What to do during a pandemic: DIY, order stuff online and drink?

B&Q owner Kingfisher has done well out of the pandemic as consumers have found reasons and savings to tart up their homes and gardens. Q3 numbers suggest the trend has not waned, but it may not persist at these levels for much longer.

Total group sales rose 17.6% to £3.5bn, with like-for-like sales +12.6%. Home doer-uppers were the driver with B&Q LFLs +24% on constant currency basis, whilst trade desks at Screwfix saw sales at +12.8% on the same basis. Total UK & Ireland sales +19.9% compared with +19.2% in France, +7.5% in Poland, +10.6% in Romania and +18.1% in Iberia.

Whilst uncertainty over Covid-19 and the impact of temporary lockdown restrictions in most of its markets continue to limit the near-term visibility, management feel that consumers’ “renewed focus on homes” is supportive for sales.

Whilst this may be true in the near-term, shares have already handsomely since the March lows and sales momentum is unlikely to continue through 2021 as vaccines enable a return to more normal activities. KGF may have experienced a significant pull-forward in demand that won’t continue. Shares declined almost 4% in early trade before paring losses to track –2% as of send time.

Meanwhile, it’s well understood that kicking our heels at home has boosted online purchases and Royal Mail has achieved a milestone in its history as a result of the pandemic, though the trend has been going in this direction for many years. For the first time, parcels revenue at Royal Mail exceeds letters revenue, representing 60% of total revenue, compared with 47% in the prior period.

Parcel volumes rose 31% as letter vols declined 33%. Revenues at the GLS rose 21.7%, with an operating margin of +8.9% and profits +84.4% to £166m. Royal Mail revenues are now projected to be £380 to £580 million higher year on year, but the mix change costs are increasing to £210 million.

The results indicate Royal Mail is moving in the right direction in terms of the shift to parcels, and point to the large opportunity in this space that the company has been a bit slow to adapt hitherto. But it also points to some near-term cost implications from the mix change. Shares rose over 6% in early trade.

Finally, the demon drink has been an important salve and Naked Wines has prospered from its direct to consumer model. First half revenues surged 80% year-on-year to £157.1m.

New customers strong, with active ‘Angels’ base +37% to 757k. The company is now the largest direct to consumer wine merchant in the USA and it is doing a good job of scaling up the operations to respond to the demand in its core markets with warehouse capacity +104%. Fixed costs as percentage of revenues –5 percentage points is another positive. Outlook upgraded for sales growth to achieve 55-65% this year. Shares rose 7% in early trade.

Stocks opened lower in Europe this morning after a soft session on Wall Street despite positive vaccine updates. Yesterday, stocks on Wall Street fell, whilst European stocks rose after Pfizer and Biontech said their vaccine is 95% effective after completing the final phase three trial analysis. The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 declined over 1%, and the Dow Transports index dropped 0.7% after hitting a record high.

The small cap Russell 2000 also dropped over 1% after achieving a fresh intra-day record high. There are definitely some fears that the lack of progress on a new stimulus aid package in the US is going to put pressure on corporates and earnings before the vaccines do their stuff. Meanwhile the virus is showing no signs of slowing down in its spread – New York now closing schools.

The initial reaction in the market to the Pfizer/Biontech news was positive but muted – after last Monday a result in this area had been almost fully priced in, especially since the Moderna news this week. What it does is underscore the fact that we are heading into a much brighter 2021, and whilst temporary lockdowns need to be endured, the back-to-normal trade is still ‘on’.

And there was more good health news this morning as the coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University was shown to be safe and produces an immune response in all adults, according to a Lancet report covering mid-stage trials. Phase three efficacy results will follow soon enough, with hopes high for a vaccine to be ready this year.

Sterling went on a bit of a random walk yesterday afternoon, pushing up to week highs against the euro and dollar. GBPUSD tested 1.33, close at last week’s two-month high, while EURGBP dipped to 0.89150 before the pound pared gains. Are traders sniffing around for a Brexit deal?

EIA inventories showed a rise in US crude and gasoline stocks last week. Crude inventories rose by 768k barrels in the week to Nov 13th, lower than the expected build but this seems to be down to a rise in production to 10.9m bd from 10.5m bpd in the previous week. Crude stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma rose 1.2m barrels to 61.6m barrels, the highest level since May.

With vaccines not immediately on the horizon and the virus ripping through the US, inventories should only continue to build over the winter, and this could heap pressure on pricing. WTI (Jan) tested the $41.50 again before bouncing back to $42 but has peeled off this level in early trade this morning.

Elsewhere, watch for the EU leaders meeting online to try and agree the budget after Poland and Hungary vetoed the package. US jobless claims also on tap later seen at +700k. Bitcoin has pared gains to around $17,500 with the near-term support around $17,200-300 at yesterday’s lows. Below this calls for $16,600.

Stocks ease after Moderna rally, Tesla leaps on S&P500 inclusion, OPEC eyes extending cuts

More good news on the vaccine front has delivered another confidence boost to global markets with Wall Street building on Friday’s record highs and European markets nearing breakout from the post-trough bottom-to-top range.

Moderna’s positive vaccine news came exactly one week after Pfizer’s with much the same impact on the market. It may not quite be the game-changer of a week ago, but it adds further support to some of the back-to-normal, value type rotation which has been the outstanding impact on markets so far and had reasserted itself by last Friday after a mid-week pause.

The vaccine news sent the FTSE 100 to close to its best level since the pandemic-induced sell-off.

The early June intra-day high at 6,511 is now only a few points above, whilst the record close at 6,484 is near. News that Moderna’s vaccine is almost 95% effective was not a huge surprise to the markets but underscores the faith being shown in the rotational trade out of growth and into value areas of the market.

This would tend to favour the FTSE vs say the DAX.

Again, as we saw with the Pfizer news, the Nasdaq lagged the Russell 2000, but all boats were lifted by the vaccine update. Among the biggest risers yesterday dwell in the airline/travel arena Rolls-Royce, Whitbread, IAG and Melrose, whilst Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and United Airlines led the way on the S&P 500 and Boeing notched big gains at the top of the Dow. Ocado and JustEat declined

In the meantime, we may need to endure more hardships – imminent vaccines are the perfect cover for maintaining lockdowns for longer. The economic recovery is going to be patchy and uneven across sectors as lockdowns and other restrictions – not least the fear factor remaining a strong driver of consumer habits – but the vaccine-led ‘back to normal’ direction is now at last clear.

Poor old AstraZeneca shares fell as Moderna (+9% on the day) made the announcement – there is a risk that the high efficacy of the Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna trials kills off some competing candidates in development.

Pfizer shares also fell 4% as its vaccine is not the only show in town. Biontech says its vaccine will be ready for delivery in early January.

The IATA warned that travel restrictions would curtail the rollout of vaccines – perhaps talking its book a bit but it’s got a point when it calls for the reopening of key passenger routes.

Today, European markets were flat to a little negative as investors looked to take stock of the pre-vaccine, post-pandemic outlook. Asian shares were mixed but of note the Nikkei 225 in Japan trades at its highest in almost 30 years.

Tesla shares in Frankfurt rose over 10% after gaining 13% in US after-hours trade following news that the car maker will be admitted to the S&P 500 in December. It’s now less than 10% off its all-time high. Talk of possible inclusion in the S&P 500 was a big factor in driving the stock higher earlier this year and the disappointment of being initially snubbed left the shares down. Inclusion in the index will require funds to buy the stock.

Airbnb announced plans to press on with its stock market listing this year despite the obvious hit to the travel sector from the pandemic.

In a filing on Monday the company reported it had made a profit of $219 million in the third quarter, on $1.34 billion in revenue. This was down on a small amount from the $227 million in profit during the same quarter last year – its only profitable quarter in 2019 – which was on $1.65 billion in revenue.

However, the first half of the year was exceptionally tough for Airbnb as it chalked up net losses of $916 million on revenue of $1.18 billion. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker ABNB.

The Asian recovery story has been helping to lift the mood – China industrial production up 6.9% in the 12 months to October and Japan’s 5% Q3 GDP rebound are encouraging, whilst a mega trade pact involving 15 key Asian economies is fuelling optimism. Greater Chinese influence in the region is assured – good for GDP but not so good for many other aspects of free society.

The euro shrugged off fears of a full-blown crisis within the EU after Hungary and Poland vetoed the €1.8tn budget and the €750 pandemic recovery fund. As ever with the EU, a way will be found to get around the problem. But it does raise a risk that the ultimate fund is punier than it might have been and arrives far too late. EURUSD trades at week highs above 1.1870 at send time.

Brexit – the endgame approaches. We are in the final few days of talks if, realistically, both sides want to get the treaty ratified at home.

The departure of Dominic Cummings is a problem for the UK government as it seems to strengthen the ‘deal at any cost’ voices within, which weakens the British position and likely as not has only led to the EU hardening its stance.

Expect lots of sources comments on the wires reflecting the posturing that is still going on, but the real work is taking place out of the public gaze. David Frost, the UK’s top negotiator, is reported to have said a deal could be done by next Tuesday.

Cable is steady at 1.32.

Rear-view economic data is meaningless right now due to the combination of near-term lockdowns scrubbing a few percentage points off activity and growth, and the prospect of vaccines seeing everything back to normal next year.

Nevertheless, US retail sales on tap later seen at +0.5% (+0.6% core).

Retailers have done well during the pandemic as consumers have spent less on experiences like holidays and dining out and more on stuff from gadgets to groceries.

But how have consumers in the US fared since the end of $600-a-week stimulus cheques? September saw a blow-out for the sector as retail sales grew at the fastest pace in three months, rising 1.9% after a +0.6% move in August.

Consumers have built up a lot of savings and are ready to deploy these in the economy – October may see another strong month though the election may be a factor.

In September department stores sales rose 9.7%, whilst clothing sales were up 11%, but are still down 7.3% and 12.5% respectively on last year. Meanwhile, Fed chair Jay Powell is to deliver a keynote speech at the 25th Bay Area Business Hall of Fame event, where Nancy Pelosi will be attending.

Oil prices were supported as the JMMC meetings continue with a clear indication that OPEC and allies are looking to postpone the planned increase in production in January by several months.

As part of the deal struck back in April between OPEC and allies led by Russia, daily production cuts would be reduced by 2 million barrels per day from January.

However, with demand slowing amid fresh lockdowns and stifled consumer confidence, it’s thought that OPEC+ will maintain cuts of 7.7 million bpd for a further three to six months, instead of tapering the cut to 5.7 million bpd in January. Forecasts for weaker demand in 2021, with the surplus seen at a max of 1.5m bpd vs 0.2bpd under previous forecast, indicate that OPEC+ will need to act.

Stocks mixed after vaccine melt-up, watch for ongoing rotation

First the relief, now for a wee dose of reality. Stock markets are looking a little more cautious after yesterday’s massive surge on news that Pfizer and Biontech have a vaccine that is 90% effective – investors will now show a tad more caution that the kneejerk rally is out of the way.

Markets have a habit of overshooting on the way down, and on the way back up. Nevertheless, an effective vaccine changes the game for investors, at the very least in terms of relative valuations and the premium we are willing to pay for growth.

We have a lot more clarity now than a week ago for two big reasons. Joe Biden is all but certain to become the next president of the United States. More importantly, a vaccine is coming.

The worst fears – of enduring year after year of masks, of having semi-permanent lockdowns and restrictions on our liberties lasting for ever – should not come to pass.

All we need now is a Brexit deal this week as the cherry on the cake. What we in Britain and Europe need more than anything is a confidence injection – and a working vaccine does that. A comprehensive FTA with the EU would help, too.

The FTSE 100 rose over 4.6%, settling just under 6,200. The DAX rose almost 5% and the CAC in Paris was up almost 8%. US stocks opened considerably higher as they took the cue from Europe, but closed less in the green.

The Dow rallied 800 points but that was about half the gains at the high of the day, which was a new intra-day peak. The S&P 500 finished up over 1% but also at the lows of the day.

In a clear signal of a major rotation from growth to value, the Nasdaq 100 fell over 2%, while the Russell 2000 climbed over 4%.

This is a trade that seems to have legs. Due to the makeup of indices and heavy reliance on the big tech names (5 big tech names make up about a quarter of the S&P 500), rotation of this nature may act as a headwind and means it’s not a straight line up.

It will be messy as portfolios rebalance and we can expect more outsize moves in some of the most exposed stocks to the vaccine. But, overall, the landscape for equity markets is favourable.

Yesterday we saw some very high volumes in some of the stocks worst affected by the pandemic on the platform.

S&P 500 volume leaders included American Airlines (+15%), Pfizer (+7.7%) and Carnival (+39%).

Netflix (-9%) and Zoom (-17%) indicated the degree to which the stay-at-home trade was unwound.

On the UK market, there was big volume in Cineworld (+40%), IAG (+25%) Rolls-Royce (+44%), whilst Ocado (-12%) and JustEat (-9%) were offered as part of the rotation.

We do have some uncomfortable questions to answer – does a vaccine on the near horizon preclude more stimulus? Perhaps, a lot depends on the Senate runoffs in Georgia, but the US economy needs a bridge to get to the sunlit uplands of vaccine country.

Europe can’t even get its stimulus delivered, whilst in the UK the government continues to offer support to business but does not seem willing to acknowledge the other problems created by lockdowns – a vaccine may give them further excuse to restrict liberties as ‘it will only be for a little longer’.

The vaccine won’t stop this from being a very tough winter in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere. Data this morning showed the UK unemployment rate in the three months to September rose to 4.8% as the number of people out of work rose by 243,000.

Does a vaccine change the game for the Fed? It ought to, but if experience is anything to go by, the Fed won’t want to rock the boat anytime soon. Several Fed speakers on tap this week will give a clue – expect them to stress the need for fiscal support now as a vaccine won’t available en masse for some months. Overall, the outlook for markets is a lot more positive.

European markets are trading a bit mixed this morning. The FTSE 100 rose above 6,200 while the DAX faded 0.5% to 13,000.

Travel stocks rose again on Tuesday, building on some very big gains notched in the previous session. So too did banks – a vaccine will steepen the yield curve which will make a significant difference to banks’ net interest margins. It should also help limit credit impairments.

Treasury yields rose – the US 10-year yield leapt to 0.94%, the highest since March, which sent the 2yr/10yr spread to its widest in almost three years.

Gold sank to the bottom of the recent range, testing the Sep lows at $1,850 before catching some bid to recover to around $1,887 this morning. UK 10 year gilt yields also jumped to its highest level in some months at 0.377%.

In FX, the vaccine could help risk-on currencies like sterling and the Aussie. GBPUSD advanced to 1.32 and trades with upside momentum in play.

Brexit talks this week threaten headline risk but increasingly the market believes that the posturing over fishing rights and level playing fields will give way to the cold, hard reality of securing a deal in time for Christmas.

Vaccine winners and losers

Stocks have rallied on news that we could soon have an effective vaccine against Covid-19.

Initial optimism is exceedingly high and could fade – we should not be jumping any guns here – but ultimately a vaccine that works effectively would be good for the economy and favours the cyclical parts of the market that we thought were going to struggle as a split Congress meant less stimulus.

A working vaccine is positive for cyclicals and value – the reopening trade essentially. The dichotomy in the market is stark: the biggest gainers in a frantic session today are among those stocks worst hit by the pandemic – travel and leisure chiefly, whilst Covid winners are doing poorly. We should be careful in overreacting – but it’s clear the market is forward-looking and pricing in recovery in a number of beaten-down areas next year.

Several questions remain, which won’t be answered right away.

When does the vaccine get rolled out fully? So how quickly are we ‘back to normal’ effectively? The UK has pre-ordered 30m doses of the vaccine, but what about other countries?

Given the US election result, does this make it harder to agree stimulus that is required now for the economy?
If this is a higher yield, higher inflation world, how does the Fed start to adjust? Will it even consider thinking about thinking about raising rates? Lots of Fed speakers this week to frantically rewrite their speeches.

WINNERS

Major indices (ex-Nasdaq). The Dow is surging 1,500pts and set to open at a record high. The FTSE 100 is up over 5% with all sectors green, led by energy and financial and Utilities, Tech and Healthcare at the bottom but still positive as the news lifted the boats.

The Dow Jones shows how stocks are performing well thanks to the positive vaccine news.

Travel stocks like IAG +30% and EasyJet +26% are among the best risers on the UK market, whilst Rolls-Royce +46% led the charge. Cineworld +47% and Carnival +31% also indicative of a major rotation back into these stocks that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In the case of Cineworld the 9.4% stock out on loan points to a nasty short squeeze that may exaggerate the move.

Pubs and restaurants like JDW +15% and Restaurant Group +26% were among the other big gainers from the news. Back to normal means back to the pub – happy days!

Energy – A vaccine should help boost demand more quickly. As crude prices rallied, Shell +12% and BP +15% boosted the FTSE 100.

Financials – A vaccine is a yield steepener – Lloyds and Barclays both +10%.

Crude oil naturally rose on expectations that a working vaccine will equate to a swifter demand recovery, at least much quicker than we would have thought only yesterday.

These stocks are winning with the news of the covid vaccine progress.

 

LOSERS

Covid winners: Stocks that won because of the pandemic are naturally on the hook. Stay at home and WFH stocks fell, hurting the Nasdaq. Zoom –15% and Peloton –11% pre-market is indicative of the rotation out of these Covid winners into reopening trades.

US tech is suffering as a potential lockdown solution emerges.

 

UK stocks in the red included the main winners from the pandemic – Ocado, Fresnillo and Kingfisher (back to normal means no DIY – oh happy days)

Stocks like these are slipping under the covid vaccine announcement.

Keep an eye on these stocks when the US cash equities open later and (Covid Winners Basket).

These stocks could go up or down, depending on vaccine progress.

Bonds – US Treasuries were offered with the 10-year yield spiking north of 0.92%. Inflation could come through next year with large excess savings to be deployed in many sectors of the economy, notably in travel.

Gold – higher yields weighed on gold prices, though we would expect inflation expectations to rise and this could offer ongoing support to prices.

 

Gold is in an odd place, thanks to Pfizer's vaccine progress.

Pfizer, Biontech vaccine news spurs gains

Stock markets surged on some extremely positive news from Pfizer and Biontech, who say their vaccine is 90% effective in phase 3 clinical trials.

From tracking just under 6,000 all morning the FTSE 100 rallied over 100 points on the news, whilst e-minis went up 70 points or so.

The Dow is now seen up 1,300 points – coming on top of the wave of relief from Joe Biden’s victory it’s proving a spicy cocktail for stocks.

I won’t lay with lots of comment about the trials as I am no vaccine expert, all I can say is this is a good news day. Whilst we are not there yet, news that this vaccine could be highly effective is the best thing markets could hope for.

Public health officials will remind us there is a long road ahead, and many challenges will be faced along the way, but there is an enormous sense of optimism today – light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the vaccine deniers won’t get in the way, but 2021 just got a lot brighter.

E-mini futures – spot when the vaccine news broke

US Futures performance on Pfizer announcement.

Stocks sink as Trump tests positive for Covid-19

President Trump and First Lady Melania have tested positive for Covid-19. How has the market reacted, and what does this mean for the US Presidential Election?

Stay on top of the polls and all the latest election news with our dedicated US Presidential Election site.

Stocks open higher ahead of busy central bank week

It looks like a second wave, but not as we know it. Even if cases are starting to rise in Britain and elsewhere, deaths are not picking up in the same way as before – younger, less vulnerable people are getting the virus this time it seems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recorded a record one-day rise in cases globally. France recorded a record number of new infections – some 10k over the weekend. There is not the appetite for blanket shutdowns of the economy again – this is good, but the ongoing fear factor will keep a lid on animal spirits.

And governments could be spooked into heavy-handed responses, even if they don’t want to kneecap the economy.

AstraZeneca resumes vaccine trial

Fear can be vanquished with a vaccine, so it’s good news that AstraZeneca and Oxford University are resuming trial of their vaccine candidate, after it was paused a week ago. News on a vaccine – good or bad- is set to emerge in October, it seems.

Pfizer says there is a good chance it will deliver data from its late stage trials of its candidate vaccine, developed with German drug maker BioNTech. If approved, it could be available to Americans by the end of the year. The question is whether this may be needed – Sweden seems to be showing the way towards herd immunity.

With vaccines and herd immunity, unemployment becomes a much bigger problem. The end of the furlough scheme raises the prospect of employment rates reaching a cliff-edge. Unemployment could spiral and redundancies are taking place at twice the rate of the last recession. US initial jobless claims last week indicated the recovery is slow, even if job openings are more encouraging.

BoE to signal more stimulus this week?

This could make this week’s Bank of England meeting interesting. It has enough ammo in the quantitative easing quiver to last until the end of the year, but with only two more scheduled before 2020 is over, the Bank will need to lay the ground for more stimulus. Governor Andrew Bailey said central banks should go “big and fast” with QE and other stimulus at times of crisis.

If there an explosion in unemployment, this line will be tested. I’d expect the Bank to sound more dovish this week, although it is unlikely to alter policy so far in advance of the November Budget, in which the government show its fiscal hand.

Of course, there is still time for Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to extend furlough, as many are urging him to do. UK 2-year gilt yields hit fresh record lows this morning with the market seemingly convinced the BoE will give a very strong signal it is preparing to deliver additional stimulus – most likely in the form of increased asset purchases rather than a descent into a vortex of negative rates.

The problem of furlough schemes and extending them is of course one of productivity and the opportunity cost of maintaining people in a kind of output stasis. Zombie workers and zombie companies are a growing problem. Indeed, new research shows the number of zombie companies in the US is near the 2000 record.

European stocks build on decent week

European markets opened higher on Monday, with the FTSE 100 solidifying above 6,000 and the DAX ticked up to 13,300. This comes after a decent week for European markets that contrasted with Wall Street weakness.

The Nasdaq finished last week down –4%, with the S&P 500 dropping –2.5% over the five days. The Nasdaq broke under its 50-day simple moving average, whilst the S&P 500 traded through it at the lows but held it at the close.

European markets fared better as they were much less exposed to the sell-off in tech – some rotation taking place as investors look to ‘reopening’ stocks over the Covid-19 winners, but it was far from anything significant.

Indeed, in dollar terms, the moves in the FTSE 100 for example were far less impressive. Investors in the US may also be paying attention to the presidential race – Biden’s tax plans would knock earnings, although it’s far tighter race than the national polls indicate. US futures are higher and have cleared the Friday peak struck during the London morning session.

Abenomics safe as Suga elected new leader?

Suga-high for Japanese equities? In Japan, Yoshihide Suga, the former chief cabinet secretary, looks set to replace Shinzo Abe as prime minister after being elected to the lead the country’s ruling Liberal Democrat Party. Suga has pledged to maintain Abenomics and seems to be causing few ripples in the market.

He will only have a year to make an impact though before the next elections are scheduled – he could choose to call a snap election to shore up his support, but the coronavirus might get in the way.

The Nikkei 225 edged up 0.65%, while the yen was steady against the dollar at 106.

M&A activity is rising and there are deals aplenty – TikTok seems to be heading the way of Oracle, whose chairman is a Trump support, whilst SoftBank is offloading Cambridge-based Arm to Nvidia.

Meanwhile Gilead, whose remdesivir antiviral is treating Covid-19 patients, is buying Immunomedics for $21bn. With vast sums of private equity to be deployed, there may be a slew of deals and takeovers as we head into the autumn.

Brexit and Federal Reserve to weigh on cable, gold rangebound

In FX, ongoing talks between the UK and EU look set to be the chief driver for GBP crosses. However, a Federal Reserve meeting this week will impact the USD side of cable. There is not a new to say about the Brexit talks after last week – we await to see whether the discussions can get any further.

Usual headline risks to cable, but GBPUSD could get squeezed higher absent of any negative news. GBPUSD traded at 1.2840 in early trade having made a firm near-term base at the 200-day EMA at 1.2750. Downtrend still in force until the 1.30 handle is recovered.

Elsewhere, gold is still trading in a very narrow range around the $1940 level. US breakevens have come down a bit, US 10s are hunkered in around 0.66% and real rates (10-year TIPS) have just come down a touch.

Remember it’s Fed week. The Federal Reserve convenes on September 15th and 16th for the first time since Jerome Powell signalled that the central bank would be prepared to tolerate higher inflation as a trade-off for a swifter economic recovery and jobs growth.

Unemployment has fallen since the pandemic peak but is not improving quickly enough. The Fed is not expected to announce any fresh policy change but will reinforce Powell’s message from Jackson Hole on the policy shift.

Indeed the main focus for the Fed right now is actually not monetary policy but fiscal as members await any move in Washington to deliver a fresh stimulus package.

Global equities up on vaccine, trade hope

You just can’t keep ‘em down: Stocks surged again as vaccine hopes and positive language around US-China trade lifted the boats. The S&P 500 closed at a new record high at 3,431, led by Energy and Financials, two of the most beaten-up sectors, with Technology and Healthcare were at the bottom.  European stocks caught a strong bid with the major bourses rallying around 2% on Monday. Asian markets followed the lead overnight, with Tokyo up more than 1% and although Shanghai and Hong Kong were a tad weaker.

Germany Q2 GDP slump revised, European stocks firm

Today, the narrative is much the same as yesterday. European stocks continued to advance with gains of around 1% as risk sentiment remained robust after official figures showed Germany’s economy shrank less than previously thought in the second quarter. The numbers are still terrible: output declined by –9.7%, but this was an improvement on the –10.1% drop in the original release. Germany’s Ifo business survey showed sentiment is on the rise too.

The euro caught some bid after these two releases to advance above 1.1830 and test trend resistance having come under a bit of pressure yesterday evening again as the near-term downtrend remains the dominant force. Yesterday’s high at 1.1850 is the bulls’ target and this needs to be cleared to suggest the bears have lost control.

The DAX rose above 13,200 to take it near the post-trough high at 13,313 hit on July 21st. The FTSE 100 advanced towards 6,200 with beaten up travel & leisure stocks among the leaders. Both pared gains after the first hour of trading however. US futures point to further gains on Wall Street.

Apple continues to surge, US and Chinese officials discuss trade

Apple shares rose over $500 as investors continued to pile in and analysts noted that its forward earnings multiples are not that rich after all, and certainly not as expensive as rivals. Apple has transformed itself from a pure hardware manufacturer to a full service led tech platform and therefore the stock has rerated.

Top US and Chinese officials discussed the phase one trade agreement after a meeting scheduled for earlier this month was postponed. Both sides are seeing progress in areas like the increase in purchases of US products by China.

The two sides also discussed how China will ensure greater protection for intellectual property rights, remove impediments to American companies in the areas of financial services and agriculture, and eliminate forced technology transfer, the US Trade Representative said in a statement. This came after the US and EU agreed to reduce tariffs on some goods.

AstraZeneca begins antibody trials, economists concerned over double-dip recession

Meanwhile vaccine news is still helping rather than hindering risk sentiment. AstraZeneca said today it has begun the phase one clinical trial of its monoclonal antibody combination for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. However, Hong Kong has reported its first confirmed coronavirus re-infection, with a man found to have been infected months apart by different strains of the virus.

Economists remain concerned about the double dip: according to the National Association for Business Economics, there is a one in four chance the US economy could fall into a double-dip recession. Two-thirds of economists surveyed think the world’s largest economy remains in recession.

Republican convention kicks off with warnings of election rigging

President Trump got the Republican convention off to a belligerent start as he warned of a rigged election as he sought to cast doubt over the voting process ahead of the election. I don’t think the market really needs to worry about there not being a smooth handover of power, but I would think that a close result could see Trump launch multiple legal challenges which would create the kind of uncertainty markets don’t like.

Elsewhere, gold continues within the near-term downtrend but is yet to make a new low since the $1911 trough last week and is catching support from the longer-term rising trend line. US real rates (10yr TIPS) slipped further into negative territory again.

BT shares leap as European equities trade higher

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

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

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

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

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

BT surges as it readies takeover defence

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

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

Deadlocked Brexit talks weigh on Sterling

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

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

What we’re watching this week:

Republican convention fires campaign starting pistol

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

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

Jackson Hole

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

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

Economic data to watch

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

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

Earnings to watch

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

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

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

Don’t become immune to what’s going on

We all want a vaccine to Covid-19 to be made, but let’s not become immune to the bad data. It’s very easy to be inoculated against the collapse in economic activity because we’ve had nothing but bad news for 6 months; what you could term the ‘new normal’.

Just as we are at risk of sleepwalking into a lower level of existence, worse education outcomes for our children, persistently lower incomes and reduced social interactions against our will, it’s far too easy to watch the economic data and think it’s not so bad after all. The truth is it remains shocking and will get worse.

UK debt rises, Spanish firms teeter on the brink of collapse

UK debt has risen above £2 trillion, or 100.5% of GDP. This need not be a problem in itself – governments in control of their own currency don’t need to ‘pay it back’ by returning to austerity and raising taxes. One in eight UK workers remains on furlough. Meanwhile 25% of Spanish businesses are in a ‘technical bankruptcy’, it was reported this morning. Germany wants to furlough workers for years, which would lead to a lost generation of zombie employees working at zombie companies. It needn’t be this way.

Weakness in US labour market highlights recovery obstacles

It was a soft initial claims print from the US Department of Labor – over 1.1m vs the sub-one-million number expected, which highlights the lumpy nature of the recovery now that the easy wins are behind us. However, the number of continuing claims and the unemployment rate were better.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 10.2% for the week ending August 8th, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from the previous week’s 10.6%. Continuing claims were down over 600k to 14.8m, which was a tad better than the 15m anticipated. Giving with one hand but taking away with the other, but jobless claims are still extraordinarily high.

Wall Street hooked on stimulus

Of course, stocks don’t really care much. The Federal Reserve has successfully killed off bear markets as comprehensively as the passenger pigeon. If we define a bear market as when the S&P 500 declines 20% from its previous peak and ends when it reaches a trough and then subsequently rises 20%, then the 2020 bear market was by far and away the shortest on record.

The FTSE 100, which is a much better proxy for economic growth than the US markets are, has languished and is struggling to hold onto the 6,000 level this morning. Indeed equity markets in Europe were mixed after a solid session in Asia. Wall Street was a little higher yesterday as investors continue to hold grimly to record highs.

Eurozone PMIs undershoot expectations

A slew of Eurozone PMIs disappointed. Confidence in France seemed a good deal weaker than expected. The Manufacturing PMI fell under 50, indicating businesses are less confident than they were the previous month. Rising Covid cases in Europe and worries about a big second wave were cited. Germany’s survey was more positive but still fell short of expectations. PMIs may show lots more confidence, or they may not. But as detailed in the week ahead, there is so much wrong with these diffusion indices that we should be paying too much attention to them.

European equity indices opened higher, dropped sharply after the French miss and recovered on the more robust German figures. The euro fell on the softer-than-forecast PMIs, while sterling was close to its recent highs after putting in a strong session yesterday afternoon and overnight in Asian trade. Cable was a little softer having risen as high as 1.32550.

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