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

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

Stocks weaker, THG strives for credibility

Stock markets looking a tad heavy in early trade Monday with all the major bourses tracking lower amid the customary cluster of inflation and slowing growth ‘fears’. The FTSE 100 eased back 0.2% from Friday’s 18-month high, losses for the CAC and DAX were larger. It’s been a mixed bag for Asia with Japan and Australia higher and Hong Kong and mainland China lower. US futures are a shade lower after a strong finish on Friday took the S&&P 500 back to within just 2% of its all-time high. Strong bank earnings buoyed sentiment – this week sees Netflix and Tesla among the big hitters and the first of the megacap momentum type names to report. Retail sales rose 0.7% in September, beating expectations in the process to show US consumers in fine health still. Chinese growth has slowed to 4.9% in the third quarter amid a crackdown on a broad range of business sectors, an energy crisis and a property market teetering under the weight of Evergrande. On a quarterly basis, the economy grew just 0.2%. Commodities are firmer, with copper re-approaching its May peak again and oil at over $82 for WTI and $85 for Brent. Nat gas is weaker though. Benchmark 10yr Treasury yields are at 1.6%. US industrial production numbers are on the taper later today.

THG’s Matt Moulding will forego his ‘golden share’ in a bid to restore confidence in the business among City investors. The plan will enable the company to apply for a premium listing on the LSE, likely in 2022, and on the face of things should go a long way to fixing a key grievance that investors have had about the company. But we should note that this dual-class structure was only ever going to last 3 years. Bringing forward the move by a year is not exactly sweeping reform. Nor is it a magic wand. Clearly, governance concerns run much deeper than a quick bit of airbrushing can cope with. And following the disastrous capital markets day last week, there are obviously far deeper concerns about the state of the business and a lack of visibility over how different parts fit together. Shares rallied 7% before paring gains – a drop in the ocean compared with the gigantic falls in recent weeks.

Sterling remains supported following hawkish comments from the Bank of England’s governor, Andrew Bailey, who said the central bank would act to curb inflation. He said that “we, at the Bank of England, have signalled, and this is another such signal, that we will have to act [on inflation].” It’s another firm signal that the BoE will act to get ahead of the curve by going early on rate hikes, with one increasingly likely this year. Markets have already braced for a swifter tightening of monetary policy, so sterling may not get much more from the BoE now.  Still momentum sides with the bulls for the time being. GBPUSD trades above 1.37 still, but has pulled back from Friday’s month high around 1.3770 with the dollar holding slightly higher at the start of the session. Meanwhile the pound has made a fresh 18-month high versus the euro.

GBPUSD Chart 18.10.2021

Bitcoin trades higher, moving closer to its all-time again as the first Bitcoin ETFs prepare to launch. The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF, which will offer exposure to Bitcoin futures, could begin trading as early as today. It will trade under the ticker “BITO.” Unless there is a last-ditch intervention from the SEC, the ETF seems set to begin trading this week. Bitcoin rallied above $62k, moving ever closer to a fresh all-time high.

Bitcoin Chart 18.10.2021

FTSE makes new post-pandemic high, Bitcoin up on ETF hopes

GPs will be paid more to do what they used to do before the pandemic, like see patients face to face. This is what dislocation and the ‘new normal’ looks like: same service, costs more. That’s one of the reasons why inflation is not going to be as transitory as central bankers have been telling us.

Markets are not that concerned by this, so it seems. The FTSE 100 has broken out to a new post-pandemic high, stretching its recent range by a few more points on the upside to hit a high of 7,242 this morning. This marks a roughly 400pt reversal from the Sep 20th intraday low. It’s been a very tight range of that size since April but there are encouraging signs the FTSE can yet end the year at its pre-pandemic level of 7,700.

Why the rally? Key is energy – BP and Shell among the top performers of the last month and have a big index weighting. That’s BP and Shell, which are both up more than 20% in the last month as oil and natural gas prices have soared. WTI is back above $82 this morning. Next is the two big reopening stories – IAG and Rolls Royce, they are the best performers of the last month among the blue chips. Reopening of travel has been a major factor and we see more good news today with the move to lateral flow tests for international arrivals. Then third we have the big banks – HSBC, Lloyds, StanChart and NatWest have all rallied over 10% in the last month as rates have risen and the macro environment has held up pretty well. Bets the Bank of England is far closer to raising rates have helped, but global bond yields have also been moving higher. The FTSE is exposed to the winds of the global economy and trade, which despite it all are holding up well, and UK shares remain heavily discounted to peers. The FTSE 250, a better gauge of the UK economy, has ticked higher in the last few sessions but is down by around 5% from its Sep high.

Wall Street closed firmly higher yesterday amid a rush of positive earnings reports from the big banks. Walgreens and UnitedHealth also delivered positive results that indicate the large corporations are still able to deliver earnings growth and higher profits despite the rising costs. Supply chain problems will become more obvious when some more consumer discretionary names report, but so far the storm is being weathered. Meanwhile lower rates lifted the big tech boats. The 1.7% rally for the S&P 500 was its best day since March.

On the data front, US initial jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic, but inflation is not going away. US PPI was a tad cooler than expected but still running hot at 8.6% year-on-year, however core PPI ticked up to 6.8% from 6.7%. The headline 8.6% was the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in November 2010. Today – US retail sales, Empire State mfg index.

Bitcoin eyes $60,000 as traders bet the SEC is poised to allow the first exchange-traded fund based on BTC futures. The SEC is reviewing around 40 Bitcoin-linked ETFs and a report from Bloomberg suggests the regulator will approve some of these. Bitcoin spiked on the report, which indicated that Invesco and ProShares could be among the providers cleared to start trading on Bitcoin ETFs. With the kick on to the $60k level it may be a matter of time before we see a fresh all-time high.

Gold – pulling back to the 23.6% retracement as it pares gains in the face of the $1,800 test.

GBPUSD: Nudging up to the trend line again at yesterday’s 3-week high.

Stocks rally, inflation sticks, earnings on tap

Stock markets rose in early trade as investors parsed the latest signs of inflation and the central bank reaction function, whilst earnings season has got underway across the pond with some decent numbers from JPMorgan. Wall Street rose mildly, snapping a three-day losing streak. VIXX is off sharply, which maybe reflects increasing comfort that the market has stabilised, if not able to make new highs just yet.

Earnings season gives investors a chance to ignore some of the noise and market narratives and get into actual numbers. Only this time we expect the corporate reporting season to underline the inflation narrative – the question is whether it’s just inflation or stagflation. Probably we get a bit of both – watch for sandbagging. JPMorgan numbers were positive, but as ever the stock fell despite beating on the top and bottom line. Profits were boosted by better-than-expected loan losses. Trading revenues were robust, asset and wealth management strong, loan growth improving and likely to pick up in 2022. Delta Air Lines also posted numbers that topped expectations including a first quarterly profit ex-state aid since the pandemic. But higher fuel costs and other expenses will hit the fourth-quarter profit – shares fell over 5%. Today sees Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo report.

Chinese producer price inflation rose 10.7% in September, the highest level since 1996. The China PPI number is an important leading indicator for global consumer inflation. On that front, US consumer price inflation accelerated in September to 5.4%, with prices up 0.4% month-on-month. Core rose 0.2% from August, leaving prices ex-volatile items like energy and food at 4%. US PPI inflation today is seen at +0.6%, +0.5% for the core reading.

Minutes from the Fed’s last meeting indicated the US central bank is likely to commence tapering asset purchases next month. “Participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate,” the minutes said.

Post the CPI and FOMC minutes we see Treasury yields lower, the dollar lower, gold firmer. Lower bond yields lifted megacap growth, or at least provided some marginal buying excuse to do so. Inflation is still hot but not getting much hotter. Narrative has clearly exited team transitory to support team sticky. The question now is whether we are at peak in/stagflation fears and this allows the market to move on to start pricing for 12-18 months hence, by which time you’d feel a lot of the post-pandemic bottlenecks and pressures will have eased. The problem for this – still team transitory if you like – is that anything that raises the costs of getting goods from source to consumer is inflationary and the pandemic has certainly been that. But so too is the shift in globalisation trends, eg Brexit.

Sterling is firmer as the dollar weakened in the wake of the CPI report. GBPUSD has broken free of the trend resistance and with bullish MACD crossover in play. Bulls would like to see the previous two highs on the MACD cleared (red line) to confirm reversal of the downtrend since May.

GBPUSD Chart 14.10.2021

Chart: Dollar index easing back to the middle of the channel, but faces pressure from bearish MACD crossover.

Dollar Index 14.10.2021

Yesterday I noted that gold was likely to face some volatility and break free from its recent consolidation. CPI numbers were indeed the catalyst and we saw gold prices hit the highest in a month, approaching $1,800 before pausing. Near-term, consolidation again with the 1hr chart showing a clear flag pattern with the lower end capped by the 23.6% line.

Gold Chart 14.10.2021

Chart showing gold price movements on 14.10.2021

Oil has firmed, with WTI recovering the $81 handle, though price action remains sluggish and sideways for the time being. OPEC yesterday cut its global oil demand growth forecast for 2021 but maintained its 2022 view and cautioned that soaring natural gas prices could boost demand for oil products.

OPEC cuts its demand growth forecast for 2021 to 5.82 million barrels per day, down from 5.96 million bpd. As we noted some months ago, it was always likely that OPEC would need to trim its 2021 forecast since it had always backdated so much of that extra demand to come in H2. The original 6m bpd forecast implied 1m bpd in H1, 5m bpd in H2, which always seemed optimistic. Critically, though, it was not wildly optimistic – demand has come back strongly after shrugging off the summer Delta blues. The cartel maintained its 4.2m bpd growth forecast for next year. EIA inventories today – a day late due to the Columbus Day holiday – forecast 1.1m build.

Crude Oil Futures Chart 14.10.2021

Nat gas – holding the trend support and 20-day SMA, bearish MACD crossover still in force.

Natural Gas Chart 14.10.2021

Hays shares +4% as fees rose 41% from a year ago. Strong leveraged play on record numbers of job vacancies and staff shortages. Shares have been flat the last 6 months, though +17% YTD, +45% the last 12 months leaves not a lot of room left on the table.

Dunelm still performing strongly against tough comparisons. Total sales in the first quarter increased by 8.3% against a very strong comparative period in FY21, when sales grew by 36.7%. Gross margins were down 10bps and expected to be 50-75bps lower than last year for the full year. Management warned on supply chain problems and inflation but stressed that good stock levels should provide them some cover. Some way to go to for the shares to recover recent highs but encouraging signs.

Stocks lower, rates on the move

Stock markets declined on Tuesday morning following on the heels of a wobbly session on Wall Street, with losses of around 0.5% for the broader European Stoxx 600. The FTSE 100 continues to chop in a sideways direction, trading just below 7,100 it is held firmly within the range of the last 6 months, whilst the DAX is back to the lower end of the recent range to test the 200-day moving average once more. Inflation worries persist, though our tradeable US natural gas and oil prices have edged back from the highs. Yesterday saw WTI rise above $82 for a fresh multi-year peak, before paring gains to take an $80 handle this morning. Coal prices in China meanwhile have risen to a new all-time high. Copper has rallied 7% this month, though it’s still ~10% below its May peak.

 

Rates are on the move again with the 10-year US Treasury note at 1.63%, a four-month high. The 2yr note yield also notched an 18-month high. Earlier we saw UK gilt yields spiked on markets believing the Bank of England could act early to tame inflation. The simple way of looking at this is higher energy costs = higher inflation expectations = early, faster central bank tightening. Later today we hear from the Fed’s Clarida and Bostic, whilst a 10yr bond auction in the US will be watched for demand. US CPI inflation numbers are due tomorrow.

 

On Wall Street, sentiment looked fragile as early gains reversed the market closed at the session low. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, with similar losses for the Nasdaq and Dow Jones. Lots of churn, little real direction to this market right now until the macro picture on inflation and CB reaction function is better understood. Asian shares were broadly weaker as another deadline for Evergrande bond coupon payments has passed.  

 

EasyJet shares declined more than 2% despite sounding a confident tone over the reopening of the travel sector. The company reported Q4 headline losses decreased by more than half with positive operating cash generated. Management now expects a headline loss before tax of slightly more than £1.1bn. However, on a more upbeat note the company says it sees positive momentum carried into FY22 with H1 bookings double those of the same time last year. 

WTI: Finding support at the 23.6% retracement of the move up off the Oct 7th swing low.

Oil Chart 12.10.2021

GBPUSD: Pulling back from yesterday’s 2-week high, where it retreated from our trend line, now sitting on the 23.6% retracement of the Mar ‘20 to May ‘21 rally at 1.35950.

GBPUSD Chart 12.10.2021

Slow start for equities, Asos tumbles

Soft and sluggish start for European equity markets – typical Monday morning feel until we all get out of bed. FTSE 100 is out the traps better at +0.2%, with banks, basic resources and oil & gas leading the way higher this morning, DAX lower at -0.3%. Rates are up – US 10yr Treasury note north of 1.6% and 2s and 5s highest since around March 2020. Last week’s nonfarm payrolls missed expectations, but Fed chair Powell says it’s about accumulated progress, not a blowout month. After the first flush of summer and two very strong prints, jobs growth is slowing and wages are up sharply at 4.6% – the stagflation bears may point out. US stocks froze somewhat in the headlights of the miss, declining mildly on Friday but nevertheless posting a positive week. The S&P 500 posted its best since August, the Dow Jones its strongest since June.

US and inflation on deck this week will be the focus, but so too earnings season as it gets underway on Wall Street. Earnings on tap this week include JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Delta Airlines and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

As mentioned a couple of times last week, the question facing investors is whether earnings calls are positive – supply chain woes, labour shortages, etc etc. And this takes us to the point also made last week – are we at peak inflation/stagflation/supply chain fear? The macro outlook still seems somewhat cloudy in terms of growth, policy and inflation, but that does not mean equities cannot make gains – climb the wall of worry, as the saying goes. Indeed, there are signs that some of the worst of the container shipping problems are rolling over. The stagflation shadow may be around for a while, but this may now be fully ‘priced’. What we don’t know is whether equities – particularly US and megacap growth which has dominated and is now a large part of the S&P 500 by weighting – will roll over as the Fed starts to taper and we see rates move higher. Whilst it has been choppy and volatile, so far the move to 1.6% on 10s from the August lows at 1.17% has not produced panic. Since peaking in early September, the broad market is down ~3%, whilst the Nasdaq 100 is about 6% lower. Not without damage, for sure, but the move has been fairly orderly, rotational, and is seen has a ‘healthy’ type of correction that is generally supportive for equities in the longer run.

Of course, don’t expect companies to waste a good crisis. Remember the warnings due to Covid that generally turned out to be fake news. This quarter’s earnings schedule should feature some pretty heavy expectation management that may create good opportunities for entry points. Corporate sandbagging might weigh on individual names temporarily though the broad market should be able to withstand this.

Asos shares tumbled this morning as CEO Nick Beighton steps down and the company warned of continued supply chain problems. Revenues also missed expectations, but undoubtedly the departure of Beighton, who has steered the company through an incredible period of growth, is a contributing factor. A big loss for the company. The search is on for a successor who can deliver £7bn of annual revenue within the next 3 to 4 years. Annual results were impressive with sales growth of +22% and profits +36%, but expectations for the next year are being massaged down to 10-15% with first half sales in mid-single digits. Asos is not wasting this supply chain crisis to lower the bar. Zalando down more than 3% in sympathy.

Energy markets remain in sharp focus with all-time highs for Chinese coal echoing loudly this morning. Nat gas is steady around $5.70, though European prices remain volatile. Oil is higher again with WTI north of $81. Declining inventories, supply kept in check, demand recovering post the big summer Delta wave fear = bullish for oil. CFTC data shows speculators getting longer oil.

Oil Chart 11.10.2021

Sterling on the move: GBPUSD has broken resistance and cleared the recent range to reach its best level in two weeks. The pair has broken out to 1.3670 in early trade this morning with a clear bullish bias having cleared out the ranges. Sterling is firmer thanks to increased speculation the Bank of England will raise rates sooner than previously expected. MPC member Michael Saunders said households should prepare for „significantly earlier“ interest rate rises as inflation pressure rises – though he didn’t necessarily signal that November is on the table. Remember markets were pricing for Feb hike of 25bps and Saunders said that “markets have priced in over the last few months an earlier rise in Bank Rate than previously and I think that’s appropriate”. This morning the money markets have brought this forward to Dec – arguably on Saunders remarks, arguably were heading that way anyway. We should note that Saunders is on the hawkish end of the committee and voted to halt the BoE’s bond buying programme early.

GBPUSD: MACD bullish crossover, just now running into trend resistance.

GBPUSD Chart 11.10.2021

Bitcoin: momentum positive but pulling back at $57k, the 78.6% retracement.

Bitcoin Chart 11.10.2021

Stocks climb but price action still choppy

Choppy: Stocks are firmer in early trade following yesterday’s losses. For all the movement we have seen, the FTSE 100 is tracking slap in the middle of its 6-month range. But now it’s facing near-term resistance from its 50-day and 100-day averages at 7,092/7,078, which seem to be capping any rallies at the moment, whilst the 200-day support at 6,913 is looking good for a retest. The DAX moved up more than 1%, or about 170pts, to around 15,150 as it looks to recover its 200-day moving average at 15,037. You are in ranges now where you feel it could break either way – as noted earlier this week you need to feel that the repricing for risk from a different macro outlook and rate environment (higher yields) has bottomed, that the valuations are looking healthier, earnings can deliver beats not misses and that we’ve passed peak inflation/stagflation ‘fear’ (if not the actual environment, which could last for many months).

Wall Street reversed early losses to rally on signs of progress on the US debt ceiling. The Dow Jones industrial average erased a drop of 400pts to end the day up 100pts. The S&P 500 rallied 0.4% as mega-cap tech rallied as bond yields didn’t really push on and investors thought they’re close to being oversold. But it’s still all rather indecisive. The S&P 500 continues to chop around its 100-day SMA and the 4,300 area. Futures are indicating higher with 10yr yields back down to 1.52% from 1.57% hit yesterday, the highest since June.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would back a short-term motion to raise the debt ceiling. “To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will also allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December,” he tweeted.

ADP reported that private payrolls increased by 568k jobs last month, easily topping expectations. Allowing for the usual ADP caveats, this is a positive signal ahead of the nonfarm payrolls report on Friday – remember a key release ahead of the Fed’s November meeting re tapering.

Natural gas was the big story as prices spiked out of control in Europe/UK. US Henry Hub prices did reach a new multi-year high before reversing, apparently on comments from Vladimir Putin who said Russia would seek to stabilise the market and pump more gas. There is a lot going on there – political machinations aplenty and questions over whether much of the problems in the market have been Russia’s doing in the first place (weaponization of gas), but it did seem to cool the market. Prices are down 15% from yesterday’s $6.46 peak and now testing lowest in a week around $5.50 and possible bearish MACD crossover in the offing could signal a top.

Oil was weaker too as it also seemed to consolidate after extending the rally into overbought conditions – as highlighted on Tuesday. Inventories were mildly bearish too, rising 2.3 million barrels last week. The US said it was considering releasing oil reserves to cool prices – always a political hot potato in the US as much as in Europe. WTI is close to 5% below yesterday’s high at $76, possible test of near-term Fib and trend support around the $75.60 area.

Crude Oil Futures 07.10.2021

Talking of rising fuel costs, these are feeding into rising inflation expectations. UK inflation expectations topped 4% for the first time since 2008. A gauge of US inflation expectations has moved to its highest since June.

In FX, the euro made fresh YTD lows yesterday but is steadier this morning, with EURUSD back to 1.1560. Looking a tad oversold but the fresh low needs to mark a bottom soon or further selling can take off on another leg lower.

EURUSD Chart 07.10.2021

Germany Coalition Colours

After a wild ride in the polls where the CDU, Greens and SPD each took the lead one after the other in the months leading up to the election, the Germans eventually voted for None of the Above. Every party was left disappointed:

• The CDU posted their worst ever result at 24.1%
• The SPD came too close to the CDU/CSU for comfort, just ahead at 25.7%
• The Greens had hoped to clear 20% but managed barely 15% of the vote
• The FDP had hoped to come third but added less than 1 pct pt to their last result
• The Left barely scraped the 5% threshold

The two traditional large parties, the CDU and SPD, together failed to reach even 50% of the vote, demonstrating the frustration of German voters as they look for a new home.

Breakdown of German Federal Elections by party and vote share.

This decline in the two main parties means that for the first time in post-war Germany a majority coalition will require three parties. But which three will it be?

Traffic Light or Jamaica

Beep beep! We can’t help but think of frustrated drivers when we hear Germany might end up with a traffic light coalition. So-called because it would include the parties who are denoted by the colours Red (SPD), Yellow (FDP), and Green. But in a dramatic lurch off the autobahn, just switching out one large party for the other and bringing in the CDU/CSU (Black) would apparently leave us sitting in the Caribbean sunshine, with those colours representing Jamaica’s national flag.

Forget this dizzying array of colour combinations. You only need to look at the election results to know that the government will be going left and going green.

The two parties with the most momentum and therefore the most mandate to govern are the SPD and the Greens. The latter saw their vote share jump by two thirds since the last election, they’ve regularly polled in at least second place in the last three years, and they’ve firmly put environmental issues on the map. All the Chancellor candidates of the three biggest parties responded firmly that climate change is man-made when asked by Die Zeit magazine.

For the SPD, their man Olaf Scholz commands the most public support to become leader of Germany. Even one-third of CDU/CSU voters have to admit he would be a good Chancellor, according to a post-election poll from Infratest Dimap:

Graphics showing Infratest Dimap German Chancellor preference results.

That same poll shows that 60% of CDU/CSU voters think their candidate, Armin Laschet, has performed so poorly that he should resign.

Forming a coalition isn’t just about racking up the numbers: it must have public support as well. Just remember Pedro Sanchez in Spain who became Prime Minister in June 2018 despite his party holding only 84 seats. He was able to govern for almost a year before he had to go to the polls.

The CDU simply cannot claim enough support to be a senior party in government after results like these.

Christian Lindner – Court Jester, not Kingmaker

So why is the FDP still pursuing the CDU? This all comes down to their leader, Christian Lindner, who managed to resurrect the party after their disastrous election result in 2013 where they failed even to overcome the 5% threshold for parliamentary representation. He has certainly effected an impressive turnaround, enough that he almost formed part of the coalition after the 2017 election.

But he walked out of those negotiations, using words that will soon come to haunt him: “it’s better not to govern than to govern wrongly”. In doing so he forced the CDU back into a grand coalition with the SPD and subjected Germany to almost six months without a government. It became the straw that broke the camel’s back for Merkel, as she announced her retirement just seven months after that. This leaves Lindner a dangerous and unreliable coalition partner. If the SPD and Greens were to include the FDP they run the risk of always being subject to a potential walk-out, giving Lindner uncomfortable outsized veto power. The Green Party co-leader Habeck has already cautioned that a „traffic light“ coalition is not just ‘red and green with a bit of yellow speckled on it‘.

It might be bearable if Lindner were on the same policy page as the other traffic lights. But ideologically, he’s too far away from the SPD and the Greens, not least because he wants to reimpose the debt brake whilst the others understand that doing so would kill the economy. The co-leader of the SPD warned the morning after the election that ‚the FDP wants dramatic tax cuts, they don’t want to take out loans but they also want to invest. That’s voodoo economics, it doesn’t work‘.

The Political Compass test (you can take it yourself here) places parties on the left-right economic axis, along with their position as authoritarian versus libertarian. You can see from their analysis of the German parties just how far out there the FDP sit:

Graphic showing political alignment of German political parties.

But the FDP think they hold all the cards, and will try to play off the CDU against the SPD. In overplaying his hand, Lindner will fail to compromise and so will not form part of the government.

The Super Grand Coalition

For the SPD, doing a deal with the FDP is not a price worth paying. Scholz would prefer a weakened CDU to an awkward Lindner. And so, after all the sound and fury of backroom deals and coalition quibbles, the SPD and Greens will be left with two choices: Either become Germany’s first post-war minority government; or bring back into the tent a humiliated CDU/CSU who will obey their radical policy platform.

The latter would be more likely to last the parliamentary term, not least given it represents the votes of almost 70% of the population. But to sell it to the public, we must first go through the rigmarole of entertaining the FDP as a potential option. It’s only by airing how intransigent they are to the public that the electorate will understand why the FDP can’t be part of the government.

This is also required to sell the eventual coalition to the parties themselves. Both the CDU and SPD are struggling with internal party strife. Scholz in particular needs to put his stamp on the SPD having lost out on becoming their leader just two years ago. Laschet might find he loses out entirely and is reshuffled away in order for the CDU to retain some scrap of power.

The colours have been nailed to the mast: Germany is going left and going green.

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