Stocks up as earnings optimism wins, inflation expectations higher

European stock markets rose in early trade Friday, set to finish the week largely flat after a little wobble but not a huge amount of movement. Churn seems to the be order of the day after a decent run up for the FTSE 100, which hit its best level in about 18 months last Friday. It’s not far off that level this morning.  Bit of a double whammy for UK this morning with the Bank of England chief economist warning inflation will exceed 5% and retail sales falling again. Stagflation vibes but sterling holding on ok and 2yr gilts back off their recent highs, though the wires just flashed the UK 10-year breakeven inflation rate has risen to its highest in 25 years. A GfK report showed consumer inflation expectations jumping to a record high. That’s what the Bank of England is expressly trying to avoid. Asian shares were up as Evergrande repaid a missed dollar interest payment. IHG shares off 2% despite a rebound in bookings thanks to Brits doing more holidaying in the UK, Sainsbury’s also lower as it abandons plans to sell its bank.

 

The S&P 500 closed at a record high and made it seven straight days of gains amid a mood of positivity around earnings. It ends a two-month pullback that saw it decline a modest 6% before recovering. Rates are higher – US 10s at their highest since May at 1.7% and 2s at a year high, curve flatter. The 10yr TIPS breakeven inflation rose above 2.61% to hits its highest since 2012. But investors are shrugging off inflation and expected central bank policy moves because of earnings growth being more positive than thought. Tesla shares rose to a record after earnings beat expectations. Energy and financials lagged, megacap tech did the lifting +1% (FANG+TM up 1%). Again slower growth, higher inflation supports growth stocks as real growth is at a premium. A steep drop for IBM prevented the Dow Jones from rallying.

 

Not a huge move in FX this morning – dollar index around the 93.60 area, major pairs stuck to well-worn levels. GBPUSD is trying to regain 1.38 and make a fresh stab at what looks like a near-term top around 1.3830 – the high of each of the last three days.  

 

Donald Trump + social media + SPAC. It feels like a kind of reassuringly volatile mix. Trump is launching his own social media platform called TRUTH Social. It needs capital letters, of course. I’d maybe even suggest ‘TRUTH! SOCIAL!’ might be more appropriate. Banned by Twitter and Facebook, Trump is taking on the Silicon Valley elite and fake news in the way he knows best. Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: DWAC), the Spac that merged with the platform company, soared as much as 400% and had to be halted at one point amid very heavy volume. Trump still sells. The stock finished up 357% at $45.50.  

 

I can’t see the majority of people ditching their FB and Twitter accounts for this. But you can see a large chunk of disaffected Americans, chiefly Republican/Trump voters, giving it go. I don’t think this ends the dominance of the other platforms, but tells you a lot about what a lot of people think about the platforms they use. “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech,” says DT. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable.” He’s got a point. 

 

If you don’t have a controversial ex-President to back your social media platform, you have to rely on more mundane things like advertising revenues to drive cash flow. So poor Snap shares collapsed overnight as third quarter revenue expectations missed expectations after Apple’s iPhone privacy changes hit the advertising business. Daily active user growth was sluggish and the company warned of the global supply chain problems and labour shortages hitting advertising demand. Shares plunged by more than 21% after hours. Facebook and Twitter both dropped by more than 4% in sympathy.  

 

The Federal Reserve has banned individual stock purchases by top officials and outlined a broader set of restrictions on their investing activities. These will ‘prohibit them from purchasing individual stocks, holding investments in individual bonds, holding investments in agency securities (directly or indirectly), or entering into derivatives’.

The move came as it emerged that Fed officials were warned on March 23rd, 2020, to observe a ‘trading blackout’ for a period of ‘several months’ due to recent and likely upcoming actions by the Fed. The same day, the Fed did its ‘everything it takes’ moment by committing to open-end bond purchases “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning”. If you, say, knew the Fed was about to provide the ultimate backstop to the stock market, it would be useful, I assume. I figure that if you owned a tonne of stocks you’d find it valuable to know what the Fed was about to do or not do. Which is why it obviously stinks that Fed members have been allowed to trade individual stocks at all. Messrs Kaplan and Rosengren were trading again within weeks, not months, of the memo date. 

 

If you read the memo a certain way it just sounds like the ethics people were actually just trying to offer some good advice – don’t do any unnecessary selling, we got this: “In light of the rapidly developing nature of recent and likely upcoming (Federal Reserve) System actions, please consider observing a trading blackout and avoid making unnecessary securities transactions for at least the next several months, or until FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) and Board policy actions return to their regularly scheduled timing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GBPUSD Chart 21.10.2021

Tesla stuff, Squid Games

Tesla stuff: Haters hate, regulators regulate: don’t confuse the two. Duke University engineering and computer science professor Missy Cummings is set to become a new senior adviser for safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many Tesla fanboys and girls are crying foul. Cummings, a former pilot and robotics expert, is seen as ‘anti-Tesla’. Now that’s kind of interesting in the first place: you’re either definitely for Tesla or definitely a hater. No room for a middle ground. That’s kind of odd for a carmaker. Most people are not anti or pro Ford, or GM. They maybe like/dislike their cars, think they’re doing a good/bad job with the tech and think management are capable/useless. No one would say they’re anti-Ford. They might have an objective, rational view on the cars and/or the stock, but not a creed. But rational objectivity and Tesla seldom go hand in hand. And I’m not sure if you could say she’s anti-Tesla per se, just sceptical about the level of technology that is being touted around by some companies. But, particularly Tesla. 

 

For instance, last year she tweeted“LMAO…there is NO WAY Tesla will have a viable robo-taxi service this year. My lab has been running controlled experiments on Tesla Autopilot & I can say with certainty that they are not even close to being ready. My student on this project should get hazardous duty pay.”  In one 2018 tweet she said “The only killer robot out there is @elonmusk’s Tesla.” There are lots of examples on the feed.

 

It’s fair to say Cummings is a vocal critic of the ability of self-driving systems to cope with bad weather, and authored plenty of research that calls into question some of the main claims that companies like Tesla make when they market their ‘full self-driving’ systems. There are numerous papers, some choice tweets and essentially you can say she doesn’t buy the tech being anything like close enough to be objectively safe for the roads.  

 

After news of her appointment broke Elon Musk tweeted today: “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla.”  

 

Tesla’s self-driving technology is already being investigated by the NHTSA. The company must provide the regulator with extensive data about its Autopilot system by Friday. Tesla has been getting away with marketing ‘Full Self Driving’ technology for a while; Cummings could mark time for a much tougher stance. Steven Cliff, deputy administrator since February, has also been nominated by the White House to lead the NHSTA. He’s currently in charge of the Tesla investigation. Another Tesla ‘hater’, according to many. Regulators are maybe finally going to regulate.

 

Meanwhile, in other Tesla ‘stuff’. Get a load of Elon Musk, who told a customer apparently not impressed with the look of the side mirrors on the cyber truck, that it’s OK to remove them. “They’re required by law, but designed to be easy to remove by owners,” he tweeted. I am ‘absolutely sure’ that is not irresponsible or unsafe…

 

Tesla earnings are due out today: the company hit record deliveries in Q3 as it found chips no one else seems to be able to find. EPS is seen around $1.50, on revenues of $13.6bn. Looking for updates on the Berlin Gigafactory, competition in China, internal chip production, Cyber truck and Semi releases, and, of course, the beta FSD progress. Let’s hope for some analyst questions around the NHSTA today.

 

Squid Games: Netflix posted solid subscriber growth in the third quarter of 4.4m, well ahead of the 3.84m expected. A deluge of hit new content that had been delayed by the pandemic is helping to drive interest such that the company anticipates 8.5m net adds next quarter. Earnings per share were a handsome beat at $3.19 vs $2.56 expected. In Q3, revenue grew 16% year over year to $7.5 billion, while operating income rose 33% vs. the prior year quarter to $1.8 billion. Content and subscribers are in good shape, but free cash flow remains elusive as it reported a second consecutive quarter of negative free cash. Still when you have low-cost, high margin content in multiple languages, you think Netflix will be able to drive non-US subscriber growth substantially in the coming years. Shares fell slightly in after-hours trade.

 

Markets: Stocks are flat again this morning in early trade in Europe, with the FTSE 100 hovering around the 7,200, looking like it has decent support.  The S&P 500 rallied three-quarters of one percent yesterday to close within 0.4% of its record high. Megacap tech had a decent day despite rising bond yields. If it’s stagflation then growth is still a premium.  

 

US 10-year rates rose to a 5-month at 1.67% as the Fed’s Waller said tapering should start in November and that if inflation keeps rising “a more aggressive policy response” might be required in 2022. Bitcoin at or around all-time highs post the ProShare ETF launch.

 

Inflation: UK inflation has fallen! But before we rejoice too much, it’s probably a one-off. CPI fell to 3.1% in September from 3.1% in August. The end of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme at the end of August last year, which led to restaurants raising prices in September, is a big factor. The surge in energy prices and ongoing supply chain problems are still expected to drive inflation to 4% this year. Moreover, the RPI rose 4.9%. 

 

As we said in yesterday’s note on Will the Bank of England actually raise rates in November?, the reading of the inflation print is important: the consensus remains firmly on the MPC voting to raise rates in two weeks’ time. But, as stressed in the same commentary, it’s not a slam dunk given the make-up of the MPC right now. 

Meanwhile, German produce price inflation surged – rising 2.3% month-on-month vs the +1% expected. That took the annual rate to 14.2%. Supply chain and capacity problems abound. Underlines that rising cost pressures are not going away. 

 

Sterling just eased back on the inflation miss. GBPUSD retreated to test the support offered at 1.3770, the OCt 15th swing high, where sits the 50hr SMA. Recent price action indicates this is the chief support before resumption of the uptrend, though we are less convinced that GBP can rally with rate expectations now they are baked in. However, I do see further dollar weakness likely to support further gains for cable following the topping pattern on the last 3 weekly candles.

Stocks flat to start the session

European stocks are flat in early trade as risk remains on watch for a range of factors, including earnings, inflation and expectations central banks will tighten the screw. The S&P 500 notched a 4th straight day of gains, but the Dow Jones fell. The Nasdaq rallied with megcap growth performing solidly. Asian shares rallied with tech leading the way. Meanwhile what we might call cyclical/steepener trades are suffering a bit.

US industrial production fell 1.3% in September, manufacturing down 0.7%. Autos and parts fell 7.2% as shortages of semiconductors continued to hurt operations, while the lingering effects of Hurricane Ida hit mining. Supply chains remain the big problem for now – a shortage of semi-conductor supplies could affect the car industry well into 2022, the head of French car sector body PFA said today.

Also worrying markets are central banks – the Bank of England has put the cat among the pigeons with its hawkish talk, nudging markets to price in some hikes in the next year that just weren’t expected a few weeks ago. That’s seen the yield curve flatten with many arguing that CBs shouldn’t be hiking into a supply-side inflation crunch. That may be so, but with inflation at 5% or more, should they really be trying to grease the wheels as much as ZIRP and QE is doing now? UK 2yr gilt yields jumped to a two-and-a-half year high on Monday, as traders bet on the BoE hiking rates as early as next month and following up with more in 2022 so the base rate is seen reaching 1% by next summer. Ten-year rates have not kept pace. It shows the BoE’s boss, Andrew Bailey, is believed when he says the bank will act to curb inflation, but it also shows markets don’t think it’s necessarily the best step for achieving growth in the long run. Both markets and central banks have been wrong in the past.

Some big names reporting earnings today, including Netflix, United Airlines, and Tesla. We know it was a good quarter for deliveries: Tesla made approximately 238,000 vehicles and delivered over 240,000 in the third quarter. But as ever with Tesla there are questions still. Eg, What about the self-driving feature and investigations? What about delays in delivering new products – it has only started delivering latest model X SUV after months of delays? There will be a focus on China – EV sales there are booming but Tesla’s sales in the market have slumped. But if Tesla can show it’s profitable with emissions credits again and show it can find chips where no one else can, it’s maybe going to satisfy the market just enough.

Bitcoin trades at a new high, inching closer to its all-time high, with prices close to $63k overnight. In addition to the launch of the ProShares Bitcoin futures ETF, Interactive Brokers said it will allow Registered Investment Advisors in the US to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This opens the gates on billions of dollars of potential investment in the sector.

Stocks weaker, THG strives for credibility

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

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

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

GBPUSD Chart 18.10.2021

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

Bitcoin Chart 18.10.2021

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

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

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

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 lower, rates on the move

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Oil Chart 12.10.2021

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

GBPUSD Chart 12.10.2021

Slow start for equities, Asos tumbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oil Chart 11.10.2021

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

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

GBPUSD Chart 11.10.2021

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

Bitcoin Chart 11.10.2021

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