How to trade commodities

Commodities trading is a popular way to speculate on a wide number of different markets and assets. Here, we take a look at what it entails and how you can get started.

Commodities trading

What are commodities?

The term Commoditiesis a broad umbrella that covers many products that are pretty much essential to everyday living. In this case, it’s raw, naturally occurring materials that are then processed in thousands of different ways, before turning into products everyone uses in their daily lives.

Crude oil, metals, gold, crops, sugar and so on are all part of the commodities family. These raw ingredients are taken away and turned into food, energy, and clothing.

One thing that sets commodities apart from other tradeable products is pricing. There is a higher degree of standardisation on prices worldwide. It doesn’t matter who is producing the asset or material in question.

For instance, gold produced in a Russian gold mine or Brazilian gold mine would have the same price.

This does change from asset to asset, however. It’s not a hard or fast rule. For example, certain crude oil blends are priced differently using different benchmarks, such as Brent Crude or West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

Why do traders like commodities?

There are a number of reasons why traders like commodities.

  • Variety – With plenty of markets to choose from, traders can select to trade across a wide variety of markets.
  • Safe havens – Some commodities, like precious metals, are strong value stores. They retain their physical value – even in times of global economic turbulence.
  • Speculation potential – Prices of some commodities can be quite volatile. Just look at how oil has changed over 2020-2021 for instance. That means there is a lot of potential for high profits if you speculate correctly. However, this does mean you could lose more money too.
  • Hedging against inflation – Commodities’ value is not pegged to currencies. If a currency’s value falls due to inflation, then a commodity may hold its value in contrast. As such, many traders and investors use them to hedge against inflation.

Adding commodities to an investment or trading portfolio is also a great way to increase diversification. A diverse portfolio, in theory, is more insulated against the risks inherent to financial trading. If one instrument or asset, say equities, falls, then the commodities could help cover those losses.

What commodities can you trade?

We briefly touched on this earlier, but there are lots of different options available to would-be commodity traders.

Generally, commodities can be split into four categories:

  • Metals – This incorporates precious metals like gold and silver, as well as more common, industrial ores like iron, copper, nickel, and lithium.
  • Agricultural products – This category includes both edible and non-edible products. Wheat, grain, cocoa, and sugar are edible commodities. Cotton, palm oil, and rubber are examples non-edible commodities.
  • Energy – The energy market covers crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, coal, and heating oil. It also include renewable energy like wind power and solar.
  • Livestock – Cattle, hogs and other live animals fall under the livestock category.

What drives commodity markets?

Price action in commodities markets is defined by supply and demand. Generally, the higher the demand the higher the price and so on. Low supplies coupled with high demand can lead to high prices too.

We’ve seen this recently with oil markets. Crude oil output had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand was low and output was minimal. As of October 2021, demand is high, but output is being kept relatively scarce by producers such as the OPEC+ nations to protect prices.

However, commodities prices can be more versatile than other assets. This is because there are lots of factors at play relating to their production. For example, livestock levels may be impacted by health issues, such as foot and mouth disease. A bad harvest will impact wheat prices. Weather can affect production of commodities, such as a hurricane shutting down natural gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico.

Global economic trends can affect prices too. China and India’s emergence as industrial powerhouses has caused the availability of metals like steel to drop off in other nations.

The above trends make commodities prices hard to predict. Prices can show high levels of volatility. As such, it can be seen as riskier than trading or investing in other assets. Remember: you should only invest or trade if you can afford to take any losses.

How are commodities traded?

Commodities are typically sold on exchanges, in the same way stocks are traded on exchanges. In fact, many would say the birth of trading as we know it started with 18th and 19th century merchants trading crops.

At Markets.com, we offer commodities trading through contracts for difference (CFDs). These allow you to speculate on commodity price movements without owning the underlying asset. These are leveraged products, which means you can take a position with only a fraction of the trade’s value. This means your profits can be amplified – but so can your losses.

There are also commodity exchange traded funds (ETFs). These group together a number of assets into a single basket. Some ETFs will hold the physical assets they’re cover, for example a gold ETF might hold a certain amount of bullion or coins. Some are more complicated and synthetically mimic their underlying market.

A Markets.com account will give you access to a wide range of commodity markets, as well as thousands other assets. Open yours today and start trading your way.

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.

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.

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

Morning Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

EURUSD Chart 28.09.2021

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

Gold Chart 28.09.2021

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

Morning Note

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

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

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

Key takeaways:

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

The core PCE inflation number for this year was hiked to 3.7% from 3.0%, the 2022 figure to 2.3% from 2.1%. They’re pulling out the ‘transitory but not quite as transitory as we thought’ line. I called 3.5% for 2021 and 2.5% for 2022 – so Fed still frontloading inflation expectations here – more in 2021, cooling sharply next year. The question is whether these will need to be revised higher again and what this could mean for rate hikes.

Fed inflation forecasts 23.09.2021

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

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

Fed Dots 23.09.2021

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

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

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

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

Briefly:

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

Stocks look to end week on a high as travel stocks catch tailwind

Morning Note

European markets on a firmer footing on Friday – FTSE 100 made a bold move at the open to recapture the week’s intraday high at 7,093 struck on Monday before pulling back, still trades up roughly half of one percent in early trade. This comes after a lacklustre session on Wall Street – Nasdaq up a touch, S&P 500 down a touch after the textbook bounce off the 50-day SMA on Thursday. Cyclicals were higher along with real estate, while basic materials and energy declined as oil pulled back from its highs and precious and some other metals took a hit. Stock markets on either side of the pond now just in the green for the week, Nasdaq just a tad lagging at the moment. Better session for the Hang Seng but still down 5% for the week.

 

Airlines and associated travel stocks are among the top performers this morning on hopes for the relaxation of international travel rules. Ministers are looking to scrap the need for the double-jabbed returning to the UK to take PCR tests, whilst the traffic light system would be scrapped. This would remove a huge blockage for the industry, though what hoops you need to go through once you get to your destination is another matter… ‘your papers please’…’I just wanted a sandwich!’. Anyway, shares in the likes of TUI and IAG rose around 4%. SSP – which does the sandwiches – up 3%. WH Smith +2%.  Informa – which does conferences – also benefitted as it ought to make business travel less of a headache for those HR teams. Not all travel shares were up – EasyJet fell another 1%. HSBC rallied on two upgrades. IHG also got a boost as Berenberg upgraded to buy. Wickes rose 5% after Deutsche Bank raised the stock to buy. 

 

UK retail sales missed expectations in August, but people are spending more on doing things than they are stuff. We had 18 months locked up to order patio sets and games consoles. Now is the time to get out and go the pubs, restaurants or whatever it is you like to do. 

 

After bemoaning the lack of FX volatility earlier this week, yesterday saw it reappear. The main story was a stronger dollar, which rose to its highest in three weeks after some surprisingly good US data. US retail sales rose +0.7% vs –0.8% decline expected, which signalled resilience among consumers as delta fears start to ebb and perhaps indicates spending will start to improve as US households unwind savings again after a period of caution. JPMorgan’s latest spending data report showed consumer spending well above July/August levels. More good news for the US economy emerged as the Philly Fed manufacturing index jumped as price pressures eased. 

 

And now an FT report claiming the European Central Bank is far closer to raising rates than official communiques indicate has the market guessing. The report cites an internal memo saying the ECB is on track to hike rates in about two years’ time, a year earlier than forecast. EURUSD has caught some bid after hitting its weakest since late August but this could just as well be about a paring of dollar gains after an outsize move yesterday. I would not be surprised if the ECB were to keep schtum over a possible earlier rate hike, as it won’t want the euro to rally, however such a hawkishness would go against everything we have come to learn about the ECB over the last decade. It maybe reflects internal concerns that inflation will be stickier than central banks admit right now and that they will be forced into adopting a less accommodative stance presently. On that note, markets are keen to see what the Bank of England does next week to get a grip on inflation.

 

EURUSD: potential inverted head and shoulders but near-term momentum with bears – note bearish MACD crossover. Current price action is tracking a well-worn channel. If a test of 1.6660 fails then we look to recover 1.19. If this gets taken out first and confirmed, looking for 1.22.

Gold was hammered yesterday as the dollar rose and Treasury yields spiked on the better US data. Whilst neither of the data sets should materially alter the Fed’s decision next week, they do nudge things in favour of the USD and spikier yields. The MACD indicator again provided us with a good signal last week for a short. Could be a shakeout of the weaker hands before resumption of attack on $1,830.

Cautious tone ahead of Powell’s Jackson Hole speech

Morning Note

There has been a mixed start to the open in Europe as investors look ahead with some caution to Fed chair Jay Powell’s Jackson Hole speech. Stocks are hovering around the flatline with the FTSE just in the green. Today in London the miners are back on the front foot with energy and basic resources leading the gainers, while tech led the decline as JustEat Takeaway.com fell 3%.

Explosions at Kabul airport were the big story and clearly didn’t help sentiment in the market on Thursday. Wall St opened higher with the Nasdaq Composite hitting a record high before getting shaken lower on the violence in the Afghan capital, though broadly stocks were already having a tough session. The major US indices all ended the day down by around 0.6%.

Whilst the situation in Afghanistan removed any idea of a fresh set of closing highs on Wall Street, there was anyways a sense of caution at the highs, which may not be a bad thing for a bull as it’s not the big end-of-rally melt-up you see as a bull run consumes itself. But it’s also not a sign of total confidence in valuations and that really depends on what the Fed does next. Cyclicals showing signs of pause and investors looking for defensive/quality names.

Data was unexciting: Initial jobless claims were steady at 353k, a modest increase from the 349k last week, whilst the second reading for GDP in Q2 showed the US economy grew by 6.6%.

It’s all about today’s Jackson Hole event – lots of talk but ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether Powell talks up the taper or talks it down. Yesterday among the various ‘sideline’ chats, Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan didn’t say anything new – he expects to taper this year and hike next year but stressed the two decisions are entirely separate. James Bullard and Esther George also reiterated their view that the taper should start sooner rather than later. All three are on the hawkish end of the committee so this is not that big a deal or anything we didn’t know already. What matters ultimately is what Powell, Williams and Clarida think.

Away from Jackson Hole we have some actual data that is important – the core PCE price index, which as well know is the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. It’s expected to rise 0.3% month-on-month in July, easing from the +0.4% in June. Last month’s annual print showed inflation excluding energy and food rose at +3.5%, the fastest pace in 30 years. PCE including those more volatile elements rose 4%, the most since 2008.

Stagflation: German import prices rose 15% in July – the fastest clip in 40 years. The increase, the highest year-on-year-change since September 1981, increase from +12.9% in June and +11.8% in May. Excluding the energy component, prices rose 9%.

Peloton shares tumbled in after-hours trade after it reported a wider fourth-quarter loss and issued disappointing guidance. PTON reported a loss per share of $1.05 vs $0.45 expected as revenue growth hit the front brakes in the fourth quarter. This was partly due to the recall of its treadmills. Meanwhile it’s also cutting the cost of its Bike product by 20%. Stock is now –21% YTD as the wheels have come off this particular ‘Covid winner’. Interesting to look across the pond to our own Covid winners – Ocado is –12% YTD and JustEat –20%.

The dollar is a tad weaker, and we note that DXY has twice failed to break above 93.15 area on the hourly chart. Could retest bottom of the channel at 92.83. Breach here could up downside with a clear path to 91.80.

Dollar Index 27.08.2021

Gold: more solid footing as $1,800 is recaptured – next leg up depends on how dovish Powell sounds in the face of all this inflation.

Gold Chart 27.08.2021

Oil: Spot WTI regaining the trend line just and back above the 100-day SMA with the bullish MACD crossover confirmed.

Spot Oil Chart 27.08.2021

Stocks slip ahead of Jackson Hole, wobbly German economic confidence

Morning Note

Risk takes a pause: Stock markets dropped in early trade on Thursday and the dollar rose a touch ahead of the Jackson Hole meeting, whilst wobbly German confidence knocked the wind out of this week’s rally in Europe. The major bourses were roughly 0.5% in the red at the start of the session, coming off a decent rally so far this week and another set of records on Wall Street. In London, 7-1 decliners to advancers indicates the broad selling with just healthcare keeping in the green in the early part of the session with AstraZeneca doing all the work. Basic materials is the weakest sector with all the major miners in the red. Characterise today as risk talking a pause for breath after a solid run this week.

There’s a strong sense of anticipation ahead of Jackson Hole. Rates are on the move, with the German 10-yr bund at a month-high. All eyes are on Fed chair Jay Powell on Friday, though markets seem relatively comfortable that either course he takes will ultimately not create a taper tantrum – we will see. Minutes from the last FOMC meeting clearly stated that most participants expect to be tapering this year. This does not mean the Fed needs to send a clear message to the market this week. Powell can keep some dry powder and wait for the September FOMC meeting at least. The last couple of weeks have shown growth momentum fading and US covid cases spiking, but it’s also showing inflation is proving to be sticky. If anything what we are seeing is just how difficult it will be to exit such a huge policy response (to the pandemic) without serious repercussions – be they inflation scarring, financial stability, financial bubbles or whatever. South Korea lit the torch as the country’s central bank raised rates overnight from 0.5% to 0.75%.

Germany’s GfK consumer sentiment declined to –1.2, data this morning showed. It comes after the Ifo business climate index declined for a second month as supply chain problems and rising covid cases worried companies. Another worry emerged as the EU may reimpose travel restrictions on the US. UK car production has hit lowest since 1956.

Slow appreciation: Wall Street rose again for fresh records, with the S&P 500 breaking above 4,500 for the first time and the Nasdaq closing north of 15,000. These look like prime areas for a pause. Bond yields are higher, with 10s at 1.34% and the reflation-reopening trade probably has more legroom than mega cap tech/growth/momentum names, though the latter is not yet blowing up like it has done in previous episodes. Yesterday the biggest contributors to SPX were big banks, whilst pharma and health dragged. Market breadth still not great but better and momentum is decidedly slack but the buy-the-dip conditioning has yet to be really tested by a really aggressive selloff or major policy/economic surprise. Delta concerns are probably less than they were two weeks ago even as cases rise, with markets more comfortable that companies can weather any rise, whilst the kind of ultra-lockdowns are behind us in the US, UK and Europe.

Jobs boom: Recruiter Hays said that despite an 8% drop in fees in the year to June 30th, trading improved through the year, with strong sequential growth in all regions. First half fees down 24% but in the second half they were up 13%. Management also noted a sharp increase in permanent roles in the second half, whilst the temp business has remained quite resilient. Chief executive Alistair Cox said the company sees a “clear route back to, and then exceeding, pre-pandemic levels of profit, faster than we envisaged even six months ago”. Bullish and reflective of the strong economic rebound and business demand for staff as they seek to fill headcount.

Crude oil inventories fell for a third week and fuel demand hit its highest since March 2020, figures from the EIA showed yesterday. Inventories at Cushing rose for the first time in 11 weeks, however. Price action is a little weaker today as spot WTI wrestles with the 100-day and trend resistance. Delta worries seem well priced – question is still whether the physical market continues to tighten over the rest of the year and this will be all about demand recovery. Closure of travel routes into the autumn (see EU on US) could knock confidence.

Spot Oil Chart 26.08.2021

Gold continues to drift lower, now under the 50-day SMA and sitting in the middle of the Bollinger range. $1,774 offers the near-term support should the price continue to drift back, which could then see a test of $1,760. Resistance offered at the $1,800 – $1,810 round number – 200-day SMA area.

Gold Chart 26.08.2021

Stocks make further gains as oil bounce carries on

Morning Note

Risk is bid again: Stocks rallied for a second day this week with European bourses making gains in early trade Tuesday after a solid day on Wall St and another good handover from Asia in the wake of the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer jab, whilst markets seem to found their safe space regards Delta after last week’s wobble. European stocks maybe also got a slight boost as data showed the German economy grew faster than expected in the second quarter. Nevertheless, the Bundesbank cautioned on Monday that the Delta variant could see the country miss full-year growth estimates.

Gains in early trade come off the back off record highs on the Nasdaq, while the S&P 500 is called to open at a fresh all-time high later today. The FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine boosted shares in both companies, with the latter rallying over 9% in Frankfurt, whilst PFE was up almost 3% in New York. Moderna also rose 7%. The decision – which should increase vaccination rates in the US – helped cement the risk rally started in Asia and which followed through the European session and into the New York open. Reopening stocks like the cruise operators did well as markets bet it means more vaccines and an easier path for companies to make them mandatory. It’s also evident that booster shots will be rolled out in many countries. Energy stocks led the charge as oil prices rallied over 6% at one point, snapping a 7-day losing streak. Growth/ large cap tech/ momentum provided a solid back up, with Apple and Facebook both +1%, Tesla +3%. Keep your eyes on On Holding, a running shoemaker backed by Roger Federer. The company filed for an IPO in New York, looking at a valuation of $6-8bn after it said net sales had risen by 85% in the first half of the year. It’s said to be in more than 8,000 shops worldwide and with the Federer name backing it has a powerful brand image to lever.

Last week’s wobble hardly registered on the Richter scale – a test of the 50-day for S&P futures, almost, proving enough to get dip buyers back in the hunt. Watch the long-term MACD divergence on the daily, though we could be about to see a bullish crossover.

US 500 Chart 24.08.2021

But despite the gains in the market, the macro data keeps telling us we are well past peak growth, albeit traders are looking at a reignition of the reflation/reopening trade in September. The headline from yesterday’s PMI report for the UK economy said it all, and nothing we didn’t know already: Recovery loses momentum as supply constraints hit output growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors. The composite output index slumped to a 6-month low, with constraints on growth stemming from supply chain problems and staff shortages. Some will blame Brexit, and it may be a factor, but this is being seen everywhere in the developed world as countries rebuild post-covid. IHS Markit said incidences of reduced output due to shortages of staff or materials were x14 higher than usual and the largest since the survey began in January 1998. And just as in Europe, although there may be a sign of inflationary pressures easing from Jun/Jul peaks, higher wages due to the tightness in the labour market and severe shortages of raw materials continue to be a major problem.

US PMI data also slowed and missed expectations. The report showed the third month of declining momentum and prices keep going up, with the twin drivers of supply chains and staffing to blame.

• Services input prices 73.5 vs 72.3 prior
• Manufacturing input prices 88.4 vs 86.7 prior
• Composite input prices 75.9 vs 74.6 prior

But slowing momentum in the economy could just keep the Fed from getting too hawkish, which stock markets would certainly prefer. Stickier inflation makes it harder for the Fed to stay easy for too long – the FOMC is in a bind, and we won’t know if this is a policy mistake for some months. Declining momentum in the economic data would favour a more dovish response from the Fed. Past peak growth, past peak Delta variant worries all we can do is wait for the Fed to tell markets where to go.

Stickier inflation helping gold to maintain momentum towards the $1,800 area where we look for a possible bullish 100/200day crossover to follow up the bullish MACD.

Gold chart 24.08.2021

Oil rebounded sharply – big outside day reversal rejecting the May low suggests bulls have wrestled back control. Monday’s over 5% jump for WTI saw it snap its worst run since 2019. Although there are still big worries about demand – the market seems to be saying that the recent selling was overdone. GS analysts on Monday argued that steadily tightening markets will overcome macro trends like Delta variant worries to push prices to a new cycle high in the autumn. They are similarly bullish for base metals.

Spot Oil Chart 24.08.2021

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