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Economics

Near-term pullback, long-term uptrend

Near-term pullback, long-term uptrend

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On March 13, 2020, we began talking1 and writing2 about a series of tactical market bottom indicators3 that showed signs of extreme risk-off positioning, which were positive from a contrarian perspective. One of those indicators was the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) equity put/call ratio. Little did we know it at the time, but ten days later, the S&P 500 Index would put in what now appears to be a major low for the cycle.

What is the CBOE equity put/call ratio and why does it matter?

The put/call ratio is a measure of seller (put) relative to buyer (call) positioning derived from the options market, where a ratio greater than 1 signals more sellers than buyers (or extremely negative investor sentiment) and usually aligns with big market bottoms. On March 12, 2020, the put/call ratio hit 1.28, its highest level since 20084—in the depths of the Great Recession and Global Financial Crisis—meaning risk-off positioning was lopsided and investor pessimism was overwhelming.

The put/call ratio served us well three months ago, but what is it telling us now?

Unfortunately, there may be at least a temporary wrinkle in the bull case for stocks. The recent trough-to-peak surge of 44% on the S&P 500 Index compressed the put/call ratio to 0.37 on June 8, 2020, its lowest level since 2010—just before the peak of the European sovereign debt crisis. In other words, risk-on positioning has gotten stretched, and the bulls are running rampant, raising the likelihood of a near-term pullback in stocks akin to what we saw in 2018, 2015 and 2011.

Figure 1. Too many buyers, not enough sellers

Source: Bloomberg L.P., Invesco, 06/11/20. Notes: CBOE = Chicago Board Options Exchange. The CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio is a measure of seller (put) relative to buyer (call) positioning derived from the options market, where a ratio less than 1 signals extremely positive investor sentiment. An investment cannot be made in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Beyond investor positioning, is there a broader bearish case to be made for stocks?

In our view, the bearish case includes 5 points of pessimism, namely:

1) Fears of a potentially deadly second wave of the coronavirus as the economy reopens and we approach cooler fall weather; 2) the risk of a negative feedback loop between stocks and 2Q20 gross domestic production (GDP) and earnings per share (EPS); 3) heightened US-China tensions; 4) overvaluation; and 5) tactical overbought conditions, as discussed. All valid points, any one of which could prove to be the catalyst for a near-term pullback in stocks.

Figure 2. The optimists always win in the end

Source: Invesco, 06/11/20. Notes: GDP = Gross domestic production. EPS = Earnings per share.

How does the bullish case stack up?

That said, we remain compelled by the breadth and scope of the bullish case, which includes the following 10 points of optimism:

1) Massive, unprecedented and coordinated monetary policy support; 2) similarly impressive fiscal policy support; 3) cautious investor positioning in the form of high cash balances and net short positions in stocks; 4) negative investor sentiment as expressed by persistent outflows from stocks and more bears than bulls in the individual investor survey; 5) a structural oversold condition as seen in the rolling 20-year total returns on stocks; 6) plateauing or flattening coronavirus daily cases overall; 7) a potential treatment for the disease that is being researched and developed by a host of companies around the world, and that has already moved to human trials; 8) a potential vaccine for the virus that is evolving similarly; 9) the high-frequency economic data like weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance are improving; and 10) the economy is reopening and activity is moving in the right direction, as evidenced by the daily mobility data.

Is this a cyclical bear market in a secular bull market, or is this a cyclical bull market in a secular bear market?

While it may seem like a daunting task, we believe it is possible to differentiate between secular bull and bear markets. It is said that the trend is your friend except at the end where it bends. Historically, secular bull markets have not ended until stocks have produced 20-year annualized total returns of 11% to 15%. In the current environment, however, 20-year returns remain muted, so much so in fact that they seem more consistent with a secular bull market in its earlier stages than one in its later stages.

Figure 3. The trend is your friend except at the end where it bends

Source: Bloomberg L.P., Invesco, 03/31/20. Notes: Rolling 20-year annualized returns on the S&P 500 Total Return Index, calculated using quarterly data. SE = Standard error. Dark gray areas denote secular bear markets in US stocks. Light gray areas denote secular bull markets in US stocks. An investment cannot be made directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Amidst the biggest economic event in modern history, we must admit to being surprised by the v-shaped stock market recovery and the fact that equities haven’t yet re-tested the March low. Based on some of the tactical breadth and positioning indicators that we monitor, however, there is a case to be made for a near-term pullback in stocks. Short-term volatility aside, we believe the long-term bull case (10 points of optimism) outweighs the bear case (5 points of pessimism). As such, we think investors may benefit from maintaining structural exposure to stocks in the years ahead.

Footnote

1 Source: BNN Bloomberg, Why this strategist sees long-term investment opportunities post-Covid 19 chaos, 03/13/20.

2 Source: Invesco, Chaos can create opportunities, 03/19/20.

3 Source: Invesco, Looking for signs of a bottom in stocks, 04/01/20.

4 Source: Bloomberg L.P. as of 5/31/2020

Important Information

Blog Header Image: Schira Kosmin Rudi / EyeEm/ Getty

Contrarian investing is an investment style in which investors purposefully go against prevailing market trends by selling when others are buying, and buying when most investors are selling.

A put option is an instrument that gives the holder the right to sell an asset, at a specified price, by a specified date to the writer of the put.

A call option is an instrument that gives the holder the right to buy an asset, at a specified price, by a specified date from the writer of the call.

GDP is the total value of all finished goods and services produced within the United States’ borders in a specific time period.

EPS are the total value of US corporate profits divided by the same companies’ common stock outstanding.

The SE is a statistical term that measures the accuracy with which a sample distribution represents a population by using standard deviation.

All investing involves risk, including risk of loss.

A decision as to whether, when and how to use options involves the exercise of skill and judgment and even a well conceived option transaction may be unsuccessful because of market behavior or unexpected events. The prices of options can be highly volatile and the use of options can lower total returns.

In general, stock values fluctuate, sometimes widely, in response to activities specific to the company as well as general market, economic and political conditions.

The opinions referenced above are those of the authors as of June 12, 2020. These comments should not be construed as recommendations, but as an illustration of broader themes. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions; there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations. This does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy or product for a particular investor. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, are based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. These opinions may differ from those of other Invesco investment professionals.

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Economics

Here’s Why Royal Caribbean, Carnival Stock Are Good Buys

Yes, Carnival reported a bigger-than-expected loss but in this case, unlike taking a cruise, it’s the destination not the journey for the cruise lines.

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Yes, Carnival reported a bigger-than-expected loss but in this case, unlike taking a cruise, it's the destination not the journey for the cruise lines.

For the past two years, since the covid pandemic hit in late-February 2020, the cruise industry has taken one punch after another. And, while the situation has improved from the extended period when cruises were not allowed to sail from United States ports, that does not mean that it's back to 2019 for Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report.

The industry has done a remarkable job bringing operations back to near-normal. All three cruise lines not only have put all their ships back in service, they're also still moving forward with plans for new ships and other investments including improvements to private islands, and developing new ports.

That being said, Carnival just reported its second-quarter earnings and the market did not like the numbers at all. Shares of all three cruise lines were down double digits on Sept. 30, but traders clearly missed that aside from rising costs and a loss (both of which were expected) the cruise line largely delivered good news.

Image source: Shutterstock

Carnival Did Well in Areas it Controls  

Carnival reported a GAAP net loss of $770 million for the quarter. That was driven by higher costs with the company specifically citing advertising expenses and having some of its fleet unavailable to produce revenue.

While the company's year-to-date adjusted cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD during 2022 has benefited from the sale of smaller-less efficient ships and the delivery of larger-more efficient ships, this benefit is offset by a portion of its fleet being in pause status for part of the year, restart related expenses, an increase in the number of dry dock days, the cost of maintaining enhanced health and safety protocols, inflation and supply chain disruptions. The company anticipates that many of these costs and expenses will end in 2022.

If you're investing in any cruise line you have to do so on a very long-term basis. That makes profitability less of a concern than the company building back its business and Carnival showed some very positive signs in that direction.

  • Revenue increased by nearly 80% in the third quarter of 2022 compared to second quarter 2022, reflecting continued sequential improvement.
  • Onboard and other revenue per PCD for the third quarter of 2022 increased significantly compared to a strong 2019
  • Total customer deposits were $4.8 billion as of August 31, 2022, approaching the $4.9 billion as of August 31, 2019, which was a record third quarter.

  • New bookings during the third quarter of 2022 primarily offset the historical third quarter seasonal decline in customer deposits ($0.3 billion decline in the third quarter of 2022 compared to $1.1 billion decline for the same period in 2019).

Carnival (and likely all the cruise lines) is being hurt by prices generally being depressed and some passengers paying for their trips using future cruise credits from cruises canceled during the pandemic. That's not really what matters though. Carnival has been increasing passenger loads and getting people back on its ships.

"Since announcing the relaxation of our protocols last month, we have seen a meaningful improvement in booking volumes and are now running considerably ahead of strong 2019 levels," Carnival CEO Josh Weinstein said. "We expect to further capitalize on this momentum with renewed efforts to generate demand. We are focused on delivering significant revenue growth over the long-term while taking advantage of near-term tactics to quickly capture price and bookings in the interim."

Basically, cruise prices are cheap right now because it's more important to get customers back on board than it is to maintain pricing integrity. That's a tactic that could hurt long-term pricing, but the cruise industry is less vulnerable than other vacation options because there have always been large pricing variations based on the calendar and the age of the ship being booked.

It's a Long Voyage for Cruise Lines

Carnival was trading at its 52-week low after it reported. That's a pretty major overreaction given that the cruise industry was barely operating in the fall of 2021.

Yes, the industry has a long way to go. All three major cruise lines took on billions of dollars of debt during the pandemic. Refinancing that debt in an environment with higher interest rates is a challenge, but it's one Carnival (and its rivals) have been meeting.

That has come with some shareholder dilution. Carnival sold $1.15 billion in new stock during the quarter, but the company has over $7.4 billion in liquidity. Weinstein is optimistic (he has to be, that's part of his job) about the future.

"During our third quarter, our business continued its positive trajectory, achieving over $300 million of adjusted EBITDA and reaching nearly 90% occupancy on our August sailings. We are continuing to close the gap to 2019 as we progress through the year, building occupancy on higher capacity and lower unit costs," he said.

Usually it's easy to dismiss a CEO making upbeat comments after posting a loss, but in this case, Carnival has basically followed the recovery path it laid out once it returned to sailing. Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have followed similar paths and while meaningful shareholder returns may take time, these are strong companies built for the long-term that made a lot of money before the pandemic and should do so again. 

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Spread & Containment

Three reasons a weak pound is bad news for the environment

Financial turmoil will make it harder to invest in climate action on a massive scale.

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Dragon Claws / shutterstock

The day before new UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget plan for economic growth, a pound would buy you about $1.13. After financial markets rejected the plan, the pound suddenly sunk to around $1.07. Though it has since rallied thanks to major intervention from the Bank of England, the currency remains volatile and far below its value earlier this year.

A lot has been written about how this will affect people’s incomes, the housing market or overall political and economic conditions. But we want to look at why the weak pound is bad news for the UK’s natural environment and its ability to hit climate targets.

1. The low-carbon economy just became a lot more expensive

The fall in sterling’s value partly signals a loss in confidence in the value of UK assets following the unfunded tax commitments contained in the mini-budget. The government’s aim to achieve net zero by 2050 requires substantial public and private investment in energy technologies such as solar and wind as well as carbon storage, insulation and electric cars.

But the loss in investor confidence threatens to derail these investments, because firms may be unwilling to commit the substantial budgets required in an uncertain economic environment. The cost of these investments may also rise as a result of the falling pound because many of the materials and inputs needed for these technologies, such as batteries, are imported and a falling pound increases their prices.

Aerial view of wind farm with forest and fields in background
UK wind power relies on lots of imported parts. Richard Whitcombe / shutterstock

2. High interest rates may rule out large investment

To support the pound and to control inflation, interest rates are expected to rise further. The UK is already experiencing record levels of inflation, fuelled by pandemic-related spending and Russia’s war on Ukraine. Rising consumer prices developed into a full-blown cost of living crisis, with fuel and food poverty, financial hardship and the collapse of businesses looming large on this winter’s horizon.

While the anticipated increase in interest rates might ease the cost of living crisis, it also increases the cost of government borrowing at a time when we rapidly need to increase low-carbon investment for net zero by 2050. The government’s official climate change advisory committee estimates that an additional £4 billion to £6 billion of annual public spending will be needed by 2030.

Some of this money should be raised through carbon taxes. But in reality, at least for as long as the cost of living crisis is ongoing, if the government is serious about green investment it will have to borrow.

Rising interest rates will push up the cost of borrowing relentlessly and present a tough political choice that seemingly pits the environment against economic recovery. As any future incoming government will inherit these same rates, a falling pound threatens to make it much harder to take large-scale, rapid environmental action.

3. Imports will become pricier

In addition to increased supply prices for firms and rising borrowing costs, it will lead to a significant rise in import prices for consumers. Given the UK’s reliance on imports, this is likely to affect prices for food, clothing and manufactured goods.

At the consumer level, this will immediately impact marginal spending as necessary expenditures (housing, energy, basic food and so on) lower the budget available for products such as eco-friendly cleaning products, organic foods or ethically made clothes. Buying “greener” products typically cost a family of four around £2,000 a year.

Instead, people may have to rely on cheaper goods that also come with larger greenhouse gas footprints and wider impacts on the environment through pollution and increased waste. See this calculator for direct comparisons.

Of course, some spending changes will be positive for the environment, for example if people use their cars less or take fewer holidays abroad. However, high-income individuals who will benefit the most from the mini-budget tax cuts will be less affected by the falling pound and they tend to fly more, buy more things, and have multiple cars and bigger homes to heat.

This raises profound questions about inequality and injustice in UK society. Alongside increased fuel poverty and foodbank use, we will see an uptick in the purchasing power of the wealthiest.

What’s next

Interest rate rises increase the cost of servicing government debt as well as the cost of new borrowing. One estimate says that the combined cost to government of the new tax cuts and higher cost of borrowing is around £250 billion. This substantial loss in government income reduces the budget available for climate change mitigation and improvements to infrastructure.

The government’s growth plan also seems to be based on an increased use of fossil fuels through technologies such as fracking. Given the scant evidence for absolutely decoupling economic growth from resource use, the opposition’s “green growth” proposal is also unlikely to decarbonise at the rate required to get to net zero by 2050 and avert catastrophic climate change.

Therefore, rather than increasing the energy and materials going into the economy for the sake of GDP growth, we would argue the UK needs an economic reorientation that questions the need of growth for its own sake and orients it instead towards social equality and ecological sustainability.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Economics

Covid-19 roundup: Swiss biotech halts in-patient PhII study; Houston-based vaccine and Chinese mRNA shot nab EUAs in Indonesia

Another Covid-19 study is hitting the breaks as a Swiss biotech is pausing its Phase II trial in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.
Kinarus Therapeutics…

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Another Covid-19 study is hitting the breaks as a Swiss biotech is pausing its Phase II trial in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

Kinarus Therapeutics announced on Friday that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) has reviewed the company’s Phase II study for its candidate KIN001 and has recommended that the study be stopped.

According to Kinarus, the DSMB stated that there was a low probability to show statistically significant results as the number of Covid-19 patients that are in the hospital is lower than at other points in the pandemic.

Thierry Fumeaux

“As many of our peers have learned since the beginning of the pandemic, it has become challenging to show the impact of therapeutic intervention at the current pandemic stage, given the disease characteristics in Covid-19 patients with severe disease. Moreover, there are also now relatively smaller numbers of patients that meet enrollment criteria, since fewer patients require hospitalization, in contrast to the situation earlier in the pandemic,” said Thierry Fumeaux, Kinarus CMO, in a statement.

Fumeaux continued to state that the drug will still be investigated in ambulatory Covid-19 patients who are not hospitalized, with the goal of reducing recovery time and the severity of the virus.

The KIN001 candidate is a combination of the small molecule inhibitor pamapimod and pioglitazone, which is currently used to treat type 2 diabetes.

The news has put a dampener on the company’s stock price $KNRS.SW, which is down 22% since opening on Friday.

Houston-developed vaccine and Chinese mRNA shot win EUAs in Indonesia

While Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA shots to counter Covid-19 have dominated supplies worldwide, a Chinese-based mRNA developer and IndoVac, a recombinant protein-based vaccine, was created and engineered in Houston, Texas by the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development  vaccine is finally ready to head to another nation.

Walvax and Suzhou Abogen’s mRNA vaccine, dubbed AWcorna, has been approved for emergency use for adults 18 and over by the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority.

Li Yunchun

“This is the first step, and we are hoping to see more families across the country and the rest of the globe protected, which is a shared goal for us all,” said Walvax Chairman Li Yunchun, in a statement.

According to Walvax, the vaccine is 83% effective against the “wild-type” of SARS-CoV-2 infection with the strength against the Omicron variants standing at around 71%. The shots are also not required to be stored in deep freeze conditions and can be put in storage at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Walvax and Abogen have been making progress on their mRNA vaccine for a while. Last year, Abogen received a massive amount of funding as it was moving the candidate forward.

However, while the candidate is moving forward overseas, it’s still finding itself stuck in regulatory approval in China. According to a report from BNN Bloomberg, China has not approved any mRNA vaccines for domestic usage.

Meanwhile, PT Bio Farma, the holding company for state-owned pharma companies in Indonesia, is prepping to make 20 million doses of the IndoVac COVID-19 vaccine this year and 100 million doses by 2024.

IndoVac’s primary series vaccines include nearly 80% of locally sourced content. Indonesia is seeking Halal Certification for the vaccine since no animal cells or products were used in the production of the vaccine. IndoVac successfully completed an audit from the Indonesian Ulema Council Food and Drug Analysis Agency, and the Halal Certification Agency of the Religious Affairs Ministry is expected to grant their approval soon.

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