The FTSE 100 has lost ground throughout today’s session despite better than expected service sector growth, as traders take their lead from disappointing EU data and ongoing fears of Federal Reserve QE tapering.
European markets have struggled to see the week out on a cheery
note, with traders taking a risk-off attitude heading into the
weekend, in a week that will nevertheless go down as another win
for the equity bulls.
In the UK, temperature control specialists Aggreko (AGK LN) announced earnings this morning that saw the stock dip early on, before recovering to trade as one of the biggest gainers on the day as the market digests improved revenues across the business and a strong order book for 2013. Analysts at Panmure Gordon saw enough in the numbers to upgrade the stock to a ‘buy’ recommendation.
Insurer Legal & General (LGEN LN) are amongst the worst performers after JP Morgan cut their rating on the stock, citing its lofty valuation. A P/E ratio of 12 doesn’t look enormously expensive, but with sector peers such as Aviva (AV. LN) trading on a forward P/E closer to 7, analysts at the US bank see better value there.
US equities saw a weaker open after worse than expected earnings releases and more disappointing macroeconomic data. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment although slightly up on the previous month’s reading at 72.3 vs 71.8, was still well short of economists’ forecasts at 79 and added to bearish sentiment following US retail sales numbers released before the market opened showing a fall of 0.4 per cent in March, the biggest drop in 9 months.
Whilst it may still be too early to blame the sequester for the disappointing numbers, the pattern of weak data following last week’s big non-farms miss is still yet to trouble equity bulls, with any short term sell-offs viewed as buying opportunities by investors who remain only too aware of the enormous safety net provided by FED and BOJ asset purchasing programmes.
JP Morgan and Wells Fargo stocks were sold-off in early trading following Q1 earnings releases announced before the opening bell, with JP Morgan beating estimates of $1.39 per share with a healthy $1.59 per share but narrowly missing on revenues, a picture that was echoed in Wells Fargo’s numbers of $0.88 vs. $0.92 but revenues of $21.3 billion missing estimates by $$0.29 billion
Ashland Inc., the industrial chemicals specialist was able to buck the market trend with a little help from some friends at hedge fund Jana Partners, who revealed owning a 7.5% stake in the company, citing the possibility of further growth potential for the stock in an SEC filing.
Infosys Technologies shares were hammered by investors, with a fifth of the companies value wiped out in the wake of very disappointing numbers released by the struggling Indian software firm. A stock familiar with fairly erratic price swings, these results also follow a difficult 2012 but it was the lack of any guidance on future earnings that seems to have really irked investors.
The Dollar has been slightly firmer against the majority of its major peers today despite a poor retail sales figure increasing speculation that the Fed will keep the QE peddle firmly to the floor for now. The major exception to this has been the Yen, with $/Y bulls booking profits after yesterday’s failed attempt at the landmark 100 figure.
The Euro traded lower after confirmation today that Portugal and Ireland have agreed 7 year extensions to the term of their bailout loans from Eurozone finance ministers. Today’s lack of risk appetite saw the Kiwi and Scandinavian currencies comfortably lower, as investors move to safer assets ahead of the weekend.
Gold continued its recent retreat today, with a stronger dollar and diminishing safe haven demand leading the yellow metal to a 10 month low. The next step for gold may prove decisive, with resistance at the 1530 level having provided protection for gold bulls on several occasions since last September, and a clear break lower may spook more buyers into leaving the table. Gold ETF’s continue to follow a similar picture, with holdings in the largest fund (SPDR gold trust) now at the lowest levels since May 2010.
WTI crude gave back most of its gains for the week. With retail sales missing in the US, and pleads from Cyprus for more financial aid reminding us of the struggles ahead for the Eurozone, the global demand outlook remains weak in the short term. Copper moved lower on concerns that recent increases in supply will not be matched by Chinese demand, and Wheat was one of the biggest gainers as cold snaps in both the U.S and Russia threaten to thwart winter crop yields