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Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

As the following chart from Bloomberg shows, for six consecutive quarters, earnings season provided the antidote to all the stock market ills (if not on fundamentals but because.

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Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

As the following chart from Bloomberg shows, for six consecutive quarters, earnings season provided the antidote to all the stock market ills (if not on fundamentals but because stock stubbornly tracked the relentless growth of the Fed's balance sheet which rose by $120BN every month like clockwork). But that perfect record is about to get its biggest test yet at a time when uncertainty is swirling among equity investors, and not just because a potentially ugly earnings season is on deck but because the Fed's liquidity cannon is about to see its first "tapering" since the covid pandemic unleashed trillions and trillions in liquidity.

Looking back, the large and persistent earnings beats over the last 5 quarters...

... prompted record upgrades to forward earnings estimates.

The market has moved higher in lockstep with these upgrades...

... leaving the forward multiple remarkably flat at very elevated levels since May of last year. And as Deutsche Bank's Binky Chadha warns, "the market is priced for these large beats and upgrades to continue" but can Q3 earnings season deliver?

And so, as jittery investors brace to comb through the corporate tea leaves for clarity on everything from the impact of rising rates and commodity inflation to broken supply chains, setting the stage for a particularly dramatic serving of results, below we take a loot at what Wall Street expects as 3Q earnings kick off tomorrow when JPM reports bright and early.

Following another huge beat in 2Q, 3Q EPS has risen 3% over the past three months to $49.06 (+27% YoY), down from an eye-popping 94% Y/Y surge in Q2; typically this estimate falls by 4% into the quarter. According to BofA, consensus forecasts imply the 2-year growth rate falling sharply to +16% vs. +27% in 2Q amid supply chain issues and the delta variant-driven slowdown (the just released news about Apple slashing its iPhone production due to chip shortages being the latest case in point).

In a conspicuous break from the last 4 quarters which saw upgrades, DB notes that Q3 consensus estimates are being downgraded ahead of the earnings season, marking a return to what has been the historical norm. Downgrades have largely been driven by the pandemic-loser group on delta variant concerns, and by insurers following the impacts of hurricane Ida. But even excluding these lumpy impacts, estimates have stayed flat in contrast to the upgrades of recent quarters.

As is typical, the consensus sees a drop in earnings sequentially (-4.5% qoq excluding loan loss provisions)...

... with nearly all sector groups seeing declines. But that's usually the case and in the end, earnings growth usually comes in positive.

Cutting to the chase, DB notes that amidst a macro backdrop that is a little less supportive than over the last 4 quarters, the bank sees earnings continuing to rise but only modestly so (+1.5% qoq), beating consensus by 6%, far lower than the 14-20% range of the last 5 quarters and closer to the historical average beat of 5%

Expect no beat this quarter

In Q2, S&P500 companies delivered another monstrous beat topping consensus by 17%. With the strong beat, 3Q EPS estimates have risen 3% over the past three months, but BofA sees increased headwinds heading into 3Q, primarily driven by supply chain issues, delta-driven slowdown, and continued inflationary pressure.

That said, while there are reasons to be cautious, earnings misses are extremely rare: since 2009, there have been only two quarters (out of 50) when earnings missed consensus (2Q11 & 1Q20). And with consensus expecting a meaningful moderation in the 2-year growth rate to 16% from 27%, BofA's 3Q EPS estimate is in line with consensus, representing the worst earnings season since COVID and below the historical median beat of 3.5%.

BofA generally agrees with DB, and expects earnings to come in in-line with consensus and revises its 3Q EPS down by $2 (to $49) and 4Q by $1. But, as has been the case for much of the past year, one of the top questions will be around guidance (which started to soften) and 2022 EPS will be revised lower.

Another core question: who is best positioned to weather the surging input costs: “What we are going to be laser-focused on in this earnings season is pricing power,” said Giorgio Caputo, senior portfolio manager at J O Hambro Capital Management. “What we’re seeing is that getting the machine back up and running -- those who thought it would be an easy quick fix are being disappointed now.”

Which leads us to the most important variable of Q3 season: profit margins. As we noted at the time, although margins expanded to record highs in 2Q, companies highlighted increasing difficulties passing through cost inflation. Since then, issues have worsened: supply chain news stories increased 74% and freight rates from China rose 20%...

... with record backlogs at the West Coast Ports. In 3Q, we also saw a near-record number of profit warnings stories (third highest since 2011), only after 4Q15 and 1Q19.

In those quarters, earnings beat consensus by 0.6% and 4.9%, respectively, but subsequent quarter earnings were revised down by 9.3% and 2.2% mostly due to supply issues.Incidentally, we predicted that this would happen.

To be sure, consumer demand remains robust but soaring inflation poses downside risks. While analysts have baked in margin  contraction this quarter (non-Financials net margins -70bps QoQ), both BofA and Morgan Stanley see big risks to 2022 numbers, where analysts expect record margins, an outcome which is virtually impossible unless all the input cost inflation is passed through to consumers.

It's not just broken supply chains: wages are surging too; indeed as BofA writes, "wage inflation is just as big of a headwind (if not
bigger)" than supply chains. The BEA estimates wages are as much as 40% of total private sector costs. At the same time, slowing China and its property sector issues also pose risks to US multinationals. And while higher oil prices have historically been positive for S&P earnings (every 100bps move up in WTI added 50bps to S&P earnings growth), but Energy companies’ capital discipline could translate to a lower earnings multiplier (i.e. less revenue for energy capex beneficiaries). Soaring gas prices also add pressure to Chemicals and Utilities. In other words, higher oil could be a headwind rather than a tailwind this time.

Mentions of “inflation” on 2Q earnings calls topped 1Q levels and jumped to a record high, based on BofA's Predictive Analytics team’s analysis. On a YoY basis, inflation mentions rose more than 900% YoY, in line with the increase we saw last quarter.

Notably, supply chain mentions rose the most among inflation categories tracked in 2Q, more than doubling YoY (along with labor mentions). Since then, supply chain issues have worsened: news stories on “supply chain” increased 74% since the 2Q earnings season according to Bloomberg, and freight rates from China also rose 20% (Exhibit 10)

And yet, amid all these rising margin risks, analysts are expecting margins to hit a new peak in 2022!

Consistent with recent developments, consensus does point to a 70bps drop in net margins (ex-Fins) to 12.0% in 3Q, which does reflect some conservatism. However, they then expect the margin compression to stop there – with flattish margins in 4Q21, and expanding margins in 2022 to new record highs (above 2018 peaks).

Analysts expect margins to hit new highs in 4 of 10 sectors, excluding Financials (Exhibit 14). BofA disagrees and expects current headwinds to last well into 2022, and sees risk to consensus numbers.

As the bank cautions, "analysts have consistently underestimated margins over the past five quarters, but given the worsened macro environment for corporate profits (more below), we do not expect those big margin beats to repeat in 3Q."

And with good reason: the early reporters have shared mixed data at best. So far, 21 companies (primarily “early reporters” with August quarter-end) have reported 3Q results. Early reporters are concentrated in Consumer, Tech and Industrials, but can often give a read on the full quarter’s results: BofA has found a 71% correlation between the proportion of early reporter beats on EPS and sales and the proportion of full-quarter beats on EPS and sales. So far, 67% have beaten on EPS, 76% on sales and 57% on both. This is weaker than last quarter (67%/94%/67%), but still above the historical average (since 2012) of 70%  EPS beats, 63% sales beats and 49% both beats. The median EPS beat so far has been 4.0%.

More ominously, BofA's 3-month guidance ratio (# of above- vs. below-consensus guidance instances) sharply fell from a record high to 2.6x in September, albeit it remains well above the historical average of 0.8x. The more volatile 1-mo. guidance ratio also fell to 1.2x, representing the lowest level since Jun 2020, as companies warned about rising inflationary pressure. Meanwhile, guidance instances have picked up to the highest level in a decade in September.

But perhaps the most troubling indication of what to expect comes from companies themselves after what BofA notes was peak corporate sentiment. According to BofA’s Predictive Analytics team overall, corporate sentiment dipped from a record high, potentially indicating peak corporate sentiment amid inflation concerns and the Delta variant. Consumer sectors had the weakest sentiment compared to their own history, while Materials and Real Estate had the worst sentiment on an absolute basis.

Similarly, companies' mentions of business conditions (ratio of mentions of "better" or "stronger" vs. "worse" or "weaker") indicate slightly weaker business conditions vs. the peak level last quarter. Mentions of optimism also plummeted from record highs in the prior two quarters.

Putting it all together, below is a handy list of what to expect courtesy of Deutsche Bank:

  • The macro backdrop is a little less supportive. After having been strongly positive for over a year, data surprises turned negative in late-July. Earnings estimate revisions have historically been tied to data surprises. Consensus Q3 GDP estimates have also been revised downwards from over 7% at the end of Jul to 5% now. DB economists also cut their Q3 GDP forecast for growth from 8.9% to 4.7% in early September. The sales-weighted G4 manufacturing PMI, a preferred measure of global growth, rose sharply from its trough of 42.4 in Q2 2020 to 59.3 in Q2 2021. In Q3 so far, it has stayed flat (Jul-Aug average of 59.4). The US dollar is also up slightly in Q3 after 4 quarters of declines.
  • Secular growers (MCG+ Tech) earnings likely to flatten at an elevated level. Earnings for MCG+ Tech have been boosted well above trend by a broad cyclical lift as well as from being direct beneficiaries given the realities of the pandemic. The cyclical component which is tied to global growth and the US dollar is likely to stay flat. With re-opening having gathered steam through the quarter, the idiosyncratic pandemic-related benefit should arguably start to wane, but even if the full benefit were to remain intact, it would still point to earnings overall staying largely flat (0.4%). With consensus seeing a drop (-4.5%), DB sees a beat of about 5.2%, a sharp slowdown from the 10-17% beats they posted over the last 5 quarters, but in line with the historical average of 6%. Notably, earnings remaining flat would also mean a modest move back towards their historical trend with the gap shrinking from a record +25% in Q2 to +22% in Q3.
  • Cyclicals earnings almost back to trend. The consensus sees losses for the pandemic losers diminishing in Q3 (-$6.6bn to -$2.4bn) as mobility rose albeit not as quickly as initially expected. Outside of the direct pandemic losers, the rest of the cyclicals in our view should continue to post modest growth (+1.7% qoq sa) as activity levels remain robust at elevated levels. Consensus sees earnings for cyclicals declining modestly (-0.4%), implying a beat of 8%, a sharp slowdown from the 14-38% range seen in the past four quarters, but ahead of the historic average level of 5.2%. If realized, cyclicals earnings would be almost back to their pre-pandemic trend, a strong and fast recovery after being over 70% below in Q2 last year
  • Defensives earnings likely to move back down towards trend. Earnings for the defensives were significantly above trend in Q2 (+7%), as they continued to benefit from a pandemic boost. We see earnings retrace halfway back to trend in Q3 implying a modest  (-1.5% qoq sa) decline, while the consensus sees a larger -6.3% drop, pointing to a potential 5.1% beat in the quarter. If realized, this would be the weakest aggregate beat since the start of the pandemic, which has seen surprises in the 7-18% range, but at about the average level of pre-pandemic beats (historical average of 4.4%).
  • Financials to continue posting outsized beats as benign credit costs remain a tailwind. Banks released large amounts from loan loss reserves in the past two quarters ($13.8bn in Q1 and $9.5bn in Q2), boosting earnings, and that is expected to continue given benign credit conditions. However, the consensus sees banks adding to reserves in Q3 ($3.8bn). Moreover, excluding loan-loss provisions the consensus sees earnings fall to the bottom of their 2013-19 trend channel. Together this points to a massive 29% beat again this quarter, in line with the 13-36% range of the last five quarters and way ahead of the typical +4.2% average.
  • Energy. Oil prices have risen from $69/bbl in Q2 to $73/bbl in Q3 on average. The consensus forecasts Energy sector earnings to grow 22.5% (qoq) in Q3, which is somewhat ahead of what is implied by the increase in oil prices. DB sees lower earnings growth of 12.8% qoq, which could see the sector miss (-8%) in the quarter, in contrast with the solid double digit beats of the past four quarters and a historic average beat of 6.4%. Energy earnings beats historically have tended to be extremely volatile.
  • Overall beats to remain robust but returning towards the historical norm. DB sees earnings for the S&P 500 rising modestly by +0.8% and EPS coming in at $53.6/share in Q3 2021. This compares with the consensus at $49.2/share, or a beat of 9%, significantly lower than the 14-21% range of the last 5 quarters. Excluding the outsized contribution from lumpy loan-loss reserve changes, DB expects a beat of 6.3%, close to the historical average of 5% and compares to the 10-21% range of the last 5 quarters

In conclusion, and as noted earlier, huge beats and upward revisions kept the forward consensus rising steeply over the last 15 months according to DB's Chadha. Since then, consensus estimates for 2021 have edged slightly lower over the last few weeks (-0.2%), while 2022 estimates have flat-lined. The 4 quarter ahead growth rate of consensus estimates has now fallen to the steady pre-pandemic average (around 14%). In the absence of upgrades, current forecasts point to the growth rate falling well below (11%) over the next 2-3 quarters. As beats and forward earnings look to be returning to historical norms, will forward valuations follow?

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/12/2021 - 18:55

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Economics

Peter Schiff: Transitory Permanence

Peter Schiff: Transitory Permanence

Via SchiffGold.com,

The inflation that we were emphatically told would be transitory and unmoored continues to persist and entrench. As the troubles gather momentum Washington is doing its best to ignore..

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Peter Schiff: Transitory Permanence

Via SchiffGold.com,

The inflation that we were emphatically told would be transitory and unmoored continues to persist and entrench. As the troubles gather momentum Washington is doing its best to ignore the problem or actively make it worse.

The latest batch of data shows that the Consumer Price Index rose 5.4% in September, the 5th consecutive month that year over year inflation came in at more than 5%. The figure rises to 6.5% if we project the inflation levels of the first 9 months of 2021 to the entire calendar year. The last time we had to contend with numbers like these, Jimmy Carter was telling us all to put on our sweaters.

Recent developments should be sounding the alarms. Whereas earlier in the year inflation was largely driven by supercharged price increases in narrow sectors, such as used cars and hotel rooms, it’s now occurring in a much wider spectrum of goods and services.

In September, the cost of used autos fell month over month (but are still up 24% year over year), but that didn’t help the overall CPI, which saw increases just about everywhere else. Over the past 12 months: beef prices are up 17.6%, seafood prices up 10.6%, home appliances up 10.5%, furniture and bedding up 11.2%, and new cars up 8.7%.

Even more alarming is that oil is up over $80 per barrel for the first time in almost 10 years and many analysts see $100 in the near future. That has translated to more than a $1 increase in per gallon gasoline prices, a 50% increase in a year. Home heating oil prices are already up 42% year over year and are expected to spike up again when winter demand peaks.  For many low-income residents of the North and Upper Midwest, these types of increases could be very hard to bear, particularly if we have a cold winter.

As I have said many times before, the biggest flaw in the way we measure inflation (and there are many of them) is how the government deals with housing. While the Case Shiller Home Price Index is up more than 20% year over year, and national rents are up more than 12% over the same time frame, the CPI has largely ignored these increases in housing costs. Instead, the government relies on the dubious and amorphous concept of “Owners Equivalent Rent” which asks homeowners to guess how much they would have to pay to rent a house of similar quality to the one they to the one they own. Conveniently, that meaningless figure, which constitutes almost 30% of the total CPI, is only up 3% year over year. If actual rent increases were used instead, the CPI would be almost three full percentage points higher.

In fact, relying on the government to tell us the truth about inflation is a bit like asking high school students to grade their own report cards. There are countless incentives that exist institutionally for the government to underreport inflation. It allows them to make stealth cuts to Social Security, to create higher nominal incomes and capital “gains” to tax, and to minimize the interest rates it pays on over $28 trillion in debt as inflation. But since GDP is adjusted for inflation, it also makes economic growth appear higher than it really is.  The methodology for computing the CPI index was specifically designed to minimize the impact of rising prices. But I don’t believe that this is a conspiracy. Once you understand how institutional bias works, how careers are made by finding new plausible ways to underreport inflation, and how they are ruined by claiming the opposite, you can see how the numbers get farther away from reality with each passing year.

But the disconnect has become so obvious that top officials at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have begun warning the public to prepare for higher prices. In her latest exercise of goal post moving, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “I believe that price increases are transitory, but that doesn’t mean they’ll go away over the next several months.” We can expect that months will soon turn into years, as the definition of “transitory,” gets ever more elastic.

This week the government announced that the inflation-adjusted cost of living increases for Social Security payments in 2022 will be 5.9%, the highest such increase since 1982. In addition to throwing yet another log on the government deficit fire, the increase is a direct admission that inflation is not going away.

Despite the marginal increase in wages that the Biden Administration likes to talk about, or the cost of living increases for our seniors, the average American makes less money. After adjusting for inflation real hourly earnings in the United States have dropped 1.9% so far this year. This is the stagflation that I have been warning about. Welcome back to the Carter Administration. We can expect Joe Biden to break out our sweaters if home heating bills get too high this winter.

Team Biden has been working overtime to suggest that the price increases and supply shortages are resulting from temporary bottlenecks at port facilities. Imports are particularly sensitive as our trade deficit has widened to record levels in recent months, making Americans ever more reliant on overseas goods. To combat the problem the Administration has ordered that some ports begin to operate 24 hours a day. (Left unsaid was the very fact that American ports – due to the strength of the Longshoreman’s Union – operate at very spare schedules versus foreign counterparts).

But the effect of this order will be far milder than the Administration hopes. Firstly, it is unclear how many port facilities will comply. Some have noted for instance that the Port of Los Angeles agreed to go 24 hours at only one of its six docks. (Currently, the wait time to enter that port is approaching three weeks). And secondly, most industry analysts note that the problem is not the hours of the dock facilities themselves but the shortfalls of the domestic trucking industry to move the goods once they arrive. Not only are we struggling with a lack of drivers, who struggle with government regulations that sharply limit the number of hours they are allowed to drive, but a lack of shipping containers to put back on the ships. Since many ships refuse to leave unloaded, which greatly reduces their profitability, America needs to first solve a host of problems to get the ports in better order.

But what we are seeing in a larger sense are the fruits of 15 years of bad investments in things that we don’t need and very little investment in the things we do. The ultra-low interest rates that have become the bedrock of our bubble economy have channeled investment capital into the wrong places. These low rates have encouraged corporations to borrow recklessly to buy back shares and inflate stock prices. Such moves have enriched shareholders but have done little to expand productive capacity.

Low rates have also led to runaway speculation in untested and unneeded industries. We have seen massive investments in social media, e-commerce, entertainment, cryptocurrencies, financial technology, and most recently Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s). As a result, we have really built out our capacity to post videos, buy things online, and pay for them in new ways. But we have invested comparatively little in boring industries like manufacturing, energy, transportation, and agriculture. As a result, we have all sorts of ways to buy stuff, and gimmicks for how to pay for it later, but we lack the capacity to produce and distribute all the goods we want to buy in the first place.

What’s worse is that given the current policies of the Biden Administration, none of that is going to change anytime soon. His expanded social safety net programs, overly generous unemployment benefits, higher taxes and regulation, and unneeded vaccine mandates are discouraging workers from working and employers from hiring. The American workforce is more than five million workers smaller than it was before the pandemic. That is not an accident. If the Democrats get their caucus together long enough to pass even a slimmed-down version of Biden’s Build Back Better plan look for all these problems to get worse.

With fewer workers working, supplies of goods and services have diminished. Government will look to replace the lost production with even more monetary and fiscal stimulus, which just leads to more inflation, financial speculation, and rising asset prices, largely benefiting the wealthy, and falling the hardest on the poor who have no appreciating assets to compensate for the rising cost of living.

But rather than fixing the problem, our current leaders are mostly worried about equity and diversity. The five leading candidates to replace Jerome Powell, if he is not renominated, all are either female or African American. Now I have no problems with hiring women or minorities in key positions. But if all your candidates come exclusively from those groups, then it’s clear that identity is more important than competency at this moment in time. But if there was ever a time that we needed competence, it’s now.

Tyler Durden Fri, 10/22/2021 - 09:10

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Spread & Containment

UK Banks – Digital Dinosaurs

UK Banks – Digital Dinosaurs

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“Tuppence wisely invested in the bank…”

As UK bank reporting season kicks off, the dull, boring, predictable UK banks should look good. But the reality…

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UK Banks – Digital Dinosaurs

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“Tuppence wisely invested in the bank…”

As UK bank reporting season kicks off, the dull, boring, predictable UK banks should look good. But the reality is they are dinosaurs – their failure to digitise and evolve leaves them vulnerable to tech-savy FinTechs and Challenger filling their niche. If the future of modern finance is a Tech hypersonic missile… British Banks are still building steam trains. 

Today see’s the start of the UK bank reporting season. Yawn….

I wrote a piece for the Evening Standard y’day – Another set of numbers to disguise the rot. (I’ve reused some of it this morning – lazy, eh?) Exactly as I predicted in that note, Barclays came in strong this morning with a decent lift from its investment banking businesses. Lloyds and HSBC will also produce acceptable numbers and limited losses on post pandemic recovery.  The sector outlook looks positive, the regulator will allow them to increase dividends, and there is higher income potential from rising interest rates.

But… would you buy the UK banks?

They face substantial market and ongoing pandemic risk. The cost of economic reality falls heavy across them all. This morning the headlines are about Medical groups screaming out for a renewal of lockdown measures to protect the NHS – a move that will 100% nail-on recession and cause multiple small businesses to give up. The threat of recession in the UK is pronounced – exacerbated by global supply chain crisis and risks of policy mistakes. The worst outcome for banks would be stagflation resulting in exploding loan impairments.

Lloyds is the most vulnerable to the UK economy – hence it’s underperformed the others. Even without renewed Covid measures, potential policy mistakes by the Bank of England in raising interest rates too early, or by government by raising taxes and austerity spending, will hit business and consumer sentiment hardest, causing the stock prices to crumble back towards its low back in Sept 2020 when it hit £24.72. It’s got the largest mortgage exposure – but no one really expects a significant housing sell-off. (When no-one expects it – is when to worry!)

If you believe the UK’s economic potential is under-stated, then Lloyds has the best upside stock potential among the big three. If the economy recovers strongly, Lloyds goes up. If it stumbles, then so will Lloyds!

Barclays is a more difficult call. It’s a broader, more diversified name. It retains an element of “whoosh” from its markets businesses – which have delivered excellent returns from its capital markets businesses fuelled by low rates, but it also runs a higher-than-average reputational risk for generating embarrassing headlines. But, when the global economy normalises, higher interest rates will impact the fee income of all the investment banks, thus impacting Barclays to a greater extent than Lloyds. Barclay’s international business gives it some hedge against a UK economic slide.

HSBC is the most complex call. The UK banking operation is a rounding error compared to the Bank’s Hong Kong business. The bank is pivoting towards Asia, orbiting China and other high-growth Far East economies where it seeks to attract rising middle-class wealth. It’s underperformed due to a distaste among global investors for its China business, but also the perception it’s just too big a bank to manage effectively.

If its China strategy was to pay off, it will be a long-term winner. But that’s no means certain – Premier Xi’s crackdown on Chinese Tech threatens to morph into a China first policy, and the space for a strong foreign bank in China’s banking system looks questionable, even as the developing crisis in real-estate could pull it lower.

Ok – so good for UK banks…

Whatever the respective bank numbers show this week, the banks will remain core holdings for many investors. Generally, big banks are perceived to be “relatively” safe. Regulation has reduced their market risk profiles, and strengthened capital bases since the post-Lehman unpleasantness in 2008 which saw RBS rescued by government.

Conventional investment wisdom says the more “dull, boring and predictable” a bank is, the more valuable it will be perceived in terms of stable predictable dividends, sound risk management, and for not surprising investors. Strong banks are perceived to be less vulnerable to competition with deep moats around their business.

Since 2008 that’s changed – in ways the incumbent banks have completely missed. The costs of entry have tumbled as banking has evolved into a completely different service. New, more nimble Fin-Techs like Revolut, digital challenger banks such as Starling, and cheaper foreign competitors, including the Yanks, are not only eating their lunch, but dinner as well.

The old established UK banks don’t seem to have a clue it’s happening. These incumbent banks look like dinosaurs wondering what that bright shiny light getting bigger in the sky might be. Despite proudly boasting of hundreds years of history, they are constrained by old tech ledger systems and never built centralised data-lakes from their information on individuals or the financial behaviours of crowds to improve and develop their services and income streams.

The future of banking is going to be about Tech and how effectively banks compete in a marketplace of online digital facilities and services. Banks that you use tech smartly will see their costs tumble, freeing up resources to do more, better! (When I ran a major bank’s FIG (Financial Institutions Group) about 100 years ago – the best banks were those with lowest cost-to-income ratio!)

There is an excellent article outlining FinTechs and Challengers from Chris Skinner this morning: Europe’s Challenger Banks are Challenging (and worth more than the old names). Let me pluck a bite from his piece: “Revolut is the most valuable UK tech start-up in history and the eighth biggest private company in the world, worth an estimated US$33 billion, according to CB Insights. Revolut has more than 16 million customers worldwide and sees over 150 million transactions per month.”

The new generation of nimbler Fin Techs and Challengers can innovate product offerings with sophisticated new systems and software. In contrast, UK bank IT departments are engaged in digital archaeology.  I understand only 17% of Senior Tech positions are held by women. Within the banks, I’m told its still a boys club, where the best paid IT jobs are for ancient bearded D&D playing coders brought into to patch 50 year-old archaic systems. Legacy systems leave the big banks with impossible catch up costs.

It’s probably unfair to say the big UK banks don’t know what’s happening – their management can’t be that unaware? Surely not…. But…. Maybe..

Although the banks brag how well diversified they are with over 37% of UK board members female – how much have they really changed? Hiring on the basis of diversity is a fad. At the risk of lighting the blue-touch paper and this comment exploding in my face, I would hazard to suggest the appointment of senior ladies who’ve worked their way up the existing financial system simply risks confirmation-bias on how things are conventionally done in banking.

They might do better hiring outside movers and shakers – rather than listening to themselves.

The bottom line is its not just their failure to innovate tech that’s a crisis. Over the years the UK banks have become increasingly sclerotic – slow to shift and adapt. The middle to senior levels of banking are hamstrung by bureaucracy, a satisficing culture, stifled innovation, a compliance fearful mindset, and senior management fixated on impressing the regulators first and foremost.

If the future of modern finance is a Tech hypersonic missile… British Banks are still building steam trains.

Tyler Durden Fri, 10/22/2021 - 05:00

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Government

Pound yawns after mixed UK data

The British pound continues to have an uneventful week and the lack of activity has continued in the Friday session. GBP/USD has been trading close to the 1.38 level for most of the week and is currently at 1.3804, up 0.09% on the day. UK Retail Sales…

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The British pound continues to have an uneventful week and the lack of activity has continued in the Friday session. GBP/USD has been trading close to the 1.38 level for most of the week and is currently at 1.3804, up 0.09% on the day.

UK Retail Sales dip

UK Retail Sales declined by 0.2% in September. This is a cause for concern, given that retail sales have now declined for three straight months, pointing to ongoing weakness in consumer spending. Retail sales remain subdued despite the relaxation of Covid restrictions in July, which has not resulted in consumers increasing their spending. On a positive note, retail sales remain above the pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).

There was better news from the September PMIs. Both the manufacturing and services PMIs accelerated and beat expectations, with readings of 57.7 and 58.0, respectively. This points to strong expansion in both sectors.

The markets have priced in a November rate hike, likely by 15 basis points. Although this would be a relatively small increase, it would mark the first rate hike by a major central bank since the Covid pandemic began. BoE Governor Andrew Bailey is poised to raise rates in order to curb inflation, which is running above 3%, well above the bank’s target of 2%. A majority of MPC members are expected to follow suit, but a vocal minority of members are warning that the move is unwarranted and could dampen the recovery and hurt growth and jobs.

In the US, positive data on Thursday gave the dollar a boost, although the pound has recovered much of these losses on Friday. The dollar index continues to trade in a range between 93.50 and 94.00 and is at 93.67 in Europe. A drop below 93.50 could see the index fall to the 0.93 line.

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GBP/USD Technical Analysis

  • On the upside, there is a triple top at 1.3830. A close above this line would leave the pair room to climb until resistance at the round number of 1.3900
  • There are support levels at 1.368 and 1.3492

 

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