Markets primed for US inflation, FOMC minutes, JPM kick off earnings season proper

Morning Note

European stocks were off half a percent this morning in early trade after another fragile day on Wall Street saw selling into the close and another weaker finish. All eyes today on the US CPI inflation number, minutes from the FOMC’s last meeting and the start of earnings season with numbers due out from JPMorgan. Asian equities mixed after Chinese trade data was better than expected.

Markets in Europe turned more positive after the first half-hour but it’s clear sentiment is anaemic The FTSE 100 is chopping around its well-worn range, the DAX is holding on to its 200-day moving average just about. Possible bullish crossover on the MACD needs confirming – big finish required.

Dax Chart 13.10.2021

JOLTS: We saw a marked jump in the “quits rate” with 4.3m workers leaving their jobs, with the quits rate increasing to a series high of 2.9%. Tighter labour market, workers gaining bargaining power = higher wages, more persistent inflation pressures.

But… 38% of households across the US report facing serious financial problems in the past few months, a poll from NPR found. Which begs the question – why and how people are not getting back into work and quitting. One will be down to massive asset inflation due to central bank and fiscal policy that has enabled large numbers of particularly older workers to step back sooner than they would have down otherwise. Couple of years left to retire – house now worth an extra 20% and paid off, 401k looking fatter than ever, etc, etc. Number two is something more sinister and damaging – people just do nothing, if they can. Working day in, day out is like hitting your head against a brick wall – you get a headache, you die sooner, and you don’t go back to it once you’ve stopped doing it. Animal spirits – people’s fight to get up and do things they’d prefer not to do – have been squashed by lockdowns.

More signs of inflation: NY Fed said short and medium-term inflation expectations rose to their highest levels since survey began in 2013.

NY Fed inflation expextations 13.10.2021

UoM preliminary report on Friday – will give us the latest inflation expectation figures. This is where expectations stand now. Today’s CPI print is expected to show prices rose 0.4% on the month to maintain the annual rate at 5.4%.

University of Michigan inflation expectations 13.10.2021

The Fed’s Clarida said the bar for tapering was more than met on inflation and all but met on employment. FOMC minutes will tell us more about how much inflation is a worry – we know the taper is coming, the question is how quickly the Fed moves to tame inflation by raising rates.

Watch for a move in gold – it’s been a fairly tight consolidation phase even as rates and the USD have been on the move – the inflation print and FOMC minutes could spur a bigger move. Indicators still favour bulls.

Gold Chart 13.10.2021

US earnings preview: banks kick off the season

Wall Street rolls into earnings season in a bit of funk. The S&P 500 is about 4% off its recent all-time high, whilst the Nasdaq 100 has declined about 6%, as the megacap growth stocks were hit by rising bond yields. S&P 500 companies are expected to deliver earnings growth of 30%, on revenue growth of 14%.

JPMorgan Chase gets earnings season underway with its Q3 numbers scheduled for Oct 13th before the market open. Then on Thursday we hear from Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, before Goldman Sachs rounds out the week on Friday. JPMorgan is expected to deliver earnings per share of $3, on revenues of $29.8bn. Note JPM tends to trade lower on the day of earnings even when it beats expectations for revenues and earnings.

Outlook: Nike and FedEx are among a number of companies that have already issued pretty downcast outlook. Supply chain problems are the biggest worry with a majority of companies releasing updates mentioning this. Growth in the US is decelerating – the Atlanta Fed GDPNow model estimates Q3 real GDP growth of just 1.3%. Higher energy costs, rising producer and consumer inflation, supply bottlenecks, labour shortages and rising wages all conspiring to pull the brake on the recovery somewhat. Still, economic growth has not yet given way to contraction and after a global pandemic it will take time to recovery fully.

Trading: Normalisation of financial markets in the wake of the pandemic – ie substantially less volatility than in 2020 – is likely to weigh somewhat on trading revenues, albeit there was some heightened volatility in equity markets towards the end of September as the stock market retreated. Dealmaking remains positive as the recovery from the pandemic and large amounts of excess cash drove business activity.

Costs: The biggest concern right now for stocks is rising costs. Supply-side worries, specifically rising input and labour costs, pose the single largest headline risk for earnings surprises to fall on the downside. The big banks have already raised their forecasts for expenses this year on a number of occasions. It’s not just some of the well-publicized salary hikes for junior bankers that are a concern – tech costs are also soaring.

Interest rates: Low rates remain a headwind but the recent spike in rates on inflation/tapering/tightening expectations may create conditions for a more positive outlook. The 10s2s spread has pushed out to its widest since June. Rising yields in the quarter may have supported some modest sequential net interest income improvement from Q2.

Chart: After flattening from March through to July, the yield curve is steepening once more.

Yield Curve 13.10.2021

Loan demand: Post-pandemic, banks have been struggling to find people to lend to. Commercial/industria loans remain subdued versus a year ago, but there are signs that consumer loan growth is picking up. Fed data shows consumer loan growth has picked up as the economy recovers. However, UBS showed banks were lowering lending requirements in a bid to improve activity, which could impact on the quality, though this is likely a marginal concern given the broad macro tailwinds for growth. Mortgage activity is expected to be substantially down on last year after the 2020 surge in demand for new mortgages and refinancing.

Chart: Consumer loan growth improving

Consumer Loan chart 13.10.2021

Other stocks we are watching

The Hut Group (THG) – tanked 30% yesterday as its capital markets day seems to have been a total bust. Efforts to outline why the stock deserves a high tech multiple and what it’s doing with Ingenuity and provide more clarity over the business seemingly failed in spectacular fashion. The City has totally lost confidence in this company and its founder. No signs of relief for the company as investors give it the cold shoulder. Shares are off another 5% this morning.

Diversified Energy – the latest to get caught in the ESG net – shares plunged 19%, as much as 25% at one point after a Bloomberg report said oil wells were leaking methane. Rebuttal from company seemed to fall on deaf ears. Shares recovering modestly, +3% today.

Analysts are lifting their Netflix price targets, partly on the popular “Squid Game.” Netflix will report its third-quarter earnings next week.

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   

 

European stocks rally as US breaks for Labor Day holiday

Morning Note

European stock markets edged higher this morning towards the top of recent ranges at the start of what’s set to be a fairly quiet day as US markets are shut for the Labor Day holiday. Meanwhile, this week’s European Central Bank meeting looms in the near distance. Investors are still digesting the huge jobs report miss last Friday and what it means for the Federal Reserve’s plans to scale back its bond purchases. Stocks just about fell and the dollar was weaker in the wake of the report, whilst gold rallied. It was far from a straight line down for stocks though as large cap growth and tech helped the Nasdaq Composite to rally 0.21% whilst the Dow Jones fell by the same amount. 

 

This morning the main indices are heading higher by around half of one percent. The euro is lower against the dollar as the latter catches some bid in early trade. Data from Germany has been mixed, with factory orders +3.4% vs -0.7% expected, while the construction PMI slipped deeper into contraction territory at 44.6, a three-month low.

 

Stagflation: Friday’s US jobs report was bad, indicating growth rolling over and delta taking its toll on the reopening of the economy. With revisions to the last two months the net add was not as bad as the headline print, but it was nevertheless a poor signal for the US economy at this stage. Of note, employment in leisure and hospitality was unchanged, after increasing by an average of 350,000 per month over the prior 6 months. 

 

One jobs miss does not mean the economic recovery is in trouble, but it could foster a more cautious approach among the FOMC members, who could be apt to delay plans to taper asset purchases. Or rather they may prefer to wait and see how the data goes into November. Against the backdrop of warning consumer confidence and stalled jobs growth, the chances of the Fed announcing a taper of bond purchases at its September meeting have receded but does mean it won’t start later in the year.  The question is to what extent rising cases of the delta variant in the US hit the rebound. 

 

Looking ahead to this week, the Reserve Bank of Australia is in a pickle over its plans to taper asset purchases. Ongoing lockdowns make it likely the central bank will reverse its previously announced taper, leaving bond purchases at A$5bn a week.  

 

The ECB meanwhile is more likely to go the other way and could announce a slower rate of PEPP asset purchases. Inflation is running at 3% and chief economist Lane has suggested the central bank could be closer to tapering than the market assumed. Hawks have their tails up a bit more these days that the European economy is in relatively good shape, but they worry about inflation. Of note this week will be the latest inflation forecasts for the bloc, which are likely to be revised higher. 

 

Oil is weaker after Saudi Arabia cut selling prices for Asia, nudging WTI and Brent down by more than 1%. The kingdom said it would reduce October official selling prices for all grades exported to Asia by at least $1 a barrel. 

Week ahead: FOMC minutes to lift the veil on Fed’s thinking

Week Ahead

This week sees the release of the latest batch of FOMC meeting minutes, giving insight into the Fed’s inner workings. We also get some big data releases. US retail sales are in focus after an unexpected jump in June, as well as latest CPI figures for the UK economy. 

Minutes from July’s FOMC meeting are published this week.  

Things remained pretty much where they started when the Fed met for its monthly two-day meeting last month.  

It did not lift interest rates from their current historically low level, nor did the Fed announce when it planned on altering its $120bn monthly bond-buying programme.  

“Last December, the Committee indicated that it would continue to increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency mortgagebacked securities by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals,” said the FOMC in a statement. “Since then, the economy has made progress toward these goals, and the Committee will continue to assess progress in coming meetings.” 

The basic undercurrent is that the economy is recovering, despite rapidly rising Covid-19 case numbers. However, prevailing changes in the economy, resulting from the pandemic, may force Chairman Powell to act quicker than expected. 

We’ve seen core inflation rise in successive CPI prints – but we’ve also seen the employment rate drop too. Last month’s nonfarm payroll print was one of the strongest for years, with 943,000 new jobs added to the US economy. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% too. 

Job participation is one of the key metrics the Fed is using to gauge the United States’ economic health to make policy adjustments. We’ve already seen some chinwagging suggest that tapering is on the way, so this may supersede the insights we’ll gain on Wednesday’s FOMC minutes release. 

Switching to data, US retail sales figures are released this week. Markets will be looking to see if June’s surprise increase was a one-off or the start of a new trend. 

Core retail sales rose 1.1% and retail sales as a whole grew 0.6% in June, something which markets weren’t expecting. From a year-on-year perspective, sales surged 18% against June’s 2020 levels. 

According to the US Commerce Department cited Covid-19 vaccinations, low interest rates, and huge fiscal stimulus as underpinning retail sales. But, as mentioned above, this was a bit of a shock for US economists. With the US economy reopening, consumer spending was trending more towards experiences and trips, rather than consumer goods. 

In fact, at the last retail data reading, May’s stats were revised down. It was a 1.7% monthly decline in May, rather than the 1.3% originally reported. Again, this was due to the switch from consumer goods to experiences. 

Staying on the data front, July’s UK consumer price index readings come on Wednesday morning.  

June’s print showed a CPI three-year high. At 2.5% in June, up from 2.1% in the previous month, consumer price inflation is now at its highest level since 2018. That may prompt the Bank of England into changing its stance on rate hikes sooner than expected. 

That said, Governor Bailey maintained the UK central bank’s dovish stance at its August meeting, deeming CPI inflation as transitionary. No major tweaks to UK monetary policy were made at this time.  

The Bank of England has adjusted its long-term inflation outlook, however. It now believes inflation will run at 3.1% throughout the next 12 months – up from the 2.8% rate forecast in June. 

Will we see another estimate-beating CPI reading this month – and will this be enough to spur Governor Bailey and co. into action?  

Speaking of central banks, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand gives its August rate statement next week.  

Rumours are flying that the RBNZ could raise rates as early as this month. It’s already committed to removing its QE programme in a move that surprised onlookers in July.  

“Our current expectation is that the RBNZ will hike interest rates in the August Monetary Policy Statement (MPS), followed by a subsequent hike in each MPS till [the] interest rate reaches 1.75% in 2022,” said Finn Robinson, economist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). 

Currently, New Zealand’s cash rate is 0.25%, the same rate it has been for the past year. 

This is likely a response to rising CPI inflation. July’s print saw New Zealand’s consumer price index rising by 1.3%, bringing total inflation to 3.3%, passing the RBNZ’s 1-3% target. 

If a rate hike is coming, New Zealand would be one of the first, if not the first, country to do so. 

It’s also the final week of this quarter’s earnings season this week. We’re not expecting too many large caps to report in, with Walmart being the largest firm still yet to report, but you can see which companies are sharing their quarterly with our earnings calendar 

Major economic events 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Tue 17-Aug  2.30am  AUD  Monetary Policy Meeting Minutes 
  1.30pm  USD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Retail Sales m/m 
       
Wed 18-Aug  3.00am  NZD  Official Cash Rate 
  3.00am  NZD  RBNZ Monetary Policy Statement 
  3.00am  NZD  RBNZ Rate Statement 
  4.00am  NZD  RBNZ Press Conference 
  7.00am  GBP  UK CPI m/m 
  1.30pm  CAD  CPI m/m 
  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
  7.00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu 19-Aug  2.30am  AUD  Employment Change 
  2.30am  AUD  Unemployment Rate 
       
Fri 20-Aug  7.00am  GBP  Retail Sales m/m 

 

Key earnings data 

Mon 16 Aug  Tue 17 Aug  Wed 18 Aug 
Roblox Corporation  Walmart   Lumentum Holdings 
 
Cisco Systems 
 
NVIDIA  

 

European stocks slide in wake of Fed minutes

Morning Note

European stock markets continue to trip the ranges – sliding sharply this morning following yesterday’s jump. The FTSE 100 dropped 1.3% in early trade to the 7,050 level, whilst the Euro Stoxx 50 declined 1.7% to test 4,000. Asian shares were broadly weaker overnight, with a steep fall in South Korea registered as daily Covid cases there surged. Bonds are still bid as weaker hands get washed out with the 10yr Treasury note yielding 1.28%, a new 5-month low in the wake of the Fed meeting minutes – it’s either sending a warning signal or it’s just a flush before the move higher. US stock markets were mildly higher yesterday, with futures pointing to a drop at the open. Apple shares hit a fresh record, whilst meme stock favourites such as GME, WISH and AMC fell sharply. In London, money transfer app Wise got off to a solid start as shares rallied on the first day of trade. Shares in troubled Chinese ride hailing app Didi fell another 5% as it faces a lawsuit from US shareholders.

Minutes from the FOMC’s meeting in June showed pretty much what we knew; policymakers are moving but with a degree of caution. “Various participants mentioned that they expected the conditions for beginning to reduce the pace of asset purchases to be met somewhat earlier than they had anticipated” but it is “their intention to provide notice in advance of an announcement to reduce the pace”. Meanwhile China is back in the game – the State Council issued a statement saying it would seek “to increase financial support to the real economy” by using “monetary policy tools such as RRR cuts”.

Deliveroo reported a better-than-expected rise in revenues in the second quarter but cautioned it would not lead to better profits. Gross transaction value (GTV) rose 76% year-on-year to £1.7bn. For the full year, the company raised its GTV growth estimate to 50-60% from 30-40%. However, gross margins are seen in the lower range of what was previously communicated, with management citing investment and lower average order spend. Looks to me like it should be making more money if GTV growth is a full 20 percentage points higher than expected. Poses serious questions about the model if it cannot at least deliver margins in the upper range of expectations on such impressive sales growth.

Oil prices slipped as the gulf between OPEC and the UAE showed no signs of closing. The UAE signalled it could open the spigots to pump at will. The fear is the supply deal could unravel, heaping more crude on the market. WTI (Aug) held at $73 the first time but cracked on the second attempt and quickly declined and found support at $71. Another test at this level can be expected.

Oil chart showing prices of crude on 08.07.2021.

Finally, it was great to see Wembley almost full last night with tens of thousands of fans. No masks, plenty of singing, social distancing forgotten. So why can’t my kids have a school sports day? The inequities of opening up are legion, almost as much as the inequality of lockdown. We can only pray the mask-wearing Covid Stasi are silenced for good and we can get on with our lives.

Week Ahead: FOMC minutes to confirm Fed policy rethink?

Week Ahead

It’s a busy week for central banks this week. Firstly, we start with the FOMC’s meeting minutes from its June policy talks. Tapering was on the agenda, whilst policymakers started to pull forward when they think rates should rise, so getting beneath their skin is critical for understanding market movement.

The Reserve Bank of Australia shares its latest update too as rising Covid cases and lockdowns kick in. Will this inspire a policy rethink?

The impact of the delta variant on Eurozone recovery will be in focus too as the EU shares its latest economic outlook.

FOMC meeting minutes are the week’s big release, coming on Wednesday.  

It will be interesting to see in the Fed’s internal discussions after June’s meeting. Then, the Fed signalled it won’t let inflation run hot and that a rate hike may be coming a little earlier than anticipated. 

The Fed’s median projection showed they see lifting their benchmark rate to 0.6% from near zero by the end of 2023. In March, it was expected that rates would hold steady across that year. 

Tapering was also on the agenda. We know Chairman Powell et al discussed an eventual reduction in the Fed’s bond buying programme, but, in the post-meeting statement, no indicators towards when this might occur were given.  

The Fed is still making around $120bn in purchases every month as part of its overall Covid economy strategy.  

A window into any central bank’s thinking is essential for market observers. Investors are having to recalibrate their high-inflation bets in response to the Fed’s hawkish June tilt.  

What we’re seeing now is a US economy in a transitionary phase. No economy, no matter how large, can afford to simply ride the waves. It has to be responsive. The Fed has done that, but it will be interesting to see inside the Fed at this crucial juncture. 

Keeping with central banks, the Reserve Bank of Australia speaks on Wednesday. Covid-19, in a country that largely appeared to have it under control, is starting to bite once more. The delta variant has begun its spread throughout Australia. A new wave of lockdowns is in place. 

Roughly 80% of Australia’s population is back under stay-at-home orders or restricted movement. 

Could this prompt a change in RBA thinking ahead of its July 6th meeting? Governor Lowe and his team are already in a dovish economic stance. Rates have not shifted from their historic 0.10% level since November. 

Speaking after last month’s meeting, Governor Lowe said: “The economic recovery in Australia is stronger than earlier expected and is forecast to continue. The bank’s central scenario is for GDP to grow by 4.75% over this year and 3.5% over 2022. This outlook is supported by fiscal measures and very accommodative financial conditions.”  

Of course, that statement was made when the road to recovery hadn’t been blocked. The RBA will need to act with clarity and precision to ensure it can keep Australia’s economy on the right track. We’ll learn more when the RBA speaks on Wednesday. 

EU economic forecasts are coming this week, too.  

The bloc appears to be coming out of the worst of the pandemic relatively strongly. We’ve seen strong PMI numbers and GDP forecasts are strong too. We’ve also seen some European Central Bank members suggest pulling back of the PEPP stimulus package could be on the cards. 

Regarding PEPP, ECB council member and Deutsche Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann has suggested the programme could be wound up prior to the original March 2022 deadline. The ECB will have pumped €2.2 trillion into the Eurozone economy through its PEPP programme by then. However, to change this would require strong economic recovery and complete removal of Covid-caused restrictions. 

With the delta variant beginning to bite, full removal of restrictions seems unlikely. In fact, how the EU responds to the new wave of cases will be crucial. Will it have to retool thinking and economic forecasts in response? 

Still, the analysts’ outlook is broadly positive. S&P Global, for instance, has made a few tweaks. 

“We revised upward our forecast for eurozone growth to 4.4% this year and 4.5% in 2022, seeing broader implementation of fiscal stimulus under the Next Generation EU plan and weaker contraction of GDP in the first quarter,” the ratings house said. 

“Long-term scarring to the economy is likely to be limited by Europe’s coordinated fiscal and monetary policy response, paving the way for the output gap to close by 2024.” 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Mon 05-Jul  3.30pm  CAD  BOC Business Outlook Survey 
       
Tue 06-Jul  5.30am  AUD  RBA Rate Statement 
  5.30am  AUD  Cash Rate 
  10.00am  EUR  EU Economic Forecasts 
  10.00am  EUR  ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  10.00am  EUR  German ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Services PMI 
       
Wed 07-Jul  3.00pm  CAD  IVEY PMI 
  3.00pm  USD  JOLTS Job Openings 
  7.00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu 08-Jul  2.30am  AUD  Retail Sales m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
  3.30pm  GAS  US Natural Gas Inventories 
  4.00pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Fri 09-Jul  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 

 

Key earnings data 

Date  Company  Event 
Tue 06-Jul  Ocadao Group  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Wed 07-Jul  Aeon  Q1 2021 Earnings 
     
Thu 08-Jul  Levi’s  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Fri 09-Jul  Tryg  Q2 2021 Earnings 

Stocks up, Fed floats trial balloon, Kingfisher sales surge

Morning Note

Markets in Europe have opened broadly higher this morning as they recover some of the losses from the swathe of selling on Wednesday, whilst the Federal Reserve underscored it’s in no rush to tighten monetary policy, minutes from its April meeting showed. Focus remains on the broader pace of inflationary pressures and recovery in the US with the weekly unemployment claims data (f/c +453k) and the Philly Fed manufacturing index. Iron ore and other industrial commodities linked to steel making feel as China said it would step in to curb rampant prices, though copper is rallying this morning. Focus also remains on the volatile crypto space after a dramatic day.

Crypto prices collapsed, with Bitcoin tumbling 30% to $30k on the nose before staging a big rally off this level. Outages at the Coinbase and Binance exchange didn’t help, fuelling a sharp leg lower around midday to the lows at $30k, but chiefly this seems to have been a run on stops triggering margin calls in the wake of China’s regulatory crackdown, which followed a period of steady losses seemingly brought about by a toppy market chart pattern and Elon Musk somewhat walking back his prior enthusiasm for the crypto. Institutional options activity seems to have further accelerated some of the moves as strikes were hit. As of this morning, the rout had stabilised, with Bitcoin trading around 30% off yesterday’s low, above $40k. There will be a lot of stranded longs now selling into any kind of strength. Stocks exposed to crypto prices like MicroStrategy, Coinbase and Tesla, were caught up in the storm, though they too closed well above their low of the day as the market recovered some of the losses.

Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy said he’s not selling. “Entities I control have now acquired 111,000 #BTC and have not sold a single satoshi. #Bitcoin Forever,” he tweeted. I expect him to keep Martingaling until it all unravels. Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that the emoji for ‘diamond hands’, following up by saying ‘Credit to our Master of Coin’, aka the CFO, Zach Kirkhorn. (I now check Elon’s Twitter the way I used to check the Donald’s each morning). Cathie Wood stuck to her $500,000 ‘target’ for Bitcoin, and suggested there were multiple signs the market is in a capitulation phase, which is often a good time to buy. Har har, Cathie would say any time is a good time to buy if it’s what she is pumping. The Innovation ETF ended the day down by almost 2%, and is roughly 34% below its all-time high struck in Feb.

The Fed floated a trial balloon, as minutes from its April meeting indicated some policymakers are thinking about thinking about tapering asset purchases. “A number of participants suggested that if the economy continued to make rapid progress toward the Committee’s goals, it might be appropriate at some point in upcoming meetings to begin discussing a plan for adjusting the pace of asset purchases,” the minutes said. This was the first pointer – the first signal. It was done on purpose. Members of the FOMC also stressed the importance of “clearly communicating its assessment of progress toward its longer-run goals well in advance of the time when it could be judged substantial enough to warrant a change in the pace of asset purchases”. Tentative – the question remains: when does the Fed think it’s hit the landing area for the economy, and does inflation take off in the meantime? US 10-year yields looked to test the 1.70% level again, trading at 1.672% this morning. Gold remains held up by technical support at the 50% retracement around the $1,870 mark, though real rates moved slightly higher – taper talk could make life trickier for gold bulls in the near term. Meanwhile the ECB warned of financial stability risks stemming from rising levels of sovereign debt. Vice president de Guindos warned of a “legacy of higher debt and weaker balance sheets which … could prompt sharp market corrections and financial stress”.

Markets were in a broad risk-off mode yesterday. There is talk of greater correlation between crypto and risk assets these days – certainly when you see a big move in either direction they tend to follow each other. The FTSE 100 ended the day down more than 1% at 6,950. The rub for the FTSE 100, as we witnessed from yesterday’s concentrated selling in consumer cyclicals, miners and energy, is that whilst the reflationary environment and reflation trade may still broadly said to be ‘on’, the index is really quite exposed to emerging market growth – so rising cases across Asia – India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and Thailand in particular – may pose a risk to the market’s ability to regain the kind of 7,700 handle we saw pre-pandemic. Whilst the situation in the UK, Europe and US is improved greatly, the risk to emerging markets from the pandemic remains. Stocks like oil majors, miners and big consumer goods companies rely a lot on emerging markets for growth. Materials continued to roll over yesterday but copper firmed this morning after hitting its weakest since May 6th, while WTI  oil is also firmer around $63.50 after hitting its weakest since Apr 26th. However iron ore amid concerns China will act to keep a lid on surging prices. Again I’d be encouraged by the flat rejection of anything sub-6,900.

Kingfisher trades at highs not seen since 2017 after raising guidance for the first half of the 2021/22 year. After a particularly strong first quarter, management now expect mid-to-high teens group like-for-like sales growth, having previously guided for growth of low double-digit growth. As a result they’ve hiked adjusted pre-tax profit guidance to between £580m and £600m. This comes after a stonking first quarter in which group  LFLs rose 23% from 2019 levels and were up 64% year-on-year. Stunning year-on-year stats can be misleading, but the performance against the 2019 comparison is noteworthy and shows how Kingfisher has not only put integration problems behind it but also managed to successfully adapt to the pandemic. Execution of the ecommerce strategy has been exceptional – online sales up 258% from two years a Of course, DIY has been a popular pandemic past time, but nonetheless, group growth is ahead of the market.

EasyJet shares fell as it reported a 90% drop in revenues and a headline loss of £701m for the six months to the end of March. Passenger numbers for the 6-month period decreased by 89.4% to 4.1 million. I’d like to know who these 4m people are and what they are doing.

Stocks slide before FOMC minutes and cryptos hit by China ban

Morning Note

Crypto prices shot lower with BTCUSD tumbling to a 3-month at $38.5k in early trade this morning, now looking to test the long-term trend line from the ramp at the tail end of last year. There is a major bleed across the entire crypto space today, and both Bitcoin and Ether are 30% lower across the last 7 days, and Bitcoin has now given back all the gains made since Tesla announced in early February that it invested $1.5bn in the asset. Spurring the move lower today is news that Chinese financial regulators have instructed financial and payment institutions not to accept cryptocurrencies as payment nor offer related services or products. Cryptos are “seriously infringing on the safety of people’s property and disrupting the normal economic and financial order,” three industry bodies said in a joint statement on the PBOC WeChat account. China has for some time been putting pressure on the crypto space, but this marks an intensification – other countries might follow now as central banks make strides towards their own digital currencies. Until now western regulators have been pretty relaxed about Bitcoin, but this might change soon.

 

The crypto bros have had a hard time lately. First, they got down on their knees to the saviour Elon Musk as he pumped up Bitcoin and Doge. Then they got mad because he called one a hustle and signalled that he wasn’t all that keen on the other after all. Musk clearly gets all the spotlight, but it’s also worth looking at Michael Saylor, founder of MicroStrategy. The company is doubling down on Bitcoin, with Saylor saying yesterday it had purchased an additional 229 Bitcoins for $10.0 million in cash at an average price of about $43,663. “As of 5/18/2021, we #hodl ~92,079 bitcoins acquired for ~$2.251 billion at an average price of ~24,450 per bitcoin,” he tweeted. YOLO.  Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao tweeted  “Legend,” in response. 

 

Shares in MSTR are down about 60% since the Feb peak when Tesla announced its investment in Bitcoin. Saylor has been a longer-term Bitcoin bull than many and last year led a major pivot in terms of corporate acceptance of crypto assets that helped fuel the rally through to the recent all-time highs. If you recall in February MicroStrategy said it had sold $1bn in convertible debt to buy more Bitcoin. 

 

So now you have a situation where a publicly listed stock with a market cap of almost $5bn is seemingly entirely dependent on the price of Bitcoin remaining above $24k. This seems entirely odd. I can barely remember what the actually does. Not a lot is apparently the answer: just $122.9m in revenue in Q1, with a net loss of $110m. As of March 31st, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $82.5 million. If Bitcoin tanks, there does not appear to much wiggle room. No wonder short interest remains at 16%. Saylor might be right, he might be wrong, but rather like we have discussed before with Tesla: are corporate balance sheets the place for Bitcoin speculation, given that people are not using it to transact? 

 

So now we come to the options market and what it’s telling us about Bitcoin, which is that investors feel there is further to pull back from here, or least there was before prices dropped under a huge wedge of puts at $40k. Even long-term hodlers think it can drop further. Which makes you question what kind of mark to market losses MSTR will have to report. Which comes back to the point as to why a company which is not in the business of making investment decisions, like say Berkshire Hathaway or Baillie Gifford, is busy making bold investment decisions in an asset that is at best understood by a few, and at worst a complete scam.  Moreover, the company’s investments are entirely concentrated in a single asset – like Berkshire only owning Apple, and becoming a proxy to the stock itself. This is not like a company that needs to buy 10m Deutsche marks because it’s opening a factory in Stuttgart. It’s not an airline purchasing oil futs as a hedge against its jet fuel costs. It is not even like investing in a stock like Apple, with a call on their future cash flows, dividends etc. 

 

Meanwhile, stocks in Europe opened weaker, with the main bourses tracking ~1% lower at the start of the session following a soft day on Wall Street as investors continue show signs of indecision as inflationary pressures, reopening uncertainty and toppy valuations just give them cause for a breather. Bund yields are at their highest in two years, close to flipping positive. US benchmark 10-year yields are hovering around 1.65% ahead of the FOMC minutes tonight. Gold is holding the 50% retracement around $1,870. WTI takes a $64 handle again after touching a high at $67 on Monday, as the API reported US crude stockpiles rose by 620k barrels last week – EIA figs due today f/c +1.5m. The annual rate of inflation in the UK rose to 1.5% in April, doubling from the +0.7% printed in March and in line with expectations. It does not signal runaway inflation just yet.

 

On the FTSE, Ferguson rose to the top of the blue chips as it rallied 4% as it raised its full-year guidance as Q3 numbers came in ahead of expectations, with revenues +24.5% and profits +65.4%. John Laing rose 11% on an offer of 403p a share from KKR, whilst Dunelm rose 7% as it said sales were up 59% from the same period two years ago.

 

Fed to let yields, inflation run; Bank of England to follow

Morning Note

Fresh records for Wall Street, a weaker US dollar, yields higher, volatility crushed: these were some of the outcomes from a dovish Federal Reserve yesterday as the US central bank resolutely stuck to its guns to let the economy run as hot as it needs to achieve full employment. European stocks moved higher in early trade Thursday but worries about vaccinations and Covid cases weigh. The FTSE 100 still cannot yet sustain a break north of 6,800 and is the laggard, declining a quarter of one percent this morning.  

 

Longer dated paper moved a lot as Powell said the Fed would look past inflation overshooting; US 10-year Treasury yields have shot about 10 bps higher today to above 1.72%, whilst 30s are at their highest in almost two years close to 2.5%. Spreads are at their highest in over 5 years. Stock markets liked it – the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.6% to close above 33,000 for the first time. The S&P 500 closed within 25pts of 4,000. The Vix fell under 20. 

 

Tracking the move in US Treasuries, gilt yields rose this morning as markets look to the Bank of England meeting to deliver the next dose of central bank action. It will leave interest rates on hold at 0.1% and the size of the asset purchase programme at £895bn. The success of the vaccine programme – albeit now running into some hurdles – has allowed the Bank to take a more optimistic view of the UK economy beyond Q1 2021. At its February meeting the Old Lady said the UK economy will recover quickly to pre-pandemic levels of output over the course of 2021. It expects spare capacity in the economy to be eliminated this year as the recovery picks up. All this really puts the negative rate conundrum on hold – the next move should be up, if not this year certainly next. Nevertheless, Andrew Bailey stressed earlier this week that the BoE is not concerned by rising yields or temporary inflation blips. So today it will be more about what the BoE doesn’t say. Remaining silent on the rise in bond yields could be the cue for sterling. 

 

What did we learn from the Fed and Jay Powell? Chiefly, the Fed is staying its hand and letting the economy run hot. In a nutshell the Fed said inflation will overshoot but not for long; yields are moving up as part of the cycle as growth improves; and it won’t stop until full employment is achieved along with inflation above 2%. The Fed’s dovishness on monetary policy was contrasted by sharp upgrades to growth and inflation forecasts this year – but the Fed is in a new outcome-based regime focused on absolute employment levels, not on the Philip’s Curve. It also doesn’t really think the sharp bounce back this year is sustainable, meaning now is not the time to remove the punchbowl.

 

Transient: Things like supply bottlenecks and base effects will only lead to a “transient” impact on inflation, according to the Fed. The Fed plans to maintain 0-0.25% until labour market conditions achieve maximum employment and inflation is on course to remain above 2% for a sustained period. A ‘transitory’ rise in inflation above 2% as is seen happening this year does not meet criteria to raise rates. This is where things get dicey vis-a-vis yields since inflation could get a bit big this spring which would pressure (the Fed is immune so far) for hikes sooner. I think also the Fed should be looking around a bit more about where there is clear inflationary pressures and have been for some time, like in asset prices.

 

Stick: It seems abundantly clear that Powell and the Fed see no need and feel no pressure to carry out any kind of yield curve control or Twist-like operation to keep a lid on long-end rates.  This is a steepener move and the market reaction was plain as we saw longer-end yields rise just as the yield on shorter-dated maturity paper declined at first. The 5s30s spread widened around 9bps to 1.66%, whilst 2s10s widened 7bps to 1.5%. 

 

Patient: Is it time to start talking about talking about tapering? “Not yet” came the reply. Which matches expectations – any talk of tapering will not be allowed until June at the soonest when the Fed will have a lot more real data to work with post-vaccinations. That will be things get harder for the Fed as inflation starts to hit. 

 

Outcome-based: Focus on ‘actual’ progress rather than ‘forecast’ progress. This tallies with what know already about the Fed taking a more outcome-based approach to its policy rather than relying on Philip’s Curve based forecasts. The Fed’s rear-view policymaking will let inflation loose. It also means the dots are kind of useless, but nonetheless the lack of movement on dots kept shorter dated yields on a leash, pushing real rates down. The question about what actually constitutes a material overshoot on inflation and for how long it needs to be sustained will be dealt with another day, with Powell admitting the Fed will have to quantify this at some stage. 

 

SLR: Powell kept his cards close to his chest and only said something will be announced on SLR in the coming days. This may involve some kind of soft landing for the exemption to lessen any potential volatility.

 

Long end yields moved higher with curve steepeners doing well. I expect bond yields and inflation expectations to continue to rise over the next quarter – the Fed remains behind the market but this time, crucially, it doesn’t mind. Whilst Powell said the Fed would be concerned by a persistent tightening in financial conditions that obstruct its goal, the difference this time is that stock market stability is not what the Fed is about these days. Post 2008, the Fed fretted about market fragility since that is what caused the recession. Now it’s comfortable with higher yields and won’t be concerned if the stock market is lower from time to time.

 

With the long end of the curve anchored by the Fed’s dovishness, and longer-end yields and inflation expectations moving up, this creates better conditions for gold to mount a fresh move higher, but it first needs to clear out the big $1,760 resistance. MACD bullish crossover on the daily chart below is encouraging for bulls.

Gold needs to clear out the big $1,760 resistance.

Fed quickfire: Dollar trashed, stocks jump

Stocks jumped to highs of the day before paring gains as they were cheered by what looks on to be a dovish Fed decision – critically it looks as though the Fed is happy to let the economy run really rather hot and won’t intervene. It’s truly remarkable that the Fed can say the economy will rebound by 6.5% this year and not change policy. Even with growth in excess of 3% in 2022 and 2% in 2023; it still sees no need to tighten policy. This reflects what we know already about the Fed’s view on employment and inflation, but it is no less remarkable for it. I would have expected more policymakers to move their dots in a bit, but the median plot did not move into 2023. Doves rule – there is not enough of majority yet seeing any need to act to raise rates. Over to Jay Powell.

  • No hikes through 2023. 4 from 1 see a hike in 2022, whilst 7 see a hike by 2023
  • Inflation is seen at or above 2% through 2023, including 2.4% this year, 2% in 2022 and 2.1% in 2023. This is perhaps a little light and if inflation starts to move significantly higher than this it will be a problem and yields could back up further. This is the primary risk now for the Fed as AIT lets inflation expectations become unanchored.
  • Boosts GDP forecast to 6.5% in 2021 from December’s projection of 4.2%, with expansion seen at 3.3% in 2022 and 2.2% in 2023.

The Fed boosts GDP forecast to 6.5% in 2021 from December’s projection of 4.2%

Initial market reaction showed a pop in stock markets – this may get cooled if the market thinks the Fed is losing its grip on inflation by letting the economy run so hot. The Dollar dropped sharply and has held the losses. Gold broke above $1.740. 10s trade more cautiously around 1.66%, still up over 4bps today.

The Dollar dropped sharply and has held the losses.

Dots: no shift in the median: 4 of 18 see a hike next year, 7 in 2023.

Dots: no shift in the median

December dot plot – just three moved into the 2023 camp.

December dot plot – just three moved into the 2023 camp.

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