Thursday Morning Reads
- Hurdles in Final Stretch
- How Will EU Ban Impact Markets and Banks?
- Bitcoin Beach
- ‘Financial Surrealism’
- Fed Officials Rattle Rate
- The Economic Gauges Are Going Nuts
- The U.S. Averted One Housing Crisis
- The Commodities Boom
- U.S. Ranchers Build New Beef Plants
- He Warned Apple
- GM Raises Electric-Car Bet
- Older Americans Are on the Front Line
There's never a dull day when Jerome Powell comes to town, with the market hanging on to his every word from the public square. On Wednesday, the Fed raised its expectations for inflation considerably, saying the headline figure could reach 3.4%, marking a full percentage point higher than its forecast in March. While Powell still feels the price pressures are "transitory," it may now take some comforting numbers to reassure investors.
Interest rates: The central bank also brought forward the time frame on when it will next raise rates. The so-called dot plot of individual FOMC member expectations pointed to two hikes in 2023, after Powell said in March that he saw no increases until at least 2024. Stocks slumped yesterday in reaction to the news, but rallied off their intraday lows after the Fed Chair said the projections should be "taken with a big grain of salt."
Stock futures slipped further overnight, with the Dow and S&P 500 down 0.4%, respectively, and the Nasdaq off by 0.6%. Meanwhile, bond yields headed higher after the press conference, while bitcoin sold off, but both have pared much of their recent moves. Interestingly enough, traditional inflation hedge gold tumbled as far as $1,835/oz on Wednesday and fell another 3% overnight to the next support level at $1,800.
Taper talk: Powell did not issue guidance on when the central bank will begin tapering its bond-buying program, though many speculate that could come at Jackson Hole in August. "You can think of this meeting that we had as the 'talking about talking about' meeting, if you'd like," Powell said when asked about tapering. "I now suggest that we retire that term, which has served its purpose." The FOMC also disclosed it would extend dollar-swap lines with global central banks through the end of 2021, which was one of the last COVID-era programs the Fed undertook to stabilize world markets. (4 comments)
The meme trade continues to reverberate across the investing landscape and is leading to some interesting fallout for the ETF industry. Like passive smoking in a bar, passive fund investors could be getting the impact of moves in AMC (AMC) and GameStop (GME) - whether they plan to or not. While AMC's management is warning investors to steer clear of its shares at these levels unless they are prepared to lose it all, the meme stocks are having an outsize influence on indexes.
Popular plays like AMC and GameStop are the largest two holdings in BlackRock's $17.5B iShares Russell 2000 Value ETF (IWN). The two have a combined weight of 2.1%, despite the fund holding 1,495 companies. "While these numbers may seem small, remember that we're currently in a low volatility environment (VIX below 20) so every blip that impacts returns is meaningful," according to DataTrek Research.
Other examples: Russel's small-cap benchmark is not the only fund experiencing outsized weightings. GameStop accounts for 13.8% of the First Trust Nasdaq Retail ETF (FTXD), 10.9% of the Invesco S&P SmallCap Momentum ETF (XSMO), 8.8% of the Invesco S&P SmallCap Value with Momentum ETF (XSVM) and 7.8% of the Invesco S&P SmallCap Consumer Discretionary ETF (PSCD). Back in January - at the height of the meme stock saga - GameStop accounted for 19.9% of State Street Global Advisors' SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT), way ahead of the combined 11.8% weighting of the rest of its top 10 holdings.
Outlook: Most ETFs are passive index vehicles, meaning there aren't too many options to retool the fund's weightings until the next scheduled rebalancing date. What about daily rebalancing? While that could help mitigate the problem, it could raise turnover and increase trading fees. Other ideas include capping the weight of any individual stock or instituting rules that permit a fund to rebalance early in case of emergency situations. (9 comments)
When Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) starts serving up ads in its Oculus headsets it might be a new era for virtual reality. Earlier this year, the company already began testing ads within the Oculus mobile app, but it is now expanding them to actual devices. The ads will first appear in the shooter game Blaston from Resolution Games and will begin showing up in two other Oculus apps over the coming weeks.
Bigger picture: Facebook, which gets more than 97% of its overall revenue from ads, is one of the biggest players in the consumer VR landscape via Oculus Quest 2. It's also scooped up some studios behind several big VR games, including rhythm app Beat Saber and Battle Royale title Population: ONE. Oculus headset ads could be a significant step for the tech giant as it looks to provide new ways for software developers to generate revenue within the Facebook ecosystem (rather than options like SideQuest).
"This is a key part of ensuring we're creating a self-sustaining platform that can support a variety of business models that unlock new types of content and audiences," Facebook said in a blog post. "It also helps us continue to make innovative AR/VR hardware more accessible to more people. Once we see how this test goes and incorporate feedback from developers and the community, we'll provide more details on when ads may become more broadly available across the Oculus platform and in the Oculus mobile app."
Disclaimer: The ads will follow Facebook's advertising principles, giving users the same controls they have on Facebook - like hiding ads or seeing more information about the ads they're shown. Advertisements also won't be based on data that's stored locally on a user's headset (i.e. movement data or recordings from its voice assistant). However, Facebook will continue to collect info on whether or how a user interacted with an ad, such as clicking it or hiding the banner. (5 comments)
Interest in space is heating up in the public markets as companies and countries sink billions of dollars into the next frontier. Just this week, Richard Branson looked to take Virgin Orbit public through a SPAC merger with NextGen Acquisition II, while Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin (BORGN) auctioned off a seat on its first spaceflight for $28M. Cathie Wood also recently launched the ARK Space Exploration ETF (BATS:ARKX), which includes companies that support products, services or technology that occur beyond the surface of the Earth.
The latest? China this morning launched three astronauts to its upcoming space station called "Tianhe" as it looks to rival the U.S. in space. Beijing will carry out 11 missions over the next two years to complete the construction of the orbital outpost, and expects the three-module station to be fully operational by 2022. It's part of a broader ramp-up for China's space program, which continues to operate a rover on the far side of the moon and just put another one on Mars.
China is excluded from the International Space Station coalition, which operates the only other space station in orbit. American law has prohibited NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from working with China on space activities since 2011, unless such activity has been approved by Congress. That has fueled Beijing's drive to create its own space station, which is expected to remain in operation for at least a decade (the ISS could be retired in 2024).
Go deeper: China is also accelerating plans for government-sponsored satellites to beam the internet from space. It's looking to launch 10,000 satellites in the next five to ten years as part of its "StarNet" constellation, using a similar strategy that it took on Earth with Huawei and 5G. That would put it on course to compete with private sector companies in the U.S. - like SpaceX's Starlink (STRLK) and Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kuiper - which are looking to blanket the globe with internet connectivity. (14 comments)
What else is happening...
Mining stocks on watch as China releases metal reserves.
Coca-Cola and Heineken snubbed at Euros by soccer superstars.
Sports betting revenue forecast to skyrocket as more states approve.
Wednesday's Key Earnings
In Asia, Japan -0.9%. Hong Kong +0.2%. China +0.2%. India -0.6%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.5%. Paris flat. Frankfurt flat.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.4%. S&P -0.4%. Nasdaq -0.6%. Crude flat at $72.15. Gold -2.9% at $1807.20. Bitcoin -2.1% at $39334.
Ten-year Treasury Yield unchanged at 1.56%
Today's Economic Calendar