European stocks hit record high, euro highest since Jan

Morning Note

“I have some Bitcoin, and I have a very particular set of skills”.

Ok, Ray Dalio didn’t say the second bit, but it would have been good if he did. The guy hates cash; we know this, but now he hates on bonds too. For the founder of Bridgewater Associates, even the most volatile asset out there is better than picking up dimes from in front of the inflation steamroller. In a recorded interview shown yesterday at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2021 conference, Dalio said he would rather own Bitcoin than bonds. Dalio has a very particular set of skills: he’s good at making investment calls.

Or at least, he has been good for a long time. Last year, his main macro fund, the Pure Alpha II fund, lost 12.6%. Over the course of 2020, Dalio lost over $12bn whilst peers excelled. It was not a great performance in a year in which many investors were able to successfully call the bottom and ride the recovery in the stock market. He also famously said that ‘cash is trash’, which is kind of a pro-crypto statement in that it tells you he thinks that owning a depreciating asset (cash) is pointless. Dalio previously presented his views on Bitcoin in January, saying that Bitcoin “has features that could make it an attractive storehold of wealth”. The only problem with this argument is that anything that can depreciate by more than 30% in 24hrs is demonstrably not a good store of value. That’s a heck of a lot of years of inflation erosion compressed into a single day. Ok, it’s back up now a bit, but who’s telling where it will head next? Bitcoin bounced on Monday after a steep fall over the weekend. Price action ran into resistance at the $40k level and this morning trades a little below around the $39k area, but well above last week’s multi-month nadir of $30k.

Tech and reopening stocks rose in the US on Monday. Big tech gains helped the S&P 500 look at the 4,200 round number again. Apple rose as the judge in its case against Epic retired to consider her verdict. The case could have important implications for App Store margins. Crypto-exposed stocks like Tesla and MicroStratey both rallied 4% as Bitcoin rose, whilst Coinbase added just 0.4% as Goldman Sachs initiated coverage on the stock with a buy rating. That will be welcome news to Cathie Wood, as the stock is now a top-ten holding in her Innovation ETF. Coinbase offers traders the closest thing to real crypto exposure without actually owning any tokens. The crypto exchange recently listed shares on the Nasdaq via a direct listing but its start to life on the public market has been rocky to say the least. Shares opened on April 14th at $381 but closed the first day at $328 and have since slid to $225.30.

The euro hit its highest since Jan 8th this morning as Germany’s Q1 final GDP reading declined to –1.8% from the initial estimate of –1.7%. Forward-looking indicators were more positive – the Ifo business climate index hit 99.2, ahead of forecast and rising from 96.8 a month before. The expectations number rose to 102.9 from 99.5 a month before. EURUSD broke the resistance at 1.2240 to reach a four-month high at 1.2260. The breach calls for a retest of 2021 highs made at the start of Jan at 1.2350. The dollar index trades at its lowest since January, but sterling has not been able to latch on and GBPUSD holds a whisker under 1.42, a little shy of last week’s three-month high.

The DAX and Stoxx 600 both posted record highs in early trade as they returned from a long weekend. Deutsche Wohnen led the DAX’s 0.7% rally this morning as shares rallied 15% on €18bn takeover offer from German rival Vonovia. Shares in Vonovia fell 5% as the deal, which sees Deutsche Wohnen shareholders paid €0.52 per share an retain the rights to a €1.03 per share dividend, amounts to an 18% premium based on the stock’s undisturbed closing price on Friday. The FTSE 100 trades flat, but comfortably above the 7,000 pivot and towards the upper end of the six-week range.

Now two stocks showing two sides of the same rather tarnished coin: Restaurant Group shares rose ~3% as the casual dining operator reported an encouraging recovery in sales in the five weeks to May 16th. Both Wagamama and Pubs, with a combined 200 sites or so now open, reported comparable sales at 85% of 2019 levels. Leisure sites traded at around 60% of 2019 levels, which was in line with expectations. This ought to also be good news for UK plc and recovery in GDP in Q2 and Q3.

Meanwhile, Greencore tumbled ~11% as the sandwich maker reported revenue declined 19% to £577.1m in the six months to the end of March, noting the decline was driven by a reduction in consumer mobility as a result of tiered restrictions and lockdowns in the UK. Certainly, shares have enjoyed a good run so a bit of profit-booking on the results can be expected, but the reaction in the share price looks overdone – this is very much backward-looking data. Indeed, these results kind of underscore what we already know – anything up to the end of March was incredibly tough, but since then things are improving quickly.

The outlook from Greencore is positive, too. Management report ‘encouraging revenue momentum’ in the first seven weeks of the second half with pro forma revenue in food to go categories running at approximately 123% above prior-year levels and approximately 14% below the equivalent pre-COVID levels in FY19, they said. Pro forma revenue was approximately 64% above 2020 levels and approximately 5% below equivalent pre-COVID levels.

Elsewhere, Treasury yields declined, with the benchmark 10yr note under 1.6% again, as Fed officials sought to allay inflation fears. Gold trades near the top of the range close to $1,890. The weak dollar and lower nominal and real rates, plus fears about rising inflation, are all acting as valuable support for the metal. Oil is steady after a strong session on Monday with WTI (Jul) trading around $65.75 this morning. Demand growth is positive with vaccination efforts in major economies progressing well, whilst there is less confidence that Iranian oil will hit the market soon. Even if Iranian exports hit the market later this year, there is still scope for a summer spike in prices.