Week Ahead: Prepare for the Q3 earnings blitz

Week Ahead

Wall Street will be alive with the sound of incoming earnings reports when Q3 earnings season kicks off in earnest this week. On the data side, we get US CPI data plus a look under the Fed hood with the latest FOMC meeting notes.  

Key inflation metric with US CPI report 

First up is Wednesday’s Consumer Price Index report, gauging inflation in the US. 

Following September’s release of August’s numbers, Jerome Powell and his colleagues are sticking to the script: that all this high inflation is simply transitionary. Will Wednesday’s data back this view up? 

For context, the last CPI report published in September showed things had cooled a little in August. Underlying prices rose at their slowest rate for six months up to then. Overall CPI rose 0.3% after gaining 0.5% in July. In the 12 months through August, CPI increased 5.3% after soaring 5.4% year-on-year in July. 

Some Fed members are not worried though. 

“I’m comfortable in thinking that these are elevated prices, that they will be coming down as supply bottlenecks are addressed,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans told CNBC. “I think it could be longer than we were expecting, absolutely, there’s no doubt about it. But I think the continuing increase in these prices is unlikely.” 

Fuel prices are on the rise though. Oil & gas skyrocketed across last week. Higher oil prices generally points towards higher input and transport costs across multiple sectors, which may then be lumped onto the consumer, resulting in higher prices across the board. That said, high energy costs and their knock on effects may be expressed more clearly in next month’s CPI print, rather than Wednesday’s. 

FOMC meeting minutes to give insights into Fed thinking 

Wednesday also sees the release of the FOMC’s meeting minutes for its September get together. 

We know the script now: rates to stay low; tapering to come soon. 

That said, we also know some of the more hawkish fed members are projecting earlier-than-anticipated rate hikes. There is a feeling that higher rates could come next year.  

Chairman Powell also added his voice to the chorus of those warning against failing to raise the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned at the end of September the US government could run out of cash if action isn’t taken. 

Defaulting on US debt would cause “significant damage” to the US economy, according to Powell. President Biden has indicated that there is a real possibility for a debt hike, so the crisis may be averted.  

In terms of steering the economy, however, tapering is probably the big one. It’s thought that the Fed will remove support incrementally until it’s gone altogether by the end of 2022. 

It’s a strong sign that the US is aiming to get back to normal economic times quickly. But the threat of new COVID-19 variants still looms large. Let’s hope there’s not another new Delta forcing a fresh wave of lockdowns in 2022 or the Fed will be left holding the bag once again. 

Earnings season is here again 

Let’s head to Wall Street. Third-quarter earnings are about to start pouring in from the mega caps as earnings season begins anew this week.  

As ever, we’re kicking things off with the big investment banks who reported stunning growth numbers in Q2. Will the momentum roll on? JPMorgan, Wells Faro, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, amongst others, will start the earnings ball rolling with the first report landing from JP landing on Wednesday. 

Although growth looks like it is slowing from Q2 2021’s bumper results, we could still be on for a high-performing quarter. US financial data group FactSet predicts S&P500 companies will enjoy Q3 earnings growth of 27.6% – the third highest year-on-year earnings growth rate reported by the index since 2010. 

There are also supply chain snags to contend with in Q3. They existed across the first half of the year, but with the prices of raw material and energy increasing, we may see a slowing down of results. 

Certainly, the likes of Apple warned that sales growth will drop off towards the end of the year, but let’s see what happens. 

Our US earnings season calendar will keep you up to date of which mega caps are reporting and when so you can plan your trades based on this quarter’s earnings reports. You’ll also a preview of companies reporting this week below. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1  Asset  Event 
Tue Oct-12  10:00am  EUR  ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  10:00am  EUR  German ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  3:00pm  USD  JOLTS Job Openings 
       
  6:01pm  USD  10-y Bond Auction 
Wed Oct-13  1:30pm  USD  CPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Core CPI m/m 
  6:01pm  USD  30-y Bond Auction 
  7:00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu Oct-14  1:30am  AUD  Employment Change 
  1:30am  AUD  Unemployment Rate 
  1:30pm  USD  PPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Core PPI m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
  4:00pm  USD  Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Fri Oct-15  1:30pm  USD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Retail Sales m/m 
  1:30pm  USD  Empire State Manufacturing Index 
  3:00pm  USD  Prelim UoM Consumer Sentiment 
  Tentative  USD  Treasury Currency Report 

 

Key earnings data 

Wed 13 Oct  Thu 14 Oct  Fri 15 Oct 
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM) PMO  Bank of America Corp (BAC) PMO  Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS) PMO 
     
Wells Fargo & Co (WFC) E  Citigroup Inc (C) PMO  Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS) PMO 
     
  Morgan Stanley (MS) PMO   

 

Fed waits

The Federal Reserve is playing for time – more certainty from Washington as much as inflation and the path of growth are needed before they really start to move, but the consensus is clearly tilting towards a marginally more hawkish view with rate hikes now pencilled in for 2022. Market reading this as marginally dovish since the taper was not announced but this is balanced by the more hawkish dots. On balance market reaction seems a little off kilter but we await chairman Powell next.

On tapering – if economic progress continues then reducing asset purchases would be warranted. It’s a prewarning but they are not tying themselves to any date just yet. Still set to taper this year but the absence of a clear signal in the statement indicates it’s more likely to be Dec after being announced in Nov.

On lift for rates – median hike brough forward to 2022 from 2023 previously. Markets had already been pricing Dec 2022 as the lift-off for rates so this is well anticipated. Dot plots are firming up the shorter maturities as investors price in the Fed raising rates in the near future but the long end is not playing ball as no one sees long-term growth picking up massively – so more curve flattening, not the big steepener we’d thought earlier this year – but that is just for the time being. 10s are weaker around 1.305%, down heavily from the 1.34% area traded earlier today. Gold is firmer and the dollar weaker, though the kneejerk in the seconds after the release was the reverse. The Dow trades firmer and the S&P 500 rallied to session highs in the wake of the release. So far the market is buying the Fed’s line that tapering ain’t tightening and that it will do all it can to avoid a tantrum in the bond market.

Fed Dots 23.09.2021

On inflation – the core PCE inflation number for this year was hiked to 3.7% from 3.0%, the 2022 figure to 2.3% from 2.1%. They’re pulling out the ‘transitory but not quite as transitory as we thought’ line. I called 3.5% for 2021 and 2.5% for 2022 – so Fed still frontloading inflation expectations here – more in 2021, cooling sharply next year. Still not the ‘substantial further progress’ because it’s transitory – go figure.

On growth – hotter this year, cooler next, reflecting the slowdown in the reopening burst and also the problems in global supply chains, labour shortages leaving the economy running below potential and the impact of inflation.

Fed inflation forecasts 23.09.2021

On employment – like the more circumspect growth outlook the unemployment outlook for this year is not so good – 4.8% vs 4.5% in June. Slower growth, plus a less racy recovery in the labour market net out the inflation concerns – but it’s signalling stagflationary trouble ahead.

UK, Euro stocks rally for 2nd day ahead of Fed meeting

Morning Note

Stocks have opened higher again after Europe rallied handsomely on Tuesday with gains of +1%. Wall Street was more timid – the S&P 500 declined marginally, as did the Dow Jones industrial average. The Nasdaq and Russell 200 both eked out small gains. Shakeout from Monday seems to be lingering longer in the US – there was an attempted bounce yesterday but failure to finish above the previous close is perhaps a signal that there is further weakness in the offing. However, it’s hard to take too much risk on with attention now squarely on today’s FOMC statement and press conference with Jay Powell.

Whilst markets do not expect the Federal Reserve to race towards tapering asset purchases – the soft jobs report did for that – there is a broad consensus in the market that it will begin dialling back the pace of its QE programme at some point this year – likely Nov, but maybe Dec. That means this week’s meeting may be an appropriate moment for the Fed to give the market fair warning. Or not. In a sense it doesn’t matter much what they say or don’t say on tapering – the risk lies in what the Fed does or doesn’t say about rate hikes. And though Monday’s market sell off may have caught the Fed off guard, with stocks just 4% off record highs there is not any reason for panic right now. Stocks have been rolling over since the weak jobs report, and Fed officials should be prepared to look through some softer data and mild pullbacks in equity markets. I don’t think the Fed is actually worried about the S&P 500 dropping 4-5%, despite what some of the fintwit crowd suggest.

The main hawkish risk for the market is with the dot plot – if you still pay attention to it. The market does, at least for a time. A hawkish dot plot bringing lift-off into 2022 could be a sell signal. Also watch inflation forecasts. Inflation is going to be higher for longer and the Fed is starting to realise this. Close attention will be paid the latest round of economic projections for a guide on whether the Fed is changing its mind on the pace of inflation and growth. My own view is that we get a Fed that is more ready to accept – at least in the projections and dots, if not Powell’s words – that inflation is stickier than they thought it would be. Core PCE forecast at 3% in 2021 needs to revised higher but the big one will be the outlook for 2022 and 2023, which at the Jun meeting were forecast at 2.1%. My bet is the Fed raises 2021 to 3.5%, 2022 to about 2.5% and leaves 2023 alone, pulling a ‘it’s transitory but not quite as transitory as we thought’ angle. My own view: the Fed’s policy response to the pandemic and failure to pullback emergency support sooner has allowed long-term inflation expectations to become unanchored, creating damaging effects on confidence and growth longer-term: stagflation.

Noteworthy that the OECD came out yesterday to say inflation will grow faster than before the pandemic for at least two years. G20 inflation will fall from 4.5% at the end of 2021 to 3.5% by the end of 2022, the OECD said.

Shares of Evergrande in Frankfurt are surging this morning after the company struck a debt deal over a repayment due Thursday. The EV1 ticker rallied 20% in early trade to €0.32. China’s central bank was also stepping up liquidity injections, adding to the improved risk sentiment. The PBOC pumped 60 billion Yuan of 7-day reverse repos and the same again in 14-day reverse repos, though they stopped short of cutting the prime 1yr and 5yr loan rates. The mood boosted AUD and NZD and injected some bid for metals, with copper back above $4.20 having tested $4.0 yesterday. The fillip helped basic resources top the FTSE 100 in early trade this morning, with Anglo American, Antofagasta, BHP, Glencore and EVRAZ the top risers. Mega default contagion risk abated for the time being.

Entain shares soared higher as the company announced that it received an offer from DraftKings worth 2,800 pence per share. The offer would consist of 630p in cash and the balance payable in new DraftKings shares. Shares trade up 7% again to 2,432p, suggesting investors are not betting the farm on this deal going ahead. Entain says it will ‘carefully consider the proposal and a further announcement will be made as and when appropriate’. Consolidation in this space has been taking place for years over this side of the pond. Deregulation of the US sports betting market was always going to create further change as the technology and expertise of the British firms came to the fore – the question I have why are these takeovers not going in the other direction? Anyway, Flutter up 5% today because you know – who’s next and all that – but also it settled its case with the US state (Commonwealth) of Kentucky, agreeing to pay another $200m in addition to the $100m already forfeited.

Safety equipment maker Halma reports ‘strong progress’ in the first half of the financial year, with performance ahead of management expectations, with revenue growth and return on sales exceeding both expectations and historic levels. Order intake was better than the 2019 period. Halma cautions that it expects to see more typical rates of revenue growth and return on sales in the second half of the year, with the latter more in line with historic levels as variable overhead costs gradually return. In addition, management warn they will see continued impact on revenue, costs and working capital from increased supply chain, logistics and labour market disruption. Despite this, adjusted profit before tax for the full year is expected to be slightly ahead of previous guidance.

Oil rose, as near-term weakness in prices caught in the broader risk sell-off waned, allowing firmer price action to take over. Goldman Sachs said that combined with the spike global gas prices, a colder winter in Europe and Asia could drive demand for crude and $5 a barrel to the price of oil. API data showed a draw of more than 6m barrels last week, well above the 2.4m expected. EIA figs today expected to show a draw of 3.3m barrels, which would be the 7th straight weekly decline in inventories with the disruption from hurricane season still playing out on the ground. Momentum just cooling a touch on the daily charts but market fundamentals still look very good.

Elsewhere, the dollar is flattish this morning. GBPUSD is testing month lows again around 1.3640 – potential bottoming taking place – key test here whether we break these trend lines on the price and also the RSI and MACD (green). A bounce calls for a rally back to 1.390 perhaps – beware tonight’s Fed meeting for headfakes.

GBPUSD Chart 22.09.2021

A new low for Bitcoin overnight, weakest since early Aug. Price action is wobbly and may see the Jul lows around $30k unless the 200-day is recaptured soon.

Bitcoin Chart 22.09.2021

China risks weigh on stocks, Fed meeting ahead

Morning Note

Rough day for equities: China risks to the fore at the start of the week as the fallout from the collapse of Evergrande weighed on the Hong Kong market. The Hang Seng fell 3.5%, with Evergrande down another 12%. Basic resources are feeling the heat as a slowdown in demand from Chinese property developers would be a negative. Luxury also hit – Chinese investors are seeing portfolios hammered, which means less for fur coats. Hong Kong’s weakness was all the more noticeable with Japan, China and South Korea on holiday. Spiking natural gas prices and a European energy crisis, talk of produce shortages and surging inflation don’t provide an encouraging backdrop. Meanwhile a Federal Reserve meeting this week and Sunday’s German election both offer macro uncertainty.

Contagion risks from the Evergrande meltdown are the prime cause of today’s sell-off. You’ve got all kinds of banks and insurers caught in the net but ultimately, I don’t see this as a Lehman’s moment right now. But combined with the tech crackdown it’s probably another reason why investors will be seeking to avoid China in the near term. What we are seeing today is how risks get priced gradually then suddenly. It is definitely though a major cause for investor concern right now and it is possible we see further losses before the dip finally gets bought. A market so well-conditioned to buying the dip will find it hard to resist. But the Fed meeting this week will be of particular importance – does a Chinese property collapse and energy crisis collide with expectations for a Fed rate hike next year and biting inflationary pressures? That would be a pretty nasty cocktail for risk appetite and I think these are the risks being priced into today’s (and possible further) selling.

European equities took the weak handover and limped to a decline of more than 1% in early trade. The blue-chip index is now testing its 200-day simple moving average at 6,880. Rolls-Royce and AstraZeneca gained 2% each but the rest of the board is nasty looking, led lower by basic resources and financials. Prudential fell 4% after placing 130m shares in Hong Kong following the demerger of its US business Jackson Financial. A very soft start for the DAX’s brave new world – 10 more companies added as of this morning but down more than 2% at the start of the session. Airline stocks are just about the only bright spot on the Stoxx 600 as investors bet that looser restrictions will drive up demand over the winter. Also, Lufthansa’s decision to launch a capital raise to pay back the €2.1bn state bailout it received during the pandemic is also being viewed as a positive – clearly, the company feels the medium-term prospects allow it to think about paying back the state. All sectors on the Stoxx 600 are lower.

Wall Street suffered a third straight down week, with the S&P 500 failing to hold its 50-day SMA support and declining 0.9% on Friday to 4,432.99. Futures indicate the market will open about 1% lower around 4,390. The Dow Jones industrial average was lower by 0.5% on a day of veay volume – the highest since July on quad witching day. Although the S&P 500 has traded through its 50-day SMA before and bounced in the last year, we’re dealing with a set of financial fears (China) rather than ‘concerns’ about a variant weighing on growth.

Conspiracy theory: Handy timing for Fed officials to be forced to sell their stocks a week or two ago because of ‘ethics’, not perhaps because they wanted out at the top? The Fed haters and many more think it’s more than a coincidence that their stock trading was revealed, leading to voluntary liquidation just in time to avoid a fallout. Better that than selling out at the top and people finding out later.

Metals weaker – copper down 2% and testing its 200-day SMA, gold treading water at $1,750 after last week’s steep losses, hitting its lowest since mid-August earlier this morning. Silver – once a darling of the Reddit crowd – dropped to its weakest since Nov 2020.

Natural gas prices in the US have come back after spiking last week above $5.60 – top called? Expected rise in demand going into the winter may be well priced. Remember what is happening in Europe with gas prices and the infrastructure problems are not directly correlated to the Henry Hub contract.

Natural Gas Chart 20.09.2021

The USD is finding all this risk-off sentiment a positive – fresh three-week highs for DXY. GBPUSD declined to a new three-week low at 1.36650, towards the bottom of the YTD range, whilst EURUSD is testing a 4-week low at 1.170.

GBP USD Chart 20.09.2021

Cryptocurrencies also markedly weaker on the general risk-off liquidation we are seeing across global markets. Bitcoin took a leg lower in early European trade and may want to test the Sep 13th lows around $44k.

Bitcoin Chart 20.09.2021

Little in the way of data today so all the China contagion/fallout stories will be the prime driver of sentiment. Looking ahead we have the Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday – key question is whether it announces plan to taper QE or sits on its hands a little longer. But actually, the key risk lies in what the dots (if you still look at them) tell us about when Fed policymakers (increasingly hawkish?) think the lift-off date for rate hikes will be. Meanwhile, the Bank of England will need to respond to biggest jump in inflation on record when it convenes this week. Does is call time on QE now and prepare the market for a rate hike soon? Surging inflation is not going away and the MPC risks all kinds of trouble by not administering some medicine early.

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