By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com -- The focus stays on economic data on Thursday, with U.S. retail sales and jobless claims due. European car sales crater due to shortages of chips and other components, while space stocks get a lift from SpaceX's first all-civilian flight and the post-Labor Day surge in IPOs goes its merry way. Europe's energy price crunch drives gas prices in the U.S. and Asia higher, while oil prices take a breather as supply problems resolve themselves. Here's what you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, 16th September.
1. Retail sales and jobless claims
Analysts expect retail sales to have fallen 0.8% in the month, as consumers re-direct disposable income back toward services and away from goods. Monthly retail sales numbers have been erratic through the spring and summer, although they remained up 15.8% on the year in July, an illustration of how strong consumer spending drove a rapid recovery in the economy earlier this year.
Initial jobless claims are expected to have ticked up to 330,000 last week from a post-pandemic low of 310,000. The Philadelphia Fed ’s monthly business survey is also due.
2. Shortages hit European car sales
One sector where sales are definitely cooling off is in autos, as inventory shortages and price spikes put customers off from purchases.
That much had already been hinted at in the ‘used cars’ component of U.S. inflation data earlier this week and was rammed home overnight by figures showing a sharp drop in car registrations in Europe last month. Sales were down by 14% on the year in Germany, by 35% in France, and by 19% and 30% respectively in the U.K. and Italy.
The same phenomenon was also evident in much weaker-than-expected export data from Japan overnight. Exports were up only 26% on the year, rather than the 34% expected.
3. Stocks set to open a tad lower
U.S. stock markets are expected to edge lower later, pending the day’s most important economic data.
Space-themed stocks appear likely to get some attention after the launch of SpaceX’s first all-civilian flight, while Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) and Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA ) will also be in the spotlight after trying to support their campaign for booster shots with admissions that the initial protection afforded by their Covid-19 vaccines wanes over time.
Also in focus will be coffee chain Dutch Bros (NYSE: BROS ) and tech consultancy Thoughtworks. Dutch Bros rose over 50% on its debut on Wednesday, while Thoughtworks rose 40% even after being priced at the top of its range. Meanwhile, Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) is running into some selling pressure from Cathie Wood's suite of ARK investment funds.
4. European gas crunch forces industry shutdowns, drive U.S., Asian prices higher
The crunch in European energy prices continued, with high natural gas prices in particular forcing the first shutdowns of industrial customers in the U.K. CF Industries (NYSE: CF ) said its two fertilizer plants in England would close until further notice.
Day-ahead natural gas futures in the U.K. rose to 177 pence a therm, the highest on record and nearly 70% above the previous record high. Bloomberg reported that European demand for liquefied natural gas had prompted big utilities in India and Japan to pay close to record prices for cargoes due in November and December. U.S. Henry Hub futures , meanwhile, eased off 2% but remained close to seven-year highs at $5.35 per mm Btu.
Shares in European energy companies continued to struggle, amid growing signs that governments prepare to tax away their windfall profits. Spain’s Iberdrola (OTC: IBDRY ) and Endesa are now down 12% and 10% for the week, while Italy’s Enel (MI: ENEI ) is down 6.8%.
5. Oil takes a breather as supply concerns ease
Crude oil prices are also easing after hitting their highest level since early August on Wednesday in response to confirmation of another sharp draw on U.S. stockpiles.
Concerns about supply have waned as Libya’s biggest export terminal resumed operations after a dispute with striking workers and security guards was resolved. There was also a light at the end of the tunnel in the Gulf of Mexico, where Royal Dutch Shell (LON: RDSa ) said it would be ready to restart its Perdido platform on Monday, provided its downstream assets were ready to take crude deliveries. Perdido and other Shell platforms are currently shut in due to high winds from Hurricane Nicholas.
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