Closing on all-time highs, FOMC preview
Equity markets buoyant after Tuesday’s rally ahead of the key Federal Reserve meeting.
You can just about smell the all-time highs. The S&P 500 rallied 28 points to 2,917.75, just a shade under 1% below its April record high. The Dow added 350+ points to 26,465.54.
And yet the latest BAML data shows fund managers are at their most bearish since the global financial crisis a decade ago. Equity allocations have experienced their second worst drop on record – we’ve seen a huge move into cash. And yet and yet, we’re close to all-time highs again for US equity markets at least. This is what you may call an unloved rally.
Asian shares were encouraged by Wall Street’s gains. Japan closed 1.72% higher. Futures indicate European shares are treading water ahead of the FOMC decision later today. A touch of caution after an exuberant session yesterday.
Oil rallied again – demand outlook matters a lot more than supply constraints. The world is awash with oil whatever OPEC does. Brent was close to its $62.50 comfort, the 50% Fib level that continues to anchor prices. WTI has regained $54. On both charts signs of either double-bottom reversal or bearish flag continuation patterns.
The prospect of president Trump meeting his counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 assembly later this month, combined with signs of renewed stimulus efforts by the ECB, has investors eyeing short-term gains. We need to wait and see what the Federal Reserve does. So hold on tight, let the flight begin.
You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Markets expect the Fed to cut 3 times this year, but the Fed needs to be careful about reacting too easily to markets. There is not the need to be as pessimistic about growth and inflation as bond markets suggest, despite some softness in recent labour market data. The Fed will seek to avoid sounding overly hawkish, but one feels there is a need to steer markets away from expecting the Fed to ride to the rescue of financial markets.
It’s hard to recall a time we headed into an FOMC meeting with so much at stake and with so much uncertainty about what might be agreed and what the guidance for the rest of the year will look like. This means the potential volatility around the event is likely to be substantially higher than at most recent FOMC meetings.
Macroeconomic indicators suggest slowing growth whilst there have been no positive developments on trade. Inflation is tame but there is arguably enough to keep the Fed on the side lines for the rest of the year. And quite how much the data has softened since the last meeting to suddenly warrant a cut is beyond me.
Moreover, last week’s retail sales data has gone against the downbeat, pro-cut grain. The Atlanta Fed GDPNow model predicts 2.1% GDP growth in Q2, up from the previous 1.4%. The model now anticipates second-quarter real personal consumption expenditures growth of 3.2% to 3.9%.
Talk of demoting Jay Powell further clouds the picture as Trump heaps pressure on the Fed chair to cut. Know when to walk away, know when to run.
Markets do not currently anticipate the Fed will cut rates this week, but they are pricing in a cut in July and a subsequent 1-2 25bps cuts.
Pricing for a rate cut this week dropped sharply – from nearly 30% to around 21% – after the strong retail sales print on Friday. It’s since crept back up to 26%. For July, though, market pricing indicates an 87% chance of a cut, whilst there is a 95% chance for September.
The blackout period ahead of the meeting has tied tongues that were in overdrive in the preceding days.
Powell’s comments in Chicago at the start of June were the trigger for a relief rally in equities. He noted ‘recent developments involving trade negotiations and other matters’, adding that: ‘We do not know how or when these issues will be resolved’.
This was the key remark: ‘We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion’.
Critically he did not signal a cut, but only stuck to the Fed’s oft-stated stance. Markets have read much more into this, and could be left disappointed. The problem for Powell now is to gently steer markets back to the right course.
Coming Up Today (GMT)
GBP- CPI y/y (08:30)
CAD- CPI m/m (12:30)
EUR- ECB President Draghi Speaks (14:00)
USD- FOMC Economic Projections (18:00)
USD- FOMC Statement (18:00)
USD- Federal Fund Rate (18:00)
USD- FOMC Press Conference (18:30)
BRL -Interest Rate Decision (21:00)
NZD- GDP q/q (22:45)
May’s last day, Nonfarm payrolls due
May’s last day, Mexico trade standoff, US jobs, Yuan looks to 7
And so, the time has come for Theresa May to shuffle off. Except she won’t quite as she will remain on as a caretaker PM. Boris Johnson is frontrunner. If he gets in – and we’ve detailed why we think he will – it could be a troublesome one for the pound. Votes start next week and we should be down to the final two before June is over.
Trade v Fed
US equities continue to march higher as the Fed story is all that matters – investors are still guzzling that Kool-Aid. The Dow added 180 points, leaving it up over 1100 points from the low hit this week. SPX rose 0.61% to 2,843. Looking first for 2870 and then 2889 for bulls. Support around 2817 and 2800.
European equities were softer as the ECB was not dovish as expected. Mixed bag in Asia overnight – Nikkei and ASX higher, Kospi down, India flat, China weaker.
Futures show European markets on the front foot, bouncing back modestly from Thursday’s dip.
EURUSD failed to break out any further after the ECB meeting. After pushing up to 1.13 it’s found well-trodden turf at 1.1260 for comfort. At send time sterling was steady at 1.27 against the dollar.
Oil has bounced after looking a bit oversold. Brent testing resistance around $62.50, the 50% retracement of the Dec-thru-Apr rally.
Some progress on the Mexican-American talks over tariffs. VP Pence said he was ‘encouraged’ by the discussions as Mexico offered to deploy 6,000 members of its new National Guard police force, but has reiterated that the 5% tariffs are still slated for Monday.
Fed jawboning continues but with a slightly different tone. NY Fed John Williams was more hawkish – or at least one feels more representative of the Fed’s unwillingness to flip-flop into a rate cut. His base case is for the US to grow above trend at 2.25%-2.5%. His baseline is a ‘very good one’. Not language suggestive of a cut, albeit he acknowledged risks to the downside.
USDCNH rallied, with the yuan weakening amid concerns the PBOC is not worried about devaluation. Bloomberg reports PBOC governor Yi Gang said he wasn’t worried about the seven level being breached. Given the tensions over trade, devaluation in the CNH would risk escalation as it would be perceived with suspicion in Washington. USDCNH was last at 6.941, threatening to break out above last October’s highs around 6.97. Gang is right that no one level is particularly more important than the next, but the 7 handle on USDCNH holds a very real psychological hold over the market. If that goes we would expect Trump to counter-attack.
Markets are still digesting the impact of the ECB’s forward guidance change yesterday. The pressure to launch a new round of QE will only build. I see the market testing the ECB on this and driving it towards opening its toolkit again. EURUSD gains seen capped, whilst the relative quality of the dollar versus a world of ugly sisters should underpin the buck.
Nonfarm payrolls are the headline risk event. The ADP print earlier in the week could herald a bad-un, but we’re still looking for something in the region of 180k, in line with the long-term trend. We should recall that the 27k print for the ADP number came after a whopper the month before of 271k – look for the 3-month average. Jobs growth remains solid, but this month’s print could be a tad light. Look for 100k maybe. The super tight labour market may well see hirings start to decline a touch anyway. Unemployment is seen at 3.6%.
It’s far too easy to read way too much into a single jobs number. Remember the 20k print for Feb was followed by prints of 196k and 263k in the following two months – and had preceded by Jan and Feb printing above 300k.
The wage data is probably more important as far as Fed expectations as it matters for inflation. Average hourly earnings are forecast to increase 0.3%. Traders likely to remain cautious ahead of the nonfarm payrolls.
Ferrexpo – welcome bit of good news after auditor strife and corporate governance concerns – sees material improvement in earnings – group EBITDA in 1H 2019 is expected to increase materially compared with 1H 2018. Improvement driven by higher pricing, production and sales volumes, while cost inflation lower than expected due to a fall in oil prices and the European gas price, which has partially offset by an appreciation of the Ukrainian Hryvnia versus the US dollar.
Banks – the FCA is coming down very hard on overdraft fee charging, but stops short of ending free banking.
Beyond Meat – last night Beyond Meat reported much better than expected Q1 results. The stock market darling shows no signs of falling out of love – shares popped 25% at one stage in after-hours trading and were last up 18% – close to 5 times above its $25 IPO price at $117.49. Losses rose to $6.6m but revenues tripled to more than $40m. Massive growth opportunity but the multiples are crazy and competitors are coming – you’re entering a space that is really ripe for the FMCG giants to take over.
Tech stocks under pressure
Markets remain on the hook to the trade war rumblings, but a new war has opened up that threatens equity investors – a war on tech. What the Fed threatens to give, the DoJ takes away.
Yesterday we saw a soft start in the US before the ISM print missed and investors raised bets the Fed will cut rates this year. But the Fed put was not enough to fight the tide off tech woes.
Fangs are under severe pressure amid fears they are in the crosshairs of trust busters. The DoJ and FTC are marking targets and loading up. Whilst it’s far too early to say if any would, or could, be ripe to be broken up, there’s a real threat this will depress multiples and mean we need to reset expectations. Given the Fangs have been at the front of the market expansion in recent years, this will act as a drag on sentiment as well.
A couple of very big moves yesterday in Alphabet and Facebook.
Alphabet –6% – support now seen around $968, before $895 comes into play.
Facebook –7.5% – key support seen at $159, below that we look to the $145 level.
Calls have been growing louder and louder for the authorities to at least look at antitrust issues for the tech giants. Political pressure is building – lawmakers sniff votes in tackling big tech. The shift really happened last year with Facebook’s scandals, which broken the illusion of Silicon Valley being in it for the little guy. They’re just big corporations out to make money like any other – the politicians can smell blood. As I noted a year or two ago, I always thought Trump had the hallmarks of a Teddy Roosevelt trust-buster.
So now we have the Nasdaq in correction territory – down 1.6% yesterday to take it more than 10% off its all-time highs. The Dow was flat, while the S&P 500 notched a decline of 0.3%. The FTSE 100 ended the day in the green, up 0.3% at 7184 with the key 7150 level holding.
Asian shares followed Wall Street’s lead overnight, and futures show European shares are under the cosh again today.
US Treasury yields continue their slide with the 10yr slipping to 2.085% and threatening to find the 2.05% level now. EURUSD has broken out of technical resistance due to the slide in yields as markets bet on a Fed rate cut. EURUSD faces resistance at 1.126/7 but having broken out of the long-term descending wedge we could now look for more gains. Has the dollar rally ended? Well it all depends on the Fed.
Today’s Jay Powell speech is now key to market sentiment after dovish comments from James Bullard yesterday.
St. Louis Fed boss James Bullard – a voting member of the FOMC – says a rate cut may be warranted soon. He talked about a sharper than expected slowdown. He also discussed a cut as insurance – some sense the Fed is seeking to get ahead of the curve – too late! Over to Powell later today.
Bullard has always been one of the most dovish members of the FOMC – the market may have massively miscalculated the US central bank’s view of the economy, inflation and risks to its forecasts. I rather think the Fed will be a lot less ready to ease than the market thinks, and this suggests a significant decoupling between the Fed and market expectations.
Ahead of this we have the Eurozone CPI print. The last
reading showed inflation rose to a 6-month high in April at 1.7%, whilst core
price growth rose to 1.3%. However, this uptick seems to be down to
one-offs and the core read is expected to revert to trend around 1% in May,
with the headline print at 1.4%.
Woodford shut – worse to come?
Neil Woodford has suspended trading in the Woodford Equity Income. Woodford has clearly made a series of poor investment decisions. Out of love UK stocks with entirely domestic may have been ultra-cheap, but they’re still unloved and still cheap. Provident has been a disaster. Kier, whose shares tumbled 40% yesterday, also disaster. It’s been a tough few years for Woodford and things look like they will get worse still.
No surprise the RBA cut rates, it had been fully priced in. The question now is how many more? The statement didn’t tell us anything new. No indication there will be more this year. Worth noting the RBA’s own forecasts are predicated on 50bps of cuts so we’re only half way there. Watch the data. AUDUSD has gained a few pips post the statement, with little detail on future cuts likely to give the bulls some hope. Resistance at 0.6990, the 38.2% Fib level, tested and rejected.
UK retail sales fell off a cliff in May – down 2.7%. This is the worst ever decline in retail sales and will hit the sector today.
Morning Note: Trade war escalates, Uber IPO caution, IAG profits sag
Tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese exports were raised to 25% last night. Trump was true to his word, and there is no can kicking. This marks a sharp escalation in the trade spat, but it’s not gone nuclear yet.
Talks between the Chinese and the Americans are continuing today, although we don’t hold out much hope of anything meaningful being achieved this week.
It all tends to suggest Mr Trump is playing one of his aces in order to force the Chinese into concessions. His bet is that the US economy can weather any hit from tariffs better than China. He is probably right but this will not help ease uncertainty about the global economy. Beijing is weighing whether to retaliate.
Yesterday the S&P 500 bounced off its lows, closing down just 0.3% at 2870.72, having plumbed lows around 2835. The Dow was offside by 139 points on the close, but was over 400 points lower at one point. Algos seemed to bidding it up after the ‘beautiful letter’ nonsense.
Oil has rallied, indicating markets have had enough of the selloff. Brent was last pushing up at 70.75, above the key 70.60 resistance point. The flag pattern does look like it could be a bullish continuation pattern that is just about complete – watch for a leg higher. But failure to cement the tentative gains we see this morning would be bearish – look for the area around 69.50 for support.
Asian stocks bounced overnight and European futures point higher today. Chinese stocks were last about 3% higher – just remember how much these stocks had sold off earlier in the week. There is still hope that a deal will be done.
Uber prices at low end
Uber priced at the bottom end of the range at $45. It’s a rough time to be coming to the market after the selloff this week but this IPO exists to a degree in its own bubble. Are you betting on the long payoff? If not, you may well be disappointed – profits are not coming any time soon.
But shares could yet pop higher today, partly because of this conservative approach that Uber clearly learned from Lyft’s bumpy ride post-IPO. I said yesterday (Uber set for big pop despite Lyft worries, 09/05/19) that I would not be surprised if the people selling Lyft stock are simply doing so in preparation for the Uber listing, so be careful reading too much into the Lyft troubles. FOMO is a strong emotion.
Nevertheless, my main concern is the slowing revenue growth. Whatever the cash burn, you’d want to see accelerating top line growth in a disruptor coming to market.
IAG profits sag
Profits at IAG were hit by rising fuel costs and a big FX headwind, whilst we see a broader thread across airlines with margins being competed away. Excess capacity remains a problem, as we heard from Lufthansa. In fact, we can pretty much regurgitate what we noted about Lufthansa – lots of competition means no one has the pricing power, whilst labour costs are a factor, but the biggest headwind right now is fuel costs, which were up 15.8%. Non-fuel costs were 0.8% higher.
Although passenger revenue growth was at a healthy clip, up in excess of 5%, first quarter operating profit slumped to €135 million before exceptional items, which was down 60% from a year before on pro forma basis. Profits after exceptional items – which were zero in Q1 – were down 86%. FX headwinds knocked €61m from the bottom line. 2019 operating profit is seen in line with 2018 – which means no growth in the year ahead.