Drip, Drip, Drip: It's a Waiting Game as Investors Look for Direction from Microsoft and Alphabet After Close

(Tuesday Market Open) The sound you hear is fingers tapping as investors await critical earnings from info tech giants over the next three days, starting with Microsoft MSFT and Alphabet GOOGL this afternoon.

Meta Platforms META reports tomorrow afternoon, followed by Apple AAPL and Amazon AMZN on Thursday.

These five mega-caps, sometimes called the “FAANGs plus MSFT” command enough of a combined market capitalization to drive the overall market in one direction or another depending on their actual results and future guidance. That’s why it could be a bit of a waiting game today for the markets before these particular numbers start filtering in.

Yesterday’s rally seemed related to some weak PMI data early in the day along with talk that the Federal Reserve might moderate its rate-hike regime late next year. Expectations of a late-2023 Fed pullback seem a bit lower this morning.

Earnings Ahead and Behind

This afternoon, MSFT and GOOGL earnings should provide insight into the health of the cloud computing businesses after a June quarter that showed strength but at a slower rate from the start of the year. Cloud revenue is a good barometer of global business activity, so earnings reports from these two mega-cap clo

According to a recently published press release, Hexens, a blockchain and web 3.0 security company, has raised a whopping $4.2 million in seed funding. Led by prominent web 3.0 VC firm IOSG Ventures and other investors such as Hash Capital, Delta Blockchain Fund, Tenzor Capital, angel investors from Polygon, ImToken Ventures, and Chapter One, this seed fund will help Hexens grow horizontally, increasing its security coverage. 

Hexens will aim to create and subsequently release innovative products capable of positively impacting the blockchain cybersecurity industry. Since its launch a year ago, Hexens has been committed to securing digital assets and investors beyond expectations. The novel blockchain security company seeks to deliver a nonpareil experience regarding the security of projects. The Hexens team deploys an array of customized approaches to meet the needs of projects while providing ordinarily unachievable results in the ecosystem. 

Hexens combines novel ideas with a comprehensive web 3.0 market vision as it seeks to scale upwards. The team hopes to launch new and innovative products in 2023. 

A Standard Toolkit for Project Developers and Security Researchers 

With over $2 billion lost to malicious hackers in 2022, the need for a customer-focused security company with the right product intensifies, Hexens understands the market demand and has designed a set of innovative products possessing the capacity to rid off these hacks. Speaking about the partnership with Hexens, Queenie Wu, partner at IOSG Ventures, reveals that Hexens’ undisputable expertise in ZK technology solidifies their stance as the company to lead the next wave of innovations in the blockchain cybersecurity ecosystem. 

“... The team's expertise in ZK technology positions them well to ensure the next wave of industry innovations. Moreover, products being built by Hexens have the potential to become a standard toolkit for each developer and security researcher in the blockchain space,” Queenie Wu stated. 

As revealed by the company CEO, Sipan Vardanyan, the tech space is at risk of distrust if cybersecurity threats are not mitigated expeditiously. The Hexens team understands this and works to dispel all existing threats innovatively and appropriately.

Our unique methodologies and techniques that we have sharpened over a decade of business in cybersecurity enable us to see what the premature blockchain market needs. We will soon release our first products to help builders, security engineers, projects, companies, and whole blockchains and ecosystems have peace of mind and stay safe. Today, many businesses face a single point of failure while depending on technologies that store assets on-chain. Our main goal is to set new standards and raise the expectations of what cybersecurity solutions could do,” he added. 

In addition to security audit services, Hexens, according to the press release, investigates and immediately responds to several security incidents. And the investigation department comprises past OSINT competition winners who combine off and on-chain expertise to provide verified, accurate, and well-investigated cybercrime reports. Unprecedentedly, the department has identified, and de-anonymized hackers and have returned millions of USD worth of assets to their legitimate owners—an unparalleled feat in the cybersecurity industry. 

ud giants and AMZN later in the week should be an important bellwether to watch.


The two mega-caps reporting later today have businesses that reach far beyond the cloud, of course. Internet advertising will be a prime search target as investors pore over the GOOGL results and earnings call. And with MSFT, one question is whether crumbling personal computer sales might slice demand for many of the firm’s benchmark software products.

Both companies could be under pressure from currency issues, considering their huge overseas exposure. The greenback dominance this year hasn’t been friendly to the multinationals. Speaking of which, the U.S. Dollar Index ($DXY) traded flat this morning near 112. A slight pullback from recent highs seems to be helping the stock market the last couple sessions.

Two top Generals led the earnings march this morning as General Motors (GM) and General Electric (GE) released quarterly results. GM’s results were generally nice, beating on earnings per share but coming up a bit short on revenue. This has been a trend for the company since the pandemic, CNBC noted, because tight vehicle supplies have led to lower sales but the vehicles people are driving away in tend to be higher-priced ones like SUVs and pick-ups. GM kept its guidance unchanged, which seemed to cheer investors.

Another cheerful component was GM announcing it had cleared up a major clog in its supply chain. Earlier this year GM said it had 95,000 cars sitting around waiting for parts. This morning it announced it had cleared 75,000 of those vehicles. It should be interesting to see if Ford (F) also improves on the supply-chain front when it reports. Shares of GM rose more than 3% ahead of the opening bell.

GE’s earnings were generally good. Earnings per share fell but revenue was a bit higher and they were able to maintain their revenue growth outlook. Unfortunately their guidance was otherwise a bit mixed, but shares rose ahead of the opening bell.

In other earnings news today Coca Cola (KO) looked good as the company’s been able to pass along costs, but 3M (MMM) cut its outlook, citing currency issues.

United Parcel Service (UPS) was able to beat on EPS despite revenue missing analyst estimates, and noted that a drop in volumes was offset by higher prices.  While the news for the company seems to be well received by markets, with shares of the logistics company trading higher, the drop in volume seems to indicate a slowdown at the macro level.

Overall, guidance from big companies so far has been a mixed bag, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People came into earnings season expecting gloom and doom across the board with lots of guidance cuts, but that hasn’t been the case. The earnings “beat” rate is down, but the focus is really on guidance and will probably continue to be.

Potential Market Movers

Some important data hits the wires soon after the market opens today, including consumer confidence for October. Last month’s headline figure was a solid 108, up for the second month in a row and bolstered by strong jobs and wage growth.

The Wall Street consensus for October’s headline consumer confidence is 105.5. Investors worried about Fed hawkishness would probably be cheered if the data came in worse than this. A better-than-expected reading might hurt the market.

This hasn’t been a good stretch for people who get seasick. The major indexes continue to regularly swing 2% a day one direction or the other, as you’d expect when the Cboe Volatility Index® (VIX) stays stubbornly above 30 as it has most of the last month. It did drop below 30 early Tuesday but not by much.

Unfortunately, the waves aren’t likely to calm much in the weeks ahead with next week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting looming. At least now it’s the “quiet” period ahead of that meeting. Over the past several weeks, Fed speakers have driven at least some of the market’s up-and-down whiplashes. For the next week, at least, investors won’t have the Fed to kick around, to paraphrase a former U.S. president.

However, the European Central Bank might be on investors’ minds later this week when it meets. The market has priced in a 75-basis-point hike.

Speaking of rate hikes, BlackRock (BLK) issued a note to investors Monday saying it expects the Fed’s hikes to push the economy into recession. If this message grows louder, BLK said it could stamp out any potential positive market impact from Election Day, adding that it expects inflation to come down but to remain above the Fed’s target of 2%.

Recession remains a popular topic, but the Treasury market could be sending a conflicting signal. The inversion of the 2-year and 10-year Treasury yields (in which the 2-year yield tops the 10-year yield, an unusual situation that’s been associated with past recessions) is narrowing. As of late Monday, the 2-year had only about a 20-basis-point premium to the 10-year, down from well above 40 a week ago. This could be temporary or could be a trend, but it bears watching.

Why the narrowing? It’s mainly a drop in 2-year yields, which are more sensitive to Fed policy. Just in the last day or two, there’s been a shift in sentiment about where longer-term rates might go. The Fed isn’t exactly saying “uncle” yet, but some market participants are getting a bit more optimistic that a Fed pause followed by cuts might occur by late next year.

The yield gap rose again to 30 early Tuesday as a seven-basis point drop in the 10-year yield down to 4.16% compared with just a 2-point drop in the 2-year yield to 4.46%. It’s unclear if the buying in Treasuries this week is the start of a trend or just another slight pause in the sell-off. There is a 2-year note auction today.

Reviewing the Market Minutes

On Monday, the S&P 500® index (SPX) climbed 44 points, or 1.19%, to 3,797.34, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) rose 417 points, or 1.3%, to 31,499.62. The SPX is now nearly 9% above its mid-October low, but we’ve seen this movie before. The technical charts remain bearish for the SPX, and analysts will likely call this a “bear market rally” unless the SPX can push past the summer highs

The Nasdaq-100® (NDX) lagged the others with about a 1% gain, and the Russell 2000® (RUT) was far behind everyone, rising only 0.35%.

Weaker-than-expected preliminary Manufacturing and Services PMI from IHS Markit could explain some of the market’s resilience Monday, according to Briefing.com. At this point, any soft data goes into the positive column as far as Fed worries are concerned. Treasury yields, which had firmed early in Monday’s session, stepped back slightly after that data.

Mega consumer names helped lead the way Monday, with Disney (DIS), Home Depot (HD), Walmart (WMT), and Nike (NKE) recording solid gains.

Stocks with exposure to China, however, showed signs of weakness after the country’s party conference ended with signals pointing to a continuation of its zero-COVID policy.

CHART OF THE DAY: ANOTHER CURVE? This chart (T10Y3M: FRED—blue) represents the 3-month Treasury  versus the 10-year interest rate ratio, also known as the yield curve. Wait. Not the one you’re thinking of? Good point. The most popular is the 2s10s, which combines the 2-year and 10-year. However, some analysts believe that the 3-month and 10-year tend to invert closer to the actual recession. The fact that this ratio is now below zero suggests that a recession is going to happen soon. FRED® is a registered trademark of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis does not sponsor or endorse and is not affiliated with TD Ameritrade. Data Source: Cboe. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platformFor illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Three Things to Watch

On the QT: Raising rates is only one Fed tool to slow economic growth. There’s also quantitative tightening (QT), which the Fed is already doing but could speed up if it sees the need. Two years of so-called quantitative easing (QE) doubled the central bank’s balance sheet to $9 trillion by mid-2022 as it tried to stimulate the economy by purchasing bonds. In June, the Fed slammed on the brakes by allowing up to $30 billion of Treasuries and $17.5 billion of mortgage-backed securities to mature without reinvesting them. That rose to $60 billion and $35 billion, respectively, last month, so it’s unlikely the Fed would decide to ramp up QT anytime soon given that doubling. Instead, the Fed is likely to continue at the current pace at least in the near term to watch for any impact. But if inflation stays stubborn, a more aggressive QT might be in the Fed’s toolkit, so tune in to Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s next press conference November 2 for any possible clues.

Stealth Rate Hikes: Investors focusing on interest rates may not be paying enough attention to the additional impact of QT. Consider it the Fed’s stealth option for slowing things down if its higher-profile rate hikes don’t work. Powell has implied QT could continue about 2.5 years, ultimately shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet by about $2.5 trillion. The current QT is $95 billion per month, but the Fed would need to remove about $3.9 trillion from its balance sheet to shrink inflation back to its 2% target, one analyst told Barron’s recently. That amount of QT would be the equivalent of adding around 400 basis points in additional rate hikes, though it might not get the headlines you’d see if rates themselves climbed 400 basis points to 7.5% from the current 3% to 3.5% range. The Fed’s latest dot plot only envisions the benchmark rate rising to 4.6%.

Where’s PE Going in China? As China’s Communist Party Congress wrapped up over the weekend with what looked very much like the exit of the old guard, PitchBook wonders whether a potentially more insular, state-driven economy could be “a worrying development” for private equity (PE) investors. The publication noted Friday that “significantly fewer executives from private groups were invited” to this congress than in previous years. PitchBook reported that China’s public/private “government guidance funds” now account for a “significant chunk of private markets activity,” and cited figures from The Economist that 2,000 of these funds collectively raised nearly $1 trillion between 2015 and 2021.

Notable Calendar Items

Oct. 26: September New Home Sales and earnings from Boeing (BA), Boston Scientific (BSX), Kraft Heinz (KHC), and Waste Management (WM)

Oct. 27: Q3 gross domestic product, September Durable Goods, and earnings from Apple (AAPL), McDonald’s (MCD), Caterpillar (CAT), MasterCard (MA), Southwest (LUV), Merck (MRK), and Altria (MO)

Oct. 28: September Personal Income, Personal Spending, Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) prices, October Consumer Sentiment, and earnings from AbbVie (ABBV), Aon (AON), Chevron (CVX), and ExxonMobil (XOM)

Oct. 31: Happy Halloween! October Chicago PMI and earnings from CNA Financial (CNA), Goodyear Tire (GT), and Stryker (SYK)

Nov. 1: Start of the FOMC meeting, September Construction Spending, the October ISM Manufacturing Index, and earnings from Abiomed (ABMD), DuPont (DD), Eli Lilly (LLY), Pfizer (PFE), Uber (UBER), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and Under Armour (UAA)

Nov. 2: FOMC rate decision and earnings from Allstate (ALL), CVS Health (CVS), Yum Brands (YUM), and Zimmer Biomet (ZBH)

Nov. 3: September Trade Balance and Factory Orders and earnings from Exelon (EXC), Hyatt Hotels (H), Illumina (ILMN), Kellogg (K), Penn Entertainment (PENN), and Marriott (MAR)

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

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