Trump’s London calling, US-China trade war worsens, oil smoked

Forex
Morning Note

Global stocks were down by around 6% in May – can we get a better June? The runes are not looking great. 

Futures indicate European shares are lower today as trade tensions continue to mount and investors exhibit greater fear about the global economy and the risk of recession. Asian markets were generally lower after a big selloff on Wall Street on Friday that saw the S&P 500 decline 37 points, or 1.32%, to finish at 2,752.06, below its 200-day moving average. FTSE 100 held the 7150 level, but this is likely to get taken out today. 

Trade fears are heating up 

The trade war is not cooling down; in fact, it looks like the rhetoric is heating up and further escalation seems likely. China is raising tariffs on $60bn of US goods in retaliation for tariffs, coming up with its own blacklist of foreign companies, has accused the US of resorting to ‘intimidation and coercion’, and begun an investigation into FedEx. And the Chinese defence minister says if the US wants a fight, they will ‘fight to the end’. No end in sight, and the chances of a G20 détente are slim.

Futures 

US stock futures were lower along with oil amid growing fears about this trade setup. Nothing like progress has been seen re Mexico, and now the market is dealing with reports that the US has been eyeing slapping tariffs on some Australian imports, As we noted last week, the escalation last week with the attack on Mexico – especially as it represented a weaponization of trade to pursue non-economic policies – represents a major turning point and could bring others into the fray. Again, the EU could come under fire soon. 

PMI day 

Data overnight has been mixed but still indicates slowdown. China’s Caixin PMI read 50.2, unchanged from a month before but a little ahead of expectations. Japan’s PMI has gone negative, moving to 49.8, signalling contraction. Japanese manufacturing output down for 5 months in a row, while new export orders fell for the 6th straight month. Japanese equities were down sharply overnight. UK PMI at 09:30, with the ISM numbers for the US due at 15:00. 

London calling 

Trump heads to the UK today – unfortunately he’s meeting a lame duck PM so we can’t expect much of importance. There will be lots of talk of a trade deal with the US post-Brexit. Harder Brexiteers in the Tory leadership race are likely to be emboldened. Expect the no-deal talk to increase.  

Sterling is sure to be under plenty of pressure until the leadership race is clearer. GBPUSD remains anchored to 1.26 for now, having made fresh multi-month lows last week. However, Friday’s bullish hammer reversal may provide the basis for a short-term rally. Just a hint that the pound is oversold and could be ready for a wee bounce. 

Oil smoked, gold higher 

Oil has taken a beating as markets worry more about a slowdown in global demand than supply constraints. Brent has declined by 10% or so in just a couple of days and is holding on $61, while WTI is clinging to $53. Speculators are liquidating long positions wholesale, with Friday’s COT report showing net longs down by 40k contracts. Net long positioning has fallen by about a fifth (100k contracts or more) since the late April high at 547.4k. 

Stockpiles are at their highest in two years. Speculative long positions continue to be cut. Supply uncertainty is losing out to demand uncertainty. Simply put, with OPEC and co curbing output, there is ample excess capacity in the market should it be needed. 14-day RSI and 20-day CCI suggest oversold and ready for a bounce, but this is like trying to catch a falling knife. 

Gold meanwhile is picking up safe haven bid as this decline is not just about valuations but about big fears for the global economy. The easing off in the US dollar has also supported gold. Having broken $1300 gold was last around $1310, with next target $1324.

FTSE rebalancing etc

Finally, there’s a fair bit of chatter about the FTSE rebalancing – will Marks & Spencer survive in the 100? Will JD Sports be promoted? I wouldn’t get too worked up about it all, even if it’s good sport. EasyJet likely to go – shares have been hammered but the business is tightly run and it’s always been one of the smallest in the FTSE 100. MKS lucky to survive with only the rights issue saving it.

Kier – warning on profits – going from bad to worse after the rights issue flopped.  

Astra – hails Lynparza pancreatic cancer drug trials success 

William Hill – bid rumours are doing the rounds 

Dignity – says it welcomes Treasury/FCA proposals  

European stocks rebound, euro about to give it up

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Stocks were lower across the board yesterday as the weight of the US-China trade dispute pushed everything down. From pretty much assuming the US and China would strike a deal, the market is repricing for a prolonged fight.

SPX closed lower by 19 points, or 0.69%, at 2,783, resting close on the 100-day moving average. This was a little off its lows of the day and a shade above the all-important 200-day moving average at 2776. The Dow shipped over 200 points and was briefly below 25k. 

The FTSE is also flirting with the 200-day line having closed 83 points lower at 7185. The pattern looks decidedly bearishy and flaggy right now. Support on the 38% retracement of the bottom-to-top rally from the 2018 low thru Apr high sits at 7150, which we saw tested and rejected yesterday. This was also an area of support that produced a bounce through the third week of May. 

We are seeing a small rebound in Europe on the open but there’s still lots of nervousness out there and the downward pressure is rather powerful and looks hard to resist. Any gains look hard won and easy to give up at the moment.

Forex

Dollar is still bid, pressuring everything else, with the dollar index on the 98 handle as it hoovers up haven demand. The euros is on the brink of capitulation on the 1.11 handle, with the pair last at 1.11343, ready to test those key May lows again, which marked a 2-year trough for the single currency. A breakdown through 1.11 on the downside brings 1.08 back into the picture.

GBPUSD doing very little still, trapped around the 1.2640 region. Whilst we are yet to retest Thursday’s low at 1.2610, we are making progressively lower highs and lower closes – the pound is still under a lot of pressure and this doesn’t look like having much chance of lifting until we know who the next PM will be. Brexit uncertainty remains.

That renewed dollar strength seems to be weighing on gold, which was last back at 1277. Rising trend support appears around the 1270 mark but for now the metal looks caught in a range. 

The GDP second print for Q1 is later – with the market already betting big on a rate cut this year it’s hard to see how a downward revision will really shift things. The first reading showed 3.2% and is expected to be revised down to 3.1%.

Watches of Switzerland

Meanwhile the latest IPO is in London – Watches of Switzerland has priced at the top of its range, at 270p. Shares will start trading today on the open. As we’ve seen this year IPOs can be a rough ride for shareholders and management. Hopefully for the management and buyers it won’t turn out to be another turkey like Aston Martin – one feels the omens are better for this one.

Morning Note: Market selloff, Uber tanks again, Vodafone grasps the nettle

Forex
Indices
IPO
Morning Note

It was another, more brutal sell-off on Wall St led Asian shares lower overnight, setting us up for a nervy session in Europe. Futures right now look positive but we may well see selling pressure re-emerge.

SPX closed 2.41% lower, taking it back to March levels. This was its worst decline since the turmoil at the start of January. The Nasdaq suffered its worst day since December as tech stocks were the worst hit from the fallout of the US-China spat. The Dow shipped over 600 points, to end around 25,324, with some of its biggest hitters affected by the China trade story directly (Boeing, Apple).

Risks for now seem very much skewed to the downside until we see some kind of equilibrium achieved again. The market is seeing the window for a deal causing tightly, although with tariffs not taking effect yet we could yet see some improvement in relations. If this is the third shoulder of a giant triple top in the market there is a hell of a long way to go lower. But we are probably not at that stage yet. The Fed remains on side – bets on a cut this year have shot up from around 50/50 to around 75%.

Commodities

Gold spiked higher as a risk-off proxy. Prices which had dithered around $1280 level for a while drive up through the big round number at $1300 and was last just down a shade beneath this.

Oil had risen amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. However the reality of the trade war began to hit home later and crude prices slid again. Brent, which had leapt clear of $72, was last holding just shy of the all-important $70.60 level. This is a level we have talked about time and time again and it is proving something of magnet for Brent right – a decisive break in either direction could signal a fresh direction.

FX markets are completely ignoring the whole stooshie, although there a touch of movement in the Chinese yuan, but not a lot. Little movement for now as central bank liquidity is onside to keep volatility low. BoJ now also talking more stimulus should consumer prices lose momentum.

Uber stock reels post-IPO

It was a bruising session for Uber with shares down by more than 10% on the day. Adding insult to injury, they fell further after market to trade below $37.

Following the Uber and Lyft debacles, there are now questions over whether some remaining unicorns choose to lust this year. The likes of Airbnb and WeWork could decide to pull their planned IPOs until there is more certainty.

Moreover current market conditions do not seem favourable for listings right now and companies may prefer to wait for a rebound in the broad market before listing. That said, it’s too easy to lump all IPOs into the same basket and see a read across.

There have been notable positives in the latest round of IPOs – Beyond Meat, Zoom and Levi’s shares rising firmly from the strike price post-IPO. Perhaps it’s just a case of good old fashioned stock picking and valuations after all.

Vodafone cuts dividend

Vodafone has bowed to pressure and cut its dividend. Or rebased to use the euphemism. The dividend was cut from 15 eurocents to 9, which is a very hefty cut indeed and investors will punish this move. Unlike some notable others, though, Vodafone has grasped the nettle and chosen to put the future of the business ahead of short-term returns to yield hungry investors. Now it’s not great news, but at least it shows the new CEO is willing to think longer term and is seeking to manage the debt.

On top of controlling debt, one of Vodafone’s key problems is the very large investment needed for 5G rollout. Auctions in Italy and elsewhere (Sweden, Australia) indicate the enormous costs and further divestments to shore up the dividend whilst still investing enough in capex seems inevitable. It is very likely Vodafone will flog its towers as part of this strategy, or to use another euphemism in today’s update – monetise. Vodafone also announced that it will sell its NZ business for $2.2bn in a move that frees up some cash.

Today’s results were full of euphemisms actually. The raw results showed a 6.2% decline in revenues and a loss for the year of €7.6bn. But instead management is directing us to ‘alternative performance measures’, which show far healthier EBITDA growth of 3.1% and group services revenues rising by 0.3%. Caveat emptor. In addition to the 5G cost, Vodafone faces a number of competitive headwinds in Italy, Spain and South Africa. There’s a lot of restructuring going on amid big changes in the industry with 5G. Management seems to be grasping the nettle and should be allowed time to deliver on the strategy

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