“An August August for Gold?”

310721_gold_scoreboard

Moreover, ’twas during August just a year ago when Gold impressively printed its All-Time High at 2089. August indeed, that August. But from the “That Was Then, This Is Now Dept.”, what about this August? Shall it be another august August for Gold? Or rather a month of directionless disorganization, similar to the bedlam from one Dr. August Balls of Nice, (aka “The Great Balls”, so dubbed by Inspecteur Jacques Clouseau)?

To be sure, Gold was at best disorganized throughout July, price settling yesterday (Friday) at 1817. Having opened July at 1771 and not reaching below 1766, price could not clear 1835, the month’s wee 3.9% trading range being Gold’s narrowest since that recorded over two years ago in May 2019.

Our take is that Gold shall record another august August. Not necessarily up to its All-Time High (2089), let alone our forecast high for this year (2401). But nonetheless, an up month in the offing. And if for no other technical reason than price’s refusing to succumb to the ongoing parabolic Short trend as denoted by the rightmost red dots in this chart of Gold’s weekly bars from one year ago-to-date:

310721_gold_weekly

“So mmb, are you already eliminating August for Gold reaching your 2401 level?”

Not absolutely ruling it out, Squire; rather, being seasonally realistic. Our sense is that Gold’s best shot to accelerate upward shall occur during the September-October period when — for everything else — “it all goes wrong”. Such timely market turmoil you and I see as justified both fundamentally and quantitatively, but to which the balance of the investing world seem out to lunch, (which is always how it is before IT suddenly happens).

Still to this day when we query money folk about how they’re prepared to protect their or their client’s portfolios upon waking up with the S&P 500 futures “locked limit-down”, it remains that the subject swiftly is changed and/or we hear crickets. And as we’ve already cited: upon the price/earnings ratio of the S&P reverting to its mean (19.2x) — which it has always done throughout the Index’s 64-year history — the loss this time ’round regressed into “Dow” terms may exceed -20,000 points in as little as three “trading-suspended” days. (As a recent reminder exercise, calculate the “Dow” high from 19 February to its 18 March low of just a year ago).

And now Dr. Anthony Fauci declares our COVID vaccinations shan’t necessarily shield us from DELTA? What’s next? OMEGA? Got Gold?

Surely none of us wish to see Gold soar because the world ends, (“Dow +2”). We merely wish to see Gold rise to meet its Scoreboard debasement value, presently shown as 3888.

Still to date in 2021, hardly is Gold on any run. For as we turn to our BEGOS Markets Standings, the yellow metal is but one notch above the bumbling Bond:

310721_begos_standings

‘Course, we cannot completely discredit the Bond: for as the “red-hot” economy was instead cooling through most of Q2, the price of the Bond today is 7.6% above its 18 March low, the yield since then having fallen from 2.505% to now 1.897%. Clearly that is indicative of Bond traders (who live in reality) following the Economic Barometer, whilst equity traders (who live in lemming land) chase earningless risk. Here’s the Baro, its rightmost pale violet stint essentially representative of the metrics reported for Q2.

Thus when you just saw the “Advanced Gross Domestic Product” annualized pace for Q2 come in nearly flat (6.5%) compared with that of Q1 (6.3%) — whilst all around were projecting a pace some 30% higher (8.5%) — hardly were you surprised when CNBS reported: “U.S. GDP Rose 6.5% Last Quarter, Well below Expectations”. (But that’s why you follow our stuff).

Still, with July’s Chicago Purchasing Managers Index and the Conference Board’s read on Consumer Confidence both improving, June’s Personal Income was flat with Spending hardly higher, New Home Sales slowing, and Pending Home Sales shrinking. “Red-hot”? Not: as so anticipated the Federal Open Market Committee, their only “talking taper” as usual in again voting unanimously last Wednesday to do nothing. They know they’re both stuck as well as a catalyst for “it all going wrong” the instant they jerk the rug a tad.

Meanwhile, we have a positive read on Q2 Earnings Season: with 277 of the S&P 500‘s constituents having reported, 88% having beaten their bottom lines of a year ago, far and away the best year-over-year performance we’ve ever recorded. (‘Course going from “shut” to “open” makes for such substantive improvement). In fact, so “august” are earnings improvements that (thus far) they’ve knocked our “live” p/e for the S&P down from 56.3x a week ago to 49.8x today. Why, a return to the 19.2x median warrants an S&P correction of now just -61%. Are you prepared? (…crick-crick …crick-crick.. .crick-crick…)

As to the yellow metal’s aforementioned state of disorganization, so ’tis further emphasized here per our graphic of Gold & Co’s percentage tracks from one year ago-to-date, all of which are under water save for (barely) Franco-Nevada (FNV) +2%, followed by Newmont (NEM) -4%, Gold itself -7%, the Global X Silver Miners exchange-traded fund (SIL) -11%, Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) -14%, the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners exchange-traded fund (GDX) -16%, and from worst-to-first-and-back-to-worst Pan American Silver (PAAS) -21%. But upon their all going well when “it all goes wrong”, don’t forget the leverage, luv:

310721_gold_gdx_nem_aem_fnv_sil_paas

Now here’s an eye-opener that is as Pro-Silver as ever. In going ’round the horn for all eight BEGOS Markets by their daily bars from one month ago-to-date, look notably at the ascending grey trendline for precious metal Gold. Look as well at the ascending grey trendline for industrial metal Copper. And yet almost impossibly, the same for Silver is descending. But here’s the good news: rare as ’tis, this phenomena has occurred (on a mutually-exclusive basis) six times since the beginning of 2020. And each time hence Silver has within a matter of weeks settled at minimum three full points higher. So from the yellow and red metals to the white metal, there’s a tradable gift on a Silver platter. Note too that Silver’s baby blue dots indicative of trend consistency have just kinked up:

310721_begos_dots

Next, specific to the last fortnight, here we’ve the Market Profiles for Gold on the left and Silver on the right, their nearby trading supports as noted, (with a little resistance up there for Gold at 1832):

310721_gold_silver_profiles

And it being month-end, we can’t quite wrap it without bringing up Gold’s Structure by the monthly bars. With respect to that mentioned earlier, the rightmost bar shows us just how comparatively narrow was Gold’s July … ahead of what we anticipate shall be a more robust, indeed august, August:

310721_gold_structure

To close, we have these three observations:

  • From the ever-popular “They’re Just Figuring This Out Now? Dept”: Bloomy reported this past week that “Oil Rebounds After Industry Report Shows Shrinking U.S. Supplies”. Given the perfunctory shutdown of otherwise potential U.S. Oil transport facilities in the changeover of the StateSide Administration this past January, ought we be surprised? (See too, in leading the aforeshown BEGOS Markets Standings, Oil +52.4% year-to-date … Thanks Joe).
  • Next week brings the oft-dubbed “Mother of All Numbers Day” (Friday, 06 August) when the Department of Labor Statistics reports Non-Farm Payrolls for July, the expectation being for a 9% gain over those for June, with the Unemployment Rate dropping from 5.9% to 5.6%. That’s nice, ‘cept the ADP Employment Change (Wednesday, 04 August) for July is estimated to be a 6% loss. But who’s counting, right?
  • And last Wednesday, Dow Jones “Red-Hot Economy” Newswires noted in spite of vaccinations, COVID continues to emanate from one surge to the next, but that “…a host of adaptations by governments and businesses have also helped limit economic damage…” Translated to layman’s terms, such “adaptations” are currency debasement and enterprise restriction. Reason enough to follow the stars for Gold’s august August that also shines for Silver!

Cheers!

…m…

www.deMeadville.com
www.TheGoldUpdate.com

Inflation Climbs Higher, but Gold Closes Sharply Lower

However, it came in under analyst expectations and forecasts, which was one factor that took gold prices lower on the last trading day of July 2021.

The PCE price index rose 0.5% in June taking the one-year inflationary change to 4% according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). It took a combination of four concurrent monthly major upticks in inflation to raise inflation to 4% over the past 12 months. The last time the PCE price index was at this level was in 2008.

pce july

The Federal Reserve’s target has been to maintain an inflationary rate of approximately 2%, this year the fed adjusted its mandate to focus on maximum employment and let inflation run hot. But the fact that inflation based on the CPI is at 5.4%, and now the PCE price index which strips out food costs in energy is double the Federal Reserve’s target it must be running hotter than the Fed expected.

During the press conference held by Chairman Powell this week, he acknowledged that inflation has risen much faster this year than he and other senior Federal Reserve members predicted. He also acknowledged that is possible that inflation “could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expected.”

The Fed continues to maintain that the current inflationary rate is transitory because rising prices are almost entirely the result of the reopening of the U.S. economy. He blames much of the inflationary pressure is due to supply bottlenecks saying, “Supply bottlenecks have been larger than anticipated.” He also added that “Once these bottlenecks abate and the economy returns to normal.”

While some analysts agree with the Federal Reserve’s assumption that inflation is for the large part a transitory scenario, many analysts believe that the current uptick in inflation is not all transitory citing recent dramatic rises in food cost and energy.

Regardless of the statements by Chairman Powell inflation even using their preferred index which strips out food and energy costs, inflationary pressures are at a dramatic and alarming high. More importantly, because the Fed is assuming that inflation will likely slip back to a number closer to the Federal Reserve’s 2% target next year, if they are wrong, the implications would be alarming.

As of 5:51 PM EST gold futures basis, the most active December 2021 Comex contract is currently down $18.90 and fixed at $1816.90. On a technical basis, we saw a resistance enter the market as gold broke through both its 200-day moving average yesterday, but stalled just below the 50-day moving average. Today gold prices opened just above the 50-day moving average at $$1831.10. Today gold opened at $1832.50. Therefore, the 50-0day moving average is a critical price point that must be breached on a closing basis next week if we are to see the strong price increases witness yesterday marks the continuation of a rally next week.

July Gold July 29

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Gold at a Crossroads of Hawkish Fed and High Inflation

So, so you think you can tell heaven from hell, a bull market from a bear market? It’s not so easy, as gold seems to be at a crossroads. On the one hand, accelerating inflation should take gold higher, especially that the real interest rates stay well below zero. On the other hand, a hawkish Fed should send the yellow metal lower, as it would boost the expectations of higher bond yields. The Fed’s tightening cycle increases the interest rates and strengthens the US dollar, creating downward pressure on gold.

However, gold is neither soaring nor plunging. Instead, it seems to be in a sideways trend. Indeed, as the chart below shows, gold has been moving in a trading zone of $1,700-$1,900 since September 2020.

Now, the obvious question is: what’s next? Are we observing a bearish correction within the bull market that started in late 2018? Or did the pandemic and the following economic crisis interrupt the bear market that begun in 2011? Could a new one have started in August 2020? Or maybe gold has returned to its sideways trend from 2017-2018, with the trading corridor simply situated higher?

Oh boy, if I had the answers to all the wise questions that I’m asking! You see, the problem is that the coronavirus crisis was a very special recession – it was very deep but also very short. So, all the golden trends and cycles have intensified and shortened. What used to be years before the epidemic, took months this time. Welcome to a condensed gold market!

Hence, I would say that the peak of July 2021 marked the end of the bull market which started at the end of 2018, and triggered a new bear market, as traders decided that the vaccines would save the economy and the worst was behind the globe. This is, of course, bad news for all investors with long positions.

I didn’t call the bear market earlier, as the combination of higher inflation and a dovish Fed was a strong bullish argument. However, the June FOMC meeting and its dot-plot marked a turning point for the US monetary policy. The Fed officials started talking about tapering, divorcing from its extraordinary pandemic stance.

So, I’ve become more bearish in the short-to-medium term than I was previously. After all, gold doesn’t like the expectations of tapering quantitative easing and rising federal funds rate. The taper tantrum of 2013 made gold plunge.

Nonetheless, the exact replay of the taper tantrum is not likely. The Fed is much more cautious, with a stronger dovish bias and better communication with the markets. The quantitative tightening will be more gradual and better announced. So, gold may not slide as abruptly as in 2013.

Another reason for not being a radical pessimist is the prospects of higher inflation. After all, inflation is a monetary phenomenon that occurs when too much money is chasing too few goods – and the recent rate of growth of the broad money supply was much higher than the pace needed to reach the Fed’s 2% target. The inflationary worries should provide some support for gold prices. What gold desperately needs here is inflation psychology. So far, we have high inflation, but markets remain calm. However, when higher inflation expectations set in, gold may shine thanks to the abovementioned worries about inflation’s impact on the economy – and, thanks to stronger demand for inflation hedges.

In other words, gold is not plunging because the Fed is not hawkish enough, and it’s not rallying because inflation is not disruptive enough. Now, the key point is that it’s more likely that we will see a more hawkish Fed (and rising interest rates) sooner than stagflation. As the chart below shows, the real interest rates haven’t yet started to normalize. When they do, gold will suffer (although it might not be hit as severely as in April 2013).

Therefore, gold may decline shortly when the US central bank tapers its asset purchases (and the bond yields increase) while the first bout of inflation softens. But later, gold may rise due to the negative effects of rising interest rates and the second wave of higher inflation.

In other words, right now, the real economy is thriving, so inflation is not seen as a major problem, as it is accompanied by fast GDP growth. However, the economy will slow down at some point in the future (partially because of higher inflation) – and then we will be moving towards stagflation, gold’s favorite macroeconomic environment.

Thank you for reading today’s free analysis. We hope you enjoyed it. If so, we would like to invite you to sign up for our free gold newsletter. Once you sign up, you’ll also get a 7-day no-obligation trial for all our premium gold services, including our Gold & Silver Trading Alerts. Sign up today!

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Arkadiusz Sieron, PhD
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care.

 

Gold, USDX: Did Powell Spoil the Party?

The War on Debt

With Jerome Powell, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED), struggling to adequately define “transitory” during his press conference on Jul. 28, the market narrative has shifted from ‘hawkish FED’ to ‘dovish FED.’ And with the U.S. dollar bearing the brunt of investors’ wrath, the ‘all-clear’ sign flashed in front of the PMs. However, with post-FED rallies mainstays in the PMs’ historical record, the recent euphoria is much more semblance than substance. Thus, while Powell’s persistent patience elicits fears of financial repression, today’s economic environment lacks many of the qualities that made the gambit viable in the past.

To explain, financial repression includes measures such as direct government financing (the FED prints money and lends it directly to the U.S. Treasury), interest rate caps (yield curve control) and extensive oversight of commercial banks (reserve requirements, controlling the flow of credit). In a nutshell: governments use the strategy to keep interest rates low and ensure that they can finance their debt. And with the U.S. federal debt as a percentage of GDP currently at 128% (updated on Jul. 29), some argue that’s exactly what’s happening. Moreover, with the U.S. 10-Year real yield hitting an all-time low of -1.15% on Jul. 28, is the FED simply turning back the clock to the 1940s?

To explain, during World War Two, surging inflation helped the U.S. government ‘inflate away’ its debt. Think of it like this: if an individual borrows $100 at a 2% interest rate and repays the balance in full after one year, the total outlay is $102. However, if inflation is running at 4% (negative real yield), putting that money to work should result in an asset that’s worth $104 by the end of the year. As a result, the individual nets $2 (104 – 102) due to the inflation rate exceeding the nominal interest rate. And as it relates to the present situation, if the FED keeps real yields negative, then asset price inflation and economic growth should outpace nominal interest rates and allow the U.S. government to ‘inflate away’ its debt.

However, the strategy is not without fault. For one, financial repression occurs at the expense of bondholders. And with pension funds still required to meet the guaranteed outlays for retirees, suppressing bond yields hampers their ability to match assets and liabilities without incurring more risk.

More importantly, though, the FED doesn’t control the long end of the U.S. yield curve. For one, the FED owns roughly 23% of the U.S. Treasury market, and it has a monopoly on confidence, not long-term interest rates. Second, the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield has dropped because investors fear that the Delta variant and/or the FED’s forthcoming taper will depress the U.S. economy. And eager to front-run the potential outcome, bond investors have positioned for slower growth, lower inflation, and, eventually, a reenactment of the FED cutting interest rates.

For context, even Powell himself admitted on Jul. 28 that the decline has caught him off-guard:

Source: Bloomberg

Likewise, following WW2, the U.S. government implemented structural reforms that are not present today. For example, prudent fiscal policy emerged in the late 1940s, with the government reducing spending and prioritizing debt reduction. In stark contrast, today’s U.S. government is already finalizing an infrastructure package and the federal deficit as a percentage of GDP is still growing. For context, a deficit occurs when the governments’ outlays (expenditures) exceed its tax receipts (revenues).

Please see below:

To explain, the green line above tracks the U.S. federal surplus/deficit as a percentage of GDP. If you focus on the period from 1943 to 1950, you can see that after the deficit peaked in 1943, reduced spending and strong GDP growth allowed the green line to move sharply higher. Conversely, if you analyze the right side of the chart, you can see that current spending still outpaces GDP growth (green line moving lower), and stoking inflation is unlikely to solve the problem.

U.S. 10-Year Treasury Yield Decouples… By a Lot

Circling back to the bond market, the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield currently trades at an all-time low relative to realized inflation.

Please see below:

To explain, the scatterplot above depicts the relationship between the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield (available data dates back to 1967). For context, the headline CPI is plotted on the horizontal axis, while the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield is plotted on the vertical axis. If you analyze the dot labeled “Current Reading,” you can see that the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield has never been lower when the headline CPI has risen by 5% or more year-over-year (YoY). In fact, even if the headline CPI declined to the FED’s 2% YoY target, the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield at 1.27% would still be the lowest relative reading of all time.

However, it’s important to remember that different paths can still lead to the same destination. For example, if inflation turns out to be a paper tiger, a profound decline in inflation expectations will have the same negative impact on the PMs as a sharp rise in the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield.

Please see below:

To explain, the green line above tracks the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield, while the red line above tracks the U.S. 10-Year breakeven inflation rate. If you analyze the gap on the right side of the chart, it’s a decoupling of the ages. However, while the two lines are destined to reconnect at some point, if the red line falls off a cliff, the impact on the PMs will likely mirror the 2013 taper tantrum. For context, gold fell by more than $500 in less than six months during the event.

Finally, and most importantly, U.S. Treasury yields are only one piece of the PMs’ bearish puzzle. Knowing that one shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, betting the farm on the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield would be investing malpractice. That’s why self-similar patterns, ratios, technical indicators, the relative behavior of the gold miners, the USD Index and the FED’s taper timeline are all prudently considered when forming our investment thesis.

As an example, if gold had a perfect correlation with the U.S. 10-Year real yield, the yellow metal would be trading at roughly $1,940. However, with many other factors worthy of our attention, gold’s material underperformance indicates that a mosaic of headwinds undermines its medium-term outlook.

In conclusion, Powell’s party was in full swing on Jul. 29, as the PMs and the USD Index headed in opposite directions. However, with the yellow metal still confronted with a tough road ahead, the fundamental outlook remains dicey over the next few months. For example, with the all-time imbalance in the U.S. Treasury market eliciting little optimism, it took Powell’s dovish remarks to ignite the recent fervor. And with both developments likely to reverse in the coming months, the PMs’ upside catalysts may fade with the summer sun.

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* * * * *

All essays, research and information found above represent analyses and opinions of Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA and Sunshine Profits’ associates only. As such, it may prove wrong and be subject to change without notice. Opinions and analyses are based on data available to authors of respective essays at the time of writing. Although the information provided above is based on careful research and sources that are deemed to be accurate, Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA and his associates do not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the data or information reported. The opinions published above are neither an offer nor a recommendation to purchase or sell any securities. Mr. Radomski is not a Registered Securities Advisor. By reading Przemyslaw Radomski’s, CFA reports you fully agree that he will not be held responsible or liable for any decisions you make regarding any information provided in these reports. Investing, trading and speculation in any financial markets may involve high risk of loss. Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA, Sunshine Profits’ employees and affiliates as well as members of their families may have a short or long position in any securities, including those mentioned in any of the reports or essays, and may make additional purchases and/or sales of those securities without notice.

 

Will Silver Outperform Gold In Q3 2021?

Sentiment towards the precious metals complex turned bullish after Fed Chair Jerome Powell stated that the rising cases of the Delta variant may weigh on a recovery in the labour market and that the central bank was still “along away” from considering raising interest rates.

The main takeaway from the Federal Reserve’s July policy meeting was that the central bank remains firmly committed to their massive quantitative easing program, while allowing inflation to run hotter than usual, for some time yet.

Currently, Silver prices are trading near $25 an ounce, which presents an incredible opportunity for traders to gain exposure in the metal before it really takes off.

Silver is not only an excellent inflation hedge, but it’s also a key component in everything from electric vehicles, renewable energy to 5G technology. Based on our proprietary research, photovoltaic demand for silver could exceed 3000 tonnes in 2021, while the 5G rollout – which is only just beginning – will be a major driver of demand for years to come.

Goldman Sachs see silver prices rising to $33 an ounce in H2 2021, boosted both investment and industrial demand for the precious metal – and our research suggests similar.

In my opinion, Silver is still definitely the best trade right now and any substantial pullbacks should be viewed as buying opportunities heading into August.

Where are prices heading next? Watch The Commodity Report now, for my latest price forecasts and predictions:

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Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy Moves Gold Substantially Higher

Yesterday’s release of the Federal Reserve’s current monetary policy, coupled with statements made during the press conference by Chairman Powell, signaled a continuation of the extremely accommodative stance. By keeping interest rates (Fed funds) near zero, and their ongoing purchases of mortgage-backed securities and U.S. debt. The Federal Reserve has had the enormous task of reigniting a $20 trillion economy that was brought to its knees as a direct result of the global pandemic which caused a global recession.

Chairman Powell made it clear that they will continue to support the economy until their goal of maximum employment is reached. He added that the jobs market in the United States still had “ground to cover” before they would begin to normalize rates and begin to taper their asset purchases. He also maintained the assumption that the vast majority of the current inflation rate is transitory.

gold july 29

However, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) is currently at 5.4%, and that high of an inflation level has not been seen since 2008. The Federal Reserve’s go-to inflation index the PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures), is now at 3.4%. This is well above what the Federal Reserve anticipated when they decided to focus on the labor market, and let inflationary pressures run hot.

The economy in the United States is growing rapidly as businesses reopen. The U.S. economy is bigger now than it was before Covid, according to the Commerce Department through the St. Louis Federal Reserve. GDP is currently at 6.5% at an annual pace in the second quarter of 2021. This follows the GDP of the first quarter which came in at 6.3%. However, economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had estimated that there would be a 9.1% growth rate in the GDP.

What is alarming is the steps that were necessary to take the battered economy in the United States to its current strong GDP numbers. Fiscal stimulus in 2019 was approximately $1 trillion. This was followed by an additional $4 trillion allocated for fiscal stimulus in 2020. In the first quarter, the new administration added $1.2 trillion in fiscal stimulus. Collectively the programs created by the United States government have raised our national debt, which is now hovering close to $30 trillion. In February 2020 the national debt was at $23.3 trillion. Even Chairman Powell acknowledge last month our current spending and debt level is not sustainable.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet of assets has now swelled over $8 trillion. During the 2009 recession, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet swelled to approximately $4.5 trillion, which was reduced by tapering to $3.7 trillion. The Fed balance sheet has more than doubled in the last two years.

Simply put, the enormous debt that the United States has to carry has a tremendous cost in terms of interest payments even at the current extremely low rates. The ramifications of the United States servicing of higher interest rates is that it will put tremendous pressure on the ability of the U.S. treasury to service that debt.

The extreme level of debt could easily continue to pressure the U.S. dollar lower and that in turn would move gold higher as investors turn to the safe-haven asset class which has protected investors against inflation for hundreds of years and most likely will continue to do that for many years to come…

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Behavior of Inflation and Bond Yields Seems… Contradictory

The markets hide many mysteries. One of them is the recent slide in the long-term bond yields. As the chart below shows, both the nominal interest rates and the real interest rates have been in a downside trend since March (with a short-lived rebound in June). Indeed, the 10-year Treasury yield reached almost 1.75% at the end of March, and by July it decreased to about 1.25%, while the inflation-adjusted yield dropped from -0.63% to about -1%.

What’s intriguing, this drop happened despite the surge in inflation. As you can see in the chart below, the seasonally adjusted annual CPI inflation rate surged to 5.3% in June, the highest level since the Great Recession. Even as inflation soared, the bond yields declined.

Why is that? Are bond traders blind? Don’t they see that the real interest rates are deeply negative? Indeed, the TIPS yields are the lowest in the history of the series (which began in 2003), while the difference between the nominal 10-year Treasury yields and the CPI annual rates is the lowest since June 1980, as the chart below shows.

The pundits say that the decline in the bond yields suggests that inflation will only be temporary and there is nothing to worry about. This is what the central bankers repeat and what investors believe. However, history teaches us that the bond market often lags behind inflation, allowing the real interest rates to plunge. This happened, for example, in the 1970s (see the chart above), when the bond market was clearly surprised by stagflation.

Another issue here is that the central banks heavily influence the bond markets through manipulation of interest rates and quantitative easing, preventing them from properly reacting to inflation. Actually, some analysts say that the bond market is the most manipulated market in the world. So, it doesn’t have to predict inflation properly.

Implications for Gold

What does the divergence between the bond yields and inflation imply for gold? Well, as an economist, I’m tempted to say “it depends”. You see, if inflation is really temporary, it will start declining later this year, making the real interest rates rise. In that case, gold would suffer (unless inflation decreases together with the pace of economic growth).

It might also be the case that the divergence will narrow as a result of the increase in the nominal interest rates. Such a move would boost the real interest rates and create downward pressure on gold.

However, if inflation turns out to be more persistent than expected, investors will fear an inflation tail risk, and they will be more eager to buy gold as an inflation hedge. As I’ve explained, the decline in the bond yields doesn’t have to mean low inflation expectations. It may also indicate expectations of slower economic growth. Combined with high inflation, it would imply stagflation, a pleasant environment for gold.

Another bullish argument for gold is the observation that the price of gold has recently lagged the drop in the real interest rates, as the chart below shows. So, it might be somewhat undervalued from the fundamental point of view.

However, given the upcoming Fed’s tightening cycle and the record low level of real interest rates, I would bet that the above-mentioned rates will increase later this year, which should send gold prices lower. But if they rise too much, it could make the markets worry about excessive indebtedness and release some recessionary forces. Then, the current reflation could transform into stagflation, making gold shine. So, gold could decline before it rallies again.

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Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care

 

The Inadvertent Debt/Inflation Trap – Is It Time To Face The Music?

What happens to a global economy after 10+ years of global central bank efforts to support a recovery attempt after a massive credit/debt collapse originates from a prior credit/debt housing bubble?  What happens to global economies when they become addicted to easy money policies and central bank activities that support greater and greater risk-taking? What is the end result of these actions after more than 10+ years of excess and central bank support for the markets?

Let’s play this out a bit to think about how the current market environment may be similar to what happened in the mid/late 1990s and see if we can come to any real conclusions. Remember, we are using our research and technical analysis skills to play a “what if” scenario in this research article.  Our current trading systems have not warned us of any major Bearish price trends of price collapses that may take place. Our systems are still trading the US markets based on current market trends.  This research is completely speculative in the sense that we are trying to identify “what if” scenarios based on events in the recent past.

One thing that our research team has been discussing over the past 8+ months, since shortly after the US elections in November 2020, is the idea that the new US President/US Federal Reserve may engage in policies that are initially perceived as supportive of the global markets in a post-COVID world – yet may engage in very dangerous end results.  An example of this is the continued stimulus efforts for a world that has somewhat moved beyond the initial COVID shock and has transitioned into a new form of economic activity.  Another example would be the US Federal continuing to act in a manner to support the US equities market while Inflation and consumer activity have recently shown extreme pricing/buying activities.

One idea that my research team suggested is this activity may be similar to President Ronald Reagan’s Star-Wars project in how Reagan was able to prompt a spending excess between the US and Russia which eventually broke the Russian economy.  The process between that event and what is happening right now are strangely similar.

The Strange Outcome Of Global Central Bank Policies – The US Is The Clear Winner

The US and many foreign central banks have pushed the envelope of easy money policies over the past 8+ years by continuing to run programs to support a stronger economic outcome.  The focus has been on creating an inflationary target to start a more traditional shift away from the ongoing easy money policies.  Inadvertently, these global central banks may have created and supported one of the biggest asset shifts/bubbles in the past 50+ years.

The COVID-19 virus event may have actually pushed the US Federal Reserve and foreign global central banks into an inadvertent process of creating a massive inflation trap at a time when the global economy and corporate world was banking on much more mild inflationary trends.  The reflation trade that came after June 2020 is likely to have pushed assets, commodities, credit & debt cycles beyond any conceivable scope of reason, while putting unimaginable pressure on foreign central banks in Asia, South America, Africa, and most of the emerging markets.

The incredible rally in commodities, asset values (homes, stocks, US equities, and others) prompted capital to shift towards the strongest and most capable outcomes on the planet.  This created a liquidity trap in many foreign markets where traders moved assets into US equities, Cryptos, US ETFs, and other assets while shunning less dynamic and secure global assets.

https://www.thetechnicaltraders.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2021-07-16_WorldMarketCap-1.jpg

(Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/CM.MKT.LCAP.CD)

What has transpired over the past 10+ years is that the US equities markets have risen to levels above the 2007~08 peak levels. US equities have also continued to skyrocket higher as foreign investors seek to move assets into US Dollar-based equities and ETFs, and away from stagnant, under-performing local equities and assets.  Currently, the US stock market total capitalization makes up nearly $48T of the total global market capitalization. The next closest foreign market exchange is China, which makes up nearly $12T in total capitalization.

https://www.thetechnicaltraders.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2021-07-16_GlobalStockMarketCap-2.jpg

(Source: https://www.advratings.com/companies/the-largest-stock-exchanges)

When one takes into consideration the massive expansion of state, corporate, consumer, and global credit/debt that has taken place over the past 10+ years in China (and the risks associated with servicing that debt as well as increased commodities/asset costs which have taken place over the past 24+ months) one starts to consider if China may suddenly turn into Russia of the late 1990s.

At that time, the inflation rate in Russia reached over 120% and took place after a number of key economic events set up an almost perfect storm. The aftermath of this event continued to create moderate global market crisis events.

  • 1973 & 1979 Energy/Oil Crisis
  • 1982 US Interest Rate Peak/Recession
  • 1983 Israel Bank/Stock Crisis
  • 1987 Black Monday
  • 1991 India Economic Crisis
  • 1994 Mexican Peso Crisis
  • 1998 Russian Financial Crisis

Although the names and dates of these events are much different than what is set up today, imagine the 1973/79 oil/energy crisis was the peak in oil prices in 2018.  Imagine the 1982 peak in US interest rates was the peak in interest reached in 2018.  Imagine the Israel Bank/Stock Crisis and the 1987 Black Monday was the 2020 COVID crisis.  Imaging the 1991 India Economic Crisis, and 1994 Mexican Peso Crisis were the post-COVID economic and current crisis events that have taken place over the past 14+months throughout the world.

Now, imagine that China is the new 1998 Russian Financial Crisis taking place.  One of the biggest and strongest economies in the world is now at risk of entering a severe inflationary period where excess credit/debt of the past few decades may be washed away – just like what happened in Russia.

https://www.thetechnicaltraders.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/russia_inflation_rate2.jpg

(Source: https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/financial-crisis-1900s-2017)

Lastly, remember what came about after these events took place and how isolated the world was from the Russian economic collapse in the late 1990s. The world is not so isolated any longer.  If China initiates a credit/debt crisis event, there is a very strong likelihood that the global markets will react to this event moderately violently.

The Hang Seng Index May Foretell A Collapse In The Making

The typical process of the unwinding of this excess credit/debt/liability usually takes place in a common process.  First, individuals, corporations, and state-run agencies load up on cheap debt while inflation and costs are relatively consistent.  Then, as the economy heats up, inflation, commodity prices, and equipment/material costs begin to skyrocket – eating into operational profits for these entities. Meanwhile, the need to service the debt/credit persists.  As fractures in the system become evident (usually starting with isolated debt defaults by some large entities), investors start pricing greater risks into the credit/debt markets – further complicating the issues for these entities that are burdened with excess debt and diminishing profit margins.

Looking at the Russian Inflation Rate chart, above, any type of major inflationary increase will usually push these entities over the edge in terms of sustainability.  Once the cost of refinancing the debt and ongoing profit margins have been squeezed beyond limits, the crisis escalates to a point of implosion.

https://www.thetechnicaltraders.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/HSI_W_F.png

Given the rise in Real Estate, Commodities, Oil/Energy costs, and other factors, we believe this event may be unfolding right before us in current market trends.  China may be the focus of what Russia was in the late 1990s with extensive credit/debt issues, massive imports of raw materials, commodities, and food, and extensive global foreign debt/credit issues related to the Belt Road project.  If a global event were to unfold, which we are only speculating MAY happen at this point, China and Asia would become the focal point for this process.

More than ever, right now, traders need to move away from risk functions and start using common sense.  There will still be endless opportunities for profits from these extended price rotations, but the volatility and leverage factors will increase risk levels for traders that are not prepared or don’t have solid strategies.  Don’t let yourself get caught in these next cycle phases unprepared.

Want to know how our BAN strategy is identifying and ranking various sectors and ETFs for the best possible opportunities for future profits? Please take a minute to learn about my BAN Trader Pro newsletter service and how it can help you identify and trade better sector setups.  My team and I have built this strategy to help us identify the strongest and best trade setups in any market sector.  Every day, we deliver these setups to our subscribers along with the BAN Trader Pro system trades.  You owe it to yourself to see how simple it is to trade 30% to 40% of the time to generate incredible results.

As something entirely new, check out my new initiative URLYstart to learn more about the youth entrepreneurship program I am developing. This is an online program of gamified entrepreneurship designed to introduce and inspire kids to start their own businesses. Click-by-click, each student will be guided from their initial idea, through the startup process all the way to their first sale and beyond. Along the way, our students will learn life lessons such as communication, perseverance, goal setting, teamwork, and more. My team and I are passionate about this project and want to reach as many kids as possible!

Have a great day!

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Chris Vermeulen
Chief Market Strategist
www.TheTechnicalTraders.com

 

German Inflation Hits 13-Yr High, Union Demands “Strong Wage Increases”

By Rene Wagner and Paul Carrel

Consumer prices, harmonised to make them comparable with inflation data from other European Union countries, rose by 3.1% in July compared with 2.1% in June, the Federal Statistics Office said. A Reuters poll had pointed to a reading of 2.9%.

July’s reading was the highest since August 2008, when the harmonised inflation rate hit 3.3%, an official at the Statistics Office said.

The rise pushed the inflation rate further above the European Central Bank’s 2% target, and fuelled a debate about whether the increase in the cost of living will persist.

“From today’s perspective, a sustained increase in inflation is not to be expected,” an Economy Ministry spokesperson said, citing base effects from a temporary reduction in VAT rates in the second half of 2020 that affected comparisons.

However, German central bank chief Jens Weidmann has said he is worried about the prospect of the ECB’s low-interest-rate environment being extended for too long. Weidmann said his advisers anticipated inflation nearing 5% in Germany later this year.

Weidmann made his comments after the ECB pledged to keep interest rates at record lows for even longer to boost sluggish inflation and warned that the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus poses a risk to recovery.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski said supply chain disruptions and higher commodity costs could put more pressure on prices, adding: “Don’t rule out that headline inflation north of 4% at the end of the year will affect wage negotiations in 2022.”

Services sector trade union Verdi jumped on the acceleration in inflation to call for robust wage rises.

“We need strong wage increases for employees precisely because of rising prices,” Verdi deputy chair Andrea Kocsis told Reuters.

Holger Schmieding, economist at Berenberg Bank, said some service sector businesses had taken advantage of the reopening of the economy after COVID-19 lockdowns to raise their prices.

“In the coming months, the inflation rate will remain high and even tend to increase somewhat,” he added.

Euro zone inflation figures for July are due on Friday. In June, the rate ran at 1.9%.

The ECB said last week it would not hike borrowing costs until it sees inflation reach its 2% target “well ahead of the end of its projection horizon and durably”.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Carmel Crimmins)

U.S. Pending Home Sales Decline in June

By Evan Sully

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Thursday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, fell 1.9% to 112.8. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales would increase 0.3%.

Pending home sales for May were revised to show an increase of 8.3% instead of the 8.0% gain previously reported.

Pending home contracts are seen as a forward-looking indicator of the health of the housing market because they become sales one to two months later.

“Pending sales have seesawed since January, indicating a turning point for the market,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “Buyers are still interested and want to own a home, but record-high home prices are causing some to retreat.”

Compared with one year ago, pending home sales were down 1.9%.

Sharp drops in pending home sales in the South and West in June outweighed modest increases in the Northeast and Midwest.

(Reporting by Evan Sully; Editing by Paul Simao)

Bayer to Book Extra $4.5 Billion Provision for Roundup Litigation

Bayer made the announcement in an update to investors on how it plans to deal with Roundup-related lawsuits that have dogged the company since it acquired the brand as part of its $63 billion purchase of Monsanto in 2018.

The decision comes after a U.S. judge in May rejected Bayer’s plan to try to limit the cost of future class action over claims that Roundup causes cancer.

Thousands of users have alleged Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but Bayer has said decades of studies have shown Roundup, and key ingredient glyphosate, are safe for human use.

Bayer said it would file in August a petition seeking a review of a ruling that went in favour of Roundup user Edwin Hardeman.

The German company said a ruling in its favour by the court would effectively end Roundup litigation. But it set aside the new provision should the court decline to hear the case or end up favoring the plaintiff.

(Reporting by Patricia Weiss; Writing by Tom Sims; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)

Pandemic Drove Online Prices Higher

By Howard Schneider

The study, analyzing a trillion retail site visits across 18 product categories matched to the closely watched U.S. Consumer Price Index that measures general inflation, found that online prices jumped 2.3% in June on an annual basis.

Graphic: Cost of digital goods turns up: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ECONOMY/PRICES/lgpdwmjlnvo/chart.png

They had fallen an average 3.9% annually from 2014 to 2019 and began turning higher last year.

For consumers, online shopping “has been a bit of a haven. They can get different pricing,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst for Adobe Digital Insights. “Through the pandemic what we have seen is that is not so much the case.”

The online price of appliances, for example, jumped 2.3% in June, after declining an average of 2.6% annually from 2015 to 2019 Adobe found. Online apparel jumped 16.2% after a steady 1% annual decline in price before the pandemic.

Graphic: Online shopping meets the pandemic: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ECONOMY/PRICES/myvmnmbgypr/chart.png

Some prices continued falling. The cost of computers declined nearly 10% over the year, matching its average pace of decline before the pandemic. But in another key online category, electronics, the steady 9% annual drop in prices slowed dramatically, with the cost of goods falling just 2.5%

Overall, Pandya said he felt the experience of the last year, as online shopping surged in popularity and became more common for things like groceries and household staples, has made online retailers both more subject to demand and supply chain pressures in the economy, and given them less incentive to discount.

“As retailers find demand and they are against (supply chain) shortages, they are pricing at higher levels. And in some instances consumers will reckon with that and say they are getting convenience and will continue to absorb the cost,” he said.

That could be bad news for the U.S. Federal Reserve. Online retailing is regarded by some at the Fed as an important reason why inflation overall has remained low in recent years – with consumers just a glance at their phone away from finding the best price for a widening array of products.

If the pricing of online goods starts to behave more like that of goods in stores, it might make bouts of inflation more persistent – and not, as the Fed expects, only transitory.

Adobe developed its Digital Economy Index in 2014 but until now has updated it infrequently. It plans to release results monthly going forward.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

S&P 500, Dow Scale All-Time Highs as Economy Picks Up Pace

By Sagarika Jaisinghani

Ford Motor Co jumped 5.9% to hit a more than three-week high as it lifted its profit forecast for the year.

Industrials Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc, and banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc gained between 0.4% and 1%, a day after the Federal Reserve said it was not yet time to start withdrawing its massive pandemic-era monetary stimulus.

The central bank’s comments also assuaged fears that a rise in cases of the Delta variant would hurt a solid U.S. economic rebound. Data on Thursday showed gross domestic product increased at a 6.5% annualized rate in the second quarter, while jobless claims fell to 400,000 for the week ended July 24.

“What really stands out (in the GDP data) is consumption; it really means that consumers are carrying the economy,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities.

Trading on Wall Street in the past few months has also been dictated by rising inflation, and fears that higher prices would not be as transient as expected have recently knocked the benchmark S&P 500 off record highs.

Investors are now focused on the June reading of the personal consumption expenditures price index – the Fed’s main inflation measure, which is due on Friday.

“Once we have normalized our supply chains, there won’t be much of this inflation pressure, which can be achievable in the next six months, but the spread of the Delta variant is a wild card, which could derail the recovery process,” said Arthur Weise, chief investment officer at Kingsland Growth Advisors.

At 9:42 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.49%, the S&P 500 was up 0.44%, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.36%.

Trading in the shares of technology behemoths Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and Google-parent Alphabet Inc was muted.

The group has tended to underperform the broader market during times of economic optimism, when investors prefer stocks such as mining and energy, which are expected to benefit more from a steady business recovery.

 

Graphic: U.S. reflation trade hurts Nasdaq, lifts Dow: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/zjpqkqakwpx/Pasted%20image%201627564664970.png

 

Facebook Inc fell 3.2% as it warned revenue growth would “decelerate significantly” following Apple’s recent update to its iOS operating system that would impact the social media giant’s ability to target ads.

KFC-owner Yum Brands Inc, on the other hand, gained 3.8% after beating expectations for quarterly sales.

China’s Didi Global jumped 14.4% after a report said it was considering going private to placate Chinese authorities and compensate investor losses since the ride-hailing firm listed in the United States. Didi denied what it called a “rumor” that it could go private.

Focus later in the day will be on shares of Robinhood Markets Inc, which is scheduled to start trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker “HOOD” after the company raised $2.1 billion in its initial public offering on Wednesday.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.36-to-1 on the NYSE and 2.52-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 40 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 10 new lows.

(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani, Sruthi Shankar and Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Aditya Soni)

Foreign Funds Now Own 81% of All Shares Listed on Moscow Exchange

U.S. sanctions and increased debt issuance to fight the coronavirus crisis pushed foreign investors’ share of Russia’s OFZ treasury bonds to its lowest since 2015 earlier this year, but stocks have largely escaped the same fate, buoyed by rising oil prices in 2021.

Foreign funds held 80.7% of shares freely floated on the stock market as of July 1, the Moscow Exchange’s head of primary markets, Natalia Loginova, told media during a webinar. That was up from 65.6% in 2020, but slightly below 83.3% in 2019.

Loginova said investors from the United States and Canada accounted for 54% of the total, with 22% from the United Kingdom and 21% from the rest of Europe.

“We are talking about non-residents – large, global, institutional investors,” Loginova said, putting the foreign fund inflows down to the outperformance of the MSCI Russia index this year and relatively high dividend yields offered by many Russian companies.

The Moscow Exchange estimates dividend yields in Russia at the end of the year will reach 7.9%, higher than in other major emerging markets, such as Turkey, estimated at 5.1%, South Africa at 4.7% and China at 2.4%.

(Graphics: Russia leads other EM countries in dividend yield: https://graphics.reuters.com/RUSSIA-MOEX/jnvweglgovw/chart.png)

Russia has seen a flurry of initial and secondary public offerings since online retailer Ozon made a strong debut on the U.S. Nasdaq late last year, with depositary receipts trading in Moscow.

The central bank is preparing to simplify the regulatory environment and remove obstacles to incentivise IPOs, it said earlier this month, and the bourse is expecting more than 10 IPOs or SPOs by the end of 2021.

“We have a good IPO pipeline, the central bank’s measures are contributing to it, plus Ozon’s success story is attracting new issuers,” Loginova said.

UBS said in March that Russia was set for an IPO boom this year, which could raise at least $10 billion.

(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Susan Fenton)

Oil Edges Higher on Inventory Drawdowns, Brent Tops $75 a Barrel

By Dmitry Zhdannikov

Brent crude oil futures were up 45 cents, or 0.6%, at $75.19 a barrel by 1342 GMT, having traded as high as $75.55. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were up 56 cents, or 0.8%, to $72.95 a barrel.

Brent topped $75 a barrel for the first time in more than two years in June, but fell back sharply this month on fears about the rapid spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus and a compromise deal by leading oil producers to increase supply.

“The (oil inventory) falls suggest the rise in cases of COVID-19’s Delta variant is having little impact on mobility,” ANZ analysts said in a note on Thursday.

Crude inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels in the week to July 23, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, helped by lower imports and a decline in weekly production.

The U.S. economic recovery is still on track despite the rise in coronavirus infections, the U.S. Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in a policy statement that flagged ongoing talks around the eventual withdrawal of monetary policy support.

“While the risk to the demand outlook could increase due to governments across Europe reducing permission for public gatherings, we note that markets have already undergone several rounds of mobility restrictions… yet, the global recovery was not significantly derailed,” analysts from Citi said in a note.

Also supporting prices was a statement from Iran blaming the United States for a pause in nuclear talks, which could mean a delay in a return of Iranian barrels to the market.

(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Edmund Blair, Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)

Merck Sees Recovery in Non-COVID Vaccine Demand as Quarterly Sales Beat Estimates

By Manas Mishra and Carl O’Donnell

Sales of non-COVID-19 vaccines and physician-administered drugs are expected to recover as hospitals and clinics have started to adapt to the impact of the pandemic, Merck executives told investors.

Merck, which failed in its efforts to produce a coronavirus vaccine, expects to have late-stage data for its COVID-19 antiviral, molnupiravir, in October, Chief Financial Officer Caroline Litchfield said.

The U.S. drugmaker in June agreed to provide 1.7 million doses of the drug to the United States government for around $1.2 billion once it is cleared by regulators. It is also in supply talks with other countries.

Demand for Gardasil, its vaccine to prevent cancers linked to the human papillomavirus, recovered sharply in the second quarter as patients started to catch up on routine medical visits skipped at the height of the pandemic.

Gardasil sales jumped 88% to $1.23 billion, beating analysts’ estimates of $991.38 million.

Recent improvements in the supply chain for the vaccine will drive “very strong sequential and year-over-year growth for Gardasil in the back half of the year, especially in ex-U.S. markets,” said Franklin Clyburn, president of Merck’s human health business.

Sales of cancer immunotherapy Keytruda rose 23% to $4.18 billion in the quarter, in line with estimates.

The company’s top growth driver is on track to become the world’s best-selling drug by 2023.

Merck on Thursday said it had the financial flexibility to consider deals of all sizes and would focus on assets that could add to its strength in the cancer market.

“We want to build upon that strength and actually see ourselves as a company that over time can be a broad player across oncology,” said Merck’s new Chief Executive Officer Robert Davis on an investor call.

“One of the areas we continue to believe we do not need to go is to the very large synergy-driven deals. I think we have enough firepower in our own pipeline,” he added.

The company’s second-quarter sales rose 22% to $11.40 billion, beating estimates of $11.10 billion.

Merck reported adjusted earnings of $1.31 per share for the quarter, in-line with analyst estimates. Its share were down 1% in early trading.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Bill Berkrot)

Acquittal of Eni and Shell in Nigeria Case Faces Legal Challenge

In March, a Milan court acquitted the two companies and defendants in the oil industry’s biggest corruption case involving the $1.3 billion acquisition of a Nigerian oilfield a decade ago.

The Nigerian government said at the time it was surprised and disappointed by the verdict and would consider lodging an appeal.

The case revolved around a deal in which Eni and Shell acquired the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in 2011 to settle a long-standing dispute over ownership.

Prosecutors alleged that just under $1.1 billion of that amount was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.

The court in Milan said there was no case to answer and acquitted the companies and all other defendants.

“We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal. We will review the appeal that has been filed,” a Shell spokesperson said.

Eni said it acknowledged the appeal by the prosecutors and Nigerian government. “Waiting to read the reasons for the appeal; Eni confirms its total extraneousness to the contested facts,” a spokesperson said.

Last month, two prosecutors in the case were placed under official investigation by magistrates for allegedly not filing documents that would have supported Eni’s position. Italy’s justice ministry ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the pair.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Additional reporting by Ron Bousso and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Agnieszka Flak and Mike Harrison)

Spanish Court Drops Investigation Into Repsol Chairman in Alleged Spying Case

By Jesús Aguado

The investigating judge Manuel Garcia Castellon also dismissed an investigation against former Caixabank chairman Isidro Faine and the companies Repsol and Caixabank.

The High Court had put all of them under investigation as part of a probe into the alleged spying case.

Repsol’s spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. A Caixabank spokesperson declined to comment.

Castellon was investigating whether Repsol and Caixabank hired Grupo Cenyt, a security firm belonging to former police chief Jose Manuel Villarejo, to spy on the then chairman of construction company Sacyr, Luis del Rivero, in 2011 and 2012.

The alleged aim was to block a takeover bid for Repsol by Sacyr and Mexican state oil firm Pemex.

Repsol was then partly owned by Caixabank.

On Thursday, the court said “without evidence that the chairmen of the companies were directly involved in the events under investigation, it is not possible to put them under corporate supervision and oversight.”

The court also said in its ruling that both companies had adequate measures in place to prevent the commission of the offences under investigation.

Castellon was investigating Brufau and Faine for any possible links to bribery, in connection with both companies’ alleged dealings with Villarejo.

No formal charges had been brought as the probe was in its first phase.

The investigation is part of a wider inquiry, centered on Villarejo’s activities, that has roiled Spain’s corporate sector, causing some reputational damage, but with no clear impact on companies’ businesses so far.

(Reporting by Jesús Aguado; additional reporting by Emma Pinedo; editing by Inti Landauro and David Evans)

Big Oil Back to Boom After Pandemic Bust, Aiding Climate Push

By Ron Bousso

After swiftly cutting spending and jobs in response to the unprecedented collapse in energy demand last year, executives from Royal Dutch Shell, TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor were eager to highlight the rapid reversal in fortunes.

“We wanted to be really clear and signal to the market the confidence that we have in our prospects and our cash flows,” Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said on Thursday, after Shell launched a $2 billion buyback programme and boosted its dividend for a second consecutive quarter, a year after cutting it for the first time since the 1940s.

Energy companies have come under heavy pressure from climate campaigners, governments and shareholders to speed up the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner sources.

While some investors welcome the change as they perceive carbon-intensive, fossil fuel energy as unsustainable, others are worried about the implications for profit margins of new business models.

Benchmark Brent crude oil prices more than doubled in the second quarter from a year earlier to around $69 a barrel, driven by recovering demand and tightening global supplies.

As profits surged, France’s TotalEnergies also announced on Thursday plans to buy back shares.

The group said it expected to generate more than $25 billion in cash flow this year, based on current high oil price forecasts, and would invest in more new projects and return surplus amounts to shareholders if oil prices remained high.

Equinor also said on Wednesday it would begin a long-planned share buyback that will reach $300 million by the end of the third quarter after profits surged.

BP reports its second quarter results on Aug. 3. It launched a $500 million buyback in the previous quarter after halving its dividend last year.

WEANING THEMSELVES OFF OIL

BP, as well as Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor, plans to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Oil prices are expected to remain elevated in the coming years as supplies stay tight because of lower investments.

High fossil fuel prices are double-edged. They can tempt operators to maximise conventional output, but they also produce income needed to invest in lower carbon sources.

Shell’s free cashflow – money left after deducting spending and shareholder payouts – soared in the second quarter to $9.7 billion, its highest in a year, while debt also declined.

“The quarter proves without doubt that Shell’s earnings power is intact and that they’re willing to pay investors handsomely to come on their transformation journey,” Bernstein analyst Oswald Clint said.

TotalEnergies’s results are a “confirmation that the group is geared to the macro environment and can deliver both on the energy transition and cash returns to shareholders,” Barclays analysts said in a note.

Despite the surge in revenue, Shell and TotalEnergies indicated they would stick to previous spending plans.

Shell said it will not spend more than its planned $22 billion this year and any increases in the futures will go mostly towards low-carbon businesses.

TotalEnergies said investments would reach between $12 and $13 billion in 2021, with half of that earmarked for growth projects, including a major chunk in renewable energy and electricity.

Graphic: Big Oil’s energy transition: https://graphics.reuters.com/OILMAJORS-SPENDING/qzjpqxgwmvx/chart.png

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by Barbara Lewis)

Textron Lifts 2021 Profit Forecast Again on Business Jet Strength

Business jet traffic has rebounded from COVID-19 pandemic lows more quickly than commercial flights in the United States, helped by wealthy leisure travelers and some would-be first time flyers avoiding airlines.

Textron expects to get back to production levels similar to 2019 by 2022. General Dynamics Corp said on Wednesday it would make more of its Gulfstream jets.

While Textron Chief Executive Scott Donnelly told analysts the higher demand “seems to be quite sustainable”, the maker of Cessna business jets is facing labor and supply chain challenges as factories struggle to meet surging orders.

“While we’ve experienced continued strong retail demand for our products, we have been impacted by our supply chain’s ability to fully meet this demand, and we continue to work through these production challenges,” Donnelly said.

He said Textron is bringing workers back to support growing production but echoed critics in suggesting hiring was a challenge due to expanded U.S. unemployment benefits.

“I think hiring will get easier as the year goes on, we get off some of these unemployment programs that are frankly, creating huge disincentives for people not to work,” Donnelly said.

The company said it expects 2021 adjusted earnings of $3.00 to $3.20 per share, compared to its previous forecast of $2.80 to $3.

Textron’s aviation unit delivered 44 jets, higher than the 23 a year earlier, and 33 commercial turboprops, up from 15 in 2020.

Sales in its aviation unit rose 55.4% to $1.16 billion in the second quarter.

Excluding items, the company earned 81 cents per share, above analyst estimates of 65 cents, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue rose 29% to $3.19 billion, above analysts’ average estimate of $2.97 billion, according to Refinitv data.

Textron shares were indicated 1.3% at $70 ahead of opening.

(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Allsion Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)