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“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.” – John Maynard Keynes

Morning stock market summary

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You may be looking at the drop in futures and think that there has been some bad news regarding the debt ceiling.  Since there has been no breakthrough agreement on that front, the lack of progress is probably playing a partial role, but the real culprit appears to be the hotter-than-expected inflation reading in the UK.  That report has both the FTSE 100 and Europe’s STOXX 600 down sharply and trading below their 50-day moving averages.

Here in the US, investors will continue to watch DC for signs of where negotiations over the debt ceiling are going, but other than the Fed Minutes at 2 PM, there are no significant economic data releases on the calendar, so given that European stocks have been leading things lower, it will be hard for bulls to make any headway while those markets remain open for trading.

Getting back to the UK inflation report, economists were forecasting headline inflation to rise 8.2% which would have been a nearly two-percentage point decline relative to March’s reading of 10.1%.  The actual reading, however, came in 0.5 percentage points higher at 8.7%.  Outside of the last year when every other reading was higher than April’s, it was the highest y/y reading since May 1982 and came up just shy of falling below the peak of 8.4% from June 1991.  If there could ever be a way during a period when high inflation was the market’s major concern that a 52-week low reading in inflation would not be considered a good thing, this was it.

Regarding the UK, we wanted to look at how UK stocks have performed relative to the US over the long term.  Even though it’s spring, the first thing that comes to mind is skiing.  The chart below shows the relative strength of the MSCI United Kingdom ETF (EWU) versus the S&P 500 SPDR ETF (SPY) over the last ten years. For much of this period, it has been a straight downhill for UK stocks relative to the US.  Over the last two years, though, the slope has flattened out, and the two ETFs have essentially performed in line with each other (lower chart).  While bulls on international stocks may be hoping the last two years have been the early stages of a base to rally from, more inflation prints like today’s could signal more downhill ahead.

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