Midday wrap: Europe higher as risk appetite returns, DAX near ATHs

Forex
Indices

European markets enjoyed solid gains Thursday as risk appetite returned. But the rally hardly betrays a wanton desire for equities because a) we’re already at or near record highs and b) the selloff had not been especially deep despite US-Iran conflict fears seeing havens enjoy firm bid. Even a shaky ceasefire is enough right now to support the bulls. Stronger-than-expected German industrial production figures (+1.1% vs -1.7% prev and 0.8% est) are helping sentiment, particularly in Frankfurt.

The DAX has led the charge with a 1.25% push higher to 13,485, having earlier touched a high of 13,522. With investors apparently keen to load up on risk with US-Iran tensions easing and a US-China trade deal baked in, we may well see the drive to January 2018’s all-time high just shy of 13,600. Geopolitical risks remain of course with the situation in the Middle East still fluid, but you get the sense the bulls are keen to push this over the line. 

The FTSE 100 added 0.5% to break 7600 with resistance seen at 7675, the high posted Dec 27th.  A softer pound is compensating for the weaker oil price.

Elsewhere US markets are firmer again with the Dow shaping up for a triple-digit gain on the open.

Oil has held just short of $60 with no further losses while gold is also holding the line around $1545. 

In FX, the pound took a drubbing as the market decided Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s comments were more dovish than before. GBPUSD slipped the 1.31 handle to test support on the 50-day moving average around 1.3010. I don’t see much in what he said as particularly more dovish than in the past. Commentary around the likelihood of the UK agreeing a trade deal with the EU before the end of 2020 is also weighing on the pound today. 

Meanwhile, as flagged in the morning note, the bullish engulfing daily candle for USDJPY is resulting in further gains today with the pair moving to 109.50 and momentum in favour of USD across the board. Having cleared the 200-day and other MAs bulls are looking to break the trend line drawn from the falling highs since the swing high of Oct 2018. Big 61% Fib level to cross at 109.60 where we have seen rallies hit a wall several times lately. This level will offer a decent amount of resistance as a result. 

US pre-mkts 

Cowen has come out with a bunch of price target upgrades 

Facebook raised PT to $245 from $240 

Alphabet raised PT to $1575 from $1525 

Twitter raised PT to $34 from $32 

Elsewhere AMD shares are up c2.5% pre-market after Mizuho raised the stock to buy. 

Benchmark has initiated Lyft with a sell rating , price target of $35, which is $10 below yesterday’s closing price. 

Boeing shares are up a touch pre-mkt despite Berenberg cutting to hold. After enjoying a thumping 5% jump yesterday, Tesla shares are a touch softer pre-market after being cut to neutral at Baird, a long-time bull which seems to think the recent rally has run its course. They said: “we would not short the stock and remain positively biased over the long run.” See yesterday’s Equity Strategy: US earnings Q4 preview: Two major stocks to watchfor more on Tesla.

European equities rally as euro, pound crack lower

Forex
IPO
Morning Note

European markets were on the front foot on Friday morning despite a weak cue from the US and Asia as currency weakness and expectations for yet lower interest rates fuelled risk appetite. Asian shares plumbed a three-week low but European bourses are trading up again. The FTSE 100 continued the good work from Thursday to hit 7400 and make a clear break out of the recent range. With the move north a decent case to make for the 7450 area, the 61.8% retracement of the August retreat.

The S&P 500 declined quarter a percent to 2977.62 against a back drop of political uncertainty in Washington. Markets won’t like these impeachment hearings but ultimately the risk of Mr Trump being ousted by Congress appears very slim indeed.

Another stinker of an IPO – Peloton shares priced at $29 but were down $2 at $27 on the first tick and ended 11.2% lower at $25.76. First day nerves maybe but this stock has fad written all over it. Think GoPro.

On the matter of dodgy prospectuses and dubious IPOs… S&P has downgraded WeWork debt another notch, and slapped a negative outlook on for good measure.

FX – the euro now looks to be on the precipice, on the verge of breaking having made fresh two-year lows on EURUSD. Whilst the 1.09 level may still hold, the banging on the Sep 3/12 lows at 1.09250 has produced a result with overnight tests at 1.09050. We’ve seen a slight bounce early doors in Europe but the door is ajar for bears. The Euro is under pressure as ECB chief economist Lane said there is room for more cuts and said the September measures were ‘not such a big package’. How much more can the ECB feasibly do?

Sterling is tracking lower against the broader moves in favour of USD. There is a chance as we approach crunch time on Brexit that GBPUSD pushes back to the lower end of the recent range, the multi-year lows around 1.19. Bulls have a fairly high bar to clear at 1.25. At time of publication, the pound had cracked below yesterday’s low at 1.23, opening up a return to 1.2280 and then 1.2230. The short-covering rally is over – time for political risk to dominate the price action.

Bank of England rate setter Saunders made pretty dovish comments, saying it’s quite plausible the next move is a cut. In making the case for a cut now it conforms to the belief in many in the market that the Bank is barking up the wrong tree with its slight tightening bias in its forward guidance. The comments from Saunders are clearly an added weight on the pound.

On Brexit – there’s a lot of noise of course and all the chatter is about MPs’ use of language and how could Boris possibly still take the UK out of the EU by October 31st without a deal. The fact is he can and he intends to. There is some serious risk that GBP declines from here into the middle of October on the uncertainty and heightened risk of no deal. This would then be the make or break moment – extension agreed and we easily pop back to 1.25, no deal and it’s down to 1.15 or even 1.10.

Data to watch today – PCE numbers at 13:30 (BST). If the core CPI numbers are anything to go by, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation may point to greater price pressures than the Fed has really allowed for. Core durable goods also on tap, expected -1.1%. Plenty of central bank chatter too –de Guindos and Weidmann from the ECB follow Lane and then Quarles and Harker from the Fed. Should keep us busy this Friday.

Oil is in danger of entirely fading the gap back to $54.85, the pre-attack close, having made a fresh low yesterday at $55.40. There’s still a modicum of geopolitical risk premium in there though, but bearish fundamentals are reasserting themselves over the bullish geopolitics. WTI was at $56.10, ready to retest recent lows at $55.40. Bulls require a rally to $57.0 to mark a gear change. However we are now touching the rising trend support line drawn off the August low at $50, so could be finding some degree of support.

Gold is pretty range-bound now, but we are seeing it test the $1500 level which could call for retreat to near $1482, the bottom of the recent range and key support.

M&S out of FTSE 100 for the first time

Indices

It’s bad news for Marks & Spencer as the retailer is dropped from the FTSE 100.

It is the first time the troubled food and fashion company has not been a FTSE 100 member since the index was launched in 1984.

The relegation is the latest in a long line of miserable milestones marking the decline of the once-great British retailer.

M&S has had a tough year, with shares down 40% since the start of the year. Based on the closing price of stock on Tuesday, its market value fell below the threshold for inclusion in the index. The announcement was made on Wednesday and the move will be implemented on September 23rd.

This won’t have come has a surprise for traders, as relegation has been on the cards for more than a year as the share price has steadily declined on poor sales, slow uptake of online shopping and recently struggling food business.

The retailer has been one of the losers in the High Street slowdown, but has compounded these issues by dropping the ball with womenswear, with complaints of poor value and enormous competition from fast fashion brands and online retailers.

Its food offering used to be a highlight for the company, but that too has struggled in recent years. Investors hoped that a partnership with Ocado may help the retailer turn things around, but some argue M&S overpaid and is unlikely to realise a return on the deal.

M&S wasn’t the only company relegated or promoted in the FTSE Quarterly review.

FTSE 100 Movers

Micro Focus and Direct Line will also be dropping out of the FTSE 100, and entering the FTSE 250. They will be replaced by precious metals mining company Polymetal, drug-maker Hikma and aerospace and defence group Meggitt.

All three companies have already made appearances in the FTSE 100.

FTSE 250 Movers

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is more movement in the FTSE 250 review. Amigo Holdings, Funding Circle Holdings and Intu Properties have been demoted from the FTSE 250, alongside Metro Bank. Metro Bank’s shares fell 90 per cent over the last year after an accounting error revealed at the start of the year showed some of its assets were classed as riskier than they should have been.

Fund Manager Neil Woodford suffered another blow as his Woodford Patient Capital Trust was dropped from the index; shares had fallen 40 per cent since the start of the year due to investor fears of illiquid assets. Earlier this year, the Trust froze assets to prevent investors withdrawing funds.

Fashion retailer Ted Baker was also a casualty. The company was hit by a huge scandal in March this year, causing its founder to resign as Chief Executive, as well as facing two profit warnings.

On the flip side, Trainline, which only floated earlier this year, was promoted to the FTSE 250. Other promotions to the index were Airtel Africa, Finablr, Foresight Solar Fund, Sirius Real Estate and Watches of Switzerland Group.

US, China jawbone on trade, but markets aren’t taking the bait

Indices

In a remarkable show of restraint, markets have remained in the red despite positive noises on the prospect of reopening trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

US and Chinese officials are trying to sound positive on the odds their nations can reach an agreement on trade. It’s just the latest in a cycle of: sound positive > negotiate terms > back away from a deal > raise tariffs.

But this time around it seems markets are becoming wary of the rhetoric. Today, major indices are mostly in the red. Even the cautious optimism of yesterday’s early rise was quickly wiped out later in the New York session as traders thought twice about bidding up the major indices.

It could partly be exhaustion. The past month has seen the Dow gain or lose over 800 points in a single session on more than one occasion. 1,000 point swings are unusual, but not rare for the Hang Seng these days. Gold has seen movements in the region of 2%, while volatility for oil has produced swings of 5% in both directions.

The mystery phone call

On Monday, China’s top negotiator tried to calm fears ignited by Friday’s new tariff announcements. Vice Premier Liu He stated,

“We believe the trade war escalation is bad for China, bad for the United States and bad for the interest of the people in the world. We are willing to use a calm attitude to solve problems by negotiations and cooperation.”

Trump later claimed that “China called last night”, and strengthened the message by telling reporters at the G7 summit that “This is a very positive development for the world”. He later claimed “I think we’re going to make a deal”.

Asian markets trimmed losses and US and European stocks edged higher. But traders weren’t convinced.

Trump’s claim that there had been a phone conversation between officials from the US and China kept markets on the back foot. China’s Commerce Ministry declined to comment when asked by Reuters for confirmation that a call had taken place. While US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides had been in contact, editor of China’s state newspaper the Global Times, Hu Xijin, claimed that negotiators haven’t talked recently.

After being burned before, markets need something more concrete

It’s not that hard for an official to say that a trade war is bad and they don’t want one. Without confirmation of the key phone call, that’s all markets have to go on.

The major indices today are largely in the red, with the DAX heading towards a 1% loss and US futures pointing to a lower open. Traders clearly aren’t falling for the jawboning – if Trump or Beijing wants to calm market fears they’re going to have to offer up something a lot more solid.

Stocks firmer, China slows, earnings in focus

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

Bad news = good news. Relatively lacklustre growth in China has the market baying for more stimulus. To be fair, despite the headline Q2 GDP number slipping to a 30-year low at 6.2%, there were some signs of encouragement. Industrial production rose 6.3% in June, an improvement on the 5% growth in May. Retail sales also beat forecasts so. Most of the recent softness seems trade-related, with exports having dipped 1.3%.

Asia has broadly ticked higher despite, or indeed because of, the softer China GDP numbers. Futures show European markets are higher after a fairly lacklustre weak. Indeed European equity markets moved lower last week just as the US was punching record highs. Time for Draghi and co to turn the taps on. 

Indices march higher

Wall Street continues to roar higher, with the S&P 500 closing up half a percent on the day at 3,013.77. Oil and gold fairly steady.

Bitcoin is weaker, slipping to support around $10k having given up the $11,600 level. FX steady – GBPUSD holding at 1.2570, with EURUSD at 1.1270. Volatility in FX has collapsed with central banks turning the liquidity taps back on.

Earnings season kicks off

Earnings season is coming with fairly low expectations. Two weeks prior to earnings season 82% of companies that had revised earnings estimates going into the reporting period had lowered them. Lowballing by Wall Street ahead of earnings season is normal, but the scale of the downward revisions is noteworthy. This happened ahead of the Q3 2018 earnings, just before we saw stocks slump into a bear market, albeit one that has proved very temporary.   

Recession – We’re likely to see an earnings recession. Q1 earnings declined 0.29%, therefore making this likely to become a full-blown earnings recession, that is, back-to-back year-on-year declines in EPS. In 2016, the last time this happened, we saw earnings decline for 4 straight quarters. S&P 500 companies are expected to report a roughly 3% decline in EPS this quarter. 

Trade concerns – whilst we had a degree of détente at the G20, existing tariffs are still in place and no meaningful progress has been seen. There’s a growing acceptance that the US and China are in this for the long-haul. The US election cycle means we are unlikely to see a reason for Trump to do any deal until 2020. Whilst for now the mood is upbeat, in the event of no deal, the lack of progress through the rest of the year would likely begin to drag on sentiment and affect equity markets. If corporates see additional tariffs being imposed their EPS forecasts would need to be revised substantially lower. The impact of the US-China trade war on earnings is yet to be fully felt but we could hear from a number of large-caps voicing concerns. The extent to which CFOs highlight worry about trade on EPS forecasts will be of particular importance. Of course we are likely to see a lot of kitchen sinking with companies blaming trade for all manner of ills.  

Banks start the ball rolling this week. Big question over interest rates – rate cuts may well be coming in the US and this will have implications for banks. Net interest margin would likely fall although the easier credit conditions would offset some of the negative effects. Citigroup unofficially kicks off the earnings season on Wall Street today. How much will banks be affected by Fed rate cuts? In investment banking, is there anything from the Deutsche carcass worth stripping? 

Equities 

Sports Direct – the soap opera continues – delays annual results due to House of Fraser uncertainty. The big question was what impact House of Fraser and various other acquisitions of dubious value would have on Sports Direct results. A material impact, one can only assume. HoF must be losing money hand over fist.  Looking to the earnings, top line growth is expected to rise but profits are seen weaker as the cost of acquisitions weighs. Since reporting an 27% decline in underlying profits in the first half we’ve not heard a peep from Sports Direct on performance. The delay in delivering the annual results does not sit well with investors, who must be nervous about what it means. It seems likely it’s been a tough ride in the core Sports Direct retail division, whilst acquisitions have added nothing but increased costs.

NFP beat dampens rate cut bets, but not by enough

Indices

This afternoon’s US non-farm payrolls report was even more closely watched than usual. It is common for traders to get twitchy ahead of arguably the most important monthly data release on the economic calendar, but this was different.

Markets are betting that the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates when it meets again at the end of this month. Pricing suggests multiple 25 basis point cuts over the coming 12 months.

The Federal Open Market Committee hasn’t exactly been on the same page as the markets for some time, and the latest jobs numbers given strong ammunition with which to defend their hawkishness. Economists expected to see a 165,000 increase from today’s payrolls, after May’s dire reading of 75,000, but in fact the US economy added 224,000 jobs during June.

A slight tick higher in the participation rate saw the unemployment rate inch up to 3.7%, against expectations of no change at 3.6%.

Wage growth, key inflation predictor, slowed to 0.2% month-on-month, and 3.1% year-on-year. In both cases the readings were 10 basis points lower than analysts had expected.

Market reaction to non-farm payrolls

Stock futures tumbled, with the Dow quickly shedding 180 points and the S&P 500 dropping 0.8% following the announcement as markets cut bets on easier Fed policy. US ten-year treasury yields gained six basis points in the space of 10 minutes to trade back above 2%. EUR/USD fell 0.6%, breaking through three levels of support to hit 1.1222, while GBP/USD dropped 0.7% to test 1.2500.

The latest non-farm payrolls have highlighted the disconnect between market expectations for monetary policy and what the economy is signalling is needed. It’s true that growth is beginning to slow, and some data has revealed weakness in areas such as manufacturing, but so far the market is expecting a disproportionate response from US policymakers.

Markets expect three rate cuts between now and April 2020, although bets of four are not far behind. There are no expectations of interest rates remaining in the current 2.25-2.50% range – wise, considering the data and global macroeconomic conditions – while a handful of uber doves have gone as far as pricing in seven cuts by April 2020.

Those expectations are likely to cool in the wake of the latest NFP data, but the market is still convinced that the Fed is about to embark on a rapid cycle of loosening policy. It will take a lot more than one better-than-expected data print before we reach a realistic middleground.

Trading frenzy ahead on Russell rebalancing?

Expect a busy trading session thanks to the annual rebalancing of the FTSE Russell US indices. According to The Wall Street Journal, the first few seconds of trading on the day of the reconstitution last year saw around $100 billion in stock trades.

The US benchmarks have been updated to ensure the correct weighting, which means some stocks will be dropped and others added. These stocks can see a flurry of activity, with traders dumping the excluded stocks and snapping up the newest Russell constituents. However, fresh inclusions and exclusions are often easy to predict and telegraphed well in advance.

Fund managers will need to rebalance their portfolios – it is estimated that index funds tracking Russell benchmarks will need readjusting to the tune of $170 billion to keep themselves aligned with the reshuffled indices. $9 trillion is pegged to the US benchmarks in total.

The Russell recon has a bigger impact than other index reshuffles because it happens annually, compared to the quarterly rebalancing undertaken by other indices like the Dow, FTSE and DAX.

Rebalancing is a long process, and today marks the end. The conclusion of the Russell adjustments is often one of the highest volume trading days each year.

As Trump-Xi prepare to meet, Beijing jabs at Washington

Indices

This G20 meeting might as well be the G2 this time around. The United States and China are the main topic, the two having hit economies across the globe with their trade dispute.

Markets have long been hoping that the gathering in Osaka might provide an opportunity for presidents Trump and Xi to meet and work through their differences. It was only a few days ago that state officials confirmed this was happening. Trump had previously dashed any hopes of a discussion.

But while Trump and Xi are preparing to meet to smooth things over, back in Beijing the rhetoric was still accusatory. Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen stated that China wanted the US government to cease “inappropriate” actions against domestic companies.

Beijing hits back at US Commerce Department

On Friday the US Commerce Department blacklisted five Chinese companies from buying components made in the US. It already hit Huawei – the Chinese smartphone giant – which such a ban in May.
CNBC reported that Mr Wang, speaking in Mandarin, commented Monday that:

“We hope the US side, under the principles of free trade and the spirit of WTO principles, can cancel these inappropriate measures against Chinese companies, and remove them from the entity list. This has benefits for both sides.”

S&P 500 1-day chart, 15.15 BST, June 24th, 2019

Markets are currently holding their breath, but today’s response from China is a good reminder that nothing has changed until the two leaders agree a deal.

Dow Cash 1-day chart, 15.15 BST, June 24th, 2019

We’ve been much closer to expecting a resolution before – there was even a deadline – only for things to worsen again. Trump and Xi are sure to make positive noises after their talk, and that will likely boost stocks, but behind their leaders, the governments of the US and China continue to throw punches.

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.

Markets react to European elections

Forex
Indices
Morning Note

European equity markets are on the front foot again, building on yesterday’s gains, as investors breathe a collective sigh of relief following the European parliamentary elections.

European bourses have firmed as it looked like the political centre ground is holding in the EU despite pressure from right and left, whilst we have some upbeat spin on trade to contend with as we hear about a possible US-Japan trade deal. London and Wall Street will be playing catch up today. Futures in the US point to gains today. 

Euro elections: the centre holds, barely

European elections returned gains for a number of right-wing, Eurosceptic parties as expected, but not enough to really shake the ground from under the centrists. The main blocs have held on to remain just about in control, although for the first time they have lost their combined majority.  

The gains for the right continue to point to a problem for Brussels. But there were also big gains for the Greens. The political landscape is shifting, but it wasn’t a Brexit-like earthquake.

The strength of the League in Italy and National Rally in France is noteworthy and will exert domestic pressure more than at a European level. Expect further confrontation between Rome and Brussels. Indeed, on that note, Italian bond yields spiked, with the 10yr BTP above 2.7% again, amid reports the EU is mulling a $4bn fine for Italy for failure to control debt. For France it simply highlights that Macron’s reformist agenda is under a lot of pressure.

The euro though has been pretty well unmoved although London and New York were shut yesterday and we might see traders coming back in today. EURUSD was steady at 1.1180.

Brexit looms over pound

Ain’t no party like a Brexit Party: In the UK the centre has given way completely, and the pressure on the pound remains firm. The Brexit Party won the day, although the overtly Remain parties did very well with the LibDems and Greens enjoying a strong bump in support. European elections are entirely meaningless of course in terms of the Westminster arithmetic, but the impact on the ruling Tory party is key. 

For markets, we should expect the result to impact the leadership race and already a number of leading candidates have upped the no-deal rhetoric. One can only argue that this will, on the margins at least, push candidates more towards the fringes and see the party go more to the right. Given the Tory membership’s pro-Brexit feelings there is an ever-increasing risk of a no-deal exit at this stage. A lot is priced in but a no-deal would see further downside for the pound.

GBPUSD has found support again around 1.2670 and while there is still a lot of pressure, Thursday’s reversal on the 78% Fib retracement on 1.2610 looks to have placed something of a floor under the pound for the time being.  

Bitcoin 

Cryptos have rallied hard again on strong volumes, taking another leg higher over the weekend. Bitcoin is testing the $9k round number resistance, before a tilt at the 38% retracement around $9640 and then the April 2018 high on $10k. Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz the more traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Standing in front of a steamroller springs to mind, if you are a natural bear. Better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way, so watch for those whenever the rally looks overextended – 14-day RSI approaching 90 has been a pretty good indicator in the past. 

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