Bitcoin jumps, stocks steady ahead of G20

Forex
Morning Note

All that glitters is not gold. Bitcoin is sparkling again but beware…breakdown’s coming up ‘round the bend. 

Bitcoin jumped above $11,000, taking it to its highest level since March 2018. Futures are back down to $10,855 around send time. Investors are ignoring what happened the last time we saw parabolic rises like this. Is it different this time? No, but people have short memories. Facebook’s Libra white paper may have stoked renewed interest in cryptos at a time when the buzz had already returned.

Bitcoin is more mature etc, but the fundamentals of this scheme remain unaltered. What I would say is that arguably big money is starting to view this differently and think it could be very costly to ignore if they get left behind. 

It may also be that the sharp liquidity boost we’ve seen from central banks is helping bitcoin. As we noted last week, it was only a matter of time before the $10k level was taken out it and now ultimately a retest of the ATHs near $20k looks very plausible. 

Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop it. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz there is, the more that traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Bears could get burned before the market turns – maybe better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way. 

Equities, G20 

Stocks are maybe looking a little softer with the S&P 500 easing off its all-time highs on Friday and we’ve had a mixed bag from Asia overnight. Japan closed a shade higher at 21,285.  

Futures indicate European shares are trading on the flatline as investors take a breather and look ahead to the G20 later in the week. FTSE 100 finding support at 7400, with resistance at 7460.

Coming up this week the G20 is centre stage for markets. President Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese counterpart XI Jinping at this week’s G20 meeting in Osaka. 

Last week Mr Trump tweeted: “Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.” No one thinks the US and China will do a deal in Osaka, but there is some hope that we will have a positive development that marks a shift in the rhetoric and a re-energising of talks following the breakdown in the recent discussions.  

Iran, oil 

Iranian tensions are not going away, providing some support for oil. Brent was trading around the $65 mark, with WTI at $58. Fundamentals remain bearish but the uncertainty in the Middle East, specifically the risk of a closure of sea lanes, is enough to keep crude above water. 

Since last week we’ve had news of the US launching a cyberattack on Iran and warnings from Iran about what a war would mean. Expect lots of turbulence from this but ultimately it does not look like the White House is spoiling for a fight. The risk is, as ever, in a miscalculation. 

Gold remained firm, holding above $1400 as a weaker dollar combined with dovish central banks kept traders happy to bid up the metal. Geopolitical tensions may be a small factor, but ultimately gold has huge negative correlation with real yields, which have come right down. Friday’s move off the lows later in the session were key and the bull trend remains intact. A rebound in USD could trap bulls.

FX 

The dollar is softer with the euro and sterling holding gains. The euro is holding at a three-month high around 1.1380 – look for a push to 1.14. 

Trading around 1.2760, GBPUSD is facing stiff resistance from previous highs and a big Fib level coming in, so we need to see this level breached on the upside to be more confident that the pound can maintain its gains.  

Coming up this week – Fed speakers and the PCE inflation print will keep the FX market interested.

Fed holds, pound breaks $1.27 ahead of BoE

Forex
Morning Note

Stocks firmed and the dollar fell, whilst gold rallied to a 5-year high as the Fed opened the door to cutting rates.

It’s like 2010 all over: the race to the bottom is on. Only this time the global economy is coming off a period of remarkable synchronised expansion, not a terrible recession and the worst financial crisis in a generation or more. So what gives!? Must Powell acquiesce to the whims of his president? Must Draghi end his tenure not normalising, but actually cutting rates even deeper?

Draghi to be fair has little option. In the absence of structural and fiscal reform – blame Germany – he can but tinker around the edges of the zero lower bound, hoping to weaken the currency to get some competitiveness back. Powell is in a different position, although really it looks like central banks are spitting in the wind in trying to shift inflation expectations. They should try to focus on boosting oil prices instead.

FOMC holds

So yesterday the FOMC nudged towards a cut. Nearly half the 17 members of the FOMC think cuts will be warranted this year. The median dot plot suggests 50bps in cuts through 2020. The dots evinced a shift from a tightening bias to an easing bias. The patient mantra was dropped, whilst the economy is now only expanding at a ‘moderate’, not ‘solid’, rate. The market took this as a sign the Fed’s listening to their demands – a cut in July is now fully priced in.

But there’s yet optionality for Powell and co. The Fed refrained from explicit references to cuts. The median dot plot shows no cuts this year still. The market is ahead of itself again. If we believe the dots, rate cuts will come slower than the market wants them to.

In some ways the Fed thread the needle here – keeping the market and the president happy without actually committing to cuts. The dots suggest the Fed is saying: “Of course we will cut, just not yet-good enough?”. For now it is. But the tail seems to be wagging the dog, forcing the Fed to follow sooner or later.

Certainly revising inflation expectations lower points to concerns that tame price growth cannot simply be attributed to transient factors. Yet at the same time the Fed thinks unemployment will be lower and growth stronger than it thought in March.

The problem we have is that Fed looks like it is flip-flopping; changes its mind based not on economic data but on the caprice of financial markets; appears in thrall to the White House; and is therefore at a very serious risk of losing its credibility.

Markets

Yields hit the deck. US 10yr bond yields slipped beneath 2% again for the first time since 2016. Bunds heading deeper into negative territory.

Gold rallied on the outcome as yields sank, breaking north of $1385. It’s now cleared a tonne of important multi-year resistance, paving the way for a return to $1400 and beyond. This is a big move, but if the Fed doesn’t deliver the cuts the bulls could be caught out.

Stocks liked it – the S&P 500 notched gains of about 0.3%, Limited upside as the Fed was not as dovish as the market wanted and because a lot of this was already priced in. Asian markets rallied across the board.

Futures show European stocks are on the front foot, catching a tailwind from Wall Street and the Fed. The FTSE 100 may underperform though as the pound is finding bid.

Oil has climbed as US inventories feel three times more than expected. Brent was up at $63.50, threatening to break free from its recent range – look for $63.80. WTI at $55.50 also close to breaking out of its trough.

FX

The dollar kicked lower after the Fed decision – but with the ECB looking super easy the gains versus the euro are limited. Likewise the yen with the Bank of Japan also ready to step up stimulus. Likewise the Australian dollar, with RBA governor Lowe talking up a further, imminent, cut. The race to the bottom is on. Is it too soon to talk about currency wars?

The exception here is the Bank of England, which is heading towards raising rates. We get to learn more about the BoE’s position later today. The difference here is the inflation expectations, which are moving up, not down like they are elsewhere. Britain’s also enjoying strong wage growth and a super-tight labour market. All of this is dependent on a smooth Brexit – this is not a given by any means.

Indeed, Brexit is keeping the lid on sterling’s gains – the prospect of Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the EU come October 31st is a risk. There’s now talk of a possible general election if he gets in – risky, we know what happened to May. The prospect of a general election would not do anything to remove uncertainty around UK assets. Zero clarity still.

EURUSD moved through 1.12 and was last at 1.1280, but failing to gain enough momentum to rally above 1.13 and scrub out the Draghi-inspired losses.

GBPUSD has reclaimed 1.27. Quite a chunky move here, blasting through a couple of big figures in under a day. Maybe the prospect of a more hawkish BoE is helping the pound, albeit the market is actually pricing in cuts, not hikes. At least Mark Carney doesn’t have to deal with a political leader on his case…

USDJPY lost the 108 handle to trade at 107.50, now breaking free into new 2019 lows (ex the Jan flash crash).”

Closing on all-time highs, FOMC preview

Morning Note

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. 

FOMC Preview 

Summary 

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.  

Backdrop 

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. 

Market pricing 

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) 

Pound slips to 6-month lows: Morning Note

Forex
Morning Note

BoJo sees pound lose mojo , Aussie soft on RBA, equities steady ahead of Fed, Middle East tensions.

Equities steady before Fed 

Equities remain cautious ahead of the start of the Federal Reserve meeting today. The S&P 500 and the Dow were pretty well flat yesterday, whilst the FTSE 100 notched a slight gain.  Asia has been mixed. Futures indicate European equities are trading on the flatline again. Equities are lacking direction and will wait for the Fed to get a steer.

Equities investors are likely to display caution with the Fed in view. They may be disappointed with what the Fed offers – realization of this may manifest in mild selling ahead of the meet.  We’ve got no signs of progress on trade and little sense the G20 will produce anything. And now we have building tensions in the Middle East.

The White House has ordered 1,000 US troops to the region, with fears of escalation rising. Tehran says it will breach uranium stockpile limits in days. The Iran nuclear deal looks dead. Markets may start pricing in risk of escalation. Whilst this is only a very small number of additional manpower, and is clearly designed to act as a warning to Tehran, troop build-ups only tend to lead in one direction.  

Pound lacks mojo

The pound is at its lowest in almost 6 months on heightened fears of a no-deal exit. Boris Johnson is the clear favourite to become the next PM – in fact it rather looks like he’s going to walk it. Currency markets display fear that he has said he is prepared to take Britain out on October 31st without a deal if needs be. More BoJo, less mojo. Whilst a crowded trade there is real slippage here with little to spark life into the pound. 

The calculus is simple – failure to take Britain out of the EU this year risks a General Election and wipe out at the polls at the hands of the Brexit Party, potentially handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10. The EU says it won’t renegotiate (it may have to), MPs won’t accept the existing deal, and Parliament has limited scope to stop this train.  

Sterling is increasingly reflecting the no-deal risk. Cable was last hovering close to its lowest of the year at 1.2530, having dipped as low as 1.2510, its weakest since the start of January. 2018 lows around 1.2470 could be the next target on the downside. BoE this week may signal tightening bias and readiness to hike earlier than previously expected, but the pressure on the pound remains because of Brexit. The BoE should be minded to remain on the sidelines until Brexit is decided. 

Aussie soft 

Australia’s dollar is also soft and susceptible to a major downside breach after minutes from the last RBA meeting showed more cuts are coming. More likely than not we should get at least one more cut this year. 

The minutes said: ‘Given the amount of spare capacity in the labour market and the economy more broadly, members agreed that it was more likely than not that a further easing in monetary policy would be appropriate in the period ahead.’ This was extremely strong signal and suggests more cuts to come and soon. Excluding the Jan flash crash we are now testing multi-year lows, on the cusp of a move back to decade lows not seen since the height of the financial crisis. At 0.6830 the AUD/USD cross was testing major support – this could hold until we get further clarity from RBA governor Lowe on Thursday. 

Oil soft, gold up 

Oil has failed to catch any tailwinds from the Middle East tensions. Brent was below $61 again but remains clear of last week’s lows. WTI was holding $52. All looking very bearish and flaggy right now. Until we get a good dose of economic data this rut seems set to continue. 

Gold keeps cranking higher – the prospect of lower US yields and geopolitical tensions seem to be acting as a tailwind. Last at $1346 the big target for bulls is the 2018 peaks at $1365 and then the 2017 highs at $1375.

Equities 

Ashtead FY numbers are positive, with EBITDA at £2.11bn, a slight beat as revenues rose 19%. The medium term outlook looks confident. Despite fears of slowing growth in the US, management say they expect to continue to experience strong end markets in North America.

On tap (GMT) 

EUR – ECB President Draghi Speaks (08:00) 

EUR – German ZEW Economic Sentiment (09:00) 

EUR – CPI (09:00) 

USD – Building Permits (12:30) 

GBP – BoE Gov Carney Speaks (14:00) 

EUR – ECB President Draghi Speaks (14:00) 

Equities flat ahead of big week for central banks

Indices
Morning Note

Shares open flat as markets look ahead to the FOMC meeting later in the week, whilst Lufthansa shares tumble on a profits warning.

European equities look pretty flat on the open after a decent run last week for global equity markets. The S&P 500 closed a shade lower on Friday. Asian shares a bit wobbly overnight. Gains may be hard to sustain with the Fed in focus and no clear signs of progress on trade.  Investors may take a bit of risk off the table in the next couple of days.

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has poured cold water on any hopes that we might get a trade deal from the G20 meeting and said the US is ready to increase tariffs on China if necessary. 

FOMC meeting

All eyes are of course on the Fed meeting this week. 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. This means the potential volatility around the event is likely to be substantially higher than at most recent FOMC meetings. Traders may start to show some nervousness ahead of the Fed meeting if they think it won’t be accommodative as hoped. 

We’ve also got the BoE and BoJ expected to stand pat. We could though see some hawks on the MPC vote for a rate hike to signal their intent, as it appears waiting for Brexit clarity could take a while longer than policymakers had anticipated. Three members of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee have in the last week or so said that rates will likely need to rise at a faster clip over the next two years than the market is currently pricing. This week could be when they signal their intent.

EURUSD is looking softer ahead of the Fed meeting with the apparent failure of the double-bottom breakout from the descending wedge. Last trading on 1.12, a breach on the downside of this handle opens up a return to the 1.110 level immediately. Sterling remains softer too ahead of the Bank of England meeting with the dollar broadly firmer. GBPUSD has last holding support at 1.2580 where we long-term rising trend support coming in.  

Oil 

A fair old whipsaw last week as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East temporarily lifted prices. But on the whole the bleak demand outlook is weighing on prices and we have seen Brent retreat to the comfort of $62-$62.50. WTI is a shade below the $53 level.  Yet to see a sustained downside break again but it may be coming, albeit rising geopolitical tensions may offer support.

Speculative long positions have been heavily reduced – CFTC data showing a trimming in net long positions of around 50k contracts from 400k reported in the COT on Jun 7th to 351k reported on Friday. That’s down from a high of around 547k at the end of April. The reduction in net long positions reflects worries about a supply glut as demand weakens and US production ramps. 

Effectively the market has decided that OPEC will choose to extend its production curbs when it meets later this month/early July. To do anything else would be to risk a collapse in prices. Saudi oil minister Al-Falih is optimistic about extending cuts. His confidence is now being discounted by the market however.

Equities

Deutsche Bank – If no one wants to marry you because you’ve got too much baggage, the answer is to get rid of the baggage. Deutsche plans to set up a bad bank (that’ll make two then) to offload some of the least profitable elements of business. This is Sewing’s big play – we await to see whether it’s enough to really convince shareholders that we’ve hit the bottom. Profitability targets still look rather distant.

Airlines – Lufthansa’s profits warning has taken the wind out of the airlines today. The margin on its preferred metric is seen between 5.5% and 6.5%, down from the previous guidance for adjusted EBIT margin of 6.5 to 8%.

At the end of April we noted that Lufthansa’s Q1 loss wasa red flag for the airline sector. Over-capacity in the European short haul market, intense competition and the resulting pressure on fares can be blamed for the decline in profitability, whilst rising fuel costs are an added headache. The sector always does a good job at competing away margins in the good times. No signs that anyone is prepared to reduce capacity therefore we would anticipate the wave of consolidation in European short haul is not over.

Babcock/Serco – Babcock confirms speculation it’s been approached by Serco. Not an immediately obvious move but the two are a pretty good fit and we had anticipated some consolidation in the sector given the problems for outsourcers. Serco has been doing well against a tough backdrop for outsourcers, meeting new higher performance targets, whilst Babcock has been suffering.  Babcock has been downgrading its forecasts for a while and has been on a persistently downward spiral. Last month Babcock reported profits down 47% last year and warned of a tough outlook for the coming one. 

Oil rallies on Oman tanker fire

Morning Note

Oil rallied on geopolitical tensions in the Middle East while equities started to look like they are range-bound ahead of the FOMC meeting.

Oil jumps

Oil has shot up sharply after slumping to 5-month lows overnight. Reports of an oil tanker being on fire in the Sea of Oman rattled markets and sent Brent up $2 in a matter of minute, but await to see whether this will hold or is an algo-based kneejerk that will be faded. We know that geopolitical tensions in the region are worsening and raise supply-side concerns in terms of short-term outages etc – but with OPEC already curbing output and US production at a record high the market is far less susceptible to a shock.

A surprise build in US inventories was to blame for the drop yesterday and ultimately be more important than what’s happened in Oman. EIA figures showed stockpiles climbed by 2.2m barrels, against an expected decline of around 500k. At this time of year we’d normally see stocks decline but they keep moving higher. More supply, not enough demand. This is squeezing longs and we should see further liquidation in speculators’ net long positions, twisting the screw more.

With the demand outlook so clouded there is no sense that the bear market will end any time soon. Massive US supply has changed the rules of the game and there’s not a lot OPEC can do about it. Brent recovered to the $60.50 area having dropped below $60, before it spiked on the Oman news to trade through $62. Risks skewed to downside – it looks like $50 will be seen before $70. However, we’re in a major support zone and the latest dip could be the second trough in a double-bottom reversal.

Equites retreat

Equities pulled back again yesterday – nothing new in terms of trade, just a loss of stamina it seems. SPX encountered important technical resistance and retreated to 2880 on the close. Markets in Europe retreated as the rally ran out of legs.

European shares were on the back foot again on Thursday but then turned green. Bulls may retake control but until the FOMC meeting Wednesday we may expect the major indices to trade in these ranges. Hong Kong again weaker again amid the protests.

US president Donald Trump says China will make a deal. Well we’ve heard all this before. The markets starting to ignore this rubbish. There is precious little signs that we are even close to seeing a deal done at the G-20. Maybe a top-level handshake between Trump and Xi but hard to see much more.

Trump also said he’s still looking at placing sanctions on the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It’s been talked about before but it raises spectre of increased tensions between Germany and US (see euro below softer). The project is controversial enough within the EU and creates the potential for further fracturing among EU states. On this Trump has many European allies. And as the Mexico farrago showed, Trump is not afraid to weaponize trade/tariffs for the pursuit of non-economic policies. We know he wants EU members to stump up for defence.  It’s not a giant leap to see Trump weaponizing trade to achieve this ambition. One can anticipate deterioration in relations.

Tory race

In the UK political space, the Tory leadership first vote takes place today. It’ll sort some the wheat from the chaff but still doesn’t get us to the final two. But there will be implications for who’s going to pick up the votes later on from the candidates that don’t make the first pass.

Sterling had rallied a touch on Boris’s speech – algos in overdrive most likely – before slipping back below $1.27 again as Parliament refused to back Labour’s motion to take over business and take no-deal off the table.

Euro breakout fades

In FX, the euro inched up a touch Thursday after a fairly significant sell off yesterday that will have stressed bulls. The drop in the euro seems to be down to the Trump talk on Nord Stream 2 and the prospect of a worsening in relations with Germany. Last look EURUSD was trying to regain the 1.13 handle. This breakout looks like Monty’s sluggish, meat grinder approach to Caen.

Meanwhile inflation expectations have been crushed – the markets calling out the ECB over stimulus hints and says you can do more but we’re not sure if it will work. Euro 5y5y inflation swaps sunk to record lows- below 1.2% for the first time. The ECB will be forced to do more.

Mexico fix green light for risk, oil rebounds, Thomas Cook carve-up

Indices
Morning Note

It’s a sea of green as stocks rebound on Trump’s Mexican fix. Investors are relieved at Mexico and the US coming to an agreement to avoid the latter slapping the former with tariffs, and this sent equity futures north. SPX closed Friday +1% for the day to cap a remarkable turnaround after a very rocky period. Futures show further gains Monday – looking now for a retest of 2900 –remarkable considering we were sub 2800 just a few sessions ago. Wall Street had its best week since Nov as weaker data cemented the market’s belief the Fed will cut rates – 4 cuts now more likely than 1 in 2019, according to the market. This looks overly optimistic. Futures indicate European shares are positive thanks to the Mexican deal with the FTSE 100 eyeing a return to 7400 and the DAX looking to return to 12,200. 

Tariff reprieve for Mexico

Late Friday the US ‘indefinitely suspended’ tariffs on Mexico after striking a deal. Whilst this is positive for risk assets, one should be cautious that this may only embolden Mr Trump to use tariffs as policy tool for the pursuit of non-economic interests. As previously suggested, the EU could be next – maybe to get the 2% defence spending target.  

Meanwhile as we raised on Friday, the US Treasury Sec Steve Mnuchin criticised China for purposefully letting its currency slide. The thesis is basically ‘no intervention is now intervention’. This has been talked about extensively before. Offshore USD/CNH was last around 6.950 – a little below Friday’s highs – expect the 7 handle to face stiff resistance but the jawboning is pushing it in that direction and suggests the PBOC won’t defend 7 at all costs like we might have assumed in the past. The onshore version sank to its weakest in six months today. 

Data overnight positive – Japan GDP Q1 revised higher, from 2.1% to 2.2%; while Chinese exports climbed in May, an unexpectedly strong performance. 

Dollar steady, oil rebounds

The US dollar was solid on Monday but could come under pressure. EURUSD holding at 1.13 and GBPUSD holding 1.27 but thus far failing to show any further momentum higher.  

Oil was firmer as the recovery in risk sentiment boosted crude. Saudi comments about extending OPEC cuts seem to be helping but largely this is baked in already – it’s the demand side that matters the most right now. Brent was last trading around $63.50. We await to see whether this is just another bear flag or the start of a meaningful recovery. Speculative net long positions fell again to 400k from 439k, indicating traders are continuing to unwind their bullish bets oncrude. E

Ferguson 

Good numbers from Ferguson but cloudy outlook means shares fell about 5%. Ongoing revenue growth of 6.2%, including 8.4% in the USA. Gross margins lightly ahead of last year, rising 20bps to 29.5%. Ongoing trading profit of $359m was $8m ahead of last year. FY guidance unchanged.  

Ferguson remains a play on the US economy, particularly new housing starts. Shares in the company are still subdued following the selloff last autumn and are yet to recover the kind of level we saw in September.  

Fears about the economic outlook in the US are a factor, but the expectations the Fed will cut rates should act as a support. US mortgage rates have come down as yields have retreated to 2-year lows. US new housing starts have picked up in the last two months and confidence has returned to the sector, some of which should be reflected in the Q3 numbers. New home sales dipped in April, but this was from an 11-year high as the market recovered from the disaster in the final quarter of 2018. 

Thomas Cook

 Thomas Cook confirmed that it is in discussions with Fosun following receipt of a preliminary approach. It follows reports over the weekend that 18% shareholder Fosun is ready to pounce for the tour operator business excluding the airline, which it cannot own due to EU aviation rules. As noted on May 16th, when we suggested an approach was in the offing, as once the airline is sold a major obstacle to the Chinese group making a bid will have been removed.

Management says it has received multiple bids, including for the whole, and parts, of the airline business. Triton may make life more difficult for Fosun but whatever the outcome, it seems the writing is on the wall after some bad losses and a ratcheting up in debt levels. First half losses jumped to almost £1.5bn – its biggest ever – as it took a £1.1bn write-down on My Travel. Underlying EBIT losses increased by £65 million to £245 million, which was down mainly to margin pressure in package holidays. Net debt has risen to £1.25bn

Sadly, it rather looks like Thomas Cook will be carved up in some fashion or other. This may not be a bad thing – clearly managing this large, complex holiday business proved daunting. But selling off the various bits of the business is likely to be even more complex.”

May’s last day, Nonfarm payrolls due

Morning Note

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. 

Yuan risk 

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.

ECB fallout 

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.

Jobs! 

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. 

Equities 

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

Morning Note

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.

Rates

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.

EZ inflation

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. 

RBA cut 

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.

Retail sales

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.

Trump’s London calling, US-China trade war worsens, oil smoked

Forex
Morning Note

Global stocks were down by around 6% in May – can we get a better June? The runes are not looking great. 

Futures indicate European shares are lower today as trade tensions continue to mount and investors exhibit greater fear about the global economy and the risk of recession. Asian markets were generally lower after a big selloff on Wall Street on Friday that saw the S&P 500 decline 37 points, or 1.32%, to finish at 2,752.06, below its 200-day moving average. FTSE 100 held the 7150 level, but this is likely to get taken out today. 

Trade fears are heating up 

The trade war is not cooling down; in fact, it looks like the rhetoric is heating up and further escalation seems likely. China is raising tariffs on $60bn of US goods in retaliation for tariffs, coming up with its own blacklist of foreign companies, has accused the US of resorting to ‘intimidation and coercion’, and begun an investigation into FedEx. And the Chinese defence minister says if the US wants a fight, they will ‘fight to the end’. No end in sight, and the chances of a G20 détente are slim.

Futures 

US stock futures were lower along with oil amid growing fears about this trade setup. Nothing like progress has been seen re Mexico, and now the market is dealing with reports that the US has been eyeing slapping tariffs on some Australian imports, As we noted last week, the escalation last week with the attack on Mexico – especially as it represented a weaponization of trade to pursue non-economic policies – represents a major turning point and could bring others into the fray. Again, the EU could come under fire soon. 

PMI day 

Data overnight has been mixed but still indicates slowdown. China’s Caixin PMI read 50.2, unchanged from a month before but a little ahead of expectations. Japan’s PMI has gone negative, moving to 49.8, signalling contraction. Japanese manufacturing output down for 5 months in a row, while new export orders fell for the 6th straight month. Japanese equities were down sharply overnight. UK PMI at 09:30, with the ISM numbers for the US due at 15:00. 

London calling 

Trump heads to the UK today – unfortunately he’s meeting a lame duck PM so we can’t expect much of importance. There will be lots of talk of a trade deal with the US post-Brexit. Harder Brexiteers in the Tory leadership race are likely to be emboldened. Expect the no-deal talk to increase.  

Sterling is sure to be under plenty of pressure until the leadership race is clearer. GBPUSD remains anchored to 1.26 for now, having made fresh multi-month lows last week. However, Friday’s bullish hammer reversal may provide the basis for a short-term rally. Just a hint that the pound is oversold and could be ready for a wee bounce. 

Oil smoked, gold higher 

Oil has taken a beating as markets worry more about a slowdown in global demand than supply constraints. Brent has declined by 10% or so in just a couple of days and is holding on $61, while WTI is clinging to $53. Speculators are liquidating long positions wholesale, with Friday’s COT report showing net longs down by 40k contracts. Net long positioning has fallen by about a fifth (100k contracts or more) since the late April high at 547.4k. 

Stockpiles are at their highest in two years. Speculative long positions continue to be cut. Supply uncertainty is losing out to demand uncertainty. Simply put, with OPEC and co curbing output, there is ample excess capacity in the market should it be needed. 14-day RSI and 20-day CCI suggest oversold and ready for a bounce, but this is like trying to catch a falling knife. 

Gold meanwhile is picking up safe haven bid as this decline is not just about valuations but about big fears for the global economy. The easing off in the US dollar has also supported gold. Having broken $1300 gold was last around $1310, with next target $1324.

FTSE rebalancing etc

Finally, there’s a fair bit of chatter about the FTSE rebalancing – will Marks & Spencer survive in the 100? Will JD Sports be promoted? I wouldn’t get too worked up about it all, even if it’s good sport. EasyJet likely to go – shares have been hammered but the business is tightly run and it’s always been one of the smallest in the FTSE 100. MKS lucky to survive with only the rights issue saving it.

Kier – warning on profits – going from bad to worse after the rights issue flopped.  

Astra – hails Lynparza pancreatic cancer drug trials success 

William Hill – bid rumours are doing the rounds 

Dignity – says it welcomes Treasury/FCA proposals  

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