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Billionaires, blocks & stocks: super rich shareholders cash in
Some of the world’s richest shareholders are reaping major windfalls from equities sales in 2021.
According to research by Bloomberg, the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Sergey Brin are turning to stock sales to improve their already substantial fortunes.
A 14-month long bull market is helping industry insiders cash in. $24.4bn worth of equities have been offloaded in the period up to the first half of May 2021, compared against the $30bn sold in the same manner throughout the whole of 2020.
The bulk of these sales have been undertaken via trading programmes, a common practice for shareholders of this status.
Usually, large shareholders will sell stock in planned intervals. However, it’s the prolonged stock market rally that’s really made these deals pay off. Whether they were planned or just coincided with the current equities boom is up for debate. The key motivations to sell now are:
- Valuations coming under pressure from rising inflation
- Investors becoming wary of potential tighter post-Covid measures from the Fed
- Joe Biden’s proposed capital gains tax hike
Who is selling?
The following names were mentioned by Bloomberg has being key stock sellers:
- Jeff Bezos – Sold $6.7bn worth of Amazon shares in 2021
- Mark Zuckerberg – Sold $1.67bn worth of Facebook shares since November 2021 through the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation charity
- Larry Ellison – Sold $552.3m Oracle shares
- Charles Schwab – Sold $192 worth of shares in his eponymous brokerage
- Sergei Brin – $163m worth of Alphabet stock
- Eric Yuan – Sold $185m of Zoom shares
One thing to note is that all of the above are involved in big tech players. Typically, such entrepreneurs’ portfolios are heavily weighted to tech stocks. It’s where they generate their wealth after all. However, divesting such levels of stocks makes sense. It’s rarely a great idea to bet solely on one horse, even if said horse has made you a multi-billionaire.
These stock sales will have further ripples away from equities markets. Hundreds of millions could be about to be poured into areas like art, real estate, and philanthropy.
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FTSE lags as dollar continues to drop
Back to school: the unruly mob are back. But that is enough about MPs going back to work – children start the autumn term this week and the furlough scheme starts to unwind with the government reducing its contribution to employees’ wages to 70% in September.
Furlough forever is simply not an option – zombie staff, zombie businesses. But it means unemployment is surely set to rise – and consumer confidence always follows. The chancellor is floating a tax raid – better to monetize the debt surely?
Stocks soft after strong August
Stocks were a tad weaker on Monday, but August was a great month. The MSCI World index rose 6.6% and the S&P rallied over 7% to record their best August since 1986. The Nasdaq rose 10%. August is usually a poor month for stocks.
Tuesday morning saw a firm bounce for the major European bourses, though the FTSE 100 lagged as it played catchup following the bank holiday. A stronger sterling is also dragging on the big dollar earners. AstraZeneca has started large-scale human trials of its coronavirus candidate vaccine in the US.
The Federal Reserve has put a floor under markets and a ceiling on rates, delivering conditions where stocks can only float higher. We call this TINA – There Is No Alternative. It’s not sustainable of course, but it won’t stop the Fed and other central banks continuing to inflate the bubble. The Fed’s policy shift on inflation has marked a important change for the central bank and it may be followed by the ECB and others.
Vix futures – the so-called ‘fear gauge’ are telling another story. These have started to grind higher despite stocks rallying, which raises a warning about the future path of the market. As previously mentioned, volatility should rise as the election approaches and the races proves far tighter than it currently looks. In summary, the options market is sending a signal that the stock market is not.
Strong China manufacturing PMI lifts sentiment, despite soft readings from France, Spain
Sentiment this morning is helped by data showing Chinese factory activity rose at the fastest pace since 2011. French and Spanish manufacturing PMIs softened, dropping under 50 to signal contraction, while Italy’s was a little better than expected at 53.1.
Some of the moves in US shares are striking. Apple rose over 3% to $129 after splitting, whilst Tesla shares rocketed 13% on its busiest day ever. Stock splits shouldn’t make a difference, except this time they have. Tesla is up 74% for the month.
Zoom races higher after smashing earnings forecasts
Zoom rose almost 23% in after-hours trade after it reported a 355% rise in revenues to $663.5m for the July quarter, smashing forecasts for around $500m. Zoom has proved to be a Covid winner of epic proportions – but shouldn’t we all be going back to the office by now? The UK significantly lags Europe and others in ‘getting back to work’ statistics – this has a huge implication for productivity and for the wider economy.
The dollar continues to soften and trying to guess the bottom is akin to catching a falling knife. The dollar index sank to fresh two-year lows in the wake of the Fed’s inflation shift. Perennial dollar bulls have been caught off guard with the unwind, however the Fed’s recent shift on inflation targeting only underlines that bears called this early.
More inflation and a central bank prepared to let it happen should reduce the purchasing power of the dollar and therefore it ought to weaken. However, with the buck usually a safe harbour, it shouldn’t soften too much more.
The pound was up, with GBPUSD pressing on the post-election euphoria high of last December a little above 1.34. There are Brexit risks ahead – talks recommence next week – but for the moment the major driver of this is the dollar’s weakness. Gold futures rose to $2,000/oz as the weaker dollar lifted commodity markets and US real rates – 10-year TIPS – have sunk again as inflation expectations rise.
Week Ahead: AAPL & TSLA split, Dow reshuffle, NFP in focus
What’s next for Apple and Tesla once their stock splits go into effect? How will the new-look Dow react to the latest market updates? And can the US nonfarm payrolls continue the trend of strong growth?
Apple and Tesla splits
This week Apple and Tesla will both start trading at their new prices after completing their recent splits. AAPL will drop by a quarter; TSLA by a fifth. Both stocks have seen huge appreciation since the splits were announced, with Apple jumping above $500 per share last week and Tesla continuing to climb after recently blasting through $2,000.
Stocks often pull back after a split as holders sell some of their additional shares to lock in some profit from recent appreciation, but this could be temporary. Apple will soon unveil its latest iPhone range, including the much-anticipated 5G models. Tesla’s upcoming Battery Day event, scheduled for September 22nd, could see the company announce new innovations that improve the range and performance of its cars.
You can find out more about the stock splits and how they affect any open trades here.
New look Dow Jones Industrial Average
Following the Apple stock split, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be a different beast from this week onwards. The Dow is a price-weighted index, unlike the S&P 500 which is based on market capitalisation, so a 75% drop in Apple’s share price has forced several changes.
First of all Apple will no longer have the largest weighting in the index, and will drop from first place to around 17th. This means that volatility in the stock have a smaller impact upon the Dow than previously. United Health will become the biggest stock in the index, and consequently will have more clout.
Additionally, several stocks have been dropped from the index to make way for new ones in order to keep its composition roughly a quarter tech stocks. You can read more about the changes here.
Zoom Video Communications earnings
Since the start of the pandemic Zoom has become an essential tool for businesses across the globe. It’s also seen a sharp increase in personal usage, with consumers using it to do everything from hold date nights to streaming weddings and even funerals. Customer numbers surged 354% year-on-year during the company’s first-quarter, with revenue up 169%.
As a result investors have jumped on the stock, sending ZM rocketing 330% so far this year.
This time around analysts are looking for sales of almost $500 million and EPS of $0.45 per share – which would equate to year-on-year growth of 462.5%.
Reserve Bank of Australia to trim the OCR?
The Reserve Bank of Australia meets this week. Last month policymakers unleashed more QE and acknowledged that there would be an economic hit from the decision to implement a full lockdown in Victoria – the second-largest state by population and output – but left rates on hold.
ASX Cash rate futures show that a slim majority of market participants are expecting the RBA to slash rates to 0% this time around. However, governor Philip Lowe has previously floated the idea of a rate cut to 0.1% should further adjustments be necessary, so even if policymakers do see the need for more easing they may not go all the way to zero.
US Nonfarm Payrolls
Friday’s US nonfarm payrolls data will of course be the main focus of the week. Jobs growth once again outpaced forecasts last month, although the rate of recovery eased to 1.763 million as a resurging number of coronavirus cases slowed hiring.
Recent jobless claims data has continued to show falling numbers of initial and continuous claims: the number of first-time applicants for jobless insurance dropped below 1 million in the week ending August 8th, for the first time since the pandemic started. The four-week average for claims has fallen consistently for several weeks, as have the number of continuous claims.
Highlights on XRay this Week
Read the full schedule of financial market analysis and training.
|07.15 UTC||Daily||European Morning Call|
|12.00 UTC||31-Aug||Master the Markets|
|From 15.30 UTC||1-Sep||Weekly Gold, Silver, and Oil Forecasts|
|17.00 UTC||3-Sep||Election2020 Weekly|
Key Events this Week
Watch out for the biggest events on the economic calendar this week:
|12.00 UTC||31-Aug||German Preliminary CPI|
|After-Market||31-Aug||Zoom Video Communications – Q2 2021|
|00.45 UTC||01-Sep||China Caixin Manufacturing PMI|
|4.30 UTC||01-Sep||RBA Official Cash Rate Decision|
|7.15 – 8.00 UTC||01-Sep||Finalised Eurozone Manufacturing PMIS|
|8.30 UTC||01-Sep||Finalised UK Manufacturing PMI|
|10.00 UTC||01-Sep||Eurozone Flash CPI|
|14.00 UTC||01-Sep||US ISM Manufacturing PMI|
|1.30 UTC||02-Sep||Australia Quarterly GDP|
|14.30 UTC||02-Sep||US EIA Crude Oil Inventories|
|1.30 UTC||03-Sep||Australia Trade Balance|
|00.45 UTC||03-Sep||China Caixin Services PMI|
|7.15 – 8.00 UTC||03-Sep||Finalised Eurozone Services PMIs|
|8.30 UTC||03-Sep||Finalised UK Services PMI|
|12.30 UTC||03-Sep||US Jobless Claims|
|14.00 UTC||03-Sep||US ISM Nonmanufacturing PMI|
|14.30 UTC||03-Sep||US EIA Natural Gas Storage|
|1.30 UTC||04-Sep||Australia Retail Sales|
|6.00 UTC||04-Sep||German Factory Orders|
|12.30 UTC||04-Sep||US Nonfarm Payrolls, Unemployment Rate|