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EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING: Stocks Slump as Travel Companies Tumble on Virus Worries

07/19/2021 | 06:25am EDT

MARKET WRAPS

Stocks:

European stocks skidded on Monday as travel and leisure stocks fell.

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell on worries about the inability of major economies to return to normality as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers even with the emergence of vaccines.

Airline stocks were among the worst performers. British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group and easyJet both dropped around 5% in London after the U.K. said quarantine rules would remain in place for travelers returning from France. Other decliners included cruise operator Carnival, plane maker Airbus, and engine maker Safran.

Among other stocks, Paris-listed Vivendi fell 0.8%. Pershing Square Tontine, a blank-check company led by hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman, said it had dropped plans to purchase a 10% stake in Universal Music Group. Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square said it would take a large stake in Universal, which is majority owned by Vivendi, instead.

Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna will go public on the New York Stock Exchange later this year as part of a tie-up agreement with special-purpose acquisition corporation Investindustrial Acquisition. Shares of the SPAC, whose chairman is former UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, added 2% before the bell in New York.

In England, the lifting of many restrictions, dubbed "Freedom Day," was also coupled with new restrictions on travel to France, on worries about the beta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Reversing an earlier decision, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now in quarantine until July 26, after contact with the country's health minister, who is a confirmed coronavirus case.

The Nikkei declined in Tokyo, in what was a broad pullback across most of Asia. Infections reported in the Olympic Village ahead of the opening games underscored the difficulties the world has encountered trying to reopen economies.

U.S. Markets:

Stock futures, oil prices and government bond yields slid, amid concerns that the spread of the delta coronavirus variant and rising inflation would hold back the global economy.

Surging cases of the coronavirus in many parts of the world, including highly-vaccinated countries such as the U.K., have prompted investors to dial down their expectations of economic growth in the coming months.

Some also are concerned that a burst of inflation will pinch consumption and prompt central banks to withdraw stimulus.

"What you're seeing is a sense that the consumer is starting to be affected quite significantly" by the jump in prices, said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

Business reopenings, rising vaccination rates and government pandemic aid have helped propel rapid gains in consumer spending -- the economy's main driver. But surveys show that inflation, which accelerated to a 13-year high in the U.S. in June, is starting to knock consumers' confidence in their ability to keep spending, Mr Galy said.

Forex:

The dollar rose broadly, taking the DXY dollar index to a 15-week high of 92.9360, as the safe-haven currency benefits from concerns about the global growth outlook due to rapidly rising Covid-19 cases, said MUFG.

These have prompted market participants to cut short U.S. dollar positions for the fifth consecutive week in the week to July 13, said currency analyst Lee Hardman. Short dollar positions have been cut back sharply in recent weeks, which have helped strengthen the dollar, he said.

Pimco maintains an underweight position on the dollar in their portfolios, saying that the U.S. currency looks expensive, or "rich," versus most developed and emerging market currencies. Pimco is neutral on the euro and Japanese yen, and sees value in many emerging market currencies, it said.

"Many emerging market currencies look particularly attractive from a valuation perspective, but ongoing Covid-related challenges in these economies warrant caution," Pimco said.

Having dropped to a 15-week low of 1.1766, EUR/USD risks falling down towards the 2021 low at 1.1704 and perhaps even towards 1.1600, said Saxo Bank's chief investment officer Steen Jakobsen. The dollar tends to do better when general risk sentiment is weak, he said.

Thursday's European Central Bank meeting is also expected to result in policymakers "extending dovish guidance," albeit with widening dissent on the course of action from here, he said.

Bonds:

In a sign that investors were sheltering in the safety of government bonds and other safe-haven assets, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.261% Monday, from 1.30% Friday.

Developed-market yields might look low but the risk of a sharp selloff isn't high in the near term, Barclays said.

"Risk-reward suggests outright [eurozone government bond] yields can continue to grind lower," Barclays's strategists Cagdas Aksu, Emmanouil Karimalis and Max Kitson said.

Barclays considers the balance of risks for the European Central Bank's Thursday meeting to be on the dovish side. "We feel the risk is that the new forward guidance could potentially go beyond 'cosmetic' changes that emphasize just the new inflation target and may therefore surprise the market dovishly," they added.

The 10-year German Bund yield falls to four-month lows on Monday, continuing the downward trend seen in July but with a fresh impetus coming from a fall in 10-year U.S. Treasury yields below 1.30%, analysts said.

"As underpinned by the spread to USTs, which has traded fairly sideways in the last few months, the decline in Bund yields has been driven to large extent by global developments rather than idiosyncratic factors or ECB rhetoric," said UniCredit.

The European Central Bank's meeting on Thursday carries a certain degree of suspense, said LBBW's senior fixed income analyst Elmar Voelker. The ECB's forward guidance is set to be recalibrated according to the new strategy, he said, but adds that LBBW doesn't expect any adjustment of the core monetary policy parameters, such as key interest rates and the structure of the bond purchasing programs.

"For the time being we can only speculate as to the details, so players on both the euro bond market and the foreign exchange market will certainly be looking ahead to the event with a certain amount of suspense," Voelker said.

Commodities:

Oil prices fell after OPEC and its Russia-led oil-producing allies agreed to unleash millions of barrels of bottled-up crude over the next two years. The two groups, known collectively as OPEC+, agreed to raise production by 400,000 barrels a day each month through the end of 2022.

The deal seeks to unwind all the cuts the two groups made at the start of the pandemic in order to meet recovering demand for oil.

"The market needs additional barrels through the balance of this year, to prevent the market from overheating," said Michael Tran, commodity strategist at RBC Capital Markets

Gold prices were lower in early European trade. Copper fell as concerns mount over a likely worsening demand profile for the base metal. Covid-19 flare-ups in many markets are threatening to derail recent improvements in demand, ANZ said.

While the bank notes that the Chinese auto and real-estate sectors have been picking up, "our copper downstream demand indicator remains weak, highlighting the fragile nature of the recovery." The three-month LME copper contract was 0.6% lower at $9,368.00 a metric ton.

EMEA HEADLINES

OPEC, Allies Agree to Boost Oil Output as Demand Roars Back

OPEC and its Russia-led oil-producing allies agreed to unleash millions of barrels of bottled-up crude over the next two years, committing to restore all the cuts they made at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as many economies pick up and crude demand recovers.

Underscoring the uncertain speed of a full economic recovery and a return of pre-pandemic oil demand, the group chose to move gradually, agreeing to modest, monthly installments of new oil through the latter end of 2022. Oil prices have eased recently in anticipation of a deal, but analysts said the gradual nature of the output boost could continue to pressure prices.

Italy's Zegna to List in US in $3.2 Bln SPAC Tie-Up

Italian luxury house Ermenegildo Zegna will go public on the New York Stock Exchange later this year as part of a tie-up agreement with special purpose acquisition corporation Investindustrial Acquisition Corp.

The family-owned company and the SPAC said Monday that the combined entity will have an enterprise value of $3.2 billion and a market capitalization of $2.5 billion, as part of the deal agreed on Sunday.

Bill Ackman Drops SPAC Plan for Universal Music Deal

Hedge-fund billionaire William Ackman is dropping plans to use his SPAC to invest in Universal Music Group, saying the Securities and Exchange Commission wasn't convinced the deal met the rules for such vehicles.

Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square Holdings Ltd. said it would take a Universal stake instead, becoming a long-term investor in the music group. The U-turn is a setback for Mr. Ackman, who won praise for crafting a first-of-its-kind pact that set it apart from a wave of other deals orchestrated recently by special-purpose acquisition companies.

Telecom Italia Raises Mid-Term Targets

Telecom Italia's Guidance Changes Cast Doubts on Turnaround, Says Bryan Garnier

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

07-19-21 0624ET

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AIRBUS SE -1.10% 115.4 Real-time Quote.28.54%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / EURO (AUD/EUR) -0.35% 0.6192 Delayed Quote.-1.34%
BARCLAYS PLC -0.12% 183.74 Delayed Quote.25.27%
BRITISH POUND / EURO (GBP/EUR) -0.22% 1.1661 Delayed Quote.4.45%
BRITISH POUND / US DOLLAR (GBP/USD) -0.37% 1.36698 Delayed Quote.0.34%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / EURO (CAD/EUR) 0.25% 0.674459 Delayed Quote.4.53%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (CAD/USD) 0.01% 0.7897 Delayed Quote.0.57%
CARNIVAL CORPORATION & PLC 3.04% 25.44 Delayed Quote.13.99%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.10% 34798 Delayed Quote.13.59%
DOW JONES FXCM DOLLAR INDEX 0.22% 12007.68 Delayed Quote.2.85%
EASYJET PLC 4.10% 680.6 Delayed Quote.-2.60%
EURO / US DOLLAR (EUR/USD) -0.18% 1.1718 Delayed Quote.-3.88%
GOLD -0.04% 1749.3 Delayed Quote.-7.99%
INDIAN RUPEE / EURO (INR/EUR) 0.18% 0.011559 Delayed Quote.2.98%
INDIAN RUPEE / US DOLLAR (INR/USD) -0.01% 0.013548 Delayed Quote.-1.04%
INTERNATIONAL CONSOLIDATED AIRLINES GROUP, S.A. 1.96% 175.6 Delayed Quote.9.89%
INVESTINDUSTRIAL ACQUISITION CORP. 0.30% 9.95 Delayed Quote.0.00%
LONDON BRENT OIL 0.94% 78.01 Delayed Quote.49.38%
NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (NZD/USD) -0.73% 0.7012 Delayed Quote.-1.60%
NIKKEI 225 2.06% 30248.81 Real-time Quote.10.22%
NORDEA BANK ABP -0.61% 110.16 Delayed Quote.63.88%
PERSHING SQUARE HOLDINGS, LTD. -1.59% 37.1 Real-time Quote.6.00%
PERSHING SQUARE TONTINE HOLDINGS, LTD. -0.05% 19.71 Delayed Quote.-28.90%
SAFRAN -0.29% 111.38 Real-time Quote.-3.94%
STOXX EUROPE 600 -0.90% 463.29 Delayed Quote.16.10%
STOXX EUROPE 600 NR -0.90% 1040.15 Delayed Quote.18.25%
THE HOWARD HUGHES CORPORATION -1.84% 87.92 Delayed Quote.11.39%
UBS GROUP AG 0.55% 14.72 Delayed Quote.18.04%
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE INC 0.66% 188.02 Delayed Quote.11.65%
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP N.V. 0.84% 23.445 Real-time Quote.0.00%
US DOLLAR / EURO (USD/EUR) 0.18% 0.853388 Delayed Quote.4.04%
US DOLLAR / RUSSIAN ROUBLE (USD/RUB) 0.56% 72.988 Delayed Quote.-1.60%
VIVENDI SE 0.78% 10.98 Real-time Quote.-58.38%
WTI 0.93% 73.961 Delayed Quote.52.07%
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