Good morning. Bitcoin’s bad week, options warning signal, antibody treatment trial. Here’s what’s moving markets.
Answers On a Postcard
Bitcoin is on course for its worst week in about 45 against the dollar, down 13%. While we’d like to provide some reasons for the move, nothing fundamental has changed in recent days, nor over the past few months when its value more than tripled. The debate around the digital currency’s worth rumbles on, leaving some frantically googling the catalysts, and others just keeping the faith. JPMorgan says Bitcoin has proven to be a poor broader market hedge, and, moreover, its very popularity among normal folk leaves it even more at risk to cyclical downturns. Prices have steadied back above $30,000 this morning, with most now just watching technical levels. UBS, meanwhile, says cryptos may not have the demand and supply traits to ever work as actual currencies.
Tech’s Old Timers
Two U.S. tech heavyweight stocks fell after earnings. Intel initially gained on a premature release of its update — which it is now investigating — before falling after-hours as the group vowed to regain its lead in chip manufacturing, despite some investors calling for a rethink of that business. Meanwhile, International Business Machines shares slid after the firm’s sales missed estimates, signaling its focus on cloud services will take longer to pay off. It was IBM’s 10th consecutive quarter with no year-over-year increase in revenue.
A Covid-19 antibody therapy from U.S. firm Eli Lilly yielded optimistic study results as it reduced nursing home residents’ risk of symptoms by as much as 80% when used preventively. While vaccines are clearly the priority, Lilly says the drug, called bamlanivimab, could potentially be a way to protect people in nursing homes during an outbreak when they haven’t yet been vaccinated. Meanwhile, a vaccine factory in Wales producing the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford shot was at risk of flood threats overnight — the last thing we need right now.
European stock futures are lower, though equities hold onto small gains for a week dominated by hopes for more after U.S. stimulus. Still, in a break from the stream of bullish commentary of late, one firm says a lack of demand for bearish options on the U.S. market may be a warning signal. The euro is creeping up again versus the dollar after the European Central Bank insisted that the current level of monetary stimulus is enough for now. Bond yields from Germany to Italy rose on the ECB comments. Bonds are steady and oil is giving up some of the week’s gain amid questions over the impact of renewed lockdowns on demand in China, though physical prices in Asia remain firm.
Liquor group Remy Cointreau and eyewear firm GrandVision provide earnings updates from this region, while in data, we’ll get purchasing mangers indexes along with U.K. retail sales from the festive month of December. Finally, don’t forget to disconnect later if you’re WFH, it’s your right.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.
And finally, here’s what Cormac Mullen is interested in this morning
Investors putting their nest egg into exchange-traded funds targeting the hottest investment themes should probably take a look at the latest research from The Ohio State University. As noted by my colleague Yakob Peterseil, it shows the ETFs have a two-decade history of losing money — as much as 5% per year on a risk-adjusted basis between 2000 and 2019, according to the study. As part of the speculative euphoria currently engulfing stock markets, money has been flowing to so-called thematic funds, tracking areas such as solar power and cloud computing. One out of every three dollars flowing to U.S. equity ETFs in January has gone to the sector at $12.6 billion in total. But the researchers show that these specialized ETFs come with high costs, extended valuations and low levels of diversification and suggest these factors eventually lead to their underperformance. Data from Bloomberg Intelligence shows how concentrated thematic funds actually are, holding on average just 72 securities compared to 316 for factor portfolios and 401 for ESG ones, other popular strategies. Not putting all your eggs into one basket is rule one of any good investment plan. This research shows that putting your eggs into 72 baskets can be equally risky, if they are all made from the same material.
Cormac Mullen is a Cross-Asset reporter and editor for Bloomberg News in Tokyo.
Like Bloomberg’s Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.