Good morning, Bull Sheeters. Stocks and equities futures are jumping this morning as investors cheer the Fed’s latest move to shore up the financial markets.
From Hong Kong to Frankfurt to downtown Manhattan, Jerome Powell is quickly becoming the most beloved central banker of all time. Have you at least sent him a thank you card?
Ok, let’s see where investors are putting their spare cash.
- Asia is in the green in afternoon trade, led higher by Japan’s Nikkei (+4.9%) and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (+2.9%).
- “Extremely severe.” That’s how Beijing is describing the new COVID-19 outbreak there, forcing officials to close off parts of the city.
- SoftBank is determined to sell off assets, even high-performing ones. The Japanese conglomerate is looking to unload its 25% stake in T-Mobile U.S. to Deutsche Telekom, making the latter the majority shareholder.
- The European bourses surged out of the gates. Germany’s Dax was up more than 2% an hour into the trading session.
- “Very good.” That’s how one EU official is describing the chance of a breakthrough in post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and U.K. after a video conference call yesterday involving Boris Johnson.
- The Trump-Merkel relationship seems to worsen by the day. Yesterday, the president vowed to remove 25,000 U.S. troops from Germany because, he said, the Germans are “delinquent”—on NATO payments, that is.
- The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures point to another positive open, adding to yesterday’s gains. From trough to peak, the Dow climbed more than 1,000 points yesterday after the Fed’s surprise bond-buying announcement.
- The Fed’s move to buy corporate bonds is a game-changer. Again. Goldman Sachs points out it means “the Fed’s posture has shifted from a ‘lender of last resort’ towards more of a regular market participant.” In other words: you’re now investing with House money.
- Who’s having a better pandemic? The pros or the retail traders? According to Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest pros of them all, it’s the little guy and gal—the retail trader. And it’s not even close.
- Gold is up.
- The dollar is down.
- Crude is up, too. Brent climbed more than 1%, hovering around $40/barrel.
The view from the C-Suite
I’m going back to the well this morning to look at C-Suite sentiment. We know investors are bullish (as long as central bankers have our back). The outlook among consumers and corporates though is far less certain. We see this regularly in consumer confidence polls and in corporate outlooks—well, for those who haven’t scrapped theirs.
A month ago in this space I looked at PwC’s COVID-19 CFO survey. It was encouraging then to see that Corporate America largely felt the worst was behind us. And what about today, when fears of a second wave and doubts about stimulus measures linger?
There’s slightly more optimism than there was a month ago, I can happily report. Compared to the May outlook, the future is even less likely to feature the scrapping of financial plans, deferred investments, and the dialing back of guidance. That’s the consensus among the 330 finance chiefs PwC polled, as the following chart shows:
Let’s take the ‘good’ in the above chart first. M&A appears back on the table for more than three-quarter of respondents, and more than 60% will leave their corporate financing plans intact. Now for the less good—cost-containment is still the measure du jour to keep the balance sheet healthy. But there is modest improvement there, too.
Now let’s look to see what’s top of mind, and how that’s shifted over the past two months. Finance chiefs are now most concerned with a second wave of COVID-19 and the impact of the global economic downturn wrought by the pandemic. Two months ago, they were looking inwards at the impact on their business and employees. Today, they’re looking outward, at the impact on their customers and the wider market.
There are still storm clouds on the horizon. “Supply chain disruption” doesn’t make the list, but “cybersecurity risks” does.
I’ll come back to this topic periodically as I believe it gives us an important insight into overall business sentiment and the eventual shape of the recovery.
Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you here tomorrow.
A note from my Fortune colleagues on a timely new initiative:
Many companies are speaking out against racial injustices right now. But how do they fare in their own workplaces? Black employees in the corporate world, we want to hear from you: Please submit your anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here. https://bit.ly/WorkingWhileBlack
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