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.

UK inflation slips, M&S profits slide, indices hold trading ranges

Morning Note

It’s widely accepted that the pandemic is a profoundly deflationary shock to the global economy. No surprise then that UK consumer price inflation slowed to 0.8% in April from 1.5% in March. In fact, the bulk of the decline was due to lower oil prices.

Schemes to keep the economy on life support continue to support purchasing power – it may take some months for inflation to bottom as the economy goes through a painful readjustment.  Input prices for manufacturers declined 5.1%, whilst factory gate prices were 0.7% lower.  What comes next is anyone’s guess, but inflation could be round the corner as central banks and governments deal with vast debts.

M&S sales drop, but cash flow better than feared

Retailers will be at the coalface when it comes to inflation. Big discounts are expected as shops reopen over the summer – better to clear the old lines than having a bunch of shorts and bikinis to scrap. Marks & Spencer has been a bellwether for the UK high street, but lately its crown has slipped.

Results today indicate it’s had a tough time coping with the pandemic – in the six weeks to May 9th clothing sales tumbled 75% , while food sales declined 8.8%. But management are happy that they’ve outperformed their Covid-19 scenario with £150m better cash flow after six weeks than they had feared. Dividends of course are out of the question – MKS will not pay a final dividend for 2019/20 and it does not plan paying one for 2020/21.

Overall full year profits before tax declined around 20%. Free cash has halved over the year to £225m and after tax profits were down 40%. We knew it was going to be tough for M&S, so the focus for investors is the transformation plan, which is accelerating with more cost savings planned. Covid-19 has accelerated lots of consumer trends and it may just be the catalyst required to accelerate Marks & Spencer’s transformation into a 21st century retailer.

In particular it looks as though M&S has learnt just how important online is – so it’s making its Ocado venture more central to the business, introducing 1,600 Clothing & Home lines to be available online via Ocado. Much smaller store footprint, more focus on food, leverage the Ocado platform – there is at last a lot to be said for the MKS approach. Of course, we’ve talking about Marks’ recovery and transformation plans for many a year.

The pound eased back from the day’s highs on the weaker inflation numbers, with GBPUSD retreating under 1.2250, eyeing a potential retest of yesterday’s swing low at 1.2220.

Stock markets soft as scientists question Moderna vaccine data

Wall Street snapped a three-day win streak after doubts were raised about Moderna’s potential vaccine. Some scientists asked by health news website Stat queried the data, or lack thereof. Stocks ran up against the bad news as energetically as they ran with the good. It just shows how the market is clinging to any kind of sort of good news.

European shares followed lower again on Wednesday. The FTSE 100 just held onto the 6,000 level yesterday but opened lower this morning. Basic resources, financials and banks were the leading losers. Indices are within recent ranges as the tug-o-war between the economic reality on the one side and the twin hopes of stimulus and scientific research on the other play out.

API data shows surprise draw, WTI clings to $32

Oil was steady in its recent consolidation pattern as API figures showed a draw on US crude stocks. Inventories fell 4.8m barrels in the week to May 15th, vs expectations for stockpiles to build by 1.5m barrels. EIA figures are due later today and are seen showing a build of 1.7m barrels. With WTI trading above $30 again shale producers are already seen coming back on stream, which could tilt the balance back towards oversupply.

Nevertheless, demand is picking up and shut-ins have resulted in a little more supply being taken off. Reports suggest Chinese oil demand has almost returned to where it was before the pandemic. WTI (Aug) is just about holding above $32 but has a look like it wants to pull back – EIA figures today may provide the catalyst.

The risk-off tone supported gold bulls, with prices making steady progress back to $1750, having struck a low of $1725 yesterday. The recent 7-year high at $1764 struck earlier in the week is the upside target.

The S&P 500 quickly retreated from the area of the late Apr swing high around 2954 and closed below the 61.8% retracement. Futures indicate it will open around this level.

Moderna vaccine: what do we know so far?

Equities

Moderna shares jumped another 20% and the S&P 500 rallied over 3% after the US drug maker reported positive results from its early stage trials of its potential Covid-19 vaccine. The news sent risk assets higher as a vaccine would help economies get back to a true normal far quicker than any other measure. But has Moderna really got the goods?

What we know so far:

  • All 45 participants in its early stage trial developed Covid-19 antibodies
  • Each were given a 25, 100 and 250 micogram dose – 15 people in each group. For each group they received two doses, 28 days apart.
  • Two weeks after the second dose, antibodies similar to people who have recovered from the disease were found in the 25-microgram group. In the 100-microgram group antibodies ‘significantly exceeded levels’ in recovered patients. Data for the final group was not available.

“These interim Phase 1 data, while early, demonstrate that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 [micrograms],” Moderna chief medical officer Dr Tal Zaks said in a statement.

“When combined with the success in preventing viral replication in the lungs of a pre-clinical challenge model at a dose that elicited similar levels of neutralizing antibodies, these data substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials,” he added.

Moderna is just one of many drug companies racing to be the first to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

Shares in Moderna have soared this year by at least 300% to $80 by Monday’s close. It has just announced a new placing to raise $1.3bn at $76, yet shares keep rising and Wall Street still has a strong buy rating on the stock.

Needham recently upgraded its price target on the stock to $94 from $58.

“Based on these data, we believe the vaccine is likely to be found effective for prevention of infection in a Phase 3 trial,” said Needham analyst Alan Carr. “We expect Moderna to have meaningful supply by 4Q20. We have therefore added an mRNA-1273 revenue stream to our model and are raising our price target to $94.”

European shares cautious after Wall Street soars

Morning Note

Risk on resumes? Wall Street enjoyed one of its best days this year as hopes grew for a Covid-19 vaccine The Dow rallied 900 points, up almost 4%, while the S&P 500 rose 90 points, or 3.15%, to 2953, closing at its highest since March 6th. The close was just a little shy of the 2954 peak on Apr 29th, the most recent swing high.

European shares were firmer at the open before losing steam quickly. The FTSE 100 added to yesterday’s gains to trade above 6100 again on the open but then followed Frankfurt and Paris. US futures were off their highs. Asian markets were green across the board.

Indices are now at or slightly above the top of the recent trading ranges since the March trough. The question we have now is whether it makes sense for equities to take another leg higher and re-approach record highs against a backdrop of the worst economic slumps in decades. Hence, we would expect some pullback around these levels even if bulls muster again for a fresh drive. Economic reality may eventually hit home, the question is whether we first see a new leg higher and post-Covid high made.

Moderna shares rose 20% to $80 after the company said its early-stage human trial for a coronavirus vaccine produced positive results, with Covid-19 antibodies seen in all 45 participants. It’s early days but markets are prepared to see the glass half full at this stage. Four years is the fastest it’s taken to deliver a vaccine – for mumps in the 1960s. Technology may have moved on, but pinning all your hopes on a vaccine seems overly optimistic, which suggests these moves are driven by algos playing the news.

A vaccine – not treatment – is key of course to resuming life as normal – no social distancing on planes or in bars. It’s the holy grail right now and markets are prepared to take a leap of faith.

News from Europe is further supporting risk appetite with the old Franco-German engine at work. Merkel and Macron have agreed to push for a €500bn EU fund which would be in the form of grants not loans. With Germany on board now it should drive the holdouts in the Netherlands and Austria to agree. It will be funded by the European Commission borrowing money – coronabonds in all but name. This is an important breakthrough for the EU – at least it should be.

UK unemployment claims jumped, and wages fell, but the unemployment rate actually fell to 3.9% because of the furlough scheme keeping employees in their jobs. This is in marked contrast to the US, where there is no furlough scheme. The worry is that furlough simply delays the inevitable when companies do reopen, and at massive cost. For markets this could be seeing a big rise in unemployment and therefore hit to the economy even as cases of Covid-19 are fading.

After breaking out to new 7-year highs above $1764 yesterday gold has backed off and tested support at $1725 as the risk rally tempered the bulls’ passion. US 10 year Treasury yields advanced to 0.74% but have since pulled back to 0.70%.

WTI (Jun) seems to have safely negotiated today’s expiry after another big gain for crude on Monday indicated further confidence that oil markets are rebalancing more quickly than feared. Front month WTI traded at $32, with August now at $32.59. Brent futures traded above $35. Given the extent of the recent gains, there is ample room for a pullback from these levels.

In FX, the dollar was weaker apparently on better risk appetite, lending support to major peers. GBPUSD continued to break free from Sunday’s lows as better risk appetite boost sterling. Cable rallied into resistance at 1.2250, the past support level, and has now added around 1.5% this week. The pound continues face pressure though as a risk proxy – as previously noted sterling has become a RoRo (risk-on, risk-off) currency of late, as well as doubts around progress on talks between the UK and EU. The British government has just announced a new tariff regime for the post-transition world that would see 60% of imports without tariffs.

Today Jay Powell speaks at 3pm as he faces questions from Congress. In a prepared testimony he said: “We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy in this challenging time even as we recognize that these actions are only a part of a broader public-sector response.”

Chart: S&P 500 facing big test at the top of the range: confirmation of the breach of the late Apr swing high and push above the 61.8% retracement at 2934 opens path back to 3140 and the early March swing highs.

Trade the race for a COVID-19 vaccine with our new Corona Blend

CFD Trading

Scientists across the globe are racing to pull off an incredible feat – reducing the time it takes to develop a vaccine from years to months. 

Our new Corona Blend allows you to trade a basket of the top stocks directly linked to the search for a COVID-19 vaccine. There are currently over 70 potential vaccines in development – the Corona Blend focusses on seven companies who are well positioned to lead the race. 

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) 

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is facing stiff competition across the globe, but the company has a distinct advantage: it has two backup vaccine candidates in case its primary candidate encounters unexpected setbacks during trials. JNJ also has immense production capabilities – the company reckons it could produce 900 million doses by April 2021. 

Our Analyst Recommendations tool gives Johnson & Johnson a 24% upside, but the consensus rating is a ‘Hold’. Hedge funds sold almost 100 million shares in the last quarter, while company insiders sold nearly 3.5 million in the last three months.

Pfizer (PFE) 

Pfizer, working in conjunction with BioNTech, has just received clearance to start running trials of its vaccine candidate in Germany. If all goes to plan the two companies expect to be able to produce millions of vaccines by the end of the year.  

Pfizer is currently trading below the year’s opening levels, but analysts and hedge funds are bullish on the stock. PFE has a 17% upside and hedge funds bought 65 million new shares in the previous quarter. 

Gilead Sciences (GILD) 

Gilead has seen some huge gains on the back of news surrounding its ‘remdesivir’ antiviral drug, but the stock remains highly volatile. Overall our stock sentiment tools are showing positive signals – company insiders and hedge funds have been snapping up the stock, although GILD is already trading around the consensus price target from Wall Street analysts. 

Regeneron Pharma (REGN) 

REGN is up nearly 50% this year, with recent gains coming on the back of hopes for a ‘cocktail’ of antibodies that may help protect health workers from COVID-19 until a vaccine is created. Many companies are attempting to produce such an elixir, but Regeneron is well-positioned to lead the search. 

Hedge funds added a total of 1 million REGN shares to their portfolios in the past quarter. Sentiment amongst top money managers is positive, while analysts rate the stock a ‘Buy’ and see a 10% upside. 

Sanofi (SNY – NYSE) 

Sanofi has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline to accelerate production of its vaccine, and the two companies are hoping to start clinical trials in the latter half of 2020. According to Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, the company will be able to produce 600 million doses of the vaccine in 2021 if everything goes to plan. 

Moderna Inc (MRNA) 

Moderna stock jumped 10% on April 20th as investors began piling into pharmaceutical companies. The company’s mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate will receive $483 million in funding for Phase II and III clinical trials from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). 

MRNA has a ‘Strong Buy’ rating according to our Analyst Recommendations tool, although the average price target is 19% below the current trading price. 

Vir Biotechnology (VIR) 

Vir recently announced that it was joining forces with GlaxoSmithKline to combat COVID-19. GSK stated that it will make a $250 million equity investment in Vir, and that some ‘promising antibody candidates ‘ will be ‘accelerated into phase 2 clinical trials within the next three to five months’. 

Vir Biotechnology currently has a ‘Neutral’ rating, according to our Analyst Recommendations tool. The average target price is $31, barely above the current price. Estimates range from $20 up to $41.  

Trade the vaccine trials with the Corona Blend 

Will one of these companies be the one to develop a working coronavirus vaccine, or will an outsider beat them to it? Trade the Corona Blend long or short to capture the performance of these top pharma stocks. 

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