MORNING BID-There’s no present, only the future

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(A look at the day ahead from EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are her own.) A New Yorker columnist at the weekend asked the question that might have been on quite a few people’s minds: have stock market investors lost their minds?

Friday’s horrendous U.S. economic data didn’t stop Wall Street from closing higher and this morning, Tokyo’s Nikkei has risen 0.6%, shrugging off data showing Japan’s economy slipped into recession in Q1 for the first time in 4-1/2 years.

European shares have opened 1.8% higher, S&P500 is tipped to rise and Chinese shares have seized on signs of house price recovery and promises of more central bank stimulus to post their best gain in six trading days. All six European countries have lifted short-selling bans imposed during the selloff.

Clearly, rather than look at reported data and company earnings, people are focusing squarely on what lies ahead beyond the second quarter – betting on resumption of economic activity, a pick-up in manufacturing, trade and driving. Car plants are restarting, Apple has opened 100 stores worldwide and Disney will open shopping areas at its Florida resort this week.

That’s also led to oil prices to one-month highs, and no sign that tomorrow’s expiry of June U.S. futures contracts will trigger a repeat of last month’s ructions. While Fed chair Jerome Powell warned of slow recovery, he did hold out hopes for H2 provided no new infection wave hits.

More broadly on markets, the dollar is inching lower again after ending last week with the best weekly gain in six weeks, while commodity currencies such as the Norwegian crown, the Aussie and Kiwi dollars have firmed. Even in emerging markets the commodity rebound has lifted the South African rand and Russian rouble.

But pretty serious problems remain: White House adviser Peter Navarro accused China of sending people around the world to spread the virus. U.S. lawmakers are proposing tax breaks and other incentives to get American companies to move operations or key suppliers out of China while Beijing, remarkably restrained so far, has threatened ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Huawei, after Washington announced new restrictions on the firm.

Back on equities, European and U.S. shares are trading 15.5 times and 20 times forward earnings respectively — back at levels seen before the March COVID-19 selloff. Earnings on the other hand are seen declining 40-45% in Q2, with little Q3 relief either, Refinitiv data predicts.

In European corporate news, Ryanair has cut passenger targets for the year to March 2021 to 80 million, versus a 100 million target just last week, and CEO Michael O’Leary panned British handling of the crisis as “idiotic”.

Speaking of the UK, this market looks headed for trouble. Sterling fell under $1.21 today for the first time since March 26 and interest rate futures now price sub-zero rates from December after Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane said negative rates were being considered.

And aside from forecasts of 20-25% economic contraction in Q2, renewed Brexit talks ended poorly last week, with just a month left to seek a deadline extension.

In other corporate news, bank shares may be surging today alongside everything else but sector newsflow continues poor.

Italy’s Cattolica Assicurazioni will propose no dividend payment as writedowns hit Q1 profit.. BPER Banca also plans to review 2020-2021 profit targets.

In other news: Mall operator Intu said it is on course to default and is seeking a debt standstill. Thyssenkrupp is in talks with peers about consolidating its steel business. Total has called off plans to acquire Occidental Petroleum’s assets in Ghana but will buy assets from Energías de Portugal.

Emerging commodity currencies are enjoying a bounce and the lira has risen 1%, extending gains on the premise that Turkey will get a swap lifeline from a friendly country to support its currency.

But news elsewhere is grim — Thailand’s economy contracted at its sharpest pace in eight years in the first quarter, while Brazil’s skyrocketing COVID-19 rate makes its outbreak the fourth largest in the world. DIARY Japanese GDP Q1 China house prices April US corp events – Baidu Q1 Europe corp events – Telekom Italia, Ryanair, Lufthansa, Mapfre (Editing by William Maclean)

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