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Insight from a Wall Street Legend

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Insight from a Wall Street Legend
  • Another Tipping Point for the Yield Curve

International markets were mixed overnight and stock futures are slightly lower as investors digest Chinese trade data and look ahead to the start of earnings season.

Final Chinese trade data from 2019 revealed a rise of just 0.5% in exports while imports dropped 2.8% on the year versus double digit gains in each in 2018. The trade figures underscore the detrimental effects of the trade war on the Chinese and broader global economies.

Looking into today’s session, focus will be on the unofficial start to earnings season as several major corporations are due to report, including three big banks: JPM ($2.32), DAL ($1.40), C ($1.82), and WFC ($1.12).

Beyond earnings, there is one key economic report to watch: CPI (E: 0.3%), while two Fed officials are scheduled to speak: Williams (9:00 a.m. ET) and George (E: 1:00 p.m. ET).

Earnings Preview: Good, Bad, Ugly

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Earnings Season Preview: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Futures are drifting higher this morning while overseas markets were mixed during a quiet night of trading as investors look ahead to a busy calendar of events today.

There were a few economic releases o/n but none materially moved markets with international focus on this morning’s ECB Announcement (7:45 a.m. ET) and Draghi’s press conference afterwards where he is expected to shed light on TLTRO plans.

Looking into the U.S. session today, it is shaping up to be a busy one. In chronological order, there is one economic report ahead of the open: CPI (E: 0.3%, 0.2%), weekly EIA data is due out at 10:30 a.m. ET, and the Fed’s Quarles is schedule to speak at 11:50 a.m. ET.

Moving to the afternoon, there is a 10-Year Treasury Note Auction at 1:00 p.m. ET and if the outcome moves yields materially, stocks will likely follow. Then, the FOMC March Meeting Minutes are due out at 2:00 p.m. ET and the Fed’s Kaplan speaks later this evening: 7:00 p.m. ET.

With so many moving parts today, it will be important to keep an eye on yields as the bond market will offer the best read of how investors are digesting all of the day’s events.

Specifically, the 10 year yield has stabilized at 2.50% recently and if it can move higher, stocks could grind higher as well, however, if yields begin to drop like they did two weeks ago, volatility is likely to rise again, potentially significantly.

Technical Update

What’s in Today’s Report:

  • Market Technical Update (Three Support Levels for the S&P 500 and a Line in the Sand for the VIX)

Futures are slightly higher thanks to a rally in Asian markets following mixed Chinese economic data.

Chinese Fixed Asset Investment (5.4% vs. (E) 5.3%) and Retail Sales (9.2% vs. (E) 9.1%) beat estimates, while GDP (6.5% vs. (E) 6.6%) and Industrial Production (5.8% vs. (E) 6.0%)  missed.  But, commentary from Chinese officials raised hopes of more economic stimulus and Chinese markets rallied more than 1%.

Today there is one economic report, Existing Home Sales (E: 5.30M) and two Fed speakers: Bostic (12:00 p.m. ET) and Kaplan (12:45 p.m. ET), but focus will remain on earnings (which were “ok” overnight and this morning as AXP, PYPL and HON beat) and Italy.  If there’s further deterioration in the Italy/EU situation, stocks will come under pressure once again.

Weekly Market Cheat Sheet, August 21, 2017

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Last Week in Review

There were some puts and takes from the economic data last week, but in aggregate it didn’t change the outlook for the US economy (still slow but steady growth) or the Fed (balance sheet reduction in September, a rate hike in December dependent on inflation).

I say puts and takes, because there were some decent economic reports last week, starting with a strong Retail Sales report. July retail sales beat estimates on both the headline (up 0.6% vs. 0.3%) and in the more important “Control Group” (retail sales ex-autos, gas and building materials), which rose 0.6% vs. (E) 0.4%, and saw a positive revision to June data.

That was a legitimate uptick in activity and an economic positive, although it remains to be seen whether that strength in consumer spending can be sustained past back-to-school and summer-vacation season.

The other highlights from last week were the August manufacturing surveys. August Empire Manufacturing surged to 25.2 vs. (E) 9.8 while Philly Fed Manufacturing also beat estimates at 18.9 vs. (E) 17.0. To boot, New Orders were strong in both reports (20.6 for Empire and 20.4 in Philly).

According to that type of data, we should see a big uptick in manufacturing activity in August, although I’ll again caution that these are surveys. And, unfortunately, with the exception of retail sales, the other “hard” economic data didn’t match these very strong survey results.

Specifically, July Industrial Production missed estimates, rising 0.2% vs. (E) 0.3%. But, more disconcertingly, the manufacturing subcomponent dropped -0.1% vs. (E) 0.2%. A lot of that decline was auto related, so it’s not quite as bad as it appears.

But, the overarching takeaway from last week’s data is that a wide gap remains between still-strong survey results (the PMIs) and actual, hard data (industrial production). We need that hard data to get consistently better if we have any hope of a rising economic tide carrying stocks higher for the rest of the year.

Turning to the Fed, the July meeting minutes were released last week, and while the market traded as though the minutes were slightly “dovish,” the reality is that they were neither hawkish nor dovish. The minutes confirmed that the Fed will reduce the balance sheet in September, although a rate hike in December seems very much 50/50.

Bottom line, it wasn’t a bad week for economic data, but we need evidence of economic acceleration to help push stocks higher, and that continues to be elusive.

This Week’s Preview

In aggregate, this is a quiet week for economic data (next week is the important week, as we get final global PMIs and the August jobs report), but there are still some potentially market-moving events to watch.

First, the Jackson Hole Policy Conference (i.e. conference/summer vacation) starts Thursday and runsthrough the weekend. The big names will be there: Draghi, Yellen, Carney, Fischer… but don’t expect anything that will move markets. It’s been made clear that Draghi doesn’t want to drop any hints about tapering until the ECB meeting in September (basically three weeks away). With the Fed, we know what to expect…balance sheet reduction in September.

Looking past central bankers, the key economic report this week will be the global flash PMIs, out Thursday morning. Again, we’re looking for the national PMI to match the strength we saw in Empire and Philly last week. If it does, that will be taken as an anecdotal positive. Internationally, there shouldn’t be any big surprises in this number.

Beyond the flash PMIs, July Durable Goods (Friday) is an important report, because it will give us greater insight into the state of “hard” economic data. If Durable Goods shows an uptick in corporate spending/investment, that might put upward pressure on expected Q3 GDP, which would be equity positive.

Bottom line, this week’s economic events should give more insight into the pace of the economy, but barring any big surprises, it’s likely the calm before the “storm” of next week.

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Chinese Data Recap and What it Means for Global Markets, July 18, 2017

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Chinese Economic Data

  • GDP held steady at 6.9% vs. (E) 6.8% in Q2
  • Fixed Asset Investment was 8.6% vs. (E) 8.4% in June
  • Industrial Production rose to 7.6% vs (E) 6.5% in June
  • Retail Sales rose to 11.0% vs. (E) 10.6% in June

Politics - Sevens Report (1)

Takeaway

The headlines tell the story of yesterday’s data dump in China. The reports were universally better than expected, but GDP was the report that warranted the most attention as the headline growth rate held steady at 6.9% rather than pulling back as expected.

Quarter-on-quarter growth jumped to 1.7% from 1.3%, which suggests that the Chinese economy is starting to stabilize towards the top end of the government’s target range of 6.5%-7%.

Looking ahead, the solid growth level seems to be sustainable, and not just a short-lived spike in economic activity. Without getting deep into the details, the growth is consumption driven, and new government policy and reforms are poised to help continue fueling solid growth into H2’17.

Bottom line, yesterday’s strong set of Chinese economic reports were welcomed by economists, as they underscored the positive outlook for the global economy going forward. But the reason the data did not ignite a more pronounced rally in global equities is the fact that growth in China has become more of an expectation, and global growth as a whole is no longer a great concern (as it was back in the summer of 2015).

Instead, very low inflation rates in the US and Europe are the most notable concern, and until those statistics begin to firm, weak inflationary pressures will be a drag on risk assets like stocks in the months ahead.

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