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Stock markets rip higher as we look to the Fed

A US dollar bank note with a graph line

European markets have continued their recovery from yesterday, with the FTSE 100 managing to temporarily recover its losses for the week, moving back above its 200-day moving average, as it briefly pushed back above 7,500, although we have started to slip back into the close.

Europe

The DAX and the rest of Europe has lagged, with sentiment still feeling incredibly febrile, and with the Powell press conference due to start at 7.30pm (UK time) it's probably even money as to whether we’ll open higher or lower, when markets reopen tomorrow. 

A decent performance from energy and financials is helping to support the FTSE 100, with firmer energy prices and yields driving the gains on the UK index, with Shell hitting its highest levels since February 2020 and BP also higher. 

We’ve also seen a belated bounce in travel shares after the uncertainty at the beginning of this week, as the imminent dropping of testing for fully vaccinated passengers sees a sharp rally in the likes of IAG, easyJet and Holiday Inn owner IHG.

Wizz Air had a disappointing quarter, posting a Q3 operating loss for €213.6m, despite a 243% rise in passengers over the same period a year ago. An increase in costs to €621.9m due to laying on more flights and recruiting more staff is set to bleed into its Q4 numbers, with the result that Q4 losses are expected to be higher than Q3. CEO Jozsef Varadi went on to say that come the summer he was optimistic that all the airlines 170 aircraft would be fully utilised and that the new bases at Rome, Naples and Venice as well as the new landing slots at Gatwick would start to pay their way.

Fresnillo is the worst performer after the company reported that it was cutting its silver and gold output targets due to higher staff absences due to Covid infections in its Mexican operations.

US

US markets opened sharply higher today as investors punted the market higher ahead of this afternoon’s press conference from Fed chairman Jay Powell, with the Nasdaq 100 leading the way, after a sharply negative close yesterday. The S&P500 also enjoyed a decent rebound with both indexes losing momentum just below their 200-day MA. Let’s hope Powell doesn’t rain on the markets parade and send the market straight back down again, as we continue to ride what has been roller-coaster week for equity markets. 

Microsoft was a strong gainer after its Q2 numbers turned out to be every bit as good as suggested when they issued their forecasts at the end of Q1. Revenues came in at a record $51.73bn, a 20% increase from a year ago, and above expectations, while profits rose to $2.48 a share. With the shares already down over 10% from their record highs, you would have expected to see a much more positive reaction, however the shares fell back in after-hours trading.

On the numbers themselves, its cloud business Azure saw an increase in revenues of 46%, in line with expectations, although down from the previous four quarters, which saw revenue growth above 50%. Its 'Intelligent Cloud' business also saw another decent quarter, reporting record revenue of $18.33bn.

Personal computing and gaming revenue saw revenue come in at $17.47bn, a big jump on Q1, and above the same quarter last year, although this was largely expected with the increased adoption of Windows 11. Xbox content and services revenue rose by 10%, reinforcing the decision to go all in with last week’s announcement to buy Activision. If the acquisition is approved then this segment is expected to be a key growth area going forward and could well go on to become its biggest earner, assuming it passes regulatory scrutiny, which is by no means certain.

Concerns that last week’s acquisition might see Activision’s marque titles Call of Duty become Xbox only were assuaged by last night’s announcement that Sony would be getting the next 3 games to be released. On guidance Microsoft said it expected Q3 revenue to slow slightly to between $48.5bn and $49.3bn, above forecasts. 

We’ve also got Tesla Q4 numbers after the bell, where the electric car company is expected to announce that it delivered a total of 936,172 vehicles in 2021, with the hope that 2022 will push that total strongly above the 1m mark, with Musk saying as recently as October last year that he was looking to maintain an annual growth rate of more than 50%. Profits are expected to come in at $2.24c a share.   

FX

The US dollar is mixed heading into this afternoon’s Fed meeting with the Canadian dollar getting a bid ahead of the Bank of Canada rate decision. There had been on outside chance that the Bank of Canada might have stolen a march on the Federal Reserve by hiking rates today, given the recent improvement in economic data, and current high levels of inflation.

In the end they decided to leave rates as they are, though the central bank did warn that inflation was likely to be higher than forecast, through most of this year, and for a good part of next. Given that outlook it does seem strange that they have decided to delay a decision to raise rates, however they do have one more meeting between now and the Fed meeting, so it’s still likely that they will move before the Fed. 

Commodities

Crude oil prices have remained underpinned with little sign that any of the tensions that have helped push prices higher are easing. If anything, the tensions are increasing on reports that the US has urged its citizens to consider leaving Ukraine immediately, pushing Brent to $90 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

Gold prices have slipped back from their recent highs, after US 10-year yields edged back to the top end of their recent range, as positions get pared ahead of today’s Fed decision and press conference.

Other precious metals have performed better with Palladium up over 7%, while cryptocurrencies are also higher on the back of firmer equity markets.


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