TradeTheNews.com Weekly Market Update: Corporate Earnings Weigh on Markets
Earnings season has not been kind to equity markets this week. The DJIA fell 2.9%, and the S&P500
each declined approximately 2.2% through Friday as a broad spectrum of corporate names offered weak June quarter reports. Commodity prices saw the recent declines accelerate aided by a strengthening US dollar: WTI broke below $50 for the first time since early April, copper reached its lowest level since 2009 and gold dropped to levels last seen in 2010, with both metals down more than 3% on the week. Chinese stocks were less volatile in the wake of the massive stabilization effort mounted by the government in recent weeks, but saw more disappointing China PMI data. Greece faded from the headlines even as Prime Minister Tspiras forced through two parliamentary votes to secure political support for a third bailout. The US Treasury market trended higher and by Friday the 10-year note was testing the 200-day moving average for the first time in weeks. The curve flattened when long end rates fell faster than short yields, suggesting traders maybe placing bets the Fed will indeed be able to raise rates later this year.
The June home sales reports were mixed. The annualized existing home sales rate rose to its highest rate in eight years, +3.2% y/y to 5.49M units, while limited supply helped push the national median home price to an all-time high. Conversely, the new home sales fell for the second month in a row in June to an annualized rate of 482K, and the May figure was revised lower. The new home sales rate is still up 18% y/y, however one analyst pointed out that the average annualized new home sales rate over the last 35 years was around 685K, suggesting the market has a ways to go.
US weekly initial jobless claims fell sharply to their lowest level since 1973 and widely undershot expectations. Analysts said not to read too much into the claims numbers, given they are strongly distorted by summer factory retooling shutdowns and school vacations, rather than any fundamental shifts in labor market conditions.
The broad commodity selloff got underway early during the Asian session on Monday morning, as gold prices fell almost 4% in a matter of seconds. Reportedly around five tons of gold bullion, equivalent to one-fifth of a whole day’s trade in a normal session, came on the market in China in a two-minute window. Gold prices fell sharply worldwide, and US spot prices dropped below $1,100 on Monday and quickly probed five-year lows below $1,087. Inventory reports helped take WTI crude below $50 again, down about 5% on the week: the DoE and API reports both returned to inventory drawdowns after a few weeks of builds. Meanwhile debate began in Congress on the Iranian nuclear deal (the GOP hates it but may not be able to stop it), while Tehran said it would hike crude oil production by 1M bpd once sanctions were lifted while a return to full production could only take six months.
Dollar strength, driven by divergent, expected G7 central bank paths, has been cited as one of the main culprits behind the commodity price action, along with flagging Chinese demand. On Monday morning, St. Louis Fed President Bullard said there was more than a 50% probability of rate hike in September, echoing comments by Fed Chair Yellen last week that rates would most likely need to rise this year. Note that the dollar backed away from recent highs against major pairs this week, as EUR/USD rose from a five-week low around 1.0808 to above 1.1000 on Thursday and USD/JPY dropped away from the 125.50 level to trade as low as 123.60 on Wednesday. The dollar index touched a three-month high on Monday and fell through the week.
Many big tech and telecom firms had a rough quarter, and share losses weighed heavily on broader indices. Shares of Apple fell around 7.6% in the post-market on Wednesday, wiping more than $60 billion off the company’s market cap, after the firm disclosed lower-than-expected iPhone shipments in its third quarter (47.5M – up 35% y/y – versus a ~50M estimate). IBM reported its 13th straight quarter of declining revenue growth. Microsoft disclosed its biggest quarterly loss ever with its fourth-quarter results, thanks to the staggering $7.5 billion Nokia write-down. Wireless giant Verizon cut its FY revenue outlook as net additions sank for a second consecutive quarter. Qualcomm’s revenue and chip shipments slipped lower, and the firm launched a big restructuring effort.
Meanwhile other DJIA components had a rough quarter. McDonalds saw its seventh straight quarterly sales decline, with global and US comps both in the red in the firm’s second quarter. United Technologies missed revenue targets and cut its FY view. American Express’s revenue fell 4% y/y and missed expectations. Caterpillar saw moderate y/y declines in both revenue and earnings, and warned that many of the key industries it serves remain weak with no sign of improvement. Coca-Cola and Boeing were exceptions, with strong results in the quarter, although Boeing also reduced its FY view.
The earnings news was not all bad. Morgan Stanley clearly routed rival Goldman Sachs in the second quarter, with both earnings and revenue widely outperforming expectations. Revenue saw strong y/y growth, although profits were down slightly y/y. AT&T saw very strong new wireless customer growth and beat earnings expectations. Amazon absolutely crushed EPS expectations and further expanded its margins, sending shares up by double digit percentages after the report, hoisting its market cap above Walmart’s. General Motors saw very strong profit growth, with EPS blowing out expectations thanks to impressive margin expansion. Airlines United, Southwest and American continue to see good quarterly results, aided by lower fuel prices. American Airlines saw profits double y/y. Lilly and Bristol-Meyers both crushed EPS and revenue expectations, and raised FY guidance.
Cigna agreed to be acquired by Anthem for $54 billion in cash and stock, following Aetna’s announcement earlier this month of an agreement to buy Humana for $37 billion. This would leave three big US managed care firms: Anthem/Cigna, Aetna/Humana, and UnitedHealth. US regulators will be looking closely at both deals. Lockheed Martin reached a deal to acquire helicopter maker Sikorsky from United Technologies for $9 billion. If it closes, the acquisition would make Lockheed the Pentagon’s largest supplier. Lockheed said the purchase would have no impact on its commitment to return cash to shareholders through dividends and a share buyback scheme.
The Shanghai Composite kept on an even keel with its third straight week of gain as it tacked on 2.8%, however the stability has come at a great cost. There were reports that Beijing has spent five trillion yuan propping up stock markets so far this summer, which would be around 10% of China’s 2014 GDP and more than was spent on the stimulus package back in 2008. Meanwhile the real economy keeps looking sick: the Caixin-Markit flash manufacturing PMI report fell to 48.2 in July – the lowest level in more than a year – from 49.4 in June. Asia-Pacific currencies have also exhibited more pronounced exposure to the China malaise. AUD fell to a 6-year low after the disappointing China PMI and Korean Won hit 3-year lows above KRW1,170. NZD was at a 6-year low around $0.65 handle last week, but bounced slightly this week on a less dovish than anticipated RBNZ policy statement accompanying its second straight 25bp cut.