Highlights

Wall Street Breakfast

Author: bmotrader   |   Latest post: Fri, 15 Oct 2021, 10:14 AM

 

Wall Street Breakfast: Rising Yields

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While the S&P 500 is coming off its first losing week in three, the market is going into the final week of February with solid gains. The Dow and S&P 500 have already climbed more than 5% this month, the Nasdaq advanced 6.2% and the small-cap Russell 2000 outperformed with a gain of 9.3%. Some fears of rapidly rising bond yields are still settling in as U.S. stock index futures point to another weak open for today's session: Dow -0.7%; S&P 500 -1.1%; Nasdaq -1.5%.

Bigger picture: The 10-year Treasury yield jumped 14 basis points last week to 1.34%, close to its highest level since February 2020. It even touched 1.37% overnight, meaning the benchmark rate has moved up 28 basis points so far this month. That could hurt high-growth companies dependent on easy borrowing, while lessening the relative appeal of stocks. However, many on Wall Street still believe the jump in bond yields reflects a sign of growing confidence in the economic recovery and equities should be able to absorb higher rates due to strong earnings.

Quote: "We do not see the recent increase in yields as a threat to the bull market," said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist. "Given that we are in the early stages of an economic recovery, monetary and fiscal policy remains supportive, the sharp rebound in earnings, and favorable relative valuations, we maintain our overweight to equities."

Investors this week will also monitor the latest developments out of Washington, with House Democrats hoping to finalize a $1.9T stimulus package. A pickup in inflation could eventually prompt the Fed to raise short-term interest rates, though most traders don't see that happening in the near term. Also keep an eye on Jerome Powell, who is expected to reiterate a commitment to super-easy monetary policy in his semi-annual testimony before Congress this week.

Cryptocurrency - The Tesla-Bitcoin connection

Tesla (TSLA) is "on a trajectory to make more from its Bitcoin (BTC-USD) investments than profits from selling its EVs cars in all of 2020." That's according to Wedbush's Dan Ives, which gave the estimate in a research note on Saturday. While he didn't lay out the numbers, Bitcoin has climbed about 65% since Jan. 31, which would put the profit on Tesla's $1.5B bitcoin investment at around $975M.

Quote: "We still expect less than 5% of public companies will head down this route until more regulatory goal posts are put in place around the crypto market," continued Ives. "While the Bitcoin investment is a side show for Tesla, it's clearly been a good initial investment and a trend we expect could have a ripple impact for other public companies over the next 12 to 18 months."

Response: Bitcoin's market cap even hit $1T on Friday as it continued to rally into record territory. The blastoff caught the attention of Tesla's Elon Musk once again, who said "BTC & ETH do seem high lol," though it came with a tweet that said "money is just data that allows us to avoid the inconvenience of barter." In the past, Musk has suggested that "Bitcoin is almost as bs as fiat money." The key word is "almost," he added, saying, "when fiat currency has negative real interest, only a fool wouldn't look elsewhere."

After surging to a record $58,354 on Sunday, Bitcoin fell as much as 6% to below $55,000 overnight following the comments from Musk. Rival cryptocurrency Ether (ETH-USD) is meanwhile off 7% to $1,798. Disclaimer: Musk's remarks in the past that Tesla's share price was "too high" were followed by similar pullbacks, before the stock skyrocketed to new records. Will it happen again?

Aviation - Engine failure over Denver

A United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777-200 bound for Honolulu suffered an engine failure shortly after takeoff from Denver on Saturday, scattering debris across several neighborhoods. Images shared on social media showed the extent of the failure, including an engine cover (called a cowling) in front of a residential house, though the plane was able to safely return and land in Denver. There were reports of property damage, but no one was injured, including the 241 passengers and crew members onboard the flight.

What happened? A preliminary examination by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that two fan blades in one of the United aircraft's engines were fractured - one nearly entirely and the other about half-broken - while the remaining fan blades displayed signs of damage. Such engine failures, in which internal parts shatter the engine’s protective casing, can badly damage planes because debris can hit wings, fuel tanks and the fuselage.

Following the incident, Boeing told airlines to stop flying its 777 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney's (NYSE:RTX) PW4000 engine, while the FAA ordered immediate inspections of those jets. Regulators in Japan have also told local carriers to stop flying aircraft with the same engine type until further notice. United is the only U.S. operator of the planes, and the only other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea.

Go deeper: It's the third failure involving the model in recent years. A Japan Airlines (OTCPK:JAPSY) flight on a 777-200 had an engine failure on a flight to Tokyo in December, while a different Boeing 777 operated by United had an engine failure on its way to Hawaii in February 2018. Following the events, authorities in Japan and the FAA issued directives requiring more regular inspections of planes and fan blades involving the PW4000 engine type. The affected 777-200s and 777-300s are also older and less fuel-efficient than newer models, and most operators are phasing them out of their fleets.

Economy - Revising PPP rules

The Treasury Department under the Biden administration is making targeted changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. For two weeks starting on Wednesday, the Small Business Administration will only accept applications for forgivable PPP loans from firms with fewer than 20 employees in an attempt to direct more funding toward smaller, minority-owned firms. The program will also set aside $1B for businesses without employees in low- and moderate-income areas, but that are 70% owned by women and people of color.

Other terms: The SBA will provide new guidance making it clear that U.S. residents who are not citizens, such as green card holders, cannot be excluded from the program. It will also eliminate exclusions that prohibit a business owner who is delinquent on student loans from participating. Other planned changes include allowing broader access to the program for applicants with non-fraud felony convictions.

While the PPP resulted in a drop in the unemployment rate last summer, its limitations became clear when many recipients conducted mass layoffs as soon as their loans expired. Some controversy also ensued surrounding the program's broad eligibility criteria, which allowed publicly traded companies, fast-food chains and some small wealthy businesses to benefit from funding. The Biden administration has not said whether it will seek to extend the program after the current tranche of funding expires on March 31.

Statistics: The loan program approved a total of 5.3M loans worth about $521B over the course of 2020, of which 1.7M (or $151B) were forgiven. An additional 1.8M in PPP loans totaling $133.5B have been approved so far in 2021, according to data from the Small Business Administration. Most of them were "second-draw" loans granted to businesses that already received loans last year.

Covid - More real-world vaccine data

The latest figures from Israel's Ministry of Health shows that the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) is 98.9% effective at preventing death caused by COVID-19. It is also 99.2% protective against serious illness, reduces morbidity by 95.8% and decreases the chance of hospitalization by 98.9%. "The vaccine dramatically reduces serious illness and death and you can see this influence in our morbidity statistics," said Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy.

Backdrop: In early January, Israel struck a vaccines-for-data deal with Pfizer that promised to share vast troves of information with the drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of COVID-19 shots. "Israel will be a global model state," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time. "Israel will share with Pfizer and with the entire world the statistical data that will help develop strategies for defeating the coronavirus." No funding was allotted for the agreement, while the country even paid a sizable premium for vaccine doses. Helping to demonstrate the impact of the vaccine on an entire population is Israel's highly digitized universal healthcare system, which requires everyone over the age of 18 to register with one of four HMOs.

So far, 4,250,643 Israelis (47%) have received at least one dose of Pfizer's vaccine, while 2,881,825 (32%) have received both shots out of a population of about 9M. The latest data from Israel's Ministry of Health represents citizens who have received both doses of the vaccine, 14 days after their second dose, versus people who have not received any inoculation. Around 3M Israelis (33%) are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, including those younger than 16 and people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Outlook: On Thursday, Israel also launched a COVID passport program that will enable those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus to take part in various cultural and public activities. The "green pass" will grant access to gyms, hotels, swimming pools and concerts, while restaurants and bars will be included from early March. Could a COVID vaccine passport be issued in the U.S.? "Anything is on the table," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Newsweek in January. Over the weekend, he also cautioned against complacency as coronavirus infections come down across the U.S., which just recorded a grim milestone of 500K COVID-related deaths.

 

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