Wall Street opens higher as rocky week ends
Stock markets in the US have opened higher this afternoon in what has been a historically bad week for markets around the world.
Wall Street is firmly higher, with a gain of 2.9% for the tech-heavy Nasdaq. The S&P 500, which was on the brink of falling into a bear market, has rallied 1.7%.
The FTSE 100 is getting a boost from the positive performance, up 1.9% to session highs.
Despite the bump, stock indexes around the world remain well down on the week after days of heavy selling. Investors are concerned about global growth, rising interest rates and the unknown knock on effects from the war in Ukraine and continued Covid-19 disruption in China.
Tech stocks and crypto have led the declines and Bank of America says slumps in these assets “now rivals internet bubble crash (Nasdaq -73% peak-to-trough) & global financial crisis (banks -78%).”
Deutsche Bank downgrades UK growth outlook
Deutsche Bank has downgraded its forecasts for the UK economy this year and warned of a rising risk of a recession.
The German investment bank is now forecasting a 0.3% contraction in UK GDP in the second quarter of the year, following this week’s worse-than-expected growth figures. A 0.3% expansion should follow in the third quarter before another contraction in the final three months of the year as October’s energy price cap review leads to another big jump in heating bills, knocking spending and investment.
“All in all, we now expect to see two negative quarterly GDP prints this year, leaving the economy in a borderline recession,” writes Sanjay Raja, the bank’s chief UK economist. “In fact, the risk of the UK falling into a technical recession by Q1-23 now looks more finely balanced. We will be watching the data very closely.”
Musk ‘still committed’ to Twitter deal
Well that was quick.
Elon Musk has reversed what many saw as an abandoning of his Twitter takeover, tweeting that he is “still committed” to the deal.
The Tesla billionaire sent Tesla’s stock crashing 20% after saying the transaction was “on hold” while he investigated the number of fake users on Twitter. Many took the tweet as a sign that Musk’s commitment to the deal could be wavering.
However, Musk followed up his original tweet an hour later with a short statement: “Still committed to acquisition.”
Twitter shares have recovered somewhat but are still nowhere near the deal level. The stock is still down 12% in the pre-market at $39.40. Musk has promised to buy the company for $54.20 a share.
Budget airline Norwegian endures turbulence
Airline Norwegian has hit turbulence during the first quarter after being hit by the twin challenges of the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The budget carrier recorded an operating loss of 849 million Norwegian Krone (£70 million) in the three months to the end of March. However, it indicated that booking were on the rise with the easing of pandemic restrictions and the rush to summer travel and the return of business passengers.
“The increase in bookings ahead of the summer season is significant, and we look forward to welcoming our customers on board the close to 280 routes we have for sale. I am pleased to note that our corporate travellers are starting to return to air travel,” said Geir Karlsen, CEO of Norwegian.
The airline had eased restrictions back in February for passengers on its Nordics and European flights. It operates across the globe to 280 territories.
Elon Musk says Twitter deal ‘on hold’
Elon Musk has said his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter is “on hold” following a report by the company over its estimated number of spam and fake accounts.
The billionaire Tesla owner tweeted: “Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.”
Twitter gave an update on the estimated number of spam users on the platform in its most recent quarterly report, stating: “We have performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimate that the average of false or spam accounts during the first quarter of 2022 represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU [monetisable daily active users] during the quarter.
“After we determine an account is spam, malicious automation, or fake, we stop counting it in our mDAU, or other related metrics.”
MDAU is a key metric in determining the value of social media companies, as it is used to help calculate the amount of advertising revenue the platform is able to make.
Twitter shares have sunk 21% in the pre-market in New York following the tweet.
Smartphone demand ‘dropping like a stone’
The world’s biggest microchip maker has said demand for mobile phones and computers has dropped “like a rock” as war in Ukraine and Covid lockdowns in China take their toll on consumer demand for electronics.
The boss of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC) told investors: “There are at least 200 million units of smartphones that will disappear suddenly this year and the majority of them are from our domestic Chinese phone makers.
“We cannot yet see an end to the downtrends in these segments.”
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FTSE 100 rallies, Vodafone lower after downgrade
Another troubled week for investors ended on a brighter note today as buyers returned to the beleaguered tech sector and cryptocurrencies pulled out of their nosedive.
Comments from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell allaying fears of steeper interest rate rises improved the mood before Asian markets rallied on speculation of further policy support for China’s Covid-hit economy.
Mounting recession fears had previously triggered a flight from risk to leave the S&P 500 on the brink of bear market territory at 18% lower than its January peak.
UBS Global Wealth Management continues to see positives but warns sentiment is unlikely to improve until there’s clarity on the 3Rs — rates, recession and risk. Its central scenario remains that a recession can be avoided and that corporate earnings will continue to grow in 2022 and 2023.
Its optimism was echoed in today’s performance of the FTSE 100 index, which climbed 88.61 points to 7321.95 — albeit 1% lower for the week.
Asia-focused shares including HSBC and Prudential were 2% higher on hopes of a China interest rate cut early next week. Ocado, whose valuation has slumped more than 20% so far this month, improved 3% or 25.8p to 799.8p on wider tech buying.
The improved risk appetite extended to cryptocurrencies as Bitcoin rebounded from an 18-month low to trade above $30,000.
On London’s fallers board, Vodafone shares were 2.1p lower at 116.6p after Jefferies analysts removed their “buy” recommendation and lowered their price target by 25p to 125p to reflect headwinds including the cost of living squeeze.
The downgrade adds to pressure on Vodafone chief executive Nick Read ahead of the mobile phone giant’s full-year results on Tuesday.
Jefferies said: “We recognise the defensive attractions of a large-cap telco. But Vodafone’s credentials are undermined by forecast risk and a strategic plan not playing out.”
The FTSE 250 index rallied 266.74 points to 19,747.62, led by a rebound of 8% for private equity firm Bridgepoint and gains of 6% for consumer-focused technology stocks Moonpig and Trustpilot.
Dunelm among “top picks” for retail recovery
“A rabbit in the headlights“ is Peel Hunt’s assessment of the general retail sector following a recent collapse in share prices.
However, the broker’s retail team of John Stevenson and Jonathan Pritchard believes this has created a number of “buy” opportunities.
They said: “Clearly, we are in for some downgrades, but this is not a re-run of the financial crisis. Consumers are not retrenching in fear, they are facing an erosion of spending power. Retailers’ margins will carry some of the pain.”
Peel Hunt’s list of top picks include Dunelm, Pets at Home and JD Sports as they appear least exposed to a consumer downturn and margin squeeze and trade at a substantial discount to their longer-term valuations.
Over a two or three year view, the broker sees recovery potential in e-commerce names such as Boohoo and ASOS.
FTSE 100 1% higher, Ocado rallies 5%
Asia-focused shares including HSBC and Prudential are more than 2% higher amid hopes of further support to help China’s economy through current Covid disruption.
The interest rate cut speculation pushed Asia markets higher as sentiment improved generally after this week’s heavy selling.
The FTSE 100 lifted 1.1% or 83.25 points to 7316.59, with Ocado the top riser as investors returned following losses of more than 20% so far this month. The grocery warehouse technology business added 5% or 36.4p to 810.4p.
Vodafone shares declined 2p to 116.75p after broker Jefferies removed its “buy” recommendation with a 25p lower price target of 125p.
The FTSE 250 index lifted 1.3% or 258.81 points to 19,739.79, led by a rebound of 10% for private equity firm Bridgepoint and gains of more than 5% for consumer-focused technology stocks Moonpig and Trustpilot.
S&P near to bear market territory
The S&P 500 is heading for a sixth weekly decline having fallen 18% from its January peak, leaving the index within 100 points of bear market territory at 20% lower.
UBS Global Wealth Management said investor sentiment is unlikely to improve until there’s clarity on the 3Rs — rates, recession and risk.
Its chief investment officer Mark Haefele added: “The hawkish shift by the Federal Reserve has been a drag on equity markets, contributing to a rise in yields this year and thus giving investors less incentive to own riskier stocks.
“For the anticipated rise in policy rates to moderate, investors will need assurances that inflation is on a consistent downward trend.”
The bank’s central scenario remains that a recession can be avoided and that corporate earnings will continue to grow in 2022 and 2023.