While US markets finished higher for the fourth day in a row, markets in Asia have come under pressure after the latest economic data out of China painted a rather mixed picture of the economic outlook in the world’s second biggest economy.
China Q2 GDP showed a 11.5% rebound, more than reversing the -10% fall in output seen in Q1, suggesting a nice v-shaped recovery in economic activity. The annualised number recovered to 3.2% from -6.8%.
If you had any doubts about the accuracy of China’s GDP numbers before this morning’s announcement, these figures only serve to reinforce that scepticism, as they appear to completely diverge from most of the data that has come out of China since April. In terms of the trade data, both imports and exports have been weak, while retail sales have also struggled.
Retail sales have declined in every month, by -7.5%, -2.8% and -1.8% in June, and with the Chinese consumer now making up around half of China’s economic output, I would suggest these numbers in no way reflect the real picture regarding China’s economy at this moment.
After yesterday’s strong session, markets here in Europe have taken their cues from the weakness in Asia markets and opened lower, as some of the vaccine optimism of yesterday starts to taper off.
On the results front Ladbrokes and Coral owner GVC Holdings have fallen back after reporting a decline in group net gaming revenue of 11%, in the first half of the year, largely down to the suspension of sporting events. The biggest falls in like for like revenues were in the UK and Europe with sharp drops of 86% and 90% in Q2, largely down to the wholesale closure of stores, though with the re-opening of shops in June these numbers are now starting to pick up again.
On the plus side, helping offset that weakness online gaming revenue rose, rose 19% in H1, with a 22% rise in Q2, with a strong performance in Australia. Management said they expect first half earnings to be within the range of £340m-£350m, while CEO Keith Alexander is set to retire and will be replaced by Shay Segev.
Energy provider SSE has said that coronavirus impacts on operating profits are in line with expectations, with profit expected to be in the range of £150m and £250m, though this could well change. The company has said it still expects to pay an interim dividend of 24.4p in November, in line with its 5-year plan to 2022/23.
In terms of renewable output, this came in below plan, but was still higher than the same period a year ago.
Purplebricks shares are higher after announcing the sale of its Canadian business for C$60.5m to Desjardins Group
Aviva announced that it has completed the sale of a 76% stake in Friends Provident to RL360 for £259m.
Royal Bank of Scotland also announced that from 22nd July 2020 it would henceforth be known as NatWest Group, subject to approval as it strives to draw a line under the toxicity of the RBS brand. This toxicity has dogged the bank since the 2008 bailout, along with the various scandals, around rate fixing, PPI and the GRG business, that have swirled around the bank since then. Investors will certainly be hoping so given the current share price performance, and hope that the change in name isn’t akin to putting lipstick on a pig.
Consumer credit ratings company Experian latest Q1 numbers have shown a large fall in revenue growth across all of its regions with the exception of North America, and which helped mitigate a lot of the weakness elsewhere.
The euro is slightly softer ahead of this afternoon’s ECB rate decision, which is expected to see no change in policy. At its last meeting the European Central Bank hiked its pandemic emergency purchase program by another €600bn to €1.35trn, with the time horizon pushed into the middle of June 2021. The ECB still needs to formally respond to the challenge of the German court irrespective of its insistence it is covered under the jurisdiction of the European Court. Even where Germany is concerned optics are important, particularly if the ECB wants to be seen as a responsible arbiter of the economy across all of Europe, and the PEPP still remains vulnerable to a legal challenge, due to its difference with the previous program. The bank could also indicate if it has any plans to start buying the bonds of so called “fallen angels”. These are the bonds of companies that were investment grade, but have fallen into “junk” status as a result of the pandemic.
This morning’s UK unemployment numbers don’t tell us anything we don’t already know. The ILO measure came in at 3.9% for the three months to May, however the numbers don’t include those workers currently on furlough, and while a good proportion of these could well come back, there is still a good percentage that won’t.
On the plus side the reduction in jobless claims from 7.8% to 7.3% suggests that some workers did return to the work force in June, as shops started to reopen, however the number was tiny when compared to the claim increases seen in April and May, which saw the May numbers revised up to 566.4k.
To get a better idea of where we are in the jobs market the ONS numbers do tell us that there are now around 650k fewer people on the payroll than before the March lockdown, and that number is likely to continue to rise as we head into the end of the year and the furlough runs off.
The pound is little moved on the back of the numbers, while gilt yields have edged slightly higher.
US markets look set to take their cues from the weakness seen here in European markets, with the main attention set to be on the latest June retail sales and weekly jobless claims numbers.
Retail sales are expected to rise 5% in June, some way below the 17.7% rebound seen in the May numbers which reversed a -14.7% fall in April. The strength expected in the June number seems optimistic when set aside the employment numbers, and the 13m people still not working since March. This suggests that this number could well be highly fluid and while a lot of US workers have managed to get their furlough payments, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will spend it.
Weekly jobless claims are still expected to be above the 1m mark, with a slight reduction expected to 1.25m from 1.31m. Continuing claims are expected to fall further to 17.5m, however these could start to edge higher in the coming weeks as US states issue orders to reclose businesses in the wake of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Twitter shares lost ground lost night after the bell as it became apparent that the accounts of high profit individuals like Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and former US President Barack Obama were hacked by a bitcoin scammer. All verified accounts were shut down as a result as Twitter scrambled to get on top of the problem. It’s difficult not to overstate how embarrassing this is for Twitter given that the blue tick offers certainty that the user of the account is the person they claim to be. To have them hacked is hugely embarrassing, and undermines the integrity of the whole blue tick process.
American Airlines shares are also likely to be in focus after the company announced that 25,000 jobs could be at risk, when the furlough scheme runs its course. United Airlines has already said it could cut up to 36,000 people, up to 45% of its workforce.
Netflix Q2 earnings are also due after the bell with high expectations that the company can build on its blow out Q1 subscriber numbers of 15.8m. Q2 is expected to see 7m new subscribers added.
Bank of America is also expected to post its latest Q2 numbers with the main attention on how much extra provision for bad loans the bank will add to its Q1 numbers.