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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Liberty Global, Lululemon and Nikon

Zacks Equity Research
Asbury Automotive (ABG) shares have started gaining and might continue moving higher in the near term, as indicated by solid earnings estimate revisions.

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL –October 9, 2018 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Liberty Global PLC LBTYA, Lululemon LULU and Nikon NINOY.

Here are highlights from Monday’s Analyst Blog:

Starting Off with Some Profit-Taking: Global Week Ahead

U.S. stock markets opened the week on a broad down stroke, led by the Nasdaq index.

The reasoning here? The higher that interest rates go, the worse the U.S. GDP growth rate becomes. The lower the GDP growth, the less the reason to buy tech stocks that can lead the market higher.

And the same set of stocks have been momentum-trading for some time. Traders have been looking for a reason to take profits on the high-flying momentum stocks.

Interest rates provided the best reason in a while. As October is usually a bright month for stock returns, it remains to be seen if Mr. Market turns things around in the second half.

Below are Reuters in London’s five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week. I have kept them in the order of importance to the equity market.

(1) U.S. Bond Yields Climb

U.S. bond yields have jumped in the wake of stunningly strong economic data and hints from Federal Reserve officials that interest rates could rise for a fourth time this year in December.

That rate-hike cycle may be about to take another bite into the already softening U.S. housing market, as rising mortgage interest rates weaken home affordability.

Mortgage application volumes are lower on a year-over-year basis and refinancing activity continues to decline — fewer borrowers can benefit, given today’s higher interest rates.

So, this week’s data by the Mortgage Bankers Association on home loan applications will be closely scrutinized, after 10-year benchmark borrowing costs leapt to their highest since May 2011. If 10-year Treasury yields stay near their seven-year peaks, borrowing costs on U.S. 30-year mortgages would increase 10 to 15 basis points by the upcoming week, Freddie Mac’s chief economist Sam Khater estimates.

(2) The Divergence Widens Between US and European Stocks

The divergence between depressed European stocks and their buoyant American counterparts seems to be here to stay.

While some investors hope that a strong third-quarter earnings season on the old continent might revive a stock market stuck in negative territory, there is in fact little chance Europe will play catch-up.

Third-quarter earnings for the pan-European STOXX 600 are expected to increase 13.9 percent from the third quarter of 2017, according to data from Refinitiv I/B/E/S. Sounds like a good quarter, right? But look at what is expected of the S&P500 — 21.5 percent earnings growth.

Then contrast Europe’s sluggish growth with the U.S. economy, which is not just firing on all cylinders but appears on the verge of overheating. German retail and manufacturing data shows Europe’s biggest economy is likely to have lost steam over the summer. The U.S. manufacturing PMI meanwhile has surged to its highest since May.

Difficult, therefore, to imagine how Europe could possibly catch up on the S&P’s 16 percentage-point lead.

(3) Will Japanese Stocks Pull Back Too?

Japanese stocks recently scaled 27-year highs as foreigners turned buyers of Tokyo-listed blue-chips. Improving growth, tentative wage inflation and “Abenomics” have all helped. But the rally’s main driver has been yen weakness.

As U.S. yields rose gradually to 3 percent while Japan seemed committed to its yield control policy, the yen seemed on track to fall towards 115 per dollar — a level last seen in early 2017 — and Japanese exporters looked a hot purchase. Now, though, the sell-off in U.S. Treasuries could end the Nikkei rally.

Aside from surging U.S. yields, temperatures in the U.S.-China trade war are climbing further and when Chinese markets open on Monday after a week long-holiday, the yuan could play catch-up with other emerging currencies which are nursing heavy losses against the dollar.
If all that conspires to send the yen higher, the Nikkei — already in some discomfort — could end up being crushed.

(4) Where Does Italy Go from Here?

Anti-EU and anti-euro rhetoric is rife these days in Italian politics, which is keeping investors’ eyes trained on just how far Italy’s stance can diverge from fellow EU members and what implications that would have for the single currency.
With the bloc’s third-largest economy due to present its budget to Brussels on Oct. 15, concerns over Italy’s spending plans and what they mean for its position within the EU should dominate bond markets next week.

“Quitaly” fears reared their head briefly last week, sending the euro and Italian bonds lower. While it’s calmed down on that front, combative comments from the government haven’t stopped. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is leading the charge, accusing top European Commissioners on Friday of wrecking Europe.

He said his government aimed “to change this Europe from the inside,” however, implying there is no appetite yet to exit the bloc.

(5) Brazil Holds a Divisive Presidential Election

Brazil is holding its most divisive election in decades and far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro looks set to take a commanding first-round lead. But he may still be short of votes to win the election outright; polls show him deadlocked with Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers Party.

That makes a runoff vote on Oct. 28 likely.

The election in Latin America’s biggest economy comes at a testing time for emerging markets. A toxic cocktail of a strong dollar, rising borrowing costs and soaring oil prices has hit emerging currencies, ramped up inflation pressures and forced countries into tightening policy at a time of slowing economic growth.

Brazilian markets have risen in recent days on hopes Bolsanaro, if he wins, will promote an orthodox economic policy. But whomever wins Brazil’s presidential race will inherit a fiscal straitjacket and an economy that only recently emerged from its deepest recession in decades.

What’s more, while reform is desperately needed, the new president is unlikely to have a governing coalition in Congress that could enable these to be passed.

Top Zacks Stocks

Liberty Global PLC:This is a $20.5B market-cap cable TV group. The long-term Zacks VGM score is B. Are groups like this going to turn it around against the “cable cutters”? We shall see.

Lululemon: This is a yoga apparel company that is on an impressive share price run. It remains to be seen if this momentum has overshot its mark. This sell-off will be telling. The Zacks Value score is F.

Nikon: This is the $7B market cap Japanese camera maker. Japanese stocks have been on a roll. Does this sell-off beat them up, or leave them alone? My guess is they enjoy some damage too. The long-term Zacks VGM score is A, though. This stock may be worth picking up, once the carnage is over.

Key Global Macro

On Monday, Brazil’s FGV consumer inflation rate came out. It was 10.33% y/y, and well above the +9.06% expected by the consensus. This is a sorry economy to manage, and the election may not help matters.

On Tuesday, Mexico’s CPI comes out. It is looking for +5.0% y/y. While not as bad as Brazil, this is still a high consumer inflation rate.

On Wednesday, U.K. manufacturing production comes out. Look for a weak -0.2% m/m reading. The y/y reading is +1.1%. That’s puny. Brexit is indeed starting to bite.

On Thursday, U.S. initial claims looked extremely low at 207K last week. This week should be similarly low. Maybe too low? As long-term interest rates are starting to bite, in anticipation of stepped up Fed tightening.

On Friday, the University of Michigan sentiment index comes out. Look for another strong reading above 100. The last reading was 100.1.

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