Tech stocks under pressure

Morning Note

Markets remain on the hook to the trade war rumblings, but a new war has opened up that threatens equity investors – a war on tech. What the Fed threatens to give, the DoJ takes away.

Yesterday we saw a soft start in the US before the ISM print missed and investors raised bets the Fed will cut rates this year. But the Fed put was not enough to fight the tide off tech woes. 

Fangs are under severe pressure amid fears they are in the crosshairs of trust busters. The DoJ and FTC are marking targets and loading up. Whilst it’s far too early to say if any would, or could, be ripe to be broken up, there’s a real threat this will depress multiples and mean we need to reset expectations. Given the Fangs have been at the front of the market expansion in recent years, this will act as a drag on sentiment as well.

A couple of very big moves yesterday in Alphabet and Facebook. 

Alphabet –6% – support now seen around $968, before $895 comes into play. 

Facebook –7.5% – key support seen at $159, below that we look to the $145 level. 

Calls have been growing louder and louder for the authorities to at least look at antitrust issues for the tech giants. Political pressure is building – lawmakers sniff votes in tackling big tech. The shift really happened last year with Facebook’s scandals, which broken the illusion of Silicon Valley being in it for the little guy. They’re just big corporations out to make money like any other – the politicians can smell blood. As I noted a year or two ago, I always thought Trump had the hallmarks of a Teddy Roosevelt trust-buster.  

So now we have the Nasdaq in correction territory – down 1.6% yesterday to take it more than 10% off its all-time highs. The Dow was flat, while the S&P 500 notched a decline of 0.3%. The FTSE 100 ended the day in the green, up 0.3% at 7184 with the key 7150 level holding.

Asian shares followed Wall Street’s lead overnight, and futures show European shares are under the cosh again today.

Rates

US Treasury yields continue their slide with the 10yr slipping to 2.085% and threatening to find the 2.05% level now. EURUSD has broken out of technical resistance due to the slide in yields as markets bet on a Fed rate cut. EURUSD faces resistance at 1.126/7 but having broken out of the long-term descending wedge we could now look for more gains. Has the dollar rally ended? Well it all depends on the Fed. 

Today’s Jay Powell speech is now key to market sentiment after dovish comments from James Bullard yesterday. 

St. Louis Fed boss James Bullard – a voting member of the FOMC – says a rate cut may be warranted soon. He talked about a sharper than expected slowdown. He also discussed a cut as insurance – some sense the Fed is seeking to get ahead of the curve – too late! Over to Powell later today.

Bullard has always been one of the most dovish members of the FOMC – the market may have massively miscalculated the US central bank’s view of the economy, inflation and risks to its forecasts. I rather think the Fed will be a lot less ready to ease than the market thinks, and this suggests a significant decoupling between the Fed and market expectations.

EZ inflation

Ahead of this we have the Eurozone CPI print. The last reading showed inflation rose to a 6-month high in April at 1.7%, whilst core price growth rose to 1.3%. However, this uptick seems to be down to one-offs and the core read is expected to revert to trend around 1% in May, with the headline print at 1.4%. 
 

Woodford shut – worse to come? 

Neil Woodford has suspended trading in the Woodford Equity Income. Woodford has clearly made a series of poor investment decisions. Out of love UK stocks with entirely domestic may have been ultra-cheap, but they’re still unloved and still cheap. Provident has been a disaster. Kier, whose shares tumbled 40% yesterday, also disaster. It’s been a tough few years for Woodford and things look like they will get worse still. 

RBA cut 

No surprise the RBA cut rates, it had been fully priced in. The question now is how many more? The statement didn’t tell us anything new. No indication there will be more this year. Worth noting the RBA’s own forecasts are predicated on 50bps of cuts so we’re only half way there. Watch the data. AUDUSD has gained a few pips post the statement, with little detail on future cuts likely to give the bulls some hope. Resistance at 0.6990, the 38.2% Fib level, tested and rejected.

Retail sales

UK retail sales fell off a cliff in May – down 2.7%. This is the worst ever decline in retail sales and will hit the sector today.

Morning Note: Trade war escalates, Uber IPO caution, IAG profits sag

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Morning Note

Tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese exports were raised to 25% last night. Trump was true to his word, and there is no can kicking. This marks a sharp escalation in the trade spat, but it’s not gone nuclear yet.

Talks between the Chinese and the Americans are continuing today, although we don’t hold out much hope of anything meaningful being achieved this week.  

It all tends to suggest Mr Trump is playing one of his aces in order to force the Chinese into concessions. His bet is that the US economy can weather any hit from tariffs better than China. He is probably right but this will not help ease uncertainty about the global economy. Beijing is weighing whether to retaliate. 

Yesterday the S&P 500 bounced off its lows, closing down just 0.3% at 2870.72, having plumbed lows around 2835. The Dow was offside by 139 points on the close, but was over 400 points lower at one point. Algos seemed to bidding it up after the ‘beautiful letter’ nonsense.

Oil has rallied, indicating markets have had enough of the selloff. Brent was last pushing up at 70.75, above the key 70.60 resistance point. The flag pattern does look like it could be a bullish continuation pattern that is just about complete – watch for a leg higher. But failure to cement the tentative gains we see this morning would be bearish – look for the area around 69.50 for support.

Asian stocks bounced overnight and European futures point higher today. Chinese stocks were last about 3% higher – just remember how much these stocks had sold off earlier in the week.  There is still hope that a deal will be done.

Uber prices at low end 

Uber priced at the bottom end of the range at $45. It’s a rough time to be coming to the market after the selloff this week but this IPO exists to a degree in its own bubble. Are you betting on the long payoff? If not, you may well be disappointed – profits are not coming any time soon.  

But shares could yet pop higher today, partly because of this conservative approach that Uber clearly learned from Lyft’s bumpy ride post-IPO. I said yesterday (Uber set for big pop despite Lyft worries, 09/05/19) that I would not be surprised if the people selling Lyft stock are simply doing so in preparation for the Uber listing, so be careful reading too much into the Lyft troubles. FOMO is a strong emotion. 

Nevertheless, my main concern is the slowing revenue growth. Whatever the cash burn, you’d want to see accelerating top line growth in a disruptor coming to market.  

IAG profits sag

Profits at IAG were hit by rising fuel costs and a big FX headwind, whilst we see a broader thread across airlines with margins being competed away. Excess capacity remains a problem, as we heard from Lufthansa. In fact, we can pretty much regurgitate what we noted about Lufthansa – lots of competition means no one has the pricing power, whilst labour costs are a factor, but the biggest headwind right now is fuel costs, which were up 15.8%. Non-fuel costs were 0.8% higher. 

Although passenger revenue growth was at a healthy clip, up in excess of 5%, first quarter operating profit slumped to €135 million before exceptional items, which was down 60% from a year before on pro forma basis. Profits after exceptional items – which were zero in Q1 – were down 86%. FX headwinds knocked €61m from the bottom line. 2019 operating profit is seen in line with 2018 – which means no growth in the year ahead. 

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