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LIVE MARKETS-The shrinking ranks of highly rated corporate issuers

Wed, 13th Oct 2021 16:01

* Dow, S&P 500 red, Nasdaq gains; NYFANG outperforms

* Financials weakest S&P sector; cons disc leads gainers

* Euro STOXX 600 index up ~0.7%

* Gold up; dollar, crude, bitcoin fall

* U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ~1.54%
Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of markets brought to
you by Reuters reporters. You can share your thoughts with us at
markets.research@thomsonreuters.com

THE SHRINKING RANKS OF HIGHLY RATED CORPORATE ISSUERS (1101
EDT/1501 GMT)

The number of non-financial corporate debt issuers rated in
the AAA or AA categories by Fitch Ratings has steadily shrunk
over the past 20 years, falling to around 10 from nearly 50, the
credit rating agency said in a report on Wednesday.

"Many downgrades were caused by fundamental changes in the
underlying business environments, mostly due to increased
competition and technological changes," Fitch said, pointing to
affected sectors such as telecoms, electric utilities, and
retail.

"However, downgrades were also driven by financial policy
decisions to increase leverage," it added.

Technology was the only sector where upgrades into highly
rated categories were growing over the past decade. The report
cited technology's increasing economic role that was
strengthened by accelerated digitalization trends during the
coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas sector faces long-term pressure
due to energy transition factors.

"As a result of the associated execution risk, ratings could
come under some pressure in the medium term if the transition is
not managed successfully," Fitch said. "However, the relatively
slow decline in oil consumption that we currently expect gives
the rated entities some time to adapt."

(Karen Pierog)

*****

INDIAN SUMMER: CPI, MORTGAGE RATES PUT THE HEAT ON (1042
EDT/1442 GMT)

Leaves are falling - and even snow in some parts of the
country - but consumer prices and mortgage rates are pushing the
mercury higher.

The prices U.S. urban consumers pay for a basket of goods
rose by 0.4% in August, an acceleration from the
previous month and hotter than the 0.3% consensus.

"We need to bifurcate and see where the inflation is,"
writes Oliver Pursche, senior vice president at Wealthspire
Advisors. "It's not a one-size fits all answer."

Fair enough, so let's delve deeper into the Labor
Department's consumer price index (CPI) report. A 6.4% drop in
air fares - a predictable adjustment following the spikes in
early summer - was more than offset by gains in housing, new
cars and gasoline, among others.

Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and
energy prices, rose at 4% year-over-year, inline with
expectations.

As to whether this report is likely to accelerate or have
little effect on the U.S. Federal Reserve's expected timeline
for tightening its monetary policy, opinions differ.

"It reassures the Fed because there were no surprises,"
Pursche adds.

But Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan
Capital, isn't quite so sure.

"Inflation is going to be more long-lasting than the Fed
expects," Cardillo says. "In my opinion this accelerates the
tapering move and we’ll probably get an announcement next
month."

Minutes from the central bank's most recent monetary policy
meeting could shed light in that direction.

Core CPI, shown along with other major indicators in the
graphic below, continue to soar well above the Fed's average
annual 2% inflation target:

Separately, demand for home loans eked out a nominal gain
last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA),
despite yet another uptick in rates.

The average 30-year fixed contract rate grew by 4
basis points to 3.18%, marking the third consecutive weekly
gain.

Even so, applications for loans to purchase homes
jumped by 1.5%, a gain that was nearly completely
offset by a 0.5% decline in refi demand, which
constitutes the bulk of the total.

"Mortgage rates reached their highest level since June 2021,
but application activity changed little this week," notes Joel
Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry
forecasting at MBA.

Nancy Vanden Hauten, lead economist at Oxford Economics,
believes this data points to resiliency in the housing market
and suggests home sales could bounce back in September from
August's drop.

"We expect the housing market to continue to be buffeted by
the crosscurrents of strong demand, limited supply and high
prices," Hauten writes. "While mortgage rates remain relatively
low on a historical basis, the recent backup in mortgage rates
will take an added toll on homebuying affordability at the
margin."

Wall Street appeared to be dancing the same tango it's been
doing over the last few sessions - starting strong then steadily
running out of gas.

Most recently, all three major U.S. stock indexes were well
off their opening highs.

The S&P 500 and the Dow were dragged into negative territory
by weak financial stocks, while a meager gain in tech
is helping to keep the Nasdaq modestly green.

(Stephen Culp)

*****

INITIAL U.S. STRENGTH FADES, INDEXES TURN MIXED (1005
EDT/1405 GMT)

After an opening push higher, Wall Street's main indexes
have turned mixed. This as investors are digesting a solid rise
in monthly consumer prices, and a dip in bond yields.

The Dow and S&P 500 are now trading down on
the day. The Nasdaq, although already off its early
high, is being boosted by tech stocks, and is still in
positive territory.

Of note, the major indexes, as well as the S&P tech sector,
have all fallen three-straight days.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield
back down to the 1.54% area, financials are taking the
biggest hit among S&P sectors.

Here is where markets stand in early trade:

(Terence Gabriel)

*****

NASDAQ 100 TRIPLE-Qs: GOING WITH THE FLOW (0907 EDT/1307
GMT)

The Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1, which tracks the
Nasdaq 100 index, is down around 6% from its early
September high. In so doing, it has also violated a monthly
support line from its March 2020 low.

Meanwhile, one indicator that incorporates both price and
volume, the Money Flow index (MFI), continues to track within
converging trendlines:

On a monthly basis, and since early 2018, the MFI has been
trapped between a resistance line from its 2014 high and a
support line from its 2009 low.

After once again topping shy of the resistance line this
past August, the MFI appears on track for another test of the
support line. Another test of that support line could suggest
risk for greater QQQ weakness.

However, if the support line can continue to work its magic,
and the MFI can bottom, a significant QQQ low may once again be
found.

Conversely, an MFI support line break will end what has been
a consistent pattern, and instead suggest potential that QQQ
weakness may become a waterfall slide.

(Terence Gabriel)

*****

FOR WEDNESDAY'S LIVE MARKETS' POSTS PRIOR TO 0907 EDT/1307
GMT - CLICK HERE:

(Terence Gabriel is a Reuters market analyst. The views
expressed are his own)

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