Markets primed for US inflation, FOMC minutes, JPM kick off earnings season proper

European stocks were off half a percent this morning in early trade after another fragile day on Wall Street saw selling into the close and another weaker finish. All eyes today on the US CPI inflation number, minutes from the FOMC’s last meeting and the start of earnings season with numbers due out from JPMorgan. Asian equities mixed after Chinese trade data was better than expected.

Markets in Europe turned more positive after the first half-hour but it’s clear sentiment is anaemic The FTSE 100 is chopping around its well-worn range, the DAX is holding on to its 200-day moving average just about. Possible bullish crossover on the MACD needs confirming – big finish required.

Dax Chart 13.10.2021

JOLTS: We saw a marked jump in the “quits rate” with 4.3m workers leaving their jobs, with the quits rate increasing to a series high of 2.9%. Tighter labour market, workers gaining bargaining power = higher wages, more persistent inflation pressures.

But… 38% of households across the US report facing serious financial problems in the past few months, a poll from NPR found. Which begs the question – why and how people are not getting back into work and quitting. One will be down to massive asset inflation due to central bank and fiscal policy that has enabled large numbers of particularly older workers to step back sooner than they would have down otherwise. Couple of years left to retire – house now worth an extra 20% and paid off, 401k looking fatter than ever, etc, etc. Number two is something more sinister and damaging – people just do nothing, if they can. Working day in, day out is like hitting your head against a brick wall – you get a headache, you die sooner, and you don’t go back to it once you’ve stopped doing it. Animal spirits – people’s fight to get up and do things they’d prefer not to do – have been squashed by lockdowns.

More signs of inflation: NY Fed said short and medium-term inflation expectations rose to their highest levels since survey began in 2013.

NY Fed inflation expextations 13.10.2021

UoM preliminary report on Friday – will give us the latest inflation expectation figures. This is where expectations stand now. Today’s CPI print is expected to show prices rose 0.4% on the month to maintain the annual rate at 5.4%.

University of Michigan inflation expectations 13.10.2021

The Fed’s Clarida said the bar for tapering was more than met on inflation and all but met on employment. FOMC minutes will tell us more about how much inflation is a worry – we know the taper is coming, the question is how quickly the Fed moves to tame inflation by raising rates.

Watch for a move in gold – it’s been a fairly tight consolidation phase even as rates and the USD have been on the move – the inflation print and FOMC minutes could spur a bigger move. Indicators still favour bulls.

Gold Chart 13.10.2021

US earnings preview: banks kick off the season

Wall Street rolls into earnings season in a bit of funk. The S&P 500 is about 4% off its recent all-time high, whilst the Nasdaq 100 has declined about 6%, as the megacap growth stocks were hit by rising bond yields. S&P 500 companies are expected to deliver earnings growth of 30%, on revenue growth of 14%.

JPMorgan Chase gets earnings season underway with its Q3 numbers scheduled for Oct 13th before the market open. Then on Thursday we hear from Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, before Goldman Sachs rounds out the week on Friday. JPMorgan is expected to deliver earnings per share of $3, on revenues of $29.8bn. Note JPM tends to trade lower on the day of earnings even when it beats expectations for revenues and earnings.

Outlook: Nike and FedEx are among a number of companies that have already issued pretty downcast outlook. Supply chain problems are the biggest worry with a majority of companies releasing updates mentioning this. Growth in the US is decelerating – the Atlanta Fed GDPNow model estimates Q3 real GDP growth of just 1.3%. Higher energy costs, rising producer and consumer inflation, supply bottlenecks, labour shortages and rising wages all conspiring to pull the brake on the recovery somewhat. Still, economic growth has not yet given way to contraction and after a global pandemic it will take time to recovery fully.

Trading: Normalisation of financial markets in the wake of the pandemic – ie substantially less volatility than in 2020 – is likely to weigh somewhat on trading revenues, albeit there was some heightened volatility in equity markets towards the end of September as the stock market retreated. Dealmaking remains positive as the recovery from the pandemic and large amounts of excess cash drove business activity.

Costs: The biggest concern right now for stocks is rising costs. Supply-side worries, specifically rising input and labour costs, pose the single largest headline risk for earnings surprises to fall on the downside. The big banks have already raised their forecasts for expenses this year on a number of occasions. It’s not just some of the well-publicized salary hikes for junior bankers that are a concern – tech costs are also soaring.

Interest rates: Low rates remain a headwind but the recent spike in rates on inflation/tapering/tightening expectations may create conditions for a more positive outlook. The 10s2s spread has pushed out to its widest since June. Rising yields in the quarter may have supported some modest sequential net interest income improvement from Q2.

Chart: After flattening from March through to July, the yield curve is steepening once more.

Yield Curve 13.10.2021

Loan demand: Post-pandemic, banks have been struggling to find people to lend to. Commercial/industria loans remain subdued versus a year ago, but there are signs that consumer loan growth is picking up. Fed data shows consumer loan growth has picked up as the economy recovers. However, UBS showed banks were lowering lending requirements in a bid to improve activity, which could impact on the quality, though this is likely a marginal concern given the broad macro tailwinds for growth. Mortgage activity is expected to be substantially down on last year after the 2020 surge in demand for new mortgages and refinancing.

Chart: Consumer loan growth improving

Consumer Loan chart 13.10.2021

Other stocks we are watching

The Hut Group (THG) – tanked 30% yesterday as its capital markets day seems to have been a total bust. Efforts to outline why the stock deserves a high tech multiple and what it’s doing with Ingenuity and provide more clarity over the business seemingly failed in spectacular fashion. The City has totally lost confidence in this company and its founder. No signs of relief for the company as investors give it the cold shoulder. Shares are off another 5% this morning.

Diversified Energy – the latest to get caught in the ESG net – shares plunged 19%, as much as 25% at one point after a Bloomberg report said oil wells were leaking methane. Rebuttal from company seemed to fall on deaf ears. Shares recovering modestly, +3% today.

Analysts are lifting their Netflix price targets, partly on the popular “Squid Game.” Netflix will report its third-quarter earnings next week.

Wochenausblick: Bereiten Sie sich auf die Flut der Q3-Geschäftsberichte vor

Wall Street wird diese Woche vor lauter Quartalsberichten brummen, da es diese Woche mit der Q3-Earnings-Season ernst wird. Auf der Zahlenseite erwarten uns die US-VPI-Zahlen, sowie ein Blick hinter die Kulissen der Fed mit den jüngsten FOMC-Sitzungsprotokollen.

Wichtige Inflations-Metrik mit US-VPI-Bericht

Zuerst steht die Veröffentlichung des Verpraucherpreisindex-Bericht am Mittwoch an, der die Inflation in den USA bemisst.

Nach der Veröffentlichung der August-Zahlen im September halten sich Jerome Powell und seine Kollegen an das bekannte Drehbuch: dass all diese hohe Inflation nur vorübergehend ist. Werden die Zahlen am Mittwoch das untermauern?

Im Vergleich zeigte der letzte, im September veröffentlichte VPI-Bericht eine kleine Abkühlung im August. Die zugrundeliegenden Preise stiegen am langsamsten seit 6 Monaten. Insgesamt stieg der VPI 0,3% nachdem er im Juli bereits 0,5% zugelegt hatte. In den 12 Monaten bis August stieg der VPI 5,3%, nachdem er im Jahresvergleich für Juli um 5,4% in die Höhe geschossen war.

Einige Fed-Mitglieder sind aber nicht besorgt.

„Ich kann mir gut vorstellen, dass dies vorübergehend erhöhte Preise sind, die auch wieder sinken werden, wenn Lieferengpässe behoben sind“, sagte der Präsident der Chicagoer Fed, Charles Evans, gegenüber CNBC. „Ich glaube es könnte länger dauern als wir erwarten, definitiv, da habe ich keine Zweifel. Aber ich glaube, dass die weitere Anstieg dieser Preise unwahrscheinlich ist.“

Treibstoffpreise steigen aber. Öl und Gas schossen letzte Woche in die Höhe. Höhere Ölpreise deuten im Allgemeinen auf höhere Input- und Transportkosten in mehreren Sektoren hin, die dann auf den Verbraucher abgewälzt werden können, was zu allgemein höheren Preisen führt. Vor dem Hintergrund könnten sich die höheren Energiepreise und ihre Auswirkungen deutlicher im VPI-Bericht des nächsten Monats hervortreten anstatt dem vom Mittwoch.

Sitzungsprotokolle des FOMC-Treffens könnten Einblicke ins Denken der Fed geben

Mittwoche sehen wir auch die Veröffentlichung des FOMC-Sitzungsprotokolle für das Treffen im September.

Wir wissen mittlerweile alle was kommt: Zinsen bleiben niedrig; Zurücknahme kommt bald.

Wir wissen aber auch, dass die Falken unter den Fed-Mitgliedern mit früher als erwarteten Zinserhöhungen rechnen. Es gibt das Gefühl, dass ein Anstieg der Zinsen im nächsten Jahr kommen könnte.

Der Vorsitzende Powell stimmte bei denen mit ein, die vor dem Nicht-Anheben der Schuldenbremse warnten. Finanzministerin Janet Yellen warnte Ende September, dass der US-Regierung das Geld ausgehen könnte, wenn nichts unternommen wird.

Die Nichtbedienung der US-Schulden würde Powell zufolge der US-Wirtschaft „deutliche Schäden“ zufügen. Präsident Biden hat angedeutet, dass ein Anstieg der Staatsschulden möglich ist, sodass die Krise vielleicht noch abgewendet werden kann.

Was die Steuerung der Wirtschaft angeht ist aber wahrscheinlich die Rücknahme die große Maßnahme. Man glaubt, dass die Fed ihre Unterstützung schrittweise zurücknehmen wird, bis sie bis Ende 2022 komplett zurückgenommen ist.

Es ist ein starkes Zeichen, dass die USA schnell zur wirtschaftlichen Normalität zurückkehren wollen. Aber die Bedrohung durch neue COVID-19-Varianten steht immer noch im Raum. Man kann nur hoffen, dass 2022 keine neue Delta-Variante zu einer Welle neuer Lockdowns führt oder die Fed steht im Regen.

Die Earning Season ist wieder hier

Gehen wir zur Wall Street. Wir stehen kurz vor Veröffentlichung der Gewinne des dritten Quartals von den ganz Großen, da diese Woche wieder die Earnings Season beginnt.

Wie immer beginnen wir mit den großen Investitionsbanken, die im Q2 wunderschöne Wachstumszahlen verzeichnet haben. Wird der Trend anhalten? JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs und andere bringen den Ball dieses Quartal ins Rollen. Der erste Geschäftsbericht kommt am Mittwoch von JP.

Obwohl es so aussieht als ob sich das Wachstum vom sehr guten zweiten Quartal 2021 verlangsamt, könnte uns immer noch ein sehr leistungsstarkes Quartal erwarten. Die US-Finanzdatengruppe FactSet prognostiziert für S&P500-Unternehmen ein Gewinnwachstum von 27,6% im dritten Quartal – die dritthöchste Jahresgewinnwachstumsrate des Index seit 2010.

Im Q3 gibt es auch noch Lieferengpässe. Es gab sie in der ersten Jahreshälfte, aber mit dem Anstieg der Preise von Rohmaterialien und Energie könnten wir eine Verlangsamung der Ergebnisse sehen.

Apple und Konsorten haben zwar gewarnt, dass sich das Absatzwachstum gegen Ende des Jahres verlangsamen könnte, aber lassen Sie uns mal abwarten, was passiert.

Unser Kalender für die US-Earnings-Season hält Sie auf dem Laufenden, welche Mega Caps wann melden, damit Sie Ihre Trades basierend auf den Gewinnberichten dieses Quartals planen können. Unten finden Sie eine Übersicht über die Unternehmen, die diese Woche ihre Geschäftsberichte veröffentlichen.

Vigtige økonomiske data

Date  Time (GMT+1  Asset  Event 
Tue Oct-12  10:00am  EUR  ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  10:00am  EUR  German ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  3:00pm  USD  JOLTS Job Openings 
       
  6:01pm  USD  10-y Bond Auction 
Wed Oct-13  1:30pm  USD  CPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Core CPI m/m 
  6:01pm  USD  30-y Bond Auction 
  7:00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu Oct-14  1:30am  AUD  Employment Change 
  1:30am  AUD  Unemployment Rate 
  1:30pm  USD  PPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Core PPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
  4:00pm  USD  Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Fri Oct-15  1:30pm  USD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Retail Sales m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Empire State Manufacturing Index 
  3:00pm  USD  Prelim UoM Consumer Sentiment 
  Tentative  USD  Treasury Currency Report 

 

Key earnings data 

Wed 13 Oct  Thu 14 Oct  Fri 15 Oct 
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM) PMO  Bank of America Corp (BAC) PMO  Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS) PMO 
     
Wells Fargo & Co (WFC) E  Citigroup Inc (C) PMO  Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS) PMO 
     
  Morgan Stanley (MS) PMO   

 

US nonfarm payrolls miss the mark for the second consecutive month

Another weak jobs report shows job growth starting to stale in the world’s largest economy.

Nonfarm payrolls

US economy added 194,000 jobs in September

US jobs growth slowed two months in a row according to today’s nonfarm payrolls report.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 194,000 in September, falling way below the Dow Jones estimate of 500,000. The latest stats from the US Labour Department create a more pessimistic picture about the US economy than first thought.

A large drop off in government employment may be behind this latest jobs miss. Government payrolls showed a 123,000 drop, although private payrolls increased by 317,000.

Despite the drop, the unemployment rate continues to edge lower. Today’s report puts it at 4.8%. The share of the labour market held by part-time workers working limited hours due to economic reasons fell to 8.5%.

There are a couple of other small positives to take away from this jobs report. For example, the Labour Force Participation Rate fell slightly to 61.6% from 61.7%. Average hourly earnings rose 4.6% on a year-by-year basis, in line with expectations.

Leisure and hospitality was once more the report’s saving grace. 74,000 new roles were created in this sector in September. Professional and business services contributed 60,000 new positions while retail added an additional 56,000.

Markets show mixed reactions to weak nonfarm payrolls print

Dow Jones futures initially stayed fairly flat when the jobs report landed. S&P 500 futures were rose 0.2%. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.58%. The 10-year Treasury yield was around 1.57%.

The Dollar Index dropped slightly, losing 0.15%, staying at around the 94.15 level.

Gold futures were up 1.44%, pushing the precious metal to $1,781.

Perhaps the most important reaction to gauge will the Federal Reserve. The Fed always watches jobs data with an eagle eye, but it’s taken on renewed importance with tapering talk fresh in the air.

The US’s Central Bank has indicated it is ready to start scaling back its massive financial stimulus. Markets expected first tapering to be announced in November at the earliest. Inflation has already soared past the Fed’s 2% target, so it makes sense.

But the jobs market is still a hot button topic for Fed council members. Officials have said they still see the labour sector way below full employment levels. As such, no rate hikes are expected to come this year. Market analysts say a hike is most likely to come in November 2022.

Mixed start for European equities ahead of NFP

Mixed start in Europe after another positive session on Wall Street as the US Senate approved raising the debt ceiling until December. Treasury yields are higher, with the 10yr hitting 1.6%, which may cool megacap tech’s recovery. All eyes today on the nonfarm payrolls report and what this means for the Fed and tapering. 

 

Whilst European bourses are mainly in the red the FTSE 100 is trying to break above 7,100, but as noted yesterday there is moving average congestion to clear out the way just underneath this and it’s still firmly within the range of the last 6 months. The S&P 500 was up 0.83% on Thursday and has now recovered a chunk of the Monday gap and is now just 3% or so off its all-time high. Momentum just flipping in favour of bulls (we note bullish MACD crossover for futures) – has the supply chain-stagflation worry peaked? Maybe, but rising rates could undermine the big weighted tech sector in the near-term and it is unclear whether there is enough appetite among investors to go more overweight cyclicals when the macro outlook still seems somewhat cloudy in terms of growth, policy and inflation. Next week is earnings season so we either get more bullish conference calls for the coming quarters or a bit of sandbagging re supply chain issues, inflation – for the index a lot will depend on whether the C-suite is confident or cautious about their outlooks.

 

Inflation nation: We can keep banging on about inflation, but it’s well understood now. Even the Bank of England has woken up – BoE chief economist Pill warned that inflation looks to be more persistent than originally anticipated. UK inflation expectations have hit 4% for the first time since 2008 – soaring gas and fuel bills not helping. “The rise in wholesale gas prices threatens to raise retail energy costs next year, sustaining CPI inflation rates above 4 per cent into 2022 second quarter.” said Pill. Tax hikes and labour shortages also featuring in the inflationary mix. There was a rumour doing the round yesterday that BoE’s Broadbent has “taken Nov off the table”. However, with inflation racing higher it’s clear the Bank should be acting to hike in Nov to get ahead. Markets currently pricing a first 25bps rate hike fully by Feb 2022, another 70bps by the end of that year. 

 

Nonfarm payrolls watch: US employers are expected to have added 490k jobs in September, up from 235k in August, which was a big miss on the forecast. NFPs are important and could be market moving later since the Fed has explicitly tied tapering + subsequent rates lift-off to the labour market. A weak number could just dissuade the Fed from announcing its taper in Nov, but I see this as a low-risk outcome. More likely is steady progress on jobs (ADP was strong on Wed) and the November taper announcement to follow. The persistence of inflation and rising fuel costs in particular has changed the equation for the Fed entirely. Benign inflation that we were used to is no longer to be counted on to provide cover for trying to juice the labour market. The problem is not demand side, it’s supply side. Central banks are seeing rising inflationary pressures that are proving more persistent than thought. Slowing economic growth and risks to the outlook stem from the supply side not the demand side – so pumping the demand side even further into a supply side crisis is not helping matters much. 

The US Debt Ceiling: The Only Way Is Up

With Democratic lawmakers currently working to pass a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill, Republican senators have rediscovered their fiscal conservatism, which appeared to temporarily desert them during the Trump era. Given their minority status in both Congressional chambers, McConnell and co are relying on a tool that served them well under the Obama administration – the debt ceiling.

Republicans are demanding that Democrats reduce the scale of their planned infrastructure bill, whose price tag could be as high as $3.5 trillion. Without cooperation on that issue, Republican senators say they will refuse to cooperate on the issue of the debt ceiling. With Senate Majority Leader Schumer already ruling out the use of the reconciliation workaround, which allows for a simple majority for a bill to pass, the only path to resolution on this issue is through a normal Senate vote. This is critical, given the 60-vote requirement for regular bills to pass in the Senate – any debt ceiling resolution will require at least 10 red-state senators to break ranks and vote aye. The achievement of 60 votes is made yet more difficult by the potential for moderate Democrats to join their Republican colleagues in blocking action on the debt ceiling, with Joe Manchin having previously expressed his discomfort with the national debt.

Secretary Yellen now says that the US is likely to hit its debt ceiling on the 18th of October, meaning the federal government will be unable to fulfil its financial obligations after this date unless the ceiling is raised or suspended. This latter point is crucial and has been somewhat muddied by Republican spin on this issue. In reality, the debt ceiling is not about new government spending at all, it is about the government’s ability to fulfil spending promises that it has already made. Such obligations include both welfare payments and the maintenance of the national debt, meaning the potential economic consequences of this saga go far beyond the passage or non-passage of Biden’s infrastructure plan.

This is not the first time that Republican lawmakers have employed such a strategy, using it in both 2011 and 2013 to extract concessions from President Obama. In both of these cases, the concessions achieved were relatively minor, and the Republicans were eventually forced to settle for a moral victory at best. On top of that, the Democrats were able to avoid the bulk of the political backlash, with only 31% of the country saying that they were to blame for the crisis in 2011. So why use such a tactic again, given that it appears on the surface to have been so unsuccessful in times past?

  • Firstly, the political landscape has shifted drastically since episodes one and two of this trilogy. President Biden is a far less formidable political adversary than his former boss, particularly with regards to charisma and control over the media narrative. McConnell will be betting that his party can do a better job of deflecting blame towards the Democrats now they don’t have to compete with Obama’s overwhelming political celebrity. This strategy already appears to be paying off, with just 16% of poll respondents blaming the Republicans for the potential default.
  • Secondly, let us not forget who the intended audience of this political stunt really is – the Republican base. Having the support of even just 31% of the country is more than enough to achieve success in US elections given their historically low turnout, especially in the midterms which are now on the horizon. Turnout will be key in 2022 and this savvy political ploy will increase Republican chances of breaking the Democratic stranglehold on Washington next year by enticing conservative voters to the polls.

With all of this being said, the actual probability of US debt default is virtually zero. This Republican routine would be much more convincing if we hadn’t seen it twice before already. Does anyone really believe that it is a coincidence that all three debt crises have come in the year prior to a midterm election? Or that lawmakers (and their donors) with combined stock portfolios in the billions would seriously allow the devastating economic damage such a default would guarantee? The final nail in the coffin for the convincingness of such a threat is the Republican voters themselves. One of the best-kept secrets in Washington is that red states receive far more in net federal spending per capita than blue states. Whilst conservative voters may love the idea of national fiscal responsibility in theory, they are far more attached to personal financial solvency in practice. If the Republicans actually allowed this debacle to get to a point where the government stopped sending welfare checks, it would be their voters who would suffer the most, and the potential political benefits of this gambit would be nowhere to be seen.

This is not to say that no economic damage will be done or that no panic will occur. In 2011 a resolution was agreed just two days before the debt ceiling was due to be reached and resulted in a US credit rating downgrade and the loss of 1.2 million jobs by 2015. Rather, the very worst fears of the financial markets will not be realised – the debt ceiling will be raised and the infrastructure bill will pass in one form or another. But it’s going to get very messy and very noisy before we get there.

Outcomes:

  1. The panic and political manoeuvring will continue, and may even stretch beyond the October 18th date stated by Yellen, if the Treasury gets creative with their accounting. This uncertainty will hit markets and the real economy but this is a sacrifice Republicans are willing to make. McConnell looks set to trade a few points in the S&P 500 for a few points at the polls in the midterms – a bit of a bargain in political terms.
  2. Moderate Democrats will use this pressure as leverage against the left in their own party who are pushing for the headline $3.5 trillion bill to be realised. This will lead to further infighting among the Democrats which the left will likely lose, meaning a smaller infrastructure package than initially intended.
  3. The chances of the Democrats maintaining or expanding their control in Washington just went down.

Stocks firm in Europe after US selloff

The rise in global bond yields that’s been gathering pace since the delayed reaction to last week’s Fed meeting saw US indices finally crack properly. Mega cap growth took a pounding, sending the Nasdaq down 2.8%, whilst the heavy weighting of these stocks on the S&P 500 sent the broader market lower by 2%. Jay Powell, facing scrutiny from lawmakers in Congress, said inflation could stay “elevated” for longer than previously predicted. Investors are also paying close attention to events in Washington as Republicans once again blocked efforts to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown and potential default. European stock markets were firmer in early trade, tracking the middle of the recent ranges. The FTSE 100 continues to trade in a range of a little over 100pts.

Next rose 2.5% as it once again raised its full-year outlook. In the six months to July, brand full-price sales were +8.8% versus 2019 and +62% against 2020. Profit before tax rose to £347m, up +5.9% versus 2019. Full-price sales in the last eight weeks were up +20% versus 2019, which management said ‘materially’ exceeded expectations. The strong outrun means Next is raising full-price sales guidance for the rest of the year to be up +10% versus 2019. And its forecast profit before tax has been raised to £800m, up +6.9% versus 2019 and +£36m ahead of previous guidance of £764m.

The dollar is making new highs, hitting its best since Nov 2020 even as the bond selling takes a pause. US 10yr rates have edged back to around 1.51%. Elsewhere, Citi cited Evergrande as it cut its China 2022 GDP forecast to 4.9% from 5.5%. A key gauge of long-term Eurozone inflation expectations rose to the highest since 2015.

Sterling moved to fresh YTD lows, with GBPUSD touching the 1.350 support. Some have pinned this on fuel (lorry driver) shortages and panic buying. Others have raised the stagflation klaxon because of the fuel problems. This looks like finding a narrative to suit the price action. Nothing changed yesterday relative to the day before. Much like we saw in the bond and equity markets, things move. And cable maybe is seeing a flushing out of some weak hands post the BoE hawkishness. What we have seen is the way sterling moves in a risk-on, risk-off fashion and yesterday was clearly risk off. Expectations for the BoE to raise rates before the Fed may create problems if the BoE has to walk that back in the face of a tougher economic backdrop. Clearly, bulls were caught in a bit of a trap last week and we need to see a bottom formed before we get excited again.

GBP USD Chart 29.09.2021

Stocks ease back at the open, oil and yields higher still

Yields are popping, as a bond market selloff that started last week in the wake of the Fed meeting gathers steam. US 20yr and 30yr paper is yielding the most since July, both above 2%, whilst the benchmark 10yr note has jumped above the psychologically important 1.5% level to 1.53%, its highest since June. Bets on central banks tightening monetary policy more swiftly than previously thought are fuelling the selling in rates as investors also focus in on the wrangling in Washington over the US debt ceiling. Whether we are talking reflation or stagflation, the ‘flation part of the equation is clear and yields need to rise as a corollary. If the Fed is buying $120bn a month in debt today, but buying less tomorrow, it makes sense that rates will inevitably rise.

Senate Republicans on Monday were true to their word and blocked a House bill that would avert a government shutdown and potential default on US debt. Democrats have until Friday to pass legislation that will avoid a shutdown, whilst it’s likely that the debt ceiling must be raised by the middle of October to prevent the US government defaulting on its debt. This pantomime must play out, but it seems impossible that the debt ceiling won’t be raised. A shutdown is possible, however default is unthinkable. Two Fed officials warned of extreme market reaction in the event of a default. Whilst this extreme tail risk is in any way ‘on the table’, Treasuries can expect to go through a period of further volatility.

And with rates on the rise the reflation-value play in the stock market is back on. Energy and financials and stocks tied to the reopening of the economy did well, mega-cap tech and growth was generally weaker as yields rose. Real estate, healthcare and utilities stocks also fell. That mix left the Dow higher but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq lower for the day. We await to see whether the rotation stardust can power further returns for the broad market – as happened at points earlier this year – or if the heavy weighting of the mega cap tech names will weigh further still. European stock markets are a touch lighter in early trade following Monday’s session which was a story of declining risk appetite throughout the session after a pop at the open. Oil keeps heading in one direction, with WTI above $76 and Brent touching $80.

Time to redo the dot plot: Whilst the Fed has started to sound a tad more willing to raise rates, two of its most hawkish members are on the way out. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed boss Robert Kaplan announced they will be stepping down shortly. “Unfortunately, the recent focus on my financial disclosure risks becoming a distraction to the Federal Reserve’s execution of that vital work,” Kaplan said in a statement. “For that reason, I have decided to retire.”

This does three things. One, it draws a line under the recent trading disclosure furore. It shows that the Fed under Powell won’t suspect behaviour. Two, it’s going to lower the chances of the insider trading story scuppering Powell’s renomination as Fed chair. Three, it removes two of the more hawkish members from the committee, which could have some implications for monetary policy depending on who replaces them. In the meantime vice presidents Meredith Black (Dallas) and Kenneth Montgomery (Boston) will stand in as interim presidents.
Powell and Yellen testify before a Senate Banking Committee today – the timing of Kaplan and Rosengren stepping down should allow Powell to easily bat away some potentially touch questions over their trading. We also have the Fed’s Evans, Bostic and Bowman on the tape later.

Rising Treasury yields offered support to the US dollar. EUR/USD is down to 1.1670 area, through some big Fib zones and near to the key support at 1.1664-66, while USD/JPY above 111.30 with the YTDS high at 111.64-66. Dollar index is north of 93.60 and towards the very top of the range of the last 11 months – big test here to see if the dollar is going to exert more strength into the back end of the year.

EURUSD Chart 28.09.2021

Gold struggling, making new lows this morning with rates on the march.

Gold Chart 28.09.2021

Week ahead: US PCE data to nudge Fed tapering?

On the agenda this week: We bid farewell to Angela Merkel as Germany faces a future without her leadership for the first time in over a decade. We’ve also a range of big data releases from the US including the Fed’s preferred inflation metric – and Canadian GDP stats. Will it backslide again? 

We all know the Fed loves PCE data. Personal Consumption Expenditures is its favourite inflation metric – and one that could force that ever-discussed tapering through earlier, depending on August’s print. 

The broad market consensus is that the Fed will begin pulling back its economic support in either November or December, so the question now is one of liftoff for rates. The Fed has already raised its core CPE inflation forecast for 2021 to 3.7% from 3% in June – they know it’s hot. Chair Powell has also pretty much announced that the Fed will start tapering this year. The question now is whether the Fed has to revise these expectations still higher, and what that might mean for the path of interest rate hikes. An expectation-beating print this week would stoke concerns that this is the case. 

Of course, there are other external factors at play. It should also be pointed that July’s 0.4% jump was in line with expectations and showed a cooling off against June’s figures. 

In July, the overall rate of inflation reached 4.2%. Going by the Consumer Price Index data reported recently, the cost of consumer goods rose 5.3% in August. This was in line with expectations. It may also be an indicator of where PCE data is headed.  

The Fed is on record as saying its content to let inflation run above its 2% target as it considers the current high levels as “transitionary”.  

The United States, like pretty much all major economies, is moving out of the pandemic economy and attempting to find some semblance of normality. It could be the case that hot inflation continues to singe the economy before burning out in 2022 and fading away. 

The latest PCE reading comes on Friday. 

Tethered to this is US consumer confidence. Logically, higher prices suggest a lowering in consumer sentiment. This has been reflected in August’s data, and it may be the case when we get September’s data on Tuesday afternoon. 

In August, consumer confidence dropped to a six-month low. The Conference Board’s index fell to 113.8 from a revised 125.1 reading in July.  

“Concerns about the Delta variant — and, to a lesser degree, rising gas and food prices — resulted in a less favourable view of current economic conditions and short-term growth prospects,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement, explaining the dip. 

Over 39 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the US across the course of the pandemic so far. 

Moving away from the US, Germany closes the book on Angela Merkel’s tenure as Chancellor. After 16 years, Merkel is stepping aside, which gives today’s elections an air of exciting new change. 

By the end of play today, Germany will have a brand-new Chancellor. SPD leader Olaf Scholz was the front runner in the build-up to election, outstripping rivals from the CDU and the Greens. 

That said, the belief is the Greens, who were on course to their best-ever results prior to Germans hitting the polls, may become the SPD’s chief partner in a brand-new coalition. 

Our macroeconomics and political guru Helen Thomas previewed Germany’s latest federal elections. Have her predictions been proved correct?  

Speaking of elections, Canadians recently voted in a fresh wave of political changes, with PM Trudeau holding onto the reins for a third term. The Liberals’ majority was compromised – which could make the nation’s economic moves interest. 

Canada’s month-on-month GDP figures are released this month, following a 1.1% contraction. Estimates called for 2.5% growth, so even with the snap election keeping Trudeau in power, the same challenges he was facing before are his same challenges once again. 

Economic recovery will “continue to require the same extraordinary level of support”, according to Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem. No changes to economic policy are expected – despite the lacklustre GDP showing from last month. Perhaps we’ll see a reversal this month, or a possible muddying of the waters caused by election fervour.  

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Sun 26-Sep  All Day  EUR  German Federal Elections 
       
Tue 28-Sep  2.30am  AUD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  3.00pm  USD  CB Consumer Confidence 
       
Wed 29-Sep  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Thu 30-Sep  2.00am  CNH  China Manufacturing PMI 
  1.30pm  CAD  GDP m/m 
       
Fri 01-Oct  8.55am  EUR  German Final Manufactuing PMI 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PCE Index m/m 
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Manufacturing PMI 

 

Yields and central banks on the move

Central banks on the move: Norway’s central bank became the first in the G10 to raise rates after the pandemic, Turkey’s central bank – an outlier – lowered rates (to 18%), whilst the Bank of England and Federal Reserve sat on their hands but indicated they too are about to start moving. Yields are on the move too as bonds sell off on tightening expectations. Something has clearly changed and positioning on rates is shifting. US 10yr yields jumped to 1.44%, posting their biggest one-day gain since March, whilst 30yr bond yields jumped the most in a single day since March 2020. European bond yields are also marching higher.

Although the Fed and BoE remain fairly cautious and the dogma of transitory inflation persists, they’re starting to move beyond pandemic-era emergency mode. Investors see this and are moving too – rates steepening again as they did earlier this year. As we noted yesterday morning, whilst the initial reaction to the Fed’s announcement on Wednesday saw the yield curve flatten, the steepening as the long end picks up is the natural response to the Fed turning more hawkish – it was not just earlier for lift-off but also more hikes in 2023/24. Investors are also betting on higher inflation for longer. US inflation expectations ticked higher too, hitting a month high, helping gold to fend off the move in nominal rates to trade around $1,750, having put in a near-term low at $1,737. The dollar also made a strong move lower yesterday, adding further support.

Stocks rallied on Wall Street, mega cap growth just underperforming a bit as yields rose, helping financials do well. The S&P 500 recovered the 50-day SMA at 4,437 and closed above at 4,448.98. Small caps outperformed with the Russell 2000 picking up almost 2% as reflation trade thinking resurfaced. Energy was the top performer on the S&P 500 again as crude oil (Nov) broke through $73, whilst Brent is testing a 3-year high. Natural gas is back above $5 this morning.

Stocks trade weaker in the early part of the session in Europe as investors digest the selloff in global bonds and look ahead to the uncertainty of the German election on Sunday, which may be a factor for the DAX today. Helen Thomas of BlondeMoney has an excellent preview on the topic for us. The FTSE 100 sits around 7,050, slap in the middle of the range it’s treaded since April. AstraZeneca shares rose 3% as its Lynparza cancer drug performed well in its PROpel Phase III trials. Shares in Hong Kong fell over 1% with Evergrande down 13% as it apparently missed a deadline for an interest payment of $83.5m on an offshore bond.

The US dollar is drifting higher this morning after yesterday’s selloff with near-term momentum positive having briefly hit its highest since Aug 20th. Tweeted yesterday about topping pattern for USD and yesterday’s (just about) outside day candle could be the reversal signal.

Dollar Index 24.09.2021

GBPUSD is holding most of yesterday’s gains but has just pared back a touch to trade at 1.3710 after hitting 1.3750.

GBPUSD Chart 24.09.2021

Stocks rise after Fed walks fine line on tapering, rate hikes

European markets trading higher after the Fed delivered another lesson in how to gently massage markets into accepting that tightening is on its way. The FTSE 100 has recovered all its losses this week, back to the 7,100 area. Wall Street rallied on the Fed’s apparent lack of haste to taper, and didn’t worry that policymakers see rates lifting off sooner than previously indicated. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones all rose 1%, whilst small caps rallied 1.5%. Benchmark 10yrTreasury yields initially softened on the release but have since recovered to around 1.34%. Gold initially rallied but has since pulled back. The dollar fell at first but after a brief rally to its highest since Aug 20th is back to where it was before the statement.

More liquidity from the PBOC eased worries, Evergrande shares rallied 17% in Hong Kong, where the broad index rose 1%. The Bank of England later today will be the main focus for markets, particularly UK assets. The Old Lady will need to respond to the biggest jump in inflation on record and worries that it could lose credibility if it allows longer-term inflation expectations to slip their anchors. UK 1-yr inflation expectations shot up to 4.1% in September from 3.1% in August, according to the Citi survey, which also showed longer-term inflation expectations drifting higher. Although well into a taper of its own, the BoE would be well justified in ending QE today.

The Federal Reserve gave the market plenty to think about but didn’t cause a tantrum. Jay Powell continues to walk the line between guiding the market to expect tightening without unduly worrying investors. The overall feeling was giving with one hand and taking with the other; for instance, inflation was revised higher but unemployment and growth moderating. The Fed is hedging its bets a bit but overall it’s leaning in towards tightening – the question is whether it starts to lean in more as inflation sticks.

Key takeaways:

• Tapering coming soon: “Participants generally viewed that so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering process that concludes around the middle of next year is likely to be appropriate”. Likely to be announced in Nov, commence in Dec.
• Tapering could be conducted at a quicker pace than the market thought before. “Taper could conclude around the middle of next year.” This implies a rate of $20bn monthly, which arguably, by getting the tapering done early, offers the Fed more scope to raise rates sooner without alarming markets yet.
• Quicker pace to taper could suggest faster rate hike cycle, curve flatter but long-end rates should start to pick up and steepen
• Employment goal all but there – Powell: “My own view is the test for substantial further progress on employment is all but met”. This somewhat begs the question as to why the Fed is not already tapering and on course to raise rates in order to temper inflation expectations that are running wild.
• So the Oct 8th NFP report will be of great importance – “The test is accumulated progress. For me, it wouldn’t take a knock-out, great, super strong employment report”
• Inflation is stickier and far less transient than previously thought. Core PCE revised up 70bps to 3.7% this year, also revised up next year.

The core PCE inflation number for this year was hiked to 3.7% from 3.0%, the 2022 figure to 2.3% from 2.1%. They’re pulling out the ‘transitory but not quite as transitory as we thought’ line. I called 3.5% for 2021 and 2.5% for 2022 – so Fed still frontloading inflation expectations here – more in 2021, cooling sharply next year. The question is whether these will need to be revised higher again and what this could mean for rate hikes.

Fed inflation forecasts 23.09.2021

More policymakers see rates rising in 2022 and near-term inflation forecasts are being revised higher. On the other hand, growth and unemployment forecasts are not as bullish and the Fed has not tied its colours to a particular date to begin tapering asset purchases.

Since June, policymakers have become noticeably more hawkish, partly due to the recovery – Delta concerns have greatly eased since then – and partly due to the persistent inflation narrative. Nine policymakers see rate rising next year, whilst the median dot sees three hikes each in 2023 and 2024.

Fed Dots 23.09.2021

Big tech facing a watershed? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction – and I sense we are ready to see that reaction for some key momentum-mega cap growth names.

Facebook is facing a stern test with some major new allegations filed in a Rhode Island lawsuit. In summary, the plaintiffs allege FB spent billions to protect boss Mark Zuckerberg personally. Specifically, they claim the company paid $4.9 billion more the Federal Trade Commission sought in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in order to shield its CEO from being held personally liable for “failing to oversee privacy at Facebook”. The suits also allege that there were “epic corporate governance breakdown” and details massive “insider trading”, whilst also claiming Zuck misled Congress. Anyway. it’s a hornets’ nest of SEC-related failures.

The insider trading bit relates to hundreds of millions to billions made by corporate insiders who would have been aware that the ‘hypothetical’ risks to the company were in fact fully realised harms. For more read this excellent thread. Facebook shares fell 4%.

I don’t know if it gets anywhere. But I sense winds of change for big tech. Tesla is being investigated at long last over autopilot, Gensler has taken a hard line on cryptos and put Coinbase back in its box. The laissez-faire approach under the Trump administration looks like a thing of the past.

Briefly:

• Robinhood shares rallied 10% on news it will launch its own crypto wallet for users to hold physical Bitcoin etc
• Cathie Wood reiterated her $3,000 PT on Tesla, says she would sell out if it hit that level next year.
• Royal Mail shares flat to negative despite growing revenues almost 18% over 2019 levels. Outlook maintained with group adjusted operating profit for the first half of 2021-22 is expected to be £395 to £400 million.

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