Sterling highest vs euro since Feb ’20, UK inflation spikes

Chances the Bank of England raising interest rates next month increased as UK inflation surged to a 10-year high last month. October’s CPI inflation hit 4.2%, above the 3.9% estimated and well north of the Bank’s 2% target. It marked a steep acceleration from the 3.1% reading in September and underlines that inflation is becoming more of a problem, not less. Core inflation also surged to 3.4%. The good news is that pay is up 5.8%. Will the Bank raise rates next month? The MPC noted in November that the decision not to raise rates was largely because they wanted to get more information about the health of the labour market. So, coupled with the strong employment data yesterday, the case for the Bank of England to act now is compelling. That does not, however, mean a hike next month is a done deal – unreliableness breeds uncertainty even when it seems obvious.  And we must stress that there are reasons to doubt the BoE will act: 1) there are still plenty on the MPC who are wedded to the transitory narrative – the Hawks v. Doves balance favours the latter camp still as the 7-2 vote indicated, 2) does the Bank think that hiking now would amount to a policy mistake a la Trichet? If so then even if they do feel that inflation is becoming unanchored and problematic, they may chicken out of hiking due to fears of killing off the recovery, and 3) do other risks to the economic outlook like Brexit mean hiking is simply not appropriate at this time? Whatever they think, the problem for the market is in not being able to trust statements about ‘acting on inflation’.   

 

GBPUSD rose after the CPI was released but has pared a lot of those initial gains vs the dollar, but cable still trades mildly higher this morning. But the dollar is something of a brick wall right now so maybe not the best gauge – the pound is doing much better against the euro, hitting its best level since Feb 2020. Euro weakness is the main theme here so this is likely a much better play on sterling strength and monetary policy divergence than cable is given where Fed and ECB are right now.

 

European stock markets were flat/mixed at the start of the session after Wall Street rose on Tuesday following some strong retail sales numbers. We also had strong earnings from Walmart and Home Depot, which topped the Dow. Better-than-expected retail sales figures helped lift bond yields, with US 10s touching 1.65%, its highest in three weeks. Gold pulled back as a result, whilst the dollar is at its highest since July 2020. 

 

The FTSE 100 trades lower by around 0.1-0.2% in early trade, whilst the DAX, CAC and Euro Stoxx 50 up by a similar kind of margin. Shares in Marks and Spencer traded –2% on a downbeat note from Jefferies, which downgraded the stock to hold from buy after the recent rally. They say the ‘easy lever of outsized earnings surprises on depressed multiples has been pulled’. This goes to what we talked about on the earnings update recently – easy wins behind, but much harder yards ahead in getting the stock back to 2015-18 levels. 

 

Bullish note from Goldman Sachs on US equities, who forecast that the S&P 500 will climb by 9% to 5100 by the end of 2022. Kostin and co write: “The S&P 500 P/E multiple will remain roughly flat, ending 2022 at 21.6x. After two years of near-zero interest rates, the Fed will likely begin hiking in July. 10-year Treasury yields will rise to 2% by the end of next year, but be offset by a declining Equity Risk Premium as policy uncertainty declines and consumer confidence rises. Strong corporate and household demand for equities will help support valuation.” 

 

GS’s top tips are: “(1) Own virus- and inflation-sensitive cyclicals; (2) Avoid high labor cost firms; (3) Buy growth stocks with high margins vs. low margin or unprofitable growth stocks.” 

 

Tesla things … new filings showed Elon Musk sold almost $1bn more in stock as shares in Tesla rose 4%. Meanwhile, Tesla is being sued by JPMorgan for $162m over Musk’s ‘funding secured’ tweet and losses that ensued for the bank as a result of the stock price movement.

 

Chart: EURUSD tests key 61.8% retracement level of the move higher from March 2020 to January 2021 at around 1.1290, though the euro has pared earlier losses that saw it touch 1.1265. Nevertheless, any breaks below 1.13 keeps sellers in charge.

Why are investors not bothered about inflation?

Inflation, inflation everywhere – CPI in the US the highest in 30 years, in Japan the most in 40 years. Producer price inflation is also soaring across the board – last week’s Chinese PPI shot up to a 26-year high. Friday saw yet more evidence as German wholesale prices also jumped. In October German wholesale selling prices rose by 15.2% year-over-year. This was the highest annual rate of change since March 1974 after the first oil crisis. It also marks a steep acceleration in recent months as in September and in August the annual rates of change had been +13.2% and +12.3%, respectively. University of Michigan one year ahead consumer inflation expectations rose again to 4.9% from 4.8%. Meanwhile, the consumer sentiment figure dropped to a 10-year low – worse even than at the peak of the market panic a year and a half ago. On Friday the US 10 year break-even inflation rate rose to 2.76%, its highest since 2006. Real yields meanwhile sank to record lows.

 

Yet investors don’t seem that bothered, as a combination of weak consumer sentiment and higher inflation is somehow not weighing on stocks: US and European equities keep making new records. Ultimately, the market remains fairly comfortable with fundamentals as earnings growth has been better than expected, as companies seem broadly able to maintain margins by passing on their higher costs to consumers. 

 

Monetary policy remains incredibly accommodative and although inflation is high the market thinks a) the Fed and others won’t crack and raise rates early or more importantly, aggressively (a couple of hikes next year would still leave policy very loose) and b) inflation probably is transitory – markets are largely buying the central bank line for now as evidenced by the lack of movement in the bond market. TINA – there is no alternative – is still at work since you can’t get any real return on govt bonds – real rates are so low (negative) that you have to stick your money into equities to avoid the erosion of inflation. Inflation coupled with benign central bank policy so far seems good for stocks since the real risk-free rate is so low. The crux of it is that nominal rates should be a lot higher to compensate for inflation, but central banks are keeping them artificially low, which is suppressing everything and letting equities go higher. And longer-end yields are not marching higher since there is no great confidence in the ‘roaring twenties’ steepener trade that was talked about a lot at the start of the year but has since become overshadowed by the slower growth, stagflation narrative. 

 

When a pullback? The S&P 500 closed up 0.7% on Friday but did end the week slightly lower, breaking a 5-week win streak. And while lower on the week, it closed on Friday well off its lows and is just 0.8% off its all-time high. It’s a pretty mild pullback if it only lasts a couple of days. Bank of America is not so optimistic for Europe: “We expect the anti-goldilocks combination of weakening growth momentum and rising real bond yields to weigh on European equities, with a projected 10%+ downside by early next year, leaving us negative.” European stock markets are mixed at the start of trading on Monday – mild gains in Paris; London and Frankfurt flat. Rising cases and new lockdowns in Europe are something to watch, though as I said earlier consumer sentiment does not equal stock market sentiment. Nevertheless, the BofA analysis is to be considered. 

 

This week the focus around the inflation narrative switches to the UK with the release on Wednesday of the latest CPI data. The Bank of England could use a hot reading to finally act, but there is yet a lot of uncertainty about where the MPC is on raising rates. As I have discussed several times, it’s got a communication problem. Inflation fell to 3.1% in September from 3.2% in August but the drop was a blip – expect prices to continue to rise. Economists and the BoE think 5% is possible in the coming months. There seems be no excuse for the Bank not to pull the trigger, but the MPC remains divided. Supply chain problems can’t be solved by central banks, but I find it hard to reconcile ZIRP with inflation persistently so high. 

FTSE eases back from post-pandemic high

Mixed start for stocks following a solid performance in the prior session and a mixed one in the US. After a slow start European stock markets – the Stoxx 600 and DAX – eked out fresh records Thursday and the FTSE 100 managed to hit its highest level in 20 months. In the US, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 rose but the Dow was dragged into the red by Disney. This morning, the FTSE 100 is down 0,3% and the rest of the major bourses are trading a little firmer. No sign yet of any major drawdown or volatility, but it seems too quiet.

 

Inflation is front of mind for investors this week after the US CPI report, which has driven a sharp rally in gold and the US dollar. Today’s University of Michigan inflation expectations will be closely watched, although it is unlikely to drive any material shift in the post-CPI momentum. Expectations are forecast to rise to 5% from 4.8% last month. We’re also watching the UoM consumer sentiment data and JOLTS job openings – a marker for the health of the US labour market, although these days, not such a great signal due to the massive mismatches and dislocation in the market post-pandemic.

 

Gold has pulled back from a 5-month high hit in the wake of the inflation data, holding around $1,855 in early trade. USD is solid to start the session with DXY consolidating above 95. Oil fell with spot WTI at $80 amid a resurgent US dollar and uncertainty over the path of US policy in terms of addressing higher gasoline prices. Higher case rates in Europe and Asia may also weigh – Austria heading to full medical apartheid with a lockdown for the unvaccinated. 

 

AstraZeneca shares fell 3% after earnings missed expectations, though it said it would start making a profit from its Covid vaccine from the fourth quarter onwards. ‘The Company is now expecting to progressively transition the vaccine to modest profitability as new orders are received. COVID‑19 vaccine sales in Q4 2021 are expected to be a blend of the original pandemic agreements and new orders, with the large majority coming from pandemic agreements,” the firm said in today’s Q3 trading update. Earnings per share of $1.08 was short of expectations but management stuck to its full-year guidance. Shares are up 24% YTD and it remains in a good place to tap growing demand. 

 

Shares in EV darling Rivian soared by another 22% to $123. Tesla ticked lower by just 0.4% after it filings showed founder Elon Musk had offloaded $5bn in stock. At the incredible valuation for Rivian, Musk tweetedI hope they’re able to achieve high production & breakeven cash flow. That is the true test. There have been hundreds of automotive startups, both electric & combustion, but Tesla is only American carmaker to reach high volume production & positive cash flow in past 100 years.” 

FTSE leads as European shares stumble

  • FTSE 100 new post-pandemic high, Auto Trader leads, miners gain
  • Wall Street logs first back-to-back decline in a month
  • Musk sells $5bn in Tesla stock, Disney misses

Stocks fell on Wall Street after yesterday’s blowout inflation print, which showed prices rising in the US at the fastest pace in 30 years. Not only the pace but the breadth – the reading showed a broadening out in inflationary pressures and pointed to even racier readings over the coming months. Core inflation year-over-year could be heading to 6.5%, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics. Does it make the Fed hike earlier? Futures prices indicate the market pulled forward the bet on lift-off for rates from September to July, so there was some response in expectation the Fed might actually respond to the soaring inflation. That print was so hot markets are going to have to think more seriously about inflation and a possible Fed reaction.

Rates moved, slowly then all of a sudden, on the back of inflation hitting 6.2% in October. Benchmark 10yr Treasury yields enjoyed their biggest one-day rise in a year and across the curve we saw movement higher. But not fast enough – real rates plunged to hit record lows, sending gold to $1,868, its highest since June. A US holiday means no major data later in the session, but stock markets remain open. UK GDP figures today showed the economy grew by 1.3% in the third quarter – anaemic at best and in real terms not growing.

The dollar has rallied aggressively in the wake of the inflation report. The dollar index blew through a heap of horizontal resistance to take a 95 handle and we have fresh yearly lows for the euro and sterling. The mood seems to be that the Fed will move first – do not discount the Bank of England just yet. December remains ‘live’, even if we cannot believe anything Bailey says now. Another factor in the mix – there is a level of Brexit headline risk premium attached to the pound right now that we maybe haven’t really contended with for some time. Threats are flying around but so far, no action to destabilise the pound. The ECB keeps pushing back against any kind of rate hike talk for 2022.

European stocks were broadly weaker this morning after the first back-to-back declines on Wall Street for a month. Paris eked a small gain as ArcelorMittal posted its best quarterly profit in 13 years. We’d been suggesting a pullback was likely for the major US markets; so far it’s only mild but if inflation fears lead to expectations the Fed will tighten policy then stocks could have further to decline. As far as European markets go, watch cases on the continent and the political appetite to reimpose restrictions.

But UK stocks are outperforming. The FTSE 100 made a fresh post-pandemic high at 7,368 this morning, albeit supported chiefly by the weaker pound. Miners rose, but Autotrader stole the show with a pop of 11% after posting record half-year revenues and profits. Burberry was at the back of the class with Johnson Matthey; the former declining 9% despite revenues recovering, profits beating expectations and the board reinstating the dividend and starting a buyback programme. For the latter, a decision to offload its capital intensive battery operation dealt a blow to hopes it could be a major player in the EV growth space in the coming years – shares declined more than 17%.

More Musk things: the mercurial Tesla chief has sold about $5bn worth of his stock this week, according to regulatory filings published last night. About a fifth of the sale was part of a pre-arranged stock trading plan adopted in September. The rest at the behest of his followers on Twitter. He’d have to sell more than twice than again to meet his 10% target offered to followers on Twitter. Shares rallied 4% on Wednesday to reduce the weekly losses somewhat, and after hours trading places them about 2-3% higher this morning. Meanwhile, rival Rivian got off to a racing start to life on the Nasdaq as shares jumped by a third from the offer price to $100, at one point reaching $119 in a frenzied market debut.

And finally, Disney shares are 5% lower in the pre-market after it missed on revenues and profits. EPS of $0.37 vs $0.51 expected, while revenues of $18.53bn were a little light of forecast. Disney+ added 2.1m subscribers – slowdown to be expected as economies emerge from lockdowns. CEO Chapek reiterated the goal to hit 230-260m subs by 2024. More Hotstar subs in the Disney+ mix meant average revenues per user were 9% down on last year.

Tesla sinks, MKS and ITV deliver

Musk things 

 

About those unrealised gains being tax avoidance? What about unrealised losses? I mean, Elon musk is now worth about $50bn less than he was before Twitter poll. Surely that should count for something, too…?! Tesla shares skidded lower by another 12% on Tuesday, taking the two-day losses from Friday’s closing price to approximately 16%. 

 

Clearly, the poll has affected the stock price. But attributing a reason for conducting the Twitter poll is probably a pointless and fruitless exercise, since as we have noted before Musk is regularly doing dumb stuff on Twitter. There are theories – boy, are there theories. Big Short trader Michael Burry flagged personal debts for the reason – „Regarding what @elonmusk NEEDS to sell because of the proposed unrealized gains tax, or to #solveworldhunger, or … well, there is the matter of the tax-free cash he took out in the form of personal loans backed by 88.3 million of his shares at June 30th,“ he tweeted. I’ve even heard chatter about Musk seeking to lower the strike price on a bunch of fresh options coming his way… 

 

Whatever… what we know is that several insiders have been selling stock lately, capitalising on the $1tn valuation; Musk probably must sell soon – has said as much – to cover tax liabilities. Among the insiders, Musk’s brother Kimbal sold $109m the day before the tweet. Not an ideal setup – supply is likely exceeding demand, plus ‘optics’ – Musk is very much Tesla personified. He’s previously said he’d be the last money out – selling for whatever reason is problematic, partly because of his cult like status among investors.  When insiders sell, or say they will sell, stock after a huge run up in the shares it’s usually a sign they are not comfortable with the valuation. That is something to bear in mind. Even allowing for the stock’s drop over the last two days, it’s still commanding an absurd valuation – should the stock be worth what it is? Jefferies says more, raising its price target on the stock this week to a Street high $1,400.  

 

Whether it should or shouldn’t, a more pertinent question is can Tesla sustain a valuation that makes it worth more than every other carmaker combined? It seems unlikely. Competition for one. Rivian is an Amazon and Ford-back electric carmaker about to go public today on the Nasdaq with a stonking $66.5bn valuation after pricing shares at $78, well north of expectations. Revenues so far zero, losses high. But it’s got an order from Amazon for 100,000 trucks by 2025 – an actual order with a contract and everything (cf Tesla-Hertz). It’s an ‘exciting’ time for EV investors, for sure.

 

After announcing an order of 100,000 Teslas – well, sort of announcing – Hertz is back on the Nasdaq having been traded over the counter since it went bust last year. As part of the marketing push around this re-IPO it’s enlisted Tom Brady, who is very good a throwing an oval bowl forwards a long distance.  Yesterday Brady tweeted “To the moooooon… @Hertz #IPO #LETSGO.” (the tweet has been deleted, it seems). A fleet of Teslas on order, what could go wrong? Hertz has traded OTC under HTZZ since Oct 2020 following its Chapter 11 filing in May of that year. It’s now back under HTZ on the Nasdaq – shares closed Monday at $32.62 and closed Tuesday down about 9% on relisting. Presumably, Brady will be on CNBC or whatever soon with his take on the 2s10s curve flattening and who should be Fed president. It’s not that celebrities shouldn’t endorse brands, but it’s unclear to me why a celebrity endorsement is required for a stock market thing.  

 

The Metaverse 

 

An ETF called META has doubled its net asset value from $130m to $260m since Facebook changed its name two weeks ago. Volumes have also soared – right place, right time? Sometimes stocks with similar tickers to really buzzy or big names can find investors piling in by mistake. The SEC had to halt trading in Zoom last March because people were buying the wrong Zoom. Sometimes this gets front run by clever hedge fund types in expectation of mistaken identity. In the case of META, I’m not so sure it’s just some punters getting confused – META is designed to give investors exposure to the ‘metaverse’, whatever that is. So, if you think FB is doubling, trebling down on this area then META could be a vehicle for investors to tap the growth in the sector.  

 

Bitcoin eased off its all-time high made early Monday. Apple boss Tim Cook said he owns cryptocurrency and has been interested in it for some time. He said he believes it’s reasonable to own Bitcoin and Ethereum as a part of a diversified portfolio. However, he stressed that Apple would not invest in crypto since that is not why people own the stock. 

 

Shares in Coinbase sank 13% in after-hours trading after the company reported weaker-than-expected revenue for the third quarter. Turns out less volatile crypto markets (isn’t that what everyone wants?) is not so good for the exchange that is touted as the mainstream ticket to the crypto uni(meta?)verse. Monthly users fell from to 7.4m from 8.8m in the second quarter, though was still up from 6.1m a year earlier. Trading volume fell to $327bn from $462bn in the prior quarter.

 

Finally, Naked Brand Group, which makes swimwear and lingerie is merging with Cenntro Automotive Group, which works in the field of autonomous driving. Make sense? Nope, but this is 2021. Shares jumped 30% before trimming gains to end the day up 6%.

 

Markets 

 

European stock markets are tad higher this morning having closed mildly in the red on Tuesday – the DAX and CAC off by 0.1% and the FTSE 100 lagging at -0.3% for the session to sit underneath 7,300. All three are in the green in early trade today with the FTSE 100  recovering 7,300 but looks tentative – possible bearish MACD crossover to consider. Real yields on 30-year U.S. bonds sunk to a record low, of negative 0.57%, but gold pulled back in the face of key resistance levels. Oil prices firmed on tighter supply, strong demand signal from Vitol and JPM. US stock markets finally eased back after a run of gains that was one of the best for several years.

 

Wall Street closed lower, ending one of its best win streaks in years. The decline in Tesla was a factor, but ultimately such a straight charge up will just run out of gas sooner or later. The look-ahead to inflation is maybe a factor so this needs to be assessed with today’s CPI print.

 

Inflation is the order of the day – Chinese PPI – a big leading indicator for global consumer inflation- surged to 13.5% in Oct, hitting a 26-year high. US PPI stands at 8.6%, which was flat on Sep. Today’s US CPI inflation report could show a nudge beyond the 5.4% reported for the last 4 months – consumer prices are seen rising 5.8% on an annual basis in Oct, which would be the highest in 30 years. Core is seen at +0.4% mom and 4.3% yoy. German CPI inflation rose to 4.5% in Oct, +0.5% from the previous month – the highest level in 18 years – driven by an 18.6% rise in energy prices and doubling in heating oil prices. The split between the services inflation (+2.4%) and the inflation in goods (+7%) tells you all you need to know about the dislocation in the post-pandemic global economy. 

 

ITV update: slogging away – reopening of production and revival of ad revenues continues apace, but the longer-term doubts remain about the position of linear broadcasters in an on-demand world and its reliance on cyclical ad revenues. Still the numbers are v. good – ad revenues are forecast to rise 24% and hit the highest in its history. Total ad revenues (TAR) are growing but seeing sequential decline in growth rates that mirror the year-ago impacts. TAR hit 30% for the 9 months top the end of Sep, with July up 68%, August up 24% and September up 16% compared to the same period in 2020. That compared with growth of 115% in June and 87% in May. These numbers should settle down in due course as the effect of last year wash out. Total revenues were up 8% from 2019. Notable that ITV reports profit to cash conversion is expected to be around 60% in 2021, up from the previous guidance of 30%, due to the stronger than expected TAR performance. Shares rallied 6%.  

 

Marks & Spencer has smashed expectations as it raised its full-year profit outlook handsomely. Management is guiding profits to be around £500m – which is up from the £300-£350m guided back in May. There clearly must have been a big improvement only in the last few weeks for such a strong upgrade to the profit forecast – as recently as August the guidance was for the upper end of that range only. This upgrade came despite the requisite warning on the ‘supply chain’ – “well publicised cost pressures will become progressively steeper increasing the importance of our productivity plans, store rotation and technology investment in the coming year”. Profit before tax & adjusting items of £269.4m was up more than 50%, with food sales up 10% and ex-hospitality +17%. Ocado partnership is paying off. Shares soared 20% on the profit update before paring gains to trade +15%. Getting back to where it was before the pandemic knocked the stock for six is one thing, but by then it was already nursing years of pain – the recovery from the pandemic is complete, but can it recover 2015-2018-type levels? The restructuring is paying off – the pandemic allowed Marks to accelerate a process that had been taking far too long, and in many ways could have been a blessing. Looking for further progress in the coming quarters to drive positive price action.

Muted start for equities, inflation in focus

Mixed, flattish start to trading for European stock markets after a record again on Wall Street as the S&P 500 closed above 4,700 for the first time. Gains of about 0.1% for the DAX and FTSE 100 keeping risk just in the green but the Stoxx 50 is flat. For US stocks it’s been a straight line up since the middle of October and whilst there is always this sense that ‘it must pull back soon’, that is sometimes when it’s finding the path of least resistance to the upside. Talking of which, Bitcoin has made a fresh all-time high and now could generate further upside now that resistance has been cleared. Read across to Coinbase, Microstrategy and other crypto stocks. Infrastructure stocks performed well as the market reacted to the passing of the $1tn infrastructure spending bill.

 

Risks are starting to take shape around rising covid cases in mainland Europe and the possibility of new lockdowns – something to watch in the coming days as it could play out with weakness for European equities. German infection rate at the highest since the pandemic started. Meanwhile the inflation threat looms as large as ever – tomorrow’s CPI numbers for the US will be closely assessed. Today we get the PPI numbers which are going to show ongoing supply chain pressure and pass through of costs to consumers, with the consensus at +0.6% for the headline number and +0.5% for the core PPI. Recent PMI surveys point in one direction for prices and that’s up.

 

On the whole inflation/rate hike theory…Yesterday, Fed mouthpiece Richard Clarida said conditions for rate rise likely to be met by end of 2022. Markets currently pricing for one by the middle of next year, so the Fed remains ‘behind the curve’. An alternative way to put this – as last week showed – is to say the market is ahead of itself.  

 

He also pointed out there is about $2tn in unspent free money accumulated during the pandemic that is yet to wash through the economy. Does that make inflation likely to be more or less transitory…? 

 

Yet more sticky signs: In August, Jay Powell noted that “if wage increases were to move materially and persistently above the levels of productivity gains and inflation, businesses would likely pass those increases on to customers, a process that could become the sort of ‘wage–price spiral’ seen at times in the past”. 

 

“Today we see little evidence of wage increases that might threaten excessive inflation,” he added. 

 

Well, the latest NY Fed median projected year ahead household income growth jumped to 3.3% in Oct from 3% in September. That’s just as productivity in the US plunged 5% in the third quarter to its lowest level in 40 years. Ok, so some of it is supply chain-related, but the picture is not the one that the Fed has been describing. Meanwhile, median one-year ahead inflation expectations rose 0.4% to 5.7% in October, reaching a new high for the survey launched in 2013. Clarida noted that the Fed had not anticipated the depth and breadth of the global supply shock. I guessed that but the question is – are you going to try to contain inflation expectations or not?

 

Charts: Sterling has found some near-term support and trying to now hold the 61.8/38.2% levels where there is clear near-term resistance to the bounce – eyes on the speeches of Bailey and Broadbent today.

GBPUSD Chart 09.11.2021

Gold: real rates under pressure again with 10yr TIPS out to –1.11%, testing the first area of resistance at the 38.2% retracement around $1,827, with further resistance at $1,833, the Jul and Sep peaks. Breach to the upside here may call for $1,875. Persistently high inflation and a dovish/patient Fed is a good setup for the metal – the sharp fall real yields since last week’s meeting tells you that. Weaker dollar also a factor with DXY down under 94 again to test its 20-day SMA after once again failing to break out above 94.60 area last week, just as it failed in Sep and Oct.

Gold Chart 09.11.2021

Tesla shares down after Elon Musk Twitter poll

Kind of unusualIf you were the CEO of a large listed company and decided you might like to sell some stock would you a) do it quietly and file it appropriately, or b) ask millions of people on Twitter whether you ought to? Obviously, Elon Musk chose the latter. Ok, so he’s often doing dumb stuff on Twitter and sometimes doing dumber things that regulators should probably look at. And occasionally he does really dumb stuff that regulators do look at.  

 

So, when he asked his Twitter followers over the weekend whether to sell 10% of his stock, lots of us laughed. I mean it’s sort of weird – why not just start selling some tranches, without the fanfare and attention-seeking…hahaha. You could say he just wants to sell some stock now because the valuation has rocketed lately, cash out while the going is good. It’s hard to criticise someone for doing that, is it? And rather than get berated by his fans for selling down his holdings, he can say ‘look, you told me to do it!’. Either way, Musk was due to start selling soon anyway as he faces a monster tax bill on some of his stock options. And since he takes no salary or bonus from being Tesla CEO (he likes to remind us), the only way to cover would be to sell some shares. Seems fair enough, but does it need all the fintwit showbusiness?  

 

Tesla shares in Frankfurt are off about 7% this morning and indicated to fall about 6.66% (!) in US pre-market trading. Now Musk would be aware that advertising his plans to sell $21bn (at Friday’s price) in stock would lead to a fall. It’s a simple bit of supply and demand economics on show. But he probably reckons on it being short term in nature or doesn’t particularly care at these insane valuations which he must think are ‘too high IMO’. Whatever he has said before the stock has risen in the end, and this way he controls the narrative of what amounts to a pretty massive stock sale, which is ultimately at the behest of the taxman. ‘Followers urge Musk to sell 10% of his stock’ sounds way better than ‘Musk dumps 10% of Tesla holdings, cash in at all-time highs, leaves investors as bagholders…et, etc’. I’m not 100% on where this fits, but you could again make a case of sorts for making market-moving statements that you shouldn’t really be doing. Hard to say it’s manipulation, but it’s not normal.

 

Markets 

 

Stocks are largely flat to start the session in Europe after a positive day Friday saw fresh cycle highs. Weak handover from Asia as Chinese import figures indicated weaker domestic demand. US futures are steady after another round of all-time highs on Friday. Earnings are better than were expected, jobs growth is picking up and the Fed’s carried off the taper without undue alarm. Pfizer’s antiviral announcement on Friday is a major positive: Dr Scott Gottlieb said the US is ‘close to the end of the pandemic phase’. After last week’s round of policy meetings, this week we get a lot of jawboning from the likes of Powell, Bailey and Macklem on equality and diversity. We’ll also be watching the US CPI numbers on Tuesday and UK growth numbers for the third quarter on Thursday. 

 

Bond yields are lower than they were last week with US 10s at 1.48%. The UK 2yr gilt yield is now back to 0.42% after trading as high as 0.76% on expectations the Bank of England would be more hawkish than it turned out to be. 

 

Real rates have fallen further with 10yr TIPS down to -1.09% on Friday, lifting gold to break out of the recent range and hit its highest since September. No breakout just yet but looking to the area at $1,827-1,833 to provide near-term test as this corresponds to the 38.2% retracement of the longer-term decline and the Jul/Sep peaks where we saw three attempted breakouts fail.

Gold Chart 08.11.2021

Crude prices are higher but just running into the resistance of the 20-day SMA. Late on Friday Aramco raised selling prices for its crude, whilst the passing in the US of the Biden infrastructure bill is also supportive. 

Oil Chart 08.11.2021

No relief for sterling amid BoE mess

A tale of two central banks

A key part of the central banker role is communication. Meetings take place infrequently, maybe 8 times a year, so in the gaps in-between, when trading days are long, markets lust for guidance in other forms. Policymakers are generally free between meetings to make speeches, give Q&As, do TV interviews etc. Sometimes they are compelled by lawmakers to explain their policies, too. Naturally what they say is comprehended, dissected and assessed by the market as to what their words imply for the course of monetary policy. There is never an absolute: nobody will say ‘we are going to raise rates next month’. That is why you have the meeting and produce an official statement. But you can make it clear to the market what you think about the state of things and where you think is the likely or appropriate course of monetary policy.

After an uneasy start in his job, Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, is very good at doing this. Perhaps not quite as adept as Mario Draghi at carefully steering market expectations, but close. He has spent six months painstakingly guiding the market to expect this week’s announcement on tapering asset purchases. No tantrum, barely much of a reaction even. Talk of rate hikes is scorned.

Contrast this with the performance of Andrew Bailey, the relatively new head of the Bank of England. Loose – in retrospect – remarks over recent weeks led the market to expect an interest rate rise yesterday, only to be confounded by not just a failure to deliver on that but an apparent indifference to the fact that policy was so poorly communicated. “It is not our responsibility to steer markets on interest rates,” he said. Oh, right? That’s kind of the antithesis of the job description, but you’re the man in the hot seat I suppose.

Frequently handing over to Broadbent and Ramsden to answer questions he seemed unable to tackle, Bailey’s remarks were problematic. For example, he cautioned on the scale of rate bets seen in markets – saying he thinks the market has priced in too many rate rises. Maybe he shouldn’t have been stoking those expectations with hawkish remarks on inflation. Then, in response to a later question about whether the market was right or wrong, he said: „None of us are going to endorse the market curve at any point in time.” That is just untrue. Michael Saunders on Oct 9th: “I think it is appropriate that the markets have moved to pricing a significantly earlier path of tightening than they did previously.” In response to a question about stagflation he rambled on about its etymology, said the bank doesn’t really use that word, so no before handing over to someone else to actually attempt an answer to the question. Even if you don’t use the word ‘stagflation’, you know the question is about falling growth and higher prices.

It seems like the BoE thinks ‘we’ll say something and the market can make of it what it likes, that’s not our business”. To a degree, that’s true. You can’t account for what others make of your statements. But you can be a lot more careful about those statements in the full knowledge that the market will read something into them since you are the governor of the Bank of England and not just anybody. There were several opportunities in recent weeks to lean against the aggressive market pricing, to gently nudge the market in the right direction, but the governor elected not to do that. The feeling is now that the BoE under Bailey has lost credibility and we will not be able to read as much into his remarks as we have done. This is not a good situation for a central banker to be in. I leave you with this, among the listed candidate requirements from the BoE’s job spec for Governor: “The ability to communicate with authority and credibility internally, to Parliament, the media, the markets and the wider public.”

Anyway, is the December meeting live? Citi and others think so, expecting a 15bps hike at the next meeting. Bailey said the vote at 7-2 was ‘close’, which maybe hints at several members – as I suggested may be the case yesterday – being close to swinging towards hiking but were not persuaded this week. Or not…it’s hard to tell these days. This morning on Today the governor said the BoE would not ‘bottle it’ when it came to raising rates and insisted they will rise. He also said that the Bank wants more time to assess the impact of the end of furlough on the labour market, and that this was the primary reason for not hiking rates yesterday. This could certainly indicate that Dec is ‘live’, since the Bank would not have had time to gauge the scarring, which so far looks small. But, then again, it might not.

Sterling got hit hard and is lower again this morning. GBPUSD blew through the 61.8% retracement area we’d highlighted at the start of the week and looks to retest 1.3410 September low and possible round number support at 1.340. This may mark the bottom though in the medium-term – if not then look to 1.3180, the 38.2% retracement of the 2020 low to 2021 high.

GBPUSD Chart 05.11.2021

Markets

European stock markets are mixed, showing a bit of caution ahead of today’s nonfarm payrolls print in the US. The FTSE 100 is up again and north of 7,300 as the softer pound appears to be delivering a bit of a boost as we witnessed in the aftermath of the Bank of England announcement yesterday. The DAX is flat but the Euro Stoxx 50 is up 0.3%. The dollar is firmer with DXY at 94.40, yields steady with 10s around 1.53%, and gold bashing its head against the $1,800 resistance again support by lower real rates.

Wall Street rallied for a 6th straight day, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both notching fresh record highs. The Dow Jones slipped back as financials struggled, with GS and JPM leading the index lower. Broadly speaking the Fed’s patient approach and the removal of any overhanging worry around the tapering is good for risk, whilst fundamentals in the form of earnings are positive. Both US and European equities are trading at record peaks.

We said at the start of the week that the coming days were a big test for central banks. Have they passed that test? After the blowout in the bond market, the spike in front-end yields, central banks have not this week been as hawkish as some feared. Is that a failure to grasp the inflation snake? Maybe, I tend to think so, but many believe that central banks are right to be patient since the inflation is not just a function of demand this time. The transitory inflation narrative remains, and the CBs didn’t really pull the trigger and continue to err on the side of caution.

Shares in Peloton cratered by a third in after-hours trading after it reported a wider-than-expected loss. Pinterest was up 6% after a decent beat, whilst Uber fell after its loss was larger than forecast. Airbnb delivered record quarterly revenues and earnings. The firm posted $2.24bn in revenues versus the consensus of $2.05bn, whilst net income surged 280% to $834m.

The S&P 500 looks a tad overextended however and ripe for a pullback. The 20-day SMA has been a good anchor and a retreat to this area at 4530, a drop of 3% roughly, could be achieved without upsetting the longer-term trend.

S&P Chart 05.11.2021

Oil prices plunged as Saudi TV reported the country’s oil output would top 10m bpd by December. OPEC+ committed to raising output at 400k bpd, resisting calls from the White House to do more. Speculative positions are being unwound and the market is starting flip from draws to builds. Reuters reported Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as saying that oil stocks will see „tremendous“ builds at the end of 2021 and the start of next year because of slowing consumption.

Wide day for crude prices on Thursday highlighted by the $5 candle. Bearish MACD crossover still in charge.

Spot Oil Chart 05.11.2021

An introduction to indices trading

Index trading can be daunting for newcomers. Here, we take a look at indices and how to trade them so you can potentially add them to your portfolio.

How to trade indices

What are indices and what is index trading?

Indices essentially measure price performance of a collection of stocks. These equities are listed on various exchanges around the world, such as the London Stock Exchange or New York Stock Exchange.

Each index and its constituent stocks is usually operated by an independent company. For example, the FTSE 100 tracks equities listed on the London Stock Exchange.

By tracking a wide range of stocks, an index basically shows the state of a particular market or industry sector or the general performance of a country’s stock market. Price performance of indices’ constituents is usually calculated as a weighted average.

Index trading, therefore, lets you speculate on a broader section of an economy or sector through a single position. At Markets.com, we let you do so through spread betting or by trading index contracts for difference (CFDs).

With this approach, you do not own the underlying asset. Instead, you can speculate on price movements, including if the price rises or if it falls (long vs. short).

What are some of the most popular traded indices?

Index traders have many options available to them. However, some indices are more popular with traders than others. Chances are you may see one or more of the following in an index trader’s portfolio:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average – Also known as the Dow for short, this index tracks 30 American blue chip companies. This of businesses like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and so on.
  • S&P 500 – The S&P 500 is another index tracking US large-cap companies. As the name suggests, 500 businesses make up the S&P500. They are listed from highest to lowest in terms of market capitalisation, i.e., how much the busines is worth. At the time of writing, the S&P500’s top constituents were Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Tesla, and Alphabet.
  • Nasdaq – Another US-focussed index, the Nasdaq reports the market value of the 100 largest non-financial companies in America. It is also known as the Tech 100 but isn’t necessarily focussed on technology firms. Retailers Bed, Bath and Beyond is one non-technology Nasdaq component.
  • FTSE 100 – The FTSE 100 tracks the movements of 100 UK blue chip companies. Its constituents are listed on the London Stock Exchange. BT, Rolls-Royce, and Royal Dutch Shell are some of the businesses tracked by the FTSE 100.
  • DAX 40 – The DAX 40 follows the 40 largest German companies listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Originally, the Dax held 30 constituents. It was expanded to 40 in 2021. Companies that make up the DAX include Adidas, Siemens, and Volkswagen.

These examples are fairly regional. Indices can track global trends, specific sectors and countries, or specific assets. For instance, the MSCI World Index tracks large-cap stocks in 23 countries. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index covers biotech firms. The US Dollar Index looks at the performance of the US dollar. There are lots of options available to potential index traders. Which you choose depends on your individual trading strategy and goals.

What are the benefits of index trading?

Trading indices offers some attractive benefits to potential traders, including:

  • Less manipulation – Indices aren’t as responsive to potential market manipulation than other financial assets. That’s because its valuation stems from fluctuations in the price of its constituents.
  • Diversification – A diverse portfolio made up of multiple assets helps traders protect their investments while also getting exposure to different markets. With indices, you are able to trade on multiple assets with a single position and asset. This can help you hedge against potential losses incurred by underperforming assets in your portfolio.
  • Lower risk – Compared with volatile assets like cryptocurrency, some equities, and commodities, indices offer much lower risk. An index losing 10% or more, for instance, would be a major historical event. The Dow Jones, for example, lost over 30% between February-March at the start of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, but roared back in April.
  • No risk of bankruptcy – If you were to trade individual stocks from index constituent companies, no matter how big, there’s always the risk that company could become bankrupt. An index isn’t a company, thus that cannot happen.

A quick word on risk. Indices trading is like any other form of trading: it carries substantial risk of capital loss. Its risks may be lower than some other forms of trading, but you can still lose money if the market turns against you.

As we offer indices trading using leveraged products like spread betting and CFDs, you trade on margin. While that means you can open a position with a fraction of the trade’s total value, it means your losses can also be amplified.

Only start trading if you are comfortable taking any potential losses.

What affects indices price movements?

An index’s price can be affected by multiple different factors:

  • Economic news – From central bank announcements to seismic global changes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or 2008 recession, indexes are sensitive to worldwide and local economic trends and patterns.
  • Company financial results – During events like earnings season, indices can move up or down depending on their constituents’ financial results.
  • Composition changes – The price of an index can be altered if the index makes any changes to the way it is constructed, such as a different weighting algorithm or adding or removing constituents.
  • Commodity prices – Depending on the nature of its constituents or target market, an index may also move in tune with the price of commodities. 15% of the FTSE 100, for example, is made up of commodity-reliant companies such as BP.

How are indices weighted?

Different indices are weighted differently. Weighting affects an index’s composition and subsequently its price performance.

A capitalisation-weighted index, such as the S&P 500, is weighted by the size of its constituents’ market capitalisation or value. The higher the value, the higher the representation in the index, so a high-weighted company’s performance, like Microsoft, will have a higher impact on the index’s overall price action.

A float-adjusted index means one that is weighted by all of the shares of its constituents that are freely available to the public.

There are many different weightings available, so do your research prior to committing any capital to get a good idea of how the index is composed and what this means for its performance.

Stocks rally after Fed tapers, BoE hike no slam dunk

“We wouldn’t want to surprise markets”

Tapering, so what? Market reaction to the long-awaited start of the Federal Reserve’s trimming of monthly bond purchases has been muted but positive. Stocks in Europe and US are at record highs – tapering is not tightening. The Fed managed to spend months carefully guiding the market to expect this move, by which it will take 8 months to reduce its $120bn-a-month QE programme, at a rate of $15bn-a-month; it’s not about to let market expectations for an interest rate hike get out of control. Still the Fed is still behind the market on this one and could be forced in to raising rates sooner than it expects. Jay Powell urged patience and caution, and seems to have largely pulled of the trick of not tying the tapering timeline to a provisional lift-off date for rates.

“Our decision today to begin tapering our asset purchases does not imply any direct signal regarding our interest rate policy. We continue to articulate a different and more stringent test for the economic conditions that would need to be met before raising the federal funds rate,” Powell said.

Both the dollar and stocks rose, with Wall Street achieving yet another record high and European stocks marking fresh record highs again this morning. Shorter dated bond yields were steady, US 2yr yields up a fraction at 0.47%, whilst the bigger move was seen further out the curve with 10s hitting 1.6%. That would be the kind of reaction Powell wanted – as far from the taper tantrum of the past as you can imagine.  As he said in the press conference, the Fed “wouldn’t want to surprise markets”.

What we did see was the Fed trying to shift the goalposts a bit on the inflation narrative. That’s important since it indicates it’s not rushing to hike to combat inflation, and in no hurry to raise rates. He explained that “transitory” for the Fed does not mean “short-lived” but rather that “it will not leave behind permanently – or very persistently higher – inflation”. This takes us into the arena of ‘long transitory’, which is a convenient intellectual get-out for the Fed without it needing to admit it got the inflation call wrong in the first place. On the labour market, Powell said there is “still ground to cover” to reach “maximum employment”.

Bank of England

Today the Bank of England is expected to raise rates, but that does not mean it will. It’s going to be a tough call as the nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee are not singing from the same hymn sheet. There are possibly three main outcomes from today’s vote – hiking 15bps and no attempt to push back on market expectations for future rate rises; a hike with a pushback against expectations for further hikes; or no hike. The ‘no hike’ outcome could also be split into one in which the Bank signals readiness to move next month, or one without such a signal.

As noted a couple of weeks ago in our preview, whilst some are worried about inflation, it’s all that clear if the hawks have the votes.

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.

Dovish Leaning dovish Centre Leaning hawkish Hawkish
Tenreyro

Mann

Haskel

Broadbent Cunliffe Pill Saunders

Ramsden

Bailey

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. He had ample opportunity to push back against market expectations but didn’t, which favours a dovish hike today, which is likely to be negative for sterling – though we note the dollar is topping at recent resistance and could pull back.

Sterling looks bearish still and little the BoE can now do for it with the hikes priced in – only disappoint. Near-term resistance offered by the 20-day SMA at 1.37, bearish MACD crossover still in play calling for retest of the 61.8% retracement around 1.3560, which was the mid-Oct swing low the provided the base for the rally through to Oct 21st.

GBPUSD Chart 04.11.2021

Inflation

Inflation is here and here to stay, which is probably why the Bank will ultimately raise rates. Yesterday’s services PMI indicated that while companies reported a sharp and accelerated rise in business activity during October, operating expenses and prices charged by service providers increased at the steepest rates since the survey began in July 1996.

The IHS/Markit report noted (emphasis mine): “Rising costs for energy, fuel, raw materials, transport and staff all contributed to increased prices charged across the service sector. Moreover, the rate of output charge inflation reached a fresh survey-record high in October. Service providers again noted that strong demand conditions and constrained business capacity had resulted in the swift pass through of higher input prices to clients.”

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