Investors send markets higher even as COVID concerns grow

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Good morning, Bull Sheeters. Tuesday’s bounce-back in the U.S. is proving infectious, lifting global markets and U.S. futures today. That’s despite worrying COVID case numbers and the renewed tightening of business restrictions to battle the pandemic. Meanwhile, Nike shares just keep doing it. The sportswear giant scored a mega beat yesterday.

Let’s see where investors are putting their money.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are mostly clinging to their gains in afternoon trading, with Shanghai up 0.2%.
  • In a surprise announcement, China’s Xi Jinping pledged to go carbon neutral before 2060. If the world’s biggest polluter can go go green it would be a “game changer” for the planet, one former diplomat says.
  • Several indicators show China could be on the road to a V-shaped recovery. That is until the latest batch of online retail sales data showed the Chinese consumer pulling back.

Europe

  • The European bourses were gaining out of the gates with the Europe Stoxx 600 up 0.7%, before climbing further.
  • Lots of businesses will not survive,” the U.K.’s hospitality sector is warning after the Boris Johnson government yesterday tightened coronavirus restrictions, including a curb on office workers, amid rising COVID cases.
  • In what sounds like a metaphor for Brexit, the U.K. government admitted there could be a traffic jam as big as 7,000 trucks long in Kent, southeast of London, as goods gets caught up in post-Brexit red tape.

U.S.

  • U.S. futures point to a mixed open. That’s after the S&P 500 broke its four-day losing streak on Tuesday.
  • On the same day stocks snapped out of their slump, the U.S. hit a grim COVID-19 milestone, topping 200,000 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
  • Tesla shares are down nearly 7% in pre-market trading after the company’s much anticipated Battery Day event failed to move investors.
  • On the opposite end is Nike, up a whopping 13% in pre-market trade after reporting blowout results.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is losing its luster. It’s down again, trading below $1,900/ounce.
  • The dollar is up.
  • Crude is flat, with Brent trading around $41.50/barrel.

***

The almighty dollar

I was speaking to a chief investment officer (CIO) yesterday who told me something surprising. He said he’s never fielded so many client calls about a presidential election as he has this year.

“It’s exponentially higher than anything I can remember in over twenty years,” he told me. The call volume is greater than anything he saw during the Bush years or the Obama years.

There’s growing concern, he told me, from both his right-leaning clients and from the left-tilting ones. Among their many concerns, both sides are worried about the fragility of the economic recovery, and what it might mean for their portfolios.

Now that we’re a mere 41 days away from Nov. 3, Election Day jitters are growing. Of course, we’re here to answer many of those questions between now and then. You’ll see more politics-themed analysis from me here in Bull Sheet, and you’ll find it in the pages of Fortune and on Fortune.com as well.

That said, I want to talk about the dollar this morning. It’s been bouncing back in recent weeks, but it’s still down for the year. A strong dollar is one of those metrics that’s become a somewhat reliable gauge for an incumbent’s chances for reelection. This makes some sense. A strong dollar makes exports more pricy, which can hit the bottom line of multinationals. The Fortune 500, as a club, is usually no fan of a strong dollar.

Dollar strength is often seen as a headwind to economic growth, which may be why President Trump continues to rail about it whenever he gets the chance. Or maybe he got a sneak peek at this analysis showing the track record of incumbent presidents in strong-dollar years:

According to LPL Financial, over the past eight presidential election cycles the incumbent party has won seven out of eight times when the dollar has been down going into Election Day.

Now, all of this comes with a big caveat, that past performance doesn’t… yes, you know the rest.

Still, the dollar gauge is one to watch. At the moment, as the chart shows, the U.S. dollar index is hovering a few ticks into the red, but has been gaining ground on rival currencies in recent weeks as equities and gold falter.

The dollar appears to be regaining its familiar position as a safe haven during tumultuous times. It’s not so much dollar strength, but the sagging consumer/investor confidence that comes with it, that should worry politicians.

It’s no wonder the CIOs’ phones won’t stop ringing.

***

Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you here tomorrow. 

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
[email protected]

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