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US pre-mkt: Another wobble as US inflation surges to 13-year high
A Volcker-era inflation print: US inflation surged in April, with the year-over-year CPI reading coming in at 4.2%, the highest since Sep 2008 and easily beating the 3.6% expected. Prices rose 0.8% month-on-month, ahead of the 0.2% forecast. A 10% increase in used cars and trucks was the most eye-catching reading with sub-indices (see table below).
The gauge of core inflation made for even more interesting reading, at +0.9% mom and +3% yoy (see chart below). The mom reading was the highest since 1982 when Volcker was in full inflation-busting mode. We can look to lots of things like base effects, supply chain trouble, reopening, pent-up demand, stimulus effects etc as being behind this jump in pricing. Nevertheless, it’s happening; and this perfect storm for inflationary pressures is not about to go away immediately, even if it does, in the end, prove transitory. Yes, it’s predicted – albeit a little hotter than expected – but it’s still bound to stoke worries in the markets about inflation and rising nominal yields. Keep your eyes on the wage growth and job openings for the real inflationary pressure.
As we have noted previously, we can expect a series of hot prints this summer; the Fed has made it clear it will look past these as it thinks inflation will be transitory. We shall only really know if that is the case in a few months’ time. Until then expect gyrations as data shows strong inflation and growth, even if it’s largely predicted.
Market reaction: Nasdaq futs predictably fell, benchmark 10-year yields rose to 1.65%. 10-year TIPS breakeven inflation rate rose to 2.591%, the highest since 2013. S&P 500 futs were weaker too but pared some losses ahead of the open. NDX set to open around 13,175, a wee bit above yesterday’s lows under 13,100. Vixx spiked above 23 before settling into the mid-22s.
The FTSE 100 tumbled to day lows at 6,950 on a broad algo-like reaction to the data before rallying to 7,000 again investors woke up and remembered that higher inflation is net good for the UK market since it’s weighted to cyclicals not tech. Strong inflation readings ought to support the UK blue chip index. The dollar caught some bid initially, with DXY spiking to 90.67 on higher yields before giving them all back in short order to sit around 90.30 at pixel time.
EURUSD moved in a wide range on the release and is now trending to the upside.
US pre-market: selling unabated
US futures looking lower ahead of the cash equity open on Wall Street with NDX at 13,120 and the S&P 500 around 4150, implying about a 30pt lower open for the broad market. Dow being called about 200pts lower at 34,520. European stocks have extended losses with all the main bourses over 2% lower on the day. The USD is offered with the dollar index testing yesterday’s lows at the 90 round number support. Despite all the inflation chatter Treasuries not moving much with 10s barely holding 1.60%. Tesla is -7% in the pre-market and I expect ARK to have another bad session. Apple also -2% on high volume, with Palantir and Nio both -9% among the most active traded ore-mkt. Virgin Galactic called down 20% after losses of $0.55 a share were twice what was expected. Novavax declined -13% as it delayed plans to seek vaccine approval until the third quarter.
Just a few random thoughts and pointers here about what’s going on.
Inflation expectations are key – although we’ve not seen bond react too much thus far (Fed put) this is bound to be impacting the discount rate, which is going disproportionately affect growth/momentum. US 5y break evens at 2.71% or thereabouts are a multi-year high and being replicated to an extent in moves in other markets. Due to the pandemic (shut downs, savings) and the policy response (ultra- low rates, massive monetary growth and fiscal stimulus aka helicopter money), we have a perfect storm of wage-push, cost-push and demand-pull pressures that won’t be as transitory as the Fed thinks. Ultimately it goes back to the question asked by the great Paul Tudor Jones about a year ago: can the Fed suck all this money back out of the system as quickly as it injected it. The answer then was almost certainly no, and post the recent policy shift and vast pro-cyclical stimulus it is clearly absolutely no. So we have inflation worries and, as described on multiple occasions last year, the worry is that the Fed allows inflation expectations to become unanchored as per the 1970s. Too much spending, too much free money and too much dislocation for anything but. Higher taxes might help but they seem ‘too’ well targeted at the higher end of the spectrum to tamp anything down.
On the inflation and macro outlook, there is a degree of trepidation post jobs report and pre-CPI with that hot China PPI number sandwiched in between not helping. Can’t stress enough that the jobs report indicates inflation (be it of the stag kind or not) as wage push comes to fore and outstrips raw material/supply chain pressures and demand side pressures.
Stocks that are held long by hedge funds by definition part of problem. The GS hedge fund VIP index underperforming broader market. Could be related to prime brokers tightening leverage post Archegos. We may be witness a self-fulfilling HF selling cycle, that is, the more stocks fall the more the dealers sell and HF are ultimately forced to liquidate.
It’s a bit indiscriminate – lots of the big reflation plays off heavily which suggests this is a ‘sell everything’ kind of day (which could be why bonds are not moving as impetus to buy and drive yields down is offsetting the inflation stimulus to sell and drive yields up). This seems very similar to the sort of tech bleed we saw last September when we thought the macro picture was understood and tech looked a little overbought, whilst broader markets were not so much since it was well before the big Nov rotation began. If similar to that period then we might expect a similar 10-15% move off the all-time highs back to the March lows around 12,200, and it could take three months to regain. That is assuming there are not deeper problems ahead – a Fed taper tantrum is still ahead.
We’ve run up a fair bit and the technical setup was extended with US stocks in particular looking overbought. Although broken the 50-day line NDX yet to see real dislocation yet with the March lows still not tested yet. These are important levels to watch and for now we wait for the big tech/FAANG + Tesla + ARK nexus for the key market guide.
NFP miss: does it mean anything?
US jobs growth cooled with just 226k created in April, well below the 1m+ expected. The blowout number from March was also revised lower by 146k to 770k. Wages rose more than expected.
What does it tell us, if anything?
1) Don’t read too much into this print – the US economy is by most measures booming. Payrolls are a lagging indicator and at the mercy of a huge number of factors. Payrolls can sometimes produce a monthly print way off the reservation. Moreover, +266k is a good number in normal circumstances and the country is still in the throes of the pandemic – expectations might have gotten a little elevated for this number (guilty). Too much hype maybe a factor here in some of these market moves on the announcement – the narrative doesn’t really change IMHO.
2) If slower employment growth is something to consider, then it will simply keep the Fed easier for longer. This was reflected in the surge in tech/growth and a reversal of the reflation trade (ie Dow lower, NDX higher) in the futures market. Overall, this ought to be a net positive for risk assets like stocks, albeit it may create yet more churn and rotation, which makes it messier. As per point one, however, this print does not mean that suddenly WFH stocks are about to suddenly get out of their funk, or FAANGS are more attractive than they were yesterday. Similarly, it does mean that the reflation trades are less appealing. If anything, it simply has created a more useful entry point for some – as can be seen by the fading of the initial kneejerk on the Dow and elsewhere.
3) There has been some evidence that poorer folks are better off than they were thanks to stimulus cheques. These won’t last forever, but there is an argument that ongoing government support create a moral hazard around incentivising people back into work post-pandemic. A question that does need to be asked by the Fed and Treasury is how their policies are going to improve productivity and generate real employment gains.
4) Even if yields and the value/cyclical equity market plays recover – as they seem to be doing in the first half hour of trading on Wall Street today – the print does not do an awful lot for USD. Bonds were bid, and yields moved sharply lower, with the 10yr down under 1.5% in short order. The sharp move lower in yields lifted gold and sent the US dollar lower to breach the late April low and snap the rising trendline. If we can use this print as anything to go by, then it means the Fed is inching further away from a taper than the ECB which ought to be supportive for a long-awaited EURUSD rally to 1.25.
5) Rising wages underscore a sense that employers are struggling to find workers. Lower paid jobs that were lost in the pandemic are coming back, but they may not be as low paid as they used to be. This suggests further upside pressure on inflation over the coming months as businesses seek to attract staff. The problem for the Fed becomes this: if inflation picks up and employment does not recover quickly enough, its’ current policy stance will be questioned and the bond market will start to flex its muscles.
NFP review: numbers disappoint but stimulus drives sentiment
- Stock futures hold gains, yield curve steepens
- Second straight disappointing payrolls number
- Move to fast-track Biden stimulus package drives sentiment
Stocks are set for fresh record high opens on Wall Street and a 5th straight day of gains – something we haven’t seen since August. A soft jobs report has done little to upset the underlying risk-on sentiment that stems from the milking stool of equity market strength: vaccines, stimulus and earnings growth.
Although in line with expectations, really it was another disappointing number from the US jobs market. Nonfarm payrolls rose +49,000 in January, following the -227,000 decline in December, which was revised down from the initial -140,000 print last month. So things look worse in the labour market than maybe we thought but futures are looking right through this with Joe Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus package coming over the hill. The dollar is offered and the yield on US 10-year Treasury notes has leapt with spreads widening along the curve. 2s10s spread at 1.06%, highest for four years, with 5s30s at 150bps, the widest since 2015.
The decision to move on stimulus without Republican support really changes the game. As I said yesterday, Biden wants to act fast and does not want to spend his first 100 days in office horse trading with the GOP over relief plans. The price of this could be any hopes of bipartisanship in future and we may need to wait until 2022 for the big green/infrastructure package as a result, and it may prove harder to deliver. For now thought dumping an extra 10% of GDP in stimulus is being lapped up by the market.
Unemployment fell to 6.3% from 6.7% but the decline in the participation rate is a concern. U6 unemployment fell to 11.1% from 11.7%. Average hourly earnings rose +5.4% year-on-year vs 5% expected. The two month net revision took the total down by -159k. The US still has some 9.8m fewer jobs than it had in February 2020 before the pandemic struck. Permanent job losses are a concern – the number of permanent job losers, at 3.5 million, changed little in January but is 2.2 million higher than in February.
S&P 500 not bothered: Biden is going for it on stimulus.
Cable higher and hugging the trendline.
Wall Street opens at record high
- Wall Street opens at new record highs, stimulus eyed with jobless claims up
- Sterling, euro bid with dollar on back foot
- Signature Aviation soars on bid
US stocks opened at record highs as progress towards a fiscal relief package indicated Congress leaders are close to signing off on a $900bn programme that includes $600 cheques and enhanced unemployment benefits. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said earlier he was hopeful for a Covid relief package within hours. The S&P 500 hit 3,723 for a new intra-day high and the Nasdaq Composite also notched an all-time high.
The solid start on Wall Street lifted the spirits in Europe. The FTSE 100 turned green after languishing in the red all day albeit 9pts scrubbed due to ex-dividend factors. European markets were broadly higher with the DAX +1% and Stoxx50 +0.85%. Benchmark US yields fell after some disappointing unemployment data.
Sterling trades stronger but a little off its highs after running through stops at $1.36 earlier in the session to take out a fresh two-and-a-half-year high. There are signs of progress on the Brexit front with a possible deal ready for the weekend. MPs are rising for Christmas but will come back to ratify any deal. The European Parliament set a Sunday deadline to see the text in order to ratify it in time. Clock ticks etc, still up in the air but the market favours a deal. Michael Gove says less than 50% chance of agreeing a deal but various sources from Brussels painted a slightly more upbeat picture. Sterling grew in stature with significant dollar weakness the main theme of the day.
The Bank of England left rates on hold and delivered no surprises. The MPC voted unanimously to keep the main lending rate at 0.1% and the stock of asset purchases at £895 billion. There was not a lot in this meeting for the market, though we did get a very clear indication from the Bank that it would ease policy in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
US unemployment claims exceeded expectations again. Initial claims rose to 885,00 for the week ended Dec 12th, up from 862k in the previous week and ahead of the roughly 800k expected by economists. Claims remain above the level seen in 2008/09 but are down from the >6m or so we saw at the peak of the pandemic.
EURUSD made fresh highs above 1.2250, rising to meet trend resistance at the upper end of the rising channel.
Gold continues to find bid above the 200-day moving average with bulls looking for a confirmed thrust north of this line to mark a trend reversal.
Signature Aviation shares rocketed 40% to 373p after a bid from Blackstone, which indicated a possible cash offer of $5.17 per share, which equates to 383p as of the Dec 16th fix at 1.35 GBPUSD exchange rate. Shares were trading a little cheap due to the pandemic but have good exposure to a rebound in air travel over the coming years. There remains an absolute ocean of private equity money ready to be deployed and we are starting to see that take shape – UK listed shares have value because of the Brexit discount.
What are the top Nasdaq stocks of 2020?
November saw a spectacular rally in global equity markets on hopes vaccines will see a return to normality next year. The big theme of the month was the rotation from Growth to Value, with the Russell 2000 small cap index notching its best ever month. The FTSE 100 enjoyed its best month in 31 years and Europe’s Stoxx 600 rose the most in a single month since records began in 1986.
But it’s just worth a little reminder that as far as year-to-date gains go, it’s a story of tech and growth over value, energy and financials. The Nasdaq 100 is up 40% YTD, whilst the FTSE 100 is down 15%.
Here are the top stocks of 2020 on the Nasdaq 100.
|Zoom Video Communications Inc||603.06|
|Advanced Micro Devices Inc||102.05|
|PayPal Holdings Inc||97.95|
|IDEXX Laboratories Inc||76.53|
|Align Technology Inc||72.48|
|T-Mobile US Inc||69.52|
|Cadence Design Systems Inc||67.68|
|Lululemon Athletica Inc||59.8|
|Lam Research Corp||54.81|
|ASML Holding NV||47.91|
|Take-Two Interactive Software Inc||47.44|
|Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc||37.43|
|Applied Materials Inc||35.12|
|Maxim Integrated Products Inc||35|
|Charter Communications Inc||34.41|
|Activision Blizzard Inc||33.76|
|Monster Beverage Corp||33.41|
|Costco Wholesale Corp||33.29|
Source: Reuters Eikon, Dec 1st 2020
Dow hits record high amid big risk-on move
- Dow record intra-day high, energy & financials lead
- Bitcoin closes in on record high
- Tesla marks new high
- Crude breaks out of multi-month range
- Gold tests 200-dma
We’re seeing some big risk-on moves this afternoon in the market which we can attribute to some very favourable pre-Thanksgiving flows off the back of Trump giving the green light to the transition, news that Janet Yellen is heading to Treasury and vaccine positivity increasing as the Astra news gets fully digested. Uncertainties about next year are being cleared out of the way and the vast liquidity put is still positive even if this all looks like it’s a little exuberant.
The Dow rallied over 1% in early trade to a record high at 29,974 as it closes in on 30k and looks to cement the best month since 1987. Boeing and Chevron led the way, with financials following strongly, perhaps with expectations that Yellen at the Treasury will make for a steeper yield curve. Tech is the only Dow sector in the red with Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) lower, whilst Energy +3.5%, Financials +2.75% and Industrials +2.55% were the top gainers. We’ve also got small caps leading tech (Russell 2000 is +1.3% vs Nasdaq 100 almost flat on the session) as the rotation trade is strong. The S&P 500 holds the 3,600 handle again after a gain of 0.9%. Tesla opened at a record high with a market cap of more than $500bn. Shares last up 3% at $539.
The FTSE 100, which is up 15% this month, has been solid enough today and risen above 6,400 again but still a little short of last week’s peak at 6,463. Solid gains for crude oil lifting energy stocks (+5%) but we have also seen strong bid for travel stocks today after the UK announced a way for travellers to endure a shorter quarantine.
Reopening trade in play – UK leaders today looking like rotation trade remains driver.
Bitcoin has cleared fresh 3-year peaks and for all the world seems destined to take out the all-time highs.
Crude oil jumped to clear the August high and finally broke out of the range it’s been idling in for months. WTI (Jan) broke north of $44 at the US open to close the gap back to the early March levels, as the positive momentum from the big outside day reversal calendar on Nov 2nd. (marked)
Gold remains offered after breaking down at the two key levels flagged previously ($1,850 and then the 38.2% retracement around $1,835). Key support at the 200-day SMA/EMAs looking vulnerable. This would be the first break of the 200-dma since March and may herald further weakness.
Wall Street gets more bullish on equities
Wall Street banks are getting increasingly bullish on the outlook for equity markets as election risks subside and the Pfizer vaccine creates a much rosier outlook for 2021.
Goldman Sachs raised its 2020 target for the S&P 500 to 3,700 from 3,600 previously. This implies a forward PE multiple of 21x, rising to 22x by the end of 2021.
Strategists at the bank say that a vaccine is a more important development for the economy and markets than the prospective policies of a Biden presidency. And the outlook for 2021 is extremely bullish, with the year-end price target of 4,300, implying 16% upside.
It comes after fellow Wall Street investment bank raised its year-end price target for the S&P 500 to 3,600 and said the election outcome created a ‘market nirvana’. JPM also raised its 2021 forecast for the index to 4,000.
For Europe, GS expects a “V(alue)-shaped recovery” in 2021. They see growth making a marked acceleration and expect a strong bounce in STOXX Europe earnings with policy support to remain in place.
On FTSE 100, Goldman sees the improved macro and commodities environment as supportive going forward. The bank forecasts the FTSE 100 to reach 7,200 by the end of 2021, implying 20% total return in GBP.
Since Pfizer announced its vaccine is 90% effective in phase three clinical trials markets have reacted positively though there has been a notable rotation out of growth stocks and into value and cyclical areas. This has best been demonstrated by the rally in the small cap Russell 2000 and decline in the Nasdaq 100. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen but it’s clear markets are on the move again.
Vaccine winners and losers
Stocks have rallied on news that we could soon have an effective vaccine against Covid-19.
Initial optimism is exceedingly high and could fade – we should not be jumping any guns here – but ultimately a vaccine that works effectively would be good for the economy and favours the cyclical parts of the market that we thought were going to struggle as a split Congress meant less stimulus.
A working vaccine is positive for cyclicals and value – the reopening trade essentially. The dichotomy in the market is stark: the biggest gainers in a frantic session today are among those stocks worst hit by the pandemic – travel and leisure chiefly, whilst Covid winners are doing poorly. We should be careful in overreacting – but it’s clear the market is forward-looking and pricing in recovery in a number of beaten-down areas next year.
Several questions remain, which won’t be answered right away.
When does the vaccine get rolled out fully? So how quickly are we ‘back to normal’ effectively? The UK has pre-ordered 30m doses of the vaccine, but what about other countries?
Given the US election result, does this make it harder to agree stimulus that is required now for the economy?
If this is a higher yield, higher inflation world, how does the Fed start to adjust? Will it even consider thinking about thinking about raising rates? Lots of Fed speakers this week to frantically rewrite their speeches.
Major indices (ex-Nasdaq). The Dow is surging 1,500pts and set to open at a record high. The FTSE 100 is up over 5% with all sectors green, led by energy and financial and Utilities, Tech and Healthcare at the bottom but still positive as the news lifted the boats.
Travel stocks like IAG +30% and EasyJet +26% are among the best risers on the UK market, whilst Rolls-Royce +46% led the charge. Cineworld +47% and Carnival +31% also indicative of a major rotation back into these stocks that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In the case of Cineworld the 9.4% stock out on loan points to a nasty short squeeze that may exaggerate the move.
Pubs and restaurants like JDW +15% and Restaurant Group +26% were among the other big gainers from the news. Back to normal means back to the pub – happy days!
Energy – A vaccine should help boost demand more quickly. As crude prices rallied, Shell +12% and BP +15% boosted the FTSE 100.
Financials – A vaccine is a yield steepener – Lloyds and Barclays both +10%.
Crude oil naturally rose on expectations that a working vaccine will equate to a swifter demand recovery, at least much quicker than we would have thought only yesterday.
Covid winners: Stocks that won because of the pandemic are naturally on the hook. Stay at home and WFH stocks fell, hurting the Nasdaq. Zoom –15% and Peloton –11% pre-market is indicative of the rotation out of these Covid winners into reopening trades.
UK stocks in the red included the main winners from the pandemic – Ocado, Fresnillo and Kingfisher (back to normal means no DIY – oh happy days)
Keep an eye on these stocks when the US cash equities open later and (Covid Winners Basket).
Bonds – US Treasuries were offered with the 10-year yield spiking north of 0.92%. Inflation could come through next year with large excess savings to be deployed in many sectors of the economy, notably in travel.
Gold – higher yields weighed on gold prices, though we would expect inflation expectations to rise and this could offer ongoing support to prices.
Pfizer, Biontech vaccine news spurs gains
Stock markets surged on some extremely positive news from Pfizer and Biontech, who say their vaccine is 90% effective in phase 3 clinical trials.
From tracking just under 6,000 all morning the FTSE 100 rallied over 100 points on the news, whilst e-minis went up 70 points or so.
The Dow is now seen up 1,300 points – coming on top of the wave of relief from Joe Biden’s victory it’s proving a spicy cocktail for stocks.
I won’t lay with lots of comment about the trials as I am no vaccine expert, all I can say is this is a good news day. Whilst we are not there yet, news that this vaccine could be highly effective is the best thing markets could hope for.
Public health officials will remind us there is a long road ahead, and many challenges will be faced along the way, but there is an enormous sense of optimism today – light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the vaccine deniers won’t get in the way, but 2021 just got a lot brighter.
E-mini futures – spot when the vaccine news broke