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Stock Rally Fizzles Ahead Of First Presidential Debate

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Stock Rally Fizzles Ahead Of First Presidential Debate

Tyler Durden

Tue, 09/29/2020 – 08:14

If yesterday’s scorching rally was ascribed to optimism over covid vaccines and a fiscal stimulus deal, then today’s subdued action can best be described as covid pessimism amid a rising number of pandemic deaths and a cloudy outlook on U.S. fiscal stimulus. Sure enough, a rally in S&P futures fizzled overnight with Eminis trading flat as European shares slipped on Tuesday ahead of a pivotal U.S. presidential debate while waiting for signs of progress on a fiscal stimulus package in Washington and the latest consumer confidence reading. The dollar dipped and Treasurys were unchanged for yet another day.

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US shares were set to open a touch lower, with futures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq giving up earlier gains to slip into negative territory. Hard-hit sectors like hotels, banks and airlines had made strong gains on Monday, as the market’s back-and-forth action continues. Sorrento Therapeutics rose 8% in premarket trading after the drugmaker said both of its COVID-19 antibody candidates showed potent neutralizing activities against the novel coronavirus in a study in Syrian golden hamsters. Tesla fell 3.1% in premarket trading after three consecutive days of gains. Tesla secured its own lithium mining rights in Nevada after dropping a plan to buy a company there, according to people familiar with the matter

A flurry of underwhelming macro-economic data which have hammered the Citi US econ surprise index, increase in virus cases and uncertainty related to the presidential election have weighed on markets, putting all three main indexes on track for their worst monthly performance since March.

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However, as Q3 comes to an end and despite September’s expected decline, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are set for their best two-quarter winning streaks since 2009 and 2000, respectively.

The MSCI world equity index was flat. Europe’s Stoxx 600 fell 0.3%, eroding some of Monday’s generous gains, with indexes in Frankfurt, Paris and London losing between 0.2% and 0.5%. Banks and cyclical stocks led the retreat in European stocks after yesterday’s rally, the biggest upswing since June. Among other sectors in negative territory were automakers and travel & leisure, down 0.8%-1.5%.

Earlier in the session, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat, shedding earlier gains with utilities falling and IT rising. Most markets in the region were down, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropping 0.9% and Jakarta Composite falling 0.6%, while South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.9%. The Topix declined 0.2%, with Saxa Holdings and W-Scope falling the most. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2%, with Anhui Tongfeng Electronics and Jiangsu Sinojit Wind Energy Technology posting the biggest advances. Chinese property and banking stocks fall in Hong Kong, following a report about tighter restrictions on housing mortgages.

The global covid pandemic has now claimed 1 million deaths globally as major developed and emerging economies continue to have a hard time to contain the coronavirus almost 10 months after it first emerged.

As the global death toll surpassed one million investors have remained focused on prospects for a stimulus package to help the U.S. economy recover from the damage wrought by the virus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that Democratic lawmakers had unveiled a new, $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Pelosi in recent days has said she thinks a deal can be reached with the White House on a new coronavirus relief package and that talks were continuing. Mnuchin and Pelosi are set to speak on the proposed bill this morning.

The highlight of today’s calendar is the first presidential debate on Tuesday, with traders pushing up overnight implied volatilities on several major currencies including the yen against the dollar in case of surprises. “Tonight’s debate will be critical, since it represents one of the last set-piece opportunities for either candidate to change the contours of the race,” Deutsche Bank wrote in a note. Needless to say, the stakes are high as the two White House candidates take the stage five weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Biden’s campaign has seized on a fresh line of attack on the eve of the debate with Trump – set for after the U.S. market close – accusing the Republican incumbent of gaming the system to avoid paying his fair share of taxes, even though he himself used tax loopholes to avoid $500,000 in taxes.

Investors continue to weigh the potential impact on the U.S. economy of either the re-election of President Donald Trump or a victory for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Many see a Biden victory increasing the chances of further fiscal stimulus to counter the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, judging such a scenario positive for stocks. Earlier today, Goldman published a scenario in which it said that “a Democratic sweep could have a modestly positive net impact on the trajectory of S&P 500 profits.” In other words, either a Trump or Biden win is good for stocks.

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JPMorgan agreed: “What seems clear is that were you to see a blue wave, a Democratic sweep, you’d see substantial fiscal stimulus,” said Mike Bell, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “The risk, I have always thought, to this recovery is premature fiscal tightening.”

In FX, the dollar eased back against a basket of currencies at 94.185, drifting away from a two-month high of 94.745 reached last week. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was lower for a second day, with the greenback trading weaker against most of its Group-of-10 peers, though most crosses were confined to relatively tight ranges. The euro edged up versus the dollar as institutional investors come back from the sidelines to buy the euro afresh this week, while the pound was buoyed by recent optimistic reports around Brexit and hopes for U.S. stimulus. The Australian dollar rallied for a second day on quarter-end demand from exporters and offshore funds bidding for the currency to settle bond purchases. 

Elsewhere, sterling extended its overnight gains on optimism about a Brexit trade deal as the European Union and Britain kicked off a decisive week of talks. The pound gained 0.2% to $1.2853, just below the $1.2930 mark touched overnight. Against the euro, sterling changed hands at 90.775 pence. “The surge of the pound yesterday was a reflection of the more positive mood-music as the talks kicked off,” MUFG analysts wrote, adding the pound could extend gains this week.

In rates, it was another quiet start to the session with Treasury yields – which have frozen in recent weeks – trading within a basis point of Monday’s closing levels on below-average futures volumes, long end outperforming slightly. Focal points include consumer confidence data, New York Fed conference on Treasury market and first presidential debate tonight. The 10-year yield near flat at 0.654% with bunds and gilts both outperforming by ~1bp; futures volume was ~80% of 20-day average through 7am ET. Stimulus packages were also in focus in bond markets, where Germany’s 10-year bond yield fell to its lowest in seven weeks before first-estimate inflation readings for September.

In commodities, oil edged down toward $40 in New York as traders braced for over a year before demand returns to pre-covid levels. Gold rose, trading at $1,885 last as the dollar declined.

Looking at the day ahead, the aforementioned first presidential debate is likely to be the highlight, while the ninth round of negotiations begins between the UK and the EU on their future relationship. Central bank speakers today include Fed Vice Chair Quarles and Vice Chair Clarida, along with New York Fed President Williams and Philadelphia Fed President Harker. Finally, data releases include US wholesale inventories, along with the Conference Board consumer confidence reading for September. Micron is reporting earnings.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.2% to 3,339.00
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.3% to 362.17
  • German 10Y yield fell 1.3 bps to -0.541%
  • Euro up 0.1% to $1.1679
  • Italian 10Y yield fell 0.7 bps to 0.675%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 1.6 bps to 0.23%
  • MXAP down 0.04% to 170.28
  • MXAPJ up 0.05% to 553.15
  • Nikkei up 0.1% to 23,539.10
  • Topix down 0.2% to 1,658.10
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.9% to 23,275.53
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.2% to 3,224.36
  • Sensex up 0.1% to 38,030.63
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 unchanged at 5,952.06
  • Kospi up 0.9% to 2,327.89
  • Brent futures down 0.5% to $42.21/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.1% to $1,883.97
  • U.S. Dollar Index down 0.1% to 94.19

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Stimulus talks between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats will reach a fork in the road on Tuesday as both sides either quickly seal a deal or the House moves to pass a Democratic proposal and leave town for pre-election campaigning; House Democrats released a scaled back $2.2 trillion proposal to extend support to the U.S. economy in face of the continuing damage from the coronavirus pandemic
  • Economic confidence in the euro area continued to improve in September, albeit at a slower pace as resurgent virus infections cast uncertainty over the outlook. A European Commission sentiment index rose for a fifth month to 91.1, exceeding economists’ median estimate
  • Germany may join other European nations in limiting the number of people at private and public gatherings in areas with high coronavirus infection rates, as officials across the continent labor to reverse a recent uptick in cases
  • Boris Johnson’s officials are working on a compromise deal with rebels in his own Conservative party in an attempt to avoid a damaging defeat over the U.K. government’s coronavirus strategy
  • The U.K. could be facing a long-term increase in the size of the state as well as a substantial tax increase as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The influential research group said Tuesday it is “highly plausible” that government spending is around 45% of gross domestic product by the middle of the decade, a level not sustained since the 1970s

A quick look at global markets courtesy of NewsSquawk

Asian equity markets traded mixed as the region struggled to make the most of the firm tailwinds from Wall St where all major indices notched respectable gains led by cyclicals and amid month and quarter-end flows. ASX 200 (Unch.) and Nikkei 225 (+0.1%) were mixed throughout most of the session with Australia kept afloat by outperformance in tech after PM Morrison confirmed an AUD 800mln commitment for measures related to new digital technology but with upside capped by weakness in consumer and mining-related sectors, while the Tokyo benchmark initially lagged on a retreat from the 23,500 level before mounting a late recovery, with NTT DoCoMo in focus after news that NTT was mulling taking the Co. private. This resulted to a glut of buy orders for NTT DoCoMo which was untraded and weighed on the shares of its parent, while telecom rivals KDDI and SoftBank Corp were hit as the buyout deal could speed up the Suga government’s agenda for lower fees considering that the government is also the largest shareholder in NTT. Hang Seng (-0.9%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.2%) diverged with indecision seen after another PBoC liquidity drain, as well as heading into tomorrow’s PMI data and the start of Golden Week holidays on Thursday, with Hong Kong lacklustre as yesterday’s HSBC-led surge petered out and amid IPO-related developments with ZTO Express debuting in the HKEX. Finally, 10yr JGBs were choppy alongside similar indecision in Japanese stocks with early gains in JGBs spurred as Japanese stocks initially lagged and with support just above the 152.00 psychological level, although the moves were later retraced as sentiment in Tokyo gradually improved and following mixed results at the 2yr JGB auction.

Top Asian News

  • China Developers, Banks Drop After Report of Mortgage Limits
  • China Looks to Normalize Monetary Policy as Economy Stabilizes
  • Singapore Airlines Turns A380 Superjumbo Into Pop-Up Restaurant
  • Goldman Joins JPMorgan in Building Singapore Forex Trading Hub

The European equity space mostly trades with mild losses (-0.3%) as the region unwinds some of yesterday’s gains after sentiment faded throughout the APAC hours into early European doors. US equity futures meanwhile hover just below-par but with the depth of losses relatively shallow ahead of the US Presidential debate. Broad-based losses are seen across EU bourses but UK’s FTSE (-0.5%) modestly lags on account of a firmer Sterling coupled with underperformance in the Energy and Financials sectors, with the former on the back of energy prices and the latter seemingly a reversal of yesterday’s firm gains. No real risk profile can be derived from sectors themselves, whilst the sectoral breakdown sees yesterday’s winners at the foot of the pile. In terms of individual movers, HSBC (-3.5%) resides towards the bottom of the Stoxx 600 as it reverses some of yesterday’s gains. Maersk (+2.6%) is propped up by two separate broker upgrades at Jefferies and Goldman Sachs. Finally, William Hill (+0.7%) experiences modest gains after reports that Betfred is interested in acquiring the Co’s shops in the UK, whilst reports stated that two other parties are interested in the entirety of William Hill’s non-US businesses.

Top European News

  • Macron Gives Belarus Opposition Leader Highest-Ranking Meeting
  • EQT Said to Weigh IPO of German Facilities Manager Apleona
  • Nokia Expands 5G Deal With U.K.’s BT to Fill Huawei Void
  • Valmet Targets Neles Merger, Jeopardizing $2 Billion Deal

In FX, it’s quite tight at the top of the major ranks as Aud/Usd tests 0.7100+ levels in wake of another steady October RBA rate outlook overnight, this time from Citi, while the Kiwi hovers below 0.6600 and 1.0800 vs its US and Antipodean counterparts in advance of NZ building consents.

  • GBP/EUR – Also firmer against the Greenback, as Sterling consolidates around 1.2850 and above 0.9100 vs the Euro amidst more positive sounding Brexit vibes. According to latest media reports, the EU has relented on its criteria for crafting a joint trade deal text that required a broad agreement on all outstanding issues, while head of the European Commission von der Leyen has repeated that she is ‘convinced’ a pact with the UK is possible.and Euro in the high 1.1600 area, still defying relatively strong month end sell signals vs the Buck and weak Eurozone inflation data from the German states indicating a clear downward bias to the flat y/y national consensus. However, Eur/Usd remains bearish from a chart perspective while closing below a key fib retracement level just below 1.1700.
  • CHF/CAD – Both narrowly mixed against a rather flat, lethargic US Dollar as the DXY idles between 94.070-298 parameters, with the Franc and Loonie within confined 0.9250-34 and 1.3391-56 respective ranges ahead of the Swiss KOF indicator and Canadian PPI on Wednesday.
  • JPY – The G10 laggard and pivoting away from decent option expiries at 105.00 and 105.30-35 (2.6 bn and 1.5 bn) vs the Usd, but the Yen is closer to interest at 123.20 (1.8 bn) in Eur cross terms in the midst of a series of expiries spanning 122.00 through 124.00.
  • SCANDI/EM – Little reaction to a raft of Swedish sentiment metrics or another Riksbank reminder that the Sek is not currently a decisive factor for policy deliberations as the Crown straddles 10.5500 vs the Euro. However, ongoing geopolitical tensions and conflict are prompting further underperformance in the Turkish Lira and Russian Rouble to the extent that an improvement in economic confidence and the promise of more normalisation steps to support financial stability have not prevented Usd/Try from rallying beyond 7.8500. Meanwhile, the CBR has been forced to ramp up its daily interventions by Rub 2.9 bn from October 1 and until December on top of current operations, as it slides towards 80.0000.

In commodities, WTI and Brent front month futures see mild losses of some USD 0.30/bbl a piece, coinciding with the broad losses across European equities amid a lack of fresh fundamentals for the energy complex. Eyes remain on the demand side of the equation as the global COVID-19 death tally surpasses 1mln. Elsewhere, in terms of the of the Azeri-Armenian conflict, the Azeri State Oil Company reassured that the country’s oil infrastructures are safe, which comes amid concern that the recent clashed could impact production or pipeline facilities. The session also saw comments from Vitol’s CEO, who noted that he sees the price of oil “up a bit in the next six months”, and added they have “modest expectations”. Aside from that, crude-specific news flow has been scarce. WTI Nov meanders just above the USD 40/bbl mark after dipping from a high of 40.70/bbl, whilst its Brent counterpart narrowly holds onto a USD 42/bbl level having has tested the level to the downside overnight. Precious metals meanwhile remain contained within tight ranges – with spot gold just north of USD 1880/oz after taking a jab at USD 1875/oz to the downside in APAC hours, whilst spot silver holds its head above USD 23.50/oz ahead of today’s US debate showdown. LME copper prices ease in tandem with the overall risk sentiment. Separately, Dalian iron ore futures were supported overnight as Vale said it was suspending operations at a Brazilian concentration plant.

US Event Calendar

  • 8:30am: Advance Goods Trade Balance, est. $81.8b deficit, prior $79.3b deficit
  • 8:30am: Wholesale Inventories MoM, est. -0.05%, prior -0.3%; Retail Inventories MoM, est. 1.05%, prior 1.2%
  • 9am: S&P CoreLogic CS 20-City MoM SA, est. 0.1%, prior 0.0%; 20-City YoY NSA, est. 3.6%, prior 3.46%
  • 10am: Conf. Board Consumer Confidence, est. 90, prior 84.8; Present Situation, prior 84.2; Expectations, prior 85.2

Fed speakers:

  • 8:25am: Fed’s Held Discusses Libor Countdown
  • 9:15am: Fed’s Williams Speaks at Treasury Market Conference
  • 9:30am: Fed’s Harker Discusses Machine Learning
  • 11:40am: Fed’s Clarida to Moderate Panel on Treasury Market
  • 1pm: Fed’s Williams Takes Part in a Fireside Chat
  • 1pm: Fed’s Quarles to Speak on Panel on Financial Regulation
  • 3pm: Fed Quarles to Speak on Financial Stability Webinar

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Risk assets began the week on a strong note yesterday, as investors’ focus remained on US politics ahead of tonight’s all-important first debate. By the close, the S&P 500 was up +1.61% following four consecutive weekly declines, in a broad-based advance that saw every sector and more than 93% of the index move higher on the day. Cyclicals such as banks (+2.73%), autos (+2.68%), and energy (+2.33%) all led the index higher, while tech was more in the middle of the pack as the NASDAQ rose +1.87%. Europe saw some even stronger moves as the STOXX 600 (+2.22%) and the DAX (+3.22%) both saw their best day since June, in spite of continued concerns on the continent over the coronavirus. Banks outperformed on both sides of the Atlantic, with the STOXX Banks (+5.63%) and the S&P 500 Banks (+2.73%) both having their strongest day in over a month. With the European bank index hitting 32-year lows last week this could be seen as welcome relief.

As mentioned, the likely highlight for markets today will actually come after tonight’s US close when President Trump and Joe Biden debate for the first time at 21:00 ET. We’ll bring you the run-down in tomorrow’s edition, but with futures indicating heightened volatility around Election Day across multiple asset classes, tonight’s debate will be critical, since it represents one of the last set-piece opportunities for either candidate to change the contours of the race, not least with the large number of early mail-in votes expected to be cast this year thanks to the pandemic.

In terms of the state of play, Biden still has the advantage ahead of tonight, with the RealClearPolitics polling average putting him +6.8pts ahead of Trump, while Biden is also ahead in most of the battleground states. In retrospect, few elections have hinged on a debate, but a number have shaken up the race over the years, and there’s obviously the potential for major downside if a candidate commits a significant gaffe. Indeed back in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney surged in the polls following his strong performance in the first debate, though it wasn’t enough to win that November. As a reminder, subject to news developments, the topics expected to be covered tonight include the Trump and Biden records; the Supreme Court; Covid-19; the economy; race and violence in our cities; and the integrity of the election.

Staying with US politics, talk of fiscal stimulus helped equities yesterday, after Speaker Pelosi told CNN over the weekend that House Democrats still see a possibility of Fiscal stimulus getting done. Pelosi said they can get a deal done but that the White House had to increase their current offer, with Democrats and Republicans remaining over $1 trillion dollars apart. She reportedly met with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin over the weekend and again on Monday, with her spokesman saying the two agreed to continue conversing in the coming week. Overnight, Democrats have unveiled a $2.2tn pandemic relief bill with media reports indicating that the House could vote on it later this week. However it’s not clear how much traction will this get in the Senate. The plan includes new aid for airlines, restaurants and small businesses that wasn’t in the earlier version which the House passed in May. The bill also seeks to provide another round of $1,200 direct relief payments to individuals and $500 per dependent. It also has $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits through January, the same amount that expired in July. Meanwhile, with Senate leadership moving along with the Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Mnuchin and Pelosi are the most important figures in the fight for additional fiscal funds.

While we are on politics, here in the UK, The Times reported that the EU negotiators have indicated for the first time that they are prepared to start writing a joint legal text of a trade agreement with the UK, before fresh Brexit talks begin today. This is potentially a significant move by the bloc as it is stepping away from its previous demand that the two sides should reach a broad agreement on all the outstanding areas of dispute before drafting a final agreement. However, in return the UK side is expected to engage in discussions on post-Brexit fishing quotas and the government’s future subsidy policy, two of the biggest remaining sticking points. Cable is up +0.20% this morning to $1.2860.

Asian markets are following Wall Street’s lead this morning with the Shanghai Comp (+0.52%), Kospi (+1.02%) and India’s Nifty (+0.25%) all up. The Nikkei (+0.01%) is trading broadly flat as most stocks are trading ex-dividend while the Hang Seng (-0.25%) is down. Futures on the S&P 500 are also up +0.35%. In other overnight news, the BoJ’s summary of opinions from the last meeting in mid-September indicated that some board members discussed whether a new policy approach is needed in the age of Covid-19 to hit an increasingly distant price goal.

Unsurprisingly Covid-19 remains in the spotlight as speculation continues that there’ll be further restrictions heading into the winter months, particularly in Europe where cases have risen noticeably in recent weeks. Reports from Germany yesterday said that German Chancellor Merkel warned an internal party conference that the country could see 19,200 infections per day by Christmas, while in the UK it was announced that households in the North-East of England would face further restrictions on mixing between households in any indoor setting. You can see the latest new cases table below. Some of the daily numbers are still impacted by weekend reporting so the 7 day rolling figure is best.

Staying with the virus, in the US, President Trump announced that the Federal government will be sending 100 million rapid-result tests to states which can help with efforts to get students back to school. The single-use tests are the size of credit cards and give results in just 15 minutes, allowing them to be administered nearly anywhere. Such quick testing has been discussed a fair amount of late and could be the bridge to getting life back towards some normality prior to their being a vaccine. However we need to see evidence that they work and for mass roll out first.

Moving across to Europe, the euro pared back gains somewhat yesterday as ECB President Lagarde spoke before a European Parliament committee, though the main headlines from her statement were in line with the last press conference. In terms of the headlines, Lagarde noted that the ECB is ready to deploy more monetary stimulus if the economic recovery falters. Lagarde did not comment on the specific level of the Euro, and reiterated that the strength of the currency is not a policy target for the ECB. Meanwhile, a Reuters report citing ECB sources said that policymakers in the ECB were increasingly divided on the economic response to Covid-19, with the report saying that the hawks viewed the economic forecasts as too pessimistic and wanted the central bank to reduce its bond purchases.

Against this backdrop, it was a fairly steady day for sovereign bonds in Europe, with a slight narrowing of peripheral spreads in line with the broader rally for risk assets. In terms of the moves, yields on 10yr bunds (+0.1bps) saw a modest increase, while those on Italian (-0.7bps) and Spanish bonds (-0.2bps) both saw a modest decline. Over in the US meanwhile, 10yr Treasury yields ended the day down -0.2bps at 0.653%. The rise in risk assets saw the US dollar have its worst day in a month, falling -0.38%. The drop in the dollar saw commodities rise with WTI (+0.87%) and Brent (+1.22%) gaining moderately, along with other industrial inputs like copper (+0.55%). Gold rose +1.07% in its best day since late August.

Sterling performed strongly yesterday, with a +0.69% advance against the falling US dollar, as more hawkish monetary policy comments supported the currency alongside a little more optimism surrounding Brexit in recent days. The policy comments of note came from Bank of England Deputy Governor Ramsden, who said on negative interest rates that “We’re not about to use them imminently”, in comments dated September 20, which went against more positive comments over the weekend from the MPC’s Silvana Tenreyro, who said that there’d been “encouraging” evidence when it came to the policy.

To the day ahead now, and the aforementioned first presidential debate is likely to be the highlight, while the ninth round of negotiations begins between the UK and the EU on their future relationship. Central bank speakers today include Fed Vice Chair Quarles and Vice Chair Clarida, along with New York Fed President Williams and Philadelphia Fed President Harker. Finally, data releases include UK mortgage approvals for August, the Euro Area’s final consumer confidence reading for September, the preliminary September reading of German CPI, the preliminary August reading of US wholesale inventories, along with the Conference Board consumer confidence reading for September.

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Tyler Durden

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