July 17, 2020 / 8:45 AM / 25 days ago

Daily Briefing: Pandemic versus policymakers

A few questions for today: Will the pandemic gain the upper hand and force economies into lockdown again? Will governments and central banks keep feeding the markets with stimulus? Will EU leaders approve a 750 billion-euro recovery fund? And are tech shares losing their mojo?

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel talk at the start of the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Brussels, July 17, 2020. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS

This morning, markets seem to be hoping that news of soaring coronavirus fatalities in the United States, worsening Sino-U.S. ties, proposals for localised lockdowns from Israel to Australia and higher-than-expected U.S. weekly jobless claims will somehow go away. The hope may be that they will be swept away by another stimulus wave, allowing unemployed workers to keep spending.

The U.S. Congress will debate such a package next week, while Britain has announced another 3 billion pound injection for healthcare. Meanwhile, ECB President Christine Lagarde reinforced her commitment to spending the bank's full $1.3 trillion emergency stimulus envelope.

Markets have a slightly firmer tone today; Chinese mainland shares are up 0.7% at time of writing after sliding 5% on Thursday. U.S. equity futures are up and European shares are around 0.3% higher.

The mood appears cautious, however, especially in Europe where an EU summit kicks off to debate a 750 billion-euro recovery fund, which faces opposition from several countries over its size and whether it should predominantly provide grants or loans.

The euro is flat, having pulled off four-month highs to the dollar while the dollar too is motionless after rising 0.3% on Thursday. However the greenback is on course for a weekly gain against most currencies.

The yuan is seesawing around the 7-per dollar mark after posting its biggest daily fall in three weeks. The Trump administration reportedly wants to ban Chinese Communist Party members and their families from visiting the United States, while Beijing accused Washington of “gangster logic”.

Bond yields are up a touch this morning after a U.S. Treasury rally yesterday amid the risk-off mood. US 10-year yields are set for their second weekly fall - a sign of the unease pervading markets.

On to earnings. The first FAANG reported yesterday – Netflix – and disappointed, adding to nervousness around the tech sector. Shares fell 10% after it forecast Q3 subscriber additions below estimates.

The S&P500 has exceeded the Nasdaq by nearly 3 percentage points over the past week, its greatest five-day outperformance since late March, reflecting a possible investor shift away from the tech giants that led Wall Street gains in recent months. Later, we hear from State Street and asset manager BlackRock.

European Q2 results have so far mostly beaten ultra-gloomy forecasts, especially in Scandinavia. Today, Volvo posted a better than expected core profit, while Saab numbers were in line with last year.

Sweden's Ericsson reported quarterly core earnings ahead of estimates, buoyed by higher margins on telecom equipment sales.

Electrolux said it saw robust near-term demand and reported operating losses in line with expectations, Sweden's Telia reported core earnings well above forecasts, thanks to cost savings.

Nordic banks too have so far surprised pleasantly. Swedbank net profits beat estimates on back of increased lending and deposit-taking. Nordea however reported a 66% operating profit fall, due to higher loan-loss provisions.

Good news too for Germany's Daimler which recorded below-forecast Q2 operating losses.

Emerging stocks are up 0.6%, but on track for a 1.7% weekly loss, the worst since mid-April. Shanghai shares have suffered their worst week in 15 months, dropping more than 5%.

Indonesia’s rupiah was the biggest currency loser, hitting near two-month lows after this year’s fourth interest rate cut.

— A look at the day ahead from Sujata Rao, deputy editor for markets and financial services, EMEA. The views expressed are her own —

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