Could Hong Kong tensions sink the global stocks rally?
Stimulus measures are lifting markets in early trade on Wednesday. That's despite investors growing increasingly wary that the Hong Kong-Beijing crisis could escalate into an international standoff.
This is the web version of the Bull Sheet, Fortune’s no-BS daily newsletter on the markets. .
Good morning. The Hong Kong-Beijing tensions continue to weigh on investors, as both the U.S. and EU consider their own responses to the crisis. Those concerns though are no match for the stimulus-fueled hopes for a quick(ish) rebound of the global economy.
Let’s check in on the action.
- The Asian indices are mixed this morning with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng losing ground after yesterday’s impressive rally.
- Protesters hit the streets in Hong Kong again today to voice their opposition to Beijing’s proposed heightened security push.
- There are real concerns Washington could jump in and sanction the Chinese government over the new Hong Kong-focused security bill, opening up a new rift between the trading powers. The EU too appears set to side with Hong Kong.
- If you ask Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing… he’s urging caution, and tacit support for the draft law.
- Japan is dead set on spending its way out of this economic crisis. The country has proposed a new $1.1 trillion stimulus package (bringing the bailout tab to nearly $2.2 trillion), sending the Nikkei higher.
- European bourses climbed at the open, with London, Frankfurt and Paris all trading higher, by more than 1%, two hours into the trading day.
- The markets are gaining on hopes the European Commission later today will unveil a mega stimulus package that exceeds €500 billion.
- Emmanuel Macron is proposing an €8 billion bailout package specifically for French automakers— €5 billion of which will go to Renault. And there’s a twist: it will include subsidies to buy electric and hybrid-e cars as the country seeks to become a leader in making green vehicles.
- The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures point to another positive open, looking to extend yesterday’s gains.
- The Nasdaq closed yesterday 0.17% higher. The tech-laden index got within 2% of its all-time high Tuesday morning before retreating. That’s one to watch in the coming days.
- St. Louis Fed President James Bullard can hardly be considered a bull. Yet on Tuesday, Bullard said he expects a rapid second-half rebound that will bring the unemployment rate back to below 10% by year-end. He predicts Q3 will be “the best quarter of all time on the growth perspective.”
- Gold is down.
- The dollar is up.
- Crude is down again, but off its lows, with Brent trading a hair above $36 per barrel.
Yesterday’s stock surge was unusual in that it starred one of the most downtrodden of sectors: travel. Airline stocks took off, with most racking up double-digit gains.
Here’s a look at yesterday’s high-flying performance:
United Airlines, up 16%… American Airlines up 14.8%…Delta Air Lines, up 13%… Southwest Airlines, up 12.6%. According to MarketWatch, a UBS aviation analyst upgraded Southwest because it sees “a clearer path for domestic travel recovery.” That was enough to lift much of the sector.
The data though is telling a different story—that the recovery in air travel could be a drawn-out affair. That’s not surprising. A lot of countries are still banning flights from coronavirus-stricken hotspots, or are enforcing why-bother-even-going quarantine measures. And businesses everywhere are slashing travel budgets.
These headwinds are showing up in the most recent travel data. LPL Financial last week pored through a series of real-time data sources looking for evidence of a “reopening rebound.” They found it with motorists. Driving is picking up. They found it with diners. Reservations are ticking up, too. They did not, however, find it with air travel, as their chart here shows:
Check-ins at the airport are still down roughly 90%, little improved from a month ago, they say, citing TSA data.
“Driving appears to be the transportation mode of choice in a pandemic,” LPL writes in the research note. “Airlines will take quite a while to come back.”
It will be interesting to see if the data from the Memorial Day weekend shows any kind of up-tick whatsoever. It will be a much-watched indicator— not just for the sector, but for the economy as a whole.
Have a nice day. I’ll see you here tomorrow.
Looking for more detail on coronavirus? Fortune’s Outbreak newsletter will keep you up to date on the latest news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on business and commerce globally. Sign up here.
And, you can write to or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.