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

Week Ahead: All eyes on Jackson Hole

Week Ahead

The Jackson Hole Symposium is the big one this week. 

This annual gathering of top US and international finance policymakers, movers, and shakers has long been used to break major policy shifts. Markets are anticipating Fed Chair Jerome Powell will be using this year’s meeting to announce QE and stimulus policy changes. 

Powell could use the Symposium to announce a pullback from its current bond-buying programme. The Fed hinted as much in its July meetings, and there’s been plenty of rumblings that tapering is on the way, but as yet traders and investors are yet to receive an official green light.  

At present, the Fed is currently buying $120bn in fixed-income assets every month. $80bn comes from Treasury securities and the remaining $40bn is sourced from mortgage-backed securities. All of this was part of a package of ideas to help support the COVID-ravaged US economy. 

Bond traders and currency markets in particular are watching Thursday’s get together with interest. Clarity on the economy’s course, and navigational ideas to make it through a Delta-dominated landscape, will do much to allay their fears. It’s up to Powell now. 

Since the start of the year, the economy has been accelerating rapidly – even if last quarter’s GDP growth failed to meet expectations. But rapid rises can bring other challenges. In this case, they’re inflation shaped. CPI and PPI keep growing at record rates too, and while Powell has been content to let the economy run hot, he’d best put on some oven gloves, lest his fingers get burned. 

Speaking of inflation, further data on its impact is on its way with Friday’s release of Personal Consumption Expenditure index numbers, the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation. 

PCE growth clocked in at 0.4% in July, below the expected 0.6%, but an increase of 3.5% on an annualized basis. Seeing as it has been rapidly rising across the past couple of months, no doubt Powell and co. will be keeping a very close eye on Friday’s print. 

Further economic health indicators are on their way in the shape of a Monday morning PMI blitz. We’ll get releases judging American business output then, as well as IHS Markit insights into British and European activity too.  

US flash PMI readings for manufacturing and service productivity are released on Monday. There will be a lot to unpack when these are published, particularly as July’s numbers reported solid-but-slowing growth in American business activity. 

Both services and manufacturing sectors continue to feel the twin fangs of inflation and COVID-19. Factory output caused the manufacturing index to drop from June’s 63.7 reading to 59.7 in July (a four-month low), while the services sector also pulled back from 64.6 to 59.8.  

Higher input costs, staff shortages, and rising raw material costs are limiting growth. Let’s be clear: a reading over 50 indicates growth, but it does appear there’s a slowdown occurring in American productivity. 

Much the same can be said of the UK, according to its own PMI figures. August’s index readings are published on Monday morning, but we’ve seen supply chain bottlenecks and low worker numbers hold back output.  

July’s IHS Markit UK services PMI score was 59.6, a quite significant drop from June’s 62.4. Manufacturing showed a similar drop to 59.2 from 62.2.  

“More businesses are experiencing growth constraints from supply shortages of labour and materials, while on the demand side we’ve already seen the peak phase of pent-up consumer spending,” said IHS Markit’s economics director, Tim Moore. 

Conversely, EU productivity showed a July surge. IHS Markit’s final composite Purchasing Managers’ Index reached 60.2 in July – the highest level since June 2006 – indicating a strong showing from both services and manufacturing. 

However, to sustain this, the EU will have to be careful to avoid the logistical and labour market snags that have hit the UK and US. It’s unlikely to do so, so we could be looking at a lower reading in August. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)   Asset  Event 
Mon 23-Aug  8.15am  EUR  French Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  8.15am  EUR  French Flash Services PMI 
  8.30am  EUR  German Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  8.30am  EUR  German Flash Services PMI 
  9.00am  EUR  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  9.00am  EUR  Flash Services PMI 
  9.30am  GBP  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  9.30am  GBP  Flash Services PMI 
  2.45pm  USD  Flash Manufacturing PMI 
  2.45pm  USD  Flash Services PMI 
       
Wed 24-Aug  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Thu 25-Aug  ALL DAY  USD  Jackson Hole Symposium 
  1.30pm  USD  Preliminary GDP q/q 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
       
Fri 26-Aug  ALL DAY  USD  Jackson Hole Symposium 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PCE Price Index m/m 

 

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