Morning Markets Brief 10-21-2020

Summary and Price Action Rundown

Global risk assets are trading with a cautious tone this morning as investors continue to monitor US stimulus negotiations and digest mixed earnings reports. S&P 500 futures indicate a 0.2% lower open after the advanced 0.5% yesterday, upping the index’s year-to-date gain to 6.6%, which is 3.9% below early September’s record high. Equities in the EU are underperforming while Asian shares were mixed overnight. The dollar is sliding back toward recent lows while longer-dated Treasury yields are continuing higher within their recent range, with the 10-year yield at 0.80%. Brent crude prices remain choppy around $42 per barrel after the OPEC ministerial meeting earlier this week produced few headlines.

Pre-Election Stimulus Hopes Waver as Differences Persist

Thought House Speaker Pelosi has downplayed her self-imposed deadline of yesterday and talks are continuing today, mixed signals are dampening optimism for a pre-election pandemic relief package. With time running short for House Democrats and the White House to successfully bridge their key differences over stimulus bill terms before the election, Speaker Pelosi has signaled that she will continue negotiating through the end of the week rather than hold to her deadline of this evening. Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin continued their talks yesterday, though no deal was finalized, and are set to meet again today. White House Chief of Staff Meadows made encouraging statements on CNBC after the closing bell, characterizing the two sides as narrowing their differences and Speaker Pelosi continued to express optimism. Senate Majority Leader McConnell, however, has reportedly been warning the White House against making a deal with House Democrats prior to the election when his priority is confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, McConnell stated he would bring a comprehensive coronavirus bill to the Senate floor should an agreement be reached, though it is not clear whether there would be sufficient support from the GOP caucus to pass it. Meanwhile, the Senate will vote on a bill that would reallocate unused funds from the March stimulus package to resume the Paycheck Protection Program and support small businesses. Today, the Senate will also vote on a $500 billion broader stimulus package, though Democrats are expected to block both from passing.

Earnings Reports Continue to Provide Scant Support for Stocks

Amid broadly mixed results for the third quarter (Q3), the high-profile disappointment for Netflix after yesterday’s closing bell is not spilling over into broader sentiment. Shares of Netflix are down 5.3% in pre-market trading after the streaming giant added fewer subscribers than expected and guided for a lower number of subscribers in the upcoming quarter. With so-called “stay at home” stocks like Netflix leading the rebound for US equity indexes over the past six months, some analysts are suggesting that this downbeat result is another sign that despite the persistence of Covid-19, the advantage of the pandemic’s corporate “winners” might be waning. However, shares of Snap are surging, with a 23.2% gain in early trading, after the company impressed analysts with its strong sales figures after yesterday’s closing bell. Proctor & Gamble also beat estimates yesterday and posted moderate gains. Today, Tesla, Verizon, CSX, and Chipotle will issue results, with AT&T, Intel, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, and American Express reporting through the remainder of the week. With 75 of the S&P 500 corporates having reported, 86.7% of results have featured a positive earnings-per-share (EPS) surprise and 72.0% 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

Google in the Antitrust Crosshairs – The Department of Justice (DoJ) announced its intent to file an antitrust lawsuit yesterday against Google, claiming the IT behemoth has engaged in conduct aimed at preserving a monopoly in search and search-advertising services, but its share price closed higher nonetheless and is rising in pre-market trading as well. The filing marks the most aggressive antitrust challenge by the US government in more than two decades, marking a significant shift from policymaker attentiveness to active pursuit of tech giants that have long been identified as suspects of monopolistic practices. Eleven states will join the federal government’s complaint which follows a year-long probe by DoJ investigators and a major congressional report finding that Google and other tech giants have wielded their dominance in anticompetitive ways.

Brexit Headlines Spur the Pound – The UK currency is up 0.8% versus the dollar this morning after EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Barnier made upbeat comments on the prospects for a deal and highlighted the EU’s “respect of British sovereignty.” These remarks drew a positive response from financial markets and also the UK government, with a spokesperson welcoming the ingratiating rhetoric.