Risk aversion is percolating as investors brace for arduous negotiations over Biden’s stimulus proposal. Not helping sentiment is the Trump administration passing of the US-China trade/tech war baton. The blacklisting of another 9 Chinese companies brings the Defense Department total to 44 companies that may be owned or controlled by China’s military. These measures will also punish US manufacturers as they will struggle to fill their chip supplies.
Throughout the pandemic, the official start of earnings season was mostly positive for stocks as most of the banks painted a picture of a resilient consumer and impressive trading results. Today, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo kicked off earnings season and near-term uncertainty and longer-term competition sent the entire banking sector lower.
JPMorgan posted a strong earnings and revenue beat, raised this year’s Net interest income guidance, and boosted their stock buyback program by 500 million shares. CEO Dimon was downbeat and emphasized the near-term economic uncertainty and warned that China’s big banks could become serious competitors in five to ten years.
Wells Fargo shares fell after posting soft revenue and net interest income. Citigroup shares were punished after disappointing FICC Sales and trading revenue. All the big banks are trading lower given the soft start to earnings and as Treasury yields slide.
US stocks are selling off as investors digest Biden’s American Rescue Plan. It doesn’t help we are going into a long weekend, so things could get uglier into the close.
President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal was met with some opposition from Republicans but is still expected to get passed through once it is slimmed down. Biden’s priorities include: $1,400 stimulus checks, increased unemployment benefits, money for state-and-local government aid, and vaccine programs. At some point in early February, the relief package will probably end up being closer to $1 trillion.
The US consumer had a tough holiday season as it seems most of the spending was done earlier in the pandemic. Retail sales for December fell 0.7%, worse than the flat reading that was eyed, with the prior reading seeing a sharp downward revision. The control group, which excludes gasoline, automobiles, food services, and building-materials, fell 1.9% and the prior reading was revised significantly lower to -1.1%. The control group mimics the consumption component of GDP and will likely drag down estimates for fourth quarter GDP.
With 18 million people still receiving unemployment benefits and a large part of the economy still working from home, Wall Street should not be surprised with these dismal sales numbers.
The Empire State manufacturing survey was still in expansion territory, but the slowdown is worsening. NY manufacturing was at 17.0 in September and has steadily declined to 3.5 in January.
Producer prices rose less-than-expected, mostly powered by energy, and will not raise any alarms for down-the-road price pressures for consumers.
The argument for more fiscal support and a quick passing of Biden’s stimulus proposal were supported following weaker than-expected retail sales, Empire State Manufacturing Survey, and producer prices data. Industrial production and Manufacturing data however both impressed and have been unfazed by the third COVID, but that should not change the downbeat assessment of the economy.
US stocks extended declines after the US consumer sentiment softened more than forecasted in January. The US is seeing the worst of the virus and with a disappointing start to vaccine rollouts, optimism for the economy is quickly fading.