Sell in May and go Huawei: US-China ad nauseum

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Morning Note

When can we stop talking about the US and China? European stocks called to open higher after a robust session in Asia showed investors are weighing the latest US-China spat over Huawei for what it is. SPX closed down 0.67% yesterday on the broad US-China-Huawei-Google spat, with tech stocks the worst hit. The Nasdaq 100 shipped 126 points to close 1.7% lower. Chip makers were rocked but look set to bounce back today – these rose in after-hours trading and Asian peers were much firmer overnight. 

US-China, Google-Huawei

After blacklisting the Chinese firm, the White House has issued three-month reprieve to allow US companies continue to do business with the group. It’s all rather like the way Trump slaps on tariffs but delays the execution to allow room for negotiation. Whether it’s Huawei or tariffs, I would see all of this in the broader context of giant tug-of-war between the two superpowers being played out in front our eyes. As such, the more this goes on the lower the chance of a meaningful resolution to any of it. Trade disputes ad infinitum, ad nauseum. 

China has vowed to retaliate but stocks in China rose overnight – the more damage the US tries to do the more the market expects stimulus from Beijing.

Brexit continues

We don’t even have a lot on the Brexit front to worry about today. Euro elections are centre stage this week – as noted in yesterday’s FX note, the Brexit Party is set to win in the UK, whilst Eurosceptics and populists of various hue will sweep about a third of the vote across the continent.  Watch therefore for action in EUR and GBP crosses, as well as Italian spreads.  

Economic indicators overnight have been less than stellar. South Korean exports shrunk by nearly 12% in May, having decline more than 8% in April. Singapore’s government has downgraded growth forecasts for 2019. Thailand GDP growth hit a 4-year low. Lots of trade related effects being felt, clearly.

Fed chair Jay Powell spoke yesterday but did not really go into monetary policy. His remarks were focused on financial stability, stressing that ‘business debt does not present the kind of elevated risks to the stability of the financial system that would lead to broad harm … should conditions deteriorate’.  He added though that ‘the level of debt certainly could stress borrowers if the economy weakens’. Move along, nothing to see here. Fed governor Richard Clarida speaks later – will have a lot more on policy and will be closely watched. FOMC minutes are due tomorrow.

Forex – dollar bid

The dollar continues to find bid, with the dollar index touching on 98 again, its strongest since May 3rd. Meanwhile EURUSD has also sunk to its weakest since May 3rd. US 10yr has risen above 2.4% again, having been as low as 2.35% last week. Firmer US yields and the safe haven appeal of the USD in the current trade war situation is keeping the dollar supported.

Yesterday’s emerging three inside up formation on the GBPUSD daily chart fizzled out, with the pound under the cosh still and threatening now to break below 1.27. The 1.2710 region is acting as support for now but the downwards pressure could eventually tell. 

RBA set to cut

The post-election bounce in the Australian dollar proved short-lived as anticipated. AUDUSD was back trading on the 0.68 handle as the RBA gave us a very clear signal it’s ready to cut rates. In fact, this was about as dovish Philip Lowe could be without actually saying ‘I will cut rates in June’.

The June 4th meeting will likely see the central bank move to cut the cash rate to 1.25% from the current 1.5%. The RBA is really tying its policy outlook to the labour market. Unemployment rose to 5.2% in April and the risk is that exposure to China and trade will act as a drag in the coming months. Low inflation currently gives it ample scope to cut rates.

Morning Note: Aussie rallies on election win, equities slow

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Morning Note

It was a tentative start to the trading week as markets digest the last few day’s ructions, ongoing news flow around US-China trade and mounting concerns about what is going on between the US and Iran. 

The main European bourses have opened in the red although the FTSE 100 put up something of a fight to just about hold in the green. Can probably thank the weaker pound for this. Italian stocks are being hammered this morning.

US S&P 500 e-mini futures are green now having seen the broad market turn south on Friday. Stocks fell in the last couple of hours of trading last week on reports US-China trade talks were on hold. The market remains at the mercy of commentary and news flashes around these talks and it is wise to try and put some ear muffs on at times. 

Australian banking stocks were the main winners as the win for the Liberal-National coalition removed the risk of certain regulatory moves.  

Forex – Aussie wins

AUDUSD – ScoMo’s miracle victory has lifted the Australian dollar a touch, but bulls shouldn’t get too excited yet. AUDUSD firmed up on the first session of trading since the result of the election became known. Having fallen close to decade lows on the 0.68 handle, the pair has firmed on the 0.6920 level. Resistance seen at 0.69440, the 23% retracement of the down move from the April highs. Whilst the election may deliver some short-term relief for Aussie bulls, it’s the RBA that really matters. The market is betting on a rate cut this summer and seems likely, the question is whether this is the first in a cycle of cuts or is one-and-done.  Nevertheless, having taken a look at decade lows, bulls will be hopeful that we have seen a reversal in the long-term down trend.

Elsewhere in FX, sterling remains under the cost. GBPUSD is struggling below 1.28 and is showing few signs of being able to mount much of a rally. The ongoing political uncertainty and the open war in the Tory party will act as drags on risk sentiment. GBPUSD was last at 1.2730 and with support seen at 1.2710, the Jan 10/11 lows. 

And coming up this week we have a potentially volatile period for GBP given the European Parliament elections take place on Thursday through to Sunday. We should also be on guard for any EUR spasms if there is a surge in populist parties threatening to shake things up in Brussels. We’ve heard all this before, but nevertheless markets remain highly sensitive to news flashes – only last week the euro was moving on a series of comments made by Italy’s ruling populist parties.  

Oil higher

We have some can kicking but it rather looks like OPEC is leaning to an extension and could adjust the volumes. Compliance was at 160% in April, which gives ample scope to raise output or reduce the production curb commitments. Brent remains bid above $73 on this as well as the mounting tensions between the US and Iran

Morning Note: European markets lower, oil gains, pound under pressure

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European markets opened lower, with the major equity indices pulling back after Wednesday’s kneejerk move higher amid a very noisy, confusing picture for investors regards trade, growth and interest rates.

The FTSE 100 lost 20 points to retreat to 7275, losing the 7300 handle achieved yesterday. Auto stocks are weaker this morning – perhaps a dose of reality in the cold light of the morning after yesterday’s gains. 

Markets recovered ground yesterday, switching from red to green sharply as reports suggested the US will delay auto tariffs by six months. This, combined with some more jawboning from Mnuchin on trade talks, tended to ease the worries about the US-China trade spat. 

But the US president add pressure elsewhere – issuing an executive order banning US firms from working with Huawei. Lots and lots and lots of noise from all sides – making this a tough market to be in.

SPX bounced off support around the 2817 level, which was a big area of resistance in the not-too-distant past, to close at 2,850. 

Bonds bid

The 10-year Treasury remains below 2.4%, with bonds finding bid as the US retail sales and industrial production numbers missed yesterday. 3m-10yr inversion again flashes the recession amber lights – expect to hear more of this talk even though the US seems a long way from recession right now (3.2% print GDP, consumer spending and retail sales at multi-year highs, unemployment at 50-year lows…I could go on).

Oil rallies

Oil – Brent has rallied above $72. Bullishness seems to be down to mounting geopolitical risks in the Middle East. Specifically, oil is higher because the market is worried that the US and Iran are at risk of a flare-up. Oil rose despite a surprise build in US inventories, which were up 5.4m barrels in the last week according to yesterday’s EIA data. We also saw a build in inventories in Cushing.  

Meanwhile the IEA revised its demand growth outlook lower by 90k barrels a day to 1.3m. Whilst this was bearish, the group also highlighted the significant supply side uncertainty – Iran, Venezuela, Libya etc. As we noted in a recent strategy note on oil, the IEA says the supply picture is ‘confusing’. 

Sterling under pressure

FX – Unemployment data from Australia overnight came in weaker and leads us to assume the RBA will cut over the summer (or winter). Although employment rose, jobs growth seems likely to slacken. The RBA has made it perfectly clear that should inflation or unemployment not improve it will be cutting soon. This may well create further downside on the Aussie, which is of course under pressure from the whole China-trade-growth story.

AUDUSD is seriously threatening the 0.69 level on the downside. There is a lot of pressure there and it could go, which would open up move to 2016 lows at 0.68. We’re at multi-year lows here so there is a lot of support to contend with. Whether AUDUSD gets squeezed lower still though will depend on whether the RBA signals it’s one (maybe two) and done, or if it’s embarking on a longer-term easing cycle. 

GBPUSD remains below the 1.2860 level having breached this important support yesterday. Brexit worries abound – it’s either no deal or no Brexit by the looks of things. Next up we could see it slip to the mid-Feb lows around 1.2780. Below that we start to consider a return to the 2019 lows around 1.24 as a possibility. The rebels are putting their pieces in place to oust May if (when) her Brexit bill fails against for the umpteenth time.  Meanwhile as we noted yesterday’s note, amid a broad downturn in risk appetite the pound is exposed. EURGBP is advancing past the 0.87 marker and was last at 0.874, pushing up to 0.88 and the Feb highs.”

Morning Note: Markets recover but Trump factor remains

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Morning Note

From a wine dark sea of red to green across the board: US and European equity markets recovered on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 climbing 0.8% as markets recovered from the steep sell-off on Monday. 

The Dow recovered 200 or so points of the 600+ lost on Monday. European futures are looking positive again as markets cement the gains from yesterday. All sector rose as we saw a broad risk-on recovery. The FTSE was up 1% yesterday and is now looking to push on up from the 7240 level to break 7300 again. 

A series of comments and tweets from the President has markets behaving a little more sensibly, but risks still seem skewed to the downside until there is clarity and a ‘deal’. There is obviously still room for the US and China not to raise their tariffs. Mr Trump sought to play down the tariff hikes and talk up the prospect of a deal again.

Trump factor

The problem right now is that this market is trading on the whimsy of Donald Trump all the time, which makes it a tough place to be.  And yesterday’s rally has not wiped out the losses from Monday. One can only say that we should expect more volatility ahead and more shaking of the tree from Donald Trump. Still don’t discount the prospect later in the year of the Fed raising rates – markets are currently betting big on a cut and if a hike came it would be a major shock.

With that in mind, on tap today we have US retail sales figures. The strong PCE print suggests US consumer spending is strong and we may well start to see the retail sales numbers print higher over the next few months. The US consumer is in fine shape and this could drive the dollar north. 

Alibaba results in focus later with Chinese retail sales growth falling to its weakest in 16 years. Sales rose 7.2% in April. Other China data may also weigh – industrial production fell to a relatively meagre 5.4%, well off the 6.5% estimated.

German economy rebounds

Data just out this morning suggests Germany’s economy is showing some resilience – the economy grew by 0.4% in the first three months of the year.  Some relief perhaps but there is still little to get excited about in terms of the Eurozone economy.  

EURUSD is holding just above the 1.12 level – a breach here could bring in 1.1170 and then the early May lows at 1.11350. 

Brexit talks

News on Brexit – the government will table a vote in June with Theresa May apparently clinging on for dear life and a magical Brexit moment. It’s hard to see it panning out the way she would like. Eurosceptics will scupper anything that she can bring to the table (given the EU won’t renegotiate) and Labour won’t help her out. This is going nowhere – odds on General Election and a second referendum are shortening. 

The Brexit noise is putting some pressure again on the pound. GBPUSD has given up the 1.30 handle and was last holding onto 1.29 and below its 200-day moving average. A breach below 1.2860 would be bearish, before then the dips may seem attractive. 

Morning Note: Trade war escalates, Uber IPO caution, IAG profits sag

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese exports were raised to 25% last night. Trump was true to his word, and there is no can kicking. This marks a sharp escalation in the trade spat, but it’s not gone nuclear yet.

Talks between the Chinese and the Americans are continuing today, although we don’t hold out much hope of anything meaningful being achieved this week.  

It all tends to suggest Mr Trump is playing one of his aces in order to force the Chinese into concessions. His bet is that the US economy can weather any hit from tariffs better than China. He is probably right but this will not help ease uncertainty about the global economy. Beijing is weighing whether to retaliate. 

Yesterday the S&P 500 bounced off its lows, closing down just 0.3% at 2870.72, having plumbed lows around 2835. The Dow was offside by 139 points on the close, but was over 400 points lower at one point. Algos seemed to bidding it up after the ‘beautiful letter’ nonsense.

Oil has rallied, indicating markets have had enough of the selloff. Brent was last pushing up at 70.75, above the key 70.60 resistance point. The flag pattern does look like it could be a bullish continuation pattern that is just about complete – watch for a leg higher. But failure to cement the tentative gains we see this morning would be bearish – look for the area around 69.50 for support.

Asian stocks bounced overnight and European futures point higher today. Chinese stocks were last about 3% higher – just remember how much these stocks had sold off earlier in the week.  There is still hope that a deal will be done.

Uber prices at low end 

Uber priced at the bottom end of the range at $45. It’s a rough time to be coming to the market after the selloff this week but this IPO exists to a degree in its own bubble. Are you betting on the long payoff? If not, you may well be disappointed – profits are not coming any time soon.  

But shares could yet pop higher today, partly because of this conservative approach that Uber clearly learned from Lyft’s bumpy ride post-IPO. I said yesterday (Uber set for big pop despite Lyft worries, 09/05/19) that I would not be surprised if the people selling Lyft stock are simply doing so in preparation for the Uber listing, so be careful reading too much into the Lyft troubles. FOMO is a strong emotion. 

Nevertheless, my main concern is the slowing revenue growth. Whatever the cash burn, you’d want to see accelerating top line growth in a disruptor coming to market.  

IAG profits sag

Profits at IAG were hit by rising fuel costs and a big FX headwind, whilst we see a broader thread across airlines with margins being competed away. Excess capacity remains a problem, as we heard from Lufthansa. In fact, we can pretty much regurgitate what we noted about Lufthansa – lots of competition means no one has the pricing power, whilst labour costs are a factor, but the biggest headwind right now is fuel costs, which were up 15.8%. Non-fuel costs were 0.8% higher. 

Although passenger revenue growth was at a healthy clip, up in excess of 5%, first quarter operating profit slumped to €135 million before exceptional items, which was down 60% from a year before on pro forma basis. Profits after exceptional items – which were zero in Q1 – were down 86%. FX headwinds knocked €61m from the bottom line. 2019 operating profit is seen in line with 2018 – which means no growth in the year ahead. 

Morning note: Equities pressured on tough talk on China trade, RBA holds

Forex
Morning Note

US equity markets pared losses yesterday, with the S&P 500 declining by around half a percent to 2,932.47, having been close to the 2900 handle again. 

Rhetoric from the US side has shifted markedly in the last two days. Having seen progress and a good direction to productive discussions, relations have soured. 

Tweets from Donald Trump over the weekend saying he would raise tariffs on $200bn in imports from China as early as Friday did the main damage to risk sentiment, sparking a selloff in equities. Following this the Robert Lighthizer and Steve Mnuchin said China had reneged on its commitments and painted a very downbeat picture of the talks. This hit trade sensitive stocks after-market and will keep the downwards pressure on equities. 

Quite where this leaves us is hard to say. There is a sense that the US is working extremely hard to extract last-minute concessions from China ahead of a planned visit by vice-premier Liu He. That visit has been confirmed – he is to visit the US May 9th-10th. Equity futures in Europe rose on the news of the Chinese visit still being a go, but risks remain skewed to the downside today it would seem. 

Just talking tough?

Will that be enough to avert the tariffs being raised on Friday is unclear, but at least it means the two sides are continuing to talk and a deal is still possible. However, we don’t know if this is a last-ditch rescue mission to save talks or something that moves talks on in a more substantive way. The optics suggest the former, but one cannot but sense that Mr Trump is playing us a little. He may well be making a deal seem further away in order to make the achievement seem all the more impressive when it comes.

The market has been juiced by expectations the US and China would do a deal, combined with a much more dovish sounding Fed. Those two key planks are what the ATHs rest upon – remove one and we should expect more downside.

RBA holds rates before Australian elections

Elsewhere, in the FX space, the RBA chose not to cut rates, leaving the benchmark at 1.5% again. It was about 50/50 whether the central bank would cut or stick, and it seems that for now, with enough evidence that the slowdown can be blamed on transitory factors, the RBA is prepared to wait and see before easing. Also, with the election looming, the RBA probably felt it wise to wait. 

We’ve seen global central banks pivot from their tightening stance, but markets have just been a tad quick in calling the new easing cycle – the Fed last week and the RBA today confirm that it’s a done deal.  AUDUSD spiked to regain the 70 handle – it may well now keep in a range between 0.7030 and 0.7060, the narrow band it was in for the last week of April.  

GBPUSD remains supported above 1.31 but remains susceptible to Brexit news flow again. Despite all the jawboning, there is little evidence that Labour and the Tories can do a deal. Whether this gaping chasm between the major parties forces the UK towards a second referendum, General Election or a hard exit is still unknown.  

Finally, a word on Bitcoin – the crypto market remains bullish and Bitcoin futures are moving rapidly towards the $6,000 level. This could attract some technical interest as it would mark the clear move out of the bottom formation, whilst momentum traders may start to pile in on the back of it.

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