Weekly Market Analysis – 01 October 2018 BMO

WEEK IN REVIEW – 24 to 28 September 2018 :
Raising Rates and Playing Politics

The S&P 500 pulled away from record highs this week, losing 0.5% in total, as investors digested a flurry of political headlines and the latest policy statement from the Federal Reserve, which included another rate hike – the third one this year. The Dow also fell, losing 1.1%, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq outperformed, rallying 0.7%.

The week began with the U.S. implementing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which triggered Beijing to impose retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products. Chinese officials also canceled mid-level trade talks that had been scheduled for later in the week, dashing hopes for a near-term resolution.

OPEC was also in focus on Monday after it and several non-OPEC nations ended a weekend meeting without an agreement to increase output in order to counter falling supply from Iran due to U.S. sanctions. President Trump criticized OPEC in front of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, saying the oil cartel is “ripping off the rest of the world” by colluding to limit supply and prop up prices.

In the same address, the U.S. president also criticized Iran, which is currently the target of U.S. economic sanctions, calling its government a “corrupt dictatorship” and saying its leaders “sow chaos, death, and destruction.” President Trump also spoke regarding North Korea, ISIS, and Syria, and reiterated his administration’s hard stance on fair trade.

The Federal Reserve increased short-term interest rates on Wednesday, as expected, raising the fed funds target range by 25 basis points to 2.00-2.25%. In its policy statement, the Fed removed the word ‘accommodative’, which led some to believe that officials could be moving towards slowing monetary tightening. However, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said during his post-decision press conference that the language change didn’t signal a change in the Fed’s path for rate hikes.

As for rate-hike projections, the Fed still appears to be on track to raise rates another 25 basis points in December, with the CME FedWatch Tool putting the chances at 75.8%. Beyond 2018, the Fed’s dot plot showed expectations for three rate hikes in 2019 (unchanged from June) and one in 2020 (also unchanged from June).

On Capitol Hill, political drama unfolded on Thursday as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Ford, who has accused Mr. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her back in high school, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee advanced Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday, but a final Senate vote will be delayed for a one-week FBI investigation.

Overseas, two populist parties governing Italy widened the country’s budget-deficit target for next year to 2.4% of GDP on Friday, likely putting the country at odds with the European Union. The major European stock indices sold off in reaction to the news, with Italy’s MIB leading the retreat.

In U.S. corporate news, Comcast (CMCSA) paid $40 billion to win a bid for European broadcaster Sky, ending a two-year battle with 21st Century Fox (FOXA); Nike (NKE) reported above-consensus earnings for its fiscal first quarter; and Facebook (FB) fell on Friday after disclosing a “security issue” impacting 50 million users.

However, perhaps the week’s biggest corporate story revolved around Tesla’s (TSLA) CEO, Elon Musk, who was sued by the SEC on Thursday evening over his tweet about taking the electric automaker private. Mr. Musk and the SEC were reportedly close to reaching a no-guilt settlement that would have barred him from being chairman for two years, but Mr. Musk backed out at the last minute.

As for the sector standings, they were pretty mixed between red and green. The heavily-weighted financials sector was the second-worst performer, losing 4.1% in total, with materials (-4.5%) being the only group with a more substantial loss. Conversely, the newly-added communications services sector was the top performer with a weekly gain of 1.1%.

(Economic Excerpts from Briefing.com)

Wednesday 26 September

New Home Sales in August Okay, Not Great

New home sales in August increased 3.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 629,000 (consensus 630,000) versus a downwardly revised 608,000 (from 627,000) for July.

The key takeaway from the report is that it reflects the affordability constraints that are increasing on the back of high prices and rising mortgage rates.  To wit, the median sales price was up 1.9% year/year to $320,200 and the supply of new homes for sale stood at a 6.1-months’ supply at the August sales pace versus 6.0 months a year ago.

Thursday 27 September

FOMC raises federal funds rate 25 basis points to 2.0-2.25%, as expected; drops accommodative language

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in August indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a strong rate. Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low. Household spending and business fixed investment have grown strongly. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy remain near 2 percent. Indicators of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term. Risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.

In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 2 to 2-1/4 percent.

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its maximum employment objective and its symmetric 2 percent inflation objective. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.

Click here for FOMC release

Third Estimate of Q2 GDP Little Changed from Second Look

The third estimate for Q2 GDP was unchanged from the second read, coming in at 4.2% (consensus 4.3%). The Q2 GDP Deflator came in at 3.0% (consensus 3.0%).

The key takeaway from the report is that it showed no change in personal spending growth (3.8%) from the second estimate.

Transportation Orders Lift August Durable Goods Orders Above Headline Expectations

Durable Goods orders for August increased 4.5% (consensus 1.8%) after a revised 1.2% decline (from -1.7%) in July. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders increased 0.1% (consensus 0.4%) after an unrevised 0.2% increase in July.

The key takeaway from the report is that the headline increase was driven by a jump in nondefense aircraft and parts orders while growth in other areas was shy of expectations.

Initial Claims Increase from Multi-Decade Lows 

Initial jobless claims for the week ending September 22, increased by 12,000 to 214,000 (consensus 209,000) while continuing claims for the week ending September 15 increased by 16,000 to 1.661 million.

The key takeaway from the report is that even with the increase in initial and continuing claims, both series remain near their lowest levels in almost 50 years.

Friday 28 September

Personal Income and Spending Growth Remain True to Trend 

Personal income for August increased 0.3% (consensus 0.4%), personal spending rose 0.3% (consensus 0.3%), the PCE Price Index increased 0.1% for the third consecutive month, and the core PCE Price Index, which excludes food and energy, was unchanged (Briefing.com consensus 0.1%).

The key takeaway from the report is that the year-over-year increase in the PCE Price Index (+2.2% vs. +2.3% prior) and the core PCE Price Index (+2.0% vs. +2.0% prior) will keep the Federal Reserve on its tightening path.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Pulls Back from Preliminary Reading, but Remains Elevated

The final University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index hit 100.1 in September (consensus 100.5), pulling back slightly from the preliminary reading of 100.8.

The key takeaway from the report is that even with the pullback, the Sentiment Index remains above 100.0 for the third time since the start of 2004.

Chicago PMI Declines Again in September

The MNI Chicago Business Barometer, otherwise known as the Chicago PMI, declined to 60.4 in September from 63.6 in August. The dividing line between expansion and contraction is 50.0.

The key takeaway from the report is that the September dip represents the second consecutive decline, returning the Index into the lower half of the range from the past 12 months.

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Friday 28 September
S&P Closes Friday Flat, Securing 7.2% Gain for Q3

Wall Street finished Friday little changed, securing big gains for the third quarter. The S&P 500 kept near its flat line throughout the session, closing just a tick below its unchanged mark. The Nasdaq and the Dow added 0.1% apiece. For the quarter, the S&P 500 added 7.2%, the Dow added 9.0%, and the Nasdaq added 7.1%.

Friday began with news from across the pond, where Italy’s anti-establishment government widened the country’s budget-deficit target for next year to 2.4% of GDP. That could raise problems with the EU, which has pushed Italy to lower its public debt. European stocks fell in reaction, with Italy’s MIB (-3.7%) leading the retreat.

The headlines weighed on the U.S. futures market as well, but Wall Street quickly pared losses after the opening bell.

Financial shares fell once again on Friday (-1.1%), extending the heavily-weighted financial sector’s weekly loss to 4.1%. On the flip side, the lightly-weighted real estate (+1.3%) and utilities (+1.5%) sectors rallied, closing atop the sector standings. Most other groups finished within 0.4% of their unchanged marks.

Tesla (TSLA) tumbled 13.9% after its CEO, Elon Musk, was sued by the SEC over his tweet about taking the electric automaker private. Mr. Musk and the SEC were reportedly close to reaching a no-guilt settlement that would have barred him from being chairman for two years, but Mr. Musk backed out at the last minute.

In other corporate news, Facebook (FB) dropped 2.6% after announcing that it’s discovered a “very serious” security issue that could affect around 50 million accounts; NVIDIA (NVDA) climbed 5.1% after Evercore ISI raised its target price to a new Street high of $400 per share; and Intel (INTC) advanced 3.1% after announcing that it’s making progress with 10nm chips, but Intel competitor Advanced Micro (AMD) lost 5.2%.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh on Friday, but a final Senate vote will be delayed after Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) unexpectedly called for a one-week FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the judge.

Market Internals – Friday 28 September 2018

Dollar: Dollar Index Reclaims 50-Day Moving Average

The U.S. Dollar Index closed +0.15% at 95.13, ending the session at its best level in more than two weeks after climbing 0.9% since last Friday. The Dollar Index built on yesterday’s solid advance during the overnight session, as the euro retreated amid renewed focus on Italy’s budget discipline. Italian officials agreed to target a 2019 deficit that will amount to 2.4% of GDP, which was on the high end of estimates. The euro recovered the bulk of its decline during the U.S. session, which pressured the Dollar Index from its high, but the Index remains on track to finish above its 50-day moving average (95.05) for the first time since September 10.

Bonds: Belly Outperforms as Focus Returns to Italy

U.S. Treasuries ended the week on a mixed note. The trading day started with modest gains across the curve, which resulted from a flight to quality after the focus returned to Italy and the country’s fiscal targets. Italian officials confirmed that the target for next year’s deficit will be set at 2.4% of GDP, which was on the high end of expectations, meaning the European Commission is likely to express concern with Italy’s fiscal discipline. Today’s news weighed on BTPs, lifting Italy’s 10-yr yield from 2.907% to a session high of 3.263%, just 13 basis points shy of the post-election high from May (3.388%). The weakness in Italian debt translated into opening strength for U.S. Treasuries, but Treasuries backed off their morning highs as BTPs climbed off their lows, pressuring Italy’s 10-yr yield to 3.149%. The pullback in Treasuries unfolded over the course of the session, with the 10-yr note returning to unchanged by the close while shorter tenors trimmed their gains, but still finished in the green. For its part, the 30-yr bond settled with a modest loss. Coupled with the relative strength in shorter tenors, today’s underperformance in the long bond undid the bulk of this week’s flattening in the yield curve. The 2s10s spread ended the week one basis point tighter at 25 bps while the 2s30s spread also compressed by a basis point, finishing the week at 39 bps.

The yield curve flattened as the longer maturities’ yields made lost ground while the shorter maturities’ yields remained unchanged. The spread between the 5s10s narrowed to 11bps from 12bps the previous week while the 10s30s remained unchanged at 14bps from 14bps the previous week.

Commodities 

The Bloomberg Commodity Index settled at 85.20, higher than 84.40 the previous week as Energy and Silver made great gains while Gold and Grains fell slightly.

WTI oil broke up above 73.00 and settled the week at $73.25. The spread between WTI and Brent widened to $9.47 from $8.02 the previous week.

EIA petroleum data for the week ended September 21

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 1.9 mln barrels from the previous week. At 396.0 mln barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are about 2% below the five year average for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 1.5 mln barrels last week and are about 8% above the five year average for this time of year. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 2.2 mln barrels last week and are about 3% below the five year average for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.6 mln barrels last week and are about 10% below the five year average for this time of year. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased last week by 4.5 mln barrels last week.

Natural gas inventory showed a build of 46 bcf vs a build of 86 bcf in the prior week. Working gas in storage was 2,768 Bcf as of Friday, September 21, 2018, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 46 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 690 Bcf less than last year at this time and 621 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,389 Bcf. At 2,768 Bcf, total working gas is below the five-year historical range.

Baker Hughes total U.S. rig count increased by 1 to 1054 following last week’s decrease of 2.

Metals: 

Agriculture: Grains lose ground after USDA report

Click here for USDA Report

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THE MONTH AHEAD

October is the first month of Quarter Four and the start of Earnings Season for Q3 results. It is renown for almost all the major market corrections in history. During October, the market gets very nervous because the dates of some large historical market crashes occurred during this month. Black Monday, Tuesday and Thursday all occurred in October 1929, after which came the Great Depression. The crash of 1987 occurred on October 19 saw the Dow tank 22.6% in a single day. Today, the October effect is considered mainly to be a psychological expectation rather than an actual phenomenon. While statistical evidence does not support the phenomenon that stocks trade lower in October, the psychological expectations of the October effect still exist. And because most Octobers didn’t go down, it has the reputation of being a “Bear Killer” month.

October 2018 has twenty-two (22) trading sessions and one public holiday. October tends to start bullish in the first week, becomes bearish in the second week before turning bullish again in the third week. October ends the month in volatile fashion, often making fierce corrections in the final week.

October Trivia

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THE WEEK AHEAD
Week 40 (October 01 to 05)

According to our 5, 10 and 15 year seasonal models;

Benchmarks (21 year average) for wk40:

Week 40 Key Economic Dates

In the coming week important releases include US jobs report, trade balance, ISM PMIs, factory orders and construction spending; UK monetary indicators and Markit PMIs; Eurozone retail trade; Japan business and consumer morale; Australia trade balance and retail sales; and interest rate decisions from India and Australia.

Mon 01 October

Tue 02 October

Wed 03 October

Thu 04 October

Fri 05 October

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COMMENTARY

The DOW is now looking like a giant Double Top if it doesn’t break and hold above 26,750. After eight months below the January high, investors will be looking to cash out on this rally ahead of the famed October Effect. The September Portfolio Dumping session was held off as investors mulled over the longer term effects of the Fed’s latest rate hike, higher crude prices and a resurgent dollar. 

Since the end of July, volumes have been on the lower average for the year. This will be a critical statistic as we begin Earnings Season for Q3 Results in a week’s time. I will be expecting volumes to drop off further in the coming two week as investors hold back in anticipation of the first batch of earnings starting with the first DOW components and mega caps including WBA (11 Oct), C, JPM and WFC (12 Oct) and BAC (15 Oct).

Earnings results and crude prices are going to be keenly watch as an indication to the month-end Fed Decision. With the rising CPI and higher inflation rate, there is little to hold the Fed back from yet another promised hike. The question is whether it will be  the October or December meeting that the hike happens.

Happy Hunting!

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