Cautious tone ahead of Powell’s Jackson Hole speech

There has been a mixed start to the open in Europe as investors look ahead with some caution to Fed chair Jay Powell’s Jackson Hole speech. Stocks are hovering around the flatline with the FTSE just in the green. Today in London the miners are back on the front foot with energy and basic resources leading the gainers, while tech led the decline as JustEat Takeaway.com fell 3%.

Explosions at Kabul airport were the big story and clearly didn’t help sentiment in the market on Thursday. Wall St opened higher with the Nasdaq Composite hitting a record high before getting shaken lower on the violence in the Afghan capital, though broadly stocks were already having a tough session. The major US indices all ended the day down by around 0.6%.

Whilst the situation in Afghanistan removed any idea of a fresh set of closing highs on Wall Street, there was anyways a sense of caution at the highs, which may not be a bad thing for a bull as it’s not the big end-of-rally melt-up you see as a bull run consumes itself. But it’s also not a sign of total confidence in valuations and that really depends on what the Fed does next. Cyclicals showing signs of pause and investors looking for defensive/quality names.

Data was unexciting: Initial jobless claims were steady at 353k, a modest increase from the 349k last week, whilst the second reading for GDP in Q2 showed the US economy grew by 6.6%.

It’s all about today’s Jackson Hole event – lots of talk but ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether Powell talks up the taper or talks it down. Yesterday among the various ‘sideline’ chats, Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan didn’t say anything new – he expects to taper this year and hike next year but stressed the two decisions are entirely separate. James Bullard and Esther George also reiterated their view that the taper should start sooner rather than later. All three are on the hawkish end of the committee so this is not that big a deal or anything we didn’t know already. What matters ultimately is what Powell, Williams and Clarida think.

Away from Jackson Hole we have some actual data that is important – the core PCE price index, which as well know is the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. It’s expected to rise 0.3% month-on-month in July, easing from the +0.4% in June. Last month’s annual print showed inflation excluding energy and food rose at +3.5%, the fastest pace in 30 years. PCE including those more volatile elements rose 4%, the most since 2008.

Stagflation: German import prices rose 15% in July – the fastest clip in 40 years. The increase, the highest year-on-year-change since September 1981, increase from +12.9% in June and +11.8% in May. Excluding the energy component, prices rose 9%.

Peloton shares tumbled in after-hours trade after it reported a wider fourth-quarter loss and issued disappointing guidance. PTON reported a loss per share of $1.05 vs $0.45 expected as revenue growth hit the front brakes in the fourth quarter. This was partly due to the recall of its treadmills. Meanwhile it’s also cutting the cost of its Bike product by 20%. Stock is now –21% YTD as the wheels have come off this particular ‘Covid winner’. Interesting to look across the pond to our own Covid winners – Ocado is –12% YTD and JustEat –20%.

The dollar is a tad weaker, and we note that DXY has twice failed to break above 93.15 area on the hourly chart. Could retest bottom of the channel at 92.83. Breach here could up downside with a clear path to 91.80.

Dollar Index 27.08.2021

Gold: more solid footing as $1,800 is recaptured – next leg up depends on how dovish Powell sounds in the face of all this inflation.

Gold Chart 27.08.2021

Oil: Spot WTI regaining the trend line just and back above the 100-day SMA with the bullish MACD crossover confirmed.

Spot Oil Chart 27.08.2021