Retail Sales, Walmart & Home Depot, China Tech-Bashing - What's Moving Markets

  • Economy News
Retail Sales, Walmart & Home Depot, China Tech-Bashing - What's Moving Markets
Credit: © Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith 

By -- U.S. retail sales and industrial production data for July are due, while Walmart (NYSE: WMT ) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) earnings may provide some more granular details on the activities of the U.S. consumer. China's competition authorities take another swipe at Internet platform companies, sending Alibaba (NYSE: BABA ), Tencent (HK: 0700 ) and JD (NASDAQ: JD ).com stock all sharply lower. U.S. stocks are set to retreat from Monday's record highs at the open, and a single case of Covid-19 puts New Zealand into lockdown and wrecks economists' forecasts for Wednesday's central bank meeting. Here's what you need to know in financial markets on Tuesday, 17th August.

1. Retail sales will be anyone's guess

Retail sales data for July may or may not show whether the U.S. consumer has grown more cautious in response to the latest surge in Covid-19 cases.

The data are due at 8:30 AM ET (1230) but will pose a number of challenges as regards their interpretation, given that past data have showed that pandemic-driven changes in spending patterns have been much stronger than, and completely uncorrelated to, the usual process of seasonal adjustment. Details from individual sectors may therefore be more important than the headline figure. Walmart and Home Depot earnings, due before the market open, may also be a more reliable gauge of U.S. consumer activity.

Also due are industrial production data for July at 9:15 AM ET and the National Association of Home Builders housing market index, which has been trending gently down since November.

2. China goes Tech-bashing again

Chinese stock markets sold off heavily again after the country’s regulators issued a new draft of rules designed to stop unfair competition on the Internet.

The State Administration for Market Regulation’s new draft appears aimed at stopping the likes of Alibaba, Tencent and from establishing self-contained ecosystems that make interaction with other ecosystems difficult. That would outlaw the kind of vertical integration that has been central to the investment case of the big Chinese Internet platforms.

Under the new rules, groups would be unable to use customer data to learn how people behave and divert them away from competing products and services. Fake reviews would also be banned, as would the practice of not running hyperlinks to competing sites.

Elsewhere, media reported that China had taken a token 1% and a board seat at the main Chinese entity of TikTok owner Bytedance.

3. Stocks set to open lower; retail and vaccine stocks in spotlight

U.S. stocks are set to open lower later, after a now-familiar surge to record highs in late trading the previous day.

By 6:15 AM ET, Dow Jones futures were down 201 points, or 0.6%, while S&P 500 futures were down 0.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 0.3%. The first two had both closed at record highs on Monday.

Walmart and Home Depot earnings will dominate the early headlines, while vaccine makers will also be in focus after reports suggesting that the Biden administration is set to endorse ‘booster shots’ against Covid-19.

4. A single Covid-19 case derails a rate hike

The New Zealand Dollar fell over 1% after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a national lockdown after finding a single case of Covid-19, the first that had spread within the community in over six months.

The move represents a determination to stick to the “Zero Covid” strategy that the country has had since the start of the pandemic, at a time when more and more governments are working on strategies to cope with the disease becoming a part of normal life.

The news was enough to change analysts’ predictions for Wednesday’s central bank meeting . The Reserve Bank of New Zealand was expected to raise interest rates for the first time since 2014, by 50 basis points. Analysts now expect either no change to rates or just a 25 basis point hike.

5 Oil struggles ahead of API inventory numbers

Crude oil prices struggled again overnight, amid ongoing fears for the strength of Chinese demand, despite data showing a fourth straight month of draws on national inventories. Confirmation of a slight pickup in U.S. shale output is also weighing on prices.

By 6:25 AM ET, U.S. crude futures were down 0.3% at $66.84 a barrel, while Brent futures were down 0.2% at $69.34 a barrel.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its weekly estimate of U.S. crude stockpiles at 4:30 PM as usual. Analysts expect a modest draw of just over 1.2 million barrels.

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