Stocks firmer, China slows, earnings in focus

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Bad news = good news. Relatively lacklustre growth in China has the market baying for more stimulus. To be fair, despite the headline Q2 GDP number slipping to a 30-year low at 6.2%, there were some signs of encouragement. Industrial production rose 6.3% in June, an improvement on the 5% growth in May. Retail sales also beat forecasts so. Most of the recent softness seems trade-related, with exports having dipped 1.3%.

Asia has broadly ticked higher despite, or indeed because of, the softer China GDP numbers. Futures show European markets are higher after a fairly lacklustre weak. Indeed European equity markets moved lower last week just as the US was punching record highs. Time for Draghi and co to turn the taps on. 

Indices march higher

Wall Street continues to roar higher, with the S&P 500 closing up half a percent on the day at 3,013.77. Oil and gold fairly steady.

Bitcoin is weaker, slipping to support around $10k having given up the $11,600 level. FX steady – GBPUSD holding at 1.2570, with EURUSD at 1.1270. Volatility in FX has collapsed with central banks turning the liquidity taps back on.

Earnings season kicks off

Earnings season is coming with fairly low expectations. Two weeks prior to earnings season 82% of companies that had revised earnings estimates going into the reporting period had lowered them. Lowballing by Wall Street ahead of earnings season is normal, but the scale of the downward revisions is noteworthy. This happened ahead of the Q3 2018 earnings, just before we saw stocks slump into a bear market, albeit one that has proved very temporary.   

Recession – We’re likely to see an earnings recession. Q1 earnings declined 0.29%, therefore making this likely to become a full-blown earnings recession, that is, back-to-back year-on-year declines in EPS. In 2016, the last time this happened, we saw earnings decline for 4 straight quarters. S&P 500 companies are expected to report a roughly 3% decline in EPS this quarter. 

Trade concerns – whilst we had a degree of détente at the G20, existing tariffs are still in place and no meaningful progress has been seen. There’s a growing acceptance that the US and China are in this for the long-haul. The US election cycle means we are unlikely to see a reason for Trump to do any deal until 2020. Whilst for now the mood is upbeat, in the event of no deal, the lack of progress through the rest of the year would likely begin to drag on sentiment and affect equity markets. If corporates see additional tariffs being imposed their EPS forecasts would need to be revised substantially lower. The impact of the US-China trade war on earnings is yet to be fully felt but we could hear from a number of large-caps voicing concerns. The extent to which CFOs highlight worry about trade on EPS forecasts will be of particular importance. Of course we are likely to see a lot of kitchen sinking with companies blaming trade for all manner of ills.  

Banks start the ball rolling this week. Big question over interest rates – rate cuts may well be coming in the US and this will have implications for banks. Net interest margin would likely fall although the easier credit conditions would offset some of the negative effects. Citigroup unofficially kicks off the earnings season on Wall Street today. How much will banks be affected by Fed rate cuts? In investment banking, is there anything from the Deutsche carcass worth stripping? 

Equities 

Sports Direct – the soap opera continues – delays annual results due to House of Fraser uncertainty. The big question was what impact House of Fraser and various other acquisitions of dubious value would have on Sports Direct results. A material impact, one can only assume. HoF must be losing money hand over fist.  Looking to the earnings, top line growth is expected to rise but profits are seen weaker as the cost of acquisitions weighs. Since reporting an 27% decline in underlying profits in the first half we’ve not heard a peep from Sports Direct on performance. The delay in delivering the annual results does not sit well with investors, who must be nervous about what it means. It seems likely it’s been a tough ride in the core Sports Direct retail division, whilst acquisitions have added nothing but increased costs.

Shares climb post Powell, gold and oil rally

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

All power to Powell, but is this the Waterloo for the bull market? His dovish remarks lit the green buy light across the board. Stocks, oil, gold, bonds and currencies ex the dollar are pretty well all bid up with the Fed apparently happy to keep its hand on the pump. What happens when it stops cutting (one and one for insurance purposes?) and what happens if the US-China trade sitch goes awry? Market seems priced for perfection and earnings are slowing.

The S&P 500 briefly broke through 3,000 to achieve an all-time high, but closed a few points short of its record close at 2,993.07. The Dow also set a new intra-day peak, while the Nasdaq set a closing high. 

Asia has been lifted higher on the coattails of Wall Street. European markets are up across the board. Roughly quarter point gains for the main bourses – hardly euphoria in Europe and still some way off all-time highs. Come on Mario, now’s your time!

Powell power 

Powell said the stronger jobs report last week didn’t alter his outlook – so what might? Certainly the jobs market has slowed a touch this year – employment growth has averaged 172,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018. But it’s hardly requiring a cut.  

As noted yesterday: Investors are buying the Fed put hook, line and sinker. 

The Fed chair has well and truly left the door open to a rate cut in July, albeit there remain doubts about whether this is going to be first of several cuts or just an ‘insurance’ cut designed to keep markets on an even keel. The testimony didn’t appear to tell us anything about what the Fed is thinking longer term. His comments though did nothing to nudge market expectations towards a more neutral position. He seems happy to allow markets to crystallize their belief in a July cut.

Minutes 

Interesting set of minutes from the FOMC’s last meeting coming in the middle of this Powell testimony. What’s clear is that they will cut in July. Hat tip to Helen Thomas of BlondeMoney for noting that the Fed has basically admitted that it is going to cut because the market wants it to. From the minutes: “While overall financial conditions remained supportive of growth, those conditions appeared to be premised importantly on expectations that the Federal Reserve would ease policy in the near term to help offset the drag on economic growth stemming from uncertainties about the global outlook and other downside risks.” 
 

French-US relations 

The threat of EU-US trade spat needs to be considered. The White House is not happy with France’s digital tax, which it says unfairly targets the big US tech giants. For sure it does – but that is because they do not pay an appropriate level of tax. It’s also because Europe doesn’t really have many big tech firms that would be affected. Nonetheless, Trump will use this to beat the French and we can expect Tariff Man to do something. The US doesn’t want to cede the regulatory leadership to Europe either. 

FX – Dollar weakness has returned after Powell’s testimony. Some bid seen this morning for the euro and sterling. Neither the euro nor pound however are able to mount a serious challenge yet – we’re not seeing this as a major technical breakout. GBPUSD has firmed above 1.25, but Brexit fears are unabated. Richard Branson says no-deal would take cable back to 1. Pound-dollar parity is a risk but longer-term it wouldn’t last. A kneejerk to that level is possible, but we’d anticipate the pound recovering ground.

EURUSD at 1.1270 is still well short of the Jun highs around 1.14. Potential head and shoulders – we could in fact see a big breakdown to the downside if the ECB turns extra dovish. Need to clear the left shoulder at 1.1350 for bulls to be happy. 

Oil – Brent futures firming up above $67 and WTI north of $60 after a big drawdown on US stockpiles and an escalation in tensions around the Strait of Hormuz. Reports indicate a Royal Navy frigate warded off Iranian boats that tried to impede a BP tanker. Iran had warned that it would retaliate after Royal Marines seized an Iranian ship off Gibraltar. Dollar weakness and Fed dovishness are also supportive.

Bitcoin – another rollercoaster session. Bitcoin skidded sharply lower yesterday and continued to move south overnight. Seems to have encountered fairly stiff resistance around that $13,300 level we mentioned previously but the selloff was pretty brutal – down to $11,600 in short order, where it has found support. Look for another push higher to the $13k mark, but if the $11,500/600 level fails to hold then $10k is possible in double quick time.

NFP beat dampens rate cut bets, but not by enough

Indices

This afternoon’s US non-farm payrolls report was even more closely watched than usual. It is common for traders to get twitchy ahead of arguably the most important monthly data release on the economic calendar, but this was different.

Markets are betting that the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates when it meets again at the end of this month. Pricing suggests multiple 25 basis point cuts over the coming 12 months.

The Federal Open Market Committee hasn’t exactly been on the same page as the markets for some time, and the latest jobs numbers given strong ammunition with which to defend their hawkishness. Economists expected to see a 165,000 increase from today’s payrolls, after May’s dire reading of 75,000, but in fact the US economy added 224,000 jobs during June.

A slight tick higher in the participation rate saw the unemployment rate inch up to 3.7%, against expectations of no change at 3.6%.

Wage growth, key inflation predictor, slowed to 0.2% month-on-month, and 3.1% year-on-year. In both cases the readings were 10 basis points lower than analysts had expected.

Market reaction to non-farm payrolls

Stock futures tumbled, with the Dow quickly shedding 180 points and the S&P 500 dropping 0.8% following the announcement as markets cut bets on easier Fed policy. US ten-year treasury yields gained six basis points in the space of 10 minutes to trade back above 2%. EUR/USD fell 0.6%, breaking through three levels of support to hit 1.1222, while GBP/USD dropped 0.7% to test 1.2500.

The latest non-farm payrolls have highlighted the disconnect between market expectations for monetary policy and what the economy is signalling is needed. It’s true that growth is beginning to slow, and some data has revealed weakness in areas such as manufacturing, but so far the market is expecting a disproportionate response from US policymakers.

Markets expect three rate cuts between now and April 2020, although bets of four are not far behind. There are no expectations of interest rates remaining in the current 2.25-2.50% range – wise, considering the data and global macroeconomic conditions – while a handful of uber doves have gone as far as pricing in seven cuts by April 2020.

Those expectations are likely to cool in the wake of the latest NFP data, but the market is still convinced that the Fed is about to embark on a rapid cycle of loosening policy. It will take a lot more than one better-than-expected data print before we reach a realistic middleground.

As Trump-Xi prepare to meet, Beijing jabs at Washington

Indices

This G20 meeting might as well be the G2 this time around. The United States and China are the main topic, the two having hit economies across the globe with their trade dispute.

Markets have long been hoping that the gathering in Osaka might provide an opportunity for presidents Trump and Xi to meet and work through their differences. It was only a few days ago that state officials confirmed this was happening. Trump had previously dashed any hopes of a discussion.

But while Trump and Xi are preparing to meet to smooth things over, back in Beijing the rhetoric was still accusatory. Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen stated that China wanted the US government to cease “inappropriate” actions against domestic companies.

Beijing hits back at US Commerce Department

On Friday the US Commerce Department blacklisted five Chinese companies from buying components made in the US. It already hit Huawei – the Chinese smartphone giant – which such a ban in May.
CNBC reported that Mr Wang, speaking in Mandarin, commented Monday that:

“We hope the US side, under the principles of free trade and the spirit of WTO principles, can cancel these inappropriate measures against Chinese companies, and remove them from the entity list. This has benefits for both sides.”

S&P 500 1-day chart, 15.15 BST, June 24th, 2019

Markets are currently holding their breath, but today’s response from China is a good reminder that nothing has changed until the two leaders agree a deal.

Dow Cash 1-day chart, 15.15 BST, June 24th, 2019

We’ve been much closer to expecting a resolution before – there was even a deadline – only for things to worsen again. Trump and Xi are sure to make positive noises after their talk, and that will likely boost stocks, but behind their leaders, the governments of the US and China continue to throw punches.

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. 

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.”

Trump’s Mexican standoff rattles investors

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Mexican standoff

A Mexican standoff is one in which there is no strategy that exists that allows either side to gain victory. Donald Trump may take note.

Any hopes May would end on a high were dashed as the White House slapped tariffs on all goods from Mexico. Tariffs of 5% will take effect Jun 10th, and could rise to as much as 25% by October. The intent is to ratchet pressure on Mexico to stop illegal immigration to the US.

Coming at a time of a breakdown in talks with China, it’s another blow to bulls and we should consider further downside risks from escalation. The worry is who’s next on Trump’s list – the EU may be next.

A fight with its neighbour and largest trading partner was not on the agenda. With all eyes fixed on China, and with Nafta 2 agreed and all apparently all hunky dory on the Mexico front, the caprice of Trump has caught investors off guard and will weigh on investor sentiment.

Trump has weaponised trade and economic might of the US. We have to assume that talks with China are going nowhere, and that this therefore – in the absence of being able to find a new stick with which to beat Beijing – is Trump finding a new ‘enemy’ to attack.

Futures sink

It’s early yet but following yesterday’s steadying of the ship, futures in the US are off south again and a retest of the 200-day moving average on the S&P 500 seems assured. Dow futures are printing a 24k handle and are on course to close sharply lower for the month. Sell in May and go away turns out to have been accurate this time. You’d have anyway wanted to see a much firmer rally yesterday to suggest the bottom had been found.

Futures show European equities are retreating on this fresh trade threat and it’s set to be a down day. FTSE 100 key support at 7150 and may well get taken out today.

FX: Peso hit

Needless to say the Mexican peso plunged on the news and will now be sensitive to news flow on any escalation of tariffs, or likewise, any detente. USDMXN has broken up through 19.64 and is trading very near the highs of the year from Jan. Peso bears will have the 20 handle in their sights.

Japanese auto stocks were hit as they use Mexico as base to import to US. Mazda, Nissan, Toyota among the sharpest fallers. This is likely to have some read across for European carmakers in today’s session.

Havens that had briefly retreated amid yesterday’s more upbeat session, are once again bid. USDJPY has fallen through support to find the 108 handle. Gold has rallied through $1294 even as the relative safety of the dollar left greenback just a few pips from two-year highs.

GBPUSD has held the 1.26 handle but, having broken through this level and below last week’s lows, the pound is now sensitive to further downside squeezing as uncertainty over the next prime minister and the direction of Brexit persists.

Overnight data is not helping risk today. China PMI figures slipped to 49.4 against 49.9 expected, signalling contraction in factory activity again. The PMI data suggests China is feeling the heat from the trade war and tariffs. Caixin PMI is due Monday and May show an even steeper contraction.

Oil

The whole picture is bearish for oil. Crude prices are at three-month lows. US inventories yesterday showed a smaller than expected drawdown at just -282k versus -860k expected. 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, so supply worries can be overstated. Traders are also betting Permian offtake constraints will lessen as the year goes on. Copper’s also been slipping and is retesting the Jan lows. Commodity markets are telling us there’s trouble in the global economy.

Uber

Uber losses hit $1bn but this was at the lower end of guidance, whilst revenues came in at the top of the guided range at $3.1bn. Top marks for that, but fundamental questions remain over top line growth in bookings.

Quarter on quarter bookings growth of a mere 3.4% is a worry, and shows how tough this market is becoming. Costs rose 35% from a year ago, whilst grids booking revenues were up 34%. Monthly active users jumped to 93m from 91m. Nevertheless these were solid results in line with management expectations, which should give investors some confidence

European stocks rebound, euro about to give it up

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Stocks were lower across the board yesterday as the weight of the US-China trade dispute pushed everything down. From pretty much assuming the US and China would strike a deal, the market is repricing for a prolonged fight.

SPX closed lower by 19 points, or 0.69%, at 2,783, resting close on the 100-day moving average. This was a little off its lows of the day and a shade above the all-important 200-day moving average at 2776. The Dow shipped over 200 points and was briefly below 25k. 

The FTSE is also flirting with the 200-day line having closed 83 points lower at 7185. The pattern looks decidedly bearishy and flaggy right now. Support on the 38% retracement of the bottom-to-top rally from the 2018 low thru Apr high sits at 7150, which we saw tested and rejected yesterday. This was also an area of support that produced a bounce through the third week of May. 

We are seeing a small rebound in Europe on the open but there’s still lots of nervousness out there and the downward pressure is rather powerful and looks hard to resist. Any gains look hard won and easy to give up at the moment.

Forex

Dollar is still bid, pressuring everything else, with the dollar index on the 98 handle as it hoovers up haven demand. The euros is on the brink of capitulation on the 1.11 handle, with the pair last at 1.11343, ready to test those key May lows again, which marked a 2-year trough for the single currency. A breakdown through 1.11 on the downside brings 1.08 back into the picture.

GBPUSD doing very little still, trapped around the 1.2640 region. Whilst we are yet to retest Thursday’s low at 1.2610, we are making progressively lower highs and lower closes – the pound is still under a lot of pressure and this doesn’t look like having much chance of lifting until we know who the next PM will be. Brexit uncertainty remains.

That renewed dollar strength seems to be weighing on gold, which was last back at 1277. Rising trend support appears around the 1270 mark but for now the metal looks caught in a range. 

The GDP second print for Q1 is later – with the market already betting big on a rate cut this year it’s hard to see how a downward revision will really shift things. The first reading showed 3.2% and is expected to be revised down to 3.1%.

Watches of Switzerland

Meanwhile the latest IPO is in London – Watches of Switzerland has priced at the top of its range, at 270p. Shares will start trading today on the open. As we’ve seen this year IPOs can be a rough ride for shareholders and management. Hopefully for the management and buyers it won’t turn out to be another turkey like Aston Martin – one feels the omens are better for this one.

Markets react to European elections

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European equity markets are on the front foot again, building on yesterday’s gains, as investors breathe a collective sigh of relief following the European parliamentary elections.

European bourses have firmed as it looked like the political centre ground is holding in the EU despite pressure from right and left, whilst we have some upbeat spin on trade to contend with as we hear about a possible US-Japan trade deal. London and Wall Street will be playing catch up today. Futures in the US point to gains today. 

Euro elections: the centre holds, barely

European elections returned gains for a number of right-wing, Eurosceptic parties as expected, but not enough to really shake the ground from under the centrists. The main blocs have held on to remain just about in control, although for the first time they have lost their combined majority.  

The gains for the right continue to point to a problem for Brussels. But there were also big gains for the Greens. The political landscape is shifting, but it wasn’t a Brexit-like earthquake.

The strength of the League in Italy and National Rally in France is noteworthy and will exert domestic pressure more than at a European level. Expect further confrontation between Rome and Brussels. Indeed, on that note, Italian bond yields spiked, with the 10yr BTP above 2.7% again, amid reports the EU is mulling a $4bn fine for Italy for failure to control debt. For France it simply highlights that Macron’s reformist agenda is under a lot of pressure.

The euro though has been pretty well unmoved although London and New York were shut yesterday and we might see traders coming back in today. EURUSD was steady at 1.1180.

Brexit looms over pound

Ain’t no party like a Brexit Party: In the UK the centre has given way completely, and the pressure on the pound remains firm. The Brexit Party won the day, although the overtly Remain parties did very well with the LibDems and Greens enjoying a strong bump in support. European elections are entirely meaningless of course in terms of the Westminster arithmetic, but the impact on the ruling Tory party is key. 

For markets, we should expect the result to impact the leadership race and already a number of leading candidates have upped the no-deal rhetoric. One can only argue that this will, on the margins at least, push candidates more towards the fringes and see the party go more to the right. Given the Tory membership’s pro-Brexit feelings there is an ever-increasing risk of a no-deal exit at this stage. A lot is priced in but a no-deal would see further downside for the pound.

GBPUSD has found support again around 1.2670 and while there is still a lot of pressure, Thursday’s reversal on the 78% Fib retracement on 1.2610 looks to have placed something of a floor under the pound for the time being.  

Bitcoin 

Cryptos have rallied hard again on strong volumes, taking another leg higher over the weekend. Bitcoin is testing the $9k round number resistance, before a tilt at the 38% retracement around $9640 and then the April 2018 high on $10k. Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz the more traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Standing in front of a steamroller springs to mind, if you are a natural bear. 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, so watch for those whenever the rally looks overextended – 14-day RSI approaching 90 has been a pretty good indicator in the past. 

Morning Note: China’s long march, Britain’s interminable May

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Wall St was higher yesterday as markets look on the bright side of the US-China dispute, focusing on the 3-month reprieve for Huawei. But news that the White House may also blacklist Chinese surveillance company Hikvision has weighed on risk appetite again.

It’s not looking too great overall, and we continue to witness Washington push hard in one direction and then beat a tactical retreat to test its opponents. 

The situation we’re in now is a marked deterioration from the start of May. Beijing is now talking about a ‘new long march’, and trade talks have completely broken down. From this point we need to start to consider escalation looks like – tariffs on the $300bn of remaining Chinese exports being discussed would lead to a material impact on the US economy, corporate earnings and inflation. There is a risk that the market is complacent to what may be a very long, drawn out affair, albeit having clearly taken on some of the warnings – SPX closed at 2,864, down 3-4% from the all-time highs. However, this may not yet reflect the downside risks from a full-blown trade conflict. 

Forex

Sterling is on the backfoot again this morning after going through the ringer yesterday. GBPUSD is below 1.27 again, having whipsawed on the prospect of a second referendum.  The government plans to bring the Brexit withdrawal bill again to parliament but it’s clear it lacks the votes to get through. Pressure on the PM is excruciating.

At send time the pair held on 1.2690, having fallen to 1.26844. Support seen around a series of Dec lows at 1.2610, which coincides with the 78% retracement of the top-to-bottom move up from the Jan YTD low to the Mar YTD high. This area could well be a strong line of support. If it goes then we are looking at a potential retreat to 1.24. The pound was also weaker against the euro, with EURGBP continuing its march to 0.88, having notched up its worst losing streak on record versus the single currency. 

Sterling oversold?

But are we set for a pullback? The short sterling trade seems pretty crowded and the 14-day RSI calls for the pound to bounce on both EURGBP and GBPUSD. Sense from the momentum indicators that this decline for sterling against both the euro and dollar is running out of steam – of course that could just mean a temporary pause. We are also quite heavily extended at the respective lower (GBPUSD) and upper (EURGBP) extremes of the Bollinger Bands. Nevertheless, risks still appear skewed to the downside given the complete lack of certainty on the political front. Expect heightened volatility in sterling crosses.  

Mrs May needs to realise her deal is never going to get through Parliament, whatever amount of convoluted bargaining she attempts. Her gamble on offering a confirmatory referendum on her deal has clearly failed at the first hurdle. 

Broad-based dollar strength is also weighing on the pound as the greenback is finding safe haven bid in the current trade climate. The dollar index has just pulled back from the 98 handle but is looking firm. EURUSD has pulled back further to 1.1150 but seems to be building some support around this region. With the massive descending wedge nearing completion – are we set for an upside breakout? We’ve talked before about it being too early to call the top of the dollar rally, but as we look into the second half of the year, that is when many think the dollar will see a retracement. 

Data watch 

Japanese macro data overnight was soft – exports declined for a fifth straight month. We note the big drop in exports to China – down 6.3%, outpacing the overall decline of 2.4%. Core machine orders were down 0.7%, although this was weak, it was better than the 5.5% decline registered a month before. 

On tap later we have the UK CPI figures – 2.2% is the consensus. However, we expect the number to be skewed by the hike in the energy price cap. Core inflation is seen at 1.9%. Whether this is the peak in inflation will depend a lot on Brexit, and whether we see wage growth pick up. The Bank of England will look through any above-target print for a while, at least until Brexit is clearer. 

FOMC minutes on tap too – watch for the markets to find these a little more hawkish than they would like. One gets the sense that the Fed is not quite ready to end its hiking cycle. Again one feels the market is not correctly pricing the chance the Fed will raise rates later in the year – albeit the base case is for it to stand pat until 2020. 

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