Dark anniversary for market passes without fret or consequence

The 30-year anniversary of the Black Monday (October 19, 1987) came and went without generating fits of anxiety in equity markets. Equities were also mostly able to shake off rising geopolitical risk as the Spanish government took steps to suspend Catalan autonomy – the latest move in a standoff over the region’s drive for independence. In the U.S., Treasury yields and the dollar moved higher as investors contemplated the candidacy of John Taylor for the next Chair of the Federal Reserve (a “Taylor Fed” is viewed as likely to take on a distinctly more hawkish stance on monetary policy). Meanwhile, third quarter earnings reports continue to come in with mixed results.

Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite index saw its biggest sector moves driven not by earnings reports, nor by the apparent near collapse of NAFTA negotiations, but rather by other company-specific headlines. The industrials sector posted the best gains, as shares of Bombardier soared on news of the company’s deal to bring in Airbus as a partner on the all-important CSeries passenger jet program. The health care sector led decliners, for once not because of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Instead it was Canopy Growth Corporation that got smoked. The medical marijuana producer saw a big drop after the TSX said marijuana firms with activities in the United States that might violate the country’s federal law could be subject to delisting. The materials sector was also weak as both base and precious metals declined (with the notable exception of copper). Oil prices started the week higher on fears of new Iran sanctions, and the outbreak of fighting between Iraqi and Kurdish forces near Kirkuk and its oil fields. But by week’s end, higher U.S. fuel inventories helped crude settle back to roughly where it began. The loonie was similarly little moved by the week’s events, but dropped Friday on weaker than expected sales and inflation data.

The S&P 500 Composite index once again touched new all-time highs. Sector strength was seen especially in financial services and health care, driven by strong earnings reports. The real estate and consumer staples sectors led losses, declining as they typically do in the face of rising bond yields. Macro-economic news, including strong manufacturing surveys and a 44-year low in unemployment claims, provided some lift to the broader market, and worries that political infighting will impede or derail attempts at tax reform faded as the U.S. Senate managed to pass a budget resolution.

European stock indices were mostly flat in light of the tension in Spain. Shares in London were further pressured by continuing difficulties in Brexit negotiations, as well as mixed economic news. Although unemployment remains near a multi-decade low, the Office of National Statistics reported that retail sales in the United Kingdom unexpectedly plunged in September. Things were more upbeat in Japan. The Nikkei 225 stock index added to its 20-year high on solid corporate earnings, a weaker yen, and positive sentiment ahead of Sunday’s general election.

What’s ahead next week:

Canada

  • Bank of Canada rate decision
  • Wholesale inventories (August)

U.S.

  • Markit manufacturing and services PMIs (October-preliminary)
  • Durable goods order (September-preliminary)
  • New home sales, pending home sales (September)
  • Wholesale and retail inventories (September)
  • GDP (3rd Quarter-advance)
  • U. of Michigan sentiment survey (October-Final)
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Markets surprisingly calm as earnings season kicks off

 

Reporting of third quarter earnings got underway this week with hopes that continued improvement in corporate results will deliver another month of positive returns to equities. On a total return (USD) basis, the S&P 500 Composite index has been up each month of 2017 so far. There has never been a full calendar year when this has happened all 12 months. Trading was pretty slow in North America (on Monday Canadian markets were closed for Thanksgiving and U.S. fixed income trading shut for Columbus Day), but news headlines bristled with activity that could normally be expected to move markets.

 

The Catalan push for independence from Spain remained at the forefront of geopolitical news, with investors breathing a sigh of relief when the Catalan leader put off an immediate declaration of independence. Meanwhile tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued and a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Turkey became more heated. Closer to home, U.S. President Donald Trump’s feud with Senator Corker raised concerns that attempts at tax reform will fail, and the President’s comments as NAFTA talks resumed in Washington elevated fears that the trade agreement might collapse. In spite of all these growing risks, markets saw only mild downward pressure on the U.S. dollar and Treasury yields as gold gained. Yields got some support from the Federal Reserve’s September meeting minutes that clearly signaled rates would likely be hiked again in December.

 

In Canada, the S&P/TSX Composite index managed a fractional gain in mostly listless trading. Major sectors posting advances included industrials and financials, as well as the “bond proxies” (utilities, real estate, staples) that benefited from the downward drift in interest rates. The health care sector led decliners as Valeant Pharmaceuticals came under pressure once again, and the heavily-weighted energy sector extended the losses seen last week when crude prices dropped on news of growing supplies. Even as energy equities slid, oil prices were recovering after Saudi Arabia said it will cut exports, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries predicted robust demand next year.

 

The advance in equities was even less impressive in the U.S. than in Canada, but all major indices, including the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrials Average, the NASDAQ Composite, and the Russell 2000, notched new all-time highs. The bond proxies led the gainers along with the technology sector. The telecom services sector stood out on the downside as subscriber losses at AT&T highlighted the threat to the industry of consumers “cutting the cord.”

 

As tensions in Spain cooled, European equities got an added lift from strong industrial production numbers for the euro area, particularly Germany. Almost all major European equity indices saw modest gains. In Britain, the most recent round of Brexit talks ended with Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes for a transition deal before year end looking increasingly unlikely. Asian markets were mostly higher as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its forecast for global economic growth and Chinese shares played catchup after missing out on last week’s global rally due to the Golden Week holidays.

 

What’s ahead next week:

Canada

  • Existing home sales (September)
  • Bank of Canada senior loan officer survey (Q3)
  • Manufacturing sales (August)
  • Consumer price index (September)
  • Retail sales (August)

U.S.

  • Empire manufacturing survey (October)
  • Import price index (September)
  • Industrial production and capacity utilization (September)
  • Housing starts and building permits (September)
  • Conference Board leading index
  • Existing home sales (September)

 

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Money Transmitter Licenses and Canadian First Global Data in the U.S.

Almost every U.S. state requires a state license in order to transmit money into, out of or within the state. These licenses are expensive to acquire and to maintain and establish a financial barrier of entry.

Licensing requirements include the following considerations:

  • applicant’s financial condition
  • applicant’s net worth
  • amount of business for the previous year
  • anticipated business for the upcoming year

The cost of acquiring a license average more than U.S. $175,000 per state and the annual renewal fees on average are more than U.S. $135,000.

In addition to the various state requirements,  money transmitters must also register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of Treasury. Registration is valid for two years before it needs to be renewed. Money transmitters must use the BSA E-Filing System to submit initial registration forms and renewals. There are both civil and criminal penalties for money services businesses that do not register with FinCEN.

In effect, these regulations help to validate the worthiness of the companies that acquire the money transmitter license. Given the financial investment and the corporate strength in order to acquire the licenses, companies that are granted licenses achieve a degree of credibility.

It is believed that it is more difficult for foreign companies to acquire these licenses. However, given Canada’s highly developed, regulated and structured financial industry, Canadian-based companies are afforded a strong reputation internationally.

One Canadian, publicly traded company, First Global Data Inc. (traded as v.fgd on the TMX) is an international financial services technology (“FINTECH”) company. The Company’s two main lines of business are mobile payments and cross border payments. First Global’s proprietary leading edge technology enables the convergence of compliant domestic and cross border payments, shopping, Peer to Peer (“P2P”), Business to Consumer (“B2C”), and Business to Business (“B2B”) payments. First Global enables its strategic partners and clients around the world with our leading edge financial services technology platform.

First Global Data (www.firstglobaldata.com), according to their most recent press release, has acquired 31 money transmitter licenses. “We continue our focus on US wide licensing as the more State licenses First Global has, the larger the market opportunity for our services such as Happy Transfer launched on the WeChat social messaging platform with our China-based partner LianLian; for the Company’s First Global Money international remittances services which delivers into Latin America, India, the Philippines and other very large markets; for domestic USA peer to peer and mobile payment services; and for additional cross border payment services the Company intends to provide to consumers across the USA”, said Andre Itwaru, Chairman and CEO of First Global Data Limited.

This company is  positioned to strategically take advantage of Canada’s financial industry reputation, leveraging our access to the U.S. market and bridging it with Asian demand. With a stock price at under CDN$0.30, I’m curious to see the value of the users it has acquired through partnerships. With Canadian Schedule A banks paying thousands of dollars for credit card customer acquisitions, this company’s value might already be well beyond its stock price.

See related post: First Global Data Appoints Top Notch CFO

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“Golden Week” for equities

While markets in China and South Korea took the week off for the mid-autumn festival, or “Golden Week” holiday, the S&P 500 Composite index climbed to new highs in four of the five sessions, ending its string of consecutive record-setting trading days at six, the longest such streak since 1997. Canada and most other developed markets tagged along for a nice start to the fourth quarter, a period that traditionally generates the best returns of the year. Spain was a notable exception, where last weekend’s Catalonian independence referendum unnerved investors and pushed the IBEX 35 index to a 15 month low. The tension surrounding the vote also appeared to weigh on the euro and strengthen the U.S. dollar. Disappointing trade data caused the Canadian dollar to retreat further from recent highs, dipping back below 80 U.S. cents.

Most sectors of the S&P/TSX Composite index advanced. The gains were led by the materials sector, especially miners, as copper and other industrial metals saw higher prices. Energy stocks, on the other hand, struggled as crude prices fell. Various reports suggested oil supplies were rising: Reuters reported OPEC output grew in September despite its earlier production cut agreement; oilfield services company, Baker Hughes, said more drilling rigs were in operation; Libya restarted its biggest oil field; and U.S. inventory data showed an increase in stockpiles.

The energy sector was a key laggard in the U.S. as well, where most sectors of the S&P 500 advanced. The financials sector led the gains, boosted by rising bond yields after Friday’s employment report showed rising wages and a tight labour market. Although most weekly and monthly data are currently being whipsawed by the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, activity is recovering quickly. This week saw new motor vehicle sales at one of the highest paces on record (boosted by replacement of storm-damaged vehicles), strong purchasing managers indices for both manufacturing and services (the latter at the fastest rate of growth in this 93-month expansion), and solid employment reports (allowing for the hurricane distortions.) The materials sector was strong, as it was in Canada, but because of its comparative low weight, had less absolute impact.

Some peripheral equity markets in Europe, including Italy and Greece, lost ground, along with Spain, but major markets moved higher as the eurozone’s manufacturing expansion continues, led by Germany. The manufacturing PMI just hit a 77-month high and has been above the 50 percent mark (a signal of growth) for 51 consecutive months. Equities in the United Kingdom were also higher as Britain’s PMI slightly disappointed but remained at a healthy level. However, the pound weakened as doubts arose concerning Prime Minister Theresa May’s continued leadership.

Most Asian markets were closed at least part of the week, but joined the global stock rally when they were open. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led a strong move mid-week and approached a 10-year high. Japanese markets, like those elsewhere, rose on stronger economic data, and the Nikkei 225 index broke out to a 20-year high.

What’s ahead next week:

Canada

  • Building permits (August)
  • Housing starts (September)
  • Teranet-National Bank home price index (September)

U.S.

  • NFIB small business optimism (September)
  • FOMC meeting minutes (September)
  • Job openings and labour turnover survey (JOLTS) (August)
  • Consumer and producer price indices (September)
  • Retail sales (September)
  • University of Michigan consumer sentiment index (October)
  • Business inventories (August)
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OSFI Changes May Signal Expectations of 2% Increase in Mortgage Interest Rates

This month the Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions for Canada is finalizing changes in legislation that will include requiring those that purchase a home with a minimum down payment of at least 20%, not needing mortgage insurance, to prove they could still afford their mortgage payments if interest rates were 200 basis points (two percentage points) higher than the rate they negotiate.

Jeremy Rudin, the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, told reporters. “But we do know this: Housing prices are still near their all-time highs, and mortgage rates are still near their all-time lows. And while sound underwriting is always important, it’s never been more important than it is now.”

Though OSFI, nor the banks have stated that interested rates are headed 2% higher, the fact that they are stress-testing for this to happen, tells me that they are planning for it to happen.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada has already announced that they are expecting to increase interest rates again later this month.

Banks have already tightened their lending policies and I’m getting reports of strong applicants having their mortgage applications turned down by the banks.

Globe and Mail article on OSFI announcement

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Originally published by Baldo Minaudo on BaldoMinaudo.com, Baldo Minaudo, M.B.A. is a Real Estate Broker located out of Toronto serving local and international clients. He may be reached through is office 416-698-2090 or through his website.

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