Morning Markets Brief 10-20-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are moving higher this morning as investors ponder US stimulus prospects and await key earnings figures. S&P 500 futures point to a 0.6% higher open after the index lost 1.6% yesterday, paring the index’s year-to-date gain to 6.1%, which is 4.3% below early September’s record high. Equities in the EU are flat while Asian shares were mixed overnight. The dollar is steadying near recent lows while longer-dated Treasury yields are edging higher within their recent range, with the 10-year yield at 0.78%. Brent crude prices remain choppy around $42 per barrel after yesterday’s OPEC ministerial meeting produced few headlines.
11th Hour Fiscal Stimulus Push Comes Down to the Wire

Though investors remain focused on the base case of another round of pandemic relief spending after the election, intensifying efforts to reach a deal before tonight’s deadline are likely to keep equity market volatility elevated. House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin proceeded with further stimulus negotiations yesterday afternoon and are set to talk again today ahead of Pelosi’s stated deadline of this evening to secure a pre-election package. Earlier this month, House Democrats had passed a $2.2 trillion package which has received stark criticism from Republicans. Likewise, the White House’s $1.8 trillion proposal fell short of the Democrats’ target. Over the past few weeks, Pelosi and Mnuchin have struggled to reach a compromise, with state and local government aid, liability protections, coronavirus funding, and tax credits as some of the major sticking points. President Trump has stated recently that he is in favor of a higher-value deal, and has even expressed his readiness to match (or exceed) Democrats’ $2.2 trillion offer. Analysts remain skeptical, however, that Senate Republicans would agree in sufficient numbers ahead of such a high-stakes election when President Trump is meaningfully lagging in the polls. Nonetheless, on Sunday, the President voiced his confidence that members of his party will sign on in support, regardless of many Republican Senators having publicly expressed staunch opposition to a multi-trillion dollar package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a vote on repurposing the money left over in the Paycheck Protection Program and is expected to propose a narrower $500 billion coronavirus stimulus deal to the Senate, though neither stands a chance of passing the House given how the last $650 billion Senate version bill was received by Democrats.

More Mixed Earnings Provide Scant Direction to Equity Markets

High-profile reports today may help set the tone for the remainder of earnings season. After the first week of third quarter (Q3) earnings season, which features results from US megabanks, provided upside surprises on headline numbers but elicited nuanced market reactions, this week’s earnings feature a wider sector variation, including tech and consumer goods. Halliburton and IBM reported yesterday, before the opening bell and after closing bell, respectively, with their upside surprises in both sales and earnings providing little support for their share prices. Oilfield services giant Halliburton showed easing losses in its report, but its stock price closed lower as yesterday’s selloff intensified, while IBM beat estimates after the closing bell owing to the strength of cloud computing business, though its stock is down 2.8% in after-hours trading following uncertain guidance from management for future quarters. Today features results from Procter & Gamble, Netflix, Snap, Texas Instruments, and Travelers, while Tesla, Verizon, CSX, Chipotle, AT&T, Intel, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, and American Express report through the remainder of the week. With 58 of the S&P 500 corporates having reported, 86.2% of results have featured a positive earnings-per-share (EPS) surprise and 69.0% have topped revenue estimates, though these impressive upside percentages have failed to provide support to reporting company share prices, which have mostly declined following results.

Additional Themes
People’s Bank of China (PBoC) Holds Steady Despite Renminbi Strength – As anticipated, the PBoC left its Loan Prime Rate (LPR) unchanged for the sixth straight month overnight, with the one-year LPR at 3.85% and the five-year LPR 4.65%. This comes after the release of an encouraging set of September data over the weekend, featuring upside surprises in retail sales and industrial production. With China’s recovery gathering pace and the central bank continuing to refrain from aggressive monetary easing measures being enacted by its global peers, the renminbi is unsurprisingly trending stronger. Today’s slight gain has taken the Chinese currency to its highest level versus the dollar since early July 2018.

Australian Dollar Reacts to RBA Easing Hints – The Australian dollar is down 0.5% versus its US counterpart this morning, as the currency continues to descend from its nearly two-year high, as traders seize upon remarks by a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) official hinted at the possibility of resorting to negative interest rate policy (NIRP). Specifically, RBA Assistant Governor Kent discussed the prospects for further easing, and noted that NIRP was possible. The Bank of England has made similar references to the possibility of negative rates.