Stocks up as earnings optimism wins, inflation expectations higher

European stock markets rose in early trade Friday, set to finish the week largely flat after a little wobble but not a huge amount of movement. Churn seems to the be order of the day after a decent run up for the FTSE 100, which hit its best level in about 18 months last Friday. It’s not far off that level this morning.  Bit of a double whammy for UK this morning with the Bank of England chief economist warning inflation will exceed 5% and retail sales falling again. Stagflation vibes but sterling holding on ok and 2yr gilts back off their recent highs, though the wires just flashed the UK 10-year breakeven inflation rate has risen to its highest in 25 years. A GfK report showed consumer inflation expectations jumping to a record high. That’s what the Bank of England is expressly trying to avoid. Asian shares were up as Evergrande repaid a missed dollar interest payment. IHG shares off 2% despite a rebound in bookings thanks to Brits doing more holidaying in the UK, Sainsbury’s also lower as it abandons plans to sell its bank.

 

The S&P 500 closed at a record high and made it seven straight days of gains amid a mood of positivity around earnings. It ends a two-month pullback that saw it decline a modest 6% before recovering. Rates are higher – US 10s at their highest since May at 1.7% and 2s at a year high, curve flatter. The 10yr TIPS breakeven inflation rose above 2.61% to hits its highest since 2012. But investors are shrugging off inflation and expected central bank policy moves because of earnings growth being more positive than thought. Tesla shares rose to a record after earnings beat expectations. Energy and financials lagged, megacap tech did the lifting +1% (FANG+TM up 1%). Again slower growth, higher inflation supports growth stocks as real growth is at a premium. A steep drop for IBM prevented the Dow Jones from rallying.

 

Not a huge move in FX this morning – dollar index around the 93.60 area, major pairs stuck to well-worn levels. GBPUSD is trying to regain 1.38 and make a fresh stab at what looks like a near-term top around 1.3830 – the high of each of the last three days.  

 

Donald Trump + social media + SPAC. It feels like a kind of reassuringly volatile mix. Trump is launching his own social media platform called TRUTH Social. It needs capital letters, of course. I’d maybe even suggest ‘TRUTH! SOCIAL!’ might be more appropriate. Banned by Twitter and Facebook, Trump is taking on the Silicon Valley elite and fake news in the way he knows best. Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: DWAC), the Spac that merged with the platform company, soared as much as 400% and had to be halted at one point amid very heavy volume. Trump still sells. The stock finished up 357% at $45.50.  

 

I can’t see the majority of people ditching their FB and Twitter accounts for this. But you can see a large chunk of disaffected Americans, chiefly Republican/Trump voters, giving it go. I don’t think this ends the dominance of the other platforms, but tells you a lot about what a lot of people think about the platforms they use. “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech,” says DT. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable.” He’s got a point. 

 

If you don’t have a controversial ex-President to back your social media platform, you have to rely on more mundane things like advertising revenues to drive cash flow. So poor Snap shares collapsed overnight as third quarter revenue expectations missed expectations after Apple’s iPhone privacy changes hit the advertising business. Daily active user growth was sluggish and the company warned of the global supply chain problems and labour shortages hitting advertising demand. Shares plunged by more than 21% after hours. Facebook and Twitter both dropped by more than 4% in sympathy.  

 

The Federal Reserve has banned individual stock purchases by top officials and outlined a broader set of restrictions on their investing activities. These will ‘prohibit them from purchasing individual stocks, holding investments in individual bonds, holding investments in agency securities (directly or indirectly), or entering into derivatives’.

The move came as it emerged that Fed officials were warned on March 23rd, 2020, to observe a ‘trading blackout’ for a period of ‘several months’ due to recent and likely upcoming actions by the Fed. The same day, the Fed did its ‘everything it takes’ moment by committing to open-end bond purchases “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning”. If you, say, knew the Fed was about to provide the ultimate backstop to the stock market, it would be useful, I assume. I figure that if you owned a tonne of stocks you’d find it valuable to know what the Fed was about to do or not do. Which is why it obviously stinks that Fed members have been allowed to trade individual stocks at all. Messrs Kaplan and Rosengren were trading again within weeks, not months, of the memo date. 

 

If you read the memo a certain way it just sounds like the ethics people were actually just trying to offer some good advice – don’t do any unnecessary selling, we got this: “In light of the rapidly developing nature of recent and likely upcoming (Federal Reserve) System actions, please consider observing a trading blackout and avoid making unnecessary securities transactions for at least the next several months, or until FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) and Board policy actions return to their regularly scheduled timing.”

Earnings season: Tesla drives through Q3 with another earnings beat

Despite supply shortages, Tesla comes out on top with another record-breaking earnings quarter.

Tesla earnings

Tesla’s headline stats

It’s another expectation-beating quarter for Elon Musk’s Tesla.

The electric carmaker was buoyed by record deliveries in Q3. This translated into higher net income and better margins. Tesla appears to have found chipsets no one else can locate, giving it the edge over its rivals as the world experiences a global computer chip shortage.

The key takeaways from Tesla’s Q3 2021 earnings are:

  • Earnings per share – $1.86 vs. $1.59 estimated
  • Revenue – $13.76 billion vs $13.63 billion estimated

In income terms, Tesla reported net income of $1.62bn. This is the second consecutive quarter the auto manufacturer has reached a $1bn income quarter. It only goes to show just how far Tesla has come. Last year, third quarter net income totalled $330m.

It was reported at the start of October that Tesla vehicle deliveries had outstripped Wall Street estimations. According to Tesla, it delivered 20% more vehicles against Q2 for a total of 241,300. Its Model Y and Model 3, more “affordable” cars, were the most popular models. Ultimately, Q3 vehicle deliveries were up 73% year-on-year.

Analysts had forecast that Q3 deliveries would stack up at 229,242 vehicles.

Gross margins improved from 26.6% overall and 30.6% for Tesla’s main automotive business – another record-breaking metric for Elon Musk’s brand.

Tesla also generated $806 million in revenue from its energy business, which combines solar and energy storage products, and $894 million in services and other revenue. Other revenue comprises maintenance, insurance and merchandise.

Tesla insiders show pre-earnings sell off

In a move that may signal something greater (but also maybe not), Tesla insiders began selling shares prior to the company’s third quarter earnings release.

As you can see from the below, Tesla company insiders have been releasing stocks. Over 450m Tesla stocks have been sold over the past 3 months, worth $7.1m. Compare that with buys of just 764,446.

Tesla inside earnings tool results.

Could this be part of a broader trend? Is Musk planning to sell some of his own Tesla holdings? It’s hard to say at this stage, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Tesla stock fell 1.5% in after-market trading. As of Thursday morning, the stock was still relatively flat, trading at $866.56. On the whole, Tesla shares are up around 23% across 2021.

According to the Markets.com analyst recommendations tool, Tesla holds a neutral rating.

Tesla analyst recommendations chart.

Contrasting with that is news sentiment which places Tesla in a firmly bullish position.

Tesla news sentiment rating.

Where next for Tesla?

Tesla is in the process of expanding its production capabilities with new factories under construction around the world.

„There’s quite an execution journey ahead of us,“ Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said in the brand’s quarterly earnings call.

The centrepiece of its expansion plans is its Berlin “Gigafactory”. The $7 billion project could see cars start rolling off the production line in the next month, but there are still global parts shortages and high commodities prices to contend with.

This didn’t seem to really hold Tesla back in the third quarter. The EV builder seemingly has the ability to pull parts, chipsets, and micro components out of thin air.

„Q4 production will depend heavily on availability of parts, but we are driving for continued growth,“ Kirkhorn said.

Also expect to see acceleration of the so called “Full Self-Driving Systems” Tesla is developing. As we reported yesterday, this new tech has its fair share of detractors, not least the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The self-driving technology is already under investigation by the NHTSA, and some Tesla fanboys/girls see this as an attack on the brand.

Others just don’t want to see a repeat of several fatal incidents caused by Tesla vehicles on autopilot. It’s imperative Tesla gets this right, otherwise there good be a major clampdown on its autopilot ambitions. But if people are getting hurt, or being killed, by wayward Tesla cars, it’s only right to take a cautious approach.

Let’s mention batteries. Tesla says it is about to make a switch to its standard-range models who currently use a lithium-ion battery with a nickel cathode. Tesla says it will start using a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) mix. Basically, iron is more abundant than nickel. It should make it easier for Tesla to source supplies.

The end goal, says Tesla VP of Powetrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino, is to localise battery and car production.

Some supply and critical safety challenges to overcome then for the world’s most valuable car maker.

S Q3 earnings season is in full swing. Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, check out our earnings calendar to see which megacaps are reporting and when.

Stocks look heavy, Barclays down despite beat, Unilever rallies on prices

Caution is the order of the day…European stock markets fell moderately in early trade as the risk-on rally that powered Wall Street to fresh all-time highs ran out of steam overnight. Major bourses –0.5%, with the FTSE 100 under 7,200 again and the DAX under 15,500. The yen rose and Japanese equities fell, leading a broad decline in Asian equities overnight as Evergrande shares resumed trading and promptly plunged 13%. US futures are lower after the Dow Jones industrial average recorded a fresh all-time high and the S&P 500 notched is sixth daily gain on the bounce as investors looked through inflation and central bank fears to better earnings.

The Dow rose to a record intra-day high of 35,669.69, but finished the day 0.1% off its record close, gaining 0.4% for the session. As noted here recently, it might just be that the market has passed peak in/stagflation worries, even if the situation is going to be evident in the real economy for many months to come. Earnings are generally beating expectations – 84% so far according to FactSet. As commented on last night, growth is stalled – the Atlanta Fed’s Q3 GDP estimate is down to just 0.5% from +6% in the summer; inflation is running at +5% at least – German producer price inflation is running above 14%; and the yield curve is inverting, but ‘stonks’ just keep on rising. Rates flattish close to multi-month highs today – as noted yesterday there has been some mild steepening in yields, 2s/10s at 1.25%, 5s30s at 0.96.

Travel stocks are doing a little better in early trade with IAG, EasyJet +1% after posting sizeable losses yesterday as the UK signalled it could reintroduce some restrictions, whilst rising case numbers will make the country less accessible to many foreigners.

Oil is a little lower this morning after moving to fresh multi-year highs overnight – WTI just a shade under $84, Brent hitting $86 a barrel. US inventories were bullish with big draws for distillates and gasoline. Global inventories still falling, India is again calling on OPEC to pump more. Reports indicate Exxon is debating abandoning some of its biggest oil and gas projects.

Tesla earnings beat expectations, but the stock fell. Insiders have been selling the stock ahead of the earnings release, which maybe tells you something. EPS rose to $1.86 vs $1.59 expected on a record revenue quarter. gross margins improved – 30.5% for its automotive business and 26.6% overall. Vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy struck a more conciliatory tone about the NHSTA than his boss: “We always cooperate fully with NHTSA.”

Unilever products are just about everywhere in just everyone’s homes. So, when they raise prices it usually affects a lot of people. Unilever raised prices by an average 4.1% in the third quarter across all its brands, helping it to achieve underlying sales growth of 2.5% despite sales volume declining 1.5%. Turnover rose 4%. The company said it is taking action to “offset rising commodity and other input costs”. Share rose over 2%, delivering a boost to the FTSE 100.

Barclays said profits doubled in the third quarter as a strong performance at its investment bank and further reduction in Covid-era impairments boosted earnings. Attributable profit rose to £1.45bn, up from $611m for the same quarter last year. Return on tangible equity returned to a more normal 11.9% from the 18.1% in the previous quarter. Provisions for loan losses fell to £120m as the economic recovery continues to ease pressure on banks.

CEO Jes Staley touted “the benefits of our diversified business model” as Barclays posted its highest Q3 YTD pre-tax profit on record in 2021. Pre-tax profits at the investment bank rose a mighty 51% to £1.5bn, well ahead of expectations. Staley also pointed to consumer recovery and better rate environment. But does Barclays get enough credit for the investment bank earnings? Despite driving the performance in a fashion similar to some of the big Wall Street beasts it seeks to emulate, shares continue to trade at a hefty discount. Barclays trades at a price to book of about 0.5, whilst US peers are above 1, with BoA at about 1.5 and JPM closer to 2. But if investment banking revenues were not that sustainable and ‘can’t be counted on for future quarters’, why do it? Certainly they are more volatile quarter to quarter – revenues from equity trading, M&A and advisory fees cannot be counted on in the coming quarters to the same extent that mortgage fees and credit card fees might be. But discounting these entirely seems like a mistake by investors. Barclays rightly touts its more diversified revenue stream. When consumer and business growth markets are strained – like during the pandemic – volatility in financial markets creates a good environment for trading revenues to prosper. Barclays is reaping the benefits.

After a softer day on Wednesday, the dollar is a tad firmer this morning as risk is on the back foot. Yen also stronger. GBPUSD tests 1.38 support – daily candles suggest near-term top put in at 1.3830 area and maybe calling for pullback towards lower end of the rising channel. Hourly chart points to declining momentum. Test at 1.3740 for bulls.

GBPUSD Chart 21.10.2021

Earnings season: Netflix plays the Squid Game, wins subs beat

Netflix leverages a content backlog into millions of new subscribers according to its Q3 2021 earnings report.

Netflix earnings

Netflix’s headline stats

It’s been a good quarter for Netflix. New subscribers keep flooding in, seemingly attracted by new event TV shows, such as the global smash Squid Game. What’s more, Netflix’s EPS beat estimates too.

The key takeaways from Netflix’s third quarter earnings report are:

  • Revenues – $7.48 billion vs $7.48 billion forecast
  • Earnings per share (EPS) – $3.19 vs $2.56 estimated
  • New global paid subscription additions – 4.4 million vs 3.84 million forecast

The important thing to note here is the growth of new paid subscribers. These are Netflix’s bread and butter. Users may have been attracted to the streaming platform thanks to a large chunk of new shows and movies finally hitting Netflix. The pandemic appears to have created a significant backlog of content which is now making its way onto release schedules.

South Korean dystopian horror series Squid Game is the standout here. The show has been getting rave reviews and may become a significant draw going forward. According to Netflix, 142 million households watched Squid Game in its first four weeks.

“Like some of our other big hits, Squid Game has also pierced the cultural zeitgeist, spawning a Saturday Night Live skit and memes/clips on TikTok with more than 42 billion views,” the company said. Demand for consumer products related to the show is high, it added.

Netflix’s official guidance for subscriber numbers in Q4 is eight million – nearly double that of Q3. Is that overly optimistic? Maybe, but we are approaching winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Shorter days and colder temps may lead to an uptick in subscribers as people stay inside during winter conditions.

There is yet more content to come.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said. “We have so much content coming in Q4 like we’ve never had, so we’ll have to feel our way through, and it rolls into a great next year also.”

Netflix share performance

As we can see, Netflix’s earnings per share levels beat expectations in Q3, coming in at $3.19 against $2.56 forecast by Wall Street.

Shares did drop 1% after the bell yesterday, however. It’s interesting. Achieving sustainable subscription growth is one of the cornerstones of Netflix’s business. You would have thought, after posting subscription and EPS beats, the firm’s shares would have grown.

As of Wednesday morning, Netflix shares are back in the green, trading for around $640.88 at the time of writing.

Where next for Netflix?

Netflix’s next frontier is gaming.

The streamer said it has begun testing video game streaming, possibly in a similar way to Microsoft’s cloud-based Game Pass service, in certain countries.

It’s still very early days for this, but Netflix subscribers may soon be able to play some form of video games via their TVs. It’s unlikely Netflix will be launching a console to compete with Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft.

Personally, I can’t see them making great strides in this sphere. Gaming is already a highly competitive environment as it is, and Microsoft’s Game Pass has been a bit of a major market disruptor.

It would take a lot for Netflix to really make an impact on the gaming world, at least in the form of triple A titles, in my view. Mobile and app-based games are probably the way to go.

But with 200 million subscribers – double Xbox Live’s 100 million – and a competitive price point, some casual gamers might find a home with Netflix.

US Q3 earnings season is in full swing. Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, check out our earnings calendar to see which megacaps are reporting and when.

Tesla stuff, Squid Games

Tesla stuff: Haters hate, regulators regulate: don’t confuse the two. Duke University engineering and computer science professor Missy Cummings is set to become a new senior adviser for safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many Tesla fanboys and girls are crying foul. Cummings, a former pilot and robotics expert, is seen as ‘anti-Tesla’. Now that’s kind of interesting in the first place: you’re either definitely for Tesla or definitely a hater. No room for a middle ground. That’s kind of odd for a carmaker. Most people are not anti or pro Ford, or GM. They maybe like/dislike their cars, think they’re doing a good/bad job with the tech and think management are capable/useless. No one would say they’re anti-Ford. They might have an objective, rational view on the cars and/or the stock, but not a creed. But rational objectivity and Tesla seldom go hand in hand. And I’m not sure if you could say she’s anti-Tesla per se, just sceptical about the level of technology that is being touted around by some companies. But, particularly Tesla. 

 

For instance, last year she tweeted“LMAO…there is NO WAY Tesla will have a viable robo-taxi service this year. My lab has been running controlled experiments on Tesla Autopilot & I can say with certainty that they are not even close to being ready. My student on this project should get hazardous duty pay.”  In one 2018 tweet she said “The only killer robot out there is @elonmusk’s Tesla.” There are lots of examples on the feed.

 

It’s fair to say Cummings is a vocal critic of the ability of self-driving systems to cope with bad weather, and authored plenty of research that calls into question some of the main claims that companies like Tesla make when they market their ‘full self-driving‘ systems. There are numerous papers, some choice tweets and essentially you can say she doesn’t buy the tech being anything like close enough to be objectively safe for the roads.  

 

After news of her appointment broke Elon Musk tweeted today: “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla.”  

 

Tesla’s self-driving technology is already being investigated by the NHTSA. The company must provide the regulator with extensive data about its Autopilot system by Friday. Tesla has been getting away with marketing ‘Full Self Driving’ technology for a while; Cummings could mark time for a much tougher stance. Steven Cliff, deputy administrator since February, has also been nominated by the White House to lead the NHSTA. He’s currently in charge of the Tesla investigation. Another Tesla ‘hater’, according to many. Regulators are maybe finally going to regulate.

 

Meanwhile, in other Tesla ‘stuff’. Get a load of Elon Musk, who told a customer apparently not impressed with the look of the side mirrors on the cyber truck, that it’s OK to remove them. “They’re required by law, but designed to be easy to remove by owners,” he tweeted. I am ‘absolutely sure’ that is not irresponsible or unsafe…

 

Tesla earnings are due out today: the company hit record deliveries in Q3 as it found chips no one else seems to be able to find. EPS is seen around $1.50, on revenues of $13.6bn. Looking for updates on the Berlin Gigafactory, competition in China, internal chip production, Cyber truck and Semi releases, and, of course, the beta FSD progress. Let’s hope for some analyst questions around the NHSTA today.

 

Squid Games: Netflix posted solid subscriber growth in the third quarter of 4.4m, well ahead of the 3.84m expected. A deluge of hit new content that had been delayed by the pandemic is helping to drive interest such that the company anticipates 8.5m net adds next quarter. Earnings per share were a handsome beat at $3.19 vs $2.56 expected. In Q3, revenue grew 16% year over year to $7.5 billion, while operating income rose 33% vs. the prior year quarter to $1.8 billion. Content and subscribers are in good shape, but free cash flow remains elusive as it reported a second consecutive quarter of negative free cash. Still when you have low-cost, high margin content in multiple languages, you think Netflix will be able to drive non-US subscriber growth substantially in the coming years. Shares fell slightly in after-hours trade.

 

Markets: Stocks are flat again this morning in early trade in Europe, with the FTSE 100 hovering around the 7,200, looking like it has decent support.  The S&P 500 rallied three-quarters of one percent yesterday to close within 0.4% of its record high. Megacap tech had a decent day despite rising bond yields. If it’s stagflation then growth is still a premium.  

 

US 10-year rates rose to a 5-month at 1.67% as the Fed’s Waller said tapering should start in November and that if inflation keeps rising „a more aggressive policy response“ might be required in 2022. Bitcoin at or around all-time highs post the ProShare ETF launch.

 

Inflation: UK inflation has fallen! But before we rejoice too much, it’s probably a one-off. CPI fell to 3.1% in September from 3.1% in August. The end of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme at the end of August last year, which led to restaurants raising prices in September, is a big factor. The surge in energy prices and ongoing supply chain problems are still expected to drive inflation to 4% this year. Moreover, the RPI rose 4.9%. 

 

As we said in yesterday’s note on Will the Bank of England actually raise rates in November?, the reading of the inflation print is important: the consensus remains firmly on the MPC voting to raise rates in two weeks’ time. But, as stressed in the same commentary, it’s not a slam dunk given the make-up of the MPC right now. 

Meanwhile, German produce price inflation surged – rising 2.3% month-on-month vs the +1% expected. That took the annual rate to 14.2%. Supply chain and capacity problems abound. Underlines that rising cost pressures are not going away. 

 

Sterling just eased back on the inflation miss. GBPUSD retreated to test the support offered at 1.3770, the OCt 15th swing high, where sits the 50hr SMA. Recent price action indicates this is the chief support before resumption of the uptrend, though we are less convinced that GBP can rally with rate expectations now they are baked in. However, I do see further dollar weakness likely to support further gains for cable following the topping pattern on the last 3 weekly candles.

Will the Bank of England actually raise rates in November?

• GBPUSD hits highest in a month ahead of tomorrow’s CPI inflation print
• Hike in November fully priced by markets…
• But will the MPC hawks have enough votes?

Recent commentary from senior Bank of England officials indicates the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will raise interest rates when it next meets in November, barely over two weeks from now. Market positioning has also shifted significantly in recent weeks from a single hike next year to one this year and at least two next, with the base rate expected to hit 1% by August.

BoE members have had numerous occasions to push back against market expectations and have led traders towards a November hike as being the most likely outcome. Over the weekend governor Andrew Bailey stressed that the Bank of England “will have to act” to counter inflation. That’s one for team sticky – which if you are a regular reader, you will know I’ve been saying all along. “That’s why we, at the Bank of England, have signalled, and this is another such signal, that we will have to act,” Bailey said. “But, of course, that action comes in our monetary policy meetings.” Ah, but which policy meeting did he mean? Did he mean November – the market certainly thinks so, and there has been no push back on that. Failure to raise rates next month risks Bailey becoming the Old Lady’s second unreliable boyfriend and the inevitable disapprobation for her taste in gentlemen.

Inflation problems

Inflation expectations in the UK increased to 4.1% in September from 3.1% in August of 2021. Actual inflation is also rising quickly. The latest Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 3.2% in the 12 months to August 2021, up from 2% in July. The increase of 1.2 percentage points is the largest ever recorded increase in the CPI series, which began in January 1997. Soaring energy costs are a big factor, but the whole basket is seeing upwards pressure.

The reading of tomorrow’s CPI print is important. Another hot reading underlines the sense of urgency at the BoE. Cooler raises concerns that officials have got their communication muddled. It is once again expected to hit 3.2%.

Team sticky is winning for now but team transient have some cards up their sleeves. For instance, headline inflation would have been 0.3 percentage points lower in August 2021 without the Eat Out to Help Out discounts in August 2020. Demand destruction from higher prices may also start to feed into lower run rates for inflation.

Yield curve inversion

Markets are pricing in a fairly aggressive tightening cycle by the BoE. 2yr gilt yields have hit a two-and-a-half year high. This could be premature – the MPC may not be as hawkish as recent signals indicate, but if it’s correct then the market is also anticipating that the Bank would quickly need to reverse its actions. Forwards and implied interest rate expectations point to inversion – higher rates at the front end, lower further out. This only implies the market believes the Bank would be making a ‘policy mistake’ by hiking prematurely. Others would point out that taming inflation is its core mandate.

Certainly, the BoE like all central bank is dealing with something rather new: a supply shock. Central banks’ policy toolkits are based around levers to drive demand when it is low. They cannot fix supply crunches and imbalances in the economy very easily by stimulating demand. Nevertheless, the Bank is clearly mindful that allowing inflation to run rampant would a) destroy its credibility and b) allow longer-term inflation expectations to become de-anchored. If supply-side worries are longer lasting than first thought, and demand stays robust, it seems prudent for the MPC to use what tools it has to lean on inflation. What’s clear is that the intense debate around the recent comments and change in market expectations shows the Bank is not doing a particularly good job of communicating its position. We may be left in a position where the MPC hikes a couple of times and then has to dial it back, which risks its credibility – albeit whether more or less than it would by allowing inflation expectations off the leash is an open question.

The last meeting

• MPC voted 7-2 to maintain QE, unanimous on rates
• Ramsden joins Saunders in voting to scale back the QE programme to £840bn, ending it immediately
• CPI inflation is expected to rise further in the near term, to slightly above 4% in 2021 Q4 – and the BoE signalled greater risk it would be above target for most of 2022
• Overall, Bank staff had revised down their expectations for 2021 Q3 GDP growth from 2.9% at the time of the August Report to 2.1%, in part reflecting the emergence of some supply constraints on output
• Shift in forward guidance: MPC noted ‘some developments … [since the August Monetary Policy Report] … appear to have strengthened’ the case for tightening monetary policy.
• Rate hikes could come early, even before end of QE: “All members in this group agreed that any future initial tightening of monetary policy should be implemented by an increase in Bank Rate, even if that tightening became appropriate before the end of the existing UK government bond asset purchase programme.”

Doves vs Hawks

But will it go for the hike? The MPC is relatively evenly split in terms of hawks and doves, so it is not abundantly clear if the recent messaging from some members – albeit including the governor – matches with the votes.

Bailey has sounded hawkish, and we know Ramsden and Saunders are itching to act. Huw Pill, the new chief economist replacing Andy Haldane has also sounded hawkish, though less so than his predecessor.

Commenting after UK inflation expectations hit 4% for the first time since 2008, he said: “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.” We place him in the ‘leaning hawkish’ camp.

On the dovish side, Silvana Tenreyro is highly unlikely to vote for a hike next month, calling rate rises to counter inflation ‘self-defeating’.

Deputy Governor Broadbent said in July that he saw reasons for the inflation tide to ebb. The spike in energy prices since then could lead him to change his mind but for now, we place in the ‘leaning dovish’ camp,

Rate-setter Haskel said in May he’s not worried by inflation, and in July said there was no need to reduce stimulus in the foreseeable future. He goes in the Dovish camp with Catherine Mann, who said last week that she can hold off from raising rates since markets are doing some of the tightening already. “There’s a lot of endogenous tightening of financial conditions already in train in the UK. That means that I can wait on active tightening through a Bank Rate rise,” she said.

That leaves Jon Cunliffe somewhat the swing voter. In July he stressed that inflation was a bump in the road to recovery. We look to see whether the recent spike in inflation and inflation expectations has nudged the likes of Cunliffe, Pill and even Broadbent to move to the Hawkish camp. It seems unlikely that governor Bailey would have pointed the market towards quicker hikes if he did already have a feeling for the MPC’s views on the matter.

Dovish  Leaning dovish  Centre  Leaning hawkish  Hawkish 
Tenreyro

Mann

Haskel

Broadbent Cunliffe Pill Saunders

Ramsden

Bailey

Charts

GBPUSD: The hawkishness from policymakers and market repricing for hikes has supported £, though we do note some noticeable dollar weakness in Tuesday’s session that is flattering the view that it’s all BoE driven. Cable breaks new highs ahead of CPI, above 1.3820 to test the 50% retracement off the May peak. Bullish MACD crossover still in play, but starting to look a tad extended.

GBPUSD Chart 19.10.2021

EURGBP Gains capped with a stronger EUR today, but has made a fresh 18-month high. BoE racing to hike against a much more dovish ECB ought to be positive, but yield curve inversion highlights the dangers of viewing FX trades purely from a CB tightening/loosening point of view.

EURUSD 19.10.2021

US Natural gas futures slip – is the honeymoon over?

With US natural gas futures on a downward trend, we ask is time up for high gas prices?

Natural gas trading

Natural gas futures start the week in the red

What a couple of weeks it’s been for the Henry Hub natural gas contract.

It seems only yesterday that we were talking about natural gas reaching all-time highs. It’s certainly true that wholesale commodity prices in Europe and Asia are still exceptionally high.

While oil continues to rise, gas looks like it’s on the decline. But in terms of the US, which Henry Hub focuses on, we’re asking is the honeymoon over?

Prices were firmly in the red on Monday. Starting the day at around $5.20, Henry Hub futures dropped to $4.90 at their lowest. As of Tuesday morning, prices had climbed back into the green, before slipping down to the $4.90 level.

Why the slump? There are a couple of factors at play.

First up, there is the weather. Mild to seasonal high temperatures across much of the US is capping off demand.

Natural Gas Weather states: “One weather system will bring showers to New England, while a second system tracks through the Mtn West w/rain and snow, but both mild w/highs of 40s to 60s. The rest of the US will be nice w/highs of 60s to 80s for very light national demand.

“The system currently over the Mtn. West will track across the Great Lakes and Northeast this weekend w/highs of 40-60s, lows 20s-40s for a modest bump in national demand.

“For next week, weather systems will bring rain and snow to the West, while very nice over the eastern 2/3 of the US. Overall, national demand will be LOW through Friday, then MODERATE this coming weekend.”

Basically, not a lot of need for gas heating in key consumption areas of the US.

However, we have seen a slight bump in gas consumption. For the week ending October 8th, US consumption increased 1.3% week-on-week.

We’re also in injection season: the time of year when the US looks to build stockpiles in line with colder winter temperatures.

The EIA forecasts that US natural gas inventories ended September 2021 at about 3.3 trillion cubic feet 5% less than the five-year average for this time of year. Injections into storage this summer have been below the previous five-year average.

This was down to a combination of hot summer temperatures leading to more electricity use for cooling purposes and increased exports. Despite this, domestic production has remained fairly flat across the year. A sizeable chunk of US production infrastructure was shuttered earlier in the year due to Hurricane Ida.

The latest EIA data ahead of Thursday’s release shows total stocks standing at stood at 3.369 Tcf for the week ending October 8th – down 501 Bcf from a year ago and 174 Bcf below the five-year average once again.

Gazprom to the rescue?

Switching to European markets, Gazprom might be following the lead of President Putin (read: orders of President Putin) by stepping up production capacity for its long-term gas deals.

“Of course, if Russia’s European partners increase orders and if the volumes in long-term contracts grow, I think that Gazprom will surely develop its production capacity,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview during last week’s Russian Energy Week summit.

This is pipeline all part of pipeline politics. Russia has been accused of gas market manipulation in an effort to force the EU into accepting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Never mind that this is pretty much a necessity for Germany’s energy needs, but the bloc has long been basically hostile towards Russia.

But as the European gas crisis rolls on it seems the deck is stacked fairly heavily in Gazprom and Russia’s favour. They’re the ones with the gas. They’re the ones with the export infrastructure. They’re the ones with more customers than just Europe.

Unless Europe picks up more gas from America or Qatar, then it’s likely to remain reliant on Russian products for the foreseeable future.

Where can oil go from here?

With crude oil prices strengthening, markets are asking just how high oil can climb right now.

Oil trading

Crude starts the week on a strong footing

Two key oil benchmarks began this week in a strong position.

WTI was flitting between $81.50 to $82.28 between Monday and Tuesday, even reaching $83.17 on Monday.

Brent is closing in on all-time highs. Trading at around $84.80 at the time of writing, its only a couple of percentage points away from its October 2018 high of $86.

All good news if you’re an oil bear.

So, what’s supporting prices this week? It’s the old supply and demand struggle.

Saudi Arabia helped stoke the fires a little with its refusal to open the OPEC+ taps further. The kingdom and OPEC chief said last week it and the cartel were committed to their monthly production boosts.

Each month until at least April next year, OPEC members will be collectively upping production by 400,000 bpd.

Rapidly rising natural gas and coal prices could also benefit oil. As winter rolls in, and temperatures drop, the high costs from those two commodities could necessitate a switch to oil heating. Crude oil’s already a high-demand product as it is. Supplies are also being kept tight, at least from OPEC+.

The conditions are there for a sustained rally – but we have to be careful of market exhaustion. Support levels identified for WTI and Brent have been variously stated at $75 and $80 respectively by oil analysts.

But some market observers are much more optimistic…

Billionaire businessman suggests $100 oil price is on the way

United Refining Company Chief Executive John Catsimatidis has said he believes crude oil can hit $100 this year.

“With oil nearly at $84 this morning, we are going to see $100 oil, it looks like, there’s no sign of it stopping,” Catsimatidis said in an interview with Fox Business on Monday.

The billionaire cited inflation and rising energy costs across the board as reasons why crude might break the $100 barrier.

Catsimatidis’ comments mirror those of another big oil player: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When quizzed by a CNBC journalist during the Russian Energy Week summit last Wednesday, Russia’s leader said $100 is “quite possible”.

However, Putin toed a cautious line saying: “Russia and our partners and OPEC + group, I would say we are doing everything possible to make sure the oil market stabilizes.

“We are trying not to allow any shock peaks in prices. We certainly do not want to have that — it is not in our interests.”

It kind of is in Russia’s interest to have a high oil price. 40% of government revenue stem from hydrocarbons, but right now it appears Russia is more concerned with playing.

More US shale oil on the way?

Shale oil could spoil OPEC+’s party.

More US rigs in the Permian Basin are coming online. As it stands, the rig count is 136 rigs higher in this prime shale geography than this time last year.

Analysts believe Permian infrastructure could end up pumping out 4.9m bpd of crude by early 2022. Some are even expecting it to hit this number this month.

OPEC estimates suggest the US will add 800,000 bpd to production via shale sources next year. The EIA figure is roughly 700,000 bpd. Plenty of black gold to help calm the Biden White House’s supply jitters.

Biden and co. have been calling for OPEC and oil producers to step up their production as gasoline prices rise in the US. However, OPEC is not budging as mentioned above. I mean, if you do insist on outfitting regular cars with thirsty V8 motors, you will pay the gasoline cost. Did America not learn anything from the 70s energy crisis?

US drillers are being advised not to chase high oil prices though at the risk of drilling themselves into oblivion.

Looking at storage US commercial inventories rose 6.1m bpd according to the EIA stockpile report for the week ending October 8th. At 427.0 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are about 6% below the five year average for this time of year.

Stocks flat to start the session

European stocks are flat in early trade as risk remains on watch for a range of factors, including earnings, inflation and expectations central banks will tighten the screw. The S&P 500 notched a 4th straight day of gains, but the Dow Jones fell. The Nasdaq rallied with megcap growth performing solidly. Asian shares rallied with tech leading the way. Meanwhile what we might call cyclical/steepener trades are suffering a bit.

US industrial production fell 1.3% in September, manufacturing down 0.7%. Autos and parts fell 7.2% as shortages of semiconductors continued to hurt operations, while the lingering effects of Hurricane Ida hit mining. Supply chains remain the big problem for now – a shortage of semi-conductor supplies could affect the car industry well into 2022, the head of French car sector body PFA said today.

Also worrying markets are central banks – the Bank of England has put the cat among the pigeons with its hawkish talk, nudging markets to price in some hikes in the next year that just weren’t expected a few weeks ago. That’s seen the yield curve flatten with many arguing that CBs shouldn’t be hiking into a supply-side inflation crunch. That may be so, but with inflation at 5% or more, should they really be trying to grease the wheels as much as ZIRP and QE is doing now? UK 2yr gilt yields jumped to a two-and-a-half year high on Monday, as traders bet on the BoE hiking rates as early as next month and following up with more in 2022 so the base rate is seen reaching 1% by next summer. Ten-year rates have not kept pace. It shows the BoE’s boss, Andrew Bailey, is believed when he says the bank will act to curb inflation, but it also shows markets don’t think it’s necessarily the best step for achieving growth in the long run. Both markets and central banks have been wrong in the past.

Some big names reporting earnings today, including Netflix, United Airlines, and Tesla. We know it was a good quarter for deliveries: Tesla made approximately 238,000 vehicles and delivered over 240,000 in the third quarter. But as ever with Tesla there are questions still. Eg, What about the self-driving feature and investigations? What about delays in delivering new products – it has only started delivering latest model X SUV after months of delays? There will be a focus on China – EV sales there are booming but Tesla’s sales in the market have slumped. But if Tesla can show it’s profitable with emissions credits again and show it can find chips where no one else can, it’s maybe going to satisfy the market just enough.

Bitcoin trades at a new high, inching closer to its all-time high, with prices close to $63k overnight. In addition to the launch of the ProShares Bitcoin futures ETF, Interactive Brokers said it will allow Registered Investment Advisors in the US to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This opens the gates on billions of dollars of potential investment in the sector.

IPO watch: Volvo Cars seeks $23bn valuation on public launch

In one of the largest IPOs of 2021, Volvo Cars is going public. Here’s what you need to know about the Gothenburg carmaker’s stock market debut.

Volvo IPO

Volvo Cars hopes to raise $2.9bn in initial public offering

Chinese-owned Volvo Cars will make its public stock market debut on October 28th, 2021.

The company has set its sights on a $23bn valuation when it debuts on the Nasdaq Stockholm stock exchange in ten days.

In its prospectus, Volvo said it would be offering shares priced between 53-68 krona ($6.12-7.86) per share, initially offering $2.9bn worth to investors. Volvo Cars’ offering is made up of 367,647,058–471,698,113 newly issued common class B shares.

The transaction, including expected converted investments by investors AMF and Folksam, was seen resulting in a free float of about 19.5% to 24.0%, Volvo said.

That would give its owners, Geely Motors, a substantial ROI. The Chinese firm picked up Volvo from the ailing Ford back in 2010 for a cool $1.8bn.

Part of Volvo’s potential valuation is the fact it owns 50% of EV spinoff Polestar. Polestar is preparing its own IPO, which is expected to place a $20bn valuation on the premium electric car brand, due to launch in 2022.

Geely and Volvo also jointly own 8.2% of Volvo Trucks.

Volvo enjoys strong brand recognition and sales in key markets, such as China, mainland Europe, the UK, and the US.

The Swedish carmaker sold 770,000 vehicles last year, spearheaded by the popular XC family of SUVs. If it can pull of that $23bn target, Volvo would sit firmly alongside premium contemporaries like Daimler and BMW in terms of market cap, if not cars sold.

BMW shipped 2.3m cars worldwide in 2020. Mercedes-Benz shipped 2.2m.

Volvo’s electric outlook

Raising capital to develop its EV product offer and production capabilities is one of the key reasons behind this IPO. Volvo is aiming for annual car sales of 1.2m per year – an increase of 56% against 2021’s numbers.

„Volvo Cars believes that its unique structure and focused strategy makes it one of the fastest transformers in the global automotive industry, with mid-decade ambitions dedicated to electrification, sustainability and digitisation.“ the Swedish company said in a statement.

As with pretty much all legacy car manufacturers, Volvo is looking to electrify its line up away from the Polestar brand. New electric models from Volve Cars will be badged as such. Think of Polestar as the premium of the premium. Volvo Cars are more in line with midrange BMW models, like the 1, 2 and 3 series, although it does offer models that can compete in the saloon and SUV/Crossover classes.

Could Volvo become one of the top EV stocks to watch?

The float, if successful, will help fund Volvo’s electric ambitions.

By 2030, Volvo aims to have removed internal combustion engines from its range. It expects 50% of total sales to come from electric-powered vehicles by 2025. In an interesting move, the auto manufacturer also expects 50% of its sales to come from online via the Volvo website by this time too rather than bricks-and-mortar dealerships.

“There is no long-term future for cars with an internal combustion engine,” Henrik Green, Volvo Cars’ Chief Technology Officer, said earlier in the year. “We are firmly committed to becoming an electric-only car maker and the transition should happen by 2030.”

September saw global Volvo sales fall 30% year-on-year. Supply chain chaos, chipset shortages, and worker COVID-19 breakouts all impacted manufacturing and delivery at this time. Volvo has said all workers have been given vaccines in its Southeast Asia factories, but it will still be hampered by semiconductor supply constraints.

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