Jun 5, 2019

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

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Situational awareness:

  • The EU will start disciplinary proceedings against Italy for breaking fiscal rules with its rising public debt. (The Guardian)
  • The city of San Francisco has retained Jefferies to look into buying PG&E's local power lines. (S.F. Chronicle)
  • 3 top executives at SoFi are leaving the fintech startup in the coming weeks. (WSJ)
  • Toyota plans to unveil a new type of "personal electric vehicle" this week and outline an electrification strategy heavily reliant on Chinese manufacturers. (Axios)
  • Beverly Hills voted to outlaw sales of most tobacco products in a new ordinance believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. (CNBC)
1 big thing: It's all about the Fed

Fed chair Jerome Powell speaks during a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

U.S. stocks fell after each of Jerome Powell's first 7 policy meetings as Fed chair, by far the longest streak on record, and have had a major reaction just about every time he speaks.

  • That pattern continued Tuesday as the S&P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq all had their largest 1-day gains in 5 months after Powell said the U.S. central bank would act "as appropriate" to address risks to the economy.

Why it matters: The U.S. trade war that could include China, Mexico, the EU, India and others has dominated the conversation in business circles over the past month, but Tuesday's price action showed nothing moves stocks like Powell and the Fed.

What he said: During opening remarks for a speech in Chicago, Powell began by addressing "recent developments involving trade negotiations."

  • "We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near our symmetric 2% objective."

What the market heard: "'Act as appropriate.' That phrase from Powell this morning has clearly opened the door to a cut in coming quarters," said BMO Capital Markets rate strategist Joe Hill. "As a result, the operative question has become whether the cut comes in June or September, and whether the move will be 25 [basis points] or 50."

  • Hill and other bond market investors now say they would not be surprised to see yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note fall to 1.80%.
  • Big bank stocks surged, Bloomberg noted, as Wells Fargo analyst Mike Mayo said the industry would be set to "party like it's 1995" if rates were cut.

Of note: Powell's comments follow remarks from St. Louis Fed president James Bullard on Monday that also insinuated the Fed was open to cutting rates. It continues a theme of Powell's Fed speaking with a unified voice, breaking with the past actions of policymakers.

Bonus: The Powell effect
Expand chart

Data: Yahoo Finance, U.S. Treasury Department; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Fed's policy U-turn — cutting the outlook for future interest rate hikes in December after saying in November that they planned to raise rates 3 times in 2019 — was the catalyst for this year's direction in both the U.S. stock and Treasury markets.

  • Expecting the Fed not to raise rates and increase the cost of borrowing for businesses and consumers, stock prices have jumped higher.
  • Treasury yields, conversely, have fallen as expectations for inflation and/or higher U.S. interest rates have disappeared.
2. Investors question Trump's tariff tweets

Though President Trump insisted he plans to follow through on his threat to add escalating tariffs to all goods imported from Mexico, suspicion is beginning to grow among asset managers.

What it means: The timing, lack of clarity and lack of policy action or precedent has some wondering whether the president's actions are less about punishing Mexico and more an attempt to get the Fed to cut rates in order to stimulate the economy ahead of 2020.

What's happening: Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump was "deadly serious" about the tariffs, but acknowledged there was "no specific target" and no concrete benchmarks to judge whether Mexico was stopping the flow of migrants from Central America into the U.S. as Trump demanded.

Afsaneh M. Beschloss, founder and CEO of asset management firm RockCreek, said Tuesday at the Bloomberg Invest conference in New York that Wall Street is starting to wonder aloud about the president's intentions.

"Looking at what's going on with trade, one question some people are asking is why are there so many tweets and why so much attention to trade at this particular moment. Because we know the president is one of the smartest when it comes to politics."
"We're out of fiscal policy options, since it's unlikely Congress can come to an agreement, and we know that the Fed is independent. So is the causal effect here to push the news on trade to a point that it might impact interest rate decisions? Some people are starting to talk that way."
3. Uber's underwriters say you should buy its stock
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Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

Uber is fast recovering from its disastrous first day as a public company last month, and it looks poised to continue rising as Wall Street banks eagerly slapped "Buy" ratings on the stock.

What's happening: The company's so-called quiet period ended Tuesday for the 29 firms that played a role in underwriting its initial public offering. Once allowed to evaluate the company they were unsurprisingly bullish.

  • Analysts posted 21 Buy ratings, 5 Holds and 0 Sells, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average 12-month price target on the stock is $53.70, nearly 33% above where it closed Monday, notes Yahoo Finance's Heidi Chung.
  • The stock rose 3.6% on Tuesday, but remains below its $45 IPO price.

Yes, but: Despite recommending everyone and their mother buy shares in the "transformational" (Bank of America) "leading global player" (RBC) and "categorical market leader" (Oppenheimer), analysts broadly estimated deeper losses than previously expected for the ride-hailing company this year.

4. Broadway had a great 2018

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Data: The Broadway League; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Last year was a big one for entertainment. Television, radio and movies saw increased revenues and audiences came to the theater in a big way.

The Broadway League announced that 2018 ticket sales and gross revenue had both reached record highs, with nearly 15 million in attendance and close to $2 billion in grosses, an increase of 7.8%.

The big picture: Other entertainment avenues also saw a boost in their numbers.

  • Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. rose 22% to $107.5 billion for full-year 2018, according to a report by PwC.
  • TV advertising increased 1.4%
  • Radio ads drew a 1% increase in ad spend.

Digital ad spending in the U.S. is expected to be greater than traditional ad spending this year for the first time, according to eMarketer's latest forecast.

5. Leon Black screams about Apollo's "unfathomable" stock price
Photo: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS via Getty Images.

What is the man in "The Scream" painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch screaming about?

  • "The unfairness of so much of the investment life that we lead and how our stocks are undervalued," joked the painting's owner, Leon Black, CEO of private equity firm Apollo Global, who paid nearly $120 million for it in 2012, a record for an artwork sold at auction.

Black may have been projecting a bit. Apollo's stock has risen 25% year-to-date but has trailed the S&P significantly since its market debut in 2011, even as Apollo's returns and those of private equity broadly have outperformed the stock market.

  • "We trade at discounts that are ... unfathomable," Black said during a conversation with David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, at the Bloomberg Invest conference Tuesday.
  • "I think we trade at half of what we should. You look at the sum of the parts and we should be much higher. ... I think you have a general misunderstanding [by stock market investors] of a lot of what we do."

What to watch: Asked if he thinks the U.S. will have another downturn like 2008, Black said, "We might. It probably won't be until after the next election. But that's not that far off."

Dion Rabouin