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

Morning Note

Caution is the order of the day…European stock markets fell moderately in early trade as the risk-on rally that powered Wall Street to fresh all-time highs ran out of steam overnight. Major bourses –0.5%, with the FTSE 100 under 7,200 again and the DAX under 15,500. The yen rose and Japanese equities fell, leading a broad decline in Asian equities overnight as Evergrande shares resumed trading and promptly plunged 13%. US futures are lower after the Dow Jones industrial average recorded a fresh all-time high and the S&P 500 notched is sixth daily gain on the bounce as investors looked through inflation and central bank fears to better earnings.

The Dow rose to a record intra-day high of 35,669.69, but finished the day 0.1% off its record close, gaining 0.4% for the session. As noted here recently, it might just be that the market has passed peak in/stagflation worries, even if the situation is going to be evident in the real economy for many months to come. Earnings are generally beating expectations – 84% so far according to FactSet. As commented on last night, growth is stalled – the Atlanta Fed’s Q3 GDP estimate is down to just 0.5% from +6% in the summer; inflation is running at +5% at least – German producer price inflation is running above 14%; and the yield curve is inverting, but ‘stonks’ just keep on rising. Rates flattish close to multi-month highs today – as noted yesterday there has been some mild steepening in yields, 2s/10s at 1.25%, 5s30s at 0.96.

Travel stocks are doing a little better in early trade with IAG, EasyJet +1% after posting sizeable losses yesterday as the UK signalled it could reintroduce some restrictions, whilst rising case numbers will make the country less accessible to many foreigners.

Oil is a little lower this morning after moving to fresh multi-year highs overnight – WTI just a shade under $84, Brent hitting $86 a barrel. US inventories were bullish with big draws for distillates and gasoline. Global inventories still falling, India is again calling on OPEC to pump more. Reports indicate Exxon is debating abandoning some of its biggest oil and gas projects.

Tesla earnings beat expectations, but the stock fell. Insiders have been selling the stock ahead of the earnings release, which maybe tells you something. EPS rose to $1.86 vs $1.59 expected on a record revenue quarter. gross margins improved – 30.5% for its automotive business and 26.6% overall. Vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy struck a more conciliatory tone about the NHSTA than his boss: “We always cooperate fully with NHTSA.”

Unilever products are just about everywhere in just everyone’s homes. So, when they raise prices it usually affects a lot of people. Unilever raised prices by an average 4.1% in the third quarter across all its brands, helping it to achieve underlying sales growth of 2.5% despite sales volume declining 1.5%. Turnover rose 4%. The company said it is taking action to “offset rising commodity and other input costs”. Share rose over 2%, delivering a boost to the FTSE 100.

Barclays said profits doubled in the third quarter as a strong performance at its investment bank and further reduction in Covid-era impairments boosted earnings. Attributable profit rose to £1.45bn, up from $611m for the same quarter last year. Return on tangible equity returned to a more normal 11.9% from the 18.1% in the previous quarter. Provisions for loan losses fell to £120m as the economic recovery continues to ease pressure on banks.

CEO Jes Staley touted “the benefits of our diversified business model” as Barclays posted its highest Q3 YTD pre-tax profit on record in 2021. Pre-tax profits at the investment bank rose a mighty 51% to £1.5bn, well ahead of expectations. Staley also pointed to consumer recovery and better rate environment. But does Barclays get enough credit for the investment bank earnings? Despite driving the performance in a fashion similar to some of the big Wall Street beasts it seeks to emulate, shares continue to trade at a hefty discount. Barclays trades at a price to book of about 0.5, whilst US peers are above 1, with BoA at about 1.5 and JPM closer to 2. But if investment banking revenues were not that sustainable and ‘can’t be counted on for future quarters’, why do it? Certainly they are more volatile quarter to quarter – revenues from equity trading, M&A and advisory fees cannot be counted on in the coming quarters to the same extent that mortgage fees and credit card fees might be. But discounting these entirely seems like a mistake by investors. Barclays rightly touts its more diversified revenue stream. When consumer and business growth markets are strained – like during the pandemic – volatility in financial markets creates a good environment for trading revenues to prosper. Barclays is reaping the benefits.

After a softer day on Wednesday, the dollar is a tad firmer this morning as risk is on the back foot. Yen also stronger. GBPUSD tests 1.38 support – daily candles suggest near-term top put in at 1.3830 area and maybe calling for pullback towards lower end of the rising channel. Hourly chart points to declining momentum. Test at 1.3740 for bulls.

GBPUSD Chart 21.10.2021

Will the Bank of England actually raise rates in November?

Forex

• GBPUSD hits highest in a month ahead of tomorrow’s CPI inflation print
• Hike in November fully priced by markets…
• But will the MPC hawks have enough votes?

Recent commentary from senior Bank of England officials indicates the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will raise interest rates when it next meets in November, barely over two weeks from now. Market positioning has also shifted significantly in recent weeks from a single hike next year to one this year and at least two next, with the base rate expected to hit 1% by August.

BoE members have had numerous occasions to push back against market expectations and have led traders towards a November hike as being the most likely outcome. Over the weekend governor Andrew Bailey stressed that the Bank of England “will have to act” to counter inflation. That’s one for team sticky – which if you are a regular reader, you will know I’ve been saying all along. “That’s why we, at the Bank of England, have signalled, and this is another such signal, that we will have to act,” Bailey said. “But, of course, that action comes in our monetary policy meetings.” Ah, but which policy meeting did he mean? Did he mean November – the market certainly thinks so, and there has been no push back on that. Failure to raise rates next month risks Bailey becoming the Old Lady’s second unreliable boyfriend and the inevitable disapprobation for her taste in gentlemen.

Inflation problems

Inflation expectations in the UK increased to 4.1% in September from 3.1% in August of 2021. Actual inflation is also rising quickly. The latest Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 3.2% in the 12 months to August 2021, up from 2% in July. The increase of 1.2 percentage points is the largest ever recorded increase in the CPI series, which began in January 1997. Soaring energy costs are a big factor, but the whole basket is seeing upwards pressure.

The reading of tomorrow’s CPI print is important. Another hot reading underlines the sense of urgency at the BoE. Cooler raises concerns that officials have got their communication muddled. It is once again expected to hit 3.2%.

Team sticky is winning for now but team transient have some cards up their sleeves. For instance, headline inflation would have been 0.3 percentage points lower in August 2021 without the Eat Out to Help Out discounts in August 2020. Demand destruction from higher prices may also start to feed into lower run rates for inflation.

Yield curve inversion

Markets are pricing in a fairly aggressive tightening cycle by the BoE. 2yr gilt yields have hit a two-and-a-half year high. This could be premature – the MPC may not be as hawkish as recent signals indicate, but if it’s correct then the market is also anticipating that the Bank would quickly need to reverse its actions. Forwards and implied interest rate expectations point to inversion – higher rates at the front end, lower further out. This only implies the market believes the Bank would be making a ‘policy mistake’ by hiking prematurely. Others would point out that taming inflation is its core mandate.

Certainly, the BoE like all central bank is dealing with something rather new: a supply shock. Central banks’ policy toolkits are based around levers to drive demand when it is low. They cannot fix supply crunches and imbalances in the economy very easily by stimulating demand. Nevertheless, the Bank is clearly mindful that allowing inflation to run rampant would a) destroy its credibility and b) allow longer-term inflation expectations to become de-anchored. If supply-side worries are longer lasting than first thought, and demand stays robust, it seems prudent for the MPC to use what tools it has to lean on inflation. What’s clear is that the intense debate around the recent comments and change in market expectations shows the Bank is not doing a particularly good job of communicating its position. We may be left in a position where the MPC hikes a couple of times and then has to dial it back, which risks its credibility – albeit whether more or less than it would by allowing inflation expectations off the leash is an open question.

The last meeting

• MPC voted 7-2 to maintain QE, unanimous on rates
• Ramsden joins Saunders in voting to scale back the QE programme to £840bn, ending it immediately
• CPI inflation is expected to rise further in the near term, to slightly above 4% in 2021 Q4 – and the BoE signalled greater risk it would be above target for most of 2022
• Overall, Bank staff had revised down their expectations for 2021 Q3 GDP growth from 2.9% at the time of the August Report to 2.1%, in part reflecting the emergence of some supply constraints on output
• Shift in forward guidance: MPC noted ‘some developments … [since the August Monetary Policy Report] … appear to have strengthened’ the case for tightening monetary policy.
• Rate hikes could come early, even before end of QE: “All members in this group agreed that any future initial tightening of monetary policy should be implemented by an increase in Bank Rate, even if that tightening became appropriate before the end of the existing UK government bond asset purchase programme.”

Doves vs Hawks

But will it go for the hike? The MPC is relatively evenly split in terms of hawks and doves, so it is not abundantly clear if the recent messaging from some members – albeit including the governor – matches with the votes.

Bailey has sounded hawkish, and we know Ramsden and Saunders are itching to act. Huw Pill, the new chief economist replacing Andy Haldane has also sounded hawkish, though less so than his predecessor.

Commenting after UK inflation expectations hit 4% for the first time since 2008, he said: “The rise in wholesale gas prices threatens to raise retail energy costs next year, sustaining CPI inflation rates above 4 per cent into 2022 second quarter.” We place him in the ‘leaning hawkish’ camp.

On the dovish side, Silvana Tenreyro is highly unlikely to vote for a hike next month, calling rate rises to counter inflation ‘self-defeating’.

Deputy Governor Broadbent said in July that he saw reasons for the inflation tide to ebb. The spike in energy prices since then could lead him to change his mind but for now, we place in the ‘leaning dovish’ camp,

Rate-setter Haskel said in May he’s not worried by inflation, and in July said there was no need to reduce stimulus in the foreseeable future. He goes in the Dovish camp with Catherine Mann, who said last week that she can hold off from raising rates since markets are doing some of the tightening already. “There’s a lot of endogenous tightening of financial conditions already in train in the UK. That means that I can wait on active tightening through a Bank Rate rise,” she said.

That leaves Jon Cunliffe somewhat the swing voter. In July he stressed that inflation was a bump in the road to recovery. We look to see whether the recent spike in inflation and inflation expectations has nudged the likes of Cunliffe, Pill and even Broadbent to move to the Hawkish camp. It seems unlikely that governor Bailey would have pointed the market towards quicker hikes if he did already have a feeling for the MPC’s views on the matter.

Dovish  Leaning dovish  Centre  Leaning hawkish  Hawkish 
Tenreyro

Mann

Haskel

Broadbent Cunliffe Pill Saunders

Ramsden

Bailey

Charts

GBPUSD: The hawkishness from policymakers and market repricing for hikes has supported £, though we do note some noticeable dollar weakness in Tuesday’s session that is flattering the view that it’s all BoE driven. Cable breaks new highs ahead of CPI, above 1.3820 to test the 50% retracement off the May peak. Bullish MACD crossover still in play, but starting to look a tad extended.

GBPUSD Chart 19.10.2021

EURGBP Gains capped with a stronger EUR today, but has made a fresh 18-month high. BoE racing to hike against a much more dovish ECB ought to be positive, but yield curve inversion highlights the dangers of viewing FX trades purely from a CB tightening/loosening point of view.

EURUSD 19.10.2021

Stocks weaker, THG strives for credibility

Morning Note

Stock markets looking a tad heavy in early trade Monday with all the major bourses tracking lower amid the customary cluster of inflation and slowing growth ‘fears’. The FTSE 100 eased back 0.2% from Friday’s 18-month high, losses for the CAC and DAX were larger. It’s been a mixed bag for Asia with Japan and Australia higher and Hong Kong and mainland China lower. US futures are a shade lower after a strong finish on Friday took the S&&P 500 back to within just 2% of its all-time high. Strong bank earnings buoyed sentiment – this week sees Netflix and Tesla among the big hitters and the first of the megacap momentum type names to report. Retail sales rose 0.7% in September, beating expectations in the process to show US consumers in fine health still. Chinese growth has slowed to 4.9% in the third quarter amid a crackdown on a broad range of business sectors, an energy crisis and a property market teetering under the weight of Evergrande. On a quarterly basis, the economy grew just 0.2%. Commodities are firmer, with copper re-approaching its May peak again and oil at over $82 for WTI and $85 for Brent. Nat gas is weaker though. Benchmark 10yr Treasury yields are at 1.6%. US industrial production numbers are on the taper later today.

THG’s Matt Moulding will forego his ‘golden share’ in a bid to restore confidence in the business among City investors. The plan will enable the company to apply for a premium listing on the LSE, likely in 2022, and on the face of things should go a long way to fixing a key grievance that investors have had about the company. But we should note that this dual-class structure was only ever going to last 3 years. Bringing forward the move by a year is not exactly sweeping reform. Nor is it a magic wand. Clearly, governance concerns run much deeper than a quick bit of airbrushing can cope with. And following the disastrous capital markets day last week, there are obviously far deeper concerns about the state of the business and a lack of visibility over how different parts fit together. Shares rallied 7% before paring gains – a drop in the ocean compared with the gigantic falls in recent weeks.

Sterling remains supported following hawkish comments from the Bank of England’s governor, Andrew Bailey, who said the central bank would act to curb inflation. He said that “we, at the Bank of England, have signalled, and this is another such signal, that we will have to act [on inflation].” It’s another firm signal that the BoE will act to get ahead of the curve by going early on rate hikes, with one increasingly likely this year. Markets have already braced for a swifter tightening of monetary policy, so sterling may not get much more from the BoE now.  Still momentum sides with the bulls for the time being. GBPUSD trades above 1.37 still, but has pulled back from Friday’s month high around 1.3770 with the dollar holding slightly higher at the start of the session. Meanwhile the pound has made a fresh 18-month high versus the euro.

GBPUSD Chart 18.10.2021

Bitcoin trades higher, moving closer to its all-time again as the first Bitcoin ETFs prepare to launch. The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF, which will offer exposure to Bitcoin futures, could begin trading as early as today. It will trade under the ticker “BITO.” Unless there is a last-ditch intervention from the SEC, the ETF seems set to begin trading this week. Bitcoin rallied above $62k, moving ever closer to a fresh all-time high.

Bitcoin Chart 18.10.2021

FTSE makes new post-pandemic high, Bitcoin up on ETF hopes

Morning Note

GPs will be paid more to do what they used to do before the pandemic, like see patients face to face. This is what dislocation and the ‘new normal’ looks like: same service, costs more. That’s one of the reasons why inflation is not going to be as transitory as central bankers have been telling us.

Markets are not that concerned by this, so it seems. The FTSE 100 has broken out to a new post-pandemic high, stretching its recent range by a few more points on the upside to hit a high of 7,242 this morning. This marks a roughly 400pt reversal from the Sep 20th intraday low. It’s been a very tight range of that size since April but there are encouraging signs the FTSE can yet end the year at its pre-pandemic level of 7,700.

Why the rally? Key is energy – BP and Shell among the top performers of the last month and have a big index weighting. That’s BP and Shell, which are both up more than 20% in the last month as oil and natural gas prices have soared. WTI is back above $82 this morning. Next is the two big reopening stories – IAG and Rolls Royce, they are the best performers of the last month among the blue chips. Reopening of travel has been a major factor and we see more good news today with the move to lateral flow tests for international arrivals. Then third we have the big banks – HSBC, Lloyds, StanChart and NatWest have all rallied over 10% in the last month as rates have risen and the macro environment has held up pretty well. Bets the Bank of England is far closer to raising rates have helped, but global bond yields have also been moving higher. The FTSE is exposed to the winds of the global economy and trade, which despite it all are holding up well, and UK shares remain heavily discounted to peers. The FTSE 250, a better gauge of the UK economy, has ticked higher in the last few sessions but is down by around 5% from its Sep high.

Wall Street closed firmly higher yesterday amid a rush of positive earnings reports from the big banks. Walgreens and UnitedHealth also delivered positive results that indicate the large corporations are still able to deliver earnings growth and higher profits despite the rising costs. Supply chain problems will become more obvious when some more consumer discretionary names report, but so far the storm is being weathered. Meanwhile lower rates lifted the big tech boats. The 1.7% rally for the S&P 500 was its best day since March.

On the data front, US initial jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic, but inflation is not going away. US PPI was a tad cooler than expected but still running hot at 8.6% year-on-year, however core PPI ticked up to 6.8% from 6.7%. The headline 8.6% was the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in November 2010. Today – US retail sales, Empire State mfg index.

Bitcoin eyes $60,000 as traders bet the SEC is poised to allow the first exchange-traded fund based on BTC futures. The SEC is reviewing around 40 Bitcoin-linked ETFs and a report from Bloomberg suggests the regulator will approve some of these. Bitcoin spiked on the report, which indicated that Invesco and ProShares could be among the providers cleared to start trading on Bitcoin ETFs. With the kick on to the $60k level it may be a matter of time before we see a fresh all-time high.

Gold – pulling back to the 23.6% retracement as it pares gains in the face of the $1,800 test.

GBPUSD: Nudging up to the trend line again at yesterday’s 3-week high.

Stocks rally, inflation sticks, earnings on tap

Morning Note

Stock markets rose in early trade as investors parsed the latest signs of inflation and the central bank reaction function, whilst earnings season has got underway across the pond with some decent numbers from JPMorgan. Wall Street rose mildly, snapping a three-day losing streak. VIXX is off sharply, which maybe reflects increasing comfort that the market has stabilised, if not able to make new highs just yet.

Earnings season gives investors a chance to ignore some of the noise and market narratives and get into actual numbers. Only this time we expect the corporate reporting season to underline the inflation narrative – the question is whether it’s just inflation or stagflation. Probably we get a bit of both – watch for sandbagging. JPMorgan numbers were positive, but as ever the stock fell despite beating on the top and bottom line. Profits were boosted by better-than-expected loan losses. Trading revenues were robust, asset and wealth management strong, loan growth improving and likely to pick up in 2022. Delta Air Lines also posted numbers that topped expectations including a first quarterly profit ex-state aid since the pandemic. But higher fuel costs and other expenses will hit the fourth-quarter profit – shares fell over 5%. Today sees Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo report.

Chinese producer price inflation rose 10.7% in September, the highest level since 1996. The China PPI number is an important leading indicator for global consumer inflation. On that front, US consumer price inflation accelerated in September to 5.4%, with prices up 0.4% month-on-month. Core rose 0.2% from August, leaving prices ex-volatile items like energy and food at 4%. US PPI inflation today is seen at +0.6%, +0.5% for the core reading.

Minutes from the Fed’s last meeting indicated the US central bank is likely to commence tapering asset purchases next month. “Participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate,” the minutes said.

Post the CPI and FOMC minutes we see Treasury yields lower, the dollar lower, gold firmer. Lower bond yields lifted megacap growth, or at least provided some marginal buying excuse to do so. Inflation is still hot but not getting much hotter. Narrative has clearly exited team transitory to support team sticky. The question now is whether we are at peak in/stagflation fears and this allows the market to move on to start pricing for 12-18 months hence, by which time you’d feel a lot of the post-pandemic bottlenecks and pressures will have eased. The problem for this – still team transitory if you like – is that anything that raises the costs of getting goods from source to consumer is inflationary and the pandemic has certainly been that. But so too is the shift in globalisation trends, eg Brexit.

Sterling is firmer as the dollar weakened in the wake of the CPI report. GBPUSD has broken free of the trend resistance and with bullish MACD crossover in play. Bulls would like to see the previous two highs on the MACD cleared (red line) to confirm reversal of the downtrend since May.

GBPUSD Chart 14.10.2021

Chart: Dollar index easing back to the middle of the channel, but faces pressure from bearish MACD crossover.

Dollar Index 14.10.2021

Yesterday I noted that gold was likely to face some volatility and break free from its recent consolidation. CPI numbers were indeed the catalyst and we saw gold prices hit the highest in a month, approaching $1,800 before pausing. Near-term, consolidation again with the 1hr chart showing a clear flag pattern with the lower end capped by the 23.6% line.

Gold Chart 14.10.2021

Chart showing gold price movements on 14.10.2021

Oil has firmed, with WTI recovering the $81 handle, though price action remains sluggish and sideways for the time being. OPEC yesterday cut its global oil demand growth forecast for 2021 but maintained its 2022 view and cautioned that soaring natural gas prices could boost demand for oil products.

OPEC cuts its demand growth forecast for 2021 to 5.82 million barrels per day, down from 5.96 million bpd. As we noted some months ago, it was always likely that OPEC would need to trim its 2021 forecast since it had always backdated so much of that extra demand to come in H2. The original 6m bpd forecast implied 1m bpd in H1, 5m bpd in H2, which always seemed optimistic. Critically, though, it was not wildly optimistic – demand has come back strongly after shrugging off the summer Delta blues. The cartel maintained its 4.2m bpd growth forecast for next year. EIA inventories today – a day late due to the Columbus Day holiday – forecast 1.1m build.

Crude Oil Futures Chart 14.10.2021

Nat gas – holding the trend support and 20-day SMA, bearish MACD crossover still in force.

Natural Gas Chart 14.10.2021

Hays shares +4% as fees rose 41% from a year ago. Strong leveraged play on record numbers of job vacancies and staff shortages. Shares have been flat the last 6 months, though +17% YTD, +45% the last 12 months leaves not a lot of room left on the table.

Dunelm still performing strongly against tough comparisons. Total sales in the first quarter increased by 8.3% against a very strong comparative period in FY21, when sales grew by 36.7%. Gross margins were down 10bps and expected to be 50-75bps lower than last year for the full year. Management warned on supply chain problems and inflation but stressed that good stock levels should provide them some cover. Some way to go to for the shares to recover recent highs but encouraging signs.

Stocks lower, rates on the move

Morning Note

Stock markets declined on Tuesday morning following on the heels of a wobbly session on Wall Street, with losses of around 0.5% for the broader European Stoxx 600. The FTSE 100 continues to chop in a sideways direction, trading just below 7,100 it is held firmly within the range of the last 6 months, whilst the DAX is back to the lower end of the recent range to test the 200-day moving average once more. Inflation worries persist, though our tradeable US natural gas and oil prices have edged back from the highs. Yesterday saw WTI rise above $82 for a fresh multi-year peak, before paring gains to take an $80 handle this morning. Coal prices in China meanwhile have risen to a new all-time high. Copper has rallied 7% this month, though it’s still ~10% below its May peak.

 

Rates are on the move again with the 10-year US Treasury note at 1.63%, a four-month high. The 2yr note yield also notched an 18-month high. Earlier we saw UK gilt yields spiked on markets believing the Bank of England could act early to tame inflation. The simple way of looking at this is higher energy costs = higher inflation expectations = early, faster central bank tightening. Later today we hear from the Fed’s Clarida and Bostic, whilst a 10yr bond auction in the US will be watched for demand. US CPI inflation numbers are due tomorrow.

 

On Wall Street, sentiment looked fragile as early gains reversed the market closed at the session low. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, with similar losses for the Nasdaq and Dow Jones. Lots of churn, little real direction to this market right now until the macro picture on inflation and CB reaction function is better understood. Asian shares were broadly weaker as another deadline for Evergrande bond coupon payments has passed.  

 

EasyJet shares declined more than 2% despite sounding a confident tone over the reopening of the travel sector. The company reported Q4 headline losses decreased by more than half with positive operating cash generated. Management now expects a headline loss before tax of slightly more than £1.1bn. However, on a more upbeat note the company says it sees positive momentum carried into FY22 with H1 bookings double those of the same time last year. 

WTI: Finding support at the 23.6% retracement of the move up off the Oct 7th swing low.

Oil Chart 12.10.2021

GBPUSD: Pulling back from yesterday’s 2-week high, where it retreated from our trend line, now sitting on the 23.6% retracement of the Mar ‘20 to May ‘21 rally at 1.35950.

GBPUSD Chart 12.10.2021

Slow start for equities, Asos tumbles

Morning Note

Soft and sluggish start for European equity markets – typical Monday morning feel until we all get out of bed. FTSE 100 is out the traps better at +0.2%, with banks, basic resources and oil & gas leading the way higher this morning, DAX lower at -0.3%. Rates are up – US 10yr Treasury note north of 1.6% and 2s and 5s highest since around March 2020. Last week’s nonfarm payrolls missed expectations, but Fed chair Powell says it’s about accumulated progress, not a blowout month. After the first flush of summer and two very strong prints, jobs growth is slowing and wages are up sharply at 4.6% – the stagflation bears may point out. US stocks froze somewhat in the headlights of the miss, declining mildly on Friday but nevertheless posting a positive week. The S&P 500 posted its best since August, the Dow Jones its strongest since June.

US and inflation on deck this week will be the focus, but so too earnings season as it gets underway on Wall Street. Earnings on tap this week include JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Delta Airlines and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

As mentioned a couple of times last week, the question facing investors is whether earnings calls are positive – supply chain woes, labour shortages, etc etc. And this takes us to the point also made last week – are we at peak inflation/stagflation/supply chain fear? The macro outlook still seems somewhat cloudy in terms of growth, policy and inflation, but that does not mean equities cannot make gains – climb the wall of worry, as the saying goes. Indeed, there are signs that some of the worst of the container shipping problems are rolling over. The stagflation shadow may be around for a while, but this may now be fully ‘priced’. What we don’t know is whether equities – particularly US and megacap growth which has dominated and is now a large part of the S&P 500 by weighting – will roll over as the Fed starts to taper and we see rates move higher. Whilst it has been choppy and volatile, so far the move to 1.6% on 10s from the August lows at 1.17% has not produced panic. Since peaking in early September, the broad market is down ~3%, whilst the Nasdaq 100 is about 6% lower. Not without damage, for sure, but the move has been fairly orderly, rotational, and is seen has a ‘healthy’ type of correction that is generally supportive for equities in the longer run.

Of course, don’t expect companies to waste a good crisis. Remember the warnings due to Covid that generally turned out to be fake news. This quarter’s earnings schedule should feature some pretty heavy expectation management that may create good opportunities for entry points. Corporate sandbagging might weigh on individual names temporarily though the broad market should be able to withstand this.

Asos shares tumbled this morning as CEO Nick Beighton steps down and the company warned of continued supply chain problems. Revenues also missed expectations, but undoubtedly the departure of Beighton, who has steered the company through an incredible period of growth, is a contributing factor. A big loss for the company. The search is on for a successor who can deliver £7bn of annual revenue within the next 3 to 4 years. Annual results were impressive with sales growth of +22% and profits +36%, but expectations for the next year are being massaged down to 10-15% with first half sales in mid-single digits. Asos is not wasting this supply chain crisis to lower the bar. Zalando down more than 3% in sympathy.

Energy markets remain in sharp focus with all-time highs for Chinese coal echoing loudly this morning. Nat gas is steady around $5.70, though European prices remain volatile. Oil is higher again with WTI north of $81. Declining inventories, supply kept in check, demand recovering post the big summer Delta wave fear = bullish for oil. CFTC data shows speculators getting longer oil.

Oil Chart 11.10.2021

Sterling on the move: GBPUSD has broken resistance and cleared the recent range to reach its best level in two weeks. The pair has broken out to 1.3670 in early trade this morning with a clear bullish bias having cleared out the ranges. Sterling is firmer thanks to increased speculation the Bank of England will raise rates sooner than previously expected. MPC member Michael Saunders said households should prepare for “significantly earlier” interest rate rises as inflation pressure rises – though he didn’t necessarily signal that November is on the table. Remember markets were pricing for Feb hike of 25bps and Saunders said that “markets have priced in over the last few months an earlier rise in Bank Rate than previously and I think that’s appropriate”. This morning the money markets have brought this forward to Dec – arguably on Saunders remarks, arguably were heading that way anyway. We should note that Saunders is on the hawkish end of the committee and voted to halt the BoE’s bond buying programme early.

GBPUSD: MACD bullish crossover, just now running into trend resistance.

GBPUSD Chart 11.10.2021

Bitcoin: momentum positive but pulling back at $57k, the 78.6% retracement.

Bitcoin Chart 11.10.2021

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 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.

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

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