Mixed start for European equities ahead of NFP

Mixed start in Europe after another positive session on Wall Street as the US Senate approved raising the debt ceiling until December. Treasury yields are higher, with the 10yr hitting 1.6%, which may cool megacap tech’s recovery. All eyes today on the nonfarm payrolls report and what this means for the Fed and tapering. 

 

Whilst European bourses are mainly in the red the FTSE 100 is trying to break above 7,100, but as noted yesterday there is moving average congestion to clear out the way just underneath this and it’s still firmly within the range of the last 6 months. The S&P 500 was up 0.83% on Thursday and has now recovered a chunk of the Monday gap and is now just 3% or so off its all-time high. Momentum just flipping in favour of bulls (we note bullish MACD crossover for futures) – has the supply chain-stagflation worry peaked? Maybe, but rising rates could undermine the big weighted tech sector in the near-term and it is unclear whether there is enough appetite among investors to go more overweight cyclicals when the macro outlook still seems somewhat cloudy in terms of growth, policy and inflation. Next week is earnings season so we either get more bullish conference calls for the coming quarters or a bit of sandbagging re supply chain issues, inflation – for the index a lot will depend on whether the C-suite is confident or cautious about their outlooks.

 

Inflation nation: We can keep banging on about inflation, but it’s well understood now. Even the Bank of England has woken up – BoE chief economist Pill warned that inflation looks to be more persistent than originally anticipated. UK inflation expectations have hit 4% for the first time since 2008 – soaring gas and fuel bills not helping. “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.” said Pill. Tax hikes and labour shortages also featuring in the inflationary mix. There was a rumour doing the round yesterday that BoE’s Broadbent has « taken Nov off the table ». However, with inflation racing higher it’s clear the Bank should be acting to hike in Nov to get ahead. Markets currently pricing a first 25bps rate hike fully by Feb 2022, another 70bps by the end of that year. 

 

Nonfarm payrolls watch: US employers are expected to have added 490k jobs in September, up from 235k in August, which was a big miss on the forecast. NFPs are important and could be market moving later since the Fed has explicitly tied tapering + subsequent rates lift-off to the labour market. A weak number could just dissuade the Fed from announcing its taper in Nov, but I see this as a low-risk outcome. More likely is steady progress on jobs (ADP was strong on Wed) and the November taper announcement to follow. The persistence of inflation and rising fuel costs in particular has changed the equation for the Fed entirely. Benign inflation that we were used to is no longer to be counted on to provide cover for trying to juice the labour market. The problem is not demand side, it’s supply side. Central banks are seeing rising inflationary pressures that are proving more persistent than thought. Slowing economic growth and risks to the outlook stem from the supply side not the demand side – so pumping the demand side even further into a supply side crisis is not helping matters much. 

Soaring energy prices driving stagflation fears, yields up, stocks down

Inflation/stagflation, supply chain problems, the US debt ceiling, an energy crisis as natural gas prices soar to new records in Europe and the UK, tighter monetary policy from central banks, worries about the Chinese property sector – all swirling around equity markets this week and not going away any time soon. Chiefly this morning we might say that rising Treasury yields and soaring energy prices are conspiring to knock risk appetite.  

 

European stock markets declined by around 1-2% in early trade on Wednesday despite something of a Tuesday turnaround for the US. The DAX tumbled 2% and under its 200-day moving average as German factory orders declined 7.7% in August amid supply chain problems, a sharp decline from the 4.9% increase in July. Although some of the decline could be a reaction to big jump in July, it’s nevertheless pointing to a slowdown in activity. Motor vehicles and parts were –12%. Meanwhile the British Chambers of Commerce released a survey showing UK companies are deeply worried about inflation and supply chain problems, and it warned that a period of stagflation may be coming. Boris Johnson is due to speak later but I cannot believe he will instil much confidence. The ‘everything is fine’ meme springs to mind… The FTSE 100 fell by more than 1% to under 7,000, though still within its 6-month range.

 

Wall Street rallied on Tuesday, reversing some of the Monday slip. Mega cap tech rose, whilst energy also rallied again on higher oil prices with WTI approaching $80. Henry Hub natural gas rose to just about its highest level in 13 years, with yesterday’s 9% gain seeing the US contract on the Nymex close at its highest since Dec 2008. Treasury yields are higher again, with 10s at 1.570%, the highest since mid-June.  Soaring energy prices are pushing up inflation expectations, pushing up yields and weighing on stocks. The dollar is bit stronger this morning with EURUSD taking a 15 handle again and cable under 1.36. US futures are weaker to the tune of 1%, indicating another rocky session on Wall Street with the S&P 500 ready to test the 4,300 area again.

 

Tesco shares rose over 4% in early trade after raising its full-year outlook on a profit beat and initiated a £500m share buyback programme. The company said it expects full-year adjusted operating profit of £2.5bn-£2.6bn, about a £100m ahead of analyst expectations, after H1 adjusted retail operating profit rose 16.6%. The strong retail showing reflected UK market outperformance and sharp recovery of Booker catering, management said. Shares in Sainsbury’s also climbed more than 1% despite a soft session for the FTSE 100. 

 

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised rates for the first time in seven years, hiking the main cash rate by 25bps to 0.5%. The central bank warned that cost pressures are becoming more persistent and that headline inflation would rise above 4% in the near term. But it was confident that current covid-19-related restrictions ‘have not materially changed the medium-term outlook for inflation and employment’ and that the ‘further removal of monetary policy stimulus is expected over time’. 

 

Oil prices keep on rising with front month WTI approaching $80. APi figures showed inventories increased by 950k barrels for the week ended Oct 1st, vs expectations for a draw of 300,000 barrels. There were also builds for stocks at Cushing, distillates and gasoline. EIA figs today expected to show a build of 0.8m barrels. Small inventory builds in the US won’t really change the narrative.

 

Finally, Deutsche Bank has a note out today warning about the impact of the shortages in the UK economy, which are beginning to ‘bite’ in the manufacturing sector – important for exports and therefore the currency. “In the medium-term, shortages in sectors like manufacturing should mean that UK suffer from a (relative) fall in output and have to be replaced by imports from abroad, weakening the current account and the pound,” they say. GBPUSD trades noticeably weaker today but it’s more a dollar move after a decent recovery over the last 4 sessions and with EURUSD also moving to its weakest since last July.

GBP USD Chart 06.10.2021

 

EURUSD Chart 06.10.2021

Manipulation continues to stoke the market

Yesterday I talked at length about the stock trading of Robert Kaplan, the head of the Dallas Fed, which obviously posed some questions about conflicts of interest. Now the quiet uproar this caused has forced Kaplan and his pal Eric Rosengren, the Boston Fed president, to do something. Both will sell all individual stock holdings by Sep 30th and reinvest in passive funds. “While my personal saving and investment transactions have complied with the Federal Reserve’s ethics rules, I have decided to address even the appearance of any conflict of interest by taking the following steps,” Rosengren said. Ok sure, but it just has a bad smell to it.

 

Stocks are nursing a slight bounce after a tough week, but the downside is open. The FTSE 100 found support at the 7,000 marker, testing its lowest in almost a month but holding the recent range for the time being. US markets were lower for a 4th straight day, the Dow Jones losing more than 150 points, the S&P 500 off by half of one percent and now a little over 1% below the all-time highs. A dovish European Central Bank has eased some concerns. 

 

The ECB did little to rock the boat, announcing a modest taper, but this was not exactly hawkish. PEPP will be conducted at a slightly slower pace, but this is all just tinkering at the edges.  Stocks found some bid, the euro also rose a touch but turned around – just a hint of noise, no new direction or anything to change the mind of any investors out there. Lagarde stressed it’s not a taper but ‘recalibration’ of PEPP.  

 

Message on rates clearly dovish and signalling they are going to look through ‘transitory’ spikes in inflation: “The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels until it sees inflation reaching two per cent well ahead of the end of its projection horizon and durably for the rest of the projection horizon, and it judges that realised progress in underlying inflation is sufficiently advanced to be consistent with inflation stabilising at two per cent over the medium term. This may also imply a transitory period in which inflation is moderately above target.” 

 

Although inflation forecasts were revised higher, inflation in 2023 is still seen back down to 1.5% – so no signs of a rate hike in my lifetime…I reckon I could get round a table 8 times a year with my mates and say ‘shall we buy more bonds?’ and they would say ‘yeah, let’s buy more bonds’. It’s not monetary policy, it’s just outright repression, manipulation and ultimately a form of theft. 

 

And if you want to see what mega central bank action does – BofA reports today in their Flow Show that the annualized inflow to global stocks in 2021 of $1tn is greater than the cumulative inflow of prior 20 years ($0.8tn). 

 

Stagflation: UK economic growth slowed sharply in July – the reopening burst bust. Output rose by just 0.1% in July, missing expectations for +0.6% expansion.  

 

US initial jobless claims hit their lowest since the pandemic at 310k, whilst continuing claims also fell slightly. 

 

Oil weakened but then recovered some ground after China said it would auction off some state crude reserves to help refiners. WTI remains in a tight range as the market looks for fresh catalysts from the demand unknowns. Near-term downtrend remains in force.

Spot Oil Chart 10.09.2021

Week Ahead: Central banks take centre stage

The week ahead is dominated by central bank statements. We’ve got three lined up, with the first coming from the ECB. Its dovish outlook runs counter to the Reserve Bank of Australia and Bank of Canada who’ve taken on a more hawkish character of late. We’re not expecting major policy shifts – but surprises are never far away in the world of economics. 

The last glimpse inside the European Central Bank’s thinking we got came in the form of its July meeting minutes. In a world where central banks are starting to take more hawkish footings, the ECB is still relatively dovish. 

The ECB announced its first major strategic financial policy in July. Inflation targets were revised away from trying to keep it below 2% by adopting a specific 2% headline inflation target. Since then, inflation in the Euro area has risen to a decade high of 3%, which is likely to encourage hawks on the Governing Council.  

All very well and good, but what about COVID-19? The pandemic is by no means over, but some key ECB board members are confident even the impact of the Delta variant can’t stunt Europe’s return to the black. 

Limited headwinds are expected. The sentiment is positive. 

“I would say we’re broadly not too far away from what we expected in June for the full year,” Philip Lane, the ECB’s chief economist, told Reuters on Wednesday. “It’s a reasonably well-balanced picture.” 

Importantly, the ECB has said it will keep a “persistently accommodative” stance going forward. Interest rates are likely to stay at their current exceptionally low levels. We’re not expecting to see a shift towards a more hawkish position any time soon. 

Moving to Australia, the RBA has been fairly bullish in its most recent communications. A new rate statement will come the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday morning and we’re not expecting the bank to stray too far from its current course. 

That is to say, tapering of the RBA’s bond buying programme will continue with the aim of scaling it back from September onwards. Rates will probably stay low too. We’re not expecting a hike until late 2022 at the earliest. 

Much depends on how robust Australia’s economy fares in light of rising coronavirus cases and localised lockdowns.  

“The board would be prepared to act in response to further bad news on the health front should that lead to a more significant setback for the economic recovery,” the RBA said in its August meeting minutes. “Experience to date had been that, once virus outbreaks were contained, the economy bounced back quickly.” 

Governor Lowe and his colleagues have said a recession is not very likely, although growth prospects have been revised for 2021. This year, the RBA expects annual growth to be around 4%, lower than the 4.75% previously forecast, but will rise to 4.25% by the end of 2022. 

Rounding off the week’s cavalcade of central bank statements is the Bank of Canada. The BOC is one of the more hawkish of the world’s central banks and has moved towards bond-buying tapering quite quickly, even though it is holding its overnight rate at 0.25%. 

The BOC did point out that a fresh wave of infections and lockdowns in Q2 did inhibit growth, but the bank is confident growth will expand rapidly towards the end of the year.  

The central bank said Canada’s economy is now expected to grow 6.0% in 2021, down from the April forecast of 6.5%, while it revised up its 2022 growth estimate to 4.6% from 3.7%. 

Hot inflation is still floating in the air, with readings expected to stay at or above 3% through to 2022. Quite hot – and at the top of the BOC’s 1-3% range. However, the bank is confident this is all transitionary. It is unlikely to force a policy rethink. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Tue 7-Sep  5.30am  AUD  RBA Rate Statement 
  5.30am  AUD  Cash Rate 
  10.00am  EUR  ZEW Economic Sentiment 
  10.00am  EUR  German ZEW Economic Sentiment 
       
Wed 8-Sep  3.00pm  CAD  BOC Rate Statement 
  3.00pm  CAD  Ivey PMI 
  3.00pm  CAD  Overnight Rate 
  Tentative  CAD  BOC Press Conference 
       
Thu 9-Sep  12.45pm  EUR  Monetary Policy Statement 
  12.45pm  EUR  Main Referencing Rate 
  1.30pm  EUR  ECB Press Conference 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Claims 
  3.30pm  GAS  US Natural Gas Inventories 
  4.00pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Fri 10-Sep  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 
  1.30pm  USD  PPI m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Core PPI m/m 
  Tentative  GBP  Monetary Policy Hearings 

Cryptocurrency update: BTC rally pushes crypto market above $2 trillion

Key tokens start the day with greens across the board, with Bitcoin and Ethereum leading the charge.

Cryptocurrency update

Global cryptocurrency market hits $2 trillion

With BTC and ETH reaching highs not seen for months, the total value of the global crypto market has exceeded $2 trillion for the first time since May.

Bitcoin crept above $48,000 on Monday morning, although it fell back towards $47,175 as the day progressed. Ether, which has strengthened on a successful network upgrade, is on a seven-day high after gaining 11% throughout the week. Cardano is up 53% across the last seven days.

It’s a good sign of market confidence in digital tokens. Bitcoin in particular had been experiencing a torrid couple of months recently. A strong sell-off in July, precipitated by falling token prices influenced heavily by China’s crypto crackdown, caused prices to dip below $30,000. Now, they’re rallying strongly and eyeing up the next resistance level.

During the BTC sell-off with prices at their lowest in July, the overall crypto market cap was around $1.12 trillion. Its peak, recorded in May when Bitcoin was trading at all-time highs, totalled $2.5 trillion.

There is still ground to recover. Volatility, however, is never far away from the world’s cryptocurrency markets.

While the bulls are feeling pretty good, there is still time for prices to go south again. Analysts predict the current BTC surge could top out at around $55,000. After that, the token may begin to fall away below $30,000 again.

The impact of the upcoming US Infrastructure Bill’s crypto tax provisions has yet to be truly felt.

That said, some are still optimistic. Others are predicting BTC hold its place above $40,000 and possibly over $50,000, going forward.

Singaporeans prefer Ether

A joint survey by digital token exchange Gemini, crypto market data analysts CoinMarketCap, and finance platform Seedly has revealed Singapore’s favourite coin: Ether.

78% of those surveyed by the group stated they hold onto Ether, compared to 69% that hold Bitcoin. Cardano was the third most popular token with 40% of respondents saying they had invested in it.

4,000 adults were surveyed as part of this study. 67% of respondents said they included digital tokens in their portfolios, and two-thirds of that group said they had increased their crypto holdings during the pandemic.

A fifth of those surveyed said that half or more of their investments are in cryptocurrencies.

Ether has been tipped to overtake Bitcoin as the world’s most popular digital token in the future. Many decentralised finance (DeFi) apps run off the Ethereum blockchain network, for instance, and users wishing to use said blockchain must pay a small fee in ETH to do so.

The network’s recent London Fork upgrade has introduced more user-friendly features, which may explain why ETH is rallying right now.

Still, with Bitcoin accounting for up to 68% of the total worldwide crypto market, Ether has some way to go before it can challenge for the top spot. It does appear, however, to be moving in the right direction – particularly if one nation’s traders and investors are seeing high potential in Ether.

The top five crypto-investing banks revealed

Institutional support for cryptocurrencies has been steadily building throughout the year, even with Bitcoin’s erratic price behaviour. Banks have stepped up their digital finance services and offers and been keen to grab their slice of the $2 trillion market.

A report from Blockdata has put together the 13 banks investing the most capital into blockchain networks and cryptocurrency wallets. Together, they represented over $3bn in investments. This includes token purchases and acquisition, as well as investment into tech companies and others in the digital finance ecosystem.

Blockdata said it reviewed banks in terms of size of funding rounds as a proxy of investment into the crypto space, saying it used that measure as banks participated in funding rounds with multiple or many other investors.

The top five crypto-investing banks as identified by Blockdata are:

  • Standard & Chartered – $380m in 6 investments
  • BNY Mellon – $321m in 5 investments
  • Citibank – $279m in 14 investments
  • UBS – $266m in 5 investments
  • BNP Paribas – $236m in 9 investments

While the above banks represent those betting the most on the crypto sector, it’s starting to pick up steam amongst other financial institutions.

55% of the world’s 100 biggest banks by assets under management are investing directly or indirectly in companies and projects related to digital currencies and blockchain, according to Blockdata research.

 

Week Ahead: All eyes on US jobs report

A busy week ahead for the markets with the US nonfarm payrolls as the marquee event, as well as two major central bank statements.

Let’s start with the latest US nonfarm payrolls print.

June’s reading performed way above expectations, and the markets will be watching closer than ever when the latest data is released on Friday.

850,000 payrolls were added to the US economy in June – way above the 720,000 forecast. This was also the sixth consecutive month where new additions were made.

However, the unemployment rate rose from 5.8% to 5.9% – higher than the predicted 5.6% rate forecast. Labour force participation, the go-to metric for gauging workforce shortages nationwide rate didn’t budge at 61.6%.

Hiring appears to have dipped a little overall throughout the spring. There are a couple of reasons for this: virus fears; childcare costs; better unemployment insurance; stimulus & furlough schemes. However, it’s been reported that firms have upped wages in order to entice workers into taking new positions.

The employment rate is also an important measure for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell when assessing stimulus and support levels for the US economy.

We know Powell and co. are relatively comfortable about letting the economy run hot, even in the face of rising inflation. As Powell pointed out at the last Fed meeting, there remains a gap of 7.5 million jobs missing from the US economy, although some reports suggest the figure is 6.8m. Until these open positions are filled, expected more Fed stimulus and support.

In terms of indices, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq responded very well to last month’s bumper jobs report, reaching new record highs. Indices traders will be hoping for more of the same with July’s print.

Sticking with US-related data, ISM, one of the key purchasing manager index reporters for the American economy, shares its manufacturing and services outlooks this week.

US manufacturing was still robust last month, according to ISM’s PMI report, but supply chain issues continue to inhibit growth. The factories printing was rated at 60.6 – down from the 61.2 score registered in May.

Momentum is still strong. Four out of the five subindexes rated by ISM showed high growth. Consumer interest in new goods is still high, despite rising prices. But labour shortages, coupled with the rising price of commodities and materials, has caused bottlenecks and shortages as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand.

« Record-long raw-material lead times, wide-scale shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products are continuing to affect all segments of the manufacturing economy, » said Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

The same can be said for the services sector: it expanded in June, but that expansion had softened compared with a best-ever May rating. In this case, the index fell from 63.5 to 60.1.

« The rate of expansion in the services sector remains strong, despite the slight pullback in the rate of growth from the previous month’s all-time high, » explained Chair of the ISM Services Business Survey Committee Anthony Nieves. « Challenges with materials shortages, inflation, logistics and employment resources continue to be an impediment to business conditions. »

Keeping that momentum going is all important for America’s economic health – especially as the US is expected to be the driving force behind the global economic recovery across the rest of this year and beyond.

Moving away from data, a pair of central bank statements are on the way next week.

Starting with the Bank of England, rising inflation is the big one here.

In June, inflation reached 2.5%, thanks to widespread increase in consumer goods. This could just be pent-up demand in the British economy finally being unleashed, but as inflation is now at its highest levels for three years, economists’ nerves may be tested.

Governor Bailey has already made his stance clear: the price jumps are only temporary, and we could see it run as high as 3% by the year’s end. It should then fall away back to acceptable levels after that. Currently, the BoE has a mandate to steer inflation towards 2% and keep it there.

However, Bailey has stated he would be ready to pitch rate hikes should inflation run out of this control.

The Reserve Bank of Australia also shares its latest policy thinking and direction this week.

Chances are, no big changes are coming. Governor Philip Lowe has been very clear that no rate hike will be forthcoming until at least 2024. That’s despite Australia’s strong economic fundamentals.

The historic low cash rate of 0.1% isn’t going anywhere. What’s interesting, however, is that July’s meeting led to some tweaks in Australia’s QE programme. The scale has been pulled back. From September onwards, the rate of RBA bond purchases will slow from AUD$5bn to AUD$4bn per week.

The groundwork for more tweaks to policy has been laid by Governor Lowe. Let’s see what this week’s meeting brings in terms of any small-scale changes.

We can’t finish a preview of the week’s key events without touching on US earnings season.

Week three of large cap earnings reports for Q2 2021 begins on Monday. It’s not as busy as the previous week’s reporting flurry, but we still have some significant reports coming in, namely Alibaba and Uber.

Check out our US earnings calendar for more information on which major firms are sharing earnings reports this week or see below.

Major economic data

Date Time (GMT+1) Asset Event
Mon 2-Aug 8.55am EUR German Final Manufacturing PMI
  3.00pm USD US ISM Manufacturing PMI
 
Tue 3-Aug 5.30am AUD RBA Rate Statement
  5.30am AUD Cash Statement
  11.45pm NZD Employment Change q/q
  11.45pm NZD Unemployment Rate
 
Wed 4-Aug 2.30am AUD Retail Sales m/m
  1.15pm USD ADP Nonfarm Employment Change
  3.00pm USD US ISM Services PMI
  3.30pm OIL US Crude Oil Inventories
 
Thu 5-Aug 12.00pm GBP Asset Purchase Facility
  12.00pm GBP BOE Monetary Policy Report
  12.00pm GBP MPC Asset Purchase Facility Votes
  12.00pm GBP Monetary Policy Summary
  12.00pm GBP MPC Official Bank Rate Votes
  12.00pm GBP Official Bank Rate
  3.30pm GAS US Natural Gas Inventories
 
Fri 6-Aug 2.30am AUD RBA Monetary Policy Statement
  1.30pm CAD Employment Change
  1.30pm CAD Unemployment Rate
  1.30pm USD Average Hourly Earnings q/q
  1.30pm USD Nonfarm Employment Change
  1.30pm USD Unemployment Rate

 

Key earnings data

Mon 2 Aug Tue 3 Aug Wed 4 Aug Thu 5 Aug
Arista Networks Alibaba General Motors Ball Corp
Activision Blizzard The Kraft Heinz Co Beyond Meat
Roku Inc Illumina
Uber Technologies Square Inc
The Trade Desk
Virgin Galactic Holdings

Earnings season: Another record-breaking quarter for Apple

Apple smashes yet another quarterly earnings season – but the stock price takes a hit.

Apple earnings

Apple’s headline stats

Apple beats Wall Street expectations once again. This was its strongest June quarter report on record, with sales of all major Apple product lines up 12% across the board.

Overall revenues were up 36% year-on-year for a total of $81.41 billion. When broken into key categories, Apple’s latest quarterly revenues look something like this:

  • Total Revenue – $81.41 billion – 36% y-o-y growth
  • iPhone revenue – $39.57 billion – 49.78% y-o-y growth
  • Services revenue – $17.48 billion – 33% y-o-y growth
  • Other Products revenue – $8.76 billion – 40% y-o-y growth
  • Mac revenue – $8.24 billion – 16% y-o-y growth
  • iPad revenue – $7.37 billion – 12% y-o-y growth
  • Gross margin – 43.3% y-o-y growth

It’s of course iPhones that represent the largest chunk of Apple’s quarterly revenues. The California brand launched its latest iteration in October last year. Since then, it’s place as the centrepiece in the Apple crown has gone undisputed.

As we can see from the above, other Apple products, including Macs and iPads, also remain extremely popular with consumers.

“Our record June quarter operating performance included new revenue records in each of our geographic segments, double-digit growth in each of our product categories, and a new all-time high for our installed base of active devices,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO, in a statement released on Tuesday.

“We generated $21 billion of operating cash flow, returned nearly $29 billion to our shareholders during the quarter, and continued to make significant investments across our business to support our long-term growth plans.”

In terms of guidance, Maestri said the company is forecasting double-digit year-on-year growth into the next quarter, although this is expected to slow in September.

Apple stock still takes a knock

Despite these huge gains, Apple shares reacted poorly to Maestri’s September forecasts. The stock fell 2% after the announcement and is currently trading down roughly 0.7%.

This comes even after earnings per share rose from the estimated $1.01 to $1.30.

So, why the dip? It’s the same thing that affected Tesla this year, and indeed most tech companies involved in physical hardware: supply side issues.

There is currently a global chip shortage. A shortage of silicon used to manufacturer chipsets necessary for building Apple products has caused supply and manufacturing issues. The most affect products were Macs and iPads, which use “legacy nodes”, i.e., older chip models, unlike the iPhone which runs on more current chipsets.

“We had predicted the shortages to total $3 to $4 billion,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC. “But we were actually able to mitigate some of that, and we came in at the lower than the low end part of that range.”

The drop in Apple share price may then have been caused by consternation around the coming quarters’ performance until the end of 2021. Will supply shortages stymie growth? Likely so, but Apple has proven it can mitigate these and still come out on top. However, it’s how much growth slows across the rest of the year, if it does, that may have caused concern for investors.

Apple analyst sentiment

Even with stock down, sentiment appears to be fairly strong. According to the Analyst consensus tool on the Marketsx platform, Apple holds a buy rating according to 25 market observers’ opinions:

Analyst consensus for Apple on 28.07.2021.

Sentiment is also veering towards the bullish:

Apple news sentiment for 28.07.2021.

So, another massive quarter for the world’s foremost tech brand. Now, it’s up to Cook, Maestri and the rest of the team to navigate Apple through a world where commodities and raw materials are in short supply. Can it deliver? Watch this space.

To see which large caps are still due to report on Wall Street this season, make sure you check out our earnings calendar.

What do analysts say are the best investment bank stocks?

Banks have enjoyed a rollicking recovery since the depths of the pandemic in March 2020. The XLF financials ETF has more than doubled since it struck a multi-year low over a year ago. A strong monetary and fiscal response from governments and central banks and a strong trading performance sparked the first phase of the recovery, whilst powerful economic growth and rising bond yields has helped the sector continue to gain.  

 

But among the major financial stocks, there are some top picks in the investment banking arena from JPMorgan that are worth a look. “The Investment Banking (IB) industry, in our view, is in a much better shape today compared to where it has ever been,” analysts from the bank said in a note. IBs operate a lower risk model as they become less capital-intensive,  revenue streams are more sustainable, barriers to entry remain high and they have an increasing share of so-called ‘captive’ wealth management. 

 

Here are JPM’s top investment bank picks and what other analysts say

 

In the global investment banking space, Goldman Sachs takes the top spot. “We see GS as a contender given its agile culture, which allows it to move as a Fintech, and its strong IT platform to retain its strong market share growth momentum from Tier II players,” the JPM team says.

Goldman also gets a buy rating on our Analyst Recommendations tool.

Goldman Sachs investment analysis rating.

In Europe, Barclays is the number one pick, with the analysts describing the UK-listed stock as “a relative winner with its transaction bank providing an advantage along with its diversified IB revenue mix”. UBS comes in second and Deutsche Bank also gets a nod. The German bank also received an upgrade from Kepler Capital.

Barclays investment analysis.

Cryptocurrency update: Bitcoin breaks $61,000, Tesla & BTC, and NFTs, NFTs, NFTs

Another week, another BTC high, which looks like good news for Elon Musk and Tesla. Elsewhere, NFT fever sweeps across cryptos, but will that affect prices?

Cryptocurrency update

Bitcoin new record high

Bitcoin spiked on Saturday 13th March, crossing the $60,000 barrier for the first time, and reaching above $61,500 before pulling back.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin futures were trading back around $55,000.

So, what was behind this fresh Bitcoin rocket ride? It’s our old friend institutional support. Chinese software firm Meitu is the latest in a long line of companies snapping up digital tokens for their treasuries and putting support on BTC prices.

Meitu has picked up $17.9m in Bitcoin but also bought $22m of Ether in the same transaction, which is fairly interesting – most probably because Ether is cheaper per-unit than Bitcoin, but still has a lot of institutional interest.

JPMorgan has also stated it’s launching a structured investment product featuring indirect exposure to cryptocurrency markets for its clients by the end of March. The investment bank’s structured debt product will maintain stock holdings in companies that have their own exposure to BTC. Retail and institutional investors would then have the opportunity to buy into the debt issuance with a minimum investment of $1,000 without direct BTC exposure.

There’s a long, long list of supporters of BTC has it continues to shift from outsider alternative currency to mainstream token. JPMorgan and Meitu are the latest names to join it, while Deutsche Bank and others have been there for a couple of months now.

Another factor that could be playing into a new BTC rally is Joe Biden’s mega stimulus package. $1.9 trillion in extra stimulus is coming to the US economy with $1,400 going to US citizens. Could some of that be pumped into retail cryptocurrency investment?

At its highest, Bitcoin’s market cap reached $1.14 trillion – more than the entire GDP of Indonesia or Mexico. Volatility is the fundamental characteristic of Bitcoin, however. After its most recent rally, when it smashed through the $50,000 barrier, BTC retracted down to $33,000 before rising again. It’s a heady rollercoaster ride, but one that encourages shorting. Some sort of stability would be nice.

While institutions are jumping aboard the Bitcoin/crypto train, regulatory reform is in the break car, desperately trying to put a slowdown on the market before investors go off the tracks. India, for instance, is proposing a strict cryptocurrency ban, wanting to prohibit “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets”, according to Reuters.

This regulatory tug of war will be ongoing, but it doesn’t really seem like it’s going to slow BTC volatility in the short-term.

Tesla makes big BTC profit

The shadow of Elon Musk looms large over the cryptocurrency world. The man with the itchy Twitter finger’s influence on price movements and crypto legitimacy has been seemingly all pervasive in recent months. When news came his carmaker Tesla had sunk $1.5bn in BTC in its last financial update at the start of February, it caused a stir. Is that a smart move for a EV manufacturer to be exploring? Apparently so.

With BTC breaking over $61,000, Tesla’s move to fill its coffers with digital coinage looked like a good one.  At that high, Tesla was up $1.2bn on its BTC trade.

Companies storing spare cash in securities like Treasury bills is nothing new. But Treasury bills are usually nowhere near as volatile as cryptocurrencies. It’s hard to argue with the results, but there are some lingering questions.

The $1.2bn crypto profit is more than Tesla has made from selling cars across the last decade, nominally the core mission of Tesla as a company. Of course, launching a new car marque into a congest marketplace takes massive overheads. You’ve got spend money to make money (and cars), but the ratio of investment to profit from digital tokens Tesla just showed versus its central business function is an interesting one.

Will Tesla move more of its capital into digital currencies? How will this affect its core business? What will the market think?

Tesla’s shares dropped by 20% after its BTC play was revealed, falling from $863 per share to around $694 at current levels, suggesting it doesn’t think too kindly on Tesla doing this. Musk has essentially tied Tesla and BTC together at the hip with such a move, which may have caused investors to question Tesla’s ongoing growth strategy.

In the short-term, it has paid off, but is it really sustainable for Tesla to pour money into BTC – especially with rivals like Lucid Motors gaining traction, and legacy car manufacturers making in roads into the EV segment. It’s one to watch for the future.

Could NFT upswing lead to higher crypto prices?

NFTs are getting more headlines recently, following a $69m purchase of a digital graphic from Designer Mike Winkleman, aka Beeple, by the pseudonymous founder of NFT-fund MetaPurse MetaKovan.

An NFT is a non-fungible token, a not-so-sexy name for assets sold on blockchains. This includes artwork, music, digital collectibles, virtual items for video games like weapons or skins, and even tokenised real-world assets like designer trainers, cars and property.

Everyone is getting in the act with Kings of Leon releasing their latest album via NFTs and Elon Musk’s (who else?) Wife Grimes selling $6m worth of artworks on blockchains via NFTs.

Non-fungible tokens are bought with cryptocurrency. For instance, MetaKovan picked up Beeple’s “Everdays” with $69m worth of ETH.

NFTs are valuable because they prove an artwork’s scarcity. “Everdays” is a one-off, thus its value was huge – although that is partly tied into a broader discussion on the value of art, which we won’t dive into here.

Depending on the type of NFT sold, the purchaser would become the sole owner. So, using “Everdays” as an example, MetaKovan is that artwork’s sole owner.

In the case of the Kings of Leon release, buying it as an NFT would mean you own a digital copy of the album, like you would if you were to buy it off iTunes or pick up a physical copy.

GameStop Reddit redux, vaccines & Powell deliver hope as equities shrug off higher yields

Who doesn’t like a McFlurry? McDonald’s ice cream may seem like an unlikely trigger for a fresh bout of frenzied retail trading, but there’s still something odd going on with GameStop shares. And it has something to do with ice cream. Shares in the company doubled yesterday – not so amazing you might think given the recent volatility, but the pop came entirely in the final hour and a half of trading amid heavy volume. Trading in GME was halted twice and the move spread to other names that were part of the recent Reddit frenzy. AMC Entertainment rose 18% on exceptionally high volumes. GME shares rose another 83% in after-hours trade to $168, having started the session at $44.70.

Figuring out why all this occurred late in yesterday’s US session is harder to explain than the short squeeze of January. Heavy buying of bullish call options may have exaggerated the move, but didn’t cause it. The CFO’s departure – which is part of the shake-up that investors are hoping for – was known before the opening bell, so shares would have responded before 7pm GMT. It could, though, be related to a tweet from activist investor Ryan Cohen, who posted a picture of a McDonald’s ice cream just before 7pm, a couple of hours before the US cash equity close. Does it signal Cohen, the founder of Chewy.com and leading investor in GameStop, will fix the company the way McDonald’s finally fixed its ice cream machines? (For those who have never set foot in a McDonald’s, the ice cream machines are broken so frequently it has become a meme on Twitter.) Or could it be even more cryptic and related to a new website that tells you in real time whether your local McDonald’s has a functioning ice cream machine?  Who knows, stranger things have happened. It looks like the Reddit crowd are at it again.

 

GameStop shares have doubled again.

 

Yields continued to advance, with US 10 year Treasuries north of 1.4% at a fresh year high, whilst Japanese bond yields rose to their highest in over two years. This failed to worry the market, however, as Fed chair Jay Powell administered more soothing words on inflation. The Dow Jones rallied 1.35% to a record high, briefly touching on 32,000 and closing within 40pts of this marker. The S&P 500 rose over 1%, the Nasdaq recovered 1% and the Russell 2000 of small caps rose by more than 2.3%. European stocks rose tamely in early trade on Thursday. Gains for the FTSE 100 were capped by 13.4pts inn ex-divis but it nevertheless pushed on to almost 6,700. Gold retreated under $1,800, whilst Bitcoin was steady at $50k.

Vaccine progress is underpinning strength in cyclical names, with the Johnson & Johnson covid jab set to get the green light in the US after the FDA staff report said there are no safety concerns with the single-dose vaccine. Energy and Financials are at the top of the Stoxx 600 in Europe this morning. Bond proxies, tech and growth all remain more problematic as yields go higher.

Charlie Munger, long-time friend and partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway has lashed out at Bitcoin, Tesla, Robinhood and SPACs. Sounds like my kind of guy. Asked whether he thought Bitcoin at $50k or Tesla being valued at $1tn was the crazier, he said: “Well I have the same difficulty that Samuel Johnson once had when he got a similar question, he said, ‘I can’t decide the order of precedency between a flea and a louse,’ and I feel the same way about those choices. I don’t know which is worse.” There were some other great nuggets such as: “Bitcoin reminds me of what Oscar Wilde said about fox hunting. He said it was the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.” To which Bitcoin HODLers would no doubt respond by saying ‘have fun being poor’. Still Munger doesn’t invest in gold, so why would he invest in Bitcoin, since it is clearly not a currency? He also warned about blank cheque special purpose acquisition companies – or SPACs – saying they represent “crazy speculation in enterprises not even found or picked out yet” which is “a sign of an irritating bubble”.

Elsewhere, oil prices rose to their highest in over a year despite a surprise build in US crude inventories as the freezing weather in Texas shut refineries. Stockpiles increased by 1.3m barrels, vs expectations for a draw of more than 5m barrels. Stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, rose for the first time in six weeks as refiners couldn’t take delivery. Bulls were buoyed, however, as US weekly crude output fell by 1.1m bpd, equally the biggest drop on record. The big freeze in Texas has really thrown the weekly numbers out of whack, but it’s clear demand is picking up. Everyone is now looking at the OPEC meeting next week on March 4th and an expected easing of self-imposed supply constraints.

In FX, sterling is trying to mount a fresh challenge at $1.42 after yesterday’s reversal. This looks more like a pause on the way to the $1.45 area for GBPUSD. Turning to Bank of America comments on sterling, which says the “backdrop could not be more conducive to further GBP gains as UK steadily re-emerges from lockdown and vax rollout remains exemplary. BoE discussion on neg rates is likely to be delayed into Q3, whilst GBP should benefit from structural seasonality in April ». That sounds bullish.

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