Yesterday’s recovery in US markets and today’s positive Asia session once again speaks to the bi-polar state of financial markets. The Nasdaq once again edged to a fresh record high, as the disconnect between it and other global equity markets continued.

Investors appear to be making the conscious decision to find safety in the US trillion-dollar big caps rather than move their capital into the traditional safe haven of government bonds.

Asia markets have taken their cues from yesterday’s positive US session, despite the continued rise in coronavirus cases across the US, and which US Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester expressing concern that the rising virus count is introducing increased downside risks to the US economic recovery. On Wednesday we saw Texas set a new record for daily cases, hospitalisations hit a new high in California, while Arizona posted a new record number of deaths.

After two successive negative European sessions, markets here in Europe have taken their cues from yesterday’s recovery in US markets and this morning’s positive Asia session, opening modestly higher, though still well off their peaks from Monday, and struggling to make much in the way of headway early on.

If anything, the rising coronavirus case count in the US, is helping to weigh down any confidence in a more global recovery in equity markets, however on the plus side there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a second wave here in Europe so far as various lockdown measures continue to get eased.

While this is positive for markets in Europe the lack of any imminent agreement between EU leaders on any pandemic recovery fund appears to be deterring a wholesale move of capital back into European markets for the time being.

The problems in the aerospace sector continued to be laid bare this morning as Airbus the European plane maker reported that it had failed to obtain any new aircraft orders for the third month in succession. This is equally bad news for Rolls-Royce who have been having difficulties of their own, as they reported their latest first half numbers this morning.

Last Friday there were reports that Rolls-Royce was looking at reinforcing its balance sheet further by raising additional capital, or disposing of some of its assets with ITP Aero, its Spanish operation one likely option. There was no mention of raising additional capital in todays’ Q2 update which has seen management say that they expect a better performance in the second half of the year.

Good progress has been made in reducing one-off costs with £300m achieved in H1, with another £700m expected by the end of 2020. The company also said it would be taking a charge of £1.45bn over the next 6 years, in respect of reducing the size of its hedge book, with £100m of that charge being taken this year and £300m in 2021 and 2022, and then £750m spread over 2023 to 2026.

The company also said that they had pro-forma liquidity of £8.1bn, including an undrawn credit facility of £1.9bn, and commitments for a new 5-year term loan facility of £2bn underwritten by a syndicate of banks and a partial guarantee from UK Export Finance. The company also took a £1.45bn write down in respect of hedges spread over 6 years.

Not all sectors are in the doldrums, with the increasing focus on cloud technology, helping to benefit the tech sector, as more and more business moves on line. This morning German software giant SAP reported an improvement on its Q1 numbers, with cloud revenues rising 21% in Q2, driven by improvements in its Asia markets.  This outperformance in SAP has helped underpin the DAX in early trade this morning. Rio Tinto this morning announced it was closing its New Zealand operations as an aluminium supply glut takes its toll on its profits.

In the wake of yesterday’s budget measures on stamp duty, housebuilder Persimmon announced its latest first half update. Unsurprisingly given the lockdowns in April total revenues fell to £1.19bn, down from £1.75bn in 2019, with completions sharply lower at 4,900, down from 7,584. On the plus side average selling prices were modestly higher at £225k, however higher costs are likely to eat away at overall margins in the months ahead, which could act as a drag on profitability. Much will depend on whether the removal of stamp duty for properties up to £500k will offset any loss of confidence prospective buyers have about the economic outlook. Recent mortgage approvals data suggests that consumers are becoming much more cautious. In terms of future expectations there does appear to have been a fairly strong rebound since sales offices reopened with forward sales up 15% from the same period last year, helping to push the shares higher in early trade.

Vistry Group also posted a positive first half update, delivering a total of 1,235 completions in H1, down from 3,371 a year ago, with an average selling price of £290k. Revenue was sharply lower at £344m, down from £854m in 2019. Forward sales saw an improvement to £1.66bn, up from £1.5bn at the end of May. Real estate investment trusts have had a rough time of it recently, with Intu going into administration only recently. Workspace Group has been one of those companies that have done things a little differently over the last ten years, in terms of how it sold its office space, and that has helped cushion it to some extent, due to its focus on small or micro businesses, selling flexible office space, and short-term leases with superfast connectivity.  

This does appear to be reflected in this morning’s Q1 update, which has seen the company report cash collection of rents at 75%, net of rent reductions and deferrals. The company has received 65% of rents due in Q2, compared to 80% a year ago. Activity in its business centres has remained low at 15% of normal. Demand is now picking up as lockdowns get eased further.

Building materials and DIY retailer Grafton Group has seen its shares rise in early trading after it reported H1 numbers, which saw revenues fall 19.4% to just over £1bn. June trading has proved to be more resilient, with revenues 11.4% higher than the same period last year.  

Boohoo shares are also sharply higher this morning as buyers start to return after the precipitous falls of earlier this week, with some saying that the declines have been too severe, when set against the underlying long-term fundamentals.   

US markets look set to open modestly lower against this morning’s rather indifferent European session, with the main focus once again set to be on the latest weekly jobless claims numbers, and in light of the recent re-imposition of lockdowns, the main focus will once again be on continuing claims and whether that number starts to edge up again in the weeks ahead. This could take some time to be reflected in the numbers with continuing claims expected to fall below 19m to 18.95m. Weekly jobless claims are expected to fall to 1.37m.

Bed Bath and Beyond shares are also expected to be in focus after the company announced the closure of 200 stores over 2 years due to a 50% fall in sales.

Delta Airlines is also expected to give its latest Q2 update and it’s not expected to paint a pretty picture. Delta had a standout 2019 largely due to its reliance on sales of Premium class tickets. Business travel, which a lot of national carriers rely on, is likely to see a big drop off in the months ahead as companies realise that lots of meetings can take place just as easily on Zoom and other remote conferencing facilities. Year on year revenue for Q2 is expected to decline by 90%, with the carrier losing 85% of its flight capacity at the height of the pandemic, while losses are expected to come in at $4.43c a share. Delta expects to add 1,000 new flights to be scheduled this month, and another 1,000 in August.

 


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