly $20 per share, from $170 to $150. So, the average EPS would fall 12% just at the time that earnings need to rise to support valuations. The S&P 500 traded at a forward earnings multiple of about 23x in June – the highest since 2001 

Regulation risk would also rise on the expectation that a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House would impose tighter restrictions on corporate behaviour, such as buybacks, and increase the cost of doing business by raising the minimum wage and employer contributions. Finally, higher taxes on the rich leaves less cash to invest in stocks.

Equities hold ranges, gold jumps as US real yields sink

Morning Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second wave fears weigh on risk

Morning Note

The dreaded second wave: Houston is weighing a new lockdown as it warns of a disaster in-waiting. Other states with large populations and economies like California and Florida are also worried about rising Covid case numbers. Across Europe the reopening continues with little to suggest of a disastrous second wave.

Stocks went into freefall yesterday as the untruths of the reopening trade got found and this particular bubble got pricked. As we discussed, fears of a second wave combined with the Fed well and truly killing off the V-shaped recovery idea.

The Dow tumbled nearly 7%, whilst the S&P 500 fell almost 6%. The forward PE multiple on the latter – which I like to track as a broad indicator of whether stocks are overbought – has retreated a touch but at 23+, it’s still rather pricey. The Vix shot above 40.

Futures indicated a little higher but I don’t fancy the chances heading into the weekend. You could say that Thursday’s tumble was basically just the Fed trade and has now played out so we need to look for new information to act as a catalyst, but the second wave fears persist.

European stocks volatile on the open

European stocks also got whacked and were extremely volatile in the first hour of trading on Friday as the bulls and bears pull either end of the rope.  The bears were winning at time of writing. We do seem to be at a key moment as the market makes up its mind – are we due a proper retracement of the recent rally or is this just a normal pullback before resumption of the trend higher. I would tend to favour the former.

The good news for the likes of the FTSE is that it’s underperformed since the March trough, versus its US counterparts. It’s also got an appealing dividend yield, despite some very noteworthy cuts and the prospect of BP likely needing to cut its pay-outs. From a technical point of view there seems to be strong support just a little below where it’s currently trading.

UK posts record GDP drop in April

ONS data shows the UK economy declined over 20% in April, the worst decline on record. It’s backward-looking of course, but it underlines how much of a recovery is required to get back to normal. The slow lifting of restrictions – pubs and cafes are still not open – means the UK may endure a wider bottom than many others, making recovery all the slower. All this before the jobs Armageddon this autumn when furlough support ends.

Chart: FTSE 100. The index has broken out of the channel on the downside. The three black crows candle pattern signal weakness and when combined with the bearish MACD crossover in overbought levels, suggest a pullback is not done yet. There is decent support around the previous Fib support level and the 50-day simple moving average in the 5800-5900 region.

Chart: S&P 500. The broad index closed at the lows, but bulls will be looking for the 200-day moving average around 3020 to hold. The area around 2975 at the bottom of the channel still looks appealing and if breached could act as a gateway to 2800. Another bearish MACD crossover in overbought levels signal weakness and a retrace of some of the recent rally.

Oil fell with other risk assets. WTI for August has moved back to test the $35 support level, with a potential retreat to the $31.50 area next if the trend continues. A bearish MACD crossover is again evident, signalling weakness.

Hong Kong dents optimism but stocks remain on track

Morning Note

US shares surged on Tuesday, with the Dow rising more than 2%, briefly trading above the 25k level again before closing a little short. The S&P 500 rose over 1%, traded above 3,000 for the first time since March 5th hitting a high at 3,021 before it too closed below this psychologically important level. The broad index traded above the important 200-day moving average but failed to close above this indicator.

Economies continue to reopen a little quicker than we’d feared. US airlines are reporting a uptick in passenger levels vs where they were last month, but were down about 80% from the same Memorial holiday weekend a year before. Globally, it seems as though countries are able to ease lockdown restrictions without sparking immediate secondary waves of infections – albeit the risk of such emerging down the line should not be ignored.

The higher the S&P 500 rises without earnings picking up the pricier it gets. PE multiples already look stretched and further gains for the index would come despite declining earnings, stretching these valuations still further. What happens when banks really lay bare all the non-performing loans they are going to need to write off?

US stock markets test key 200-day SMA

In the last two major recessions (see below chart), the 200-day simple moving average has been the ceiling for the market. A breakout here would be important for recovering market highs – failure could suggest it will contain price action for a while. I hate to say it but this time could be different – central bank largesse was not a factor like it is today. This only concentrates the power of the largest capitalised companies.

What’s going on in the real economy is not reflected by markets. Even as we reopen, the economic uncertainty and long-term health fears will support household deleveraging, boost savings rates and knock consumer spending.

Today the Fed will release its Beige Book providing anecdotal evidence of business activity across the US – there will be some very grim stories to tell and will underline how it will take a long time to get businesses and people moving at the same rate they were before the crisis.

Tensions in Hong Kong weigh on global equities – will the US sanction China?

The rally in global equities seen at the start of the week ran out of steam a little in Asia overnight though as tensions in Hong Kong hove into view once more. Riot police fired pepper pellets at groups gathering to protest a bill that would ban people from insulting the Chinese national anthem. This comes as tensions were stoked by China’s planned introduction of sweeping national security powers in Hong Kong.

There is a strong chance that the anti-Beijing feeling grows and leads to the kind of unrest we saw over several months last year. The US is said to be considering sanctions against China; Beijing said yesterday it was increasing its readiness for military combat. Whilst the eyes of the world are on Hong Kong, China is already engaged in a military standoff on its border with India.

Asia soft, European stocks firm

Asian shares fell broadly, although Tokyo held up as Japan said it will carry out another $1.1 trillion stimulus package on top of a $1.1tn programme already launched last month. The Hang Seng dipped by almost 1%. But European shares rose with the FTSE 100 recapturing 6100 and making a sally towards 6200 and to close the early March gap.

Yesterday the DAX made the move back towards its Mach 6th close at 11,541 to fill the gap but failed to complete the move on the close. This morning the DAX moved strongly through this level after a pause at the open, moving back to 11,600.

Euro, pound come off highs, retreat from key technical levels

In FX, both the euro and pound failed to really make any real breach despite a strong gain yesterday and have come off their highs. EURUSD moved back towards the middle of the recent range, having fallen short of a move back to 1.10 and was last trading around 1.0960.  GBPUSD has retreated under 1.23 having fallen short of the 50% retracement of the move lower over the last month around 1.2375.

After Germany and France proposed a €500bn bailout fund based on mutual debt issuance (what some have dubbed Europe’s Hamiltonian moment), EC President Ursula von der Leyen will present her plans, which will build on the Franco-German proposal and call for a €1 trillion plan. If the budget talks are successful it should lower the risk premium on EU sovereign debt, lowering bond yields and offering succour to the euro as well as to European equity markets. It would also mark a major step towards EU fiscal policy coordination and possible fiscal union. The frugal four remain a hindrance but Merkel’s weight is behind this.

We’re also looking at the appearance before MPs today by Michael Gove and UK Brexit negotiator David Frost.

Gold falls to test $1700, WTI crude oil edges down to $34

Gold was weaker, testing $1700 again as US yields rallied on economic reopening, but 10yr Treasury yields peeled back off the highs at 0.7% due perhaps to the US-China tension.

WTI (Aug) has retreated further from the $35 level and is testing support around $34. The pattern suggests a pause for thought as we try to figure out the mess of supply and demand. The pattern is one of consolidation with a bullish flag forming, with better demand forming the basis for the move alongside supply impairment that was evidenced by a new report from the IEA saying Covid-19 will cause investment in the energy sector to decline by $400bn this year. That is the kind of capex carnage that will remove a lot of supply and force rebalance quickly.

Chart: The 200-day line has been a ceiling in past recessions

Leg up: stocks make new ground, travel stocks soar

Morning Note

Sentiment among German companies has recovered somewhat after a “catastrophic few months”, the Ifo Institute said yesterday, in what neatly sums up where the global economy stands right now: horrendous, but perhaps not as horrendous as it could have been.

Of course, this is not the main reason stocks keep making new highs; this lies in the action of central banks and the vast amount of liquidity being pumped into the system.

The European Central Bank’s Villeroy – the governor of the Bank of France – said in all likelihood more stimulus is on the way. Overnight we’ve also heard from the Bank of Japan and PBOC, both of which have stressed they will keep their hands on the pump no matter what.

Global stocks have begun the week on a very solid footing and taken a leg higher to set new post-Covid highs as economies start to reopen and investors shrug off the simmering tensions over Hong Kong. The Nikkei rose over 2% to its best level since early March as Asian equities made broad gains with Japan ending its state of emergency.

Germany’s DAX extended Monday’s almost 3% gain, rallying 0.75% more on Tuesday morning. US futures are indicating the S&P 500 will recover 3,000 and look to take out the 200-day simple moving average, which would be its highest since March 5th. The FTSE 100 rallied 2% to 6100 as it played catch up to Europe’s Monday gains.

Travel & leisure are leading the charge today, with IAGTui, easyJet, InterContinental Hotels all posting double-digit percentage gains to top the index movers. Strength in this sector underscores confidence among investors that economies are reopening, and consumers are keen to travel.

There is a lot more hope that travel restrictions across Europe will be eased in time for the summer holidays. If the summer holiday season can be saved it would be a big plus after most of us wrote it off. Some people are a lot more willing to travel long distance than others. Tui rose 35% in London and was 17% higher in Frankfurt having gained on Monday.

Aston Martin shares shot up 30% after Andy Palmer walked the plank. It’s a pretty damning indictment of his tenure that the shares jumped this much after news of his sacking. Mercedes AMG stalwart Tobias Moers picks up the chalice.

Aston Martin has been one of the worst stock listings in living memory. In spite of rocketing higher today they are still worth a tenth of the IPO price – listing at about £5.50 today they are worth 45p. Things had already got pretty horrendous before this year; the coronavirus outbreak has been the coup de grace.

Across global equity benchmarks the indices are at or testing these March 5/6th-9th gaps. Momentum can see this run a bit more but there are still concerns that economic reality will catch up in the coming months and should there be secondary and tertiary waves of the virus it will see risk assets reverse.

There are many positives for markets to latch on to: Japan ended its nationwide emergency, England will reopen non-essential shops by Jun 15th, whilst Dubai and Hong Kong are easing lockdown measures.

The death rate in the US slowed to a 2-month low but may have been distorted by the Memorial Day holiday weekend seeing fewer cases reported. Germany’s Ifo business survey indicated things might not be as bad as feared. Spain is looking to save its summer holiday season by ending the quarantine of arrivals by July 1st.

There are hopes too on the medical front: Novavax has begun clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, although Japan has postponed approval of the Avigan drug for the treatment of the coronavirus. The WHO has suspended trials of hydroxychloroquine – take note Donald Trump.

Yet there are lots of concerns still for the markets. Singapore lowered its GDP estimate to fall by as much as 7% this year and clearly the optimism being shown in equity markets is at odds with what’s happening on the ground.

Moreover, the situation in Hong Kong needs to be monitored and has the potential to become a lot more dangerous, whilst US-China tensions seem set to get a lot worse as we run into the US presidential election. Secondary and tertiary coronavirus waves are another significant risk to the global economy.

Oil was steady but WTI (Aug) does seem to be running into resistance $35 at the lower end of the gap, which could offer the opportunity for a pullback. Indications that Russia has cut output to 8.5m bpd, complying with its side of the OPEC+ deal, were encouraging. There are signs production cuts are coming through and the key focus will be on the pace of the demand recovery through the summer.

In FX, the euro was moving higher with EURUSD back towards the top of its 2-month range at little above 1.09 despite worries about the Eurozone rescue package. The ‘frugal four’ – Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden – are not playing ball with the French and Germans, putting forward a counterproposal to the ‘Merkon’ €500bn bailout fund.

The four countries said they would not agree to a mutualization of debt, nor an increase in the EU budget. Talks on the EU Budget continue this week but despite the four holdouts, the change of tune by Frau Merkel has completely altered the balance.

GBPUSD was higher in early trade, taking out 1.2250 to move back to 1.2260. The May 19th high just a whisker off 1.23 is the upside target and could open path back to 1.2360.

Michael Gove and Brexit negotiator David Frost will appear before MPs on Wednesday and despite the furore over the PM’s chief adviser, likely toe the Cummings line: the UK is taking a tough line and does not see a reason to budge from this.

Chart: SPX what comes next… leg higher to 3140, or retest 2800? The 200-day simple moving average looks more like a resistance after a 35% run off the March trough. Previously this level has seen rallies run out of steam.

Hong Kong turmoil risk roils markets

Morning Note

Shares in Hong Kong plunged on fears Beijing’s tough stance will spark fresh pro-democracy protests, potentially leading to the kind of widescale unrest we saw last year.

The Hang Seng slid over 5% as China imposes controversial national security legislation that bypasses local lawmakers. The move was taken as China’s National People’s Congress convenes. Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive, says the territory will fully cooperate with China.

This is a potentially significant flash point that will stir local protests and will anger the US. At a time of already strained relations between China and the West, this decision will only isolate Beijing even more. Investors will need to add renewed Hong Kong-Beijing tensions into their mix of geopolitical risks, whilst the way it fits into the broader US-China rivalry will be closely watched.

The risk-off tone fed into European trading with the FTSE 100 off almost 2% at 5900 in early trade on Friday.  Asia-focussed banks HSBC and Standard Chartered were among the laggards. UK retail sales plunged 18.1% in April, led by a 50% decline in clothing sales. Online shopping rose to a record 30.7% of all retail – good for the nimbler retailers with good online operations, not so encouraging for the rest.

US stocks closed lower on Thursday, with the S&P 500 down 0.78% to 2,948. Having nudged to the top of their respective ranges, indices are retreating to more comfortable levels for investors given the state of the economic damage and uncertainty over earnings. Futures indicate Wall Street will open lower.

US initial jobless claims came in at 2.4m as expected and was the lowest reading since March. It takes the total jobs lost since the crisis began to almost 39m. Now we need to look at the continuing claims rather than the initial claims counts. It certainly raises hopes the jobs market has bottomed – the bulk of jobs to be lost have already been lost.

As various US states reopen and business gets going again, we ought to see hiring exceed firing. The key will be how swiftly the hiring replaces lost jobs – it’s hard to see the 39m being replaced as quickly as they were lost. Temporary layoffs will become permanent as businesses slowly reopen and find demand down and cash flow a problem.

Data compiled by software company Envestnet Yodlee shows Americans used their stimulus cheques to buy stocks. Middle income earners – those on $35,000 to $70,000 a year – were the main drivers. This chimes with the view that the bounce off the March lows was driven by incremental retail buyers, not a return of positive institutional flow.

The US manufacturing PMI also showed some mild improvement as did the European and UK numbers, but as mentioned yesterday, this was off a very low base and numbers still indicate sharp contraction.

In FX, the dollar is bid as risk-off sentiment rules. EURUSD broke 1.10 yesterday but retreated as it looked to test the 200-day resistance a little above the round number. Cable moved back under 1.22 at 1.2180.

Having rallied Thursday to $35, crude oil (WTI Aug) slipped sharply overnight, breaking the trendline, as China’s NPC decided to scrap its GDP target for 2020. It suggested Beijing is not about to really stimulate infrastructure investment like it has in the past. Markets, in particularly commodities, were looking for more.

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