US stock futures fell in trading on Sunday after posting their worst week since March, as investors eye both rising Covid-19 cases and the potential for a contentious result in tomorrow’s presidential election. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 6.5% over the course of the week, taking it deep into negative territory for the year, while the S&P 500 was down 5.6% and the Nasdaq Composite was off by 5.5%.
Major tech names were a significant drag, with trillion-dollar market cap firms Amazon, Microsoft and Apple all lost more than 5%, while Facebook fell by close to 8%. A disappointing earnings season was the main catalyst for the tech slump, with Google parent Alphabet the one company to buck that trend. Alphabet’s shares closed the week out just 1% down, after delivering surprise growth in digital advertising revenue.
Elsewhere, European markets suffered their worst week since June, with the FTSE 100 down close to 5%. The start of the week could be a tumultuous one for UK stocks, as over the weekend a new national lockdown in England was announced, to last for at least the next four weeks. The FTSE 100 has started the session down around 0.5%.
Volatility jumps 40% pre-election
Last week, stock market volatility jumped 40% versus prior weeks, as election, stimulus and political uncertainty combined to derail stocks from “the path defined by fundamentals,” according to analysts at financial advice firm Edward Jones. In a Friday note, they added “the stock market hates uncertainty, and the presidential election poses a unique type of uncertainty”.
The heavy losses delivered last week came despite Thursday’s US GDP data coming in above consensus expectations, and overall positive results from corporate earnings season. According to FactSet data, 86% of S&P 500 companies that have reported third-quarter earnings so far have beaten expectations, versus an average of 73% from the past five years.
Year-to-date, the S&P 500 is now nearly back into negative territory, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite remains up more than 20%.
S&P 500: -1.2% Friday, 1.2% YTD (-5.6% last week)
Dow Jones Industrial: -0.6% Friday, -7.1% YTD (-6.5% last week)
Nasdaq Composite: -2.5% Friday, 21.6% YTD (-5.5% last week)
Worst week for FTSE 100 since June
The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 posted near identical results last week, losing 4.8% and 4.9% respectively. For the FTSE 100, that loss takes the index past a 25% loss year-to-date. Asset manager M&G, defense giant BAE Systems and home developer Barratt Developments were among the week’s biggest losers, with all three suffering double-digit losses. On Friday, mortgage lender Nationwide issued a warning with ramifications for home developers. The firm reported that average UK house prices jumped by 5.8% in October versus the same month in 2019, but the firm’s chief economist, Robert Gardner, said “activity is likely to slow in the coming quarters, perhaps sharply, if the labour market weakens as analysts expect”.
The lockdown announced over the weekend will be front and center for investors in UK shares today, as recent weakness has in part been driven by fears of new restrictions that will have negative ramifications for the economy.
FTSE 100: -0.1% Friday, -26.1% Friday (-4.8% last week)
FTSE 250: 0.2% Friday, -21.3% Friday (-4.9% last week)
What to watch
PayPal: Online payments firm PayPal’s share price has surged by more than 70% in 2020, although its advance has slowed in recent months. The company has been the beneficiary of a massive shift to online shopping driven by the pandemic, which has increased user growth and payment volume, including in its mobile payments brand Venmo. To capitalise, PayPal has been rolling out new features, including allowing shoppers to split up some payments into interest-free installments. Currently, Wall Street analysts heavily favour a buy rating on PayPal stock, with an expected earnings per share figure of $0.94 when the company delivers its Q3 results today.
Estee Lauder: Cosmetics giant Estee Lauder has gained 6.4% in 2020, after an 11% surge over the past three months. The company delivers its latest set of quarterly earnings today, a key point of focus will be how management anticipates the firm will be affected by any new lockdowns to come as Covid-19 cases surge in many regions. Last quarter, management set out a plan to reduce the firm’s retail footprint. Progress made there, plus investments to strengthen its online presence, will be key points to watch. Currently, 17 analysts rate the stock as a buy or overweight, four as a hold, and two as an underweight or sell.
Clorox: Cleaning products firm Clorox surged in the early days of the pandemic due to huge demand for its products, and year-to-date its share price is still up by 35%. The company has seen a recent pullback, however, with its shares down 12.4% in the past three months. Clorox delivers its latest set of quarterly earnings today, investors will be watching for how demand is sustaining as the pandemic progresses and more is learned about the Covid-19 virus (including its ability to spread on surfaces). The ability of the company to meet demand from a logistics and products standpoint will also be a point of interest. Currently, analysts favour a hold rating on the stock.
The US presidential election
This week’s US presidential election is likely to have a number of effects on markets, both during the event and depending on the outcome. A contended result is a distinct possibility, which could lead to a lengthy recount and court challenge.
According to analysis from Edward Jones, since 1932 stocks declined the day after the election in 14 out of 22 cases. Most of those returns have ranged from 0% to 1.5%, but in 2008, 2012 and 2016 the losses were more significant. “Historically, these post-election dips proved misleading and short-lived, with stocks quickly reversing course,” the firm’s analysts wrote. Volatility surrounding the election has historically tended to subside gradually 30 days after the election and fully returns to pre-election prevailing conditions 60 days later.
Crypto corner: trick or treaters find bitcoin instead of sweeties
Young Canadian trick or treaters were rewarded with generous bitcoin gift cards at one crypto-enthusiast’s home.
Canadian bitcoin enthusiast Brad Mills filled his home’s Halloween candy box with not just sweets and chocolate but bitcoin gift cards worth between $100 and $200 USD and posted the results on Twitter. Kids exclaimed excitedly, “dude I got some bitcoin” while others were left scratching their heads as to what it was they had been given.
Although a minor publicity stunt, it came at a moment when bitcoin’s USD price briefly touched above $14,000 for the first time since January 2018, another fresh high for the cryptoasset. At the time of writing it is trading back down around $13,746, however.
All data, figures & charts are valid as of 02/11/2020. All trading carries risk. Only risk capital you can afford to lose.