MORNING NOTE: 27.06.2017
Market commentaryThe FTSE 100 is called to open 2 points lower at 7444UK Gilt 10 Year Yield 1.009 Spot Gold $1249.07 +4.26 Brent Crude $46.14 +0.81$ per £ 1.2737 € per £ 1.1375 $ per € 1.1199U.S. stock indexes closed mostly higher Monday, snapping a four-day losing streak for the Dow Jones industrial average on a day of largely listless trading. Utilities led the gainers as falling bond yields made high- dividend companies more attractive to income-seeking investors. Phone companies and real estate investment trusts, which also tend to offer high yields, notched gains. Financial stocks also did well. Technology companies declined the most, giving up gains from an early rally. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.77 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,439.07. The Dow gained 14.79 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,409.55. The Nasdaq composite slid 18.10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,247.15. The Russell 2000 index of small- company stocks picked up 1.86 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,416.64.Press commentaryA ‘fat-fingered trader’ sent the price of gold spiralling to $1,236 an ounce after accidentally selling 1.8 million ounces in one hit, Times.Upgrades and downgradesDiageo Raised to Buy at SocGen EasyJet New Outperform at Bernstein IAG New Outperform at Bernstein Air France-KLM Raised to Outperform at RBC Lufthansa Raised to Outperform at RBC Vodafone Raised to Buy at AlphaValue Amundi Resumed Overweight at Morgan Stanley Hella Raised to Buy at MainFirst Deutsche Post New Market Perform at Bernstein Fortum Raised to Neutral at JPMorgan Tele2 Raised to Neutral at Credit Suisse. Ryanair New Underperform at Bernstein Air France-KLM New Underperform at Bernstein Eiffage Cut to Hold at HSBCCompany newsTravis Perkins PLC said Tuesday Stuart Chambers will succeed Robert Walker as chairman of the board.Debenhams Says FY Profit Could be at Lower End of Range.Petrofac Lowers FY Forecast for Integrated Energy Services.Carpetright PLC said Tuesday exceptional costs relating to loss-making stores and negative impact of sterling devaluation has led to a 93% drop in fiscal 2016 pretax profit.Findel PLC reported a widened pretax loss for fiscal 2017, after booking higher one-off costs, including lease provisions and impairment charges.Playtech Shares : Due to strong investor demand, Brickington agreed with bookrunners to increase placing size to 36.5m ordinary shares, or ~11.5% of company at 924p a piece.
DIARY OF A FUND MANAGER: 26.06.2017
The indices suggest that nothing much has changed in the last two weeks. Perhaps a bit of sterling weakness, matched by higher US Treasury prices, but nothing more than a morning’s volatility. In contrast, central bankers around the world seem to be stirring with talk of higher interest rates and less support. Either they really mean it, or they are just trying to remind investors that complacency is a dangerous strategy. Those employed to read the economic runes are struggling to sound coherent. Growth forecasts remain buoyant, but inflation is not behaving as expected; it is down in the US, with or without lower oil prices. The devil, as they say, makes work for idle hands, and so when the Argentinian government decided to borrow $2.75 billion for 100 years, the issue was nearly four times oversubscribed. Bearing in mind that Argentina has defaulted five times in the last century, this looks like the triumph of hope over experience. Alternatively, it could just be that $11 billion committed to emerging market bond ETFs so far this year will buy anything on offer.UK inflation is on the high side and growth lower relative to other major economies. There is loose talk of a return to 1970s stagflation, but this seems unlikely given how difficult it is for domestic retailers to find any set of circumstances that fits their business models. When inflation has been high in the past, consumers accepted price increases, even if unjustified. Now we just go online and find a better deal. Last year, I reported comments from Croda, which sells chemicals to cosmetic companies, both large and small. In essence, whilst the basic stuff is the same, it’s the marketing and packaging plus, of course, some ‘magic’ ingredients, that determines the retail price. The internet, and in particular the sharing of opinions on Facebook, is encouraging consumers to buy unknown brands. Cosmetics is not my specialist subject, but what I did pick up from a fascinating report is that it is now possible to buy ‘luxury’ eyeliner for £2 rather than £28 and serum for £7, not £75. Inflation, what inflation? And exactly how much are those fabulously valuable brands really worth? Whilst on the subject of change, there are now less than 100,000 payphones in the US compared to 2.1 million in 2000. Things do change and they change fast.Spanning last weekend I travelled from Gran Canaria to Helsinki via London, sharing views with clients and companies. Both Ryanair (from Luton airport) and Finnair provided excellent service, adding to my list of alternatives to British Airways. Only on return did it strike me that these two parts of the EU are separated by seven hours in the air, which is the equivalent of London to New York when the wind is in the right direction. From a veneer of Saharan sand to the glory of a midsummer evening within a few miles of 24-hour daylight and, by the way, only 550 miles from Moscow, I talked the same language, English, and spent the same money, euros. Europe really is a very big place. Domestically, Gran Canaria and Finland have their own set of problems, whether political or economic, but the rhythm of the global economy, dominated by the US and China, is what seems to matter. Finland, population 5.5 million, has had a tough time economically over the last few years, but GDP turned higher in early 2016 as exporters responded to Chinese demand. Despite being mired in layers of bureaucracy, local, Spanish and EU, the Canaries thrive on tourists — apparently it’s been a good winter season and low season summer bookings are respectable.There is a lot happening in China at the moment. News, probably more bad than good, was the FT front page lead on Friday, part of the Lex column and with three more substantial articles inside. A few weeks back I mentioned that the Chinese government is getting better at manipulating the levers of financial power, recognising that confidence is as important as control. Exactly how the latest cycle of credit tightening will play out is hard to predict, but when you have the resources of a $10 trillion plus economy at your disposal, it should be possible to deal with a handful of over-leveraged acquisitive companies which, in true 1980s Japanese style, have spent the last few years buying trophy assets around the world. The impact on the rest of us is what will need to be monitored. In 1971 US Treasury Secretary John Connally said that ‘the dollar is our currency and your problem’, and so it is with Chinese policy which is focused on domestic issues, not ours.My ‘world tour’ finished in London, talking to a Washington-based political strategist about US tax reform and, separately, several discussions with others about the over-valuation of US equities now that ‘‘it is obvious that President Trump is failing to deliver on any of his election promises’’. These discussions highlighted the differences between reality, political reality and market reality which are, of course, connected, but not always in an obvious way and definitely not at the same time. The market consensus is that the Trump administration will fail to deliver substantial tax cuts and infrastructure spending, which means that if there is any progress then markets will respond positively.This is one step towards making the case for investing in the US, but what are the chances of this happening? Turning to Washington, the Republican controlled Congress knows that it has to do something or else lose to the Democrats in two years’ time. The clock is ticking and this is where the political strategist’s comments on tax reform were so interesting. He explained to me how tax cuts amounting to $1 trillion can be manufactured without upsetting anyone. I won’t go into the detail, but it’s all about the positive impact of lower taxes on economics, along with making temporary tax cuts permanent. The second trillion will be harder, but not impossible. What is clear is that any cuts will have to benefit the average American just as much as the corporate world, let alone the top 1%. If this gets done, then the impact on US growth should be plain to see within months, not years.Russian scandals aside, the timetable for tax reform is for these discussions to reach the public domain during the autumn with implementation in the first half of next year. Will it happen like this? Well, as we head into the second half of a year that has already delivered a fair number of surprises, stranger things have happened.As Garrison Keillor used to say, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon……
MARKET INSIGHTS: 26.06.2017
The Bank of England did their best to liven up gilt markets last week, following on from the recent meeting where 3 of the 8 member committee voted for a rate hike. On Tuesday, at the re-scheduled Mansion House speech, Mark Carney sounded extremely dovish and was quite clear that now is not a good time to be putting up interest rates given the political and economic uncertainty caused by Brexit. This was completely contradicted just a day later by the Bank of England’s Chief Economist who revealed that he nearly voted for a rate hike this month and was minded to do so in the near future given rising inflation. Markets are understandably confused about what happens next and have priced in a 50/50 chance of a rate hike before year-end. But most investors probably agree with Carney that the last thing the UK consumer needs now is higher interest costs and that inflation will ultimately subside now that Sterling has stabilised.Elsewhere, there was another bank bailout in Europe over the weekend, not that you would notice it from looking at markets where volatility remains extremely low. This time, the Italian government committed €5bn of taxpayer money to rescue a couple of regional lenders and this comes hot on the heels of Banco Popular being wound down in Spain. However, the Eurozone does seems to be addressing some of their banking issues at last, while protecting senior bondholders and depositors so investors have not taken fright.In terms of economic data, we have been on a disappointing run for some time with most releases being weaker than expected. There are some signs that this might be beginning to turn though following strong US housing data and the German IFO business confidence also hitting a record high. This week, we will receive US durable goods orders and Eurozone inflation numbers although markets will also be watching the US Senate and whether the healthcare bill will be voted through as this is a potential pre-cursor to tax reform.