This content is from: Portfolio

Daily Agenda: Sell-Off in Oil, Equities Marches On

Complacent markets give way to anxious ones; Clinton discloses a case of pneumonia; Industrial gas merger called off; HP to buy Samsung printer business.

A sell-off across multiple asset classes last week left many investors nervous on Friday. U.S. futures contracts for the Standard & Poor’s 500 finished the week down by nearly 2.6 percent while the CBOE volatility index (VIX) rose by 40 percent to 17.5. The sell-off continued early today in Asia and Europe, with the MSCI all-country index off by more than 0.8 percent at one point and heavy selling in emerging markets. After a summer notable for extraordinary complacency in the face of sluggish economic demand, lowered corporate growth forecasts and significant geopolitical risks, the spike in volatility suggests that many managers returned from the beach with a changed mindset. If allocators now believe that the era of easy money is approaching the end, with the Federal Reserve considering tightening and the European Central Bank seeing no need for more action, a rush for the exits could occur. “The baseline expectation following a decline like this is for quick stabilization and snapback,” according to Waverly Advisors CIO Adam Grimes, who added, “However, a feedback loop could develop if further moderate declines trigger stops.” Grimes believes it’s possible — although he doesn’t believe it likely — that markets could accelerate into a sharp mini crash early this week, the potential magnitude of the move demands attention. The selling pressure was not unique to equities as yields for benchmark U.S. and German government bonds rose and futures for front-month delivery of West Texas Intermediate crude oil sank by almost 2 percent to close just above $45 per barrel. For now, many market participants appear uneasy over future prospects for any financial assets.

Clinton’s health called into question. After appearing to need help to get into her vehicle after a visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York on Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff revealed that the former secretary of state has contracted pneumonia. Market analysts jumped on the delay between the incident and the disclosure, suggesting that the candidate will continue to face criticism for a perceived lack of transparency. GOP candidate Donald Trump was unusually measured in his response to the incident. In the past, the flamboyant real-estate mogul has questioned Clinton’s physical well-being.

Linde calls off Praxair deal. Media reports today indicate that Germany-based Linde has ended merger discussions with U.S.-based Praxair, shutting down a deal that might have created the world’s largest industrial gas producer with a combined market capitalization in excess of $30 billion. The proposed merger had been widely discussed since August and would have been the latest in a wave of consolidation in specialized industrial segments. Proposed as a near merger of equals, unnamed sources said that integration at the executive level proved daunting.

Fertilizer merger announced. This morning Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan announced an agreement to merge with Agrium in an all-stock transaction that will create the world’s largest fertilizer company by market capitalization at more than $27 billion. Potash is focused on mining and refining agricultural nutrients while Agrium’s specialty is marketing and distribution, creating a combined full-service agricultural brand when combined. The newly created entity will be headquartered in Saskatoon, Potash’s corporate home.

HP to purchase Samsung’s printer business. Hewlett-Packard revealed an agreement today to acquire the printing division of Samsung Electronics in a $1.05 billion transaction designed to solidify HP’s dominance in enterprise printing. HP is a standalone hardware-focused company spun out of Hewlett-Packard in late 2015. As part of the acquisition, HP will now control manufacturing for laser printer production previously purchased from third parties.

Juncker calls for investigation of Barroso. On Sunday a probe was announced to determine whether former EU chief José Manuel Barroso violated EU laws in accepting a post with investment bank Goldman Sachs that involved advising on policy risk. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — Barroso’s successor — has asked the former Portuguese leader to provide clarification of his role with Goldman. Many political analysts view the inquiry as politically motivated, given that Barroso waited the required 18 months prior to joining the firm.

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