Week Ahead: Can nonfarm payrolls turn it around?

Week Ahead

The next five days is a big week full of big meetings. On the data front, it’s nonfarm payrolls time. Will we see a reversal of fortune for US labour markets? We’ve also central bank meetings in the form of Bank of England and Federal Reserve summits. A new month means a new OPEC-JMMC meeting too.

Nonfarm payrolls – a swing and a miss or return to form?

The week’s most significant data release is October’s US nonfarm payrolls data.

It’s been a hard couple of months for jobs in the United States. NFPs have been way wide of the mark for the past two months. September’s numbers clocked in at 194,000 new jobs against 500,000 expected. August was expected to add 366,000 roles. 720,000 were forecast this month.

Jobs are a key metric for tapering. We’re still expecting the FOMC to announce tapering this Wednesday at its monthly meeting, but it’s clear that Fed Chair Powell sees the labour sector far from where it needs to be.

One thing that will be interesting in the near-to-mid term is the impact of record job walk outs. Over 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August. There is a myriad of reasons why (pent-up savings, early retirement, general job dissatisfaction, etc.). The number of US workers leaving their jobs could result in new roles being created, this an NFP bump – but it could result in more misses as we’ve seen recently.

FOMC to confirm tapering?

Whatever the state of the job market, Jerome Powell says tapering is “on track”.

As mentioned above, the markets had been expecting the scaling back of the US massive QE programme to begin in November. This still hasn’t been 100% confirmed, but we may see it at this week’s FOMC meeting.

Currently, the Fed is buying securities worth $120bn a month as part of its extraordinary pandemic fiscal support measures.

With an apparently weaker jobs sector and spiralling inflation, no rate hikes are expected just yet. But, according to Powell, beginning to ease off the QE pedal will allow the Fed to tackle both these issues.

“No one should doubt that we will use these tools to guide inflation back down to 2% over time,” Powell said at an event held by the South African Reserve Bank last Friday. “At the same time, we think we can be patient and allow the recovery to take place and allow the labour market to heal.”

A couple of FOMC members have confirmed they will support tapering at this week’s meet. Fed Governors Randal Quarles and Christopher Waller are amongst those more hawkish voices on the council.

“This action should not tighten financial conditions, since a later 2021 tapering has already been priced in by most participants,” Waller said last week.

Bank of England: to hike or not to hike?

When the Bank of England meets on Thursday it’ll be facing a dilemma. The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is still being split by hawks and doves, but it appears the hawks might be winning the fight.

But is a rate hike coming? And is now the right time for the Bank of England to start messing about with rates? Inflation is still high, despite a slight drop last month, and growth is stagnating.

Governor Bailey certainly seems hawkish. Earlier in the month, the BoE chief said the bank would have to act to contain inflation. One of the tools at his disposal is rating hikes.

However, others aren’t so sure of the validity of raising rates from their historic lows just yet. Silvana Tenreyro, a BoE policymaker, has indicated rates won’t rise until after Christmas. Silvana, like many of the more dovish voices on the Bank council, is betting that high inflation is all transitionary.

BoE Chief Economist Huw Pill appears to be leaning more towards the hawks.

In his first public comments since taking up his post, Pill said: “In my view, that balance of risks is currently shifting towards great concerns about the inflation outlook, as the current strength of inflation looks set to prove more long-lasting than originally anticipated.”

At the October session, the MPC voted unanimously to keep rates stable. It will be interesting to see if the group collective remains united, or if the hawks will start to dominate.

OPEC+ meeting – saying the course?

It’s a new month which means a new set of OPEC-JMMC meetings.

OPEC+ is not looking to buck the system here. It has very clearly stuck to its guns throughout the past couple of months and kept production increase steady at 400,000 bpd per month.

The cartel has faced calls from big crude oil consumers, notably the US, to open the taps further. This is despite the fact the United States sits upon millions of barrels of shale and could look to its own resources, but that’s a separate issue.

No, OPEC+ and its chair Saudi Arabia are quite content with the way oil markets are moving. Crude oil prices are up roughly 50% year-on-year in 2021. And, according to Saudi Arabia, a surplus is on the cards for 2022.

So, why would OPEC and its allies want to change things? The per-barrel price of crude is soaring. These countries are reliant on high oil prices for their prosperity. 40% of Russian government revenues come from hydrocarbons for instance.

As such, do not expect any big surprises at this Thursday’s OPEC-JMMC meeting.

Wall Street earnings season keeps the Q3 reports coming

Remember, we are still deep in earnings season. Wall Street is alive megacaps report their third quarter financials.

Big names reporting this week include ActivisionBlizzard, Uber, Pfizer, and Airbnb. To see which companies are reporting and when don’t forget to check out our US earnings season calendar.

Major economic data

Date Time (GMT+1) Asset Event
Mon 01-Nov 2:00pm USD ISM Manufacturing PMI
 
Tue 02-Nov 3:30am AUD RBA Rate Statement
  3:30am AUD Cash Rate
  8:00pm NZD RBNZ Financial Stability Report
  9:45pm NZD Employment Change q/q
  9:45pm NZD Unemployment Rate
 
Wed 03-Nov 8:00am EUR Spanish Unemployment Change
  12:15pm USD ADP Non-Farm Employment Change
  2:00pm USD ISM Services PMI
  2:30pm OIL Crude Oil Inventories
  6:00pm USD FOMC Statement
  6:00pm USD Federal Funds Rate
  6:30pm USD FOMC Press Conference
 
Thu 04-Nov 10:00am EUR EU Economic Forecasts
  All Day OIL OPEC-JMMC Meetings
  12:00pm GBP Asset Purchase Facility
  12:00pm GBP BOE Monetary Policy Report
  12:00pm GBP MPC Asset Purchase Facility Votes
  12:00pm GBP MPC Official Bank Rate Votes
  12:00pm GBP Monetary Policy Summary
  12:00pm GBP Official Bank Rate
  12:30pm USD Unemployment Claims
  02.30pm GAS US Natural Gas Inventories
 
Fri 05-Nov 12:30am AUD RBA Monetary Policy Statement
  12:30pm CAD Employment Change
  12:30pm CAD Unemployment Rate
  12:30pm USD Average Hourly Earnings m/m
  12:30pm USD Non-Farm Employment Change
  12:30pm USD Unemployment Rate
  2:00pm CAD Ivey PMI

 

Key earnings data

Mon 1 Nov Tue 2 Nov Wed 3 Nov Thu 4 Nov
Pfizer (PFE) Ball Corp (BLL)
Arista Networks (ANET) Activision Blizzard (ATVI) Qualcomm Inc (QCOM) Lumentum Holdings (LITE)
Mondelez (MDLZ) Moderna (MRNA)
The Trade Desk (TTD)
Airbnb (ABNB)
Illumina (ILMN)
Liberty Global Class A (LBTYA)
Peloton (PTON)
Roku Inc (ROKU)
Square Inc (SQ)
Uber Technologies (UBER)

 

Stocks up as earnings optimism wins, inflation expectations higher

Morning Note

European stock markets rose in early trade Friday, set to finish the week largely flat after a little wobble but not a huge amount of movement. Churn seems to the be order of the day after a decent run up for the FTSE 100, which hit its best level in about 18 months last Friday. It’s not far off that level this morning.  Bit of a double whammy for UK this morning with the Bank of England chief economist warning inflation will exceed 5% and retail sales falling again. Stagflation vibes but sterling holding on ok and 2yr gilts back off their recent highs, though the wires just flashed the UK 10-year breakeven inflation rate has risen to its highest in 25 years. A GfK report showed consumer inflation expectations jumping to a record high. That’s what the Bank of England is expressly trying to avoid. Asian shares were up as Evergrande repaid a missed dollar interest payment. IHG shares off 2% despite a rebound in bookings thanks to Brits doing more holidaying in the UK, Sainsbury’s also lower as it abandons plans to sell its bank.

 

The S&P 500 closed at a record high and made it seven straight days of gains amid a mood of positivity around earnings. It ends a two-month pullback that saw it decline a modest 6% before recovering. Rates are higher – US 10s at their highest since May at 1.7% and 2s at a year high, curve flatter. The 10yr TIPS breakeven inflation rose above 2.61% to hits its highest since 2012. But investors are shrugging off inflation and expected central bank policy moves because of earnings growth being more positive than thought. Tesla shares rose to a record after earnings beat expectations. Energy and financials lagged, megacap tech did the lifting +1% (FANG+TM up 1%). Again slower growth, higher inflation supports growth stocks as real growth is at a premium. A steep drop for IBM prevented the Dow Jones from rallying.

 

Not a huge move in FX this morning – dollar index around the 93.60 area, major pairs stuck to well-worn levels. GBPUSD is trying to regain 1.38 and make a fresh stab at what looks like a near-term top around 1.3830 – the high of each of the last three days.  

 

Donald Trump + social media + SPAC. It feels like a kind of reassuringly volatile mix. Trump is launching his own social media platform called TRUTH Social. It needs capital letters, of course. I’d maybe even suggest ‘TRUTH! SOCIAL!’ might be more appropriate. Banned by Twitter and Facebook, Trump is taking on the Silicon Valley elite and fake news in the way he knows best. Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: DWAC), the Spac that merged with the platform company, soared as much as 400% and had to be halted at one point amid very heavy volume. Trump still sells. The stock finished up 357% at $45.50.  

 

I can’t see the majority of people ditching their FB and Twitter accounts for this. But you can see a large chunk of disaffected Americans, chiefly Republican/Trump voters, giving it go. I don’t think this ends the dominance of the other platforms, but tells you a lot about what a lot of people think about the platforms they use. “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech,” says DT. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable.” He’s got a point. 

 

If you don’t have a controversial ex-President to back your social media platform, you have to rely on more mundane things like advertising revenues to drive cash flow. So poor Snap shares collapsed overnight as third quarter revenue expectations missed expectations after Apple’s iPhone privacy changes hit the advertising business. Daily active user growth was sluggish and the company warned of the global supply chain problems and labour shortages hitting advertising demand. Shares plunged by more than 21% after hours. Facebook and Twitter both dropped by more than 4% in sympathy.  

 

The Federal Reserve has banned individual stock purchases by top officials and outlined a broader set of restrictions on their investing activities. These will ‘prohibit them from purchasing individual stocks, holding investments in individual bonds, holding investments in agency securities (directly or indirectly), or entering into derivatives’.

The move came as it emerged that Fed officials were warned on March 23rd, 2020, to observe a ‘trading blackout’ for a period of ‘several months’ due to recent and likely upcoming actions by the Fed. The same day, the Fed did its ‘everything it takes’ moment by committing to open-end bond purchases “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning”. If you, say, knew the Fed was about to provide the ultimate backstop to the stock market, it would be useful, I assume. I figure that if you owned a tonne of stocks you’d find it valuable to know what the Fed was about to do or not do. Which is why it obviously stinks that Fed members have been allowed to trade individual stocks at all. Messrs Kaplan and Rosengren were trading again within weeks, not months, of the memo date. 

 

If you read the memo a certain way it just sounds like the ethics people were actually just trying to offer some good advice – don’t do any unnecessary selling, we got this: “In light of the rapidly developing nature of recent and likely upcoming (Federal Reserve) System actions, please consider observing a trading blackout and avoid making unnecessary securities transactions for at least the next several months, or until FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) and Board policy actions return to their regularly scheduled timing.”

The US Debt Ceiling: The Only Way Is Up

With Democratic lawmakers currently working to pass a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill, Republican senators have rediscovered their fiscal conservatism, which appeared to temporarily desert them during the Trump era. Given their minority status in both Congressional chambers, McConnell and co are relying on a tool that served them well under the Obama administration – the debt ceiling.

Republicans are demanding that Democrats reduce the scale of their planned infrastructure bill, whose price tag could be as high as $3.5 trillion. Without cooperation on that issue, Republican senators say they will refuse to cooperate on the issue of the debt ceiling. With Senate Majority Leader Schumer already ruling out the use of the reconciliation workaround, which allows for a simple majority for a bill to pass, the only path to resolution on this issue is through a normal Senate vote. This is critical, given the 60-vote requirement for regular bills to pass in the Senate – any debt ceiling resolution will require at least 10 red-state senators to break ranks and vote aye. The achievement of 60 votes is made yet more difficult by the potential for moderate Democrats to join their Republican colleagues in blocking action on the debt ceiling, with Joe Manchin having previously expressed his discomfort with the national debt.

Secretary Yellen now says that the US is likely to hit its debt ceiling on the 18th of October, meaning the federal government will be unable to fulfil its financial obligations after this date unless the ceiling is raised or suspended. This latter point is crucial and has been somewhat muddied by Republican spin on this issue. In reality, the debt ceiling is not about new government spending at all, it is about the government’s ability to fulfil spending promises that it has already made. Such obligations include both welfare payments and the maintenance of the national debt, meaning the potential economic consequences of this saga go far beyond the passage or non-passage of Biden’s infrastructure plan.

This is not the first time that Republican lawmakers have employed such a strategy, using it in both 2011 and 2013 to extract concessions from President Obama. In both of these cases, the concessions achieved were relatively minor, and the Republicans were eventually forced to settle for a moral victory at best. On top of that, the Democrats were able to avoid the bulk of the political backlash, with only 31% of the country saying that they were to blame for the crisis in 2011. So why use such a tactic again, given that it appears on the surface to have been so unsuccessful in times past?

  • Firstly, the political landscape has shifted drastically since episodes one and two of this trilogy. President Biden is a far less formidable political adversary than his former boss, particularly with regards to charisma and control over the media narrative. McConnell will be betting that his party can do a better job of deflecting blame towards the Democrats now they don’t have to compete with Obama’s overwhelming political celebrity. This strategy already appears to be paying off, with just 16% of poll respondents blaming the Republicans for the potential default.
  • Secondly, let us not forget who the intended audience of this political stunt really is – the Republican base. Having the support of even just 31% of the country is more than enough to achieve success in US elections given their historically low turnout, especially in the midterms which are now on the horizon. Turnout will be key in 2022 and this savvy political ploy will increase Republican chances of breaking the Democratic stranglehold on Washington next year by enticing conservative voters to the polls.

With all of this being said, the actual probability of US debt default is virtually zero. This Republican routine would be much more convincing if we hadn’t seen it twice before already. Does anyone really believe that it is a coincidence that all three debt crises have come in the year prior to a midterm election? Or that lawmakers (and their donors) with combined stock portfolios in the billions would seriously allow the devastating economic damage such a default would guarantee? The final nail in the coffin for the convincingness of such a threat is the Republican voters themselves. One of the best-kept secrets in Washington is that red states receive far more in net federal spending per capita than blue states. Whilst conservative voters may love the idea of national fiscal responsibility in theory, they are far more attached to personal financial solvency in practice. If the Republicans actually allowed this debacle to get to a point where the government stopped sending welfare checks, it would be their voters who would suffer the most, and the potential political benefits of this gambit would be nowhere to be seen.

This is not to say that no economic damage will be done or that no panic will occur. In 2011 a resolution was agreed just two days before the debt ceiling was due to be reached and resulted in a US credit rating downgrade and the loss of 1.2 million jobs by 2015. Rather, the very worst fears of the financial markets will not be realised – the debt ceiling will be raised and the infrastructure bill will pass in one form or another. But it’s going to get very messy and very noisy before we get there.

Outcomes:

  1. The panic and political manoeuvring will continue, and may even stretch beyond the October 18th date stated by Yellen, if the Treasury gets creative with their accounting. This uncertainty will hit markets and the real economy but this is a sacrifice Republicans are willing to make. McConnell looks set to trade a few points in the S&P 500 for a few points at the polls in the midterms – a bit of a bargain in political terms.
  2. Moderate Democrats will use this pressure as leverage against the left in their own party who are pushing for the headline $3.5 trillion bill to be realised. This will lead to further infighting among the Democrats which the left will likely lose, meaning a smaller infrastructure package than initially intended.
  3. The chances of the Democrats maintaining or expanding their control in Washington just went down.

Stocks firm in Europe after US selloff

Morning Note

The rise in global bond yields that’s been gathering pace since the delayed reaction to last week’s Fed meeting saw US indices finally crack properly. Mega cap growth took a pounding, sending the Nasdaq down 2.8%, whilst the heavy weighting of these stocks on the S&P 500 sent the broader market lower by 2%. Jay Powell, facing scrutiny from lawmakers in Congress, said inflation could stay “elevated” for longer than previously predicted. Investors are also paying close attention to events in Washington as Republicans once again blocked efforts to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown and potential default. European stock markets were firmer in early trade, tracking the middle of the recent ranges. The FTSE 100 continues to trade in a range of a little over 100pts.

Next rose 2.5% as it once again raised its full-year outlook. In the six months to July, brand full-price sales were +8.8% versus 2019 and +62% against 2020. Profit before tax rose to £347m, up +5.9% versus 2019. Full-price sales in the last eight weeks were up +20% versus 2019, which management said ‘materially’ exceeded expectations. The strong outrun means Next is raising full-price sales guidance for the rest of the year to be up +10% versus 2019. And its forecast profit before tax has been raised to £800m, up +6.9% versus 2019 and +£36m ahead of previous guidance of £764m.

The dollar is making new highs, hitting its best since Nov 2020 even as the bond selling takes a pause. US 10yr rates have edged back to around 1.51%. Elsewhere, Citi cited Evergrande as it cut its China 2022 GDP forecast to 4.9% from 5.5%. A key gauge of long-term Eurozone inflation expectations rose to the highest since 2015.

Sterling moved to fresh YTD lows, with GBPUSD touching the 1.350 support. Some have pinned this on fuel (lorry driver) shortages and panic buying. Others have raised the stagflation klaxon because of the fuel problems. This looks like finding a narrative to suit the price action. Nothing changed yesterday relative to the day before. Much like we saw in the bond and equity markets, things move. And cable maybe is seeing a flushing out of some weak hands post the BoE hawkishness. What we have seen is the way sterling moves in a risk-on, risk-off fashion and yesterday was clearly risk off. Expectations for the BoE to raise rates before the Fed may create problems if the BoE has to walk that back in the face of a tougher economic backdrop. Clearly, bulls were caught in a bit of a trap last week and we need to see a bottom formed before we get excited again.

GBP USD Chart 29.09.2021

Stocks ease back at the open, oil and yields higher still

Morning Note

Yields are popping, as a bond market selloff that started last week in the wake of the Fed meeting gathers steam. US 20yr and 30yr paper is yielding the most since July, both above 2%, whilst the benchmark 10yr note has jumped above the psychologically important 1.5% level to 1.53%, its highest since June. Bets on central banks tightening monetary policy more swiftly than previously thought are fuelling the selling in rates as investors also focus in on the wrangling in Washington over the US debt ceiling. Whether we are talking reflation or stagflation, the ‘flation part of the equation is clear and yields need to rise as a corollary. If the Fed is buying $120bn a month in debt today, but buying less tomorrow, it makes sense that rates will inevitably rise.

Senate Republicans on Monday were true to their word and blocked a House bill that would avert a government shutdown and potential default on US debt. Democrats have until Friday to pass legislation that will avoid a shutdown, whilst it’s likely that the debt ceiling must be raised by the middle of October to prevent the US government defaulting on its debt. This pantomime must play out, but it seems impossible that the debt ceiling won’t be raised. A shutdown is possible, however default is unthinkable. Two Fed officials warned of extreme market reaction in the event of a default. Whilst this extreme tail risk is in any way ‘on the table’, Treasuries can expect to go through a period of further volatility.

And with rates on the rise the reflation-value play in the stock market is back on. Energy and financials and stocks tied to the reopening of the economy did well, mega-cap tech and growth was generally weaker as yields rose. Real estate, healthcare and utilities stocks also fell. That mix left the Dow higher but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq lower for the day. We await to see whether the rotation stardust can power further returns for the broad market – as happened at points earlier this year – or if the heavy weighting of the mega cap tech names will weigh further still. European stock markets are a touch lighter in early trade following Monday’s session which was a story of declining risk appetite throughout the session after a pop at the open. Oil keeps heading in one direction, with WTI above $76 and Brent touching $80.

Time to redo the dot plot: Whilst the Fed has started to sound a tad more willing to raise rates, two of its most hawkish members are on the way out. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and Dallas Fed boss Robert Kaplan announced they will be stepping down shortly. “Unfortunately, the recent focus on my financial disclosure risks becoming a distraction to the Federal Reserve’s execution of that vital work,” Kaplan said in a statement. “For that reason, I have decided to retire.”

This does three things. One, it draws a line under the recent trading disclosure furore. It shows that the Fed under Powell won’t suspect behaviour. Two, it’s going to lower the chances of the insider trading story scuppering Powell’s renomination as Fed chair. Three, it removes two of the more hawkish members from the committee, which could have some implications for monetary policy depending on who replaces them. In the meantime vice presidents Meredith Black (Dallas) and Kenneth Montgomery (Boston) will stand in as interim presidents.
Powell and Yellen testify before a Senate Banking Committee today – the timing of Kaplan and Rosengren stepping down should allow Powell to easily bat away some potentially touch questions over their trading. We also have the Fed’s Evans, Bostic and Bowman on the tape later.

Rising Treasury yields offered support to the US dollar. EUR/USD is down to 1.1670 area, through some big Fib zones and near to the key support at 1.1664-66, while USD/JPY above 111.30 with the YTDS high at 111.64-66. Dollar index is north of 93.60 and towards the very top of the range of the last 11 months – big test here to see if the dollar is going to exert more strength into the back end of the year.

EURUSD Chart 28.09.2021

Gold struggling, making new lows this morning with rates on the march.

Gold Chart 28.09.2021

Stocks up as markets look to Berlin & Washington

Morning Note

Stocks are higher in early trade in Europe, with the DAX jumping 1% at the open as it looks as though Germany is heading for a traffic light coalition – more left, more green. Deadlock for now but it’s all much of the same pro-Europe, pro-tax, pro-windmills type affair so who ultimately becomes Chancellor probably shouldn’t matter too much. Stocks in London was also up close to 1% and the FTSE 100 trades further to the top of the range above 7,100. Stocks pared some gains within the first half-hour of trading. Following a two-month struck last week it’s been a solid turnaround and shows there is not a lot of alternatives (TINA) still, though that starts to look like a different equation should bond yields continue to pick up. US futures are also pointing to a positive open on Wall Street later after last week’s rollercoaster saw the S&P 500 rise 0.5% and the Dow Jones 0.6%, breaking a three-week losing streak. I’d expect near-term volatility to persist, further chop and change and rotation as markets price for tighter monetary policy, with hikes in 2022, as well as persistent inflation. US 10 year yields trade above 1.44% this morning having touched the highest since the start of July, end of June last week.

Apart from Berlin, markets will be keeping an eye on Washington with the utterly ridiculous idea of a default on US debt, an unlikely government shutdown and a plausible collapse of Biden’s economic plans all being discussed. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to pass this week, but also indicated that the $3.5 stimulus programme was almost certain to be watered down. Expect haggling aplenty and markets could be moving on headlines.

The Fed blackout period is over – so we can expect lots of jawboning from policymakers this week. On the slate today are Evans, Williams and Brainard. ECB chief Christine Lagarde (the Lady is not for tapering, the Lady is for recalibrating) is on the taper before them. Also watch for durable goods orders (seen +0.7%, core +0.5%).

Rolls-Royce shares on the up again, rallying 5%, after securing the mega US government contract to power the B-52 Stratofortress for the next 30 years. The F-130 engine will be manufactured at the company’s Indianapolis site, which has recently had a $600m makeover. On the back of some decent price action for the stock, the move confirms the breakout of the 2021 range can calls for further gains for the stock now the worst of the pandemic is behind.

BP trades 2% higher – I wouldn’t be tying this to panic buying and shortages on the forecourts, More likely down to continued rally for oil prices that has seen WTI touch $75 this morning.

Did the BoE really mean to suggest it could raise rates this year, before the end of the QE programme? That statement from the MPC last week, above all the other hawkish hints dropped, was the reason Sterling rallied, before easing back. If the markets are getting ahead of themselves with regards the timing of a rate hike , then Andrew Bailey can row it back when he speaks this evening.

GBPUSD traded around the 61.8% retracement of last week’s BoE-inspired rally, with the 50% area offering resistance to give us a range marker for this session. That 50% area coincides with the longer-term 23.6% retracement area at 1.3680. At the open we saw some bid come through for sterling as it broke free from this overnight range, hitting 1.3690 and looking for a breach of the 38.2% retracement of the near-term range at 1.370, before easing back.

Crude oil keeps on rallying, with WTI (Nov) breaking above $75. This move has real momentum behind it, as well as solid fundamental rationale as oil markets tighten. The tightness in the physical market means inventories are being drawn down around the world. That said, money managers trimmed their net long futures and options positions in the week to Sep 21st, according to the latest CFTC data. This is overall a positive for the duration of the rally since it indicates the price action is driven by more fundamental factors than just a speculative blitz. Goldman Sachs has raised its year-end Brent crude price target to $90, and $87 for WTI.

They say: “While we have long held a bullish oil view, the current global oil supply-demand deficit is larger than we expected, with the recovery in global demand from the Delta impact even faster than our above consensus forecast and with global supply remaining short of our below consensus forecasts.

“The current oil supply-demand deficit is larger than we expected, with the recovery in global demand from the Delta impact even faster than our above-consensus forecast and with global supply remaining short of our below consensus forecasts.”

July 13th peak at $75.50 offers the first test before we see another ascent at $77. Near-term support seen at the daily low at $74.70.

Week ahead: US PCE data to nudge Fed tapering?

Week Ahead

On the agenda this week: We bid farewell to Angela Merkel as Germany faces a future without her leadership for the first time in over a decade. We’ve also a range of big data releases from the US including the Fed’s preferred inflation metric – and Canadian GDP stats. Will it backslide again? 

We all know the Fed loves PCE data. Personal Consumption Expenditures is its favourite inflation metric – and one that could force that ever-discussed tapering through earlier, depending on August’s print. 

The broad market consensus is that the Fed will begin pulling back its economic support in either November or December, so the question now is one of liftoff for rates. The Fed has already raised its core CPE inflation forecast for 2021 to 3.7% from 3% in June – they know it’s hot. Chair Powell has also pretty much announced that the Fed will start tapering this year. The question now is whether the Fed has to revise these expectations still higher, and what that might mean for the path of interest rate hikes. An expectation-beating print this week would stoke concerns that this is the case. 

Of course, there are other external factors at play. It should also be pointed that July’s 0.4% jump was in line with expectations and showed a cooling off against June’s figures. 

In July, the overall rate of inflation reached 4.2%. Going by the Consumer Price Index data reported recently, the cost of consumer goods rose 5.3% in August. This was in line with expectations. It may also be an indicator of where PCE data is headed.  

The Fed is on record as saying its content to let inflation run above its 2% target as it considers the current high levels as “transitionary”.  

The United States, like pretty much all major economies, is moving out of the pandemic economy and attempting to find some semblance of normality. It could be the case that hot inflation continues to singe the economy before burning out in 2022 and fading away. 

The latest PCE reading comes on Friday. 

Tethered to this is US consumer confidence. Logically, higher prices suggest a lowering in consumer sentiment. This has been reflected in August’s data, and it may be the case when we get September’s data on Tuesday afternoon. 

In August, consumer confidence dropped to a six-month low. The Conference Board’s index fell to 113.8 from a revised 125.1 reading in July.  

“Concerns about the Delta variant — and, to a lesser degree, rising gas and food prices — resulted in a less favourable view of current economic conditions and short-term growth prospects,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement, explaining the dip. 

Over 39 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the US across the course of the pandemic so far. 

Moving away from the US, Germany closes the book on Angela Merkel’s tenure as Chancellor. After 16 years, Merkel is stepping aside, which gives today’s elections an air of exciting new change. 

By the end of play today, Germany will have a brand-new Chancellor. SPD leader Olaf Scholz was the front runner in the build-up to election, outstripping rivals from the CDU and the Greens. 

That said, the belief is the Greens, who were on course to their best-ever results prior to Germans hitting the polls, may become the SPD’s chief partner in a brand-new coalition. 

Our macroeconomics and political guru Helen Thomas previewed Germany’s latest federal elections. Have her predictions been proved correct?  

Speaking of elections, Canadians recently voted in a fresh wave of political changes, with PM Trudeau holding onto the reins for a third term. The Liberals’ majority was compromised – which could make the nation’s economic moves interest. 

Canada’s month-on-month GDP figures are released this month, following a 1.1% contraction. Estimates called for 2.5% growth, so even with the snap election keeping Trudeau in power, the same challenges he was facing before are his same challenges once again. 

Economic recovery will “continue to require the same extraordinary level of support”, according to Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem. No changes to economic policy are expected – despite the lacklustre GDP showing from last month. Perhaps we’ll see a reversal this month, or a possible muddying of the waters caused by election fervour.  

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Sun 26-Sep  All Day  EUR  German Federal Elections 
       
Tue 28-Sep  2.30am  AUD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  3.00pm  USD  CB Consumer Confidence 
       
Wed 29-Sep  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Thu 30-Sep  2.00am  CNH  China Manufacturing PMI 
  1.30pm  CAD  GDP m/m 
       
Fri 01-Oct  8.55am  EUR  German Final Manufactuing PMI 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PCE Index m/m 
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Manufacturing PMI 

 

Yields and central banks on the move

Morning Note

Central banks on the move: Norway’s central bank became the first in the G10 to raise rates after the pandemic, Turkey’s central bank – an outlier – lowered rates (to 18%), whilst the Bank of England and Federal Reserve sat on their hands but indicated they too are about to start moving. Yields are on the move too as bonds sell off on tightening expectations. Something has clearly changed and positioning on rates is shifting. US 10yr yields jumped to 1.44%, posting their biggest one-day gain since March, whilst 30yr bond yields jumped the most in a single day since March 2020. European bond yields are also marching higher.

Although the Fed and BoE remain fairly cautious and the dogma of transitory inflation persists, they’re starting to move beyond pandemic-era emergency mode. Investors see this and are moving too – rates steepening again as they did earlier this year. As we noted yesterday morning, whilst the initial reaction to the Fed’s announcement on Wednesday saw the yield curve flatten, the steepening as the long end picks up is the natural response to the Fed turning more hawkish – it was not just earlier for lift-off but also more hikes in 2023/24. Investors are also betting on higher inflation for longer. US inflation expectations ticked higher too, hitting a month high, helping gold to fend off the move in nominal rates to trade around $1,750, having put in a near-term low at $1,737. The dollar also made a strong move lower yesterday, adding further support.

Stocks rallied on Wall Street, mega cap growth just underperforming a bit as yields rose, helping financials do well. The S&P 500 recovered the 50-day SMA at 4,437 and closed above at 4,448.98. Small caps outperformed with the Russell 2000 picking up almost 2% as reflation trade thinking resurfaced. Energy was the top performer on the S&P 500 again as crude oil (Nov) broke through $73, whilst Brent is testing a 3-year high. Natural gas is back above $5 this morning.

Stocks trade weaker in the early part of the session in Europe as investors digest the selloff in global bonds and look ahead to the uncertainty of the German election on Sunday, which may be a factor for the DAX today. Helen Thomas of BlondeMoney has an excellent preview on the topic for us. The FTSE 100 sits around 7,050, slap in the middle of the range it’s treaded since April. AstraZeneca shares rose 3% as its Lynparza cancer drug performed well in its PROpel Phase III trials. Shares in Hong Kong fell over 1% with Evergrande down 13% as it apparently missed a deadline for an interest payment of $83.5m on an offshore bond.

The US dollar is drifting higher this morning after yesterday’s selloff with near-term momentum positive having briefly hit its highest since Aug 20th. Tweeted yesterday about topping pattern for USD and yesterday’s (just about) outside day candle could be the reversal signal.

Dollar Index 24.09.2021

GBPUSD is holding most of yesterday’s gains but has just pared back a touch to trade at 1.3710 after hitting 1.3750.

GBPUSD Chart 24.09.2021

Stocks rise after Fed walks fine line on tapering, rate hikes

Morning Note

European markets trading higher after the Fed delivered another lesson in how to gently massage markets into accepting that tightening is on its way. The FTSE 100 has recovered all its losses this week, back to the 7,100 area. Wall Street rallied on the Fed’s apparent lack of haste to taper, and didn’t worry that policymakers see rates lifting off sooner than previously indicated. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones all rose 1%, whilst small caps rallied 1.5%. Benchmark 10yrTreasury yields initially softened on the release but have since recovered to around 1.34%. Gold initially rallied but has since pulled back. The dollar fell at first but after a brief rally to its highest since Aug 20th is back to where it was before the statement.

More liquidity from the PBOC eased worries, Evergrande shares rallied 17% in Hong Kong, where the broad index rose 1%. The Bank of England later today will be the main focus for markets, particularly UK assets. The Old Lady will need to respond to the biggest jump in inflation on record and worries that it could lose credibility if it allows longer-term inflation expectations to slip their anchors. UK 1-yr inflation expectations shot up to 4.1% in September from 3.1% in August, according to the Citi survey, which also showed longer-term inflation expectations drifting higher. Although well into a taper of its own, the BoE would be well justified in ending QE today.

The Federal Reserve gave the market plenty to think about but didn’t cause a tantrum. Jay Powell continues to walk the line between guiding the market to expect tightening without unduly worrying investors. The overall feeling was giving with one hand and taking with the other; for instance, inflation was revised higher but unemployment and growth moderating. The Fed is hedging its bets a bit but overall it’s leaning in towards tightening – the question is whether it starts to lean in more as inflation sticks.

Key takeaways:

• Tapering coming soon: “Participants generally viewed that so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering process that concludes around the middle of next year is likely to be appropriate”. Likely to be announced in Nov, commence in Dec.
• Tapering could be conducted at a quicker pace than the market thought before. “Taper could conclude around the middle of next year.” This implies a rate of $20bn monthly, which arguably, by getting the tapering done early, offers the Fed more scope to raise rates sooner without alarming markets yet.
• Quicker pace to taper could suggest faster rate hike cycle, curve flatter but long-end rates should start to pick up and steepen
• Employment goal all but there – Powell: “My own view is the test for substantial further progress on employment is all but met”. This somewhat begs the question as to why the Fed is not already tapering and on course to raise rates in order to temper inflation expectations that are running wild.
• So the Oct 8th NFP report will be of great importance – “The test is accumulated progress. For me, it wouldn’t take a knock-out, great, super strong employment report”
• Inflation is stickier and far less transient than previously thought. Core PCE revised up 70bps to 3.7% this year, also revised up next year.

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. The question is whether these will need to be revised higher again and what this could mean for rate hikes.

Fed inflation forecasts 23.09.2021

More policymakers see rates rising in 2022 and near-term inflation forecasts are being revised higher. On the other hand, growth and unemployment forecasts are not as bullish and the Fed has not tied its colours to a particular date to begin tapering asset purchases.

Since June, policymakers have become noticeably more hawkish, partly due to the recovery – Delta concerns have greatly eased since then – and partly due to the persistent inflation narrative. Nine policymakers see rate rising next year, whilst the median dot sees three hikes each in 2023 and 2024.

Fed Dots 23.09.2021

Big tech facing a watershed? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction – and I sense we are ready to see that reaction for some key momentum-mega cap growth names.

Facebook is facing a stern test with some major new allegations filed in a Rhode Island lawsuit. In summary, the plaintiffs allege FB spent billions to protect boss Mark Zuckerberg personally. Specifically, they claim the company paid $4.9 billion more the Federal Trade Commission sought in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in order to shield its CEO from being held personally liable for “failing to oversee privacy at Facebook”. The suits also allege that there were “epic corporate governance breakdown” and details massive “insider trading”, whilst also claiming Zuck misled Congress. Anyway. it’s a hornets’ nest of SEC-related failures.

The insider trading bit relates to hundreds of millions to billions made by corporate insiders who would have been aware that the ‘hypothetical’ risks to the company were in fact fully realised harms. For more read this excellent thread. Facebook shares fell 4%.

I don’t know if it gets anywhere. But I sense winds of change for big tech. Tesla is being investigated at long last over autopilot, Gensler has taken a hard line on cryptos and put Coinbase back in its box. The laissez-faire approach under the Trump administration looks like a thing of the past.

Briefly:

• Robinhood shares rallied 10% on news it will launch its own crypto wallet for users to hold physical Bitcoin etc
• Cathie Wood reiterated her $3,000 PT on Tesla, says she would sell out if it hit that level next year.
• Royal Mail shares flat to negative despite growing revenues almost 18% over 2019 levels. Outlook maintained with group adjusted operating profit for the first half of 2021-22 is expected to be £395 to £400 million.

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.

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