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

Morning Note

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

What do analysts say are the best investment bank stocks?

Equities
Investments

Banks have enjoyed a rollicking recovery since the depths of the pandemic in March 2020. The XLF financials ETF has more than doubled since it struck a multi-year low over a year ago. A strong monetary and fiscal response from governments and central banks and a strong trading performance sparked the first phase of the recovery, whilst powerful economic growth and rising bond yields has helped the sector continue to gain.  

 

But among the major financial stocks, there are some top picks in the investment banking arena from JPMorgan that are worth a look. “The Investment Banking (IB) industry, in our view, is in a much better shape today compared to where it has ever been,” analysts from the bank said in a note. IBs operate a lower risk model as they become less capital-intensive,  revenue streams are more sustainable, barriers to entry remain high and they have an increasing share of so-called ‘captive’ wealth management. 

 

Here are JPM’s top investment bank picks and what other analysts say

 

In the global investment banking space, Goldman Sachs takes the top spot. “We see GS as a contender given its agile culture, which allows it to move as a Fintech, and its strong IT platform to retain its strong market share growth momentum from Tier II players,” the JPM team says.

Goldman also gets a buy rating on our Analyst Recommendations tool.

Goldman Sachs investment analysis rating.

In Europe, Barclays is the number one pick, with the analysts describing the UK-listed stock as “a relative winner with its transaction bank providing an advantage along with its diversified IB revenue mix”. UBS comes in second and Deutsche Bank also gets a nod. The German bank also received an upgrade from Kepler Capital.

Barclays investment analysis.

Wall St notches fresh record as US growth surges, Astra beats, Barclays falls

Morning Note
  • Amazon delivers another blowout tech earnings, Twitter misses
  • AstraZeneca tops FTSE 100 after earnings beat expectations, Barclays falls
  • Darktrace IPO off to a flyer

 

Wall Street closed at another record high, copper surged to a new ten-year peak above $10,000 a tonne and oil firmed up above $64 for WTI as the strong cyclical play based on the reopening story held up. The S&P 500 rallied 0.7% to close above 4,211, a new all-time closing high. European stocks are a firmer this morning after a bit of a false start on Thursday that saw early gains erased as the session wore on.

 

US data continues to look very impressive. GDP rose 6.4%, which was a little lighter than expected but still very strong. But this is just the start – we are waiting for the big fiscal relief and infrastructure spending to feed into the data over the next three quarters as the reopening really takes off. New York will be fully open without any restrictions from July 1st. Consumer spending is up big, rising more than 10%. Inflation is feeding through: The PCE price index increased 3.5 percent, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core PCE price index increased 2.3 percent. Initial jobless claims decreased by 13,000 to 553,000 in the week ended April 24th, the new post-pandemic low.

 

Good numbers from AstraZeneca this morning as revenues rose 15% to $7.3bn despite the impact of Covid delaying diagnosis and treatments of other conditions. The vaccine delivered $275m in revenues but is loss-making for now. Shares ticked higher in early trade, rising 2.5% to the top of the footsie. Barclays dragged on the FTSE 100, sliding 6% to the bottom of the index as a drop in investment banking earnings, lower revenues and a cautious outlook took the shine off a doubling in profits. Net income rose to £1.7bn from £605m a year ago but revenues fell 6% to £5.9bn on lower interest rates and lower demand for credit in Britain. Income from its corporate and investment bank declined 1% to £3.6bn as fixed income trading declined 35%. Consumer, cards and payments income fell 22% to £800m. UK income was down 8% to £1.6bn. Looking ahead, Barclays seemed very cautious, particularly about its UK unit, saying it remains uncertain and subject to change depending on the evolution and persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic. And whilst it reported a massive drop in credit impairment charges, it did not reverse any already allocated, which is in contrast to most peers. Surging ecommerce (see Amazon below), helped Smurfit Kappa return a 6% rise in Q1 revenues.

 

Amazon shares rose over 2% in after-hours trade as the company continued the run of blowout tech earnings. Earnings per share hit $15.79 vs. $9.54 expected on revenues of $108.5bn, a rise of 44% from a year before. Income trebled to $8.1bn, with $4.2bn coming from the cloud business. This was another stunning quarter that confirms not only that the likes of Amazon were short-term winners from the pandemic but remains long-term structural champions as consumer trends change and – often forgotten – more and more businesses migrate to the cloud.

 

On the other hand, Twitter shares tumbled 11% in the after-hours market as the company delivered a cautious outlook and it missed on user growth expectation. The company reported revenue of $1.04bn for the quarter, up 28% from $808m a year before. Ad revenues rose 32% year-on year to $899m. Total monetizable users grew 7m to 199m, a little short of the 200m expected. If ever there were a company with immense potential that it repeatedly fails to realise, it’s Twitter.

 

Another Bank Holiday float, but a very different story this time: Shares in Darktrace soared on their debut this morning. Learning a lesson from the Deliveroo flop perhaps, the company priced the IPO at a more conservative 250p, implying a market cap of £1.7bn, but was up around 38% in early trade around 350p, taking the market cap to £2.4bn. Shares are open for conditional trading with unconditional trading to commence under the ticker DARK on May 6th. The right price is very important for an IPO – let people who are getting in after the primary offer a chance to earn something for their trouble, rather than pricing it too aggressively and taking any upside off the table. Darktrace seems to have learned this lesson, with the £1.7bn market cap at the offer well below the £3bn they had previously hoped for. The area of cyber security in which it operates is also one that is seen growing materially over the next few years. For London it’s a welcome thumbs up after the Deliveroo debacle and an encouraging float for future tech listings.

Best UK shares for trading a Covid vaccine-led reopening story in 2021

Equities
Investments
D’ya like dags? Or indeed goats. The market rally in November was led by the dogs of the markets: energy, financials and Value were among the best shares to buy. Here are a few big-name stocks to watch in December and into 2021 on a ‘back to normal’ trade.

Macro highlights

  • Vaccines to support a return to near-normal by year-end 2021
  • Economic recovery will not be instantaneous but steady improvements are expected
  • Earnings per share should increase as corporates benefit from pro-cyclical growth
  • Inflation to rise as output gap closes and enormous savings glut is spent

Effective vaccines will be rolled out in 2021 in the developed world, supporting a return to normal economic and social activity by the year end. Whilst there are risks associated with the delivery of vaccination programmes globally, overall, it looks like countries will be able to support a ‘return to near-normal’ by the end of next year.

Return to normal ought to support European and UK equity markets with their strong weighting towards more cyclical stocks and sectors vs the US which has led the way with big tech and growth. A powerful value rotational trade was the dominant market trend in November 2020, leaving financials, energy and travel stocks among the top shares to buy, and while it will not move in a straight line upward, this pivot ought to continue through the earlier part of 2021 as markets adjust to economic and social activity returning to normal. December has begun very much like November was.

Britain has been hobbled by Brexit uncertainty for 4 years and UK equities have underperformed peers. Even allowing for the November recovery which was the best month for the FTSE 100 in 31 years, UK stocks have not had a good time of it in recent years. However, with Brexit risks likely to disappear and the UK in possession of the means to deliver a comprehensive vaccination programme, the outlook for the economy – and UK equities – may be about to improve. The FTSE 100 has an expected 2021 dividend yield of 4%, making it the most attractive among developed market stock indices. Is the dog of all dogs to finally ready to bark?

Two major caveats to this thesis – a Brexit deal and effective vaccination rollout are both essential, and not a slam dunk certainty.

GOAT: Get Out And Travel picks

IAG (LON: IAG) – Return of lucrative transatlantic routes will be big fillip for IAG shares. In the 11 months to December the stock was down by around 60%, making it the worst performer on the FTSE 100. Nevertheless, the stock rallied over 80% in the month of November as vaccine optimism drove the rotation trade. Whilst this may effectively have priced reopening in 2021, there could be further upside driven by on-the-ground improvements to travel. In addition to the roll-out of vaccines, efforts by airlines like BA and airports like Heathrow to find creative solutions to ending quarantine requirements for travellers such as digital health passes will progress and make it easier for travel to take place. Shares are not expected to get back to pre-pandemic levels next year – passenger travel levels are not seen returning to 2019 numbers for some years. But a steady reopening of the economy and pent-up demand among holidaymakers to get out and travel ought to support earnings recovery in 2021.

Cineworld (LON: CINE) – A GOAT favourite but huge debts are a factor. Shares have been very volatile, with the price collapsing when the company announced closure of UK and US screens due to pandemic and then surging on news of Pfizer’s vaccine in November. YTD, the stock was the worst performer on the FTSE 350 to the end of November. Cineworld was bloated before the pandemic – net debt is over $8bn thanks mainly to two large leveraged acquisitions in recent years. The fear is that there have been permanent behavioural shifts in consumers that will mean the market is forever smaller, however the stock is probably already reflective of these risks. It is hard to gauge right now what permanent damage is done to cinemas, but the advance of over-the-top streaming services, especially Netflix with its vast Hollywood budgets and ability to make feature films, has dealt another big blow.

Cineworld shares have recovered a further portion of the losses after the company secured a new debt facility of $450m and issued equity warrants representing over 11% of share capital. It also managed to get banks to waive debt covenants until June 2022 and further reduced costs. This new facility should act as a bridge to get to a point where it can reopen screens in the UK and US and get the cash flow moving in the right direction again. However, the company is working on the assumption that can reopen in May. Under this base case scenario, Cineworld has sufficient headroom for 2021 and beyond. But in the event of a further delay to cinema reopening, whilst it has sufficient liquidity ‘for a number of additional months’, it ‘may require lender support in order to deploy that liquidity’, management said today. Bums on seats by May is dependent entirely on a vaccine – if there is a stock trading on this vaccine roll-out it’s Cineworld. Warner Bros decision to stream all new releases as soon as they they hit the big screen is a blow and sent shares lower by 14% on Dec 4th.

Energy has been a laggard but the likes of Shell (LON: RDSA) and BP (LON:BP) should stand to benefit from stronger average crude pricing in 2021. Both fell by around 40% in the 11 months to Dec YTD. Whilst the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been right to sound cautious over the demand pickup in the early part of 2021, oil markets will be trading largely on sentiment. There are clear near-term risks from rising inventories – a lockdown in the US would lead to demand destruction in Q1. Tertiary lockdowns in Europe cannot be ruled out in Q1 and even Q2 should the virus reappear in strength. OPEC and allies will continue to hold the fort, albeit not as comfortably as in the past. Towards the end of the year, oil markets may also benefit from an expected supply crunch. The spectacular collapse in oil markets due to the pandemic led to a massive wave of capex cuts – according to Rystad about $100bn cut – which threaten to flip the market from glut to crunch as vaccines start to take effect and boost the demand side. Risks remain for old world energy players though as ESG investing takes on added importance.

Reflation picks: Banks

Lloyds (LON: LLOY), Natwest Group (LON: NWG) both were among the largest decliners on the FTSE 350 YTD through to the end of November, down in the region of 30-40%. Both have a lot exposure to the UK economy, especially the housing market and consumer spending. Two factors could support gains. First, the reflationary environment in 2021 as vaccines encourage a return to normal ought to see a steepening yield curve and support net interest margins. Secondly, clarity over Brexit should be a positive for the UK economy. Other factors, like the remarkable resilience of the housing market and relative strength in consumer spending, are also supportive.

Share prices of both have fallen this year as 2020 has really been a story of UK plc risks – negative rates, deficits, pandemic-related GDP destruction and of course Brexit. 2021 should see a more encouraging outlook for the UK economy and the removal of tail risks like no deal Brexit. Near-term, rising unemployment will be a problem but ultimately a ‘return to normal’ in2021 will support financials. A resumption of dividend payments in February when results are announced would be a big help, too. In many ways banks have been unfairly swept up in the markets’ pandemic crossfire as investors followed the playbook of the last war: financials are in much better shape this time and well provisioned to weather the storm. As of the end of November, Lloyds traded at a price to book ratio of 0.55, whilst Natwest was at about 0.47.

Meanwhile Barclays (LON: BARC) price to book was a measly 0.36. Some may doubt the sustainability of handsome trading revenues from its investment bank, but the outlook is still overall positive. Third quarter results smashed expectations, with pre-tax profits of £1.2bn double what was expected. Loan loss provisions were 40% below expectations, albeit higher than last year.

Barclays shares pop, SPX faces big hurdle with Fed, GDP ahead

Morning Note

Barclays CEO Jes Staley reckons that after Covid-19 the idea of sticking thousands of people in a building may be a thing of the past. I heartily agree. Working from home is clearly working rather well. Also, banks are no doubt looking at this and thinking they can cut costs by closing offices, call centres and branches. Nevertheless, it highlights how bosses and government have a very hard task in exiting lockdown. Moreover, what about the Pret or the pub that depends on lunch trade from the City workers filling up these offices every day? The impact on the economy will be permanent.

Shares in Barclays popped over 5% despite the lender taking a £2.1bn credit impairment charge, five times the level of a year before. Like its US peers, trading revenues soared by 77% but this offset may be a one-off for banks as volatility returns to more normal levels. Shares were due a rally – they’ve been beaten down so much and haven’t really participated in the upturn. Investors may need to wait for dividends but UK banks could be in much better shape their share prices indicate.

The S&P 500 failed a major test yesterday as bulls stumbled amidst a blitz of earnings releases and doubts about oil prices. The broad index rallied on the open to trade above 2900 but closed lower and crucially below the key 2885 resistance at 2,863, forming a dark cloud cover bearish signal.

Futures though are higher again today, but we will need to see these levels broken decisively on a close before we consider a push to the 61.8% retracement of the drawdown at 2934. For that we will look to earnings and the US advanced GDP print – seen at -4% – but more importantly the messaging from the Fed today will be crucial for sentiment in equity markets.

Asian markets were broadly firmer overnight with traders expecting the Fed to make clear it will not remove any accommodation until the threat from Covid-19 has passed.

European indices opened strongly, building a very solid session on Tuesday that saw the FTSE 100 rally almost 2% and close above the Apr 14th swing high, but then we saw weakness creep in after half an hour’s trading outside of the UK market, which looks pretty solid as it taps on 6,000.

Italian bonds have softened after Fitch cut the country’s debt to one notch above junk. This unscheduled move followed S&P affirming Italy’s status but with a negative outlook. The yield on Italian 10-year BTPs spiked to 1.83%, the highest since Friday, and it just causes a little added worry for the ECB ahead of its meeting tomorrow. BTP-Bund spreads widened.

Alphabet dealt with a sharp decline in ad revenue growth in the first quarter as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown measures that are stifling consumer spending, but management pointed to a rebound in April and outline spending cuts that sent shares up 8% after hours.

The fact that Alphabet sees ‘some signs users are returning to normal behaviour’ does not in itself mean the global economy is anywhere near to normal. Alphabet is one of the best placed companies to grow out of the crisis and should benefit from consumers increasing screen time in lockdown and no doubt growing digital ad spend as economies recover in the latter part of 2020 and through 2021. Structural shifts boosting digital ad growth that Covid-19 is accelerating will also be factor.  Facebook and Microsoft report today.

Elsewhere, front month WTI bounced off the lows after testing $10 to move up through $14 by the European session open. API data showed inventories rising almost 10m barrels in the week to Apr 24th, but this was lower than estimates. As ever we are looking at the EIA figures with more interest. A slowing in inventory builds from the +15M we’ve seen in the last three weeks can be expected as we reach tank tops at Cushing. Expect volatility in the front month WTI to be very high until expiry.

Charts

S&P 500 looks to clear key resistance again, still worried about rolling over

FTSE 100 looks to breakout of recent range, taking out the horizontal resistance and looking to breach 6,000 but first it’s got the 50-SMA to deal with.

Lloyds: PPI still bites as Q1 profits miss expectations

Equities

Compensation for customers mis-sold PPI continues to gnaw away at Lloyds profits, whilst it missed on top line revenues in what’s probably not the best quarter for the bank. Net interest income remains ok but we wonder if there is enough in here to continue the rally in shares YTD.

Lloyds took an additional charge of £100 million for PPI in the first quarter, bringing its total provision to very close to £20bn since the scandal first came to light. 

Net income increased by 2% to £4.4 billion, which was a little below the consensus forecast. Profits were flat at £1.6bn, which again was below expectations. Doubts on credit risks are not going away, with asset quality ratio up again to 25bps. Return on tangible equity improved to 12.5%, above its cost of equity. CET1 dropped to 14.2% pre dividend.  

Its net interest margin looks solid enough, holding at 2.91%, which compares favourably with peers.  Cost cutting is helping the bottom line even if revenue growth is not really there – cost to income improved to 44.7% with positive jaws of 6%. 

The company backed its full year outlook – NIM remaining around 290 basis points, operating costs below £8 billion and a net asset quality ratio below 30 basis points. Lloyds still expects a return on tangible equity of 14-15% in 2019.  

As previously stated, the problem with Lloyds is from its very high exposure to the UK market, both unsecured and mortgage lending. It’s really tethered to the UK economy – rising and falling in tandem with consumer spending and the mortgage market, and doesn’t seem to be driving revenue growth unless the economy is growing. 

Shares skidded 2% lower after the results underwhelmed.  After the PRA boosted the stock by cutting its capital requirements, it’s as you were.

Lloyds shares have outperformed chief peers Barclays and RBS in the last year.

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