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.

Morning note: SPX record intra-day high, China data soft, Alphabet miss

Forex
Morning Note

The S&P 500 notched up a fresh record high as spending and inflation data showed lots of the former and not much of the latter. Stand down on the stagflation klaxon, prints like yesterday’s are good for risk and keep the Fed on the leash. Meanwhile corporates are beating on earnings and we now may be set to avoid the earnings recession which was expected.

PCE inflation, the Fed’s preferred gauge, came in at 1.6%. Spending was much stronger with consumer spending +0.9%, the fastest growth since 2009. FOMC meeting decision tomorrow will likely not offer too many surprises. Without inflation really coming through there is not the pressure on the Fed to raise rates. Markets though are still – in my view – underestimating likelihood of a hike this year. Policymakers will have to acknowledge the risks to financial stability and the impressive Q1 GDP print. 

The S&P notched up a fresh intra-day record high

Data from China overnight is bad for risk. China manufacturing activity was weaker than expected overnight, with the April purchasing managers indices disappointing. The official PMI came in at 50.1, whilst the Caixin number was 50.2. The gauges are barely in expansion territory and having jumped in March, the figures are a bit of a disappointment. Export orders were weak and it all rather suggests there could be a bit more softness to come.

Eyes now on flash data from the Eurozone for any clues about a rebound in the global economy. Don’t hold your breath.

Alphabet earnings miss forecasts

Alphabet earnings were a big disappointment as revenue growth missed expectations. More competition for sure is a factor as the likes of Amazon and Facebook March forwards. Google will have to get used to competition more – last quarter’s report was a bit of heads up on that front and this quarter’s numbers confirm it.

A tough comparison to last year was also a factor as changes to YouTube a year ago delivering a boost then that was not repeated this year. FX headwinds were also a big factor in the slower revenue growth and should not be ignored. Sales of the Google Pixel have also proved disappointing.

Overall, revenues rose 17% yoy, to $36.3bn, the slowest pace in three years and well short of the 20% expected. Income beat, though, with EPS at $11.90 versus the $10.53 expected, excluding a EU fine of €1.7bn, which brought earnings down to $9.50 a share. Shares in Alphabet were down 7% in after-market trading having hit a record high earlier. The market may be punishing Alphabet just a little harshly when you consider the impact of FX headwinds in these numbers.

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