Equity markets hungover ahead of Presidential debate + Brexit breakthrough?

There is the whiff of a hangover for investors this morning as European shares stumbled after an exuberant rally in the previous session that left the major bourses around 2-3% higher to start the week. We haven’t made it back to the key mid-Sep levels and bulls may be looking at downside risks in the shape of the slowing economic recovery and pre-election jitters.

Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin may be able to cut one last stimulus deal before the election, but it still looks like the odds of it passing the House and Senate are less than evens.

The FTSE 100 and DAX both fell 1% and the failure by bulls to build any momentum from these one-day bounces is a sign of tepid sentiment.

First presidential debate in focus

It’s all going to kick off later tonight, as the first US presidential debate takes place in Cleveland. The fun starts at 9pm US eastern time and will last one and a half hours. Trump won in Ohio, a typical battleground rust belt state, by eight points last time around but it is leaning towards Biden in 2020, according to the polls.

But we know polls only tell a portion of the story – it’s in the battlegrounds where it counts.

JPM did an investor survey of potential election outcomes – 79% said the worst-case scenario is a Democrat president and Senate, whilst 49% said the best case would be a Republican president and Senate.

We know which way Wall Street is leaning, but there is not a clear sense that the result will materially impact the course of equity markets. As discussed last week, whilst a Democrat clean sweep – the Blue-nami – would mean higher taxes and regulation, other factors may play into the bulls’ favour, notably the chance of a comprehensive fiscal package.

More importantly, the global recovery from the pandemic, the Fed and earnings will be key drivers for equities after the election. The only thing the market wants is to get the election out of the way – the real danger to near-term valuations would be a long period of legal disputes post-election, which may mean price action continues to chop sideways within the range set in the second half of September.

Vix futures are starting to look interesting again with the spread from Oct to Nov widening to $2 with the near month trading at $31 and November at $33, with December at $31.

Sterling up on hopes of breakthrough in Brexit talks

Brexit breakthrough? Hopes of a deal are on the up, amid reports that the EU is prepared to ditch its requirement to reach a broad agreement before drafting a text. This means they can start on the joint legal text whilst there are still a few outstanding issues that need to be resolved.

This has positive overtones, but the two sides still appear no closer on these critical last steps.  European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said yesterday: “The UK’s positions are far apart from what the EU can accept.”

Sterling drove to a two-week high, with GBPUSD rising to 1.29 before paring gains to sit around 1.2850 this morning.

Bank of England deputy governor warns over negative rates

But it the rally was less about Brexit than it was about comments from Dave Ramsden, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, who sounded a strong sound of caution over negative interest rates. The MPC seems to be airing its dirty laundry in public – the comments came only a day after Silvana Tenreyro pointedly backed negative rates.

Anyways it looks there is some clear ideological disputes among rate setters that needs to be worked out over the autumn, implying as Andrew Bailey suggested last week that negative rates are not likely on the near horizon, albeit they are being considered actively.

The problem for the Bank would be an unemployment crisis into Christmas that could put pressure on the MPC to act.

The dollar peeled off its recent two-month highs in the 94.60 region which is offering the near-term resistance. The pullback called for last week has been slow to emerge with a couple of retests of this level but near-term weakness is certainly becoming more evident.

Elsewhere, oil markets remain trapped in a tight range but could be heading for a pullback as global inventories start to build. API numbers later today, EIA numbers on tap Wednesday. Watch the Chinese numbers too as global inventories swing to builds.

Surging cases numbers cripple demand, whether rational or not. Contango spreads indicate softer demand and inventory builds ahead. The price action alone on WTI is a not a pretty picture for bulls.

Coming up, there is a slew of Fed speakers later today with Clarida, Quarles, Harker and Williams on the slate. Richard Clarida is probably the most important, with the Fed governor due to speak on Future Considerations for Treasury Market Resilience. Meanwhile, the Treasury market is completely dead as yields remain trapped in their tight ranges.

Chart: The S&P 500 is still trapped by the moving averages

The market rallied 1.6% on Monday and ran slap into the 50-day SMA, shy of the 21-day SMA. We have to see whether this marks the swing high and calls for another pullback.

Risk appetite resurfaces, HSBC shares soar

Risk appetite has returned after last week’s turbulence. European bourses rose 1-2% in early trade on Monday after Wall Street’s rally on Friday lifted the boats. The S&P 500 was still down for the week, but with the broad market -10% from its all-time highs at the low, those looking for a correction after the hot summer rally may have found it already.

The market tested 3200, which is where it reached at the peak in June before the pullback and where it closed 2019. Bonds have not taken part in the drawdown – US 10-year Treasuries have barely budged this month and remain stuck around 0.66%. This might imply that the September sell-off is more about a repricing of risk assets based on valuations and profit-taking after the summer run-up, rather than deeper fears about a prolonged stagnation in the economy.

Volatility likely on US presidential debate, NFP this week

Nevertheless, with the first US presidential debate and the last jobs report before the election coming this week, there is ample scope for markets to remain volatile. Until we clear the highs from a fortnight ago – 3400 on SPX, around 3300 on Stoxx 50 and 6,000 on the FTSE, the downside bias remains.

Rising numbers of coronavirus cases imply a softer recovery, depressed consumer sentiment and the need for more fiscal support to generate upside. Markets don’t seem to be moving too much on vaccine news and rumours – there may be a realisation that a vaccine is not a silver bullet that will repair all the damage done in 2020, even if it makes 2021 look brighter.

Ping An adds to HSBC stake

HSBC shares rallied 10% after Ping An Asset Management increased its stake in the bank. HSBC’s largest shareholder only marginally bolstered its holding to 8% from 7.95%, but the vote of confidence translated into a very substantial rally for the shares both in Hong Kong and London.

HSBC had lately sunk to a 25-year low after being named in reports relating to money laundering, so maybe this was some simple averaging-in by Ping An. Shares are only back to where they were a fortnight ago – when stocks have been beaten down as much as HSBC they are often ripe for larger percentage swings as investors try to figure out what is the real value.

If you think Britain’s banks are fundamentally sound, shares are priced compellingly. Lloyds at 25p trades at 0.35 of book value.

BoE Tenreyro defends negative rates

Bank of England rate setter Silvana Tenreyro defended negative rates in an article over the weekend, in what we could construe as a careful piece of choreography to communicate the bank’s shift towards a state of outright financial repression.

She said there were ‘encouraging’ signs that there are no longer the same obstacles to cutting rates to below zero. But she’s been positive on negative rates for several months so we should probably not read too much into her comments.

Andrew Bailey remains the most important voice of the MPC and whilst he did not seek to quell speculation last week that the Bank is considering how to use negative rates, he did stress that it’s not in a hurry to pull them out the toolbox.

Brexit talks in focus for GBP

Brexit talks resume this week and despite all the noise, both sides want a deal. Whilst the UK threw a spanner in the works with the internal market bill, the real substance of the trade deal is what matters. On that front the EU and UK are about 90% there. The problem is the remaining elements and without these sorted there is no deal.

Nevertheless there is hope that they will enter the ‘tunnel’: the period of closed, detailed talks that would lead to a deal. If there is white smoke this week then sterling will rally strongly, but I would expect this to drag on for a while longer, for deadlines to be missed and for GBP crosses to remain exposed to negative headline risk.

The euro retained its downside bias after more jawboning from the ECB.  Ignazio Visco, Italy’s central bank governor, said the euro’s recent strengthening is “worrying us because it generates further downward pressures on prices at a time when inflation is already low”. A slate of ECB speakers this week are likely to lean hard on governments to deliver fiscal support.

Chart: GBPUSD tests near-term resistance at 1.28

Nikola shares tumble (again)

Volume leaders today include Apple as normal, as well as Peloton after a blow-out earnings report – EPS of $0.27 almost treble the street consensus of $0.10 indicating the stay-at-home Covid trend is playing out well for the brand. A new cheaper version of its bike should help, too. Apple shares were flat, with Peloton up just +1%, well below its highs.

Hidenburg Research slams Nikola, shares tumble

Nikola shares fell about 15% on high volumes after the Hindenburg Research article. Whilst shares had fallen yesterday following publication, it seems investors have taken fright at the lack of any detailed refutation by Nikola.

A statement today from the company only said the allegations are not accurate and described the report as a ‘hit job’. If it is a hit job, it’s been a very well timed one with the stock having jumped only a couple of days prior on the tie-up with GM. But the lack of detail from the company so far has left investors unimpressed.

Without being able to comment on the details of the report, short attacks can and do happen, and more often than often there is rarely smoke without fire.

Equities move higher into the weekend

Elsewhere, the S&P 500 ticked higher after testing yesterday’s cash close at 3,339, with the 50-day line offering further support untested at 3,321.90. Yesterday’s tap on the 21-day SMA at 3,425 looks a long way off. Nasdaq also higher as risk is catching some bid into the weekend.

European equity markets are closing the day out with some decent weekly gains in the bag. Overall we have seen a real divergence between the US and Europe this week with equity markets this side of the pond doing better. Partly that is down to the rotation out of tech, but also we need to be aware of election risk that will play an increasing role in driving sentiment over the next month and a half.

Crude oil found some bid as the risk sentiment improved as the US session progressed.

Listening to the usual talking heads it seems there is more appetite for value after the three-day tech rout saw the penny drop for many that valuations had gotten out of hand. Let’s see how that goes with Ocado and Next on stage next week.

Brexit headline risk keeps pressure on GBPUSD

In FX, DXY ran out of gas at 93.38 as it tries to make another stab at the top of the descending wedge. GBPUSD tried three times to break below 1.2770 today but the level has just about held for now – sterling remains exposed to Brexit headline risks and bulls may be thin on the ground.

Post fix it looks pretty meek and liable to further downside into the weekend with UK-EU trade talks next week in focus. The current consolidation range looks pretty bearish and flaggy but we should always caution that sellers can get exhausted into the weekend just much as buyers can and there may be some profits being taken.

Sterling stabilises after Brexit furore, equities steady

Sterling stabilised after testing new six-week lows yesterday following the testy exchanges around the internal market bill, but the pound remains highly exposed to negative news around Brexit talks.

The EU Commission said the bill has damaged trust and would, if adopted, represent a serious breach of the withdrawal agreement and of international law. The British position remains resolute. The UK government legal opinion is that it remains a sovereign matter of UK domestic law.

This is serious brinkmanship, and trade talks appear close to collapse. Moreover, it is opposed by the devolved regimes in Scotland and Wales – if it passes and there is no deal, the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood will be close to breaking point and it could accelerate and heighten demands for Scottish independence.

The EU wants the offending bill pulled by the end of the month or they may launch legal action – but stopped short of saying they will walk away from the trade talks. The EU doesn’t want to be the first to walk away. Nevertheless, there has been a material escalation of no-deal risks, which was reflected in the pound’s price action yesterday.

The clock is ticking and whilst we continue to stress that a deal will always look further away than it is due to the nature of the posturing and public statements, the move on the internal market bill comes somewhat out of left-field (although it was actually reported back in Feb that the govt was working on it) and it does not pertain to the talks themselves.

We should also note that it is not guaranteed to pass both British chambers in its current form. Europe’s finance ministers are gathering today so expect a lot of headlines criticising the British – plus ca change. The good news is there is UK-Japan trade deal ‘in principle’ – hopefully that means cheaper wagu steak.

Euro up after ECB meeting, UK GDP disappoints

GBPUSD dropped under 1.28 but has found some support at this level and pared back losses a touch. Against the euro, the pound plunged to its weakest since March, as the single currency also found bid after the European Central Bank sounded a bit more optimistic on the economy and a little less dovish than the market had thought.

The ECB indicated it would not overreact to the appreciation of the euro, which was a green light for the currency to rally. ECB sources suggested they don’t think the euro is overvalued and don’t want to start a currency war – let’s wait and see what happens when 1.20 gets tested again.

Meanwhile, Britain’s economy faces even greater uncertainty from Brexit as it tries to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic. GDP rose 6.6% in July, but this was short of expectations and still well below pre-pandemic levels. All areas of manufacturing, particularly distillers and car makers, saw improvements, the ONS said without a hint of irony.

In July, monthly GDP was 11.7% lower than the pre-pandemic levels seen in February 2020.

The good news is that because of the way the UK measures education in GDP numbers, means things should pick up as the number of pupils returning to school rises. It also means the decline in GDP might not be so bad compared with peers as it looks.

Among the service sector, accommodation & food services remain worst hit, but we know it got a big – albeit temporary – boost in August from the Eat Out scheme.

Impasse over US stimulus continues

European markets were flat on Friday after US markets pulled back on Thursday, declining for the fourth day in five, with the Nasdaq down another 2% and the and the S&P 500 falling 1.75% on the back of the previous session’s rally.

The resumption of the downtrend came as Senate Republicans failed to pass their $500bn stimulus package, with Democrats complaining it does not go far enough. The impasse has doused hopes Congress can agree a package in the near-term and could give a tailwind to bears who have the bit between their teeth.  US futures are higher.

Concerns about the US economy remain. US jobless claims just aren’t heading in the right direction. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 22 was 29,605,064, an increase of 380,379 from the previous week. In the week to Sept 5th initial claims hit 884,000, unchanged from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 881,000 to 884,000. US CPI numbers out later today are the main eco event to watch, but the furore over the internal market bill is not going away.

Moody music around Brexit sends sterling lower

Sterling took  a bit of a kicking as the mood music around this week’s Brexit talks took a decided turn for the worse. The EU came out with some pretty stern words for the British government over its internal markets bill. Less Ode to Joy and more Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March.

The EU Commission has come out fighting, saying the bill would, if adopted, represent a serious breach of the withdrawal agreement (perhaps) and of international law (more dubious, since the EU cannot hold any sway or sovereignty over UK domestic markets, laws or affairs after the exit from the EU).

Anyway, the British position (on paper at least) remains resolute. The UK government legal opinion is that it remains a sovereign matter of UK domestic law, which of course, it is, regardless of what the EU may think.

Brexit talks under threat as EU warns UK has ‘seriously damaged trust’

The EC called on Britain to ditch the problem elements of the bill by the end of the month and warned that the UK has ‘seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK’, adding that ‘it is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust’.

This is real brinkmanship. It is one of three things: it is either a cynical masterstroke in negotiating a deal. Two, it is a cynical move but a miscalculation on the British side, as it may fatally undermine the good faith basis discussions. Or three, it is simply a genuine good faith step based on the British desire to main the integrity of its own internal market, just as much as the EU insists on maintaining its own single market.

Either way the language and tone coming out of everything today would suggest a material increase in no deal risks – more no doubt to follow later this afternoon.

Pound sinks on heightened no-deal risks

GBPUSD sank to fresh six-week lows under 1.2860 with the road to 1.280 clear after breaching the 50-day line, which had offered the support yesterday. EURGBP surged to its strongest in 6 months above 0.92, boosted as a hawkish-sounding ECB put a firm under the EUR.

The euro was sent spiking against the dollar before easing back a touch after the ECB left rates unchanged and indicate it was all very pleased with itself and doesn’t think it needs to do a lot more. Christine Lagarde seemed far too relaxed about the appreciation in the euro, which helped send the currency back up to 1.19.

All in all she did beat a dovish drum and seems to have got her communication rather muddled, again. But after this spike, a bit of dollar bid came back as risk assets soured following the US open.

Stocks slip after Wall St bounce (bull trap?), FX markets tune into Brexit and ECB

Fear casts a long shadow. If the virus doesn’t get you, the fear might. It’s almost a trope in economic and trading circles: it’s not the virus causing the damage to the economy and businesses, but the twin enemies of a chaotic government response and worst of all, fear.

Fear is what gets you in the end. Fear is what cripples the recovery, be that fear of the virus (I won’t go out) or fear of arbitrary knee jerk responses (why bother booking a holiday abroad). Fear of tax raids is another we might add for many investors looking at how public policy may affect their returns.

Dunelm warns over Christmas lockdowns, IAG announces rights issue

There is a fear stalking some companies. Dunelm this morning warned off a ‘severe but plausible’ scenario in which there are further lockdowns over Christmas. Sales might not recovery fully until 2023, management worry.

Meanwhile IAG has warned demand has eased and now expects capacity to decline this year more than previously thought. Available seat kilometres are forecast to drop by 63% in 2020 and still be 27% below 2019 levels in 2021. Previously it had forecast declines of 59% and 24% respectively. The forecasts came as IAG announced a €2.75bn discounted rights issue to strengthen its balance sheet.

Even Morrison’s, which has seen sales surge, is nursing a drop in profits because the new order means more of the lower margin online business is required.

Names like Azhag the Slaughterer and Gorbad Ironclaw are designed to strike fear into people’s hearts, but investors in Games Workshop have had less reason to be afraid than many. Today’s trading update shows continued strong progress despite the pandemic – indeed staying indoors for long stretches is something their customers are not afraid of.

Shares jumped over 10% after the company reported a very strong three months to August 30th, with sales up to £90m from £78m a year ago. Online growth has been strong. It also declared a dividend of 50p. Peel Hunt raised its price target on the stock.

Global equities rebounded – a classic bull trap?

Yesterday saw a big risk rally as global equities recovered from a 3-day sell-off led by US tech shares. Wall Street – equity markets bounced strongly. The Nasdaq added 2.7%, while the S&P 500 was up 2%. The Nasdaq held its 50-day moving average, with this level offering the major support for the rally. The S&P 500 ran into resistance at the 21-day line. There was some selling into the close though, which makes you wonder if it’s a classic bull trap before the next swing lower.

Vix futures (Sep) broke the rising trend line to trade at 28.50, having taken a 37 handle last Friday. The FTSE 100 climbed over 1.3% to recover the 6,000 level, while the DAX added 2%.

Europe soft as markets await ECB decision

European stock markets turned lower this morning as investors look ahead to the ECB meeting today. The meeting comes amid a sharp rally for the euro that has left policymakers concerned. The line in the sand for the central bank was 1.20 on EURUSD – a level that prompted chief economist Philip Lane to comment that “the euro-dollar rate does matter”. Traders should pay attention to any nod to currency worries from Christine Lagarde.

Whilst the consensus is that the ECB will take no further policy action, policymakers may choose to act, albeit any action at all would be around the PEPP programme rather than slicing interest rates lower. As noted earlier this week, the sharp decline in inflation could force the ECB to take swifter action than the market is anticipating. Eurozone inflation turned negative in August, declining to –0.2% from +0.4% in July.

Sources yesterday indicated the ECB is more confident in its economic projections – it was not entirely clear whether they meant they are more confident that they are right about the , or more confident they will improve.

However, even here the ECB probably doesn’t need to push its PEPP envelope, given only €500bn has been used out of €1.35bn available. I think Christine Lagarde may seek talk up this being a target, rather than a ceiling.

In summary, on the balance of probabilities the ECB will not make any monetary policy changes but will lean hard on jawboning the euro lower and talking up the unused room in the PEPP programme and that it will do whatever it takes to support the recovery and stand ready to expand it if required. EURUSD trades at 1.1820 in a steady pattern ahead of the meeting.

Pound up but Brexit remains key risk

The pound rebounded yesterday afternoon and held gains after the EU said it would not kybosh talks because of the U.K. threat to rip up the withdrawal bill – the internal market Bill. This removed the immediate risk of a collapse in trade talks, which appears to have driven the aggressive move lower in the morning with cable hitting a six-week low. This sent cable hard back to 1.30 in a sharp risk reversal that many newly minted shorts firmly on the wrong side.

But we should caution that sterling remains very exposed to further negative headlines and risks appear still skewed to the downside for the time being and we can only say that sharp moves lower – in the region of one big figure – are to be expected. The EU this morning is said to be considering legal action against the UK over the bill. GBPUSD just traded a little under 1.30 again as morning trading got going in London, possibly with this news weighing on sentiment – again highlighting the headline risk.

Today sees the talks wrap with the usual order of service involving the two sides giving separate press conferences. The focus on the EU side will be to what extent the internal market build has undermined trust.  Remember a deal will always look a lot more distant than it may be in reality.

US jobless claims numbers are also due later. These have become a useful barometer for the US economic recovery and tend to show that the momentum from the initial post-lockdown snapback is waning.

Last week, the initial jobs claims improved but the methodology changed somewhat and the only stat we really cared about was that the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 15th was 29,224,546, an increase of 2,195,835 from the previous week.

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

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

Royal Mail shares pop, equity markets seek direction from Wall Street

Equity markets are attempting to stabilise after the tech-led sell-off at the end of last week, but the lack of direction from the US on Monday means we are waiting on the Wall Street cash equity open to get a true feel for sentiment. European bourses traded a little lower on Tuesday morning after a strong bump up on Monday.

US futures are a little bit positive, but the Nasdaq was weaker, pointing to ongoing concerns in the tech sector. We need to see whether yesterday’s European rally was something of a free pass thanks to the US holiday and whether there is another tech volatility bleed into the broader market.

Rising case numbers hamper recovery prospects

Worries about rising case numbers are once again an area of concern. Whilst there is not any appetite for a general lockdown, if cases trend higher we can probably assume at least three things: local restrictions in hotspots, a choppier recovery nationally as a result and the ‘fear factor’ back in play limiting the amount people are willing to go out and about.

Economic indicators seem to be pointing to a slow, uneven recovery and the speed at which things initially bounced back in the summer is not sustainable. There is a loss of momentum which may call for additional central bank and fiscal stimulus.

WTI retreats – further downside pressure ahead as demand outlook weakens?

A choppier economic recovery globally – the W-shape – is not good for oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s decision to discount remains the main driver of sentiment as WTI retreated back under $39, whilst Donald Trump’s comments about ‘decoupling’ from China is another weight.

Whilst it may be too early to call the start of a new trend lower, my inclination is that demand will not come back as quickly as expected and this will force prices lower over the autumn, which may force OPEC+ into further action.

EasyJet capacity down dramatically, Royal Mail pop on parcel surge

On that note, the capricious quarantine regime makes planning travel tricky enough for us punters, so imagine trying to run an airline in this world. EasyJet says the constantly evolving government restrictions across Europe and quarantine measures in the UK is negatively affecting customer confidence to make travel plans.

In other words, demand is not as good as expected, and management now expect to fly slightly less than the 40% of planned capacity for Q4 2020 which was highlighted at the Q3 trading update. There is no return to normal when there are constantly changing, arbitrary restrictions on our movement. The longer this persists the slower the recovery for airlines and the great number of jobs may be lost. EasyJet shares fell 4%.

One thing is for sure – the parcel business is booming. Royal Mail reported a massive surge in parcel volumes, whilst DS Smith, which makes the cardboard boxes that clog up our recycling bins, says it’s enjoying positive year-on-year growth again. Shares in RMG rose 14%, whilst SMDS was up over 5% on the open.

Royal Mail delivered 177m more packages in the five months to the end of August compared to last year, as parcel volumes rose 34%, with revenues up 33.1% year on year. Addressed letter volumes were down 28% as it delivered 1.1 billion fewer letters. Total revenue was up £139 million but Royal Mail is still set for a significant loss and it warns it cannot become profitable without substantial business change, which is management speak for more job cuts and more automation.

Royal Mail is not fit for the job, but management knows what medicine is required and that is needs administering quickly: ‘Currently, too many parcels are sorted by hand and we are failing to adapt our business to fundamentally lower letter volumes and are holding on to outdated working practices and a delivery structure that no longer meets customer needs.’

Brexit headlines keep pressure on Sterling

Sterling is under pressure on some Brexit-related headlines and is exposed to a further onslaught of negative news as round 8 of the formal negotiations gets underway. Boris Johnson says the withdrawal agreement never made sense and is drawing up legislation to bin parts of it should there be no deal on the table by October 15th.

David Frost and Michel Barnier, the top negotiators on the UK and EU side respectively, have both said the other side needs to get real. Monday’s foreplay got both parties a bit hot under the collar, but the main event starts today.

GBPUSD retreated to 1.3125 this morning to test the weekly multi-year descending trend line. Double rollover on the MACD as occurred in November indicates bearish momentum may build. The euro remains bottled up at the 1.18 level with the ECB meeting ahead on Thursday.

The consensus remains firmly against the USD but it’s notched its highest close above its 21-day moving average since July and the crowded short dollar trade is at risk of reversals. An ECB that could surprise with additional easing this week is another risk to the anti-dollar consensus.

Primark sales recovering, sterling eyes Brexit talks

Is there a better guide to the health of the high street than Primark? The cheap-as-chips clothing jumble sale is about as good a barometer as any for what’s happening, with Next going increasingly online and M&S not what it once was in clothing and more of a grocer than ever. Primark also doesn’t do online so we get an unmuddied view.

So, it’s good news that AB Foods reports Primark sales have bounced back strongly since reopening. Sales to the year-end since reopening are due to hit £2bn, but in the UK sales are still likely to be down 12% from last year on a like-for-like basis. Shopping centre and regional high street stores are trading broadly in line with last year.

Large destination city centre stores, which rely on tourism and commuters, have seen a significant decline in footfall. Exclude the big 4 city centre stores and the LFLs are only -5%. Perhaps there is life in the British high street after all? A lot of this will be pent-up demand, but Primark’s low-pricing model makes it very resistant to cyclical downtrends.

ABF shares rose 4% at the open before paring gains to trade around 2% higher.

European stocks move higher, US markets shut

Stocks in Europe were broadly higher on Monday after a pullback at the end of last week seemed to run out of steam. US markets are shut for Labor Day, which will keep volumes thin. The FTSE 100 notched its weakest close since May on Friday, a whisker under 5,800. Early trade on Monday took the index back to the 38.2% retracement at 5850 and we are looking for this level to hold for the market to build any upside momentum.

Tech shares led the worst two-day decline for US stocks in some time, but the bulls fought back late in the day on Friday. The S&P 500 closed down 0.8% at 3,426 but this was some 75 points above its lows. Futures show weakness though at 3,400 on our indicative cash market.

Vix futures (Sep) have come down sharply from the highs hit last week in the depths of the sell-off, but are holding the rising trendline and the October contract remains solidly in contango implying election risk remains a problem.

Is the European economic rebound losing steam?

On the data front, Chinese exports rose a healthy 9.5% in August as its trading partners reopened their economies and pent-up demand for goods fed into the figures. However, imports declined 2.1%, indicating softer domestic demand.

Meanwhile German industrial production rose in August but at a much slower pace than July. Output climbed by just 1.2%, short of the 4.7% expected and the +9.3% recorded in the prior months. There are clearly signs that the bounce back in the Eurozone is running out steam – lots for the European Central Bank to consider when it meets this week.

GBPUSD trades above 1.32 despite Brexit focus

Brexit talks also resume this week (The Week Ahead: Brexit talks resume, ECB frets over exchange rate contains a full preview). Of course, we remain a long way from getting a deal done – at least if the pessimism from Michel Barnier is to be believed.

A lot of the chatter and commentary is very downbeat. But this should be expected – the nature of the brinkmanship means a deal always seems further away than it may be in reality. News that the UK is drawing up legislation to override the withdrawal agreement’s requirements for new Northern Ireland customs arrangements is likely to set a fire under the EU.

To me this looks like the Johnson government’s brinkmanship designed to show they mean it when they say that no-deal is an option. Expect negative headlines to weigh on sterling; although this morning it’s put in a decent opening trade, with GBPUSD finding bid north of 1.32. However, the near term downtrend remains in force unless bulls can regain the rising trend line at 1.3250 and push clear of Friday’s swing high at 1.33190.

Crude prices continued to slide after Aramco said it would cut prices in October as the pandemic keeps a lid on demand. WTI (Oct) declined towards $38.56 before paring losses to hold the $39 handle after a letter on Saturday said Aramco would cut its US-bound crude by 50-70 cents, with pricing for Asia discounted by 90 cents to $1.50. Gold remains a very narrow range at $1930.

La settimana che ci aspetta: Riprendono i negoziati sulla Brexit, la BCE si concentra sui tassi di scambio

Questa settimana ripartiranno le discussioni sulla Brexit, per un altro round di negoziati che finora ha portato a piccoli progressi. Riusciranno le due parti in causa a risolvere lo stallo oppure i titoli dei giornali peseranno sulla sterlina? Nel frattempo la riunione della Banca Centrale Europea arriva dopo una serie importante di scambi per l’euro che ha preoccupato i responsabili delle politiche monetarie.

I negoziati sulla Brexit

La prossima sessione formale di colloqui tra l’UE e il Regno Unito si terrà a Londra questa settimana, e verrà implicitamente introdotto il rischio di eventi incrociato tra sterlina britannica e FTSE. L’aria che si respira non è particolarmente positiva. L’ultima tornata di discussioni in agosto ha avuto come risultato progressi molto scarsi.

In seguito Michel Barnier, il capo negoziatore dell’UE, ha affermato che un accordo sembra “improbabile”, definendosi preoccupato per lo stato di avanzamento dei lavori. David Frost, la sua controparte inglese, ha sostenuto che i colloqui sono stati utili ma che i progressi sono stati minimi.

I colloqui informali della settimana scorsa non hanno portato molto di più, e Barnier ha detto di sentirsi  “preoccupato e deluso” riguardo all’approccio britannico sulla discussione in corso.

Al centro dei colloqui ci sono le preoccupazioni concomitanti relative alla sovranità (Regno Unito) e all’integrità del mercato unico (UE). Entrambe le parti devono raggiungere un compromesso filosofico prima di poter arrivare ad un compromesso pratico. E’ qui che inizio a preoccuparmi relativamente al fatto che possa essere raggiunto un accordo forte e onnicomprensivo.

L’incontro della BCE

La Banca Centrale Europea (BCE) si ritrova nel mezzo di un recupero da parte dell’euro che sta preoccupando i responsabili delle politiche economiche. Pare che la soglia di 1,20 fosse il limite massimo per la banca centrale – un livello che ha spinto il capo economista Philip Lane a commentare che mentre la BCE non si preoccupa del tasso di cambio, “a contare realmente è il cambio tra euro e dollaro”.

La BCE ha tentato di intervenire in questo recupero: un euro più forte renderà più difficile alimentare l’inflazione e danneggerà la crescita. Lane intende semplicemente far sapere al mercato che ad essere importante è il tasso di cambio. L’ultima cosa che ci serve ora è una guerra valutaria, ma la BCE potrebbe essere in procinto di dichiararne una. Attendiamo di sapere qual è il parere di Christine Lagarde al riguardo.

Nel frattempo, sarà anche opportuno vedere se la BCE seguirà l’esempio della Federal Reserve, manifestando la sua intenzione di non lasciare che l’inflazione (se mai dovesse diventare reale) impedisca la ripresa.

La domanda più importante è se la BCE intende impegnarsi per un doppio mandato come la FED. In realtà, il mandato della BCE è già più ampio. Oltre al suo obiettivo principale di sostenere la stabilità dei prezzi, ha il compito di sostenere le “politiche economiche generali” dell’UE. Se questo non è un via libera al supporto dell’occupazione, allora cos’è?

A Jackson Hole la FED ha annunciato un cambio della politica che avrà un impatto concreto sulle aspettative relative a tassi e inflazione. La FED ha seguito un approccio più razionale. Invece di dire che i risultati economici devono adattarsi ai suoi modelli – che sono sempre stati nient’altro che la migliore delle ipotesi – lascerà che siano i risultati a guidare le politiche di indirizzo.

Qualcuno potrebbe sostenere che si tratta di un passo verso l’abbraccio totale della Modern Monetary Theory, anche se in passato Powell è stato contrario a questo approccio. Il fatto è che la crisi ha gettato la Modern Monetary Theory dal terreno della pura teoria economica alla pratica senza alcun dibattito reale. Powell ha colto un principio centrale della Modern Monetary Theory: perché milioni di persone dovrebbero finire nella spazzatura dell’economia e restare disoccupate come prezzo da pagare per un’inflazione bassa?

Credo che la BCE seguirà questa direzione, e l’incontro si rivelerà molto interessante.

Dati economici da osservare

Oltre a quanto sopra, presta attenzione alla festa del Labor Day degli Stati Uniti di lunedì, quando i mercati azionari resteranno chiusi. L’indice dei prezzi delle case nel Regno Unito di Halifax verrà pubblicato nello stesso giorno, appena prima del rapporto Sentix sulla fiducia degli investitori dell’Eurozona.

Martedì andrà tenuto d’occhio il rapporto NAB sulla fiducia delle imprese per l’Australia, nonché i dati sulla spesa e sul PIL del Giappone. Mercoledì sarà la volta della decisione della Bank of Canada sui tassi di interesse e degli ordini preliminari giapponesi delle macchine utensili, un interessante indicatore in grado di anticipare la domanda. Oltre alla riunione della BCE di giovedì, ci saranno i dati sull’inflazione PPI negli Stati Uniti e le scorte settimanali di petrolio greggio. La settimana terminerà venerdì con i dati sul PIL del Regno Unito, con quelli sull’inflazione del CPI negli Stati Uniti e con l’inizio delle riunioni dell’Eurogruppo dei ministri delle finanze.

Gli utili da osservare

Tra le principali aziende che riferiranno sugli utili, questa settimana ci saranno Lululemon, Oracle, Richemont e Slack. Ma forse al centro dell’attenzione ci sarà Peloton, l’azienda che ha avuto tanto successo durante il Covid e le cui azioni sono salite ai massimi storici nelle ultime settimane.

La settimana scorsa JPMorgan ha alzato il suo target di prezzo da 58 USD a 105 USD, e ha aggiunto il titolo nella sua lista delle azioni preferite.

“La più grande sfida a breve termine di Peloton, secondo noi, è di tenere il passo con una richiesta elevata, con tempi di consegna delle biciclette di circa 6–7 settimane in media nelle prime 20 DMA statunitensi a partire come abbiamo verificato dai nostri controlli del primo settembre”, ha affermato l’analista Doug Anmuth.

Un calendario completo degli eventi economici e aziendali è disponibile sulla piattaforma.

In evidenza su XRay questa settimana

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