Financial Review

How Low Can It Go?

US Treasuries hit new lows. Pound at 30 year low. Factory orders and durable goods orders dip. Home prices – more of the same. UK RE funds freeze. Italian banks go sour. USA the oiliest. Juno goes Jovian. Google DeepMind wants to see your eyes. Three more Libor convictions.

Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 07-05-2016

DOW – 108 = 17,840
SPX – 14 = 2088
NAS – 39 = 4822
10 Y – .09 = 1.36
OIL – 2.39 = 46.60
GOLD + 5.70 = 1357.20
Longer-end Treasury yields traded near record lows, with the 30-year yield around 2.15 percent. The 10-year yield dropped to an all-time low of 1.367 percent. The U.S. dollar index posted another gain to 96.28, with the euro around $1.11 and the pound sterling traded near $1.30, levels not seen in more than 30 years. European stocks were mostly lower, with the German DAX off more than 1.5 percent. The STOXX Europe 600 Banks index underperformed, trading about 2 percent lower.

 

Factory orders in the U.S. fell 1% in May after two straight gains. So far this year, orders for manufactured goods have dropped 1.9 percent to $2.2 trillion compared to the same period in 2015. Demand in a category that serves as a proxy for business investment – non-military goods that exclude the volatile aircraft category – slipped 0.4 percent in May. The Commerce Department also reports durable goods orders declined 2.3%. Demand for mining and energy-related equipment slid 5.8% following a 20.8% plunge in the prior month. Orders for computers were also weaker. Bookings for nondurable goods rose 0.3%.

 

Corelogic reports home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased year over year by 5.9 percent in May 2016 compared with May 2015 and increased month over month by 1.3 percent in May 2016 compared with April 2016. The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that home prices will increase by 5.3 percent on a year-over-year basis from May 2016 to May 2017 – so more of the same. Twenty-two states reached new highs for the month; Arizona was not one of them; we remain 23.9% below peak prices, but the state did record a 5.8% year-over-year price increase.

 

Tomorrow we get the minutes from the Fed’s June FOMC meeting. If the minutes show real concerns about the durability of the economy, it could be friendly to the dovish market, which now only has fully priced in the next rate hike in 2018. Alternatively, the minutes could suggest the Fed was fairly confident that the labor market would come back. This would be less friendly for the market. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams held a couple of interviews today and said Britain’s vote to exit the European Union probably won’t derail the U.S. economy, leaving the Fed scope to raise interest rates this year if his growth and inflation expectations are met.

 

The Bank of England takes action. The BOE’s Financial Policy Committee cut its countercyclical capital buffer for UK banks to zero from 0.50%, according to the latest Financial Stability Report. The committee says the buffer will remain in place for at least the next year as the UK economy deals with “uncertainty” following the vote for a British exit from the European Union, or Brexit.

 

Australia’s central bank held its cash rate today at a record low of 1.75%, a widely expected decision given political uncertainty and a lack of timely information on domestic inflation. The country still doesn’t know who won Saturday’s general election and final results may not be known for another week.

 

Euro zone business growth held steady in June, but the modest pace suggested economic growth in the second quarter was half the rate of January-March, even as a rebound in Italy and rapid acceleration in Spain brightened the outlook. In France, data showed both services and manufacturing contracting. The majority of the surveys were completed before Britain voted on June 23 to leave the European Union.

 

In the past 24 hours, three different UK property funds have frozen withdrawals, citing a rush by investors to pull out their money in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote. In 2007, Bear Stearns banned withdrawals from one of its hedge funds after investors were spooked by rising defaults and bankruptcies. The British property funds are very different beasts from the exotic, derivative-laced vehicles that presaged the global financial meltdown. These funds are open to regular retail investors and invest in things like office parks and malls.

 

But forget about Brexit for a moment; the new worry of the day is Italian banks. A big feature from The Wall Street Journal  captures most of the concerns with Italy’s banking system and the political turmoil it appears liable to set off. In short, Italian banks are loaded with bad debts; 17% of bank loans in Italy are “sour,” a level much greater even than that of the US banking system at the height of the financial crisis (5%).Of course, issues surrounding the Italian banking system are not strictly new, and in the past year shares of UniCredit — Italy’s only bank considered globally significant — and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest bank in the world, are down over 60%. Reports surfaced in April that the government could step in to shore up the banking system; days later the government got executives, insurers, and investors to put 5 billion euros into a rescue fund for Italy’s weakest banks. This morning, a report from Bloomberg said Italy was looking to inject up to 3 billion euros into Monte dei Paschi; this would be the bank’s third bailout since the financial crisis.

 

The U.S. holds more oil reserves (264 billion barrels) than Saudi Arabia (212 billion) and Russia (256 billion), the first time it has surpassed those held by the world’s biggest exporting nations, according to a new study by Rystad Energy. The analysis of 60,000 fields worldwide, conducted over a three-year period, shows total global oil reserves at 2.1 trillion barrels. That is 70-times the current production rate of about 30 billion barrels of crude per year. For the U.S. more than 50 percent of the remaining oil reserves is in unconventional shale oil. Today, oil prices dropped nearly 5%.

 

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, ended a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile journey to Jupiter, with a do-or-die engine engine burn to sling itself into the planet’s orbit. No small trick. At the time of its arrival, Juno was flying through the solar system at over 150,000 miles per hour—making it one of the fastest man-made objects ever. Juno will spend the next 20 months studying what lies beneath the gas giant’s thick clouds and measure its gravity, magnetic fields and water content. Juno is the ninth spacecraft to see Jupiter up close, but only the second to ever go into orbit around it, and Juno promises to provide the most intimate peek into the far-off Jovian system yet.

Poland has made significant progress in its talks with Raytheon over a Patriot missile system valued at an estimated €5-billion-euro. According to the Polish Defense Ministry, the country is ready to move ahead with the plan because Raytheon pledged that 50% of the missile system spending would be “done in Poland by Polish arms firms.”

 

BlackBerry will stop making its Classic smartphone. The Classic was launched early last year, with a physical keyboard and powered by the company’s overhauled BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry has since launched a phone powered by Alphabet’s Android software and plans several more.

 

Google DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence unit owned by Alphabet, announced a research partnership today with the British National Health Service to gain access to a million anonymous eye scans. DeepMind specializes in machine learning, the increasingly important area of technology where algorithms allow computers to learn and figure things out on their own. DeepMind will use the eye scan data to train its computers to identify eye defects. The aim is to give doctors a digital tool that can read an eye-scan test and recognize problems faster. Earlier detection of eye disorders related to diabetes and age-related macular degeneration could allow doctors to prevent loss of vision in many people

 

A bidding war with Salesforce.com forced Microsoft to pay nearly $6 billion extra last month to seal its planned takeover of LinkedIn. Details of the frenzied bidding were revealed in a filing with the SEC ahead of a shareholder vote to approve the transaction. A month-long back-and-forth between the two rivals pushed the value of the all-cash deal to $26.2 billion, making it the third-largest acquisition in the tech industry.

 

Three former Barclays traders have been found guilty of Libor manipulation almost four years after the bank paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for fixing the key benchmark rate. Days after the British firm became the first to settle, its Chief Executive Officer, Bob Diamond, lost his job and regulators eventually imposed roughly $9 billion in penalties on the financial industry. The convictions bring the total number of bankers Britain has convicted over the long-running Libor-rigging scandal to five. That is still a better fines to conviction ratio by far than the US had for mortgage abuses by big banks.

 

London Stock Exchange shareholders approved a $27 billion merger with Deutsche Boerse yesterday despite renewed uncertainty following the Brexit vote. The two exchanges insisted that their all-share merger to create the world’s biggest bourse by revenue was essentially “Brexit proof”.

 

 

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