Stocks go up, cases go up, US jobs harder to call

European equities followed the US and Asia higher on hopes for a vaccine and a strong US jobs report, whilst shrugging off soaring numbers of new cases in the world’s largest economy.

US cases of Covid-19 continue to surge, rising more than 50,000 in a single day for the first time. Florida’s new case count rose 4.3%, vs the previous 7-day average of 5.7%, so indications perhaps that the rate of new cases may be coming down there. But California, Texas and Arizona recorded their largest one-day rise in cases.

Meanwhile, Tokyo also reported its highest number of cases in two months. Whilst the rise in cases is slowing the reopening of many states, some may argue that the US is simply heading for herd immunity a lot faster than anywhere else; in the long run this may help, not hinder, the country’s ability to get back to normal social and economic functioning.

Investors largely are shrugging off higher cases though as Pfizer reported positive results from a vaccine trial. But we have been here before – it’s too early to get too excited – but a working vaccine is the holy grail as it would allow real normality to return to the economy.

The S&P 500 rallied 0.5% to move to the 61.8% retracement, whilst the Nasdaq Composite set a new record high. The Dow finished a little lower. Shares in Asia took the cue to rally, whilst European bourses have opened with strength on Thursday morning. Lots of noise around but equity markets are not showing any real trend – major indices are still sitting around the middle of the June ranges.

Nonfarm payrolls tough to call

The ADP jobs report showed private employers in the US created 2.4m jobs in June, while the figure for May was completely revised to show a gain of 3m gained versus a previous estimate of 2.76m lost. Nonfarm payrolls today are again especially hard to call given the crisis. For May the consensus was for 8m jobs to be lost, but instead 2.5m were added.

For June the consensus is for 3m+ to be created. But the exceptionally wide range of forecasts suggests no true consensus – as I’ve mentioned a few times here the data is particularly difficult and noisy right now. Even if we get 5.5m created over the last two months, it still leaves 15m or so from the 20.5m lost in April unemployed, so recovery to the status quo ante remains a long way off.

Fed minutes indicated policymakers are keen to offer more detailed forward guidance about the path of interest rates but seemed less ready to go for yield curve control – a policy it last pursued during the second world war and one that the Bank of Japan is currently practising with limited success in achieving its goals.

Which leads us on nicely to the theme of Japanification, which is a thread which we like to explore from time to time. It can be summed up long-term economic malaise, deflation and a reliance on ever-larger monetary easing and low bond yields to prop up growth. Usually it’s Europe that seems to be tarred with this particular brush, but lately there are murmurings that the UK is heading down the same path.

For the first time, 30-year gilt yields fell below their Japanese counterparts this week. This is anomalous for a couple of reasons. First, the fact that gilt yields across the curve are at or near record lows highlights that investors haven’t blinked at the super-high issuance by the government to fund its response to the pandemic – the Bank of England’s asset purchase programme is doing its job. Two, the yield on Japan’s long bonds went up because the Bank of Japan said it would increase purchases of debt up to 10 years in maturity but keep buying of longer-dated maturities unchanged. This pushed up the yield curve, a fine example of yield curve control in action.

Whilst the crisis is disinflationary at present, the vast increase in the supply of money, which unlike the post-2008 QE is not going to end up sloshing around the banks but be put to work directly in the economy, means it may be too soon to call Britain the next Japan, whatever the chart vigilantes tell us.

Gold eases back from multi-year high, crude oil soft on rising gasoline stocks

Gold pulled back off its recent multi-year high in a sharp corrective move but has found support around $1765. Yesterday I said fading momentum on the CCI with a bearish divergence to the price action suggested a near-term pullback may be required – this came a little swifter than expected and we may see further weakness as a bearish flag formation may call for another leg lower to $1750.

Crude oil stocks declined by 7.2m barrels vs an expected drop of about 1m, driven by lower imports due to an expected drop from Saudi Arabia. Price action was weaker on the news though as gasoline stocks rose 1.2m barrels vs an expected decline of 1.6m. WTI (Aug) initially eased back but has recovered a little to sit on $40. Again, as mentioned previously, the estimates on WTI stocks right now are also way off the mark.

In FX, GBPUSD broke out as the dollar was offered across the board. The double tap on 1.2250 produced a strong bounce that carried forward to see the downtrend broken as it broke out of the channel resistance and cleared the 50-day simple moving average. Bulls will need to see the last swing high around 1.2540 cleared to reassert an uptrend. Brexit headline risk remains a big hurdle to getting real momentum behind a rally for cable, but if there is a breakthrough the upside could run very quickly. EURUSD pushed up on dollar weakness with bulls needing to take out the Jun 29th high at 1.12877.

Candlestick price chart showing the pound to dollar FX pair

Stocks head for best quarter in years, Powell testimony weighs on yields

The UK’s economy shrank a little more than expected in the first quarter – the 2.2% plunge was the joint worst since 1979. Of course, it will be dwarfed by the Q2 drop, with April already printing 20% lower. Meanwhile China’s PMI data showed a slight improvement and Japan’s industrial production plunged over 8%.

Does any of this tell us much as investors and traders? In normal times, yes of course, as it might make a difference of a few points on the margins, but in the time of coronavirus there is an awful lot of noise around the data which makes it a lot more challenging, as well as of course all the stimulus, which muffles the notes that the data is trying to sound. Boris Johnson will launch an FDR-like New Deal infrastructure package today to distract us from the harsh reality of rising unemployment and ongoing restrictions on our liberties.

Powell’s economic outlook weighs on US yields

US Treasury yields declined as Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell said the outlook for the economy is ‘extraordinarily uncertain’. In prepared remarks for today’s Congressional hearing alongside Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Mr Powell said output and employment remain ‘far below their pre-pandemic levels’, adding: ‘The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on our success in containing the virus.’

He also noted that ‘a full recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities’. San Francisco Federal Reserve President Mary Daly said it’s too early to tell and is just ‘watching the data’. Aren’t we all.

A strong quarter for stocks, but risks of a sharp pullback abound

Stocks rallied on Monday despite a wobbly start, as US pending home sales jumped the most on record in May, whilst Boeing surged 14%, heaping dozens of points on the Dow as it restarted test flights on the 737 MAX aircraft yesterday.

But as I keep stressing, this is a very rangebound market. The S&P 500 rose 1.5% but is caught between the 38.2% and 50% retracement of the pullback in the second week of June. The Dow added more than 2% but couldn’t even achieve the 38.2% line. Whilst indices are still trading this range, there is a downside bias evident lately and emerging down trend channels as we’ve made a couple of lower highs and lower lows. If this trend strengthens it could gain enough momentum to retest of the June lows.

Indeed, during cash equity trading hours the last 5 sessions has produced a lower low and lower high on the S&P 500. Valuations still look too high and based on a far-too-optimistic view of an earnings rebound in 2021 and does not account for permanent productivity and demand destruction. Of course stimulus is making a big difference here, but risk assets are exposed if we see the pandemic get worse from here. World Health Organisation boss Tedros said the worst is yet to come. Cases across states like Arizona, Texas and Florida continue to surge and look to be completely out of control.  A short, sharp pullback is a very real possibility.

Nevertheless, it’s been a solid month and an exceptionally strong quarter. US equities have enjoyed their best quarter in 20 years, whilst stocks in Europe have fared pretty well too as investors participated in the rebound off the March lows. It’s mirrored elsewhere in risk assets – copper is up a fifth, but is slightly weaker for the year. For instance, the S&P 500 is up 18% QTD, but down 5% YTD. The FTSE 100 is up almost 10% QTD, but down over 17% YTD.

On the open on Tuesday, European stocks were mixed and lacking direction as they traded either side of the flatline. The FTSE 100 was trading around the 50% retracement of the June pullback and took a little hit as Shell downgraded its oil outlook and warned it will need to take up to write down the value of its assets by as much as $22bn. This follows a similar move by BP, which moved lower apparently on the Shell read-across.

Chart: Dow tests 50-day SMA support, downtrend starts to gain momentum.

Elsewhere, gold was supported around $1770 but slightly below the recent 8-year high as the flag pattern starts to near completion following the leg up on Friday. Needless to say, we can look to US real rates and 10yr Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) dipping to –0.7%, a new seven-year low. Across the curve real rates are more negative than they have been a decent while.

Crude oil recovered the $39 handle but has failed to ascend all the way to $40 and has peeled back this morning. The near-term rising trend is offering support but the double top still exerts its influence and may well result in a further pullback to $35.

In FX, the dollar continues to find bid and the dollar index is making a nice little move off its lows still in a strong uptrend channel but is just running into horizontal resistance around the 97.65 area – breakout could see 98 handle again in short order. The downtrend dominates for cable as the pair continued south down the channel to test 1.2250. Whilst this held, the failure to recover 1.23150 on the swing higher may call for a further decline to the 1.22 round number support, and thence our old friend 1.2160 may come into play.

Chart: Downward trend dominates for cable

Coronavirus outbreaks leave stocks stuck in their ranges

Virus outbreaks in the US continue to weigh on the mood, as it suggests the run-up in stocks on hopes of a V-shaped economic recovery may be overly optimistic. Several states, mainly in the south, have been forced to re-impose lockdown restrictions after being the first to reopen. Dr Fauci described it as a ‘serious problem’. The dangers of reopening too quickly seem all too apparent, but investors are also keeping an eye on outbreaks in Tokyo, Australia and China.

European equities were a touch softer but trading near the flatline on Monday morning, with a general lack of direction about today’s trade. Major indices tracking around the middle of their June ranges after Asian equities fell. US equities were lower Friday and finished down for the week but, as the month ends, stocks have enjoyed a very strong quarter.

The FTSE 100 is up over 8% quarter-to-date, while the S&P 500 has rallied over 16% in Q2 and the DAX has surged 21%. Valuations remain the concern as we head into earnings season with the S&P 500 still trading at more than 22x on a forward basis.

Coming up this week – Powell testimony, US nonfarm payrolls

Of course stocks haven’t only rallied because of reopening economies – enormous liquidity thanks to the coordinated action of central banks has been key. Central bankers have been striking similar notes in terms of the response to the crisis and Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, will testify in Congress again this week. The Fed’s rather downbeat assessment of the economic recovery helped to stop the rally in its tracks and since then indices have been trading ranges.

The US jobs report – on Thursday this week due to the July 4th holiday – will provide an important view on the pace of recovery, but we should note that the weekly unemployment claims numbers are proving a more sensitive and up-to-date barometer, not least since there are problems with the data gathering for the monthly nonfarms report.

Facebook shares tumble on ad boycott, but how long can brands stay away?

Facebook shares tumbled more than 8% on Friday as a growing number of companies join a boycott of the platform over hate speech. We saw how a boycott of Facebook by users failed to move the needle on earnings, but this time it’s different – it’s the big brands that pay the big bucks and the loss of Unilever, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Diageo among others will create a headwind to revenue growth in the coming quarter.

I would think Facebook can and will do a lot more and will be able to take steps to assuage brands’ concerns, allowing the stock to recover. Moreover, will brands be able to avoid Facebook for very long? Virtue signalling is one thing, but they also need to shift product.

Crude oil was steady with WTI (Aug) around $38 after rallying off the medium-term support around $37.50. OPEC+ compliance in June is expected to be higher than in May, mainly because Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE are cutting above their quotas. In FX, cable continues to track its channel lower with a new low put in at 1.2315, with the previous support in the 1.2390 region now acting as resistance.

Equities in retreat as Covid-19 cases advance, oil drops

Equity markets have come under pressure again as a spike in new Covid cases across the US has investors worried, whilst the IMF drastically cut its growth forecasts for the year. Major equity indices have retreated towards the lower end of the range traded in June but have yet to make fresh lows for the month – when they do it will get very interesting and could call for another leg lower.

Stocks in Europe were down 3% on Wednesday, whilst Wall Street dropped 2.6%. European markets opened lower again Thursday, with a risk-off trade seeing all sectors in the red and telcos, healthcare and utilities declining the least.

Investors are pulling their heads in a little as the surge in cases raises concerns about how quickly the US economy can emerge from the ashes. There are also clusters in Germany of course but the focus is on the divergence between the European and US experience.  The FTSE 100 retreated close to 6,000 round number but found support around the 23.6% retracement at 6,066.

The S&P 500 closed at 3,050, on the 38.2% retracement. With softness on the open in Europe and futures indicating a lower open, we may see SPX test its 23.6% level on the 3,000 round number. A retest of the June lows looks increasingly likely.

IMF cuts global outlook, US-EU trade tensions simmer

Meanwhile the IMF lowered its 2020 outlook, warning the global economy would shrink a lot more this year than it had forecast in April. Global output is forecast at –4.9%, vs –3% in April. The UK and EU will decline 10%, whilst the US economy will shrink 8%. Tellingly, the IMF also lowered its 2021 bounce-back forecast – growth globally is expected to rally 5.4%, vs the 5.8% forecast in April.

In other words, the decline will be deeper and the recovery slower; that is, no V-shaped recovery. We can also add US-EU trade tensions into the mix hitting stock market sentiment, as the White House has threatened fresh tariffs. I’d also suggest that the closer we get to the election and the more polls show Biden leading Trump, the greater the risk of a Democrat clean sweep, which will need to be priced into equity markets.

Improved virus response, central bank stimulus lowers risk to equities

Although we see clear headline risk around spikes in Covid cases for equity markets, any second wave is not going to result in the same level of lockdown restrictions endured in the first wave: it’s just too costly economically and because we have learned a lot in how to cope with this virus, both in terms of treatment and prevention. This means any further pullback we see, whilst potentially quite sharp, is unlikely to see a retest of the lows in March.

Meanwhile central bank stimulus is still strong. The Fed has shifted materially – it now has a $7tn balance sheet, setting a floor under the bond market that pushes up equities. The risk to equities comes later in the year when we get a real insight into both the pace of economic recovery and, by extension, corporate earnings – does the S&P 500 still justify x23 forward PE, or should it start to trade at more like x19? The current forward PE of around x23 suggests hope of a bounce back in earnings next year that may not come to fruition.

US weekly jobless claims in focus

On the pace of economic recovery, today’s weekly jobless claims report will be of great significance. Last week’s underwhelmed. Following the surprisingly strong nonfarm payrolls report, the weekly numbers didn’t follow through with conviction – initial claims were down just 58k to 1.5m, whilst continuing claims only fell by 62k to 20.5m. The slowing in the rate of change was the main concern – hiring not really outpacing firing at a fast-enough pace to be confident of a decent recovery. I would like to see a greater improvement given the reopening of businesses, and it suggests more permanent scarring to the labour market.

Gold eases back as dollar recovers

Gold eased back off 8-year highs as the US dollar gained on the risk-off trade, but at $1765 in early European trade had bounced off lows around $1753 struck overnight. Short-term we see a stronger dollar exerting some pressure on gold prices; longer term the focus is on US real rates, which have just risen a touch off the lows. 10yr Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) eased away from 7-year lows at –0.66 to –0.64, providing another little headwind to gold prices in the near term. 

Oil slides on rising stockpiles

Crude oil declined with the broader risk-off trade. Rising US stockpiles – which hit a record high for the straight week – have also started to spook traders. Crude inventories climbed 1.44m barrels in the week to June 19th, to 540.7 million barrels. Gasoline stocks were down 1.7m barrels, giving encouraging signals about driving demand. US crude oil refinery inputs rose 239,000 bpd to 13.8m bpd. Total US production rose 500,000 bpd to 11m bpd due to the return of Gulf of Mexico output following Tropical Storm Cristobal. 

WTI (Aug) retreated off the $40 level to trade just above $37 – as suggested whilst the fundamentals have started to build in favour of stronger pricing, the market will not be immune to a technical pullback on overbought conditions and/or a decline in sentiment among traders due to rising US cases. The emerging double top is less nascent than it was and increasingly calls for the $35 neckline to be touched. A breach here calls for $31.50, the swing lows touched in the second half of May.

In FX, we can see a downwards channel for GBPUSD. The cross has pulled back to 1.24 as the dollar found bid, before paring losses a little this morning. Bulls need to clear the swing high at 1.2540 to break the downtrend, but trend resistance appears around 1.25 first. Bears can eye a pullback to under the Jun 21st low around 1.2334, with the channel suggesting we may see a 1.22 handle should the bulls fail to break 1.25 next.

XRay Live Talks: Trading in the time of Coronavirus

This week we invited our traders to take part in a live conversation with our chief market analyst Neil Wilson.

This was the first of our Live XRay Talks, our virtual trading roundtables and Q&As where we give traders the chance to meet the experts and discover what’s really going on in the markets.

Neil took questions on both the economic and market impact of Covid-19, the reaction of central banks and what could still be to come, OPEC production cuts, the green revolution and more.

Watch it here:

We’ll be bring our traders plenty more of these exclusive events, where you can get your questions answered by veteran traders and market professionals. Our next session takes place on July 4th with Andrew Barnett, senior trader at Trading Mastery.

Make sure you’re signed up to Marketsx for your chance to join our next Live XRay Talk.

Equities rebound on Covid breakthrough as cases mount

Stocks are in recovery mode as investors are energised by the prospect of further stimulus, a rebound in US retail sales and on hopes of a ‘major breakthrough’ treatment for serious cases of coronavirus. The Fed’s decision to buy individual corporate bonds and hopes the White House will swing a $1tn infrastructure package continue to help lift the boats.

US retail sales jumped 17.7% in May from the previous month, but still remain down sharply on a year-over-year basis – remember sharp rebounds are to be expected after the easing of lockdown, it doesn’t mean things are peachy.

Scientists in the UK found a cheap and widely available steroid, dexamethasone, reduces mortality rates among hospitalisations for covid-19. Meanwhile AstraZeneca says it will have a vaccine ready by October that will protect people for one year.

Markets overlook second wave fears and India-China tensions

Meanwhile investors are shrugging off fears of a ‘second wave’ as we see rising numbers of cases in the US and an outbreak in Beijing that has prompted the Chinese authorities to introduce new travel restrictions. Markets also seem unconcerned by a confrontation between India and China that left several soldiers dead on both sides.

Whilst investors will need to monitor the situation closely, I would not expect any serious escalation to impact financial markets. China’s foreign ministry said this morning the overall situation is stable and controllable.

European equities surged three per cent yesterday, while Wall Street rose 2%. This morning stocks in Europe extended gains with the FTSE 100 advancing back to 6,300 and the DAX above 12,400. The S&P 500 yesterday closed a point above the 3,123 level that we talked about, which was the Thursday opening daily high. Futures indicate a higher open as stocks in Europe open up firmly.

UK inflation slows sharply, eyes on Bank of England tomorrow

Data this morning showed UK inflation at a miserly 0.5%, which was in line with expectations, but again signals the very deflationary impact of the pandemic right now. But as previously discussed, there may be a large dose of inflation coming round the bend.

The Bank of England will tomorrow almost certainly announce more QE, likely increasing purchases by at least £100bn. Numbers yesterday pointed to a looming unemployment crisis in the UK as businesses slash jobs over the coming months.

FX majors hold ranges, oil rises on improved IEA demand outlook

In FX, the majors are holding their ranges. GBPUSD moved back under 1.26 having broken down at the 200-day moving average at 1.2690 yesterday, looking potentially to test the 100-day line around 1.2530 before a retest of Monday’s lows around 1.2450 as a near-term support. EURUSD pulled back under 1.13 having again bounced off the 23.6% Fib level around 1.1230 yesterday.

Crude oil rose on the turnaround in risk sentiment and gained further support after the International Energy Agency raised its oil demand outlook by 0.5m bpd to 91.7 million bpd. Near-term there are still pressures though – API inventories showed a rise of almost 4m barrels.

EIA figures today may show a slight build – but as noted last week the consensus estimates for these prints have been quite wide of the market over the last couple of months. Whilst risk is bid right now as equities climb, a rise in cases in the US and China may dampen hopes for an immediate rebound in oil demand.

Fed rides to the rescue

Yesterday, I noted that policymakers would be forced to chuck even more money at pandemic relief as second waves of cases and a painful and incomplete economic recovery bit. Right on cue, the Federal Reserve announced it would start buying individual corporate bonds, building on the existing purchases of ETFs. The Fed ‘will purchase corporate bonds to create a corporate bond portfolio that is based on a broad, diversified market index of U.S. corporate bonds’, the central bank said.

The Fed is stepping things up after its statement last week left investors more than a little concerned about the pace of recovery. The move suggests that the Fed, as was clear last week, is worried about the economy enduring a protracted downturn. Meanwhile the White House is again said to be mulling a $1tn infrastructure plan to stimulate the economy. The two horsemen of risk sentiment recovery – monetary and fiscal stimulus – riding to the rescue again.

US stocks erased losses, Europe pushes higher on the open

US equities bounced strongly off the lows of the day. The S&P 500 closed up 0.83% at 3,066, a full 100 points above its low of the day. The Dow scrubbed out a 760-point drop to finish up 157 points. European equities closed lower but well off the lows. Things had looked a little dicey as the major indices tested some key support, but the ‘plunge protection team’ arrived right on time. The Vix swung from a high close to 45 to close under 35 – the Fed made clear it’s got this.

Today the major bourses have taken their cue from Wall Street and opened higher. Asian markets rose. The FTSE 100 rose more than 2% to back above 6,200 and test the 100-day line resistance, while European counterparts rose by similar amounts. Ashtead Group rose c15% in early trade after it maintained its dividend despite a halving in profits. The infrastructure stimulus touted by the White House would be a massive boost for the construction equipment company.

Geopolitical tensions lurk as Korea tensions rise, Chinese and Indian forces clash

Reports circulating close to the market open of North Korea blowing up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong near the border need to be monitored but we have yet not seen any major market response. There are also reports of an ‘incident’, between Chinese and Indian forces on the border later described as a ‘violent face-off’ in which at least three Indian soldiers were killed. So, a little geopolitical shenanigans to add to the mix this morning but thus far nothing overly significant for the market.

Support for risk assets helped lift crude prices, with WTI for August climbing back above $37 around the middle of the range of the consolidation over the past month. Support is holding around $35 but the 200-hour moving average at $37.70.

GBP/USD bounces off lows, tests 200-day SMA

FX markets remain broadly steady with majors holding within ranges, with risk currencies supported this morning. GBPUSD has bounced firmly off yesterday’s lows at 1.2450 to test the 200-day SMA at 1.2690, which has acted as resistance and the pair has nestled back on the old comfort around 1.2630. EURUSD traded above 1.13 again as the long-term 23.6% level at 1.1230 starts to look like meaningful support to act as a base for the next leg higher.

Chart: FTSE recovery looks to get back into the channel and recover both the old 50% retracement and the 100-day simple moving average, which after last Thursday is starting to act as near-term resistance. Thursday’s cash market opening high at 6,329 needs to be cleared to resume the uptrend.

Chart: SPX tested the old 61.8% retracement and 100-day SMA at 2936, which held. Thursday’s cash opening high at 3,123 needs to be cleared to resume the uptrend.

Stocks extend last week’s losses on second wave fears

European stocks plunged and US futures tumbled on Monday as equity markets extended last week’s losses amid fears of a second wave to the pandemic. We are seeing pockets of cases in Beijing suddenly – the first in 50 days, whilst Alabama, Florida and South Carolina have reported record numbers of new cases for three days straight.

The dreaded second wave will weigh on equity markets – it is already sparking a wave of selling – and force policymakers to chuck even more money at this. Markets just need to think things are heading in the right direction to go up; it’s the rate of change that matters, so fresh waves of cases are taken as a sell signal.  Equity markets had also clearly become overstretched and overbought.

Stocks dumped on fears of Covid-19 second wave

The FTSE 100 slumped under 6,000 to test the 50-day moving average around 5950, potentially heading for the key support region at 5900. If this goes we can easily see a retreat to the Apr swing lows around 5641 and 5575. BP shares slumped 5% as it wrote off $13.5bn-$17bn of asset values due to lower forecast oil prices – this will only raise speculation that the board will be forced into cutting the dividend sooner or later.

Asia was broadly weaker overnight, with sentiment also being affected by Chinese industrial production, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all falling short of expectations. Futures indicate the S&P 500 open around 2950, a little above the 100-day and 50-day moving averages, having broken beneath its 200-day line. Look especially at 2936/8, where the 100-day and the old 61.8% retracement of the March rout converge.

Bulls fought a rear-guard action on Friday, but that rather hard-fought rally looks capitulation and the path back to 2800 is open. What could change this? You’d need to see a drop in cases and the rebound in the economy as stimulus works its way through to consumers spending with confidence again.

As discussed last week, S&P 500 valuations are very rich and first the Covid-economy trade and now the first reopening trade are all but over, so investors need to find new reasons to buy. Second wave fears are dominating, and the Fed has killed off any last thoughts of a V-shaped recovery.

Bank of England, Brexit in focus this week for UK assets

The Bank of England will this week need to stump up another £100bn-£200bn in QE but should leave rates unchanged. It’s been painting a rather optimistic view of recovery but will need to lower expectations this week for how soon the economy gets back to normal.

On the Brexit front, Boris Johnson will hold a call with EC boss Ursula von der Leyen today in what could be a moment that injects talks with new vigour. The PM will likely threaten no-deal, but it’s hoped this will focus the attention of the EU on delivering a compromise. GBP will be exposed to significant headline risk and may partially explain the currency’s fall this morning.

FX was in risk-off mode too, with the dollar finding fresh bid. GBPUSD broke down through the 1.25 region and was last at the lows of the day with the 50-day moving average around 1.2410 in sight. EURUSD was holding at 1.1230. Crude prices were weaker as risk sentiment soured, with WTI for August trading under $35.

Chart: SPX eyes path back to 2800

Second wave fears weigh on risk

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

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

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

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

European stocks volatile on the open

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

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

UK posts record GDP drop in April

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

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

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

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

Fed braces for long haul, second wave worries hit equities

Time to dig in for the fight. Usually, at least for the last decade, a dovish Federal Reserve would help boost risk sentiment. But we are in different times and however accommodative monetary policy remains, the market needs a lot more, like a patient hooked on painkillers. Whilst the Fed last night committed to keeping rates at zero all the way through 2022, stocks (excluding the Covid-immune tech sector) are selling off.

The Fed’s extremely downbeat assessment of the US economy and jobs market, combined with expectations for a slow recovery, left risk assets looking very exposed after a big run up last week. Stocks in Europe slipped up ahead of the meeting and have extended losses today with the major bourses down more than 2% again.

Asian shares fell and Wall Street closed in the red, although the Nasdaq managed to secure another record closing high above 10,000. US Treasury yields sank partly on the commitment on keeping rates down but also because investors see a slower recovery taking place and lasting damage to the economy. Gold rallied to $1740.

FOMC economic projections dash hopes of V-shaped recovery

Assessments for the economy are grim. The Fed forecast the US economy to contract by 6.5% this year and for the unemployment rate to be above 9% by the end of the year. This would be an improvement from the current rate of 13.3%, but it points towards a very slow recovery.

Indeed, unemployment is still seen at 6.5% through 2021. Faced with this, Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, said he is “not even thinking about thinking about raising rates”. And as many have warned, some of the damage will be permanent, meaning significant lost productivity. Powell said: “My assumption is there will be a significant chunk…millions…who don’t go back to their old jobs.” The V-shaped recovery theory died last night with the Fed.

Gloomy forecasts from the Fed chime with the OECD’s downbeat outlook. It said the UK economy will contract 11.5% this year even without a second wave. And second wave worries are another factor dragging down on stocks, particularly as we see rising numbers of Covid cases in several US states like Texas, Florida and California, where hospitalisations are at their highest since May 13th after rising for nine of the last ten days.

Really the market got too far ahead of itself and is reacting to the Fed’s gloomy outlook and fears of a second wave of infections. We will get more indications about the pace of hiring vs firing today with the US initial and continuing jobless claims number.

European equities slump on the back of FOMC meeting

Today’s market moves show the reopening trade unwinding in the wake of the Fed. Carnival and IAG led the losers on the FTSE 100 whilst only Polymetal, Fresnillo and Unilever were higher. European travel & leisure shares fell 5%, with automakers and banks down 4%.

The S&P 500 is likely to open weaker after sliding 0.5% yesterday to close under 3200 at 3190. Ocado shares fell 6% after announcing a £657m share placing and that it would raise a further £350m by way of a convertible bond. Whilst shares are lower, this is about raising cash to grow, possibly transformational growth. This is what Amazon would do.

Tesla led the tech sector and Nasdaq higher, as shares rose 9% yesterday to close above $1,025. The leg up came after Elon Musk said the company would ramp production of the Tesla Semi, its electric freight truck.

In FX, the dollar is finding bid as risk sentiment sours. GBPUSD has moved back to test 1.2650, having spiked as high as 1.28 yesterday. The pound is now very much a RoRo currency – risk-on, risk-off.

Copper prices fell having rallied for the last few sessions on fears of a slow economic recovery. Oil was holding losses as it hit around $38 for WTI after a surprise rise in US crude stocks combined with the hit to risk sentiment.  EIA figures showed crude oil inventories rose 5.7m barrels vs expectations for a 1.45m drawdown.

Sellers return: S&P 500 in retreat, next leg lower to 2975? 

Candlestick price chart of the S&P 500 index

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