Morning Markets Brief 7-1-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are settling lower this morning to begin third quarter trading on a cautious note as investors ponder the recovery outlook while awaiting key US data and more communications from the Federal Reserve. S&P 500 futures point to a 0.6% lower open after the index rallied another 1.5% yesterday, closing a positive second quarter of trading on an upbeat note and taking year-to-date downside to 4.0%. After the sharp rally from March lows topped in early June, volatility has remained elevated and US stocks have struggled for direction amid pronounced uncertainty over the interrelated economic and public health outlooks. Equities in the EU are down this morning while Asian stocks were mixed overnight. The dollar is moving higher while longer-dated Treasury yields are up from recent lows, with the 10-year yield at 0.68%. Brent crude prices are rising above $42 ahead of US inventory data.
Fed Accommodation in Focus Ahead of Meeting Minutes

Investors will parse the minutes of the June FOMC meeting for any additional insights on the policy outlook, particularly the Fed’s posture toward enhanced rate guidance or yield curve control. The Fed left its policy rate unchanged at 0-0.25% in the June 10th decision and no new policies were enacted, while the tone of the accompanying statement and Chair Powell’s press conference was decidedly dovish. According to the updated interest rate projections (the “dot plot”), all but two FOMC members expect that it will be appropriate to keep rates at zero through 2022. However, market participants were left uncertain regarding future policy maneuvers, with Chair Powell again only noting that forward guidance and yield curve control (YCC) are being considered, so the minutes will be scrutinized for signals on these points. Alongside the rate outlook, the Fed projected that the US economy will shrink 6.5% in 2020 but show a 5.0% gain in 2021 followed by 3.5% in 2022, with unemployment estimated to be 5.5% by the end of 2022. However, the range of forecasts is wide, with GDP for next year seen falling between -1% to 7% and unemployment from 4.5% to 12%, reflecting great uncertainty over the possible lingering impact of the virus. Yesterday, however, the tone of Chair Powell’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee was more upbeat than his most recent communications during his Humphrey-Hawkins testimony before Congress last month and at his press conference following the June FOMC meeting, but re-emphasize the Fed’s commitment to use its “full range of tools” to support the recovery.

Uneven Global Economic Data Paints Mixed Picture of Recovery

China’s Caixin Manufacturing PMI for June unexpectedly rose to 51.2 in June from 50.7 the previous month, beating market consensus of 50.5 and tagging a six-month high. For context, PMI readings above 50 denote expansion in the sector. Output grew on the back of a renewed increases in new orders and buying levels rose the most since January 2018. On the other hand, export work continued to fall due to weak global demand. The Shanghai Composite posted a solid rally after these upbeat figures, though the renminbi remained stable versus the dollar. Contrastingly, the Bank of Japan’s Tankan index for large manufacturers’ sentiment plunged to an eleven-year low of -34 in the second quarter (Q2) from -8 in Q1, undershooting estimates of -31. For context, Tankan readings below zero indicate worsening conditions. Sentiment deteriorated the most among firms producing motor vehicles (-72 vs -17 in Q1). Still, large firms in Japan plan to raise their capital spending by 3.2%, up from 1.8% in the previous quarter and above a 2.1% expected decline. Among non-manufacturing large firms, sentiment tumbled to a 10-year low of -17 from 8 in Q1 and compared with expectations of -18. Meanwhile, German unemployment in June hit a five-year high of 6.4% and UK nationwide home prices fell 1.4% month-on-month in June after a 1.7% decline the prior month.

Additional Themes

FedEx Joins Pandemic “Winners” – Shares of the shipping bellwether are up 9.9% in pre-market trading after management issued better-than-anticipated earnings figures for their fiscal Q4 following yesterday’s closing bell. Cost savings in other areas offset increased spending on enhanced employee protection measures amid the pandemic while air cargo volume rose.

More Disheartening Covid-19 News – Economists from Goldman Sachs are estimating that 40% of the US has now halted or partly reversed reopening measures amid the resurgence of coronavirus cases in key hotspots. Yesterday, Texas recorded a new single-day high in cases while California registered its second highest daily tally. The EU will ban travelers from the US, while New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have widened the number of states from which travelers will be required to quarantine for two weeks.

Morning Markets Brief 6-30-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets were mostly higher overnight after key Chinese economic data outpaced expectations while investors await today’s testimony from Fed Chair Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. S&P 500 futures indicate a 0.1% higher open after the index rallied 1.5% to start the week following Friday 2.4% loss, taking year-to-date downside to 5.5%. After their steep rally from the April trough, US stocks have struggled for direction over recent weeks as concerns over resurgent coronavirus cases in various hotspots in the US and overseas dampen recovery optimism. Equities in the EU are modestly higher while Asian stocks rallied overnight. The dollar is edging higher while longer-dated Treasury yields remain flat, with the 10-year yield at 0.63%. Brent crude prices are fluctuating above $41 per barrel.

Powell and Mnuchin Testimony in Focus

The prepared remarks from the two officials released in advance of today’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee both convey optimism in the outlook while advocating further stimulus. The tone of Chair Powell’s statement is more upbeat than his most recent communications during his Humphrey-Hawkins testimony before Congress earlier this month and at his press conference following the June FOMC meeting, but re-emphasize the Fed’s commitment to use its “full range of tools” to support the recovery. The remarks cite a faster-than-anticipated pace of economic “bounceback,” calling it an “important new phase.” However, in keeping with previous communications, the outlook is described as “extraordinarily uncertain” with recovery dependent upon reasonably successful public health outcomes. Thus, Chair Powell will again stress the need for continued accommodation, including his thinly veiled advocacy of additional fiscal stimulus measures. This comes as Congress and the White House are set to restart negotiations over the next pandemic relief package later this month amid considerable disagreement over the size and composition of the spending. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s prepared remarks emphasize the speed of the recovery, citing one private sector estimate of a V-shaped rebound, but indicate that more support may be needed, particularly for hard-hit industries.

China’s Growth Data Shows Steady Improvement

The official reading of China’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for June was better than expected and signaled continued recovery from the depths of February’s contraction. The official manufacturing PMI in China unexpectedly rose to 50.9 in June from 50.6 in the previous month, topping consensus estimates of 50.4. For context, PMI readings above 50 denote expansion in the sector. This was the fourth straight month of increase in factory activity and reflected the strongest pace of expansion since March. The state statistics bureau said in its announcement of the PMI reading that supply and demand are starting to pick up, with the index for new orders rising for two straight months. The new export order sub-index, however, remained in deeply contractionary territory at 42.6. The service sector also showed improvement, as the official non-manufacturing PMI increased to 54.4 in June from 53.6 in the prior month, which is the level it was forecast to maintain. This marked the fourth consecutive month of growth in the service sector and the strongest acceleration since January. Still, analysts are wary that a recent resurgence of new coronavirus cases in Beijing and some surrounding cities threatens to weigh anew on the domestic services sector.

Additional Themes

Well Fargo Cuts Its Dividend – Last Thursday, the Fed released its Stress Test results for the “Too Big to Fail” banks in the US, which issued all passing grades but called on banks to halt share buybacks and put dividends under review on a bank-by-bank basis, based on strength of capital in a severely adverse economic situation caused by the coronavirus. After markets closed yesterday, each bank released their planned dividend for the third quarter and all but Wells Fargo were allowed to maintain their current dividend levels. Wells Fargo said the Fed’s assessment of its business will warrant a reduction to its quarterly payout, which was widely expected by investors. Wells Fargo had a per share dividend of 51 cents and simply gave the guidance that it will be reduced as they reassess the future payout. CEO Charlie Scharf stated that the bank expects to have second quarter results that “will include an increase in the allowance for credit losses substantially higher than the increase in the first quarter.” Shares of Wells Fargo are -0.7% in pre-market trading and have fallen 6.0% over the past week

Hong Kong in Focus – News overnight indicated that China has passed its controversial security legislation for Hong Kong. This followed news that the US Commerce Department is removing preferential treatment for certain sensitive exports to the territory as part of the progressive rollback of Hong Kong’s special trading status due to China’s encroachment on its autonomy.

Morning Markets Brief 6-29-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets were mixed overnight and investor sentiment remains fragile as the continued resurgence in US coronavirus cases clouds recovery hopes, while the Fed’s conservative stress test results added to the headwinds on bank shares. S&P 500 futures point to a 0.3% higher open after the index sank 2.4% on Friday to close a choppy week on a downbeat note, taking its week-to-date loss to 2.9%, month-to-date decline to 1.2% and year-to-date downside to 6.9%. After their steep rally from the April trough, US stocks have struggled for direction over recent weeks as concerns over resurgent coronavirus cases in various hotspots in the US and overseas dampen optimism. Equities in the EU are modestly higher while Asian stocks were mostly lower overnight. The dollar is slightly weaker while longer-dated Treasury yields flat, with the 10-year yield at 0.64%. Brent crude prices are holding above $41 per barrel as ongoing supply cuts provide support despite dimming recovery hopes.

US Bank Stocks in Focus Ahead of Dividend Announcements

Shares of major US financial institutions are attempting to rally in pre-market trading after posting sharp losses on Friday as conservative Fed stress test results limited dividend payouts, while sinking interest rates and a deteriorating growth outlook compounded the pressure. Last week, the Federal Reserve released its assessment of the cohort of 33 of the largest banks in the United States with a positive outlook, with all passing their stress tests. “The banking system has been a source of strength during this crisis, and the results of our sensitivity analyses show that our banks can remain strong in the face of even the harshest shocks,” said Fed Vice Chair Randal Quarles. Despite the banks’ ability to pass loan loss provisions, the central bank said it would impose dividend caps and a restriction on share buybacks in the third quarter of this year to “ensure large banks remain resilient despite the economic uncertainty from the coronavirus event,” disappointing some investors. In its summary of the coronavirus sensitivity analyses, the Fed said third-quarter dividend payments could “not exceed an amount equal to the average of the firm’s net income for the four preceding calendar quarters.” The Board is also requiring banks to re-evaluate their longer-term capital plans. Analysts estimate the new formula would affect Wells Fargo’s third quarter dividend, and then Goldman Sachs’s fourth quarter dividend payments so it can have a ‘stress capital buffer’ when new requirements commence in October. At the Fed’s request, individual banks had held off announcing their dividend plans until today. The selloff in US financials was pronounced on Friday, with an index of major bank stocks down 6.4%, as many investors who prioritized the banks’ premium dividends as their greatest appeal exit their positions.

Worsening Coronavirus Data Puts US Growth Outlook in Focus

Investors are awaiting Thursday’s release of June nonfarm payroll data after last week’s US economic data continued to suggest a recovery trajectory, though reversals in economic reopening are dampening optimism. Last week’s reading of US personal income for May dropped 4.2%, reversing last month’s 10.8% gain but beating consensus estimates of -6.0%. The drop was the largest since January 2013 and was mainly the result of the decrease in government social benefits as pandemic response payments from federal economic recovery programs declined from April. Meanwhile, personal spending shot up a record-high 8.2% month-over-month, slightly below estimates of 9% but reversing April’s record drop of 12.6%. For context, May data has been noisy but better than expected for key gauges such as nonfarm payrolls, retail sales, and durable goods orders, though weekly jobless figures remained worryingly high. On Thursday, US nonfarm payrolls for June will be released after the US economy unexpectedly added 2.5 million jobs in May, the most on record, beating expectations of an additional 8 million job losses after a record high of 20.7 million in April. Estimates are for the June reading to feature 3 million new jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate from 13.3% to 12.5%. The backdrop to this positive news, however, is a progressive rollback in US economic reopening measures amid spiking Covid-19 cases in various hotspots.

Additional Themes

Boeing Up on Max News –Dow futures are being supported this morning by a pre-market rally in Boeing stock following reports that the US government is greenlighting 737 Max test flights.

Social Media Pressured Over Content – More companies are announcing an advertising hiatus on Facebook, citing hate speech and divisive content on the platform. Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Diageo are among the latest to temporarily pull their advertising. Unilever, the consumer goods giant, said on Friday that it will halt US advertising on Facebook and Twitter for at least the remainder of the year, following the likes of Verizon, Patagonia, and North Face. Unilever is one of the largest advertisers in the world, spending $42.3 million on Facebook ads alone last year. Shares of Facebook and Twitter fell 8.3% and 7.4%, respectively, on Friday following the news and are 4.4% and 3.2% lower in pre-market trading this morning.

Morning Markets Brief 6-26-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets were mostly higher overnight as investors monitor US financial sector regulatory maneuvers and await more economic data. S&P 500 futures have been choppy again overnight but indicate a 0.2% higher open after yesterday’s late session rally pared the index’s year-to-date downside to 4.5% following Wednesday’s 2.6% drop. After their steep rally from the April trough, US stocks have struggled for direction over recent weeks as concerns over resurgent coronavirus cases in various hotspots in the US and overseas cloud recovery hopes. Equities in the EU are climbing as the European Central Bank pledges more stimulus, while Asian stocks were mostly higher as well. The dollar is flat while longer-dated Treasury yields are lower, with the 10-year yield at 0.67%. Brent crude prices are back above $41 per barrel as supply cuts and economic recovery hopes continue to provide support for oil prices.

US Bank Stocks Set for Choppy Trading Amid Regulatory Crosscurrents

Shares of major US financial institutions rallied after that announcement early yesterday that certain financial regulations would be loosened but are reversing those gains in pre-market trading after conservative Fed stress test results. US financial stocks gained yesterday on the news of easing restrictions on risk exposure ahead of the Federal Reserve’s stress test results, which were released after markets closed. Regulators finalized the latest revisions of the so-called Volcker rule, imposed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, to let banks increase their dealings with venture capital funds. The regulators also scrapped a requirement that lenders hold margin when trading derivatives with their affiliates. The reversal of the inter-affiliate margin requirement for swaps trades could free up an estimated $40 billion for Wall Street banks, though regulators added a new threshold that limits the scale of margin that can be forgiven. The FDIC board passed the new rule in a 3-1 vote, along party lines. At the same time, the CFTC barred exchanges from disclosing cleared swap participants, so banks will lose the ability to learn the identities of counterparties in cleared swaps transactions. Overall, these expected rule changes helped boost sentiment on the sector ahead of the release of Fed stress test results, which were announced after markets closed and featured a more conservative approach than some investors had hoped. The Fed’s “most high-profile stress test since the financial crisis” this year included an extra coronavirus “sensitivity analysis” that resulted in a cap on dividends at the level of the second quarter and a extends the prohibition on stock buybacks until at least the end of the third quarter. Individual banks will reveal their specific figures on Monday. Although analysts suggest that this result is not surprising, shares of major banks are giving back a portion of yesterday’s rally in pre-market trading.

US Economic Data in Focus

After yesterday’s US economic data sent mixed signals, investors will closely parse today’s releases for any additional clarity on the trajectory of the recovery. May data has been noisy but better than expected for key gauges such as nonfarm payrolls and retail sales. Yesterday, May durable goods orders dramatically outpaced expectations, though weekly jobless figures remained worryingly high. Today, personal income and personal spending readings for May are due, with expectations for the April trends to flip, with income forecast to decline 6.0% but spending to rise 9.2% from the prior month’s respective prints of 10.5% and -13.6%. Also due is the Fed’s favored inflation metric, the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) Price Index. In April Headline PCE decreased 0.5% month-on-month (m/m) and is projected to improve to 0%.

Additional Themes

Retail Rebound Re-Examined – Nike shares are down 3.4% in pre-market trading after management announced disappointing fiscal fourth quarter (Q4) results. Online sales for the athletic giant provided less of a cushion for the lost sales due to store closures than analysts had hoped. Both earnings and revenue deeply undershot estimates, with the former posting an unexpected loss. This comes after Nike stock had recouped all of its year-to-date losses while an ETF of consumer discretionary stocks is similarly trading 1.0% higher on the year.

Looking Ahead – The coming holiday-shortened week in the US, with the 4th of July being observed on Friday, is still going to feature major economic data as the US nonfarm payrolls for June will be released on Thursday. The US economy unexpectedly added 2.5 million jobs in May, the most on record, beating expectations of an additional 8 million job losses after a record high of 20.7 million in April. Estimates are for the US economy to have added 3 million new jobs and for the unemployment rate to drop from 13.3% to 12.5%. Additionally, minutes from the June FOMC meeting will provide more insight on the views of Fed officials as they held policy rates steady but maintained a downbeat outlook and projected zero interest rates for an extended period. Overseas, China’s June purchasing managers’ indexes will be in focus as economists ponder the trajectory of their recovery from the pandemic

Morning Markets Brief 6-25-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets were mixed overnight as the continued rise in coronavirus cases in various hotspots in the US and overseas undermines hopes for the economic rebound, with more key US labor market data due today. S&P 500 futures have been choppy overnight and indicate a 0.3% lower open after falling 2.6% yesterday, which erased most of last week’s rebound and deepened the index’s year-to-date loss to 5.6%. Equities in the EU are rebounding from yesterday’s underperformance while Asian stocks were mixed overnight, with a number of bourses closed for holidays. Amid the cautious market mood, the dollar is edging upward and longer-dated Treasury yields are lower, with the 10-year yield at 0.67%. Brent crude prices are back below $40 per barrel as estimates of US inventory data showed a bearish buildup.

Optimism for the Economic Recovery Wavers Amid Rising Coronavirus Cases

Investors are confronting the rising likelihood that progress toward reopening will be impeded or in some cases rolled back in order to contain the widening spread of Covid-19 infections in key hotspots in the US and overseas. Market sentiment deteriorated yesterday as the US posted its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases since the outset of the pandemic, alongside other discouraging news on the public health front. Two weeks ago, US cases were rising at 20,000 per day but that tally has risen to 36,880 currently, topping the previous high on April 24, and 33 states are registering a higher seven-day average of new infections than they were two weeks prior. Meanwhile, state leaders in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced that they will require a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from a coronavirus hotspot, while new record numbers of daily infections were reported in California (7,149), Florida (5,508), and Texas (5,551) and available ICU beds are dwindling in Houston, where Apple announced they are re-closing more stores. Disneyland in California has now delayed its scheduled reopening beyond July 17 with no new data given and New York is delaying its reopening of malls, movie theaters, and gyms. Governors and mayors remain generally resistant to reversing reopening efforts or imposing other more stringent restrictions, though Nevada and Miami are the latest locales to require use of masks in public. Overseas, reports are noting clusters of infections in Germany and Tokyo leading to re-imposed restrictions, while the UK prepares to forge ahead with its reopening plans slated for early July.

IMF Sounds a Cautious Note on the Global Economy

The IMF turned more negative on the global grows outlook while investors await more key US labor market data this morning. Following similarly downbeat projections from the World Bank and OECD in recent weeks, the IMF issued downgraded economic forecasts for 2020 yesterday, with global GDP moving from its estimate of -3.0% in April to -4.9% currently. The report also warned of the potential for “long-lasting negative consequences” for the global economy. The OECD issued its revised outlook earlier this month, calling for a 6% contraction in global growth this year, with its estimate for US GDP at -7% and the EU at -9%, and only a 5% rebound in 2021 for the worldwide economy. Similarly, the World Bank sees the global economy shrinking 5.2% for the year and warned of a more adverse scenario in which the global GDP contraction could be as high as 8%, with emerging market economies shrinking around 5% and an estimated sluggish 1% global recovery in 2021. Speaking earlier this week, World Bank Chief Economist Reinhart cautioned that a rebound should not be confused with a recovery and that returning to pre-pandemic income levels could take years. As investors continue to ponder the uncertain economic outlook, they will parse releases of US weekly initial and continuing jobless claims later this morning, as well as May durable goods orders.

Additional Themes

Fed’s Bank Stress Test Results Due – Investors will be highly attuned to these results for any ramifications for bank capital management, particularly share buybacks and dividends. For context, last year’s stress test included as its most severe hypothetical scenario a global recession resulting in $410 billion in total losses for the 18 participating institutions, the US unemployment rate rising by more than 6 percentage points to 10%, a major decline in real estate prices, and elevated stress in corporate loan markets. “The results confirm that our financial system remains resilient,” Vice Chairman Randal K. Quarles said at the time. The Fed has already said that this year’s stress test results will “include additional analyses that explore how plausible risks to the economy stemming from the coronavirus response could affect bank capital.” There remains a lack of consensus how severe the Fed makes their “additional analyses” of the coronavirus risks to the economy.

Oil Prices Battered by Rising US Inventories and Demand Fears – US crude stockpiles rose to a record high 540 million barrels last week according to the Energy Information Administration, while the resurgence in Covid-19 cases dampens the demand outlook.

Morning Markets Brief 6-23-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are higher this morning amid upside surprises in key global economic data following some volatility overnight induced by a miscommunication over the US-China Phase One trade deal. S&P 500 futures indicate a 0.7% higher open after the index recouped Friday’s losses yesterday to pare its year-to-date downside to 3.5%. Equities in the EU and Asia were mostly higher overnight after White House officials and President Trump scrambled to clarify the administration’s position on the US-China trade deal (more below). The dollar is continuing lower, while longer-dated Treasury yields edging higher, with the 10-year yield at 0.73%. Crude oil prices are advancing to new multi-month highs amid OPEC supply cuts and demand hopes.

Miscommunication on US-China Trade Roils Markets Overnight

White House trade advisor Navarro’s remark last evening that the Phase One trade deal was “over” sent global risk assets into a tailspin, prompting swift clarifications from President Trump and National Economic Council Director Kudlow. In answering a question on the President’s posture toward the US-China Phase One trade deal last night during an interview on Fox News, Navarro stated that “It’s over,” which was seized upon by traders as signaling a White House repudiation of the deal. S&P 500 futures fell precipitously, losing 1.9% as the news reverberated across global financial markets. Shortly thereafter, NEC Director Kudlow disputed Navarro’s statement and reaffirmed the US commitment to the Phase One trade deal, after which President Trump tweeted that the accord is “fully intact” and expressed his hope that China would honor its commitments thereunder. Navarro later walked back his comment, stating that his answer was “taken wildly out of context” and that he was not referring to the Phase One trade deal, indicating that he was instead trying to make a point about the lack of trust between Washington and Beijing.

Global Growth Indexes for June Outperform Expectations

With investors focused on the prospects for a near-term rebound in the global economy, today’s broadly upbeat preliminary June purchasing managers’ indexes (PMIs) are fueling more optimism this morning. The initial readings of June manufacturing and service PMIs in Australia, Japan, France, Germany, the EU, and UK were all released overnight and painted a generally more positive picture than economists had anticipated. US readings are due later this morning. While the gauges were expected to show continued improvement from April’s historical depths of contraction, most were expected to stay in retrenchment mode, which is consistent with PMI readings below 50. However, France moved into expansionary territory in both the services and manufacturing components of its June PMIs, registering 50.3 and 52.1, respectively, versus estimates of 45.2 and 46.0. Germany’s rebound was not as robust but still outpaced forecasts, with services and manufacturing at 45.8 and 44.6 whereas consensus expectations had been 42.3 and 42.5. The EU-wide readings of 47.3 for services and 46.9 for manufacturing similarly topped estimates. In the UK, manufacturing surprisingly edged into expansionary mode at 50.1 and beat expectations of 45.0 while services jumped to 47.0 versus the 40.0 forecast. Overnight, Australia’s PMI readings also leapt higher, with services hitting 53.2 and manufacturing at 49.8 though Japan’s figures were less impressive, with manufacturing stagnating further from the prior month at 37.8 and services improving from May but remaining deeply depressed at 42.3.

Additional Themes

Coronavirus Hotspots Remain a Concern – Analysts are awaiting today’s testimony before Congress by White House public health advisor Dr. Fauci, who has made cautious statements on the current state of the pandemic, contrasting with the more upbeat tone from other Trump administration officials. Meanwhile, the governor of Texas yesterday called the current Covid-19 outbreak in his state “unacceptable” and that it “must be corralled” but said a return to lockdowns were the “last option.” Governor Abbott, however, did concede that “additional measures” could be needed if the adverse trends continue, and he urged residents to wear masks in public and abide by social distancing guidelines. For context, investor optimism over the process of economic reopening has been clouded by surging cases in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona, which have moved swiftly ahead with reopening plans. However, the unwillingness of state leaders to re-impose significant additional restrictions has helped boost market spirits in spite of the public health consequences.

Oil Prices Extend Their Uptrend – After OPEC and its allies (known collectively as OPEC+) reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing supply cuts and laggards signed on for compensatory reductions, reports this morning indicate that more cartel members are submitting details to show compliance. For context, the total coordinated output curbs of 9.7 million barrels per day are set to run through the end of next month.

Morning Markets Brief 6-19-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are broadly higher this morning as signs of cooling US-China tensions and the prospect of more economic stimulus, this time by the EU, are helping support sentiment despite underlying concerns that the Covid-19 resurgence will impede reopening plans. S&P 500 futures indicate a 0.8% higher open after the index struggled for direction over the past two sessions, holding its year-to-date downside at 3.6%. Equities in the EU are outperforming as regional leaders discuss historic stimulus and Asian stocks were mostly higher overnight. The dollar is flat, while longer-dated Treasury yields are also little changed, with the 10-year yield at 0.72%. Crude oil prices are continuing higher after yesterday’s OPEC compliance review.

US-China Trade Deal Reaffirmation Buoys Market Spirits

After months of rising tensions between the two superpowers, headlines overnight indicating that China has agreed to accelerate its US farm goods buying to align with its Phase One trade deal commitments are easing investor concerns. Beijing’s pledge to accelerate the purchases is reportedly a result of the meeting between Secretary of State Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii on Wednesday. The renewed commitments are said to encompass a wide range of US agricultural products, including soybeans, corn, and ethanol. For context, China’s purchases of US farm goods had not been tracking the levels set out in the Phase One trade deal, with statistics showing that in the first four months of 2020, the buying was only 13% of the $36.5 billion target, which lagged even the pre-trade war pace of 2017. The Chinese side has yet to explicitly affirm this recommitment but had issued a broadly positive statement following the meeting, characterizing it as “constructive.” This comes after analysts have noted reports detailing passages from forthcoming book by former White House national security advisor John Bolton relating to President Trump’s posture toward Chinese trade negotiations, in particular with regard to US farm goods purchases. Specifically, Bolton alleges in the book that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi to help him win reelection by increasing buying of US farm products. Regardless, analysts expect that being “tough on China” will remain a key election issue in the runup to November polls. Earlier this week, President Trump signed into law a bill that would target Chinese entities and officials involved in the suppression of Muslim minorities in western China with sanctions, drawing threats of retaliation from Beijing.

 

Barrage of Stimulus News Continues with EU Fiscal Package Negotiations

EU leaders are beginning to wrangle in earnest today over the historic €750 billion pandemic relief plan, which features an unprecedented degree of budget-sharing. Early reports indicate that German Chancellor Merkel and European Central Bank President Lagarde are pushing strongly for the package and warning of the adverse consequences of failure to agree, but that various countries are holding out for concessions. EU assets are broadly stable amid the dispatches from the negotiations. This rounds out a week that featured a daily cadence of headlines signaling an immediate or impending augmentation of major fiscal or monetary stimulus. On Monday, the Federal Reserve announced that its Main Street Lending Program was finally up and running and then enhanced its corporate liquidity facility by moving to individual corporate bond buying rather than less targeted credit ETF purchases. This was followed by two days of determinedly dovish testimony by Fed Chair Powell in front of Congressional committees. Also this week, headlines indicated that the Trump administration is looking for another $2 trillion pandemic relief bill later this summer and will push a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan and Bank of England announced additional accommodation at their meetings, alongside a €1.3 trillion concessionary loan disbursement from the European Central Bank on Thursday.

Additional Themes

Coronavirus Developments Remain in Focus – Single-day coronavirus case increases hit new highs in California and Florida yesterday while hospitalizations continued to rise in Texas. Oklahoma is among those worsening hotspots, which has raised concerns about President Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa that is scheduled for tomorrow in a 20,000 seat indoor arena. Thus far, no mass lockdowns have been re-imposed in the US.

Looking Ahead – Next week’s economic calendar features some key data and begins over the weekend with a decision by the People’s Bank of China, which is expected to hold rates steady but to continue with easing measures in the second half of the year. The focus early in the week will be on preliminary global Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMIs) for June, which are projected to show continued improvement in manufacturing and service sector activity in the US, EU, and Japan. US personal income and spending figures for May are also due and are forecast to echo May retail sales figures showing a rebound in consumer demand, though income is expected to relapse to the downside.

Morning Markets Brief 6-18-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are mostly lower this morning as investors continue to weigh the prospects for economic recovery, aided by ongoing fiscal and monetary stimulus, against the risks that areas of Covid-19 resurgence will impede reopening plans. S&P 500 futures point to a 0.4% lower open after the index broke a three-day streak of gains yesterday, taking its year-to-date downside to 3.6%. Equities in the EU are also slipping this morning and Asian stocks were mixed overnight. The dollar is flat, while longer-dated Treasury yields are edging lower amid the cautious tone in markets, with the 10-year yield at 0.72%. Crude oil, however, is finding support ahead of today’s OPEC supply cut compliance review, with Brent at $41 per barrel.

Central Banks Remain in the Spotlight

After two days of dovish testimony from Fed Chair Powell and augmented accommodation measures from both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan earlier this week, today has featured more easing by the Bank of England (BoE) and an announcement of €1.3 trillion in concessionary funding by the European Central Bank (ECB). This morning, the BoE announced its latest monetary policy maneuvers, meeting consensus expectations for an increase in quantitative easing (QE) measures by £100 billion to a total of £745 billion while holding interest rates steady at 0.10%. Some analysts had expected the BoE to be more aggressive and increase QE by £200 billion and/or cut the policy rate to zero today, with a view toward negative rates later this year. A more proactive approach to easing would not have been particularly surprising given statements from the BoE that “the economy may be heading for the worst downturn in three centuries” after UK GDP shrank by more than 20% in April alone, while the nation is grappling with the worst Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, protests over racial inequality, and the risk of a hard Brexit at year-end. Also, the consumer price index (CPI) for May was up just 0.5% from a year earlier, dramatically undershooting the BoE’s 2% target rate. UK assets are broadly stable thus far following the decision. Meanwhile, the ECB announced that today’s offer of cheap loans with three-year terms to regional banks (TLTRO’s) was tapped by 742 institutions for a total of €1.3 trillion, which was in the middle of the range of estimates for uptake. EU markets are broadly steady this morning, having rallied significantly over recent weeks, with the euro close to 12-month highs versus the dollar and the spread between 10-year Italian and German debt yields (a key market-based indicator of Italian creditworthiness) near its most favorable level since early March, though equities are down from early June highs.

Covid-19 Data Suggests Resurgence Risk

After last week’s selloff was spurred in part by an acceleration of the outbreak in US states that were forging ahead with economic reopening, investors remain wary this week of the continuing rise in cases and are monitoring reports from Beijing’s surge in infections. One of China’s top virologists stated that the secondary spike in Beijing is under control, helping bolster risk sentiment overnight. However, reports indicate that the re-imposed restrictions have taken traffic in the Chinese capital to 29% of normal levels during today’s morning rush hour. Meanwhile, single-day coronavirus case increases hit new highs in Florida yesterday, with Texas, Arizona, and other southern states that had been spared the worst of the outbreak to this point also showing an accelerating spread. Earlier this week, White House public health advisor Dr. Fauci indicated that the rising cases could not be explained by increased testing, adding that this is still the “first wave” and not a secondary spike in infections in these states. Oklahoma is among those worsening hotspots, which has raised concerns about President Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa that is scheduled for Saturday in a 20,000 seat indoor arena. Thus far, no mass lockdowns have been re-imposed in the US.

Additional Themes

Investors Note US-China Headlines – Some analysts are pondering whether yesterday’s late-day selloff in US stocks was spurred by headlines relating to the forthcoming book by former White House national security advisor John Bolton. The reports detail Bolton’s claims in the book that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi to help him win reelection, among other untoward overtures to Xi and other global leaders. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Pompeo met with his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii yesterday amid simmering tensions between the two superpowers. Both sides issued positive statements after the meeting but were short on specifics. Also, President Trump signed into law a bill that would target Chinese entities and officials involved in the suppression of Muslim minorities in western China with sanctions, drawing threats of retaliation from Beijing.

US Jobless Claims Data Due – Later this morning, initial jobless claims for the week ending June 13th are expected to decline to 1.3 million from 1.5 million the prior week. Continuing claims for the week ending June 6th are forecast to fall to 19.9 million from 20.9 million.

Morning Markets Brief 6-17-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are continuing this week’s rebound today as bouncing US retail sales, central bank accommodation, and the prospect for additional fiscal stimulus help offset worries over a possible reacceleration in Covid-19 infections amid US economic reopening. S&P 500 futures indicate a 0.5% higher open after the index extended its ongoing rally for a third day yesterday, paring its year-to-date downside to 3.3% on the parade of supportive developments. May US retail sales joined nonfarm payrolls as bright spots amid a muddled economic picture (more below). Equities in the EU are higher while Asian stocks were mixed overnight. The dollar is flat, as are longer-dated Treasury yields, with the 10-year yield at 0.75%. Crude oil is giving back some recent gains, with Brent slipping back toward $40 per barrel.

US Retail Rebound Stands Out Amid Muddled Global Recovery Signals

US consumption evidenced a burst of pent-up demand in May but other economic datapoints show less vigorous recovery. US retail sales surged 17.7% month-on-month (m/m) in May, easily beating expectations of an 8.4% jump and recovering from the record 14.7% fall in April. This is the largest monthly increase on record, as states eased restrictions and many stores and restaurants reopened from the coronavirus lockdown. This figure pushed the overnight rally in US equity futures even higher before yesterday’s opening bell. US industrial production was less impressive, advancing only 1.4% m/m in May after falling a record 12.5% in April and missing consensus expectations of a 2.9% rebound. Meanwhile, Japan’s exports fell 28.3% year-on-year (y/y) in May, undershooting expectations for -26.1% and worsening from April’s -21.9%, with shipments to the US down by 50.6% y/y. Imports declined 26.2% y/y, suggesting continued weakness in domestic Japanese demand, while a gauge of manufacturer sentiment also deteriorated further in June.

Extraordinary Fiscal and Monetary Stimulus Continues to Underpin Market Sentiment

Yesterday’s news that the White House is preparing a $1 trillion national infrastructure proposal and more ultra-accommodative messaging from Fed Chair Powell are adding fuel to this week’s US equity rebound. On the infrastructure front, the Transportation Department is said to be working on the draft plan that focuses on traditional projects (i.e. bridges, roads) but allocates a portion of the funds to the buildout of 5G infrastructure and rural connectivity. Although this news attracted a degree of skepticism from some reporters, Caterpillar and Aecom gained 5.3% and 3.9%, respectively, yesterday while Nucor steel jumped 6.4% and an ETF of infrastructure stocks gained 3.0%. Also yesterday, Federal Reserve Chair Powell reiterated his assessment of predominant downside risks in his testimony before to the Senate Banking Committee as part of his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Chair Powell remarked that “significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery,” and although the US economy is beginning to rebound, he reiterated the Fed’s commitment to using “the full range of policy tools” available. For context, the Fed announced earlier this week that it would be expanding its corporate credit support program to buy individual company bonds and is finally launching its long-awaited Main Street Lending Program. However, Chair Powell continued to make the case that fiscal spending may provide a more appropriate form of support in these circumstances. Today is his second and final day of testimony on Capitol Hill, this time appearing before a House Financial Services Panel.

Additional Themes

Mixed Covid-19 Developments – According to reports earlier this week, Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely-used steroid, appears set to become the first drug treatment yielding life-saving results among Covid-19 patients, and is now being referred to as a “major breakthrough” by some scientists. This positive development helped offset concerns about a secondary outbreak in Beijing after weeks of relative normalcy, as well as a further infection increases in various US states that have engaged in economic reopening, such as Texas and Florida. Yesterday, White House public health advisor Dr. Fauci indicated that the rising cases could not be explained by increased testing, adding that this is still the “first wave” and not a secondary spike in infections. Thus far, no mass lockdowns have been re-imposed in the US.

Rising Risks Around Geopolitical Flashpoints – After North Korean forces demolished a liaison office on their side of the border yesterday and moved to occupy areas of the buffer zone near the border, South Korea has warned that it will not tolerate further provocation from Pyongyang. South Korean assets, which tend to be resilient in the face of North Korean bluster, have been choppy this week, with the South Korean won (KRW) down 0.8% versus the dollar since the weekend, though the benchmark Kospi index is slightly higher over the past three sessions. Meanwhile, tensions are ebbing at the disputed India/China border after recent clashes between the two sides resulted in reports of casualties, with signs of détente emerging.

Morning Markets Brief 6-16-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are extending yesterday’s rebound this morning as central bank largess and the prospect for additional fiscal stimulus help offset worries over a possible re-acceleration in Covid-19 infections due to US economic reopening. S&P 500 futures point to a 1.3% higher open after the index recovered from steep early losses yesterday to close in positive territory. The midday announcement by the Federal Reserve of enhancements to its corporate bond purchase program helped accelerate the rebound (more below). Equities in the EU and Asia posted solid gains overnight. Longer-dated Treasury yields are edging higher, with the 10-year yield rising to 0.74% this morning, while the dollar is slightly weaker. Crude oil is also bouncing, with Brent climbing above $40 per barrel.

Global Central Banks Increase Extraordinary Stimulus

Investor risk appetite continues to receive support from ever easier monetary policy around the world, with the Federal Reserve announcing yesterday that it would begin purchasing individual corporate bonds and the Bank of Japan overnight upsizing its lending program to cash-strapped businesses. Yesterday, US equities accelerated to the upside after the Fed announced updates to the $750 billion Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF), thereby expanding its purchases beyond credit ETFs to include individual bonds that have remaining maturities of five years or less. For context, the SMCCF is designed to support market liquidity and the availability of credit for large employers. However, this augmentation of the program is not evidently in response to any increased stress in the market, given that the spreads on both investment grade and high yield bonds are already back at their most favorable levels since early March and companies have issued a flood of debt in recent months, with investment grade companies raising nearly as much so far in 2020 as they did all last year. This followed the Fed’s announcement earlier on Monday that the long-awaited $600 billion Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) is finally up and running after significant changes to the lending terms had been made in order to make it more attractive for businesses to borrow. Chair Powell is expected to discuss these programs, future policy options, and his somber outlook for the US economy in his biannual Humphrey-Hawkins testimony before Congress this week, which starts today with the Senate Banking Committee. Meanwhile, Governor Kuroda remained similarly focused on downside risks to Japan’s economy and the potential for a second wave of the pandemic later this year at the Bank of Japan (BoJ) meeting overnight. The BoJ beefed up its support for domestic businesses, increasing its corporate lending facility from roughly $750 billion to $1 trillion, though it retained its yield curve control settings. Governor Kuroda indicated that ultra-accommodative settings could extend until 2023.

Trump Administration Preparing to Propose Major Infrastructure Bill

Amid increasing speculation over the timing, size, and composition of the next US pandemic relief package, reports indicate that the White House is also preparing a $1 trillion proposal for national infrastructure projects. The Transportation Department is said to be working on the draft plan, which will prominently feature spending on roads and bridges, but also includes funds for 5G development and rural broadband connectivity. Analysts note that the September 30th expiry of the current funding bill for transportation infrastructure, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provides a timeline for the rollout of this proposal. Meanwhile, House Democrats proposed a $494 billion replacement for the FAST Act earlier this month that met with opposition from Senate Republicans, who have their own version of a surface infrastructure bill worth $287 billion.

Additional Themes

Key US Economic Data Due – Analysts are awaiting this morning’s release of May retail sales data, with estimates pointing to an 8.4% month-on-month (m/m) rebound. In April, retail sales sank 16.4% m/m from March, undershooting expectations of a 12.0% drop and registering the sharpest decrease in monthly retail sales ever recorded. Year-on-year, April retail sales fell 21.6%, also a record drop. This will be followed by May industrial production figures, which are also expected to recovery, though more modestly at 3.0% m/m from the April slump of 11.2%, the largest monthly drop in the 101-year history of the index.

Geopolitical Tensions Rise in Key Hotspots – After increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang, North Korean forces demolished a liaison office on their side of the border overnight, marking a significant escalation in tensions. Still, South Korean assets, which tend to be resilient in the face of North Korean bluster, retraced Monday’s losses, with the benchmark Kospi index soaring 5.3% and the Korean won advancing 0.8% versus the dollar. Meanwhile, reports indicate that three Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese forces near the disputed border. For context, geopolitical risks tend to be difficult for investors to assess.