In another late late show Wednesday, US stocks, as I expected, rebounded from oversold levels in the last hour of trading because of stronger than expected home sales (buyers took advantage of the now expired tax credit), decent auto sales numbers and a read on the Challenger layoffs survey which implied underlying jobs growth of 200k. Other contributing factors were the calm on the bad news from Europe front and comments from Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan that he saw “more than hopeful signs” on loan demand. The standout movers were the recently battered oil names as investors speculated the drop in energy shares had overshot risks from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and went “bargain hunting." Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) rose at least 8% after being named short-term buys by Morgan Stanley, and eight of the 10 best performers in the S&P 500 Index were energy companies. Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) rose 11% after the FDA approved a bone-strengthening injection treatment.
Today in Europe we’ve seen similar themes with BP (NYSE:BP) up 2% despite rating agency Fitch’s cutting its credit rating a notch to AA and talk of crown forced asset sales of some of their crown jewels to fund the big clean up). Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) is ahead by 1.6% and Total (NYSE:TOT) better by 3.5% on the view they’ve overshot to the downside. Basic resources and mining stocks are better bid on the rebound in copper prices. Peugeot (OTCPK:PEUGF) is 5.5% to the good this morning on a broker upgrade from Deutsche Bank to a “buy” to a “hold”. And Daimler (DAI) is better by 2% after US auto sales numbers showed its Mercedes units sales had risen 23%. Staying in the autos space, car parts manufacturer Valeo (OTCPK:VLEEY) of France surged 7%+ after forecasting a 35% increase in H1 profits. And finally Air France is having a good day, up 6% after reporting a 4.3% rise in passenger traffic numbers for May. For me though the seemingly half hearted and half baked buying of euro peripheral bond markets by euro area central banks is a worry in that it seems to be drying up. Spreads versus Germany are wider again today for the PIIGS and sooner or later this is again going to spook equities.
Stateside we’ve just that the ADP private sector jobs report which as a warm up or the biggie Non Farm payrolls Friday proved a bit of a damp squib coming in at an underwhelming +55k. The market had been looking for +70k. This combined with a disappointing continuing claims number has seen markets trim some of their earlier gains. Stocks on the move pre market include Alcoa (NYSE:AA) buoyed by the general better tone towards basic resource stocks and a broker upgrade from Aussie house Macquarie to “outperform” from “neutral.” Citigroup (NYSE:C) is also bid on news of a plan to move bad loans to a new unit from its US consumer finance business that will make the remaining network profitable.
Today’s Market Moving Stories
- Come every June, markets tend to quieten down. One reason is the CFA exams, which this year is drawing a record 140k candidates many of them working on our markets. At the same time, there is a marked lull just now in the newsflow. With the times that are in it, no news is good news these days. So this lull favours a rebound in risk appetite and higher yields.
- Euro area retail sales came in surprisingly weak in April data released today showed, recording a decline of 1.2% m/m (counter to market expectations for a rise of 0.1% m/m). Although there was confirmation of an upwards revision to the March reading (0.5% m/m, from a previously reported 0.0% m/m), the net news in this report is unambiguously negative, with the April level of sales standing 0.9% below the Q1 average.
- Today’s May UK CIPS/Markit report on the services sector provides further evidence that the recovery in the biggest part of the economy is struggling to pick up either steam or traction. The business activity index edged up only marginally from 55.3 to 55.4, suggesting that April’s drop was not just a temporary result of the disruption caused by that volcanic ash cloud. Admittedly, the index still points to fairly decent quarterly growth of services sector output of about 0.5%. But given that the relationship with the official data has broken down recently (with services output still estimated to have risen by just 0.2% in Q1), I wouldn’t hold out hope for a much stronger figure in Q2.
- Another day and yet more signs of consolidation in Iberian banking with Caja Murcia leading the merger of another four Spanish saving banks. This will be the largest merger ahead of the 30 June deadline to tap the government rescue fund and create a lender with €73bn in assets.
- As it looks certain that some version of the so-called Volcker rule will make it into the financial reform package being prepared by the U.S. Congress. Paddy Hirsch explains what the Volcker rule is.
US Auto Sales Up Again
The Wall Street Journal reports that US auto sales rose for the seventh month in a row in May on the strength of big gains by most car makers, including hard-hit Chrysler and renewed popularity for some large trucks and sport-utility vehicles. Sales of cars and light trucks jumped 19% in May, to 1.1 million vehicles, according to Autodata. The annualized sales pace for the month was 11.68 million vehicles. That’s up from the year-ago figure of 9.86 million and April’s 11.2 million rate. General Motors, Ford (NYSE:F), Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) all reported sales increases ranging from 17% to 24%. But Chrysler, which has been struggling to boost sales since its bankruptcy reorganisation last year, outpaced them all, reporting a rise of 33%. The company sold 104,819 vehicles in May, the first time in 14 months it surpassed the 100,000 mark. Korea’s Hyundai matched Chrysler’s growth rate, as its sales also rose 33%, to 49,045 vehicles. Toyota, hobbled by its recalls for sudden acceleration, was one of the few laggards. Its sales grew just 6.7% to 162,813 vehicles after it pared back some sales incentives. But it said it planned to continue incentives this month. In another positive note for the industry, sales of certain trucks and SUVs, which generate big profits, rose significantly, perhaps driven in part by recent declines in the price of gasoline.
Company / Equity News
- Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO), which runs the world’s biggest mutual fund, recently cut its gold holdings in half in its multi-asset products, Co-Chief Investment Officer Mohamed El-Erian said. Gold may weaken as the result of “deleveraging” among borrowers worldwide, El-Erian said. Investors should favour high-quality government bonds as a source of income and “stay on the sidelines” with regard to equities amid concerns about European sovereign debt.
- But BlackRock’s Laurence D. Fink, who leads the world’s biggest asset management firm, said the stock market is poised to rally because US companies have built cash reserves and manufacturers are returning to health. “We’re ready to really rock and roll as a country,” Fink said.
- Maybe Paddy Power should open a book on this guy as well (or a double with BP CEO). Prudential’s (NYSE:PUK) CEO Tidjane Thiam spent three months failing to persuade investors to pay $35.5 billion for AIA Group. Now he has to convince them that he should keep his job. Thiam, 47, dropped his attempt to win shareholder support for the company’s biggest takeover yesterday and agreed to pay a £152.6 million breakup fee to AIG (NYSE:AIG).
- The FT market report this morning suggested that the 5% increase in the Tate & Lyle (OTCQX:TATYY) share price yesterday reflected bid speculation that Bunge, a US based sugar trader, would make a bid for Tate. Apart from the equity price reaction, suggestions that Harbinger would be a willing seller of Tate stock and Bunge’s unsuccessful all share bid for a US corn producer in 2008 provided additional reasons to consider that a bid is possible.
- The WPP owned media buyer, Group M, sharply improved their outlook for the UK advertising market, making a particularly sharp increase to forecasts for TV advertising. Group M raised its forecast on the overall market from flat to 4.2% and on TV advertising from a slight decline to 12%. Current market consensus for ITV revenue growth is mid single digit, which assuming that the UK’s largest broadcaster gets at least its fair share of this increase may prove somewhat conservative. When allied to ITV’s very high operational gearing, this forecast, should it be borne out, may prove to be a significant boon to the stock.
- Kingfisher (the owner of B&Q) delivered retail profit for the quarter of £146M slightly ahead of expectations and 12% up on a constant currency basis reflecting the beneficial impact of cost cutting measures. Sales were slightly down on a constant currency basis and the Group two main operating segments, France and UK and Ireland, posted like for like revenue growth of 0.2% and a decline of 2.8% respectively as consumer demand remained muted both by the weather and economic conditions.
- Xstrata (OTC:XSRAF), the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, shelved spending on projects worth A$6.6 billion in Australia, intensifying pressure on the government to wind back its proposed tax on mine profits.
- Kerry Group (OTCPK:KRYAY) has decided to raise raw milk prices in Ireland to 30c a litre as international dairy markets and a strong dollar help pricing. For farmers this is a 35% lift in prices from the lows of 2009 and marks a material improvement in a faming activity that is core to Irish agriculture.
And Finally… Anything Goes – The BP Oil Spill Song