European markets steady after ugly tech selloff

Ugly, ugly, ugly. That could be the description of yesterday’s brutal sell off in tech stocks which led a broad market decline. The selling in some of the big tech darlings yesterday was spectacular: Tesla –9%, Apple –8%, Microsoft –6%, Zoom –10%. The Nasdaq settled down -5% for the day but off its lows and it’s only back to where it was last week, which simply shows what an extreme melt-up it’s been. The S&P 500 closed down -3.5%.

Ugly is the only word.

US Presidential election gets messy

Ugly is also the description of the general state of the economy and politics in the US and, arguably to a somewhat lesser extent, the U.K. The US presidential battle is getting nasty as hell. We should have expected this – it will likely get much worse. But the implications for the market need serious consideration.

I worry there is an increasingly grave risk the election result is contested to a point where the concept of a smooth handover of power is tested – well beyond ‘hanging chads’. American democracy is in peril and this should worry us all.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have covered themselves in glory thus far and the fighting will only become more acrimonious. The election is now by far the most serious risk to markets in that it could fatally undermine faith in the American system that has underpinned the West for 80 years.

Will today’s US NFP disappoint?

Meanwhile the US economy remains in serious trouble. Jobless claims remain exceptionally high. Although yesterday’s initial claims was better the only stat that really mattered after the Department of Labor changed the way it measured things was this: 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.

Today’s nonfarm payrolls – expected at +1.375m – may well surprise to the downside, as the ever-insightful Christophe Barraud argues in his blog. The U.K. economy is hardly in better shape with the furlough scheme setting up the prospect of a wave of unemployment.

Whilst this is happening, all the central banks can do is further inflate the bubble. Yesterday’s sell off was about excessive buying in a handful of stocks, bad money in the markets chasing an ever-decreasing number of stocks, and a volatility skew that told us things were not right and heading to a rollover.

Excessive call option volumes leading to market makers needing to buy the underlying stocks seemingly chased the markets higher, but retail buying has played a strong part too. It’s all been rather unseemly and a correction is required – there may be further to run lower ahead of the election as risk ramps up.

We’d been worried by spiking Vix futures whilst the market was making all-time highs and so it proved to be a red flag. The question longer term for this market is whether we should be confident earnings will recover. That remains a problem, but not intractable –  a vaccine would help a lot.

On the interest rate side of the equation, the Fed remains on side and will keep rates on the floor – as discussed earlier this week, stretched valuations may not matter if the Fed is never going to raise rates.

European equities quickly recover after tech selloff hits sentiment

European equities were dragged lower by the tech-induced sell-off on Wall Street yesterday but recovered in early trade on Friday morning. With sentiment rolling over in the big US names, any rally may prove to be a selling opportunity.

Shares in Spanish banks Bankia and Caixabank shot higher on plans to merge, lifting the entire Spanish banking sector. UK house builders were under pressure after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced enforcement cases against Barratt Developments, Countryside Properties, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey.

The CMA said it found ‘troubling evidence of potentially unfair terms concerning ground rents in leasehold contracts and potential mis-selling’, adding that it is worried leasehold homeowners ‘may have been unfairly treated and that buyers may have been misled by developers’. Shares in the four accused dipped though TW recovered as of send time.

Vix futures, which we’ve been tracking higher with some trepidation as a sign of a toppy market, spiked. Oct futures settled above 38.

The weekly S&P 500 chart, which I said yesterday morning was starting to push the envelope to breaking point, looks a little different but still stretched.

FTSE 100 – last night closed at the 38.2% retracement level at 5850 before the selling in the US dragged the futures even lower. Higher this morning but susceptible to a pullback should the US selling continue for a second day ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

European equities bounce, dollar fights back

What is the right multiple when the Fed is stoking inflation and says it will not withdraw accommodation? What price should stocks carry in a world of ZIRP and QE-4-ever? It’s very hard to say: the usual model for forming a judgment on how richly or poorly valued stocks should be – using interest rates and earnings – is becoming out of step with the reality of unlimited central bank support. How do you derive the right discount rate?

We have always assumed that central banks will withdraw accommodation as the economy gets hot and inflation picks up. Or in other words, it’s always been there to take away the punch bowl whenever the party got a little rowdy. Indeed, often it was too quick to turn the music off just as people started to dance.

Now the Fed says it won’t do that and the ECB and others are set to follow – where the Fed goes usually the rest of the world needs to follow. If it’s unlimited Fed support, who cares if the forward multiple on the S&P 500 is x25? If there is no hiking cycle on the horizon, then stocks could continue to rally from these already very stretched levels.

Vix points to uncertainty as US Presidential Election nears

Of course, as repeated nearly every day, near term I worry that this extended rally is ripe for a pullback as the US election approaches, and I am not alone. Whilst retail investors rich on stimulus cheques still think ‘stonks only go up’, there are signs investors are worried about how far this has gone.

Vix futures keep moving in an upwards trajectory that suggests investors are paying more for downside protection on the S&P 500. Vix futures settled above 28 and contracts expiring in Oct are north of 33, signalling a lot of uncertainty around the election. The race will be far closer than polls show. Our election tracker shows Trump narrowing the gap.

FTSE lags global stocks

Such concerns about stretched valuations and ever-higher multiples are not a concern for UK investors. The FTSE 100 has rather majestically shrugged off the rally in global stocks and serenely plunged to its weakest since May. A stronger pound undoubtedly took the wind out of the sails and a bit of a catchup trade was in play after the market was closed for the bank holiday on Monday, meaning it didn’t take part in the mild sell-off across Europe yesterday.

But the FTSE’s troubles are not a new phenomenon – a complete absence of tech and growth is a major problem. Dividend cuts have also vanquished income investors, albeit the yield of almost 4% doesn’t seem too bad today. Last night the FTSE 100 settled on the 38.2% retracement of the March to June rally which has offered near-term support for today’s bounce – dollar strength this morning is helping too.

Record closes for SPX and Nasdaq fuel rally in Europe

European stocks rallied in early trade on Wednesday, including the FTSE 100, after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both hit fresh records. Apple rallied another 4%, seemingly unstoppable. Tesla declined 5% after it announced a $5bn stock sale, which though a bit of a surprise is not a complete shock given Tesla’s vast capex requirements and share price accretion – as it did in February, Tesla is taking advantage of favourable market conditions to raise fresh cash early on in the cycle.

Meanwhile, we are not getting much further on stimulus – US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected the Democrats’ latest $2.2tn coronavirus relief package, but we are set for more spending, more printing until inflation becomes a problem.

The dollar came back fighting with DXY back above 92.50 as both GBP and EUR retreated off key resistance levels. Could be a dead cat bounce for USD. GBPUSD made a run to 1.35 but failed this test and backed off further this morning to take a 1.33 handle.

Watch for the Bank of England’s Andrew Bailey, who will be giving oral evidence to the Treasury Committee in Parliament on the economic impact of coronavirus. Obviously it’s bad, but house prices have hit a record high so that is good if you own one, not so good if you don’t. Messrs Haldane (he of the V) and Broadbent are speaking later, too.

Euro struggles after strong US manufacturing data, US ADP jobs report in focus

The euro – has a line in the sand been drawn? EURUSD pushed up to have a run at 1.20 but got knocked back as the US ISM manufacturing came in better than expected at 56. This could be a line in the sand for the euro bears defending the roaring 20s? Eurozone inflation turned negative in August – a clear signal of the disinflationary pressures wrought by the pandemic.

Inflation fell to –0.2% from +0.4% in July. It lays bare the mountain the ECB needs to climb and simply tells us that the central bank will need to keep monetary policy exceptionally loose for a very long time. It’s worth noting that the much-hyped EU rescue deal has yet to be delivered. EURUSD pulled back under 1.19 in early trade on Wednesday as the dollar caught a bid.

Today, we are looking ahead to the ADP nonfarm employment report ahead of Thursday’s weekly claims count and Friday’s main nonfarm payrolls print. The ADP number is expected to show a gain of 1m jobs from a paltry 167k in July.

US factory orders and crude oil inventories on tap this afternoon, expected to show a draw of –2m barrels. Later we also have the Fed’s Beige Book, while the Fed’s Williams and Mester are speaking.

BT shares leap as European equities trade higher

Still no love for Europe? Equity indices in Europe dropped last week as risk appetite waned into the weekend, whilst US stocks closed Friday at record highs, albeit the rally since the March lows has been very uneven – all the chatter over the weekend was about a K-shaped recovery.

Can beaten down value stocks catch up? With Europe lacking a lot of the high-quality tech and growth names, it may struggle until there is a vaccine, the pandemic is over, and dividends are reinstated. Short-term the price action in stock indices seems more down to the individual narrative of the day or week.

Stocks up as markets focus on Covid-19 treatment and vaccine news

Today it’s positive. European equities took the cue from a strong Asian session and pushed higher on Monday morning, with the narrative centring on treatment and vaccine news. Donald Trump is said to be mulling fast-tracking AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate, whilst the FDA issued an emergency use authorisation for using plasma from recovered patients to treat Covid-19. Shares in AstraZeneca rose 2% in early trade.

Meanwhile, the US and EU have struck a ‘mini’ deal to cut tariffs on a range of items, which marks an important de-escalation of trade tensions that has dogged relations for many months.

BT surges as it readies takeover defence

BT shares leapt 7% after reports it is seeking to bolster its defences against a possible takeover. At a valuation of £10bn, the group has become a definite target. And whilst BT has a lot of legacy baggage – notably £18bn in net debt and a major pension deficit – it’s also got the Openreach crown jewel, which would be worth considerably more on its own than the group is valued today.

Of course, there is no formal offer, but shares could jump further if one emerges. Deutsche Telekom, which owns 12% in BT, is seen as a likely candidate. The question is whether there could be more bombed out UK-listed stocks that could be taken out by a timely takeover…perennial rumour-favourite ITV, for instance?

Deadlocked Brexit talks weigh on Sterling

Elsewhere, sterling made a push higher last week, but the dollar came back. Brexit talks did not go very well and there was virtually zero progress on some key elements. The failure to break the long-term weekly trend resistance makes GBPUSD susceptible to further pull backs, with a gravestone doji weekly candle also a bearish indicator. Support kicked in at 1.3060 on Friday and offers the near-term test for bears.

Bulls will require a weekly close above the trend line to be confident. EURUSD failed to overcome 1.1960 and pulled back to 1.1760 where it has found support. A further rise in EUR net long positions to almost 200k contracts evident in Friday’s COT report from the CFTC indicates extremely bullish positioning that may be too crowded and liable to a squeeze lower. GBP speculative positioning turned net long from net short for the first time since April.

What we’re watching this week:

Republican convention fires campaign starting pistol

The Democrats seem to have got through their set-piece without a hiccup. Now over to Trump and co for the Republican convention, which will not only mark the starting pistol for this year’s presidential run, but also the race for the 2024 GOP candidate. Market attention will increasingly come around to the November presidential race with barely over two months left until polling day.

Vix futures indicate investors are starting to position for more volatility as the election approaches and we should be prepared for a decent nudge higher in volatility and swing lower for stocks over the next two months. This is will be the last major set piece event before the first presidential debate on September 29th.

Jackson Hole

A confusion of central bankers convene in Wyoming online for the annual Jackson Hole Symposium. This year’s virtual theme is “Navigating the Decade Ahead: Implications for Monetary Policy”. I could answer that in one sentence: lower for longer, outright debt monetization, force inflation up to clear debts. But I’m not a central banker, although I would go to Jackson Hole for the trout fishing.

Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell speaks on Thursday just a few moments before the US cash equity on Wall Street. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem follows and Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey speaks on the Friday. Given the way the minutes of the Fed’s July meeting rocked risk appetite and checked the bulls’ progress, this will offer a chance to catch up on where the Fed one month on with its mid-September FOMC meeting in focus.

Economic data to watch

There is a lot of economic data to get through this week, notably some Q2 GDP second estimates for the US among others. On Tuesday we are looking at the US CB consumer confidence report.  Wednesday sees the weekly crude oil inventories report as well as US durable goods orders and Australian construction activity. On Thursday the US weekly initial jobless claims number gets released, after last week’s disappointing print of 1.1m. Look also at the pending home sales and preliminary (second estimate) GDP numbers.

More US data rounds out the week on Friday with the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the core PCE price index; personal spending; University of Michigan consumer sentiment; and the Chicago PMI on the slate.

Earnings to watch

Ad titan WPP reports it interim results for the six months ended June 30th on Thursday. The advertising giant is a useful barometer of economic confidence. Big brands have slashed marketing budgets to cope with pandemic and WPP has warned of the hit it will take this year.

But rival Publicis reported a 13-% drop in second quarter like-for-like sales, which was well ahead of the –20% anticipated. Shares in WPP are down over 40% this year – could Publicis offer a clue as whether the stock may find a new course? Does WPP see ad spend picking up? How has the Facebook boycott impacted it?

We are also interested in recruiter Hays – which reports finals on Thursday and is often a great indicator as to the overall health of the labour market globally. Salesforce.com(CRM) is expected to deliver earnings and revenue growth when it reports numbers for the quarter ended July on Tuesday. EPS is seen at $0.7 on revenues of $4.9bn.

Mail-in Ballots: The Battle That Will Decide the War?

Track all the latest developments in the race for the White House with the special US Presidential Election 2020 site from Markets.com.

With the coronavirus pandemic calling into question the safety of in-person voting this November, many states have already taken steps towards allowing voters to cast their ballots from home during the US Presidential Election 2020.

President Trump has repeatedly spoken out against such actions, citing rampant voter fraud as a potential consequence of mail-in voting. However, behind the veneer of concern for electoral integrity, lies the real reason for Trump’s focus on the issue: turnout.

Turnout concerns for Trump as ‘swing states’ expand mail-in voting

If voters had turned out in 2016 as they had four years previously, Hillary Clinton would now be sitting pretty in the White House: a recent study shows that her 2016 defeat was largely down to a sharp decline in minority voting.

Recent research by the New York Times suggests that the proliferation of mail-in voting nationally could increase overall turnout by as much as 9%, with particularly large upswings among young and minority voters.

Given that these demographics heavily favour the Democrats, it is easy to see why the President is eager to discourage any move towards mail-in voting for November’s election. And yet, despite Pres Trump’s protestations, every one of the crucial ‘swing states’ has already taken steps towards a liberalisation of their vote from home policy.

Do mail-in ballots really disadvantage Trump?

If we look at each of these states in more detail however, we see Trump has less to fear. The rust belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania simply don’t have the diversity that would benefit from the mail-in votes.

If the Democrats are winning there, then they’ve already got enough cross-community support to be sure of success, whether it’s through ballots cast in person or through the post.

Focus on Florida in US Presidential Election

There is one state that is diverse enough to cause Trump to stumble, and that’s Florida. Famous for George Bush’s hanging chad victory in 2000, where he scraped out a gain of just 0.01% of the vote, it’s possible that mail-in ballots might boost the Democratic demographic enough for Biden to steal the state.

Hence Trump’s latest provocation. He has threatened to withhold funding from the US Postal Service (USPS), which could render mail-in voting unfeasible. It could also upset the President’s own voter base, as it risks alienating rural voters who are heavily dependent on the USPS.

Will threatening USPS aid progress on new stimulus bill?

The truth is that he is merely using this threat as a bargaining chip in the latest round of Congressional stimulus negotiations. If the Democrats play ball with his fiscal plans, he will leave the USPS alone.

It also is yet another classic Trumpian tactic to provoke the woke. He relishes poking at the dividing lines of America. The noise delivers oxygen to his campaign, stealing headlines from his opponents, as well as forcing the liberal left into ever more pearl-clutching outrage that incenses his right-wing voter base.

Impact of mail-in voting on the Senate

Given that any President’s legislative agenda depends on which parties hold the balance of power in Congress, mail-in ballots might prove decisive for determining if the Republicans can hold onto the Senate.

The picture here is rather similar to that of the Presidential election: the vast majority of competitive states lack the diversity required for mail-in voting to be decisive, but a small and significant minority should still be highlighted.

In particular, of the ten states that will decide the balance of power in Washington come 2021, two are likely to see a sizeable Democratic advantage, thanks to new vote from home protocols: Georgia and North Carolina. However these are typically Republican leaning, so the Democrats will have to be sweeping across the nation to ensure they pick them up.

How worried should Republicans be?

Given that many states have already opted to shift towards mail-in voting, the Republicans have already lost the battle over voting from home. Whilst the President will continue to make a lot of noise on this issue, dragging out threats of USPS defunding, come election day voting from home will be ubiquitous.

Far from being the final nail in the coffin for the Trump campaign, voting from home poses only a minimal obstacle to re-election in the vast majority of swing states.

Florida is the only, but perhaps crucial, exception to this rule. Whilst not election-deciding in and of itself, we have seen Presidential elections in the past be decided by far, far smaller margins. And in the case of the Senate, we see a similar story: small but potentially crucial areas where mail-in voting could have the deciding impact.

Advantage Biden. Advantage Democrats. But only just.

Don’t forget to check out the latest polling data for the US Presidential Election 2020.

Equity markets eye European Covid count, US postal ballots become electoral flash point

Dog days on animal farm: it’s a very quiet start to the session with European indices trading either side of the flatline in the first hour as traders eye the rise in coronavirus cases across the continent. Basic resources, healthcare and tech were higher, offsetting broad weakness in the rest of the market with travel stocks leading the losses.

Europe’s rising Covid-19 cases cause investor alarm

As noted in the week ahead, the number of new Covid-19 cases across Europe is the number one thing to watch in the coming days as it has the potential to send nascent economic recovery into reverse. Germany has extended travel warnings to nearly all of Spain, which while making it easier to grab a sun lounger is taking the shine off travel and leisure stocks again this morning. IAG and TUI both fell another 3-4%, with EasyJet down more than 2%.

A sharp rise in cases in Spain, France and Germany will make traders nervous about new lockdowns and ensure that local equity markets remain volatile. Nevertheless, basic resources stocks registered strong gains in early trade to offset much of the losses elsewhere.

US stocks tried many times but failed last week to notch a record intraday high, falling shy of the Feb 19th peak at 3,393.52 several times. The problem is that this is not a simple bull market, with the split between growth and value plain to see. All stock sectors are equal, but some are more equal than others.

US data mixed, stimulus talks going nowhere fast

Last week, US retail sales were soft, although ex-autos the number was better than expected. Unemployment claims fell below 1m for the first time. However a stimulus bill has not been discussed by Congress and with the end of the $600-a-week stimulus cheques, there may be a tougher time ahead for consumers and companies dependent on them – 70% of the US economy is consumer driven, so the loss of this additional income will be hard felt.

Unless a stimulus package is agreed, stock markets may need to take corrective action. Even if bears don’t take control, a pullback from the all-time high to consolidate gains before bulls mount a fresh drive higher should also be considered.

Asia moves higher despite cancelled US-China trade talks

Asian markets were broadly higher on Monday but shares in Tokyo fell 0.8% as figures showed Japan’s economy shrank by the most on record in the second quarter, declining 7.8%. This works out at -27.8% annualised, which makes it the sharpest downturn since 1980 when such records began. It’s also the third straight quarter of contraction. We also note that Tesla’s new registrations in China fell to 11,623 units in July, down from 15,529, which may indicate a slower rate of recovery in the world’s second largest economy.

US-China trade talks slated for Saturday did not happen with sources blaming scheduling conflicts and a desire to give China time to increase its purchase of US exports. Meanwhile, in Washington developments around the November election are starting to heat up. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on the House of Representatives from recess to vote on a bill to ‘protect’ the US Postal Service, accusing President Trump of a “campaign to sabotage the election”.

Election officials are worried about delays that could mean ballots are not counted – a huge amount of extra demand this year because of Covid-19. Donald Trump doesn’t trust mail-in voting and has previously said he would block additional funding for the USPS. In short, Covid-19 has created a vast amount of extra demand for postal ballots and the White House recognises these are more likely to be Democrat votes.

Meanwhile the Democrat convention gets underway on Monday and lasts until Thursday, marking the end of the phoney war and start of the campaign proper. Watch for a speech from Kamala Harris, the VP candidate, on Wednesday, with Joe Biden to speak on Thursday.

GBP/USD in focus as Brexit talks resume

Brexit talks resume this week and the European Commission fired the opening salvo in the exchange, with executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis warning that the City will have to wait beyond the end of the year for equivalence. Talks between the UK and EU resume on Tuesday. Last week David Frost, the UK lead negotiator, said that a deal ‘can’ be reached in September, and that the UK was not interested in threatening the EU’s single market.

However he also reiterated that Britain would never compromise on the jurisdiction of the courts nor on fishing rights. There is significant headline risk for GBP this week as August rolls on. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal as far as sterling is concerned. GBPUSD was trading above 1.31 with the dollar offered across the board and the dollar index taking a 92 handle.

US Presidential Election: Step Forward, Kamala

After months of deliberation and internal conflict, the Biden campaign announced this week that Kamala Harris would join his ticket this November. Praised for her articulate dynamism during the primaries, and famed for her debating acumen, this choice will inject some much-needed energy into the Democratic ticket

In the short term, this announcement will afford the Biden campaign a flurry of positive press coverage, likely leading to a bump in the polls. However, with almost three months to go until election day, this short-term hype is largely irrelevant. She won’t be able to move the dial where it counts: the swing states.

Harris’ well-spoken nature will help to keep the attention away from Biden as much as possible, reducing the risk of a race-ending gaffe. He can stay in his bunker while she takes centre stage. Whilst the presence of such a dynamic running mate will likely make Sleepy Joe look like Even Sleepier Joe, this will not impact the race in a meaningful fashion – voters have already made up their minds one way or the other on Biden: endearingly gaffe-prone or scarily senile.

Senator Harris brings with her two strategic benefits:

  • Law and Order
    • Criticised in the primaries for her overly harsh sentencing decisions as California’s Attorney General, this record will become an asset in winning over the centre, given the current climate of unrest. Although such a record upsets the left wing of the Democratic party, their votes can be relied upon as they are so keen to dispose of Trump
  • Campaign funding
    • Harris has deep roots in California politics – first as Attorney General and then as Senator. Her home state is notorious for its heavyweight fundraising capacity, particularly from Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Having built a decade long relationship with these donors, Senator Harris’ presence on the ticket will open up a huge reservoir of campaign funding. However, this flood of cash comes at a price. The Republicans will be eager to capitalise on this Hollywood connection by levelling accusations of ‘Liberal Elitism’ at the Biden-Harris ticket, which could be potentially damaging in the crucial rust belt states. Luckily for Biden, he has a long-established reputation as ‘middle class Joe’ which can neutralise this line of attack.

So, nationally it would appear that Senator Harris brings with her an injection of energy and a mountain of cash – both extremely useful on the national level. However, as Hillary Clinton discovered in 2016, the national vote means nothing without an electoral college majority. It is the swing states who will decide this election one way or the other, and it is in those states where the Harris pick is likely to resonate least.

Many have predicted that Harris, as a black woman, will help to achieve a surge in minority turnout. However, it should be noted that polling indicates only 6% of African American voters thought race should be a factor in the selection of a VP. And in any case, it was Senator Warren, not Senator Harris, who African Americans preferred for VP prior to this announcement. Therefore, if a surge in minority voting is to occur in November, it will not be as a result of Harris’ VP candidacy.

And a side note, if Biden does win this November, Harris will leave a vacant California Senate seat in her wake – one of the most liberal states in the country. The left vs centre battle that played out in the Presidential primary will be replayed in that race too, reopening old wounds and worsening Democratic divisions.

President Trump will be keen as always to profit from divisions wherever he can find them. He has already attacked Harris as being of the ‘radical left’ and ‘phony’. Being a woman of colour from California, Harris hits all of the Trumpian flash points – a chance for Trump to roll out his favourite electoral strategy of inflaming tensions and forcing the electorate to take sides.

Overall, Senator Harris will provide the Biden campaign with a much-needed sense of energy and a near-limitless supply of campaign cash. This will boost Biden’s chances of winning the popular vote but is likely to be less effective in the crucial rust belt states where she will simply play into Trump’s strategy of provoking disagreement between the haves and have-nots.

UK enters worst recession, European stocks steady after Wall St slips on stimulus doubts

What did I miss? Stimulus measures keep being debated, vaccine hopes are at first raised then more sensibly assessed, and stocks in the US keep going up; the S&P 500 has risen about 5%, whilst European markets are flat over the period. I seem to recall in July a lot of chatter about European equities outperforming, but there has been little to show from that trade so far. Gold has smashed a new all-time high and profits been taken, an easy win for most, whilst oil prices have barely moved.

UK economy posts worst decline since records began

So, what has changed? Britain’s economy is on the ropes, but we knew this already. UK GDP fell by 20.4% in the second quarter, which was largely in line with expectations. Economic activity is bouncing back – the economy grew 8.7% in June but remains well below the levels seen in February. Having been out and about over the last three weeks, I can safely say there will be more recovery recorded in July and August.

But getting back to 2019 levels of activity is going to take a very long time as we see permanent impairment in certain sectors of the economy, as well as behavioural and social changes. Cable recovered off the 1.3020 horizontal support formed by the low on Monday on the update to continue to trade its August range. With the dollar turning around and seemingly finding its near-term support, GBPUSD may struggled to hold its 1.30 level.

Gridlocked US stimulus talks weigh on stocks

The Democrats and Republicans can’t agree anything. Stocks on Wall Street slipped after gridlock in Washington left investors wary of pinning their hopes on a bipartisan stimulus package, but the S&P 500 was at one point just a few points from its all-time high at one point and could still take it out this week. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell naturally blamed the Democrats for this but revealed the two sides had not spoken since Friday.

The Dow and S&P 500 both snapped a 7-day winning streak, whist European markets rose a touch on Wednesday’s open after a strong run-up on Tuesday. The FTSE 100 continues to trade the narrow range of the June pullback without any signs of breaking out.

Gold tumbles on profit-taking

The lack of fresh stimulus left gold bulls wary and profits were taken but we have seen a big bounce off some important technical support this morning.  Spot dropped under $1900 but found support on the old resistance at $1865 and the 200-period SMA on the 4hr charts may offer some technical support. More important is the trend support offered by the line drawn from the lows made since the March trough.

Gold’s rally has been all about stimulus and inflation and so doubts about whether there will be more stimulus saw investors recast inflation expectations a little and the technical exhaustion of the move needed to be factored in. US real rates rose, with 10yr TIPS back to –0.99%, having struck a low of –1.08% last week. Benchmark 10yr yields rose to 0.66% but whilst real rates are so deeply negative gold will have support.

Chart: Gold recovers $1,927 after finding support at $1,865

Biden picks Harriss as running mate

Joe Biden named Kamala Harris his running mate for the race to the White House. Two points about this really stand out. The duo needs to get the vote out, and Harris should energise many who may not otherwise vote, but they cannot risk losing the centre in the rust belt where the issue is the economy.

But the problem for Trump is that accusations that Biden’s VP pick was too zealous a prosecutor when acting as California attorney general make it difficult for Republicans to say the Democrats won’t be tough on crime. Her appointment will somewhat blunt Republican attacks on law & order.

The key question for investors is who wins in November and whilst details like VP picks are important, they are just a small part of the story. Trump still wins in my opinion whatever the polls are saying.

Kiwi weakens after RBNZ extends QE, opens door to negative interest rates

New Zealand is in full panic mode, locking down Auckland amid a mystery outbreak of Covid. The RBNZ duly announced it would expand the Large Scale Asset Purchase programme to $100bn, which just nudged the kiwi lower. But the real focus is on negative rates – a full four mentions of the committee looking at a negative OCR were in the release. Lower and negative rates is increasingly the path of least resistance for the RBNZ, which makes the NZD open to further downside risk.

Oil prices were up a touch, with WTI (Sep) taking a $42 handle this morning ahead of the inventory figures from the US Energy Information Administration, which are expected to show a draw of 2.9m barrels. API data yesterday showed stockpiles fell 4.4m barrels last week.

Elsewhere in FX land, watch the double top on the EURUSD pair with the rejection of 1.19 looking more convincing we look for neckline support around the 1.17 level to hold for bulls to make a fresh drive higher. However, the pullback in US Treasuries and uptick in yields may offer support for the dollar to push back hard.

Stocks choppy after sharp risk reversal, gilt yields strike fresh lows

Stocks continue to chop around their June-July ranges after risk sentiment rolled over at the start of yesterday’s US session. Surging Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths in several US states continues to weigh on risk sentiment, Donald Trump was dealt a blow by the Supreme Court, and Joe Biden – who may well become the next president – said he would end the era of ‘shareholder capitalism’.

Around 3pm yesterday we saw a sharp reversal in risk appetite as stocks, bond yields and oil fell and the dollar rallied. California, Texas and Florida reported their biggest one-day increase in Covid-19 related deaths. Stocks hit the lows after Florida reported a spike in Covid-related hospitalizations, but recovered somewhat after Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, revealed Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate would enter phase 3 trials soon.

Supreme Court rules on Trump tax returns, Biden announces economic plan

The Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump’s tax returns should be seen by the Grand Jury, but it threw out rulings that allowed Democrat-led Congressional committees to obtain Trump’s financial records. Although this means further litigation, it should mean the documents are not a factor in the election.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden launched his $700bn economic plan by taking aim at Wall Street a threat to ‘end to the era of shareholder capitalism – the idea that the only responsibility a corporation has is to its shareholder’. Whilst no Bernie Sanders, there is little doubt that Biden will raise taxes and regulation risk – equity markets need to start to price in the risk better and there are signs that some investors already are.

Investors need to be wary of a Democrat clean sweep of the House, Senate and White House, which could greenlight some pretty aggressive redistributive policies. ‘During this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and the Nasdaq. Not you. Not your families,’ Biden added. After 2008 it was fashionable to bash the banks, now all corporate America is fair game if they are not woke enough. ‘Wall Street bankers and CEOs didn’t build America,’ Mr Biden said.

Europe opens weak, turns green

European shares were choppy after Asian markets fell and China’s equity rally finally ran out of steam. The FTSE 100 fell under 6,000 this morning before paring losses, returning to the low end of its June range. After a weak open, European indices were turning green after the first hour of trade.

The S&P 500 struck a low at 3,115 yesterday before closing down 0.5% at 3,152, flat for the week. Energy stocks led the drop, declining 4% as oil prices sank. Futures are lower and indicate a weaker open at the 61.8% retracement of the June-July range. The Nasdaq rose 0.6% to a fresh record as the tech sector continued to be the only real area of safety.

US unemployment numbers were a little better than expected but continue to show just how long the road is ahead. Weekly initial jobless claims fell to 1.314m, better than the 1.375m expected and representing a decline of 99k from a week ago. Continuing claims fell to 18.06m, a drop of almost 700k and much better than the 18.9m expected. The previous week’s number was also revised down over half a million.

Treasury yields fell, with US 10s back to 0.58% having notched a record low yield on an auction. UK 2- and 5-year gilt yields have hit a record low this morning, following Eurozone and US yields lower. Investors are showing no fears that massive issuance is going to force up borrowing costs as long as central banks remain in full support mode.

WTI through trend support as risk appetite cools

Crude oil fell sharply with stocks as risk rolled over. WTI (Aug) broke down through the trend support and may push lower. From a technical perspective we can start to consider completion of the head and shoulders reversal pattern and look for the move to head towards the neckline around $35. The IEA’s July report this morning suggested oil demand will pick up in the second half and that the worst of the demand destruction is behind us.

The IEA said oil demand this year will average 92.1m bpd, down by 7.9m bpd versus 2019, which is a slightly smaller decline than forecast in the April report, mainly because the decline in the second quarter was less severe than expected. But at this point it remains very hard to say how demand will recover longer-term given we do not know how the virus will progress nor how governments and citizens will respond – at least it seems negative prices were only a blip.

Fresh shutdowns in the populous Sun Belt states remains the worry, albeit we did see a decent draw on gasoline stocks last week, according to the EIA. Nevertheless the IEA noted that the accelerating number of Covid-19 cases is ‘a disturbing reminder that the pandemic is not under control and the risk to our market outlook is almost certainly to the downside’.

Elsewhere, gold fell with risk assets, with the near-term pullback finding support at $1796 and should look for consolidation around the $1800 level. The outlook for gold remains constructive and we should expect lots of pullbacks along the way – nothing goes up in a straight line, and gold is particularly prone to these tactical retreats. In FX, the dollar rallied on the broad drop in risk sentiment. GBPUSD moved down to test near term trend support formed by the bullish channel. EURUSD pulled back from highs at 1.1370 to chop around the 1.1270 region.

US Election, Recession, Brexit: What’s in store for markets in 2020 H2?

The first half of 2020 has been a wild ride. We’ve seen unprecedented moves in markets, historic stimulus efforts by both central banks and governments, and record-breaking data that grabbed headlines across the globe.

H1 has already brought plenty of drama, but what should we expect from the next two quarters? Join us for a recap of some of the biggest events in market history and a look at the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.

Coronavirus pandemic prompts worst quarter in decades for stocks

At the start of 2020 the main themes of the year looked to be the US Presidential Election, the trade war with China, and Brexit.

It seems like years ago that markets began to get jittery on fears that the handful of novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, could become something ‘as bad as SARS’. It quickly became apparent that we were dealing with something much worse, and the market was quick to realise the full, brutal, reality of a global pandemic.

The panic reached its zenith towards the end of March. As the sell-off ran out of momentum global stock markets were left -21.3% lower. The S&P 500 had its worst quarter since 2008; the Dow dropped the most since 1987 and set a new record for the biggest single-day gain (2,117 points) and single-day loss (2,997 points). European stocks had their worst quarter since 2002, with a -23% drop in Q1.

Oil turns negative for first time in history after Saudi Arabia sparks price war

Things became even more chaotic in the oil markets when, after OPEC and its allies failed to agree a pandemic response, Saudi Arabia opened the floodgates and slashed prices of its crude oil exports. Oil prices endured the biggest single-day collapse since the Gulf War – over -24%.

It was further strain for a market now seriously considering the risk that shuttered economies across the globe would hit demand so hard that global storage would hit capacity. The May contract for West Texas Intermediate went negative – a first for oil futures – changing hands for almost -$40 ahead of expiry.

Meanwhile US 10-year treasury yields hit record lows of 0.318%, and gold climbed to its highest levels in seven years, pushing even higher in Q2.

Economies locked down, central banks crank up stimulus

Nations across the globe ordered their citizens to remain at home, taking the unprecedented step to voluntarily put huge swathes of their economies on ice for weeks. Even when lockdown measures were eased, the new normal of social distancing, face masks, and plastic screens left many businesses operating at a fraction of their normal capacity.

The world’s central banks were quick to step in during the height of market volatility and continued to do so as the forecasts for the economic impact of the pandemic grew even more grim. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand all dropped rates to close to zero. Along with the European Central Bank, they unleashed enormous quantitative easing programmes, as well as other lending measures to help support businesses.

Unprecedented stimulus as unemployment spikes

Governments stepped in to pay the wages of furloughed employees as unemployment spiked – the US nonfarm payrolls report for April showed a jaw-dropping 20.5 million Americans had become unemployed in a single month. In the space of just six weeks America had erased all the job gains made since the financial crisis. The bill for US stimulus measures is currently $2 trillion, and is set to go higher when further measures are approved.

While most of the data may be improving, we’re still yet to see just how bad the GDP figures for Q2 are going to be. These, which will be released in the coming weeks, will show just how big a pit we have to dig ourselves out of.

H2: Recovery, US election, trade wars, Brexit

Markets may have recovered much of the coronavirus sell-off – US and European stocks posted their best quarter in decades in Q2 – but the world is still walking a fine line between reopening its economies and fending off the pandemic. Second wave fears abound. In the US in particular, economic data is largely pointing to a sharp rebound in activity, but at the same time Covid-19 case numbers are consistently smashing daily records.

These key competing bullish and bearish factors threaten to keep markets walking a tightrope in the quarters to come. Because of this, progress in the race to find a vaccine is closely watched. Risk is still highly sensitive to news of positive drug trials. The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner life can return to normal, even if the world economy still has a long way to go before it returns to pre-crisis levels.

US Presidential Election: Trump lags in polls, Biden threatens to reverse tax cuts

The biggest talking point on the market in the coming months, aside from coronavirus, will undoubtedly be the US Presidential Election. The stakes are incredibly high, especially for the US stock market, and Democrat nominee Joe Biden intends to reverse the bulk of the sweeping tax cuts implemented by president Donald Trump.

Trump is currently lagging in the polls, with voters unimpressed by his response to the pandemic and also to the protests against police brutality that swept the nation. The president has long taken credit for the performance of the stock market and the economy, so for the latter to be facing a deep recession robs him of one of his key topics on the campaign trail.

Joe Biden may currently have a significant lead, but there is a long time to go until the polls, and anything could happen yet.

China trade war in focus, Hong Kong law adds fresh complications

The trade war with China would be a focus for the market anyway, but will come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the election. Thanks to Covid-19, anti-China sentiment is running high in the United States. This means Biden will also have to talk tough on China, which could mean that the damaging trade war is set to continue regardless of who wins the White House this time around.

Tensions have already risen on the back of China’s passing of a new Hong Kong security law, and coronavirus makes it virtually impossible that the terms of the Phase One trade agreement hashed out by Washington and Beijing will be carried out. Trump may be forced to stick with the deal, because abandoning it would leave him unable to flaunt his ability to make China toe the line during the presidential race. This would be positive for risk – markets were already rattled by fears that the president’s response to the Hong Kong law would include abandoning the deal.

How, when, and if: Unwinding stimulus

Even if we get a vaccine before the end of the year and global economies do rebound sharply, the vast levels of government and central bank stimulus will need to be addressed. Governments are running wartime levels of debt.

We’re looking at an even longer slog back to normalised monetary policy – something that banks like the Bank of England and the European Central Bank were struggling to reach even before Covid. There will be huge quantitative easing programmes to unwind and interest rates to lift away from zero, or potentially even out of negative territory.

Markets have been able to recover thanks to a steady cocktail of government and central bank stimulus. The years since the financial crisis have proven that it is incredibly difficult to wean markets and the economy off stimulus. There could be some tough decisions ahead, especially as governments begin to consider how they plan to repair their finances in the years to come.

Brexit deadline approaches, impasse remains

There is also Brexit to consider. While the coronavirus forced officials to move their negotiations online, little else seems to have happened so far. Both sides are refusing to budge and both sides are claiming that the other is being unreasonable. The UK does not want an extension to the transition period, and the two sides are running out of time to agree a trade deal.

We’ve seen before that both Downing Street and Brussels like to wait until the last possible moment to soften their stance. However, the risks here are higher because before there was always the prospect of another extension.

The last time negotiations were extended the battle in Westminster shocked the UK to its constitutional core. The Conservative landslide victory of 2019 gave Boris Johnson a much stronger hand this time around – the UK will leave in December, regardless of the situation.

Stay on top of the biggest events in H2

Whatever happens in the coming months, we’ll be here to bring you the latest news and analysis of the top developments and market events via the blog and XRay.

US Election Risk: Corporate Tax Rates

The passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) in December 2017 lowered the US federal corporate income tax rate to 21% from 35%.

This recent decline in tax rate has been a major contributing factor to profit growth for US companies. For example, S&P Global found that, since the TCJA was enacted, the median effective tax rates for information technology companies in the S&P500 dropped from 21.1% in the first quarter of 2017 to 15.5% in the same period of 2019.

However, Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a partial reversal of the TCJA. The Tax Foundation sees the plan as raising the corporate income tax rate to 28%, reversing half of the TCJA cut.

With the 2020 US Presidential Election just five months away and prediction markets starting to price in an increased likelihood of Democratic victories in the House, Senate and Presidential races, it may be worthwhile considering if the market is pricing in the risk of an increase in tax rates.

 

Data source: Predictit.org “Yes Price”

In a note earlier this week, Goldman Sachs strategists saw the plan put forward by Democratic nominee Biden as reducing S&P 500 EPS by as much 12% in 2021, while this week has also seen the index trading with a forward PE multiple above 23, levels last seen around the time of the dotcom bubble.

Of course, much uncertainty remains about the specifics of any potential tax reform, as well as five more months of uncertainty before the election race is completed, which could ultimately remove the likelihood of any tax reform.

CySEC (أوروبا)

  • يتم حفظ أموال العملاء في حسابات مصرفية منفصلة
  • تعويضات صندوق تعويضات المستثمر FSCS تصل إلى 20000 جنيه إسترليني
  • تغطية تأمينية بقيمة 1000000 يورو**
  • حماية الرصيد السلبي

المنتجات

  • CFD
  • تعاملات الأسهم
  • Quantranks

Markets.com، التي تتولى تشغيلها شركة Safecap للاستثمارات المحدودة ("Safecap”) مرخصة من قبل مفوضية قبرص للسندات والتداول (CySec) بموجب الترخيص رقم 092/08 ومن قبل هيئة سلوكيات القطاع المالي ("FSCA") بموجب الترخيص رقم 43906.

FSC (العالمية)

  • يتم حفظ أموال العملاء في حسابات مصرفية منفصلة
  • التحقق الإلكتروني
  • حماية الرصيد السلبي
  • تغطية تأمينية بقيمة 1000000 $**

المنتجات

  • CFD

Markets.com، التي تتولى تشغيلها Finalto (جزر العذراء البريطانية) ذ.م.م. المحدودة ("Finalto BVI”) مرخصة من قبل لجنة الخدمات المالية في جزر العذراء البريطانية ("FSC") بموجب الترخيص رقم SIBA/L/14/1067.

FCA (المملكة المتحدة)

  • يتم حفظ أموال العملاء في حسابات مصرفية منفصلة
  • تعويضات صندوق تعويضات الخدمات المالية تصل إلى 85000 جنيه إسترليني *بحسب المعايير والأهلية
  • تغطية تأمينية بقيمة 1000000 £**
  • حماية الرصيد السلبي

المنتجات

  • CFD
  • المراهنة على الهامش

Markets.com، التي تتولى تشغيلها Finalto Trading Limited مرخصة من قبل هيئة السلوك المالي ("FCA") بموجب الترخيص رقم 607305.

ASIC (أستراليا)

  • يتم حفظ أموال العملاء في حسابات مصرفية منفصلة
  • التحقق الإلكتروني
  • حماية الرصيد السلبي
  • تغطية تأمينية بقيمة 1000000$**

المنتجات

  • CFD

Markets.com، التي تتولى تشغيلها Finalto (Australia) Pty Limited تحمل ترخيص هيئة الخدمات المالية الأسترالية رقم 424008، وهي مرخصة لتقديم الخدمات المالية من قبل هيئة الأوراق المالية والاستثمار الأسترالية ("ASIC”).

سيؤدي تحديد إحدى هذه الجهات التنظيمية إلى عرض المعلومات المتوافقة على نطاق الموقع الإلكتروني بأكمله. إذا أردت عرض معلومات عن جهة تنظيمية أخرى، الرجاء تحديدها. لمزيد من المعلومات، انقر هنا.

**تنطبق الأحكام والشروط. شاهد السياسة الكاملة لمزيد من المعلومات.

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